Regarding Those Who Slither in the Dark

It’s been a few months since I have beaten 3H. (Routes I played from first to last: VW>AM>CF>SS) Looking back at the game, the story is by far the closest the player could get to a grey morality, and when I mean closest, I meant it was the greyest Fire Emblem I’ve played, but it kinda fell short of any of my favorite grey storylines outside of Fire Emblem. I felt the inclusion of TWSITD undermined the theme of FE3H and exist as either a plot device or a hate sink, which I sarcastically admit that their purpose was indeed working out.

Their ancestors do have an interesting motivation and reason as to why they despise Sothis, since viewed her as a False God and threat despite herself and the Nabateans granting them the knowledge and the technology to live in Fodlan. From their perspective, Sothis and Seiros are eventual dangers to the world they live on. And considering Seiros/Rhea maintains isolationism through the Church, they’re not far off from the truth. It was a matter of perspective given that as far as we know, Sothis is benevolent even if her children are not. But also the Agarthans weren’t just ceaseless and trying to usurp Sothis like Seiros says. They both assumed the worst of the other’s intentions which is likely where things led.

Though Slitherers do not really paint a positive picture about the Agarthans. They chose to liberate humanity from the gods by destroying Fodlan underneath the shadows, and they consider only themselves to be humans. They view the humans who live above ground as mere “beasts” to be experimented on or destroyed. Hell, they were motivated by their extreme sense of superiority to the point where they lack the concern of their comrades’ lives.

I personally don’t think that the Slitherers have to be sympathetic to remain interesting. There are many chaotic evil villains outside of Fire Emblem that became popular among their fans. Yet with little screen time in the game, even in 2 routes where the cult were dealt with on-screen, I felt that their role as an antagonist was completely blown out of the water by Edelgard. I do think they have a place in the world, and their lore in the ancient past is important, yet I theorize with the limited amount of time the devs had, the cult had many missed potential overall.

Do you peeps believe that the Slithers could be removed from the story without nothing lost of value, or do you think they could be fixed to make themselves more relevant?

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I think they should be fixed

A lot of the story does sorta base itself around TWSITD so removing it would mean substantially changing the storyline

I think they could be a good faction and a good enemy but as is, they just sorta are exactly as you say, a

Which imo is sort of a shame.

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Basically what I’ve been saying for a while now. 3H is supposed to be a morally grey conflict where no side is entirely right or wrong. But the evil mole people being behind it all kinda ruins that.

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Blue Lions had easily my favorite story of the bunch, and the fact the the Slitherers don’t really appear post-timeskip and the conflict is all about Dimitri and Edelgard is definitely one of the reasons for that :feh_dimitrismug:

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@Banraku think it was because that AM was made to be more of a self-contained story focusing on Dimitri’s character development and his clash of ideals with Edelgard. Don’t get me wrong, I too was shocked when AM did not tie any loose ends. Though with Thales and most the commanders killed on that route, the Slitherers likely would not come back to the surface for a few centuries, and since AM had the most amount of key characters alive by default (Dimitri, Calude, Rhea), this could open up a potential sequel where the Slitherers are the main antagonist. Just a random thought of course.

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@Thehalohedgehog Before the Crests were to blame, now the Slitherers are to blame.

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The only route that could actually remove them without a story impact would be GD/VW, but that’s only because that route tries very hard to distant itself from the actual events and lets you be an outsider looking in. This helps to grant you a more “neutral” perspective, but it also leads to otherwise integral story threads coming off as the game just saying “f it; its in the script”. Things like the Flame Emperor reveal and TWSITD come out of nowhere and feel like massive plot contrivances.
The other routes wouldn’t function without them though, as they are rooted too integrally to the plot(even if doing so has undermined the central theme)

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@Z-Man That sounds like a good idea. It would enable VW to become a route with some originality rather than a copy of SS with Claude (ironically I find VW to be better executed than SS imo). This does come at the cost of TWSITD’s fate remaining ambiguous however, if they were not removed from the other 3 routes.

How I would try to improve the Slitherers is to give them more screentime and presence in the story. I felt that CF would have been the perfect opportunity to fill up its missing chapters. Hell, I would have liked it if CF gave Thales a “final form” and made him into a final boss. TWSITD felt hyped and built up the way major villains are in many fantasy stories and video games. There’s a strong emotional aspect to it as well given that they were directly responsible for ruining Edelgard’s life. The fact they get finished off in one sentence in the epilogue undermines all their build up since their end is so anticlimactic.

I felt that chaotic evil villains not only have to have motive, but also possess presence to convince the audience that they are a legitimate threat to the protagonist, yet the slitherers lack the intimidation factor on their own and relied on Edelgard as part of their plan to destroy Fodlan. Sure, they do have the Titanus mechs and Javelin of Light nukes, yet the latter was just a stupid plot device to make them look more threatening. Since 3H took some inspiration from Geneology, I could assume that the Sliterers were based on the Lopto Sect, having a similar goal in wiping out their “wrongdoers” out of revenge. Let’s make a comparison: did the Lopto Sect need missiles? Of course not. Right after Julius got possessed by Loptous, they were able to reemerge and take positions of power in the Empire. They began Child Hunts and killed people who opposed them. They were given multiple scenes, build up, events and always feel important when on screen since they spent time with them.

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I’m personally not so sure about that. If I’m being honest they only seem to lack this intimidation factor. If you were to look more into their abilities, then you would already realize that it is possible for them to assasinate someone and replace them with an impostor who looks exactly like the assasinated person. If you take this into consideration it would become very clear that it is almost impossible to say who is an agarthan and who isn’t.

We do of course get information on how to recognize them. The behavior of the people that they replace seems to have changed. This is noted about Cornelia who seems to have a change in character, Arundel who has stopped with donating to the church, Monica who seems to be at oddly high spirits (as pointed out by Hilda) and Tomas who gives Claude some hidden information about the Immaculate one (which was forbidden by Seteth). They have also shown to replace several officials in house Ordelia so they could experiment on the children of that house. But how do we know who else they have replaced? They could easily have replaced many people in many other key positions in the empire (as they already have replaced some key people there, so who is to say that they didn’t do this again).

Then there is also a question about their numbers. Their society has managed to live for over 1000 years. Unless they are all over 1000 years old and do not reproduce, dont you think that they are supposed to be far larger in numbers? However then we have an example in Kronya, someone who is way too naive (trusted Solon too much) to be considered as someone who has lived for over 1000 years with these people.

As we see in the ending card of Claude x F!Byleth they actually are a far larger threat than they seemed to be. With help of remnants of forces from the fallen empire (granted that we do not know how many remnant forces there are) they are already strong enough to topple Fodlan once again only to be driven back once Claude arrives with the Almyran army to assist Byleth. While Verdant Winds was supposed to be the route where the majority of their forces were supposed to be annihilated, right? I mean even Nemesis and Odesse are unnacounted for in Silver Snow.

And who says that they didn’t do this to stay hidden as much as possible rather than that it was a sign of their weakness? They mention that they need to stay hidden multiple times. Examples being pré timeskip when Thales talks to Monica (after jeralt was killed) and post timeskip in Azure Moon when Myson is defeated.

Then we also have this extremely obscure message on the ending cards of Crimson Flower that mention that certain characters fought against the agarthans and eventually came out victorious and that (true) peace was achieved. I mean why wouldn’t the agarthans try to hide somewhere like they already did for over 1000 years. Do you really believe that they will just get annihilated like that when they are basically able to shapeshift into any person they want. I believe that those ending cards were purposely written (by the developers) in that way to make us believe that they actually got dealt with while they are in reality not dealt with at all. We even get hints in the game for this. Several characters will mention near the end of each route that “history is written by the victors”. I know that this sounds very negative/pessimistic, but who is to say that the characters whose ending cards mention (true) peace are still alive. Don’t you think that they might have been annihilated by the agarthans and replaced with impostors? Afterwards they could easily have mentioned to the people of the empire that they dealt with the threat that slithers in the dark (which is literally “history is written by the victors”).

Then there is also the question: don’t you think that they have some kind of backup plan for when Edelgard wins the war and turns against them? Wouldn’t something like I mentioned above be an example of such a backup plan?

This is just something one can ponder a little bit about. Do you really think the writers would come up with such powerfull/crafty villains (and I didn’t even mention the nukes!) just to write them off as “they just die offscreen”.

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@Anoniem

You raise an interesting point. The slitherers do have the technology that may be realistic enough to trump Fodlan’s medieval weapons and knowledge. (Realism is sort of an iffy topic to debate on in Fire Emblem, since the series is a fantasy-like video game first, fictional story, yet I will do my best to apply some realism to my logic.) The problem is that we barely know much about the slitherers aside from their lore and possessing technology equivalent to that of the modern era. Such little screentime yet large mystery makes them unpredictable, though does unpredictability truly equate to intimidation factor?

I do recall that the Slitherers were like evil Xanes, yet I never placed much thought into the extent of their disguises since it seems only the high ranked members are capable of utilizing such technology. Yet, if the Slitherers constantly use their disguises, won’t Byleth and co. not fall for their ruse?

I sort of wished that there were more chapters that focused on dealing with slithers to avoid the “tell-don’t-show” problem with the Claude x F!Byleth endings card, as well as the majority of the endings in CF.

That is a rather chilling feeling, yet being a horror novelist fan, I personally would not mind it if that ending was real, and your point does raise some plausible arguments. Gameplaywise, the quantity of the enemy units in the opposing army rarely matters as long as the players have strong units. Though if you were trying to be realistic here, I think it is definitely impossible to commit a successful genocide against a massive cult that survived underground, whether they chose to shapeshift or not. Heck, there could be some surviving Agarthan children who could carry out the cult’s goals of taking over Fodlan in future generations. Even if certain character endings confirmed that the slitherers were wiped out, I think that is where your point stands: history is written by the victors, since either they believed that all the members were wiped out (while some escaped and plotted their next plan) or the characters were actually replaced by their imposter

They do have a back-up plan: in the form of zombie Nemesis in the VW route.

Now that you mention it, I have no recollection of any main antagonists of FE that were killed offscreen, correct me I am wrong.

Well there is a reason why Hubert nicknamed them “Those Who Slither in the Dark”, not “Those Who Ascend towards the Light.” They pop out of the shadows, they get killed.

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Well that is probably the point if they need to seem unintimidating. That way they may eventually become unnoticeable for their enemies again after being revealed, because they do not seem like a significant threat. Or like I already mentioned they can make their enemy think that they have been dealt with.

This is actually something that bothered me a bit. It is namely never really brought up that much by the characters themselves that the agarthans can take someone’s appearance and possibly mess around with political business. While they did see Kronya and Solon take the appearance of regular humans. It should have been rather obvious that they can manipulate things without getting noticed by anyone (who is unaware of their trick).

The irony behind this is that some fire emblem titles have had a similar scenario. However in these titles the children of the main characters dealt with the threat that the parents could not deal with (on their own).

A bit unrelated, but Byleth loses the ability to use Divine Pulse. The game gives hints in some conversations that Byleth actively makes use of Divine Pulse (even if the player actually doesn’t), so from that perspective it is possible that Byleth cannot properly lead the army to victory (so without any casualties) without it.

Actually I came up with a theory about another backup plan they might have.

I think that you might not have read it yet,

because it is related to the thought that Hubert nicknamed them Those Who Slither In The Dark

A theory about Hubert (spoilers)