Or, why I believe the Cauldron gifted Elain and Lucien to each other at Hybern, so they could BOTH have a second chance at a Mate.
Please do not screenshot this post without permission.
Disclaimer: all opinions are my own, and make no claims of being canon. This post is not anti any character, but it aims to discuss the underlying dynamics of the following relationships.
Many readers of the ACOTAR series have noticed not only the natural chemistry between Elain Archeron and Azriel, ever since they met in the human realm, way back in ACOMAF when Elain was still a human, but also the distinct lack of chemistry between Elain and her Cauldron-gifted mate, Lucien Vanserra; Azriel and Elain also appear to display much stronger examples of SJM-style “mate behaviour” than do Elain and Lucien, which has, understandably, led to some confusion within the fandom.
Given Lucien didn't react as a mate would on seeing Elain restrained and threatened at Hybern - as Cassian did with Nesta, and as Rhys did Under the Mountain with Feyre - until Elain was released by the Cauldron, I think it is safe to assume that his bond with Elain did not predate her being turned fae.
Why would the Cauldron choose Elain for Lucien, when she is so different to his first love, Jesminda? Jesminda, whom he thought was his mate, and with whom he was just waiting for the bond to snap…
Why not choose Azriel, when Feyre herself said how well matched he and Elain would be?
What sequence of events happened at Hybern that led the Cauldron to so royally screw up?
This post is pro “all the involved characters,” as well as being pro Elriel, and pro Vucien, but anti El*cien - please don’t read any further, if you aren’t open to a twist on the multiple mates theory.
TW: for mention of canon violence, kidnapping, murder and other mature themes and events.
Jesminda and Lucien Vanserra
Jesminda was Lucien’s first love, their story ending in tragedy thanks to his abhorrent father. Back in ACOTAR, Tamlin told Feyre about Lucien’s past, and included the fact that Lucien had actually suspected that Jesminda was his mate, though no bond had ever snapped into place for them. While this appears to shut down any chance of them having been mates, a closer read of the text demonstrates that it may have actually been the case that they were.
“Lucien fell in love with a faerie whom his father considered to be grossly inappropriate for someone of his bloodline. Lucien said he didn’t care that she wasn’t one of the High Fae, that he was certain the mating bond would snap into place soon and that he was going to marry her and leave his father’s court to his scheming brothers.” A tight sigh. “His father had her put down. Executed, in front of Lucien, as his two eldest brothers held him and made him watch.” - Tamlin, ACOTAR, chapter 18
Then, early on in ACOMAF, Lucien relayed his own story to Feyre in a misguided - at best - attempt to explain Tamlin’s actions to her (Lucien’s role in Feyre's trauma is a complex subject that involves his own trauma, and would deserve a whole post on its own by someone able to expertly discuss the topic - I am not a mental health professional, so I won't elaborate). As we have come to expect from SJM's mated couples, there are often parallels in stories, behaviours and phrases used that become obvious during a re-read; the following passage informs us that Lucien heard Jesminda's heart stop beating, and that he heard Feyre's neck snap when Amarantha killed her Under the Mountain - but there is no mention of him hearing Feyre's heart ceasing to beat. We know that it did, because Rhys felt her die.
“I was forced to watch as my father butchered the female I loved. My brothers forced me to watch.” My heart tightened for him—for the pain that haunted him. “There was no magic spell, no miracle to bring her back. There were no gathered High Lords to resurrect her. I watched, and she died, and I will never forget that moment when I heard her heart stop beating.” My eyes burned. “Tamlin got what I didn’t,” Lucien said softly, his breathing ragged. “We all heard your neck break. But you got to come back." - Lucien, ACOMAF, chapter 3
Firstly, how strong must Lucien be, to have gone on after losing Jesminda, whom he loved like a mate, even if she wasn't one? Although, as I mentioned, I suspect that she was. Feyre and Rhys found the experience so terrible that they made a pact to go out together, rather than experience it again - and they only felt the loss for a fraction of the time that Lucien has known without Jesminda. Secondly, why then, if Lucien could hear Jesminda's heart beating, was he unable to hear Elain's heartbeat, his supposed Cauldron-gifted mate, as she sat next to him in the polarising scene in chapter 24 of ACOWAR (that I will discuss later)? Contrast this to Rhys' experience of the events Under the Mountain, when Feyre, his then-human mate, was killed by Amarantha. Like everyone present, Rhys heard Feyre's neck snap, however, he also felt her die.
"If you were going to die, I was going to die with you. I couldn’t stop thinking it over and over as you screamed, as I tried to kill her: you were my mate, my mate, my mate." “But then she snapped your neck.” Tears rolled down his face. “And I felt you die,” he whispered. Tears were sliding down my own cheeks. “And this beautiful, wonderful thing that had come into my life, this gift from the Cauldron… It was gone." - Rhys, ACOMAF, chapter 54
The wording isn't identical, possibly because it would make the link too obvious, and SJM wants to keep us guessing, but it can't be a coincidence that Rhys and Lucien, whose stories with Feyre and Elain have such strong parallels (Rhys' bond with Feyre snapped when she was already in love with Tamlin, as did Lucien's bond with Elain when she was engaged to Graysen etc.), each mention that they felt or heard the moment that Feyre and Jesminda died.
There are also small analogues between Elain and Azriel, who many suspect were intended mates, until the unfortunate series of events that occurred at Hybern, and Jesminda and Lucien. Elain has, to date, not uttered Azriel's name once that we've heard, in the entire ACOTAR series - and here we have Feyre mentioning that Lucien hadn't "spoken her name" before, when he was telling her about Jesminda… and this was only after the Cauldron (we assume) mated him to Elain. Both males have also said that they "didn't care" that there were reasons why they shouldn't pursue a relationship with their respective partners.
“After Jesminda, they would.” Jesminda. He’d never spoken her name. Lucien slid between the swaying, bobbing stalks. “She was one of them.” The words were barely audible over the sighing barley. “And when I didn’t protect her … It was a betrayal of their trust, too. I ran to some of their houses while fleeing my brothers. They turned me out for what I let happen to her.” Waves of gold and ivory rolled around us, the sky a crisp, unmarred blue. “I can’t blame them for it,” he said. - Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 11
One theme that seems to reoccur among ACOTAR's males is that, after meeting their mates, and realising that they're mated, they tend to stop seeking out partners for sex, and find it hard to "stay away" from their respective mates - we saw both Rhys and Cassian go through this with Feyre and Nesta, Lucien was unable to stay away from Jesminda, despite the wishes of his father, and Azriel is in the middle of this struggle now (assuming, of course, that he and Elain are "true" mates). The point is, that mated males tend to be loyal to their mates, even before the bond has been accepted, and Lucien demonstrates this devotion to Jesminda yet again when decades - maybe even centuries - after her death, he still feels like his bond with Elain is a "betrayal." On the other hand, Lucien does seem to be able to stay away from Elain, with Feyre noting that he doesn't seem to be interested in "bridging" the gap between them (ACOFAS).
He just wanted a walk—and a few books. It had been an age since he’d even had free time to read, let alone do so for pleasure. But there she was. His mate. She was nothing like Jesminda. Jesminda had been all laughter and mischief, too wild and free to be contained by the country life that she’d been born into. She had teased him, taunted him—seduced him so thoroughly that he hadn’t wanted anything but her. She’d seen him not as a High Lord’s seventh son, but as a male. Had loved him without question, without hesitation. She had chosen him. Elain had been … thrown at him.
She was the most beautiful female he’d ever seen. Betrayal, queasy and oily, slid through his veins. He’d said the same to Jesminda once. But even as shame washed through him, the words, the sense chanted, Mine. You are mine, and I am yours. Mate. - Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 24
In addition to Lucien being able to sense Jesminda's heart as it stopped beating, the loyalty he still holds for her - and everything else that I have mentioned - the events that occurred as he fled to the Spring Court after Jesminda's murder also hold some parallels to the actions of Rhys' father after his mother and sister were murdered. Rhys' father - and Rhys - killed Tamlin’s father and two brothers, who were responsible for the deaths of his mother and sister, though Rhys' father also murdered Tamlin’s mother, despite her innocence (as Rhys said later, he could be cruel). While Lucien is obviously not to blame for the circumstances, as he was defending himself, the end result was that he - and Tamlin - killed two of his own brothers, who were there when Jesminda was murdered. This makes me wonder if Lucien will play a role in the death of Beron, whom he assumes is his father - perhaps in partnership with Eris, the only brother who seems to care for him?
So, it could be a big stretch, but given the textual evidence, I don't think it's completely implausible to consider that Lucien and Jesminda may actually have been "true," or "original" mates, just as Elain and Azriel were intended to be (theoretically, at this point), before Beron had her killed. As to why this hypothetical mate bond didn't snap between Lucien and Jesminda: we know that two fae can know each other for years and not even realise they were mates until they slept together, even if they were in love - such as Kallias and Viviane. We also know that two mates can have a lot of sex and, even if both suspect they are mates, the bond wouldn't fully snap into place until they were emotionally ready - such as Nesta and Cassian. Given the stress Lucien and Jesminda must have felt, with regards to Beron's approval of their relationship, I don't think it's too out there to assume that their bond might not have snapped into place because either (or both) of them were not in the right place to allow it to do so.
This is why the Cauldron deemed him an acceptable choice for Elain. Not only is Lucien a decent male at heart, with strong powers to rival her own - from both his mother, and Helion's suspected Day Court magic - but he no longer had a mate of his own in existence. Lucien was a safe choice for the Cauldron to make for Elain, as Elain was for him, as Azriel had been struck with a faebane coated ash arrow, and the Cauldron thought him dead, when it gifted Elain with both her powers and a new mate.
Elain Archeron and Azriel
Many people have outlined the individual instances in which Azriel and Elain display the typical attraction, trust and defensiveness of successfully mated couples from both the ACOTAR and TOG series; there are many, so I’ll be as brief as possible (Reader, I'm sorry; I truly tried, but this is not short), but the running joke - that Azriel and Elain have consistently behaved in a more “mate-like” manner towards each other than any canonically mated pair in ACOTAR - exists for a reason.
From their very first meeting, when Elain's dress matched the blue of Azriel's cobalt siphons, Feyre noticed that Azriel closely observed Elain; she saw that he noted the anxiety that Elain couldn't quite hide, the tight grip on her fork giving her away. This behaviour was then mirrored in the way Cassian watched Nesta as she ate; it's subtle, but both couples were demonstrably drawn to each other from the start.
A faint smile bloomed upon Azriel’s mouth as he noticed Elain’s fingers white-knuckled on that fork, but he kept silent, focusing instead, as Cassian was subtly trying to do, on adjusting his wings around a human chair. - ACOMAF, chapter 24
Elain, in turn, was able to read Azriel, and she trusted what she saw. When it looked as if the discussion about sleeping arrangements might be heading south, Elain looked to Azriel to gauge the situation, and relaxed when she saw that he wasn’t too stressed.
Rhys chuckled, Cassian’s wrath slipping enough that he grinned, and Elain, noticing Azriel’s ease as proof that things weren’t indeed about to go badly, offered one of her own as well. - ACOMAF, chapter 24
Azriel then showed a huge amount of trust in Elain when they shared tea in the townhouse garden, early on in ACOWAR, where he was both relaxed and comfortable enough around her to sun his wings in her presence. I have discussed this scene before but, for an Illyrian, who would have been taught from childhood to protect his wings at all costs, making himself - his wings - so vulnerable demonstrated the inherent trust that Azriel has for Elain, and mirrored the same trust that Rhys had for Feyre, when he allowed her to see his wings - and told her of his love of flying - towards the end of ACOTAR. Aside from the vulnerability, this wing-display could also be classified as peacocking, though Azriel, unsurprisingly, was much more discreet than Cassian, who not-so-subtly showed off his wings to Nesta, in chapter 29 of ACOWAR.
Elain sat silently at one of the wrought-iron tables, a cup of tea before her. Azriel was sprawled on the chaise longue across the gray stones, sunning his wings and reading what looked to be a stack of reports… - ACOWAR, chapter 24
One of the underlying themes that SJM uses between her mated characters is that they inherently tend to seek each other out. As Rhys said to Feyre in chapter 54 of ACOMAF, and Cassian said about Nesta in chapter 17 of ACOWAR - the only two examples of this phrase being used in the first three books and novella - they couldn't "stay away." We then have Azriel, in his bonus chapter of ACOSF, thinking that he had been right to "stay away." While this may initially sound like Azriel admitting to being able to keep away from Elain, unlike Rhys and Cassian ultimately being unable to avoid Feyre and Nesta, we know that Azriel is struggling with it, and it mirrors both Rhys and Cassian living through periods of separation from their mates, before they eventually came back together.
Additionally, before the events of solstice in ACOSF, Elain and Azriel did seek each other out; the time they spent together was most likely where the small touches and glances that Azriel mentioned in his bonus chapter occurred. Of course, for the rest, we only have the snapshots that we saw narrated through Feyre, Nesta and Cassian's eyes, but there were mentions of Azriel choosing to spend time with Elain from ACOWAR onwards, culminating first in their lengthy late night chat at solstice in ACOFAS, then in their rendezvous after everyone else was asleep at the next winter solstice, in ACOSF.
Azriel and Elain remained in the sitting room, my sister showing him the plans she’d sketched to expand the garden in the back of the town house, using the seeds and tools my family had given her tonight. Whether he cared about such things, I had no idea, but I sent him a silent prayer of thanks for his kindness before Rhys and I slipped upstairs. - Feyre, ACOFAS, chapter 22
Azriel might not care about gardening - or he may, we have no idea - but what is certain is that he does care about Elain, and I think we might find out that winter solstice in ACOFAS was when he started to fall for Elain as more than a friend; it may have even been when their touches and glances began.
Touch is another theme that ACOTAR's mates have in common, and it's something that Azriel often seeks from Elain, perhaps without even knowing he's doing it in the beginning. For a list of all the times Azriel sought Elain's touch in ACOWAR, look no further than this heartwarming post, but perhaps the most iconic example is when Azriel carried Elain, bridal style, in through the front door of the townhouse; this has led many to suggest that Elain and Azriel will eventually live in the townhouse, given Nesta - and Cassian - were gifted the House of Wind.
Azriel arrived first, no shadows to be seen, my sister a pale, golden mass in his arms. He, too, wore his Illyrian armor, Elain’s golden- brown hair snagging in some of the black scales across his chest and shoulders. He set her down gently on the foyer carpet, having carried her in through the front door. - ACOWAR, chapter 24
In addition to mates seeking "touch" from each other, terms such as wanting to “taste” and “smell” them are also common. Cassian's bonus chapter in ACOMAF, Wings and Embers, held strong parallels to Azriel’s bonus chapter from ACOSF, in that both Cassian (and Nesta) and Azriel (and Elain) began with the woman/female initiating contact, followed by the male wanting to beg on his knees to touch, smell or taste her.
... there was taunt enough in it that she placed a brazen hand on his chest. - Nesta, W&E
Slowly, Elain pivoted into his touch. Until his palm lay flat against her neck. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
Every instinct in his body came roaring to the surface, so violent he had to choke them with a brutal grip or else he’d find himself on his knees, begging her for a touch, for anything. - Cassian, W&E
He’d beg on his knees for a chance to taste it, but Azriel just stroked her neck again. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
Cassian breathed in the smell of her into his lungs, stirring his c*ck as it latched onto some intrinsic part of him and sank its talons deep. - Cassian, W&E
Her arousal drifted up to him, and his eyes nearly rolled back in his head at the sweet scent. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
A low laugh broke from those lips, which he’d been fully prepared to taste, to devour— - Cassian, W&E
Just this taste (kissing Elain) in the dead of the longest night of the year, where only the Mother might witness them. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
The brief Lucien POV from ACOWAR demonstrated that he also ran through these instincts, upon seeing Elain for the first time since Hybern and, finally, we saw that Rhys also touched, smelt and tasted Feyre when they were acting as Keir's distractions at the Hewn City, when Azriel was stealing the Veritas in chapter 42 of ACOMAF, though the instances are too spread out to quote concisely.
Touch her, smell her, taste her— The instincts were a running river. He fisted his hands at his sides. - Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 24
In addition to the instincts I just mentioned, mates also act to protect and defend each other. Feyre rescued Rhys from Hybern's soldiers in chapter 49 of ACOMAF, not long after Rhys had vowed to tear the world apart to rescue Feyre if Lucien had taken her against her will, in chapter 48.
I sipped from my wine. “And if he had grabbed me?” There was nothing but uncompromising will in his eyes. “Then I would have torn apart the world to get you back.” - ACOMAF, chapter 48
These words are then repeated, in a fashion, by Azriel in ACOWAR, after he realised that the Cauldron had captured Elain. At this point, they had only been friends for a few months, and both were still dealing with their past loves (Mor and Graysen). This always struck me as too strong of a reaction to Elain’s kidnapping, when her own sisters were not nearly as enraged; concerned, upset, angry - yes, but not enraged… nor did their eyes glow golden.
And what Hybern would do to Elain, might already be doing— From the shadows near the entrance to the tent, Azriel said, as if in answer to some unspoken debate, “I’m getting her back.” Nesta slid her gaze to the shadowsinger. Azriel’s hazel eyes glowed golden in the shadows. Nesta said, “Then you will die.” Azriel only repeated, rage glazing that stare, “I’m getting her back.” - ACOWAR, chapter 64
Elain also acted to defend Azriel in turn, when, in the middle of their escape, as Hybern’s hounds were attacking Azriel as he attempted to fly them to safety - as well as coaching Feyre to fly! - she used her bare feet to kick them off Azriel’s back and wings. This demonstrates that the instincts to protect and defend go both ways between Azriel and Elain.
Azriel’s roar echoed off the rocks as the hound slammed into him, dragging those shredding talons down his spine, his wings— The girl screamed, but Elain moved. As Azriel battled to keep them airborne, keep his grip on them, my sister sent a fierce kick into the beast’s face. Its eye. Another. Another. It bellowed, and Elain slammed her bare, muddy foot into its face again. The blow struck home. - ACOWAR, chapter 65
Many people have analysed the following scene, but it is so quintessentially Elriel, that here it is again. Azriel gave his knife, Truth-Teller, that he never let anyone else handle, to Elain; then Feyre the Prophet used mate-like language to describe it acting as a “bridge” between the two of them. If this was just Azriel being generous, why not give Elain any other knife? This scene also parallels the moment that Rhys armed Feyre, in chapter 19 of ACOMAF, before they visited the Weaver’s Cottage. It seems that mates instinctively protect their partners, but also arm them as well, as a contingency plan.
Azriel, still limping, merely nudged aside Cassian and extended another option. “This is Truth-Teller,” he told her softly. “I won’t be using it today—so I want you to.” …
Elain’s eyes widened at the obsidian-hilted blade in Azriel’s scarred hand. The runes on the dark scabbard. “It has never failed me once,” the shadowsinger said, the midday sun devoured by the dark blade. “Some people say it is magic and will always strike true.” He gently took her hand and pressed the hilt of the legendary blade into it. “It will serve you well.” “I—I don’t know how to use it—” “I’ll make sure you don’t have to,” I said, grass crunching as I stepped closer. Elain weighed my words … and slowly closed her fingers around the blade. …
I saw the painting in my mind: the lovely fawn, blooming spring vibrant behind her. Standing before Death, shadows and terrors lurking over his shoulder. Light and dark, the space between their bodies a blend of the two. The only bridge of connection … that knife. - ACOWAR, chapter 69
As Nesta said in chapter 1 of ACOSF, “Most males bought their wives or mates jewelry for an outrageous Winter Solstice present,” and what do we have Elain receiving from both Lucien and Azriel? Jewellery. From Lucien, a pair of pearl earrings - the meaning of which was discussed in this post - that don’t bode well, and from whom she shrank away… and from Azriel, a personalised necklace, which she asked him to put on her, and then leant into his touch. Let me make it clear that I don’t think Lucien is “bad” for getting Elain a gift; I think he is stuck in this bond as much as she is, and that is what pains him, but I will elaborate further down. What I do find interesting is that Elain seems to lose her identity around Lucien; Lucien rarely refers to her by name, and even Cassian labels her as Lucien’s mate.
He and Lucien did not exchange gifts, though the male had brought a gift for Feyre and one for his mate, who barely thanked him after opening the pearl earrings. - Cassian, ACOSF, chapter 58
But tonight, here in the dark and quiet, with no one to see.. . He pulled the small velvet box from the shadows around him. Opened it for her. ... "It's beautiful," she whispered, lifting it from the box. The golden faelight shone through the little glass facets, setting the charm glowing with hues of red and pink and white. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
The ability to communicate without spoken words is something else that we have seen SJM’s mates have in common; Rhys and Feyre were doing this well before Feyre knew that they were mates, a prime example being at Feyre’s intended wedding to Tamlin, when she panicked and sent it down their bond, “help me, help me, help me,” unintentionally calling Rhys to her “through whatever magic was between” them (ACOMAF, chapters 4 and 5). Azriel and Elain, apparently, are no different; in his bonus chapter, Azriel let us know that he doesn’t need his shadows to “read” Elain, and Elain, in turn, instinctively knew the reasons behind Azriel choosing to avoid her.
Elain's large brown eyes flickered, well aware of all that. Just as he knew she was well aware of why Azriel so rarely came to family dinners these days. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
Azriel’s apparent ability to both see and smell the mating bond between Lucien and Elain should not, as far as we know, exist - mating bonds that haven’t been accepted should not be detectable by anyone other than the pair of mates in question - and I discussed this further in an earlier post. The fact that Azriel can sense it, and it’s enough to make him so uncomfortable that he had to stay by the door, is a massive hint that something more is going on, and we will have to wait for their book to find out.
Are Elain and Azriel carranam? Mates? Both? Something else entirely?
Because her mate had been in the family room and Azriel had needed to stay by the door the whole time because he couldn't stand the sight of it, the scent of their mating bond, and needed to have the option of leaving if it became too much. - ACOSF, Azriel’s bonus chapter
And finally we get to my favourite of Az’s lines in ACOSF, when Cassian was - understandably - at risk of spiralling down into his worry about Nesta, and Azriel reassured him that even though Nesta was at risk in the Blood Rite, she was still alive.
He tapped his brother’s chest with a scarred hand. "Right here - you'd know, Cass." - Azriel, ACOSF, chapter 68
This line, when first read, was a beautiful example of Azriel comforting his brother through his concern about Nesta (and Emerie and Gwyn). Azriel rarely opens up emotionally - according to Rhys, he typically only does so once Mor has pestered him past the limits of his patience - so it is significant that he'd talk about so vulnerable a thing around Cassian, to help ease his mind. However, once the emotional dust from the final few chapters had settled, it stuck in my mind, as I know it did for many others.
What does it mean, as far as mating bonds go? How did Azriel, who has had no mate of his own mentioned throughout the entire series, know what it would feel like when a mating bond goes silent? We know from Feyre’s perspective, in chapter 77 of ACOWAR, after Rhys - temporarily - sacrificed himself to repair the Cauldron, that she felt an emptiness in her chest and soul, “at the lack of that bond, that life.”
I believe that Azriel may have felt the same thing when Elain was captured by the Cauldron, then “contained” by the steel chains that glowed violet, even if he could not identify what he was experiencing at the time. I would love to know the point at which he realised what that feeling, or lack thereof, truly meant.
It was Azriel who asked softly, “What about Elain?” and let her sisters know that she wasn’t accounted for; it was Azriel who vowed, with rage in his stare, that he was “getting her back;” it was Azriel who could, I suspect, no longer feel what Elain was feeling, so rage rippled off his invisible form when he couldn't tell whether or not the screams from the tortured humans were Elain, why he asked her if she was hurt; it was Azriel who did not put Elain down as they walked back into the camp, even though he was bleeding out - I assume he needed the physical comfort of her presence; and, finally, it was Azriel who made sure everyone knew that removing the spelled chains that Elain still wore was a priority, before he finally let himself be taken to a healer, only once Elain was back in the arms of her sisters (ACOWAR, chapters 63 to 65).
I suspect that the faebane coated ash arrow that Azriel took to his chest in chapter 63 of ACOMAF, when everything at Hybern went south, along with the containment spells that the King of Hybern had in place at the time, spells that blocked Feyre from sensing Rhys through their own bond, led the Cauldron to assume that Azriel - despite the fact that he shouted, back arching, when Elain was selected to go first into the Cauldron (chapter 65) - was either dead, or close enough to being so, that it no longer considered him a viable option for a mate, and he was replaced by Lucien.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Elain Archeron and Lucien Vanserra
From the moment they met, which we can safely assume to be one of the worst of Elain's life - and not high up on Lucien’s list, either - Elain and Lucien were thrown at each other. Neither expected it, or even appeared to want each other very much (despite Lucien’s cultural investment in the bond, he has never been very emotionally enthusiastic about Elain herself), and the situation between them hasn't got any better since.
Lucien told Elain that she was his mate in a moment that Elain will (probably) forever associate with her trauma. Lucien was not to blame for the bond snapping into place, or for inadvertently blurting out that Elain was his mate - I'm sure he was as shocked as she was - but we cannot blame Elain for not moving past this association. Contrast this with when Rhys and Feyre's bond snapped, once they were free of Amarantha - he managed to leave before he said anything.
“I almost told you then, but … You were so sad. And tired. And for once, you looked at me like … like I was worth something.
I couldn’t force the bond on you. I couldn’t try to seduce you into accepting the bond, either. Even if it gave Tamlin license to wage war on me. You had been through so much already. I didn’t want you to think that everything I did was to win you, just to keep my lands safe. But I couldn’t … I couldn’t stop being around you, and loving you, and wanting you. I still can’t stay away.” - ACOMAF, chapter 54
Despite Lucien’s claim that Elain was his mate, he didn't react as a mate typically would upon first seeing her restrained, when Hybern's soldiers brought Elain and Nesta out in chains. Cassian, though battered and bleeding out from his shredded wings, reacted whenever Nesta was threatened so, if Lucien’s bond with Elain existed before she was Made, he should technically have done the same.
Before Elain went into the Cauldron, after an unconscious, magically isolated Azriel still managed to give a shout as the king of Hybern selected her to go in first, Lucien and Tamlin both responded in a similar fashion to each other - with Tamlin actually reacting first each time - and were then bound by the King of Hybern's spells for their troubles. Lucien wasn't even fully focused on Elain here, as he kept glancing at Tamlin. This is reflective of the relationship that existed between Lucien and Tamlin until this point; Lucien took his cues from Tamlin, no matter his own opinion - and I am not faulting Lucien for this, as his friendship with Tamlin was inherently imbalanced.
Tamlin said, “Stop.” The king did no such thing. Lucien, beside Tamlin, again put a hand on his sword. “Stop this.” …
Tamlin spat at the king, “This is not part of our deal. Stop this now.” “I don’t care,” the king said simply. Tamlin launched himself at the throne, as if he’d rip him to shreds. That white-hot magic slammed into him, shoving him to the ground. Leashing him. …
“That is enough.” Lucien surged for Elain, for the Cauldron. And the king’s power leashed him, too. On the ground beside Tamlin, his single eye wide, Lucien had the good sense to look horrified as he glanced between Elain and the High Lord. - ACOMAF, chapter 65
Lucien, in fact, did not solely respond to Elain's distress until after she came out of the Cauldron, at which point a secondary mating bond could have been superimposed over her theorised "true" or "original" bond with Azriel. The following scene, though, in which Lucien breaks free of the king's spells, is just as much a hint that he is Helion Spell-Cleaver's son, as it is that he is now Elain's mate, and reacting to her situation.
Elain was still shivering on the wet stones, her nightgown shoved up to her thighs, her small breasts fully visible beneath the soaked fabric. Guards snickered. Lucien snarled at the king over the bite of the magic at his throat, “Don’t just leave her on the damned floor—” There was a flare of light, and a scrape, and then Lucien was stalking toward Elain, freed of his restraints. - ACOMAF, chapter 65
Now Lucien, who grew up respecting the mating bond, as all fae did, and who we know felt its pull once it did exist - evidenced by him snarling first at the King of Hybern, going to Elain's side, claiming she was his mate when the bond snapped, then snarling at Tamlin to "get her back" after Rhys and Mor had winnowed Azriel, Cassian, Elain and Nesta out of Hybern (ACOMAF, chapters 65 to 67) - still didn’t feel drawn enough to Elain to go after her, even once he, Tamlin and Feyre were back and settled at the Spring Court. He was clever enough to realise that Elain was in no immediate danger, as Feyre wasn't panicked about her safety but, as he said to Feyre:
“I want to see her. Just once. Just—to know.” “To know what?” He hitched my damp cloak higher around us. “If she is worth fighting for.” - Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 12
None of this sounds like Rhys, or Azriel, who in similar situations vowed that they would get back their respective Archeron sister. Lucien actually snarled at Tamlin to get Elain back, not that he would do so himself, and this was before he realised that she would be safe in the Night Court. While Lucien did take Feyre leaving the Spring Court as motivation to travel with her to Velaris, to Elain, his thoughts strayed to Jesminda along the way and, once he was situated at the House of Wind, his internal monologue when he unexpectedly ran into Elain showed that he'd just wanted a walk, and wasn't necessarily thinking about her, even though she was now living under the same roof.
He just wanted a walk—and a few books. It had been an age since he’d even had free time to read, let alone do so for pleasure. But there she was. His mate. She was nothing like Jesminda. - Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 24
I absolutely understand that Lucien was being respectful of Elain's space here, and leaving her be, as Feyre had asked; however, in saying that, I would imagine Rhys' thoughts upon seeing Feyre in a similar situation would have been much more focused on Feyre, and having wanted to see her before then. Sadly, I do read this as indicative of Lucien's future actions, where he appears happier away from Elain, with Vassa and Jurian, his Band of Exiles, than when he is near her.
He shook off my grip and headed for the door. “I can’t stand to be in the same room as her for more than two minutes. I can’t stand to be in this court and have your mate pay for the very clothes on my back.” - Lucien, ACOFAS, chapter 18
This sentiment is repeated in ACOSF, when Lucien told Cassian that he wasn't always in Velaris for Elain - the words "my mate" literally demonstrating his discomfort with her and, I assume, their bond.
“Why are you here?” Cassian asked, unable to help the sharpness. “Where’s Elain?” “I am not always in this city to see my mate.” The last two words dripped with discomfort. “And I came up here because Feyre said I should. I need to kill a few hours before I’m to meet with her and Rhys. She thought I might enjoy seeing Nesta at work.” - ACOSF, chapter 40
Other people have considered this scene between Cassian and Lucien, and some have suggested that, after Mor said, much earlier in ACOSF, that Lucien could no longer be fully trusted - a sign, perhaps, that his allegiance is changing to the Band of Exiles, instead of Elain - Feyre had sent Lucien to see Nesta train, to witness her power, and remind him of the strength of the Night Court, for whom he is supposed to be working.
Mor took another bite from her pastry. “Lucien can’t be entirely trusted anymore.” Cassian started. “What?” “Even with Elain here, he’s become close with Jurian and Vassa. He’s voluntarily living with them these days, and not just as an emissary. As their friend.” - ACOSF, chapter 4
The following scene is often touted as an indication of romance, or romantic potential, between Elain and Lucien, but the fact that we are told that she looked away, then angled her head as if searching for an answer among the city view, led many to believe that Elain was never talking to Lucien, and even if she was, he could not hear hers in return.
She looked away—toward the windows. “I can hear your heart,” she said quietly. He wasn’t sure how to respond, so he said nothing, and drained his tea, even as it burned his mouth. “When I sleep,” she murmured, “I can hear your heart beating through the stone.” She angled her head, as if the city view held some answer. “Can you hear mine?” He wasn’t sure if she truly meant to address him, but he said, “No, lady. I cannot.” - Elain and Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 24
Lucien could, however, hear Jesminda's heart beating, which I discuss in full in the Jesminda and Lucien Vanserra section of this post. Not only that, but he remains emotionally loyal to Jesminda, to the point that he felt acknowledging Elains beauty is a betrayal of her memory - this is one of the (many) points that made me think that Jesminda may have been his mate, as well as his true love.
She was the most beautiful female he’d ever seen. Betrayal, queasy and oily, slid through his veins. He’d said the same to Jesminda once. But even as shame washed through him, the words, the sense chanted, Mine. You are mine, and I am yours. Mate. - Lucien, ACOWAR, chapter 24
Poor Lucien; he thought he'd lost his chance at a mate for decades at least, maybe even centuries, and when Elain did come along, his mating bond wasn't all it was supposed to be.
What is interesting, however, is that although Lucien feels "queasy" with betrayal for Jesminda around Elain, he appears to be drawn to Vassa, comfortable with her, well before it became completely obvious that Elain was less than interested in him, and despite the fact that she still lives. The following scenes hint at Lucien’s enthusiasm towards Vassa as early as ACOWAR, and Vassa's own comfort with Lucien. This is in direct contrast to Lucien’s unease and discomfort around Elain, which I mentioned above.
“The human queens are still out there,” I said. Maybe I’d hunt them down. “Not for long—not if Vassa has anything to do with it.” “You sound like an acolyte.” Lucien blushed, glancing at Elain. - ACOWAR, chapter 78
Jurian leaned against the opposite door frame. “Queen Vassa offered me a place within her court.” Indeed, Vassa still remained inside, chatting with Lucien animatedly. I supposed that if she only had until dawn before turning back into that firebird, she wanted to make every minute count. Lucien, surprisingly, was chuckling, his shoulders loose and his head angled while he listened. - ACOWAR, chapter 80
“He’s keeping everything running. I think he’d have been crowned king by now if it wasn’t for Vassa.” A twitch of the lips, a spark in that russet eye. “She’s doing well enough. Savoring every second of her temporary freedom.” - ACOFAS, chapter 18
Both Jurian and Lucien stared at her, the former’s face utterly unreadable, and the latter’s pained. - ACOSF, chapter 7
Despite Lucien's apparent interest in Vassa - he gushed about her, blushed when Feyre called him on it, and his body language when chatting with her was described for a reason - he has continued to make a token effort towards Elain. Some readers believe that this is because he wants Elain herself (and that is a perfectly valid interpretation) especially as Cassian mentioned the pain and longing he saw in Lucien’s face at solstice in ACOSF, but I suspect that Lucien is anxious about the bond itself, rather than Elain specifically.
He and Lucien did not exchange gifts, though the male had brought a gift for Feyre and one for his mate, who barely thanked him after opening the pearl earrings. Cassian’s heart strained at the pain etching deep into Lucien’s face as he tried to hide his disappointment and longing. - Cassian, ACOSF, chapter 58
Given that the fae regard mating bonds with such reverence, I imagine that there would almost certainly be some level of shame involved with being a rejected mate, especially for the males, given they are still a patriarchal society. Lucien is, I assume, making this effort because it is what is expected of him, and is likely confused at his possibly-developing feelings for Vassa… just as Azriel is probably confused at his feelings for Elain, and his mate-like instinct towards her, given she is technically mated to another.
Again, please do not read this post as anti Lucien, it absolutely is not; he's a complex character who has experienced a variety of different traumas, none of which he deserved - to be clear, no one, not even a villain, ever does. What Lucien does deserve, though, is to be chosen by someone who loves him unconditionally, who matches his personality. Unfortunately, I doubt that this person is Elain.
What will happen in the future books is currently a hotly debated topic, and we will have to wait for SJM to release the information - or the book itself - to know for sure, so this is purely conjecture, but I personally think that Elain (and probably Lucien, too) will ultimately want to reject their mating bond. Unhappy mated couples, and the fact that the bond can be rejected, have been mentioned since the beginning of the series - I suspect that we are about to see one play out in real time.
Will we find out if there was a deeper reason behind the Cauldron-gifted bond between and Lucien? Was the King of Hybern working with Koschei, and did he have orders to shoot Azriel specifically with the poisoned ash arrow, in order to prevent the three brothers from falling for the equally matched Archeron sisters? Why would Koschei want Azriel to remain unmated? Is it because he wants Azriel, and maybe Elain, too, so isolated that they are easy pickings when he is ready for them? Did the Cauldron give Lucien to Elain to counteract the interference with fate, so that Lucien would leave the Spring Court for Velaris, then finally be sent on his way to get Vassa and the human army? Is the bond between Elain and Lucien even real?!
I suspect that, while there is some sort of bond - mating or otherwise - between Elain and Lucien, we may find out that the bond itself is made up of different components. If the mating bond consists of both thread/s and a bridge, then one of the threads between Elain and Lucien is there - the "thread" that Lucien referred to in chapter 29 of ACOWAR, but the "bridge" is not, because the bridge from Elain's soul/heart already went to Azriel; perhaps the other threads did, too. The idea of mating bonds and bridges is discussed further in this fantastic post.
My feeling is that when Azriel didn't die at Hybern, after the Cauldron gifted Elain and Lucien to each other assuming that he had (or would), but Lucien beat Azriel, who was unconscious at the time, to helping Elain, the new bond between Elain and Lucien snapped in a moment of heightened stress, but it couldn't snap fully, because the path to Elain's soul was not free. This is why Elain acts with suspiciously mate-like behaviour towards Azriel; it's why Azriel can sight and scent the bond between Elain and Lucien, and why he knows what the lack of a bond feels like; and it's why Lucien still felt loyal to Jesminda's memory - if the theory that she was actually his mate holds true - despite his new bond with Elain.
When it comes to bond rejection, I believe that Elain, or perhaps Nesta, will Unmake the single bond thread between Elain and Lucien, and that one of them will Make a new bond between Lucien and Vassa a bit further down the line, if that's what they choose… we only have small hints at their feelings so far, and while I think they're both attracted to each other, there's a long way to go between new love and accepting a lifelong mating bond. That being said, the little we know of Vassa makes her sound much closer to Jesminda, in terms of personality, so on paper she appears to be a better match for Lucien, mating bond or no. I also suspect that Vassa, the firebird, may either end up being Made herself, or could have phoenix-like rebirth/renewal properties, so that she is able to live a long, long life with Lucien.
As for the bond between Azriel and Elain, will it snap fully the moment that her bond between Lucien is Unmade, or will Elain (or Nesta) need to re-Make the parts that the Cauldron gave to Lucien in ACOMAF? While I'm keeping my hopes low for a full and complete detailing of mate-bond lore - SJM does have a plot to deal with, after all - I would love to find out the intricacies of which parts exist from both parties being of age, and which parts require the perfect storm of meeting and emotional availability to snap.
Could a faerie have a fully realised mating bond with a human, but because Elain was in love with Graysen at the time, and Azriel perhaps still in love with Mor, their bridge formed when they met, but the threads didn't snap? Or, could the threads not snap fully until Elain was Made?
Either way, both Elriel and Vucien serve poetry:
The lovely fawn, blooming spring vibrant behind her. Standing before Death, shadows and terrors lurking over his shoulder.
A bird of flame... and a lord of fire. I wondered if they'd found each other yet.
So, I came up with this theory and the Elriels over at the Gardening Tools discord and I had a good chat about it and thought that it would be nice to put it out there and see what everyone else thinks about it.
I apologize if this isn’t the best, but I’ve never done this before so a huge thank you to @mardereads19, @nialeirza, @miraculouslysurviving, @elainarcharon @stars-who-gaze and ellalynnn for their input and screenshots and everyone on the Gardening Tools discord for encouraging me to share.
Seriously, reach out to @mardereads19 if you’d like to join, as a newbie it was really easy to fall in with this group of people and feel safe sharing my thoughts and ideas. As you can see, this is literally my first post.
Did the cauldron know that in order to help defeat Koschei, maximum powers of light AND shadow would be needed?
Did the cauldron, so in love with Elain, give her a connection to BOTH as another gift to help not only her and her family but Prythian as a whole?
MATE #1 - LUCIEN
MATE #2 - AZRIEL
THE CAULDRON & THE MOTHER AS GUIDES
MATE #1 - LUCIEN
We already know that Lucien IS Elain’s mate. There isn’t any disputing it, it is fact, however you view the match.
It is also a fact that Lucien is Helion’s heir. We have seen Lucien use part of Helion’s power set before when he broke free of the leash that the King of Hybern held him down with. Feyre has also called on her own kernel of Helion's power to break through wards.
"There was a flare of light, and a scrape, and then Lucien was stalking toward Elain."
It would be fair to say that Lucien-still unaware of who his real father is, is full of untapped power he doesn’t yet know how to wield because he doesn’t realize that he possesses them.
MATE #2 - AZRIEL
You CAN dispute this pairing, but I’m presenting my “evidence” of his bond with Elain, believe what you will. These moments are probably the most memorable to the casual reader.
There are people who have done MUCH MORE IN DEPTH analysis of their possible mate bond, I will link those people/posts down below so that you can marvel and fawn over their lovely work as you should.
We see from their first meeting that Azriel feels compelled to make polite conversation with Elain, perhaps to ease the stress he feels her experiencing. We also see that Elain is put at ease by Azriel and when he seems at ease, she feels it too. This is despite her fear of the fae and everything she’s been told to fear about them. She clearly isn’t at ease with Cassian as she clutches her fork tightly like a weapon when he is seated next to her. Even Feyre notes their similarities during this encounter and later in the book, she thinks about “how handsome they would be together.”
Toward the end of this book, we also have Elain being turned fae when she is forced into the cauldron. This is an interesting moment, in which many people point out the evidence of Nesta and Cassian’s bond when he reacts to her distress, but Azriel has a similar moment when the King of Hybern orders Elain to be put into the cauldron.
Nesta’s screaming was the only sound. Cassian blindly lurched toward it—toward her, moaning in pain.
“Put the prettier one in first,” the king said, Mor already forgotten. I twisted—only to have the king’s guards grab me from behind. Rhys was instantly there, but Azriel shouted, back arching as the king’s poison worked its way in.
Feyre excuses Azriel’s pain as a reaction to the poison working its way through his body, however, she doesn’t KNOW that this is the case so her narration is unreliable. This is her interpretation, not fact.
We see Elain and Azriel gravitate towards each other more.
We are told and shown how withdrawn Elain is since being forced into the cauldron, but we are also shown how time after time she allows Azriel to escort and accompany her to the garden. This is an activity that we know is a happy, healing one for her.
We also see Azriel offering to do so on his own. Yes, it could just be an act of kindness, but with Nesta, Feyre, Nuala and Cerridwen all there, there really is no need for him to take the lead here. He clearly wants to help her be comfortable and at ease.
We also get a showing of mate behavior from Lucien snarling as Azriel leads Elain out to the garden. We get no mention of any such behavior when Elain is around Rhysand or Cassian who are also living in the townhouse with her now. Is Lucien also able to sense that there may be a connection between Elain and Azriel? Can he see it with his special eye? Can he feel that something is blocking him from developing a more substantial bond with Elain?
During the move to the townhouse, we also have Feyre once again musing about how Elain and Azriel would make a good match. Feyre questions how mates are chosen, who or what decides it and while Rhys has his own opinions, the truth is that he also doesn’t know. He DOES note the a bond can be rejected and notes that sometimes the bond is nothing more than preordained guesswork and while Rhys is referring to the cauldron working to produce the strongest offspring, it COULD be more than that.
This is an important conversation, as up til now, only Tamlin has expressed that the bond was not well matched for his parents. We now also have Rhysand saying the same about his parents.
If we consider the outcomes of the "poor" mating matches, we realize that without poor matches, Tamlin and Rhysand wouldn't exist. Love them or hate them, their absense in the story would change the path of everyone in the Night Court family and in Tamlin's case-No Tamlin means no Feyre Cursebreaker.
Later, we also get another Nessian/Elriel mirrored situation when Azriel and Cassian both still at the sight of the sisters as they finish breakfast and it is at this time that we again have Azriel offering to escort Elain to the garden and her accepting.
The two Illyrians paused their inspection of me long enough to note my sisters finishing up breakfast, Nesta in a pale gray gown that brought out the steel in her eyes, Elain in dusty pink. Both males went a bit still. But Azriel sketched a bow.
Elain begins getting visions and Feyre and Azriel both question her about them. Azriel studies Elain and then winnows away. Is this an indication that he feels the bond between them and has to get away quickly? We also see Mor having her own reaction to these events. Can she see the true connections there? If she did, she wouldn’t tell as she is the Queen of knowing all but keeping quiet.
I faced Azriel, exposing my palms to him. “What does that mean?”
Azriel’s hazel eyes churned as he studied my sister, her too-thin body. And without a word, he winnowed away.
Mor watched the space where he’d been standing long after he was gone.
Feyre sends for Madja, a healer, to come and examine Elain as they believe she may be going mad.
Madja can find nothing wrong with Elain, and notes that her mate should be able to find the source of the problem, but Lucien is unable to do so. It is eventually Azriel who realizes what is happening to her.
The ancient healer jerked her chin toward Lucien. “See what he can do. If anyone can sense if something is amiss, it’s a mate.”
“How.” The word was barely more than a barked command. I braced myself to warn Nesta to be polite, but Madja said to my sister, as if she were a small child, “The mating bond. It is a bridge between souls.”
The healer’s tone made my sister stiffen, but Madja was already hobbling for the front door.
She pointed at Lucien as she saw herself out. “Try sitting down with her. Just talking—sensing. See what you pick up. But don’t push.” Then she was gone.
The shadowsinger angled his head. Lucien murmured to me, eye still fixed on Elain, “Should we—does she need …?”
“She doesn’t need anything,” Azriel answered without so much as looking at Lucien.
Elain was staring at the spymaster now—unblinkingly.
“We’re the ones who need …” Azriel trailed off. “A seer,” he said, more to himself than us. “The Cauldron made you a seer.”
Does his realization intensify their connection? Is this part of the reason that Elain then seems to be freed from “whatever murky realm she’d been in”?
After this vision, Lucien decides to search for the cursed mortal Queen, Vassa. His connection to Elain guides him to his quest to find Vassa which will likely tie him to Koschei as well.
As if the understanding, our understanding … it freed her from whatever murky realm she’d been in.
When Elain is taken by the cauldron, it is Azriel who asks after her. I would also like to note that we never hear Lucien asking about this, we are never told that he felt any sort of distress from her through the bond. It is Azriel, not Feyre and not Nesta, who is determined to bring Elain back.
It is also important to note that at this point, the group has all heard Helion and Beron talk about what happened to females taken to Hybern’s camp during the previous war-it was NOT nice and that is all I will say about that.
We might assume that Azriel is doing a favor for his high lady, but we are also told that there is rage in his stare. He is angry and he knows that Nesta saw the camp but doesn’t back down when she tells him it is basically a suicide mission. He isn’t ordered to do this by his High Lord or High Lady, he is choosing to do this to help Elain.
In Hybern’s camp, Feyre and Azriel are both shaken when they hear a female screaming and again it is mentioned that there is rage coming from Azriel.
Azriel’s shadow-hand grasped my own, tugging me closer. His rage rippled off his invisible form.
Shortly after, they find Elain who again, is calm in Azriel’s presence despite the scary situation she finds herself in.
Azriel slid back the curtain—
Elain was in her nightgown. Gagged, wrists wrapped in steel that glowed violet. Her eyes went wide as she saw us—Azriel and me—
I shifted my face back into my own, raising a hand to my lips as Azriel knelt before her. I kept up my litany of praying, beseeching the Cauldron to make my womb fruitful, on and on—
Azriel gently removed the gag from her mouth. “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head, devouring the sight of him as if not quite believing it. “You came for me.” The shadowsinger only inclined his head.
Let us also note that Elain expresses surprise that he has come for her, lest we forget, she was kidnapped before and her fiance did NOT come for her, she is kidnapped again and it is not her mate, Lucien, who comes for her, it is Azriel. Is Elain shocked that ANYONE has come for her, or is she shocked that when she called down the bond for help, that it was Azriel who heard her and came to her rescue?
As they make their escape from the camp, Elain and Azriel take turns protecting and defending one another. Azriel by carrying her when she can’t run and shielding her with the power flaring from his siphons, and Elain by following his instructions to keep quiet and kicking a beast away when it attacks Azriel-with no shoes on-just saying. Queen.
One of the hounds broke free from Tamlin in a mighty leap. I ducked, bracing for impact. But it was not aiming for me. Two bounding strides down the stone ledge and another leap—
Azriel’s roar echoed off the rocks as the hound slammed into him, dragging those shredding talons down his spine, his wings—
The girl screamed, but Elain moved. As Azriel battled to keep them airborne, keep his grip on them, my sister sent a fierce kick into the beast’s face. Its eye. Another. Another.
It bellowed, and Elain slammed her bare, muddy foot into its face again. The blow struck home. With a yelp of pain, it released its claws—and plunged into the ravine.
The king fired another arrow—two. One for me, one soaring for Elain’s exposed back. Azriel slammed both away with a blue shield.
Azriel carries Elain longer than necessary, even Feyre, our narrator, notes that he isn’t just carrying her, he is cradling her to his chest. He carries her all the way into camp and in fact he NEVER puts her down, it is Rhys who takes her from him so that his wounds can be tended to. Even swaying on his feet, Azriel doesn’t want to let her go and Elain makes no move to BE let down. Even as his wings are injured and he is dripping blood, his priority is to remind everyone that they need to remove the chains from Elain. Elain kisses his cheek before joining her sisters.
The gray light of morning had broken over the world, mist clinging to our ankles as we headed into that camp, Azriel still cradling Elain to his chest
Rhys lunged for Azriel, taking Elain from him and gently setting my sister down. Azriel rasped, swaying on his feet, “We need Helion to get these chains off her.” Yet Elain didn’t seem to notice them as she rose up on her toes and kissed the shadowsinger’s cheek.
TRUTH TELLER - Before the battle begins, we find Cassian trying to give Elain a weapon to defend herself. She refuses Cassian’s offer, but accepts Truth Teller when Azriel offers it to her.
We see both of them acting out of their usual character with one another. Elain accepts a weapon when she initially refuses one, and Azriel lets her use a weapon that he hasn’t let anyone touch before. Cassian’s shock is also noted here and Feyre notes that Truth Teller is a bridge of connection between Azriel and Elain, this is interesting, as the mate bond has previously been referred to as a bridge between souls by Madja when she explains that Elain’s mate should be able to detect what is “wrong” with her.
She refused the knife Cassian handed her, though. Went white as death at the sight of it.
Azriel, still limping, merely nudged aside Cassian and extended another option. “This is Truth-Teller,” he told her softly. “I won’t be using it today—so I want you to.”
Elain’s eyes widened at the obsidian-hilted blade in Azriel’s scarred hand. The runes on the dark scabbard.
“It has never failed me once,” the shadowsinger said, the midday sun devoured by the dark blade. “Some people say it is magic and will always strike true.”
He gently took her hand and pressed the hilt of the legendary blade into it. “It will serve you well.”
Elain weighed my words … and slowly closed her fingers around the blade. Cassian gawked at Azriel, and I wondered how often Azriel had lent out that blade—
Never, Rhys said from where he finished buckling on his own weapons against the side of the wagon. I have never once seen Azriel let another person touch that knife.
Elain looked up at Azriel, their eyes meeting, his hand still lingering on the hilt of the blade.
I saw the painting in my mind: the lovely fawn, blooming spring vibrant behind her. Standing before Death, shadows and terrors lurking over his shoulder. Light and dark, the space between their bodies a blend of the two.
The only bridge of connection … that knife.
THE REAL KINGSLAYER - When Elain stabs the King of Hybern, she steps out of a shadow and rams Truth Teller into his neck. Is this HER shadow? Did Azriel provide a shadow for her? Is she able to tap into his power as his mate?
This is the biggest moment of bravery for Elain thus far and an example of Azriel and Elain possibly working together to take down an enemy, perhaps the first but NOT last time this will happen. Let us also note that while Lucien isn’t present with Elain and Azriel, his assistance in this war was valuable. Not only does he locate Vassa but he points her and Papa Archeron in the right direction to assist in the war. Let us review: Elain’s bond with Lucien guides him to Vassa, guiding Vassa back to the Night court family where she will provide additional information on Koschei.
Elain stepped out of a shadow behind him, and rammed Truth-Teller to the hilt through the back of the king’s neck as she snarled in his ear, “Don’t you touch my sister.”
IN ACOFAS we have Feyre and Mor discussing Truth Teller, Azriel and Elain.
Mor tells her that Azriel has already given Truth-Teller to Elain, is it a mistake that she says this instead of that he “loaned” it to Elain, or does she know that he DID give it to her? Did she let a truth slip?
I’m fairly certain Azriel has a drawer full of all the daggers I’ve bought him throughout the centuries that he’s too polite to throw away, but won’t ever use.”
“You honestly think he’d ever give up Truth-Teller?”
“He gave it to Elain,” Mor said, admiring a moonstone necklace in the counter’s glass case.
“She gave it back,” I amended, failing to block out the image of the black blade piercing through the King of Hybern’s throat. But Elain had given it back—had pressed it into Azriel’s hands after the battle, just as he had pressed it into hers before. And then walked away without looking back.
Mor hummed to herself.
Later, during the family dinner, Feyre takes notice of Elain and Azriel's interactions, the same interaction causing Mor to tense beside Feyre. If Mor is aware of the bond, is she worried that Azriel may have a lapse in control when he is near elain? Does Mor sense that both Azriel AND Elain are feeling the pull in this moment and that both may act in an unpredictable way?
I felt, more than saw, my sister go still as he approached. Her throat bobbed.
But I strode to my seat—nestled between Amren and Mor—in time to see Elain say to Azriel, “Hello.”
Az said nothing. No, he just moved toward her. Mor tensed beside me. But Azriel only took Elain’s heavy dish of potatoes from her hands, his voice soft as night as he said, “Sit. I’ll take care of it.”
DURING DINNER, Elain questions Amren about how she came to choose the form that she is in. Amren tells Elain that there is no going back to a human life for her. Azriel takes this moment to make a joke, again, he does what he can to put Elain at ease in an uncomfortable situation. Feyre even notes that a light returns to Elain’s eyes.
“There’s no going back to being human, girl,” Amren said, perhaps a tad gently.
“Amren,” I warned. Elain’s face reddened further, her back straightening. But she didn’t bolt.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I’d never heard Elain’s voice so cold.
I glanced at the others. Rhys was frowning, Cassian and Mor were both grimacing, and Azriel … It was pity on his beautiful face. Pity and sorrow as he watched my sister.
“Pick on someone your own size,” Cassian said to Amren, shoveling roast chicken into his mouth.
“I’d feel bad for the mice,” Azriel muttered.
Mor and Cassian howled, earning a blush from Azriel and a grateful smile from Elain—and no shortage of scowling from Amren. But something in me eased at that laughter, at the light that returned to Elain’s eyes.
We find out that Cassian and Azriel are sleeping over and it is pointed out that Azriel makes his way to the window of their room and peers into the garden below. During this short conversation, Azriel’s interest in what he sees through the window is pointed out multiple times. Is Elain in the garden? Is that why he can’t tear himself away?
1. Azriel strode to the lone window at the end of the room and peered into the garden below. “I’ve never stayed in this room.” His midnight voice filled the space.
2. “No,” Azriel said, not turning from the window.
3. Azriel remained at the window. “Will Nesta stay here if she comes?”
4. “I’d still be surprised if they remember once the storm clears,” Azriel said, turning from the garden window at last.
WINTER SOLSTICE - Elain gives Azriel a gift for solstice, not just ANY gift, but a thoughtful one to help him, to soothe him and make him feel better. The gift causes Azriel to laugh as Feyre has never heard before.
Elain turned from where she’d been speaking to Nesta. “Oh, that’s from me.” Azriel’s face didn’t so much as shift at the words. Not even a smile as he opened the present and revealed
“I had Madja make it for me,” Elain explained. Azriel’s brows narrowed at the mention of the family’s preferred healer.
“It’s a powder to mix in with any drink.” Silence.
Elain bit her lip and then smiled sheepishly. “It’s for the headaches everyone always gives you. Since you rub your temples so often.”
Silence again. Then Azriel tipped his head back and laughed. I’d never heard such a sound, deep and joyous.
Azriel mastered himself enough to say, “Thank you.” I’d never seen his hazel eyes so bright, the hues of green amid the brown and gray like veins of emerald. “This will be invaluable.”
We are shown again that Azriel gravitates towards Elain, even when both of her sisters are present to keep her company.
Elain enjoys his company. Feyre also catches him stealing a glance at Elain while standing by the fire.
I found Elain studying it, beautiful in her amethyst-colored gown. I made to move toward her, but someone beat me to it.
The shadowsinger was clad in a black jacket and pants similar to Rhysand’s—the fabric immaculately tailored and built to fit his wings. He still wore his Siphons atop either hand, and shadows trailed his footsteps, curling like swirled embers, but there was little sign of the warrior otherwise.
Especially as he gently said to my sister, “Happy Solstice.”
Elain turned from the snow falling in the darkness beyond and smiled slightly. “I’ve never participated in one of these.”
After the gift giving, we’re told that Elain and Azriel spend time together as she shows him the plans that she has for expanding her garden. Feyre asks herself if Azriel cares about such things, she has no idea. He either cares about gardening or cares about spending time with Elain while she discusses something that brings her joy, you decide which.
It was three by the time the others went to bed.
Azriel and Elain remained in the sitting room, my sister showing him the plans she’d sketched to expand the garden in the back of the town house, using the seeds and tools my family had given her tonight.
Whether he cared about such things, I had no idea, but I sent him a silent prayer of thanks for his kindness before Rhys and I slipped upstairs.
THE CAULDRON, THE MOTHER AND TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
We hear many opinions on why the cauldron does what it does, but the truth is that nobody has the instruction manual, nobody REALLY knows.
The same can be said of the mother. They do what they want, when they want and for reasons only they know.
In ACOTAR, we have these quotes from Amarantha:
In ACOSF, It is mentioned that the Mother has left Nesta with powers and “guided her”. She notes that it is a familiar voice, perhaps the Mother has been guiding the Archeron sisters for longer than we know.
It is possible that the Mother is also using Lucien’s mating bond to guide him to where HE is needed, first to Elain and then to the Night court which then leads him to Vassa.
In this book, Nesta finds some of her father’s carvings, one, a Rose, representative of Elain is half hidden in shadows, the second, a female figure that Nesta believes may be the mother holding a moon.
This could show us not only the connection that the mother has to Elain, but the connection that Elain has to her two mates that represent light and shadows. Is the moon in the mother’s hands telling us that she is guiding the group where they need to be for their next challenge?
We already know that Koschei has shadows of his own and that Azriel will likely help fight him, but Lucien’s untapped power from Helion will also likely be needed to help cleave the spell that Koschei has over Vassa and the rest of the women he holds captive.
So did the cauldron and the mother conspire to guide people into Elain's life that could help her and the Night Court family defeat Koschei and finally free the women trapped at his lake?
I think so. Busybodies.
For more Elriel mate theories and more, please check out the following posts and people, they are amazing!
Dusk Court / Fourth Dread Trove Object Foreshadowing by @mardereads19
More on the possible Elriel mates theory by @mrspettyferr
Elriel mates by @silver-flames
Elriel Mate Behaviour by @echotzzz
Azriel and Elain… Maybe something else? by @demonlovesangel
Elain and Azriel holding hands also by @demonlovesangel
My brain: ok but with the amount that SJM has Feyre always torn up about right and wrong how has she never even CONSIDERED telling Lucien that the man who killed his lover and tried to kill him isn’t actually his father? Has she ever talked about it with Helion? I’m sure Rhys said no for political reasons but when has that stopped Feyre? She knows that Lucien has no real home and lives in constant pain that his mate wants nothing to do with him and even literally describes himself as an exile but instead of offering this life changing information Feyre just laughs at the name he came up with for his found family while not even giving him a chance to find his real family? And who all knows this secret? It seems like Cassian and Nesta don’t since Cassian notices a “flame” he didn’t know Lucien had in his eyes... but then there’s also this weird side narrative of Feyre being close enough with Lucien the she’s sending him to check on Nesta for her. And Lucien might be in love with Vassa but she’s mortal so how would that even WORK? Would he just end up heartbroken again when she dies in a handful of decades? And Elain is a seer so does she avoid Lucien because she knows they wouldn’t work out? Or is it because she knows they WOULD and she just isn’t ready? And if the magic of the land is clear enough that people know Eris is the heir of Autumn and that Tamlin was Heir of Spring then how do people not know Lucien is heir of Day? Lucien is a from book one character who keeps getting pushed aside and I just NEED HIM TO HE HAPPY PLEASE!!!
During an IG live with JLA back in November, Sarah said the following:
Now, I know that I’ve already done another post on this topic where I discussed Elain + Azriel’s connection to various plot points presented in ACOWAR + ACOFAS + ACOSF, but in this post I will just be focusing on the Blood Duel and going more in depth with the foreshadowing presented throughout the series.
In the clip above Sarah states the following:
“each of the upcoming books beyond that [ACOSF] will also feature one couple getting together and having their own little plot that then ties into this bigger plot…”
Each romantic pairing that is featured in the spin-off novels will have their own “little plot” that ties into the “bigger plot”.
In Azriel’s bonus ACOSF chapter, we received a glimpse of Elain + Azriel’s subplot that ties into the main plot:
“Rhys growled, “Allow me to make one thing very clear. You are to stay away from her.” “You can't order me to do that.” “Oh, I can, and I will. If Lucien finds out you're pursuing her, he has every right to defend their bond as he sees fit. Including invoking the Blood Duel.” “That's an Autumn Court tradition.” The battle to the death was so brutal that it was only enacted in rare cases. Despite being an outsider, Azriel had wanted to invoke it when he’d found Mor all those years ago. Had been ready to challenge both Beron and Eris to Blood Duels and kill them both. Only Mor’s right to claim their heads in vengeance had kept him from doing so. “Lucien, as Beron's son, has the right to demand it of you.” “I'll defeat him with little effort.” Pure arrogance laced every word, but it was true. “I know.” Rhys's eyes flickered. “And your doing so will rip apart any fragile peace and alliances we have, not only with the Autumn Court but also with the Spring Court and Jurian and Vassa.” Rhys bared his teeth. “So you will leave Elain alone. If you need to fuck someone, go to a pleasure hall and pay for it, but stay away from her.” (ACOSF - Azriel’s POV)
Sarah handed us the plot of the next book on a silver platter.
Something that I noticed during my numerous scene rereads and searches was the inclusion of this line in Azriel’s POV:
“If Lucien finds out you're pursuing her, he has every right to defend their bond as he sees fit. Including invoking the Blood Duel.” “That's an Autumn Court tradition.”
I was surprised when I first noticed that the line was a bit strange. The scene where we originally learned of the Blood Duel and it’s history is noticeably missing an important piece of the puzzle:
“Sometimes they return to challenge the male she chooses for herself. Sometimes it ends in death. It is savage, and it is ugly, and it mercifully does not happen often, but … Many mated pairs will try to make it work, believing the Cauldron selected them for a reason. Only years later will they realize that perhaps the pairing was not ideal in spirit.” I scrounged up the jeweled, dark belt from an armoire drawer and slung it low over my hips. “So you’re saying she could walk away—and Lucien would have free rein to kill whoever she wishes to be with.” Rhys turned from the mirror at last, his dark clothes pristine—cut perfectly to his body. No wings tonight. “Not free rein—not in my lands. It has been illegal in our territory for a long, long time for males to do that. Even before I was born. Other courts, no. On the continent, there are territories that believe the females literally belong to their mate. But not here. Elain would have our full protection if she rejects the bond. But it will still be a bond, however weakened, that will trail her for the rest of her existence.” (ACOWAR - Chapter 24)
In the conversation above Rhysand never mentions that the Blood Duel is conveniently an Autumn Court tradition.
Instead, it’s implied that it’s normal for the other Courts to partake in and uphold the Blood Duel and its traditions.
So, why emphasize the Autumn Court’s connection to the Blood Duel in Azriel’s bonus POV ?
Because by doing so Sarah is able to establish a direct connection between the Blood Duel, a subplot that has been building since ACOWAR, and one of the main plot points in the spin-off series - Beron + the Autumn Court.
I’ve already discussed my thoughts and theories regarding the Blood Duel and Beron being an important figure in the events that unfold so I will not go too in depth on this topic, but please read that portion of my post if you’re interested in seeing my thoughts and predictions !!
The tumultuous political relationship between the Night Court and the Autumn Court was highlighted throughout ACOSF:
“Explain what the fuck you mean by Beron pledging his forces to Briallyn.” “It’s exactly what it sounds like. He caught wind of her ambitions, and went to her palace a month ago to meet with her. I stayed here, but I sent my best soldiers with him.” (ACOSF - Chapter 7)
“But no one had been able to decide which was the bigger threat for them: Briallyn and Koschei, or Beron’s willingness to ally with them. While the Night Court had been trying to make the peace permanent, the bastard had been doing his best to start another war.” (ACOSF - Chapter 8)
“Beron knows another war that pits Fae against Fae would be catastrophic. Many of us would be wiped out entirely. Especially …” Rhys tilted his head back to take in the apple blossoms. “Especially those of us who are weakened. And when the dust settles, there would be at least one court left vacant, its lands bare for the taking.” (ACOSF - Chapter 14)
“So we’ve got them on one front, and Beron here, ready and eager to go into war with Briallyn so he might expand his own territory after the carnage halts.” (ACOSF - Chapter 20)
It’s been made abundantly clear that Beron poses a serious threat to the Courts of Prythian. He’s been unchecked for far too long and now he’s presumably aiming for the throne of the High King.
As Cassian stated above, the main antagonists that were set up in ACOSF were Briallyn, Koschei, and Beron.
Coincidentally there just so happens to be three main antagonists as well as three main spin-off novels in the series…👀
Nesta + Cassian received the first spin-off novel and Briallyn was eliminated in their book, which leaves Beron + Koschei as the main antagonists in the final two novels.
In ACOSF Briallyn + Beron were both working under Koschei to help further his agenda, so one would assume that they have to be taken out and disposed of before Koschei (who is the main threat) is terminated.
In ACOSF, Nesta + Cassian had to locate the three main Dread Trove items and race against Briallyn whilst doing so.
Based off of the information and foreshadowing that we’ve been given, it’s safe to assume that Elain + Azriel will be tasked with locating the fourth Dread Trove item in their novel.
So, someone will have to replace the role of Briallyn and work against Elain + Azriel while they’re attempting to search for the “bit of ancient bone”.
Nesta reduced Briallyn to a puddle in ACOSF (so she’s no longer in play) and Koschei is still confined to his lake (so the only thing that he’ll be able to do is command his minions - a.k.a. Beron - to do his dirty work for him) which leaves Beron as the only one who is able to actively work against the NC and their search for the fourth Trove item.
Taking all of this into account, Beron will (presumably) have to be dealt with in the upcoming novel.
How can the threat that Beron poses be dealt with within the next novel ?
Through the Blood Duel.
(If you want to read my full thoughts on this topic and how everything will play out then, once again, read the post that I linked above !!)
The Blood Duel is an opportune moment for everything between Beron + the Night Court to come to a head. It provides an opportunity for the NC, Eris, Lucien, Lady of Autumn, Helion, etc. to kill Beron and be done with his horrid actions once and for all while facing little political ramifications for his death.
I know that in posting this some will argue that Lucien has more of a connection to Beron so he will be the one to deal with him, but I disagree with this viewpoint.
In ACOSF, we receive this conversation between Eris + Vassa + Lucien:
“Vassa peered at her hands, fingers flexing. “I fear what may happen if he ever gets free of the lake. If he sees this world on the cusp of disaster and knows he could strike, and strike hard, and make himself its master. As he once tried to do, long ago.” “Those are legends that predate our courts,” Eris said. Vassa nodded. “It is all I have gleaned from my time enslaved to him.” Lucien stared out the window—as if he could see the lake across a sea and a continent. As if he were setting his target.” (ACOSF - Chapter 7)
I believe that the last line says it all, don’t you ??
Lucien set his target on Koschei, therefore I believe that he and Vassa will be the ones to take him down in the final novel.
A very brief bullet point summary about what I believe will happen in the upcoming novels (these are just my thoughts + predictions, it’s totally fine if you don’t agree with me !!):
• I believe that Elain + Azriel will find the fourth Dread Trove item + the location of Koschei’s onyx box / a way to defeat him in ACOTAR 5.
• Something will happen towards the end of their novel, either Koschei will end up being freed somehow or Vassa’s time will be up and she will be forced to go back to his lake.
• ACOTAR 5 will end, ACOTAR 6 will begin with either Lucien attempting to free Vassa from her curse or the pair attempting to find and defeat Koschei with the help of Jurian + the IC.
Also, if my predictions regarding the Blood Duel are correct, then Lucien would learn of his true parentage in ACOTAR 5 and could use that newfound knowledge to experiment with powers that he might’ve inherited from Helion and eventually help free Vassa from her curse…👀
Okay so I feel like it's pretty obvious that the ACOTAR series centers around the three sisters. The first three books were Feyre's story, ACOSF was Nesta's journey towards healing, which leads me to believe the next book is Elain. People have also already pointed out that many important things in the series come in threes. Three made sisters, three strongest Illyrians in history, when you scry, you use three stones for the three faces of the Mother, there are three stars that frame Ramiel, and so many more. SJM has said that she's leaving the door open for the third spinoff, but look at this line from ACOWAR:
Now I'm acknowledging that this is probably a stretch (a really big stretch), but Vassa considered Papa Archeron her father, which indicates that he treated Vassa like his daughter. This sort of makes Vassa a fourth sister. So the cycle of the books centering around the sisters would continue if the last book was about Vassa. Vassa being somewhat of a hidden Archeron sister could also correspond to there being a fourth, hidden object of the trove. I also feel like we shouldn't overlook this moment:
In the same scene where Amren tells Nesta she has to scry using three stones for the three faces of the mother, she says that you can also use four bones, but she doesn't remember the reason why. So the number four seems to have a significance as well, and Vassa saying she considered Papa Archeron her father could point towards her being the main girl of the last book. Which makes me think we'll have Elriel and then maybe Vucien. (Unless SJM switches up and does Elucien and Vassriel lmao.) Again, I am aware that this is probably just me grasping at straws, but I found it particularly interesting.
The bottom line is as much I love Gwyn to pieces and think she has so much more growth to come, I can't see her being the protagonist of one of the spinoff novels. Vassa is just more connected to the plot, and she's been around since ACOWAR. She actually was first mentioned in ACOMAF, when the other queens lied about her being sick. There's been a mystery surrounding her since then, and so I can't see Gwyn getting a book over her. It just makes more sense that way.
And if Elain and Vassa are our next two main girls, it also seems the most logical that Elriel and Vucien are endgame based on what we've seen. But I could be completely wrong and reading way too much into this lol. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!
Reason 1035235 Book 5 is Elriel and Book 6 is Vucien
With the way these books are being written, one stand alone after another with an overarching plot, then ACOSF would need to not only center on a romance, but set up the next one. They need to show progress in some form. And if we go back, the whole point of ACOFAS was to give a little fluff, but also to set up the next few books. (SJM herself said seeds were planted in ACOFAS for the spinoffs.)
Now, I actually want to dive into Lucien's romantic setup. So we're going to look at Lucien and Elain, and Lucien and Vassa.
FYI, this post will be very long, because I wanted to highlight most if not all of their the scenes.
For reference: Lucien and Elain, Lucien and Vassa
Lucien and Elain
He hadn’t mentioned Elain, or his proximity to her. Elain had not asked him to stay, or to go. And whether she cared about the bruises on his face, she certainly hadn’t let on.
Elain, at least, would be too polite to send Lucien away when he wanted to help. She was too polite to send him away on a normal day. She just ignored him or barely spoke to him until he got the hint and left. As far as I knew, he hadn’t come within touching distance since the aftermath of that final battle. No, she tended to her gardens here, silently mourning her lost human life. Mourning Graysen.
How Lucien withstood it, I didn’t know. Not that he’d shown any interest in bridging that gap between them.
“You’re welcome to stay for the night,” I said, since Elain certainly wasn’t going to.
Lucien lowered his hands into his lap and leaned back in the armchair. “Thank you, but I have other plans.”
I prayed he didn’t catch the slightly relieved glimmer on Elain’s face.
“She wants nothing to do with me.”
“Would you, if your positions were reversed?”
He didn’t answer.
“Spend time with her.”
“I don’t think she’ll tolerate two minutes alone with me, so forget about two weeks.”
“I can’t stand to be in the same room as her for more than two minutes."
“He brought you a present.”
Those doe-brown eyes turned toward me. Sharper than I’d ever seen them. “And that entitles him to my time, my affections?”
“No.” I blinked. “But he is a good male.” Despite our harsh words. Despite this Band of Exiles bullshit. “He cares for you.”
“He doesn’t know me.”
“You don’t give him the chance to even try to do so.”
Her mouth tightened, the only sign of anger in her graceful countenance. “I don’t want a mate. I don’t want a male.”
I handed Elain the small box with her name on it. Her smile faded as she opened it.
“Enchanted gloves,” she read from the card. “That won’t tear or become too sweaty while gardening.” She set aside the box without looking at it for longer than a moment. And I wondered if she preferred to have torn and sweaty hands, if the dirt and cuts were proof of her labor. Her joy.
Lucien and Vassa
But Vassa’s freedom would end. Lucien had said as much months ago, and still visited her often enough that I knew nothing in that regard had improved.
“I’ve been at the Spring Court every now and then. But if I’m not here in Velaris, I’ve mostly been staying with Jurian. And Vassa.”
"I think he’d have been crowned king by now if it wasn’t for Vassa.” A twitch of the lips, a spark in that russet eye. “She’s doing well enough. Savoring every second of her temporary freedom.”
“You’d be surprised to see how the three of us get along.”
Friends, I realized. They had somehow become his friends.
“So you’d rather stay with them?”
“I’m not staying with them. The manor is ours.”
“That’s what we call ourselves. The Band of Exiles.”
From these scenes, we essentially know Elain and Lucien have not progressed AT ALL. Elain still mourns Graysen, she wants nothing to do with Lucien, avoids him and is obviously uncomfortable around him.
Lucien on the flip side, isn't really trying to bridge that gap, but he's still hanging on and has some mate instincts regarding Graysen. He's not lost hope for her, but he's not really trying to push too hard either. (IMO out of respect, but also because of lack of interest beyond the bond.)
Conclusion: They're not being set up at this point. They haven't progressed, and his feelings technically aren't really genuine because it's not ELAIN he's interested in. It's his MATE. (Note, not his fault. Not blaming him for this. Just pointing out this is a more superficial "relationship" because its not based on an actual relationship, but a bond that neither chose for themselves.)
Lucien and Vassa on the other hand have made progress. They started off allies in war and are now friends. He's spent a lot of time with her, he's now living with her (and Jurian), and they have a name for themselves. He feels comfortable in the human lands with her and Jurian, unlike in the Night Court. (This is very important for Lucien's journey and I'll talk more about it in a second.)
Conclusion: Lucien and Vassa's relationship HAS progressed. It's moving forward, whereas Elain and Lucien are still stagnant. Friendship is a stepping stone in all of SJM's romances, so we can expect whoever Lucien ends up with, it will start with friendship. And at this point, Vassa is his friend, not Elain.
Now let's move onto ACOSF, because this is where SJM could turn things around, right? This is where she has to really start steering the ships in the right direction because the next books will focus on these relationships.
Lucien and Elain
There had been some tightness in Elain’s face as she’d said it. Normally when she made such excuses, Lucien was around, but the male remained in the human lands with Jurian and Vassa.
“Why are you here?” Cassian asked, unable to help the sharpness. “Where’s Elain?”
“I am not always in this city to see my mate.” The last two words dripped with discomfort.
Her brown eyes were wary. Usually, that look was reserved for Lucien.
Elain, the wretch, had taken the seat between Feyre and Varian, about as far from Lucien as she could get.
He and Lucien did not exchange gifts, though the male had brought a gift for Feyre and one for his mate, who barely thanked him after opening the pearl earrings.
Cassian’s heart strained at the pain etching deep into Lucien’s face as he tried to hide his disappointment and longing. Elain only shrank further into herself, no trace of that newfound boldness to be seen.
Lucien and Vassa
“Lucien can’t be entirely trusted anymore.”
Cassian started. “What?”
“Even with Elain here, he’s become close with Jurian and Vassa. He’s voluntarily living with them these days, and not just as an emissary. As their friend.”
"So Lucien can’t be unbiased in reporting to us on Vassa.”
Mor winnowed Cassian after sundown directly to the manor that had become home and headquarters to Jurian, Vassa, and—apparently—Lucien.
Vassa rolled her eyes, then looked to Lucien, who sank onto the sofa beside Jurian. Like the Fae male had settled similar arguments between them.
Both Jurian and Lucien stared at her, the former’s face utterly unreadable, and the latter’s pained.
Vassa nodded. “It is all I have gleaned from my time enslaved to him.”
Lucien stared out the window—as if he could see the lake across a sea and a continent. As if he were setting his target.
“And Jurian and Vassa?”
“At each other’s throats, as they like to be,” he said, a tad sharply. She wondered what that was about—and for the life of her couldn’t read it.
Elain and Lucien have still remained stagnant. Elain is even more uncomfortable--she sits as far away as she can, unlike in ACOFAS where she at least sat within talking distance--and she literally shrinks inward and loses her newfound boldness around him.
While Lucien showed disappointment and longing on Solstice, he's now showing actual discomfort, just like Elain. He's spending most of his time away, with Jurian and Vassa, and still isn't doing much to bridge the gap.
These two have, imo, sank further. They didn't just remain stagnant, they kinda backtracked even more. Why? Because at this point, we know Elain has seemingly gotten over Graysen and developed feelings for Azriel, and I think Lucien is developing them for Vassa.
We see a potential spark of jealousy regarding Jurian and Vassa. The manor isn't just theirs now--it's home for Lucien. (Something he was struggling with in ACOFAS, feeling like he had nowhere to go, no place to call home. Again, this is progress in their relationship but also in Lucien's journey. Remember, that's important.) It's pointed out that not only is Lucien voluntarily living with her, but he's so close with her that the Night Court doesn't think they can fully trust him to be unbiased on Vassa. Like he can't do his actual job because of her, and his relationship with her.
All of this is more progress on their relationship, emphasizing they've grown closer, he now has a home (with her and Jurian), and he's setting his target on Koschei, knowing she will have to return to him - THAT is all set up for his romance.
In conclusion, without even needing to dive into Azriel and Elain's progress over the series and obvious setup, we can see Lucien's journey has progressed with Vassa - his romantic setup is with Vassa. Not Elain.
And I didn't even go into the Swan Lake/Koschei parallels. But I'll just leave the post with this:
A bird of flame...and a lord of fire. I wondered if they’d found each other yet.
One of the reasons why I think that we'll get an Elriel book next and a Vucien book last is because of the way that Hybern died in ACOWAR. It was so symbolic that Elain and Nesta killed Hybern together. Hybern was responsible for stripping Nesta and Elain of their humanity and turning them into fae. Yes, the queens had a hand in it, but it was Hybern that ultimately did it. It was only right that Elain and Nesta were the ones to end him. It was so meaningful that together they took his life like he took theirs. I think it was also purposeful on SJM's part.
This is why I believe that Vassa is going to be the one to kill Koschei. Just like Hybern stole Nesta and Elain's humanity, Koschei stole Vassa's. Again, the human queens had a hand in it because they sold her to him, but Koschei was the one that ultimately enslaved Vassa and cursed her to turn into a firebird by day. I think that it would just feel wrong to have anyone else to take him down because Vassa is the one that has been wronged by him the most. It would be so powerful if Koschei ended being killed by one of women he enslaved, and based on what we've seen, I personally can't imagine SJM going any other route.
Also, Koschei so far is the main villain of the spinoff series. Yes, we have the remaining mortal queens and Beron, but Koschei is the one pulling all their strings. This is why I think Koschei will have to be dealt with last. And as we know, Vassa is the character that is the most connected to Koschei, which is why it makes sense to me that she'll be the main girl of the last book. And I don't know if it's just me, but Vassa totally gives off main character vibes.
I also don't think it's a coincidence that Vassa and Jesminda, Lucien's first love, are described similarly. In ACOWAR, Lucien says that Elain "was nothing like Jesminda. Jesminda had been all laughter and mischief, too wild and free to be contained by the country life that she’d been born into." When we first meet Vassa, Feyre describes her as "Coltish. Fierce and untamed, despite her curse." The words wild and untamed mean the same thing, and I thought it was very interesting that Jesminda is described as "free," since that is literally what Vassa is striving to be. Free from her curse. I might be reading too much into that part lmao, but we all know SJM loves her details.
There's also the fact that just like Jesminda and Vassa are described similarly, so are Elain and Mor, who we all know is Azriel's first love. Mor and Elain are both associated with light and they are the only two people that Azriel's shadows have been known to constantly lighten around. I'm not going to get too into this one because many people have already analyzed this in depth and I would just be repeating what's already been said a thousand times.
I also think that there's no way in hell Lucien is not gonna get his own book, but it's just not gonna be the next one. Lucien is literally an OG. He was a main character since the first book in the series when the Inner Circle wasn't even introduced yet. He's been an important part of the series since then, but he was more of a central character in the first book than in following two. This is why I think SJM is saving his book for last. He's also the most important character in the series that is heavily connected to Vassa. You could say that Jurian is connected to her, too, but he's not as important a character as Lucien, not by a long shot.
Now, regardless of who you ship, I think we can all pretty much agree that the next book is Elain's. Even the people that don't like her agree. I know other people have already brought this up, but just to reiterate, SJM herself has said she knew for a while who/what the first two books in the spin-off series were going to be about, but she was leaving the door open for the last one. She also said she planted the seeds for these two books in ACOFAS, which is where she said she was writing Elain's book. And we know that SJM said that the moment Nesta and Elain came back into the series in ACOMAF, she knew their story wasn't over and she wanted to write more about them. And this is not even mentioning the fact that Elain was the biggest common denominator in the two ACOSF bonus chapters. Now, there's always a chance I'm wrong, but I'm 99% sure Elain's book is coming up and she's gonna be the next main girl.
I think we can all also agree that Az is getting a book. Just like all signs point to Elain being the next main girl, I think the same can pretty much be said for Azriel. We literally got his POV, why include that if the next book isn't gonna be about him? To me, it makes no sense to put us inside his head only to not get his POV in the next book. Plus, we all know that SJM loves him and has been dropping all sorts of hints about him. She mentioned that he has his own journey to go on, and she even brought up his bedroom habits. I can't see her bringing that up unless she's gonna write it. Azriel was also more present in the last three books in the series than Lucien, so it think he's more likely to be the main guy of the next book than Lucien is. There's just more set up for Az.
As much as I absolutely love Gwyn and think she'll still be important in the series, I can't see her being a main character alongside Azriel. Gwyn has already went on her journey, though that's not to say she can't have another one. But Gwyn literally got more character development in one book than Azriel and Elain got in three. While there is a set up for both Azriel and Elain, there is also so much that we don't know about them. We've been getting small glimpses, but they're still a mystery, which is why I think they're more likely to be main characters than Gwyn. Plus, Gwyn so far is not connected to the overarching plot of Koschei and the queens.
So if Elain is the next main girl and Azriel is the next main guy, that obviously means Elriel. But this is just my opinion and I'm not trying to invalidate anyone else's. This ended up being way longer than I anticipated, but what's new. Feel free to tell me what you guys think, or if I missed anything or got anything wrong 💙
So I was thinking of Elucien as a couple (obviously I'm an Elriel stan but we have to take into account every possible outcome, right?) and I must admit, they could be an amazing relationship,etc. But the thing with them is that SJM has literally done nothing for them at all. Except for a mating bond that neither of them want, there is no chemistry or even foreshadowing for them being endgame, but that's a rant for another day.
So as most of us know, SJM's first plan was to have Nesta and Lucien as mates but then she realised that they wouldn't work out (or in her words, be at eachother's throats NOT in a good way). Unfortunately, before she realised this, she put in a bit of foreshadowing for them as mates in the first book when she mentioned that Feyre painted flames on Nesta's drawer, to symbolise Lucien. Obviously, she scrapped that idea and made Elain as Lucien's mate, leaving her readers to guess what will happen in the love mess that is Azriel - Elain - Lucien - Vassa - Gwyn. I think it's safe to say that ACOSF left most of us as confused as ever so I decided to look back into the previous books and more specifically, into Elucien.
We find out that Lucien had been in love once with a lesser fae female, Jesminda, who had been killed in front of him. So I tried to look back into how Lucien described her as a person, mostly to see what attracts him. This specific scene intrigued me the most:
"She was nothing like Jesminda."
"Jesminda had been all laughter and mischief, too wild and free..."
"She had teased him, taunted him - seduced him so thoroughly that he hadn't wanted anything else but her."
"She had chosen him. Elain had been...thrown at him."
(ACOWAR - pg 249)
As we can see, Jesminda had a very bold and fiery personality (to match Lucien's power??) and I do believe that we haven't seen Elain's true personality yet, but these traits just don't fit her. They could have fitted Nesta, but obviously as SJM has stated, they would've been toxic. Let's not forget the fact that Lucien literally says that Elain is NOTHING like Jesminda, the female he truly loved by choice. Further, he even says Elain was thrown at him, so they both have NO choice in this matter. They both acknowledge the fact that they are supposedly forced to love eachother yet they can also see it's not wanted from either for them. So what else to do? Write a better suited love interest for Lucien! Enter : Vassa.
Vassa is literally the type of person Lucien seems to be attracted to. Brash and Fierce. They clearly get along well and I doubt that SJM writing about him living with her is a coincidence. We even have this scene near the end of ACOWAR where Feyre is surprised to see him like this:
Let's also not forget that the main character of the next book, Nesta, ALSO sees some sort of tension when it comes to Lucien and Vassa (and Jurian?) Personally, I believe he is starting to like Vassa romantically and is quite jealous of Jurian (or both? It might be a polyamorous endgame!)
Let's go back for a minute to SJM foreshadowing Lucien and Nesta being mates in the first book with the flames. SJM is literally the queen of foreshadowing, she knows what she's doing. So, what creature does Vassa shift into? A firebird. Once again, coincidence? I think not.
So, I'm sorry to say but it genuinely doesn't look like Elucien will be endgame. I know SJM has said that she decided to match Elain and Lucien as mates so they could heal together but she could've easily changed her mind once more or even meant it in a platonic sense. After all, would it not be a cliché for all mating bonds to be completed? Cue: Elain rejecting the bond.
As for some people saying that Elucien's foreshadowing is the fact that Lucien seems to already be possessive of Elain? Nearly every time that kind of scene happened, it was followed by Feyre saying that she knew it was just his instincts, nothing more.🤷♀️
my one sincere hope for elain, azriel, and lucien is that when they finally enter a relationship with their respective love interests, regardless of the pairing, there is none of this "fun and distractions" "just sex" "i'll take whatever you offer me" non-committal nonsense.
i need one of them to say "i want everything." i need them to have that "i see you and i like all of it" moment. i need them to feel safe and loved when they finally get what they want, when they finally get to be with who they want.
sjm please front load the angst so when we get to see whatever combination of these characters actually getting together, we can actual enjoy an established healthy relationship, because these three don't deserve mind games when they should be receiving unconditional love
It will be told from Elain and Azriel’s point of view
Elain will master her powers - her Seer abilities will be expanded
Lots of tension and longing between Az and Elain. Some jealousy will be involved.
The damn necklace. Clotho never gave it to Gwyn. We will see it returned to Elain.
Elain and Lucien will finally talk and develop a friendship
Lucien’s feelings for Vassa will be made more clear
Because BOTH will ultimately want it this way, Elain will Unmake the mating bond. BONUS: Elain forges a bond of choice with Azriel and also one for Lucien with Vassa. Or maybe they just realize a mating bond isn’t everything.
Azriel will take Elain to Rosehall to meet his mother.
Elain will wield Truth-Teller. Bonus: Azriel gifts it to her.
Beron will take over the Spring Court - Tamlin will meet up with Lucien and be part of the Band of Exiles group.
The Blood Duel will happen in some form. Current theory: Lucien will invoke it but not against Azriel, against Beron. (And Beron will accept bc not accepting would mean admitting his wife was unfaithful.)
Elain and Azriel will go after Koschei’s box and/or the fourth trove item - Rhys will be reluctant to send them together but knows he has no choice.
Az and Elain will visit the Prison - possibly have to break someone out.
Elain will train with Az physically and also learn the ways of espionage from him and the twins - We will get more of Elain’s friendship with Nuala and Cerridwen.
Feyre will find out about Rhys’s “stay away from Elain” conversation and be PISSED.
Gwyn will be revealed to be a Lightsinger. Az and Gwyn might have a brief fling but will ultimately remain platonic, and she will be who he confides in about his feelings for Elain. Gwyn and Elain will be fast friends.
Elain and Azriel will end up together, bond or no bond.
We will learn more about Azriel’s abilities and his past.
There will be proper closure with Az and Mor.
Eris will be forced to choose between Beron and Lucien - he will choose Lucien. (Eris might join the Band of Exiles.)
Tamlin, with the help of the Band of Exiles and Eris, will take back Spring and Beron will be defeated by Lucien. (High Lord’s power will shift into Lucien, not Eris. Maybe. I’m not 100% on this one yet.)
In their attempt to defeat Koschei, Elain and Azriel will accidentally free Koschei from the lake, leading us to the last book.
“I saw the painting in my mind: the lovely fawn, blooming spring vibrant behind her. Standing before Death, shadows and terrors lurking over his shoulder. Light and dark, the space between their bodies a blend of the two. The only bridge of connection … that knife.”
A Court of Wings and Ruin
“Especially not with Lucien on the continent, hunting that enchanted queen. A bird of flame … and a lord of fire. I wondered if they’d found each other yet.”
A Court of Wings and Ruin
it’s funny how much these 2 quotes parallel each other and how both were in the same book.
Let's say for a crazy second that ACOTAR5 will have the dual POVs of Azriel and Gwyn, right?
As we know SJM, she said that despite each book now being a standalone, they'll still all link together to lead up to the overarching plot of the series.
Therefore, ACOTAR5 needs to ease us into ACOTAR6 and whoever the Main Characters of that book are.
My question is, how on earth would a Gwynriel book lead us into an Elucien book? Let's look at how it'd be if Gwynriel was the ship:
Azriel: Would avoid Elain so he could "realise his feelings for Gwyn" and has nothing to do with Lucien so he wouldn't interact with him.
Gwyn: Has never met Elain and has nothing to do with her or once again, Lucien.
So how would a book where the MCs don't interact at all with the next book's MCs lead us into it, hmm?
On the other hand, if ACOTAR5 is an Elriel book as I hope and suspect, it would perfectly lead us into ACOTAR6 where Lucien & Vassa (+Jurian?) have the POVs.
Elain: The girl who will have to break her bond with Lucien to be with the one she truly wants. To do this, she'll obviously have to interact with him a lot. Since he lives with Vassa, she'd be present a lot too.
Azriel: Due to the same reasons as above, he'd interact with Lucien a lot too which would start developing Lucien's character for him and his LI to have a POV next.