Warning: Do not read this post if you have not read the entirety of “Nimona” by Noelle Stevenson. Just like the last post, this will also contain heavy spoilers for the entire book, so unless you don’t mind spoilers or you’ve already read the book, please do not read.
In the last blog post, I discussed in depth about the theme of trauma in “Nimona”—specifically, the different ways of how the characters Ambrosius Goldenloin, Ballister Blackheart and Nimona end up experiencing trauma from the past and how they deal with it throughout the whole story. In this blog post, I want to discuss the relationship between Ambrosius Goldenloin and Ballister Blackheart.
This may be the fangirl in me talking, but I think the characters Ambrosius Goldenloin and Ballister Blackheart are implied to have shared a romantic relationship prior to the events of the book. The actions they take whenever they share scenes with each other, or simply talk about each other with the rest of the characters, hint towards them obviously caring for one another despite Goldenloin having shot off Ballister’s arm in the past and the two being archenemies ever since.
We first hear about Goldeloin and Blackheart’s past starting in chapter two. When Nimona asks about whether she can kill Goldeloin when going through some evil plans with Blackheart, Blackheart refuses to let Nimona do so, saying that “If anyone’s going to kill him….it’s going to be me.” (4, Stevenson) Blackheart then goes into detail as of how he and Goldeloin became enemies. They used to be good, close friends with one another and were the most promising potential heroes the Institution of Law Enforcement. One day, they were pitted against each other in a joust. Blackheart won the joust, but then Goldeloin used the mechanized lance to shoot off Blackheart’s arm. It is evident that Blackheart is still bitter over this, judging by Blackheart holding his metal arm with his other hand in the next panel.
In chapter three, Blackheart and Nimona face Goldenloin for the first time in the book face-to-face when Goldenloin attempts to stop Nimona and Blackheart breaking into the Institution’s laboratory. While Nimona is busy taking care of all the other security guards, Goldenloin forces Blackheart to duel him. During their duel, the two just end up arguing with each other rather than actually fighting each other with their swords. When the self-destruct sequence is activated, however, they immediately stop fighting and Goldenloin actually shows Blackheart the way out, practically dragging the other out to safety despite Blackheart wanting to go back and grab Nimona. “She’ll be fine!” Goldenloin tells Blackheart, obviously more worried for Blackheart as he drags him out, “I’m sure she’ll turn into a turtle or something!” (99, Stevenson) Blackheart still protests against not getting Nimona but Goldenloin isn’t having any of this. He’s more concerned for Blackheart than the other Institution knights. Once they escape the explosion, Goldenloin warns Blackheart to run before the other guards get to the lab, preventing Blackheart from being apprehended by the rest of the Institution.
In chapter six, Goldenloin has a discussion with the Institution’s Director about Blackheart and Nimona. The Director orders Goldenloin to kill Nimona, but Goldenloin refuses. However, the Director then threatens to replace Goldenloin as the Institution’s champion if he refuses to obey, and that they will have to take drastic measures including that “your friend Blackheart will go down with her (Nimona).” (99, Stevenson) Goldenloin protests that Blackheart is not his friend, but the Director tells him to do as she says if Goldenloin wants Blackheart to remain his archnemesis.
In chapter seven, Goldenloin invites Blackheart to go to a tavern with him for drinks in order to warn him that the Director wants Goldenloin to kill Nimona. Unfortunately, the discussion escalates into a fight about the joust incident previously discussed in chapter two, and when Goldenloin finally yells at Ballister that everyone thought that Ballister would be “the one to go bad,” (Stevenson, 96) the two start fist-fighting each other. Ballister manages to subdue Goldenloin, and threatens to cut off his arm. Goldenloin responds that he wouldn’t, and Ballister admits that yes, he would not cut off Goldenloin’s arm… “And I’m the villain.” Ballister adds to this, partially to anger Goldenloin but also to tell him that though he is angry about it, he wouldn’t do the same to Goldenloin what the other did to him. “What do you suppose that says about you?” (99, Stevenson) Blackheart leaves after that,and though we do not see Goldenloin’s face, his head is bowed as if expressing regret.
In chapter nine at the Institution, Goldenloin protests against the Director’s orders to kill Blackheart, suggesting that they should instead arrest him and pin the poisonings on him. The Director coldly responds that she knows the “nature of your relationship was” (126, Stevenson) between Goldenloin and Blackheart, and calls it a “fixation” (126, Stevenson) that has “impeded” (126, Stevenson) Goldenloin’s ability to do his job as the Institution’s champion. When the director threatens to find Goldenloin a “new nemesis,” (127, Stevenson), Goldenloin immediately agrees to kill Nimona, but only if Blackheart is allowed to live. The Director agrees. Blackheart is captured by the Institution and Nimona is lured into a trap, during the time when Nimona’s head is seemingly cut off and killed, Goldenloin knocks out Ballister shortly afterwards. Goldenloin apologizes for this, even calling the other man by his first name, and appears to be laying his hand over the other’s head (155, Stevenson). When it is revealed that Nimona is still alive and she transforms into the huge dragon form to fire at the soldiers, Goldenloin has to be restrained by the rest of the soldiers from dragging Blackheart out of the way despite G0ldenloin wanting to protect Ballister from the attack. After Nimona and Ballister escape, Goldenloin asks right away, after regaining consciousness, where Blackheart is. Blackheart, when Nimona brings him back to his lair, asks Nimona about Goldenloin and even asks if the other is dead, a look of grief on his face. Meanwhile at the Institution, Goldenloin expresses concern that Nimona may be controlling Blackheart in some way, but the Director disregards it entirely, seemingly to Goldenloin’s anger.
Chapter ten is an important marking of After Blackheart is captured by the Institution, he wakes up in a cell to find that Goldenloin is demoted from his position as the Champion to just being a lowly guard. Goldenloin and Blackheart discussabout Nimna briefly, but then the conversation once again shifts to the jousting incident. Blackheart accuses Goldenloin of remembering things “better than they were,” (181, Stevenson) but Goldenloin responds that “You (Blackheart) always remember them as worse.” (181, Stevenson) Both are right about this. Blackheart has the tendency to see the negative side of things more often than positive, and Goldenloin is the opposite of Blackheart in that way of viewing situations. Goldenloin finally confesses, with some prodding from Blackheart, that he did intentionally shoot Ballister, but it was only for the sake of the Director making him do so. If had not shot Ballister, Goldenloin would have lost his chance at becoming the Institution’s chamption. Goldenloin breaks down into tears at the end of his confession, apologizing to Ballister. Ballister notes that Goldenloin “never said it before” (184, Stevenson), had never apologized to him for the incident until now. Goldenloin seems more mortified at this, and Ballister tells that though it might not have been like Ballister would forgive him (at least for now), he finds it to be a bit of a relief that the other finally apologized for blasting his arm off. Goldenloin later cites that he wishes that they could go back to “how they were.” (186, Stevenson) Ballister points out that “It will never be the same again…That doesn’t just go away.” (186, Stevenson) Later when Ballister is being tortured by the Institution’s guards, Goldenloin defies the rest of the guards by trying to get them physically distanced from Blackheart so that they cannot torture him any further, warning them “Don’t you touch him again!” (197, Stevenson) After Nimona starts rampaging, GOldenloin manages to get Blackheart to safety, dragging him out of the way of Nimona’s flames. Both get into an argument about what to do about Nimona. Goldenloin suggests actually killing Nimona in order to save the rest of the kingdom, saying that “Maybe I can’t defeat her but I have to try.” (208, Stevenson) Ballister protests against this immediately because he doesn’t want Goldenloin or Nimona to get killed! He wants both of them to be safe. The two end up compromising that Goldenloin will go get the citizens evacuated first, and that meanwhile Blackheart will get the Anomalous Energy Enhancer to weaken Nimona.
In chapter eleven, where Ballister goes to see Dr. Meredith Blitzmeyer to get the Anomalous Energy Enhancer to stop Nimona (who was previously triggered by the Director experimenting on her as well as torturing Ballister with electric shocks) from rampaging and destroying the entire kingdom, and references to Ambrosius as “someone I love” (214, Stevenson) when telling Blitzmeyer that he doesn’t want either Ambrosius or Nimona to end up killing each other during Nimona’s rampage. Later on when Ballister is giving Goldenloin instructions as of what to do, Goldenloin starts telling Ballister “if I don’t make it out, I need to tell you—” (220, Stevenson) but Ballister immediately stops him, saying that “just promise me you won’t get yourself killed.” (220, Stevenson). Though both of them understand that stopping Nimona’s rampage is a literal life-and-death situation, neither of them want to lose each other again, either. Later when Blackheart brings little Nimona to fuse again with her monster counterpart, Ballister also pleads with Nimona to “let him (Goldenloin) go” (237, Stevenson). When that fails, Ballister is forced to subdue Nimona with a Jaderoot gun. The purge protocol goes into self-destruct mode, and Ballister is forced to make a choice. Either he tries to get Nimona out of the area (who seems to have completely lost trust in him at this point) or he gets Goldenloin out of there.
Ballister chooses to go to Goldenloin and get him out of the area first. He tries to call for Nimona to come with them, because he wants to save both of them, but when Nimona doesn’t follow him, Ballister is forced to carry Goldenloin out of the area alone, which is a complete role reversal of Goldenloin dragging Ballister out of the laboratory in chapter three as both times they were protecting each other from a self-destructing area. As soon as Ballister escapes with Goldenloin, he hands him over to some concerned townspeople so they can get him to a hospital.
By the end of chapter eleven, Ballister has remained by Goldenloin’s side at the hospital despite Goldenloin being extremely injured and unconscious. When the doctor tells Blackheart to go get some rest, Blackheart protests that “Someone should be with him. For when he wakes up.” (250, Stevenson) The only time he ever leaves Goldenloin’s side is to run after Nimona after realizing that the ‘doctor’ that visited him earlier and told him to go rest was Nimona shiftshaping to look like her. Also, the only time Blackheart stops chasing Nimona is when the real doctor tells Blackheart that Goldenloin is awake and that “He’s asking for you (Blackheart).” (253, Stevenson)
In the epilogue, at the last part where Ballister is narrating that he hopes that Nimona still sees him as a friend despite all he went through, Ambrosius Goldenloin is sitting on a bench with a crutch leaning against it. His face is also visibly scarred from being attacked by Nimona in chapter eleven, but he looks relieved and joyful to see Ballister as the other helps him up and walks with him, signifying that they are, at least, friends once again if not romantic.
Also, though not technically connected to the story, Stevenson herself put up an artwork explaining that in another universe, Ballister and Goldenloin are both dads taking care of Nimona. If that does not confirm for sure that they are romantically involved, I’m not sure what does.
With the following points I have discussed throughout this post, I conclude that Ambrosius Goldenloin and Balister Blackheart are/were in a romantic relationship with each other, judging by their actions and words throughout the story. What do you think about the relationship between Ambrosius Goldenloin and Ballister Blackheart in the book? Feel free to discuss further about Ambrosius and Ballister’s relationship in the comments.
Stevenson, Noelle. Nimona. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print.
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