Azel was a drone created by the Ancients. She is the central character of the conclusion to the trilogy, Panzer Dragoon Saga, which follows her psychological journey in developing an independent will. Azel taking control of her own destiny leads to her opening the gate to Sestren, allowing the Divine Visitor to free the world from the will of the Ancients.
Panzer Dragoon Saga director Yukio Futatsugi has stated that when he creates a game he doesn’t want the story to be focused a fictional avatar of the player. For this reason, Panzer Dragoon Saga’s story is centred on Azel, with you, the main character, watching her story develop. It is Azel’s story that advances the plot; you watch her story unfold by accompanying her.1
Although the finer details of Azel’s early life are shrouded in mystery, enough information is known to build up at least a partial image of her origins. Azel was created in the Ancient Age, during the era in which the Towers themselves were being constructed. Like many drones, Azel was “born” within the genetics lab that lay submerged, (in the time period of Panzer Dragoon Saga), beneath the waters of Lake Uru.
The genetics lab was under the control of the Towers’ creators, and the lab was in fact physically linked with the nearby Tower of Uru. Each of the Ancient drones was built to certain specifications in order to fulfil a given purpose, and Azel was no exception. Her purpose (at least, one purpose) was to work in the Tower of Uru, and to mentally interface with its systems in the unique way that drones are capable of.
Unfortunately for Azel’s creators, the genetics lab came under attack while Azel was still in the process of being made. In the aftermath of the battle it became clear to the Ancient scientists that the unfinished Azel had been stolen. From what little is known of the Ancient Age, it seems that Azel’s captors - or perhaps liberators - were the group of rebels who opposed the Tower network at the time of its creation.
At their simplest the Towers were a global regulating system, built to enforce their creators’ programme of environmental and population control with murderous efficiency. The rebels, on the other hand, would have preferred to keep the fate of the world and its people in human hands, but destroying even a single Tower was a practically impossible task. It seems that the solution to their problem lay in drones like Azel.
Where an all-out military assault on a Tower would be doomed to failure by any Tower’s defensive capabilities, it was realistically possible for a single drone to infiltrate, interface with and subtly take control of a Tower; this was allegedly the purpose to which Azel was going to be put. Azel was capable of fully interfacing with a Tower because she was designed to do so by her estranged creators, so she was perfectly suited to this task by her very nature; this may have been why she was stolen in the first place.
Azel was “unfinished” at the time she was taken from the genetics lab, but it is unclear in exactly what way. Similarly it cannot be said whether or not she was later “completed” by her liberators, or if they even had the ability or the means to attempt such a thing.
Regardless, it seems that Azel’s initially incomplete nature did not later affect her in any adverse way; although, of course, it is unknown what her nature and capabilities would have been if she had indeed been “finished” in that lab.
Azel was humanoid in shape and even extremely human-like in appearance, although the latter was not the case with all drones. At a genetic level, Azel was just another one of the Ancients’ bio-engineered creatures; her body had infinitely more in common with that of a pure-type “monster” than it did with that of a human.
As with the monsters, such things as food and drink were not required by the superior biology of a drone. Drones were created through the same widely used principles of genetic engineering that most Ancient Age technologies took advantage of, and Azel’s physique reflected this fact: she wore a layer of the highly durable white and black substance that almost all of the Ancients’ creations were coated with.
To aid Azel in whatever missions she was to undertake, Azel was paired with a dragon: the most powerful kind of bio-engineered creature developed by the Ancients. The enormous black dragon - named Atolm - served as Azel’s transport, defender and weapon combined while she rode upon his back. It is unknown whether Azel’s liberators created Atolm for her, or if, like her, he had been stolen as well. As was normal for a dragon and its drone rider, Azel and Atolm developed a psychological bond which brought them closer together.
Azel spent quite some time travelling the land with Atolm, but what exactly she did during this period and the nature of any missions she was sent on remain a mystery. It is also not clear if her turn ever came to attempt the infiltration of a Tower so as to fulfil the “purpose” that had been given to her.
When the Ancient Age finally reached its abrupt end, it seems that Azel was fortunately in suspended animation: safely sleeping within a facility some way west of the Tower of Uru. It is likely that this is how drones were “stored” when they were not in use, and luckily for Azel her life was preserved while the world outside descended into ruin and chaos.
Less fortunately for her was the fact that her masters and, ultimately, anyone who would have any knowledge of her whereabouts evidently perished. Like all of the Ancients’ finer creations though, Azel’s drone body did not decay as the years slipped by. She slept on, oblivious to the passing of centuries that eventually stretched into millennia.
Azel’s Role in Panzer Dragoon Saga
It was only in Imperial Year 119, some ten thousand years after the end of the Ancient Age, that Azel’s time came to be revived. The party interested in reviving her was the Empire, who were still trying to find a way to reactivate and take control of one of the world’s Towers. The Empire had long been convinced that a Tower was some kind of ultimate weapon which would afford them limitless power over the peoples of the world, and they had learned that Azel, by her nature, was the kind of key that they needed to activate and take control of a dormant Tower.
The Empire had already set about excavating the facility where Azel had been sleeping for the past ten thousand years, and it seemed that they were close to locating the place of her rest within the ruins. The Empire was fated never to retrieve its prize, however, as the plans of renegade Imperial fleet commander K. F. Craymen also centred around Azel.
Craymen lead a sizeable rebellion against the Empire in Imperial Year 119, which resulted in the destruction of many of the Empire’s satellite regions and the annihilation of the Imperial Capital itself. It seems that Craymen’s primary motivation for these acts was to cripple and distract the Empire while he went about activating a dormant Tower himself, and for that purpose Craymen needed Azel. Craymen’s renegade Black Fleet descended upon the Imperial excavation site, killed the group of mercenaries who had been hired to protect the place - with the exception of the young Edge - and forcibly removed Azel from her resting place.
Craymen’s knowledge of Azel was limited in some ways: for example, he did not know that she had been stolen from the Towers’ creators in the Ancient Age, and he assumed that she was actually made to infiltrate and take down a Tower. Craymen intended to use Azel to operate the Tower of Uru, though, so that it would resume its Ancient regime of violent control over the surrounding lands. Ironically, this was not so far away from the purpose that Azel had been designed for all those centuries ago; it seemed that Craymen was going to have Azel carry out the will of her Ancient creators after all.
Craymen was able to have Azel successfully revived, and - being by her nature a servile creation - Azel took Craymen to be her new master, becoming fiercely loyal to him. Craymen was the first person to actually call her “Azel”, although this was indeed the name that her scientist creators had intended for her, and it was also inscribed upon the vertical “bed” where she had slept for millennia. Perhaps the Ancient rebels who liberated her from her creators did not use this name for her as a sign of respect, as its literal meaning is somewhat derogatory: “servant”.
The dragon Atolm was also acquired by the Black Fleet, as they forcibly took him from an Imperial ship travelling near the excavation site. Reunited with Atolm once more, Azel became one of Craymen’s most formidable servants. One of the first tasks that Craymen put Azel to was the elimination of Edge, who had recently become the new rider of the Heresy Dragon. Edge was on a personal mission of revenge to make Craymen pay for the murder of his friends, but the loyal Azel could not allow such wishes to see fruition.
Azel first confronted Edge over the area of sea called the Forbidden Zone, and their dragons engaged in fierce combat. Atolm was apparently still weak after his long slumber, however, and Azel wisely retreated from the battlefield. She next intercepted Edge over the ruins of Uru, the very genetics lab where she was created millennia ago. This time Atolm did not falter, and the battle ended with both dragons loosing consciousness through the sheer force of their struggle; their riders plunged together into the mouth of the ruins.
Finding herself pinned beneath a pile of fallen Ancient technology, but unharmed, due to her immensely resilient drone body, Azel had no choice but to earn Edge’s assistance and trust. She did this by telling Edge how to save himself from an oncoming swarm of mutated monsters; he helped Azel to free herself, and in return she agreed to guide him out of the ruins. They set off, riding together on an Ancient antigravity bike called a floater.
The journey through that ancient labyrinth was long and trying, as the darkness was populated by ravenous monsters, mutated beasts that were the descendents of whatever bio-engineered sentinels the Ancients had left behind. Working together, Edge and Azel were able to overcome all that stood between them and the distant surface though, even getting to know one another a little better in the process.
Despite the ordeal that the pair had survived together, upon reaching the surface Azel greeted Edge with a chilling revelation. She told him that she would still be forced to kill him if he crossed Craymen’s path again; her loyalties were unchanged. Mounting the rested Atolm, Azel headed off back to her master, disappearing into the mists over the morning lake.
Edge did not heed Azel’s advice, and he persevered in reaching the Tower of Uru in order to confront Craymen. The final time that Azel and Edge faced off above the clouds was their fiercest battle yet, and it ultimately ended in Atolm’s destruction; despite being one of the most powerful living weapons of the Ancient Age, Atolm could not stand up to what Edge’s dragon had become. The black dragon plummeted earthwards, but Edge chose to rescue Azel, who had lost consciousness. Presumably she was in shock due the breaking of the psychological bond that she had shared with Atolm, and Edge carried her away in his arms. He took Azel back to his campsite, and time passed, but she showed no signs of awakening.
It was at this time that Craymen cryptically invited Edge to come to the Tower of Uru and meet with him. The rogue Imperial explained to Edge the importance of not letting the Tower fall into the Empire’s hands; stopping the Empire in its destructive tracks was the motivation behind his entire mission, he said, and the urgency of his actions had necessitated that he be ruthless. Edge had certainly not forgiven the man for his crimes, but he nonetheless chose to side with Craymen so that they could better stand against their common enemy. While Edge set off on his dragon to keep the Empire at bay, Craymen set about reviving Azel from her coma-like state.
Despite Edge’s intervention, the control room of the Tower was still taken by the Empire during a surprise attack, and Edge, Craymen and the revived Azel all found themselves at gunpoint. The Emperor himself wounded Craymen with a spray of bullets, and - crouching in shock over her fallen master - Azel was ordered by the Emperor to reactivate the Tower, and she obeyed.
The legions of pure-type monsters released by the active Tower decimated the Imperial fleet, and an enormous guardian released into the control room both killed the Emperor and finished off Craymen before Azel’s eyes. Sinking into unconsciousness once more, Azel was carried out of the lethal Tower by Edge.
It was not long after this that Edge became involved with his old friend Gash and the group of Seekers that he commanded, and it was their skill and understanding that restored Azel to consciousness once again. In order to deactivate the deadly Tower of Uru, the Seekers proposed that Azel might be able to open a gateway to Sestren from within the Tower.
The Sestren data network housed the being that oversaw the operation of the Towers; if Azel could transport Edge and the dragon into the Sestren network, and if they could destroy Sestren the being, the Towers of the world would sleep forever. Returning to the heart of the active Tower was not going to be easy however, and the Seekers had more immediate problems in defending their stronghold from the legions of pure-type monsters that the Tower had unleashed.
Edge spent some time talking with Azel after the Seekers managed to revive her, and it became apparent that she was no longer the cold and unquestioning servant that he had once faced in combat. Perhaps influenced by the varied and traumatic experiences that she had undergone, Azel did not seem to be repressing or fighting against her emotions and feelings any more. No longer playing the role of a servile being, Azel was beginning to genuinely think for herself about things, and even to experience dreams and nightmares in the way a human would.
During a battle to protect the stronghold, when Edge was away fighting monsters over the nearby forest, Azel slipped away unnoticed. She returned to the genetics lab at Uru once again, apparently to undergo some process which would ensure her survival following her various traumas. Unfortunately Azel did not make it out of the ruins successfully, as she was waylaid by a pack of mutated monsters; she was rescued from their jaws by Edge, however, as he had come looking for her following advice from the Seekers.
The Seekers had suffered heavy casualties during the battle against the Tower’s forces, and Gash was willing to forget the plan regarding Azel and Sestren in order to escape to far-off safety. Edge argued that the Tower had to be stopped, however. To their surprise Azel was equally determined to return to the Tower, and equally determined to end its horror forever. No longer obeying the wishes of others, Azel made this decision because she believed that it was right; for the first time she genuinely asserted her own will, and made her own choice regarding her future.
Spiralling down through the lethal maze of the Tower’s inner passages on the back of the Heresy Dragon, Azel never considered turning back to safety and the outside world. Determined to see the Tower shut down, she persevered until she and Edge at last reached the Tower’s control room once more.
Interfacing with the Tower’s systems, Azel informed Edge that she would have to destroy the Tower immediately after the data transformation gateway opened, so that Sestren could not escape into the physical world. Worried for her safety, Edge protested: but Azel’s insistences hurried him on through the gateway, and he left her with the parting message that he would return to her.
Watching him leave her behind, Azel finally admitted to herself what her human emotions have revealed to her: that she had come to love him. She looked on as Edge disappeared into the blinding light. It should be noted that in the Japanese version of Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG, Azel does not confess her love to Edge. Instead, the translation would be closer to “I…” than “I love you”.
Upon Azel’s command, immense energies surged up through the Tower. The structure itself began to break apart, and the Tower was consumed in a bubble of cleansing energy. When the light and noise at last ceased, the Tower was melted into nothing but wasted matter.
Ultimately Azel’s destruction of the Tower did not demand that she sacrifice herself, however. Perhaps because of the control room’s location at the very lowest foundation of the Tower, and because of her immensely resilient drone body, she survived intact when the body of the Tower was left a wasted ruin.
Edge never did return to her from Sestren though, despite his parting words. Determined to find him, Azel set out alone.
On the rim of the endless wastelands of the world she passed by a caravan of hunters, lead by An’jou. They did not recognise Azel for what she was, as she had disguised herself in a heavy cloak which concealed her drone aspects.
The hunters could neither persuade her to go with them nor turn her away from the desert. In sympathy, they provided Azel with a coolia to carry her where she was determined to go.
Azel set out to find Edge, disappearing into the dust.
Azel’s Role After Panzer Dragoon Saga
Azel ultimately did find another way into the dormant Sestren network, another data transformation gateway within a still-active ruin. She herself passed through it, desiring only to find her long lost Edge or, failing that, the truth.
The pair were destined never to be reunited, as all that remained of Edge within the Sestren network was his genetic code, possibly recorded and stored by Sestren’s ceaseless monitoring systems. With no alternatives left, Azel did the only thing she could think of that would preserve some trace of him, and her.
Azel recognised that - presumably owing to her nature as an extremely advanced drone - she was capable of interfacing with the technologies required to operate an Ancient Age genetics lab. By combining her own genetic code with Edge’s, Azel was able to form a template for a living being which she used one such facility to create.
Azel named this drone - her child - Orta.
Azel left a recorded message for her daughter in the depths of the Sestren network, an explanation of Orta’s origins which she hoped the young drone would one day hear. In it, Azel - represented by an elegant and floating golden avatar - told Orta that she had the power to change the world. Although it is unclear whether these words simply reflected a mother’s confidence, Orta did ultimately save the world from the threat that the drone Abadd posed. Only time can tell what Orta is truly capable of, however.
It is unclear why Azel could not be with Orta as she grew up, and also what Azel’s ultimate fate may have been. Regardless, something of Azel lived on in Orta, and something of Edge, too; Orta fought for and successfully achieved her own freedom in the world.