flamboyant and a little bit sinister: the louis tomlinson story
“One of the lads I play football (soccer, if you’re American and wrong) with at Uni is from Doncaster and went to the same school as Louis Tomlinson. He sat next to him in English and describes him as ‘Flamboyant as he seems and a little bit sinister.’”
I started replying tothis post by @abookandacoffee but, well, I’ve been meaning to talk about this theory/idea for ages and it got…long…and it kind of started going beyond the scope of the original post SO NOW IT GETS ITS OWN (alo *apologises in advance because I’m going to disagree with a few points of yours SORRY*)
I’ve seen the shadows disappearing/leaving him completely theory a few times and it’s always confused me a little bit? For a start I think it’s something that’s inherent in Az, like Mor’s magic or Rhys’s daemati powers but for another I could never figure out why people wanted them to go. Then I realised people figured that they were somehow sinister, that they might even whisper bad things to him, make him worse, that they were connected to his trauma and I never read them that way? (Which apparently makes me in the minority here but what else is new?)
I never actually saw the shadows as a symbol of Azriel’s childhood trauma? (I think that the scars on his hands do that more than anything else and there’s soooo much symbolism in there especially given what he does now for his court but that is a meta for another day)
As for the shadows I always thought of them as…Well the opposite actually?
In the centuries I’d known him, he’d said little about his life, those years in his father’s keep, locked in darkness. Perhaps the shadowsinger gift had come to him then, perhaps he’d taught himself the language of shadow and wind and stone.
I think the shadows are a positive thing for Azriel actually? I don’t want him to lose them, I don’t think he wants to lose them either. They’re a part of him. A good part. I think they represent something like freedom to him. When he was chained up in a dark cell the shadows connected him to the outside world. They told him what was happening, warned him about what was coming, probably made it far easier for him to protect himself and for him not to fear the darkness that surrounded him when it confided all its secrets to him.
I also think those shadows lead to his release. The incident with his burned hands happened when he was eight but he wasn’t released and allowed to go to the war camps to be trained until he was eleven. When he arrived he knew nothing - nothing of fighting, nothing even of flying. But he was a shadowsinger. Rare and coveted I think if anyone sought to use Azriel and his gift it was his father and that that was the only reason they let him out, let him go to the war camps to be trained. (That’s all very guessworky I admit that but it’s not too huge a leap.)
I don’t think the shadows are a result of of his trauma, not exactly, or that they were somehow caused by what he suffered. Maybe that caused them to wake sooner than they might otherwise have done (I don’t think the high fae for example come fully into their power before they mature (for Mor it was reaching 17 and her first period) But I don’t think it’s a manifestation of it - I think they’re a shield.
I think they protect him. I think they tell him things to keep him and the people that he loves safe. I think they’re a defence mechanism, they’re a kind of armour:
It was almost enough to distract me from noticing Azriel as those shadows lightened, and his gaze slid over Mor’s body: a red, flowing gown of chiffon accented with gold cuffs, and combs fashioned like gilded leaves swept back the waves of her unbound hair.
A wisp of shadow curled around Azriel’s ear, and his eyes snapped to mine. I schooled my face into bland innocence.
(Az’s shadows warning him Feyre is being an interfering little so and so is one of my favourite parts of this and I’ve been meaning to parallel it with Mor for ages but it’s coming out here so WHAT CAN YOU DO?)
This is obviously a fairly bland example since Feyre isn’t actually causing him or Mor any kind of harm - but it’s something Az clearly wants to know about and so the shadows tell him. I’ve never been able to see them as negative or bad in any way. I think they’re positive. And I think the only reason that they lighten around Mor is that he trusts her and that he allows himself to be vulnerable with her. Rhys has told us that Mor is the only one who can get Az’s guard to drop and get any real truth from him about how he feels. I think the response of his shadows is symbolic of that more than anything - it’s his guard dropping around her. He doesn’t need his shadows to protect him as much around her, it’s instinct.
So like on a personal level I think the shadows are good for him? And I don’t want him to lose them. But I also don’t think that it’s something Rhys uses and I don’t think what they offer Azriel is…Inherently negative. (This is…complicated…because in a lot of ways those shadows are tied to Azriel’s self-worth and the value he feels he has to his court because they’re a huge part of him being able to do his job. But I think that’s more…a personal thing than a thing that’s exploited)
I think Rhys definitely worries about Az and if Az were to say he was done with this/he couldn’t do it any more that’d be that no questions asked from Rhys. Whether or not he would is another story but I think…I don’t think it’s a result of power imbalance. I don’t think it’s because Rhys has made him feel like he can’t tell him. Rhys isn’t putting any pressure on Azriel here - Azriel is putting pressure on Azriel.
As with what we’ve discussed about Moriel this is something that comes from Azriel’s personal insecurities and it is not up to anyone else to ‘fix’ that for him. That’s just downright disrespectful of Azriel’s independence and agency as a person tbh. Rhys can’t take Az’s job away from him/lessen his demands on him for the same reasons Mor won’t go to him and try and force his hand about their relationship. It’s Azriel’s choice. Even if they think his insecurities and what he does to himself is unhealthy, I think it’d be more unhealthy if either of them (in this case more specifically Rhys as he has more direct ‘power’ over Az if you like as his High Lord) tried to stop. It’s not Rhys’ place to decide what Az can or can’t handle, that’s up to Azriel.
I also think that….There’s something of Mor and the Court of Nightmares in what Azriel does. I don’t think it’s exactly good for him (torture probably doesn’t do wonders for one’s mental health after all) but I also don’t think it fully prevents him from healing and moving on from his trauma. I think in a lot of ways it’s like Mor and the CoN and giving some control over something that was directly used to hurt them. (Azriel’s is just…a much darker, more twisted and uncomfortable and difficult thing to talk/think about version of that but there’s similar logic)
People often made the mistake of assuming Cassian was the wilder one; the one who couldn’t be tamed. But Cassian was all hot temper—temper that could be used to forge and weld. There was an icy rage in Azriel I had never been able to thaw.
I think this is a part of Azriel that is entirely his own and it’s not something that Rhys (try as he might) has any great influence over. There’s a darkness in Azriel that’s hinted at a fair few times and while I don’t think he relishes what he does I think he’s capable of it. In a way that say Cassian would not be, I think Az has the ability to…compartmentalise in a way.
I also think that it’s important to note, when talking about Rhys and Az which I’ll get to more in a minute, that Rhys is aware that Az has a support system in place? He knows that he won’t talk to Cassian about it and he won’t talk to him (which implies that they’re both concerned and have both tried, probably more than once) but Rhys knows that Mor will talk to him and that Azriel will (eventually) talk back. He knows that Az isn’t fully dealing with this all on his own and that he does have an outlet and someone he can discuss these things with and who will help him work through things if he’s struggling which is important. Rhys isn’t indifferent to what Az is doing or oblivious to it either he’s aware of it and he’s aware of the support Az has as well. (Also I think it’s important to note that the only thing we see Az torture in ACOMAF is the Attor. Which was….vile. Az isn’t out there torturing innocent servants for information and tbh I don’t think he had any great issue chopping the Attor into tiny little pieces)
Okay last point (I PROMISE) is the power imbalance thing you mentioned between Rhys and Az and Azriel maybe feeling beholden to Rhys and therefore somehow obliged to keep doing this. This idea makes me…Uncomfortable. It’s too Tamlin-ish for me to entirely happy with it but I also don’t think it’s happening? Not in that way. Okay this is also Complicated (goddammit Az) but I think it comes back to the same thing of self enforced pressures vs external pressures. And there’s basically none of the latter coming from Rhys in this equation.
Theoretically there’s a definite power imbalance between Rhys and Az (and Rhys and…..Everyone in the entire Night Court since he is their HIgh Lord after all) but….The thing with that sort of dynamic is like anything in these books. The thing itself is not inherently unhealthy or toxic or abusive. (This is also seen with Tamlin’s protectiveness: the desire to protect someone is not inherently negative. It’s only negative when it’s taken to the extreme where it starts to wear on their mental health and the protective person doesn’t take that into account because they’re too busy making themselves feel better to care. Protectiveness= not unhealthy Using that protectiveness as a way to control someone while dressing it up as caring about them = deeply unhealthy)
So yes Rhys has power over Azriel which creates an imbalance between them in a theoretical sense. Practically though…Rhys doesn’t enforce those ideals. He doesn’t pull rank. He doesn’t order any of his court to do things that they haven’t consented to. (Which is something that opposes what Tamlin does with say Lucien - he uses his power to force Lucien to do things he isn’t comfortable with) There’s a dialogue with them. When they’re deciding what to do it’s a group decision, they talk things over, they debate plans, they’re encouraged to offer their own input. Rhys isn’t running a dictatorship. He has the final say and his court will obey him I’m sure if he does give them a direct order but that’s rare.
I also don’t think Az is in a position where he feels he can’t say no to Rhys/challenge him. (This is…Something that we do see with Lucien/Tamlin which I keep coming back to because it’s a good parallel. The few times that Lucien actually pushes back or attempts to stand up to Tamlin and make his own view heard he’s belittled, intimidated and outright violently punished for it. That’s a power imbalance. That’s a situation where a person cannot speak up or say they are uncomfortable or unhappy with what they’re doing.) This is not what Rhys is doing with his court. Az can and has voiced opinions that Rhys flat out does not like:
Azriel pushed, “It’s a solid plan. The king doesn’t know our scents. We wreck the Cauldron and vanish before he notices … It’ll be a graver insult than the bloodier, direct route we’d been considering, Rhys. We beat them yesterday, so when we go into that castle … ” Vengeance indeed danced in that normally placid face. “We’ll leave a few reminders that we won the last damn war for a reason.”
Cassian nodded grimly. Even Mor smiled a bit.
“Are you asking me,” Rhys finally said, far too calmly, “to stay outside while my mate goes into his stronghold?”
“Yes,” Azriel said with equal calm.
Az is perfectly comfortable with, and capable of, disagreeing with Rhys even when it comes to Feyre. And this is a plan that Rhys ultimately accepts and agrees to (with Feyre’s consent) Azriel’s opinions are validated and properly considered and I have no doubt that if he ever personally feels like he wants to walk away from his job telling Rhys about it wouldn’t be the thing that stops him.
Which is important because it’s not that Rhys has set up an environment in which Azriel feels forced to keep doing something he doesn’t want to. It’s more like Azriel himself is an environment that forces him to keep doing this. But that’s on Az to sort out and come to terms with. It’s for Az to set his own boundaries and decide what he can and will do. Mor tells us the lengths Az pushes himself are bordering on sadistic but I don’t think anyone in the Inner Circle ever even comes close to agreeing with this or encouraging it. In fact they do the exact opposite.
But there’s a limit to what they can do without imposing their own wills and agencies on Azriel which would then be a power imbalance because that would involve Rhys using his authority over Azriel to compel him to do something that he doesn’t want to that would likely damage him. (Atm I think what Az does (and does well) is important to him. It makes him valuable. It makes him important. It gives him worth. And obviously he doesn’t need to do that for his court/family to love and protect him and value and respect him but he needs it personally for himself.)
(I know you said you didn’t think that Rhys was expressly doing this but I think it’s more like he’s…actively avoiding doing so and I don’t think he ever would. Azriel has never and will never be put in a position where he feels he’s being forced to do something that he personally - for his own reasons not because he feels indebted to any member of the circle - does not want to do)
So…yeah. I think the shadows thing is…An entirely positive thing for Az. And…just because it means someone covets him doesn’t mean he’ll be used? Those shadows give him power - and power over people - since he can read their feelings, intentions and possibly thoughts (we’re not sure, we just know they tell him things he shouldn’t otherwise know) But that puts him in a position of power. And I suppose he could be exploited and used for it but…tbh I think the shadows would protect him from that? (We’ve already seen that they rush to tell him about Feyre being nosy which is an incredibly innocent thing to ‘protect’ him from. If someone was using him…He’d know it.
ANYWAY THIS WAS REALLY LONG AND I’M REALLY SORRY YOU ONLY MADE A TINY POINT AND I TURNED INTO A WHOLE THING BUT I’VE BEEN MEANING TO TALK ABOUT THIS FOR LIKE SIXTEEN YEARS SO HERE WE ARE.
TL;DR: Azriel’s shadows are a positive force that do nothing but actively benefit him and protect him and why do people want to take them away from my shadow son/think he will lose them and this would be a good thing, I am confused?
Thank you! I had actually been a part of an audio drama quite a few years ago that I was asked to voice the Hatbox Ghost in. For the life of me I can’t find it anymore, it was rather a nice little Haunted Mansion piece. Only had the original few photos to go on at the time, but I always thought his manic grin made him seem like he’d sound a bit unhinged. So this is the sort of voice I did for it. Perhaps a bit sinister, but certainly rather cackling-mad but a bit of whimsy too. I added another layer to his laughter, this more monstrous low tone, just to add some distinction to it. A solid question and a nice little revival. This is what I always thought he might sound like, anyway.
Honestly, I feel like saying this again unless I haven’t ever blatantly said it before but the Portal games just bring me so much joy. Especially Portal 2 because you get dialogue from all sorts of characters and can hear Glados and Wheatley play off of each other a bit.
It’s funny to say because I wouldn’t exactly call Portal a ‘lighthearted’ game. It’s actually very dark and sinister but it’s also completely ridiculous in a lot of ways. The jokes are top notch. If you actually think of the implications of what is being said it all turns out to be very dark but on the surface I just can’t help but laugh. I love Wheatley’s banter and I like Glados’s clever little quips. The very sound of Glados, Cave Johnson, Caroline,The announcer, defective turrets, personality cores and Wheatley’s voices puts a smile on my face.
I don’t really know how to reason this but…Portal is a game that makes me really happy. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of solving the puzzles? Maybe it’s the fantastic characters you can listen to the whole time? Maybe it’s the fact that you feel strongly included because Chell doesn’t talk back it seems even more like the characters are addressing you.
Aperture is not by any means a place that I would like to hang out in for a long amount of time in real life. It’s really creepy, and Chell is in REAL danger there the whole time. But I love being able to adventure through the broken up chambers and the old aperture without fear of harm. I love the look of the games and the atmosphere they give off. The Place is enormous and nearly in continuous shift/expansion. It’s a fantastic world and you get to play in the front seat.
You can sympathize with a lot of the characters. They feel real and when you turn the game on again and do a play through it’s like you’re seeing old friends.
Playing the Lego Expansion for Portal gave me those feelings again and it was such a precious thing. I was smiling the whole way through.
The writing is stellar, the gameplay is fascinating and the world is a amazing. Portal is by far one of the BEST games I’ve ever played and ever will play. It will always be up at the top.