The Encanto meta is live now! The character study for Dolores and Camilo from Encanto is available to read for patrons only, and the previews above are to share the love for these two cousins to the wonderful Mirabel Madrigal.
The winter poll brought us here, to the much anticipated meta on the Nabateans before the events of Fire Emblem: Three Houses! Let’s be honest, there’s not enough content out there on the people who lived in Zanado, the Red Canyon. Some of the exclusive content includes my headcanons, which are not included in this preview post. Most of it is directly related to the canon information regarding how the Nabateans might have been. You should naturally expect…
Spoilers for Fire Emblem: Three Houses
This preview includes samples of the meta on these Nabateans:
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- Cichol’s wife/Cethleann’s mother
As for how Seiros gradually became Lady Rhea, that came about from her remaining rage at losing everyone in the Red Canyon combined with an unfortunate lack of oversight following the century-long war. There doesn’t appear to be any existing hierarchy in Nabatean culture outside of answering to Sothis, meaning there was no chain of command. Whether the others were permanently a magic beast, living elsewhere, or, in Seteth’s case, grieving a deceased spouse while waiting for his daughter to recover through years of rest, there simply wasn’t anyone else fit to lead following the war—or to realize Seiros was establishing the false church out of misplaced and unfulfilled spite. Killing Nemesis and getting Sothis’ remains pushed her anger to the back of her mind, giving the vague appearance of recovery, but it wasn’t gone by any means.
That she chose to descend to Fódlan and walk among the people as one of them suggests she was incredibly trusting and uninterested in ruling with an iron fist (which she very easily could have done at the time). She liked humans, and it’s a safe bet that she traveled to Fódlan because she wanted to start her own family there. In fact, that’s precisely what she started doing once she was settled in. If anything, she was blindly optimistic because she shared her advancements with humanity and didn’t have a plan in place for anyone who might take advantage.
His ability to speak against Rhea’s choices without making her hostile (like she is with Catherine, for example) implies that Seiros and Cichol were equals growing up. Once again, his title given to him by humanity as “guardian of the land” backs that up. But a power imbalance grew between them when she assumed the role of leader after Nemesis fell, and Seteth was understandably worried about Flayn more than anything else. Cichol’s absence allowed Seiros to do things without his fair, unbiased perspective to take the place of Sothis’ mocking wisdom.
From July’s patron-only poll, the winner was Trephacard relationship dynamics from Netflix Castlevania! You can see a preview of it below, and join at $1+ to see the whole meta, vote on the winter poll, and get other benefits shown here.
Remember, there will be spoilers.
Alucard and Trevor
It’s not much of a surprise that these two started off fighting the second they met each other. Mostly because of family legacies, honestly, but the fight quickly evolves into something of a conversation. They are testing each other through this battle. That ability to test one another, push each other’s buttons, and come out friendly on the other side really defines their dynamic.
But they’re also two of a kind in that few others will understand how it is to be so entrenched in your family name as to be almost synonymous with it. To feel that duty so strongly that, as Trevor says at the end of their first fight, “living through it was just a luxury”. He had every intention of killing “Dracula” and didn’t care if he lived in the end, and for Alucard, that’s essentially what he went into the fight with his father thinking.
Their biggest struggle is that Alucard does care about class and appearances to an extent while Trevor doesn’t even a little, so they can get on each other’s nerves (more on that later with Sypha, who helps smooth things over with those two). They also understand each other’s hidden pain very well and cope very similarly.
Alucard and Sypha
All that blatant honesty and nerdiness they share means so much for them! She won’t mince words with him, just like he won’t with her. Meanwhile, she won’t get extremely offended and gives as good as she gets when Alucard oversteps. Who else can tell him he might be an angry teenager in an adult’s body? That frank ability to say what they might not like to hear does go both ways. After all, who will ask Sypha where she dropped the castle when he’s afraid he already knows the answer?
Like Trevor and Alucard, they also use sarcasm with each other to make painful moments more bearable, but it’s typically more lighthearted. Their reunion at the end of season 4 makes for a good example. Despite the somber atmosphere, Alucard was still making jokes and so was Sypha. The purpose with them is not to change how they feel, but take the edge off the pain through their brighter quips and banter.
The sheer depths of his sorrow do alarm her at times, but Sypha before season 4 is unfamiliar with grief and bittersweet memories as vast as what Alucard is up against with the death of his mother and the inevitable loss of his father. She needed time to see more of the world and the impossible situations (and corruption) in it to really comprehend that side of him and see what he needed.
Sypha and Trevor
Even before they got along, never mind started dating, there was a generous helping of blunt honesty between Sypha and Trevor too. It’s harsher than the one between Sypha and Alucard, but that’s because their resolves oppose each other. Primarily in the sense that Sypha still has hope when they first meet and Trevor is much, much more jaded.
It’s during his time spent with the Speakers that Trevor rediscovers his drive as a Belmont, along with the hope to carry it through, and he shows Sypha the adventurous and purposeful life she does wish to experience more of. Their real turning point was when they worked together to defend Gresit. Between Sypha saving his life and her watching Trevor easily assume command of the townsfolk in order to not only save them, but teach them how to save themselves, they both discovered something new in each other and themselves.
It’s this that really clears the way for them to share parts of themselves with the other. All the adventures Sypha finds so thrilling and fun, burning goat turds and all, have generally been a trial and horrific for Trevor. Even the fact that she likes to travel and live nomadically turns being on the run into just a way to live, another thing they simply do and enjoy. She brightens his lifestyle, and he expands her horizons. This is a gradual exchange that encourages a trust and affection that grows on its own by its very nature.
However emotionally stunted this group can be at times, they do maintain hope, acceptance, and support with each other through an instinctive synergy they developed over spending time together. When Trevor and Alucard are at odds because of their differing approaches to life, Sypha can sort them out and remind them what they have in common. When she’s at her wit’s end with their nonsense, they can work out matters on their own with dark humor and their biting banter. Trevor and Alucard offer different kinds of comfort for Sypha, one warm and active while the other is cool and unobtrusive.
Each of them has felt alone or lost before, but they have a place to belong together.
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SPOILER WARNING FOR MARVEL MCU
As voted by patrons in this season’s poll, we’re talking about Loki and platonic love in the MCU! Note that this is the cinematic universe version, so there will be inevitable contradictions to comic lore. Also, I won’t be mentioning the Loki series in this meta at great length, as I will be focusing more on his familial relationships.
It doesn’t appear that Loki has much in the way of friends on Asgard, at least outside of his family. His reputation for mischief was established very early and it soon snuffed out any chance for that, most likely. The people of Asgard were also probably drawn to Thor more than Loki as a result as well. Given how casually Volstagg and Fandral mocked Loki in the first Thor movie, Thor’s friends wouldn’t be stopped if they teased him either. Until Mobius in the Loki series, it’s all too possible he didn’t have anyone to call friend who wasn’t also family. He had a friend in Frigga and to an extent, Thor too, just by his nature. It is more subtle and unspoken in the cinematic universe, which I’ll delve more into later. First, there’s Frigga and Odin.
His Adoptive Parents
Odin was alone when he found Loki on Jotunheim as an abandoned baby, and it’s safe to assume he didn’t have a chance to speak with his wife, Frigga, before bringing this baby boy home. We can speculate as to Odin’s complex and layered reasons for bringing this infant into his home to raise as his own, but the core of it was that this was a child in need. Odin knew that and knew Frigga would agree, so there he was. Concealing his lineage to make him appear Asgardian kept him safe, and focusing his attention on Thor afterwards presumably had two purposes: readying Thor for the throne and keeping Loki safely unnoticed.
Frigga did all she could to counter this pain, becoming his favorite parent and his first experience with unconditional love where he could recognize it and not question it. Where he struggled to get Odin’s recognition and appreciation, she gave it freely and told him he could accomplish anything. Hers was a love he didn’t have to rationalize or earn, it was there for him to observe and believe in. For Loki, who was already analytical by nature, not having to be on guard with Frigga would have been a rare and tremendous relief. Not only did she believe in him from the outset, he could get the affirmation and support a child needs when he learned sorcery from her. Instead of feeling overshadowed like with Thor or unrecognized like with Odin, Loki found a safe place to be genuine with Frigga.
But one person can only do so much to compensate for the neglect of another, and Odin becomes a figure of denied love for Loki.
His Brother, Thor
With Thor, this gets trickier and more compelling for it! Loki’s feelings for him are complicated and contradictory, and the incident where Loki turned into a snake to stab him is a perfect demonstration of that. Thor himself says Loki only turned himself into a snake “because he knows how much I like snakes”, and he wouldn’t care to remember something like that about someone he doesn’t like at all. Going beyond that, if he was capable of turning himself into a snake, he was capable of other illusions too. Perhaps not being seen at all or having a copy of himself distract Thor while he stabbed him. The point is that he didn’t need this information on what Thor liked to pull off this violent prank (Asgardians, what can you do?).
Thor, through no fault of his own, became the representation of everything Loki struggled with. He was to be king, while Loki was to be nothing. He was well-liked, while Loki had no friends to speak of. But he was also kind to Loki and played with him throughout their childhood. And in his way, his affection for Loki was also unconditional! Because even after stabbing him, turning him into a frog, and a whole upbringing full of Loki’s antics, Thor always saw him as a sibling. If we lean on comic lore here to fill in the blanks, Thor always respected whatever pronouns Loki preferred, considering him a beloved sibling regardless. A fan comic I adore does a pretty good job demonstrating how this has gone in the comics, haha.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Feeling Unloved
Odin was the first person Loki really developed these self-sabotaging thoughts around. In psychology, a self-fulfilling prophecy is defined as “the phenomenon whereby a person’s or a group’s expectation for the behavior of another person or group serves actually to bring about the prophesied or expected behavior” (source). This kind of behavior in Loki was fostered by Odin himself, unfortunately. He would give Loki scraps of observable affection where it was safe to do so, which naturally led to Thor appearing to be loved ore. That always left Loki wishing he had more. Then wondering if perhaps he doesn’t deserve it. Then spiteful for being made to feel that way. Then turning that spite on Thor or get up to some other mischief rather than risking what little love and positive attention he got from Odin by turning it on him. This cycle made a foundation for Loki believing he was unloved by Odin and unable to take the risk on thinking otherwise.
One Prophecy Never Fulfilled: Loki and Thor
But just as Loki paid attention to the things Thor liked, Thor also paid attention and knew Loki better than anyone else. After Frigga’s death, he conjured an illusion that concealed his despair and how he’d destroyed his cell. During the entire MCU series, Thor shows absolutely no magical ability to see through Loki’s magical illusions whatsoever. So when he calls him out as using an illusion, it is his personal knowledge of Loki and his love for their mother, as well as his hidden deep-feeling nature, that lets Thor know that was not real.
The banter from Loki starts almost immediately after his release, which is just another way their companionship as brothers is shown rather than stated. They were both grieving and while Loki’s playfulness was probably also a little of escapism from that pain on his part, it was also to coax Thor into playing along. He goaded and prodded him with transformations into Sif or Captain America, teased him with being covert instead of using brute strength, and so on. So when Thor pretends to give Loki a weapon and instead, he locks him in cuffs, his parting remark that he usually enjoys tricks is more than a taunt. It’s Thor playing along! Even with Loki frustrated and unimpressed by being shackled, it was an expression of Thor’s gratitude in its own way for Loki trying to cheer him up.
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SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL THREE GAMES AND THE TRESPASSER DLC
Dragon Age: Origins: The Grey Wardens
As an organization, the Grey Wardens themselves are rife with grey morality (no pun intended). The main reason is that, despite offering a societally approved purpose to those who are outcasts otherwise, they are also bolstering their ranks by preying on marginalized groups through their desperation for survival or acceptance. For example, elven volunteers are particularly common in the Wardens because they accept everyone. Their only options otherwise in most regions are:
- To live in perpetual poverty in alienages and risk a violent death there anyway (with the threat of entire alienages being purged due to the actions of one elf or stories like those from the [tw: implied sexual assault] fugitive elves in Dragon Age 2)
- Save up enough to move out of the alienage at the almost guaranteed risk of having your house burned down
- Joining the Dalish, if even permitted to do so (as with half-elves, who have trouble joining, or elven mages, who pose a risk of drawing in demons)
Dragon Age 2: Hopeless Extremes
One of the common complaints about Dragon Age 2 is that the choices are typically bleak and don’t significantly change the outcome more often than not, but this is actually a strong part of the game’s narrative, realism, and atmospheric grey morality.
In game design terms, the lasting theme of being between a rock and hard place is depicted in non-zero-sum situations over the course of the game. The main point of these situations is that there is no clear winner or loser. There’s a real chance that no one will win, per se, and the best case scenario might be very unlikely and still not ideal. The most probable outcome could just be losing less than you might have otherwise. Not all choices in this game are plainly wrong and show their awful results upfront, as opposed to selling Fenris back to his former master. Most aren’t that clear, and you won’t know the consequences until it’s too late.
Even in the choice to be a mage or warrior/thief, the player is unwittingly sentencing one of Hawke’s siblings to death. To keep the party balanced, becoming a mage will result in Bethany’s death and choosing a warrior/thief class will lead to Carver’s death. The beginning of the game was a tutorial in more ways than one, preparing the player for increasingly grim events with little to no warning accompanying the originating choice.
Dragon Age: Inquisition: Perception of the Inquisitor
There are more player choices in this game than I can shake a stick at, but I’m keeping with the theme of focusing on the world state above all else. Still, because of their number, we can’t avoid mentioning the decisions made by the Inquisitor throughout the game. In fact, that’s the backbone of what I’m highlighting here as the depiction of grey morality across Thedas. From the moment the Inquisitor catches the public eye, their societal perception exposes the personal interest behind every opinion about them.
As such, no one entity in this game can lay claim to pure moral goodness. Individual bias is always a factor there. First, everyone is furious and looking for someone to blame. The sole survivor of a nightmarish tragedy that killed so many others is a convenient outlet for that. But once it’s discovered that a feminine figure was seen in the rift behind them and word spreads of the Inquisitor stopping the Breach from growing, they’re labelled as the Herald of Andraste.
As soon as the Inquisitor could offer something to benefit the people, their reputation improved drastically. This kind of response is the key focal point of morality and even godhood in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The Inquisitor goes from universally hated to publicly beloved in one event, and with it, they’re granted the power to accept an almost divine standing among the people. But that reverence is not unconditional, even if it’s refused by the Inquisitor.