In Final Fantasy XIV lore, the Convocation’s overall lineup has changed a little bit as we’ve learned more. At first it was just a dozen members. Then we realized that there was a 13th member, Elidibus. And then we learned about the 14th member who did not stand with them for Zodiark, and thus do many things get more complicated and more ornate as we have learned bits and pieces about the member we cannot see and will never see, Azem.
Also, the member we have seen the most.
Azem is indisputably a major figured in FFXIV lore, the sundered member of the Convocation to which (it is very strongly implied) the Warrior of Light and Ardbert were tied as new incarnations. But that’s where it gets interesting. So join me on a discussion of a character we have not seen and will not see and yet one we know very well – and why we’re never going to see Azem and how that tells us a lot about Azem anyway.
First of all, I’m going to be using feminine pronouns (she/her) to refer to Azem throughout this article. This is not entirely consistent with canon; Azem’s gender is unclear and matches that of the player character. I had to pick one for the purposes of this article, and I did. If this really bothers you, I’m sorry, we can’t all have what we want.
So who is Azem? We actually know very little about her. She was a wanderer who solved a lot of problems, generally seemingly unsolvable problems. She was a good friend of Venat and Hades; she refused to be Hydaelyn but stood opposed to Zodiark. But all we ever see of her are snippets of her history, stories told about her. What sort of person was she? Jovial? Silly? Serious? Hades saw her as a troublemaker, but how much of a troublemaker was she, really?
We don’t know. And for some players, that’s kind of a problem. Why do we need the player character to have a fragment of her soul in the first place? Why are we an echo of Azem, a character we don’t even know by name? (Azem, like Emet-Selch, was just a title.) Why couldn’t Venat still just be Azem and save time?
And there’s a reason to ask that. We cannot ever meet Azem and learn about who the Warrior of Light sprang from, and as a result this is a story-relevant bit that will never matter. The only real obvious narrative justification is that it gives an explanation for why the Warrior of Light is accepted in Elpis so quickly, something that could be handled other ways – and this long predates this. So why do we have another character to remember whom we do not and cannot ever see?
“Wait, why can’t we see her?” The answer to that isn’t just that there are no mechanisms in place for it; if the writers wanted it to happen, fine, it can happen. But the thing is that Azem has been kept deliberately vague in a way that Hermes/Fandaniel haven’t been, and that’s not accidental. We can’t see her because it’s clear the writers have decided that’s putting words in the player’s mouth in a way they’re not willing to do.
You notice how often the screen fades to black when the player character is explaining something? That’s not by accident. The WoL is not mute; you’re just being left with the space to decide what your character says or does in the middle. That’s why you pick an answer but don’t get to see exactly what happens next after doing so.
We don’t get to see what transpired when Azem was sundered because the writers don’t want you to see that. Maybe she agreed with Venat’s plan. Maybe she didn’t. Whatever the case is left for you to decide; all we know is she would not become Hydaelyn herself. Her motives beyond that remain a mystery. And they are supposed to be; we are supposed to wonder what motivated her, what her goals were, and how she ultimately saw the world.
All well and good, but then… why do we need Azem? Why do we need for the player character to not only have the Echo (something several people do) but have a fragment from the one Convocation member who didn’t become a thrall to Zodiark? What is served by creating this character? While not everything that goes into a game’s writing costs money, per se, doing all of this does create extra cutscenes, lore, and background. It should be motivated.
But there isn’t a mechanical need for it. So why is this in the story in the first place? How does it enrich the story?
Simply put, by creating a place for the player within the narrative.
Here’s the thing. We have seen how a given shard can be more or less like their point of origin. Yes, shards of Hermes all seem to have suffered from a certain degree of malaise or sorrow, but it’s very clear that Amon was not the way he was solely because of Hermes. He was his own person. Absorbing the knowledge and memory of Hermes did not change his fundamental personality or outlook; they happened to coincide solidly.
Azem lying within the Warrior of Light means that the Warrior of Light is motivated to be a hero. To strive. But within that context a lot can differ. It’s entirely possible that the Warrior of Light is wildly different from who Azem was when she was alive and unsundered. Just like it’s entirely possible that your character is wildly different from who you are or even who you want to be. Or perhaps your character is exactly who you want to be.
By having Azem in the story, you create a heritage and a legacy. It’s one you can choose to embrace or deny. It isn’t why you started playing. But just like so many elements of the story through Endwalker include a meta-level understanding of being an MMORPG in the first place, Azem acknowledges that there is an influence on the WoL that is outside of understanding. But it also trusts that at the root level, the person who is playing the game is someone who wants to be heroic, to do heroic things.
Maybe those heroic things are crafting armor for new players, maybe they’re fighting other players, maybe they’re clearing story, maybe they’re weaving your own story with others. At the end of the day, Azem loved the world she occupied. And while your interaction with the world is through layers of distance, the character is a way to grapple with the idea of loving the world you occupy, too.
Or at least the one you vacation in.
So I’m glad that we’re not going to see Azem because honestly, I don’t want to. I can fill in the blanks about who she is and what she wanted to accomplish. I can tell my own story about what her goals were. That connection can mean as much or as little to me as I need it to. And that’s worthwhile, even if the answer is it doesn’t matter to you at all.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s talk a little bit about where the current MSQ could be going and what patch 6.3’s developments might mean in a larger sense.