Below the Red Keep, Arya witnesses another side of Varys as he speaks to Illyrio, revealing Varys to be duplicitous and conniving. Varys is the armored man, as indicated by his extensive knowledge of the secrets of King’s Landing and his reference to his “birds.” Illyrio’s size, accent, and forked beard reveal his identity. Though Varys has insisted that he serves only the realm, he now seems to insist that he and Illyrio instigate a war, which seems to contradict Varys's stated goal. Varys also admits that Ned is the person who worries him most after having just told Ned that he now feels he can trust him. Again, Varys's private words are at odds with how he behaves publicly. When Illyrio tells Varys to work his magic to keep the situation under control, his words paint Varys as something of a puppetmaster, furtively manipulating the people around him to his own ends. By that point, the evidence suggests that Varys serves himself rather than the realm as he claims.

The debate about Daenerys’ assassination sheds more light on the moral codes, and perhaps the motives, of the royal council. Robert wants Daenerys—and her unborn child—killed by an assassin, and from his way of speaking about Daenerys it is clear that he has lost all sense of morality. He is concerned primarily with maintaining his power whatever the expense, despite the reality that he hates being king. Only Ned seems to be aware that they are talking about murdering a young girl and her baby because the child might pose a threat one day. The rest of the royal council immediately agrees with Robert and obviously has no regard for the seriousness of taking a life. Ned, as a result, becomes a representative of morality and honor, while Robert represents the ability of power to corrupt. The royal council takes on a separate role from either of these. Varys cleverly argues that killing Daenerys and her child now could prevent a war, and would in turn save countless lives. He presents killing Daenerys as an ultimately moral act. This argument, however, seems to be contrived to convince Ned, not because Varys is genuinely concerned with saving lives. With the exception of Ned, the royal council appears to have no real opinion of its own and just tells Robert what they think he wants to hear. Their concern does not seem to be doing what's best for the realm or even for Robert alone, but rather retaining their own power.