fucking trouble

what's sexier than wizards NOTHING. jackalwedding's Critical Role blog. i draw, sometimes write, but mostly just have feelings about D&D characters..

Last update
2021-07-31 03:45:26

    Chapters: 10/18
    Fandom: Critical Role (Web Series)
    Rating: Mature
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Relationships: Astrid/Eodwulf/Essek Thelyss, Essek Thelyss/Caleb Widogast, Astrid/Eodwulf/Essek Thelyss/Caleb Widogast
    Characters: Essek Thelyss, Astrid (Critical Role), Eodwulf (Critical Role), Caleb Widogast, The Mighty Nein
    Additional Tags: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Enemies to Lovers, Slow Burn, Pining, Intrigue, Politics, Panic Attacks, discussions of suicidality/euthanasia, Polyamory Negotiations, Flirting (with danger), Canon-Typical Wizard Drama, the looming specter of your own mortality, reformed villains who still act sketchy out of habit, grieving what could have been, openly declaring your mutual distrust can be a love language if you do it right

    Essek goes home, and there is no one waiting at his door. This should be some manner of relief. But his towers haven’t felt like a safe haven for a long time now, long before errant scourgers appeared to harass him with strange questions. He misses the immediacy of that threat, prefers it over the slow and indulgent terror of whatever punishment is coming for him, someday soon.

    He tells himself that he misses only that, the simplicity of being unsafe in the company of predators, and that he does not miss the company itself.

    (In which a pair of scourgers shows up at Essek’s doorstep and saves him from himself.)

    What I mean when I tag something as slow burn:

    • it does not happen quickly
    • something is on fire

    modern au Caleb Widogast would download Neko Atsume and have all the cats collected in under a week and then hack the game to give himself more.


    Caleb: see Pickles has been tricky to catch because of her low power level but i think switching the food around should help, and I found an article on how changing the date and time can bring them out more so I'm thinking I might be able to catch more rare cats that way. A lot of people discount Tubbs but he almost always leaves more fish than the food costs so it's actually an investment if you replace the food quickly enough. And I also found a way to change the source code so you can take more pictures of them than the album typically allows, which is certainly helpful.

    Essek: darling, it is 3:30am.


    it’s alright, he already memorized the textbook at the start of the semester

    “Wait No More” Pages 12-14/21

    Pages 1-3 are posted here.
    Pages 4-5 are posted here.
    Pages 6-8 are posted here.
    Pages 9-11 are posted here.

    I probably could have happily done another page of them just sleeping on each other.  Also, I am madly in love with the idea of what Essek’s casual loungewear would look like.

    And I have spent far too long thinking, “but what do they sleep in while in the dome?  should they take their boots off?  Jacket off?  What … what does it look like?!?!”  

    There’s probably a ton of angsty potential you could extrapolate from the sleeping montage.  At least seven nights have passed since the T-dock chamber disintegration, but it could easily be more, to your liking.  And the moments of quiet calm are shown, but these nights could just as easily be filled with nightmares and dissociation. 

    But this is about wizards in love.

    And Essek ends it with a simple acknowledgment of fact.

    I was thinking of making a high res pdf at the end and putting it up on etsy for a few bucks.  Is that something anyone would be interested in?

    I think the thing I love most about Essek as a potential villain is that immortality is a classic villainous motivation. But Essek, when given the option to functionally live forever, says fuck immortality I want knowledge

    (and Jester gives him a cupcake and he gets invited to dinner and suddenly he has friends, and somewhere along the line Essek realizes fuck knowledge I want love)

    Gods, I can’t get over this.

    Essek may have internalized it under the guise of needing to know more about dunamis and the potential the Luxon Beacons had, but under all of that thirst for knowledge was an entirely different thirst—a hunger—that he could never have uncovered on his own. Essek was lonely.

    It wasn’t that there was no one around him. It was that there was no one around him with similar interests and values, no one willing to do what he was willing to do. No one willing to challenge the shackles of rigid tradition, religion, and culture that the Dynasty is mired in and seek more. To reach further. To question why. No one to match him intellectually on the levels he found integral to his passion for magic and knowledge.

    Essek was so desperate to find someone who understood his thirst for knowledge in this particular regard, even the tiniest bit, that he reached out to the ENEMY NATION’S corrupt, powerful wizard circle to find that connection.

    And he thought he had found it. He was so sure he had. Until he was finally faced with someone like him; someone who challenged every box that held him, who looked for more, who reached further, who questioned why. Essek met Caleb, and within a very short time, realized he had been missing someone like him his entire life.

    Essek Thelyss had been looking for a Caleb Widogast for a very, very long time but was too entrenched in both his selfish drive to further his own knowledge and his disillusionment with the way the Dynasty treated research into dunamis, that he became blind to it.

    No wonder he was suddenly faced with the vacuity one becomes intimate with when everything they’ve been building towards suddenly falls out from under their feet, no wonder he unraveled so quickly and fell straight into an existential crisis.

    The Mighty Nein helped shape Essek into someone who no longer had to stand in the presence of loneliness and not recognize its face, but Essek no longer has to hunger for someone who would get it; because Caleb does.

    It’s always surprising to me that the default Thelyss family interpretation in fandom is “everyone (especially Deirta) is cold and abusive” because… I don’t think that would fly at all.

    Leylas is starting to act rash and more violent in temperament because she’s exhibiting signs of typhros, and that’s clearly worrying the court, and if it were anyone but the literal queen, I think that kind of behavior would have already been either corrected or eliminated, because, well, they’re all stuck with each other, and they have to get along, even if that is very superficial.

    In that scenario, you end up with family units that stick very closely together and are probably actually overly pleasant (if there are closed family units, which seems unlikely to me, making it even harder to hide particularly abusive behavior). These are people who have spent lifetimes in the same groups, who live incredibly long lives, and who want people to join their groups. They both have to put on a nice face and then keep the peace once they’ve won people over, even if that peace is tenuous and shallow.

    That’s also exactly how Essek asks—he’s described as having a “perpetual soft smile” and at surface-level, he’s very accommodating. He is such a pleasant person, at all times, even when he’s under enormous amounts of stress. He had, essentially, one “outburst” toward the Nein that he was narratively pretty justified in, and the next time he saw them he apologized without prompting and took on most of the blame for the issue, which would probably be how I’d characterize conflict within the Dens.

    And that’s absolutely still a toxic environment. It’s the type of environment that makes it nearly impossible to release any frustrations, where everyone is emotionally repressed because they haven’t yelled in six hundred years and internalizes any sort of problems as their own personal guilt. But it ensures that the Dens survive, at the expense of any sort of lasting conflict resolution. To be clear, I’m sure there is some amount of conflict resolution, because at the point where you have people together or breaking up after multiple lifetimes, I imagine you need it, but in terms of, say, ideological differences? Especially since this is a religiously-based family bond? I’d guess that that’s the kind of thing where the answer is “grin and bear it and don’t bring it up at the dinner table.”

    And with that, Deirta as the matriarch has to not only be pleasant enough to get along with everyone, she is also probably the one mediating any conflicts that do arise, which means she is a probably maddeningly pleasant person. This is primarily important because, as the leader of the household and his mother, and given how he speaks about his father, Essek likely took most of how he presents himself from her.


    If the fancy strikes, please send a prompt! * I have been having so much fun answering them.  It’s very gratifying to have short projects to work on in between longer WIPs, especially something that feels as low-pressure as prompt fills.  You’ve all been super kind helping me keep the creativity flowing!  Thank you!

    *Edit: from the hyperlinked bolded list, please 😊

    Platonic and romantic requests are both a-okay, but I will not fill any requests for 18+ content.


    “What if I want people to see it?” with Shadowgast, if you’d like!

    Okay before I get started on this analysis, I am aware that there is a certain amount of “stall-acting” going on when Matt gets asked a question ICly about some absurd fact that he probably didn’t write down and has to make up, but let’s lay that aside and consider that even if he is stalling, generally he’s stalling in a way that is true to the character.

    That said, I wanna talk about the difference in Essek and Lucien’s reactions to being asked what their favorite food is, and a little bit about their answers and what it tells us about them, because I am a NERD.

    When Essek is asked, he’s genuinely pretty surprised and gives serious consideration to the answer and even seems embarrassed by giving such an unoriginal response, but it’s very clear he took it to heart that he was being asked something so personal, all in the name of making sure that his particular meal desires were met, which is definitely not something that has ever happened. Also I bet the only time Essek ever gets the good kind of soups/stews are if he’s eating with his brother who, being pretty much military, likely subsists on them- which, again, probably why he seemed embarrassed. Stews and soups aren’t exactly viewed as a “classy nobility” meal in fantasy settings. A soup is what you eat to whet your appetite for the fancy shit as a first course. It’s not a favorite food.

    When Lucien is asked… He gets defensive about it. He does that backhanded “friendly reminder that I’m from a garbage town where having a favorite food was a luxury, and even being able to EAT was sometimes a luxury.” He and his people are literally eating alcoholic stew that tastes like spiced shit and jerky all the damn time. He doesn’t seem honored or touched by the question- he acts like he’s being made fun of before he’s even given an answer, and he ALSO seems kind of embarrassed by the answer he gives inasmuch as he can be embarrassed about anything. 

    And then you consider that “spiced cream” is not a food. Spiced cream is a TOPPING. Now yes, again Matt could have panicked because ultimately Lucien’s answer was “I like things that have ACTUAL FUCKING FLAVOR” and that’s probably the be-all and end-all of it, but taking the answer in the spirit of narrative analysis, there is just something inherently SAD about that answer, too. Like asking a small child what their favorite food is and they respond “ketchup” and then you find out that the reason their favorite food is ketchup is because it makes the plain, cheap food that they have to eat taste better. It’s just a weirdly specific answer that I’m sitting here like “did someone give this bastard whipped cream once when he was a kid and he has NEVER FORGOTTEN IT.” 

    Favorite foods can, honestly, be so personal in the non-meme sense. I would 100% buy that Essek likes stews because they’re a nice comfort food that probably remind him of simpler meals with Verin where he could shut off the Shadowhand Persona, and he’s embarrassed because it’s just not a very original or classy answer and doesn’t match the way he presents himself. And I would absolutely buy that Lucien likes sweets and things that are well-spiced because they were things he very rarely got to have- honestly putting whipped cream on a piece of dry, tasteless bread could be the highlight of a child in poverty’s life- and he’s embarrassed because he just admitted his favorite food is a TOPPING because he was so poor that a topping was the best thing he’d ever tasted and it stuck with him, which just makes him seem pathetic.

    There’s no point to this beyond that it’s bizarrely upsetting how differently they reacted to being asked to talk about their favorite foods. 

    Thinking (again) about the T-Dock scene and Essek telling Caleb ‘I will help you,’ and how important and healing that offer is.

    Because here’s the thing: the T-Dock in its current state is dangerous as hell. Some of the Aeorian researchers who used it never returned. If Caleb had decided to go for it, he couldn’t have just stepped into the circle and zipped back in time - he would have needed to spend weeks, months, figuring out how to make it actually work.

    And he would have needed Essek’s help to do that safely. Think of Halas, who worked alone, and who missed that tiny detail in his equations that led to him getting trapped in a gem for centuries. Think of all the good that Caleb might have unravelled if he’d somehow messed up his own timeline.

    Back in 91, Essek says that you should mitigate the risks of magical study by working alone. And Caleb has worried, again and again, about the risks of wizards coming together. Look at the Assembly. Look at what the Aeorians wrought. You know what a bunch of wizards in one place is? Fucking trouble.

    He’s worried about him and Essek, specifically, coming together - because he’s afraid that it’s a repeat of Astrid and Eadwulf, afraid that Essek will burn him again, afraid they’re going to enable each other in the worst ways.

    But Essek stands at the T-Dock and offers to help, and he’s not enabling Caleb. He’s saying, I will not do this, but I will respect your choice. And if you’re taking this risk, then I will help you so that you can do this with the least possible risk of you somehow dismantling timelines or causing harm to yourself.

    Essek says, we will mitigate the risks by working together. By checking each other, as Caleb checked Essek from his destructive path, as Essek checked Caleb in the records room. Essek says, it is better for us to be together than apart.

    Caleb destroys the T-Dock.

    He and Essek are together.