Varys and Petyr Baelish, the Spider vs LittleFinger
The Spider and Little Finger
The Game of Thrones is set in a feudal society in which power resides with people who were born to the major noble houses and positions are passed from father to son, yet two characters of relatively low birth, through there wit and cunning, have a big role to play in influencing the action. Both have risen from their low origins to important positions on the small council, and, by manipulating people, and having access to information, fair far better than Lords from the major Houses of Westeros, especially the Starks. Despite the preponderence of knights, and brotherhoods with oaths and strict codes of behaviour, honour does not pay in the seven kingdoms, and neither Varyis, the spider, nor Little Finger, the Master fo Coin and brothel owner, let morality interfere with their survival.
Varys the Master of Whisperers
Varys is an unlikely powerful figure in King's Landings, he is a eunuch and a foreigner, and the tiltle "Lord" is purely honourary, as he does not hold any lands. He was born in the free cities across the narrow sea, where he was mutilated as a boy in a black magic ritual. He also tells Ned Stark that he was part of a mummers (actors) troupe during his youth and is a master of disguise. It is uncertain how he came to King's Landing but he has functioned as a mester of espionage for King Aerys before performing the same function for Robert Baratheon.
He is known as a spider, because of his web of informants to whom he refers as his 'little birds', since most of them are children. He appears to know everything that is going on in Westeros and beyond, he is obviously keeping an eye on Daenerys Targaryen through one of his spies, the exhiled Jorah Mormont.
It is not clear what intrigue Varys is spinning, at the end of season1 Arya overheard him discussing Ned, Cersei's secret and war with the Magister of Pentos. When Ned asks him who he truly serves, Varys replies "the Realm, my Lord, somebody has to", but whether that is the truth,and it is the good of the Seven Kingdoms, that he is truly working for is uncertain. It is hard to square that with his service to the new king, Joffrey, who is quite clearly deranged.
Petyr Baelish, the 'Little Finger' Master of Coins
Petyr Baelish comes from a minor house in Westeros and as such he has made a remarkable rise to the position of treasurer, the Master of Coin, at court. He is also a shrewd businessman, investing in a number of brothels in King's Landing which make him a good profit, as well as allowing him tabs on what goes on in the city. His nickname 'Little Finger' comes from the fact that he is lord of the Fingers, a small barren peninsula, and that as a boy he was very small.
He was fostered at Riverrun, by Catelyn Stark's father, Hoster Tully. Since he grew up with Cat, he developed a tragic and unrequited love for her, she always treated him as a little brother. His house was far too unimportant for him to marry Catelyn who was betrothed to Brandon Stark. As an impetuous boy, Petyr challenged the Ned Stark's older brother to a duel, from which he still has a scar 'from navel to collarbone'. As he tells Roz, one fo his gilrs, this is when he realised that he would never win if he played by the rules of the important Westeros houses so he decided he was not going to play by their rules, instead he would win through intrigue and manipulation.
Petyr 'Little Finger' Baelish feature from HBO
The Big Betrayal
Little Finger's love for Catelyn doesn't prevent him from getting her husband beheaded. After Robert Baratheon's death, Petyr suggests to Ned that he should make peace with the Lannisters and acknowledge Joffrey as king even if he knows he's Jaime's son. Of course honourable Ned will hear nothing of that sort. Littlefinger tells him that he can get the gold cloaks on his side, but does nothing of that sort,, and then calmly betrays him by putting a dagger to his throat with the words "I told you not to trust me"