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Here is the proposal about Thales, the leader of Those Who Slither in the Dark and the main antagonist of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I originally intended to propose him once if he appeared in Fire Emblem Heroes by August, but since he hasn't made into a playable character there as of yet, I'll popose him now.
FOR THOSE WHO DOESN'T PLAY THIS GAME OR LEARN ITS STORY YET, PLEASE STAY OUT SINCE IT CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS INCLUDING THE FLAME EMPEROR'S ORIGIN STORY!
What's the Work?
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the sixteenth and so far latest main installment of Fire Emblem series. Like some installments like Geneology of the Holy War and Fire Emblem Fates before, this story has a large timeskip and two phases to go: The Acadamy Phase and the War Phase, happened five years after the former.
It takes place on the continent of Fódlan, which is divided into three rival nations who are now at peace: the Adrestian Empire to the south and west, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus to the north, and the Leicester Alliance to the east. The Church of Seiros, based at Garreg Mach Monastery at the continent's center, is the region's dominant religion and is an influential power in Fódlan in its own right. In ancient history, a war raged between the Church's titular founder Seiros and Nemesis, a bandit king known as the King of Libration. The war happened in an era which also saw the establishment of the Empire by Seiros, and ended with Seiros' victory whilst Nemesis was slain.
After a thousand years, the Holy Kingdom split away from the Empire, then the Alliance declared its independence from both powers. A prolonged conflict ensued, with the Church being responsible for keeping peace. The nobility of Fódlan frequently bear Crests, which are sigils passed down through families that grant magical powers, and are symbols of power.
The main protagonist is a former mercenary turned professor in the Officers Academy of Garreg Mach Monastery named Byleth (by default) - who can be either male or female, like Kris, Corrin and Robin before them. During their journey, Byleth is aided by Sothis, a strange and initially-amnesiac girl who appears in their dreams and can only be heard by them. At Garreg Mach Monastery, Byleth chose one of the three school houses, each aligned to a different nation of Fódlan, and recurit most (but not all) of the students from other classes as well as staff members to join them once certain requirements were fulfilled. They are:
- The Black Eagles led by Edelgard von Hresvelg, imperial princess and heir to the Adrestian imperial throne;
- The Blue Lions, commanded by Prince Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd of the Kingdom;
- And the Golden Deer led by Claude von Riegan, heir to the Alliance's leading family.
However, the peace is soon broken when a group of bandit, hired by a mysterious assailiant who is only known as the Flame Emperor, attack the students and their leaders. The Flame Emperor is not the only problem, and they plotted something mysterious along with their right-hand known as the Death Knight, as well as a group of mysterious, sinister and deadly conspirators they worked with. They had stirred the situation into its tensity. Until one day, the Flame Emperor attacks the infiltrate the Holy Tomb... and revealed their true identity that shocks everyone.
Finally, the situation snapped, triggering a war that drive everyone into it and last for five years. The war's outcome depends on Byleth's choice on whom he was sided with, but to be honest, it has no Golden Ending like that of Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation.
Who is He? What Have He Done?
Those Who Slither in the Dark
Those Who Slither in the Dark (nicknamed by Hubert because of their insidious nature) are the main antagonists of Fire Emblem: Three Heroes, being the descendants of a long lost civilization named Argatha, which turned against the Gods out of hubris and were subsquently defeated and turned into underground. They are responsible for many tragic events happened in the series, like the Tragedy of Duscur as well as the start of darkness of Edelgard.
ThalesAmongst them, a man named Thales is their central leader who worked with the Flame Emperor, who is disgusted by.TWSITD's heinous acts.
According to Edelgard and Hubert in the Black Eagle/Crimson Flower chapters, Thales is the leader of Those Who Slithered in the Dark. In addition, he's actually the secret identity of Lord Volkhard von Arundel, who is the maternal uncle of Princess Edelgard and the brother of Queen Consort Patricia von Arundel (the late Queen Consort of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, being Edelgard's mother and Dimitri's stepmother).
It is unknown if Volkhard is Thales all along or Thales killed the original Volkhard and took his place, like some of his minions did to their victims. Anyway, his ultimate goal to work with the Flame Emperor is to take over Fodlan for himself, whilst eliminating the Nabateans especially their leader, Seiros, in order to seek vengeance against them for vanquishing his ancestors.
Tragedy of DuscurThe Tragedy of Duscur occurred in the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus in Imperial Year 1176. As it is revealed by all of the routes, Thales was the mastermind behind the Tragedy of Duscur, alongside his fellow conspirators like Cornelia Arnim and even Patricia who was obssessed with reuniting with daughter that she even tried to gain her wish by orchastrating such a massacre to assassinate King Lambert. The assassination killed many aristocrats and almost the entire royal family of the Kingdom, leaving Dimitri as the sole survivor and people in Duscur as scapegoats.
After that, Thales/Volkhard allowed Cornelia, who had became his subordinate, to take power in the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus.
Tragedies Upon Edelgard and OthersBesides Dimitri's tragedy, Thales/Volkhard is also behind Edelgard's tragedy, too. It all happened before the Tragedy of Duscur, where Edelgard returned from the Holy Kingdom after her fateful encounter with Dimitri. However, Volkhard conspired with the Empre's corrupt aristocrats to render Emperor Ionius IX, Edelgard's father, as their political figurehead.
Even worse, Volkhard and other Enbaar aristocrats soon kidnapped Edelgard and put her (alongside all of her 10 siblings) under experiments with the Crests by installing a second Crest into her body. This granted Edelgard more power at the cost of her lifespan, and caused her hair to turn white in the process (she was originally a brunette). Edelgard was the remaining survivor, with all of her siblings either died or went insane due to the experiments. This made Edelgard to resent the Crests and the Church of Seiros, making her to take her mantle as... the Flame Emperor.
Besides, Edelgard and her siblings weren't the only victim of those heartless experiments executed & prepared by Thales, with Lystheia - from Ordelia Family in the Alliance - fell into the same fate that cut her lifespan short and bleached her hair due to her extra Crest, whilst Hapi was experimented by Cornelia Arnim to gain a curse that would drive monsters near her when she sigh, resulting in Hapi depriving herself from showing emotions.
In addition to that, Thales also masterminded the abduction of certain people from Garreg Mach before killing them to allow his minions to take over their identity, from a student named Monica to an elderly scholar named Tomas. Whilst disguising as Tomas, Solon used mind control to brainwash the denizens of Remire Village; and with Monica's disguise, Kronya participate in a plan to turn students into monsters with stolen Crest Stones, before stabbing Jeralt (Belyth's father) in the back. As Byleth attempted to rewind the time and save their father, Thales appeared and interrupted the process, before taking "Monica" with him and left Byleth broken with his father's death.
Upon returning back to his base, Thales and the Flame Emperor discussed about Jeralt's death, and Thales claimed the Flame Emperor was their greatest creation and proclaimed they will be his kind's key to salvation, but the Flame Emperor (naturally) only expressed disgust over Jeralt's death and Thales' crimes including the Tragedy of Duscur and the royal children experiments in Enbaar.
It is also revealed that Thales and Those Who Slithered in the Dark is backing the action of the Flame Emperor.
Thales, sometimes under his disguise as Volkhard, serves as an antagonist in different degrees dependent on the phase the player chose. In the Black Eagles/Crimson Flower route, as an unscrupulous and vicious supporter in the Empire's war against the Church of Seiros, Volkard appeared in front of Edelgard and Byleth after Edelgard killed Cornelia, trying to find out the reason.
Having no answer from his niece, Volkhard used his "javelin of light" to eliminate House Rowe's important members and a third of the Imperial troops stationed there, in another attempt to keep Edelgard in line, but it only made Edelgard to push everything on Rhea and the Church of Seiros without yielding.
Before the final battle between Edelgard and Rhea/Seiros, Volkhard visited his niece and stated his dream of ruling the world will be fulfilled, but Edelgard secretly planned to eliminate him and his faction alongside Byleth once she had done with Rhea.
In the Blue Lions/Azure Moon route, Thales plays a more openly antagonistic role under Volkhard's disguse. Upon Edelgard's dethronement of Duke Ludwig von Aegir, the former Prime Minister of the Empire and Ferdinand von Aegir's father, Volkhard took over Duke Aegir's land and started an even worse oppression than the already corrupt Duke Aegir, who became a scapegoat since Volkhard took harsh texes only under Duke Aegir's name. As a result, Duke Aegir was killed by people in his land after he escaped Edelgard's house arrest.
After Dimitri reclaimed the Holy Kingdom, Volkhard was eventually defeated and killed by Dimitri during the Empire's invasion against the Leichester Alliance. Ironically, Dimitri never even realized that he had killed the man responsible for the Tragedy of Duscur when he killed Volkhard, nor did he discovered any trace of those who had slither in the dark (though he doubted that the Tragedy of Duscar was conspired by someone in the dark).
Verdant Wind & Silver Snow
In the Golden Deer/Verdant Wind role as well as the Church/Silver Snow route, Thales' role are relatively the same, being the routes' main antagonist (albeit not as the final boss in either of them). During the war, Thales learns that Byleth - and by extension Sothis - has reawakened and is leading the Church's Resistance Army/Alliance Army against the Imperial forces. He attempts to kill their forces at Fort Merceus by dropping javelins of light to destroy the fort, however, this attempt fails, as the Death Knight informs them to flee after the battle.
After vanquishing the Empire and killing Edelgard, the Reistance Army/Alliance Army discovered the existence of Shambala, the underground base for Thales and Those Who Slithered in the Dark, thanks to Hubert who defected in his final moments to make Byleth destroy the faction and avenge Edelgard's childhood tragedy. Upon seeing his enemies arriving at Shambala, Thales attempted to destroy them all to spite Sothis, even if it meant to destroy his base, but he was eventually defeated.
Nevertheless, realizing his defeat, Thales attempted to take down the entire base and killed everyone with him using his javelins of light. Though most of the missiles were intercepted by Rhea, who transformed into the Immaculate One, a few were able to strike Shambhala, killing Thales himself from the collapsing rubble, while Byleth and his companions all survived.
(Still, exclusively in Verdant Wind chapter, the remnants of Thales' faction had managed to revive their final secret weapons and sent them to ravage the land - Nemesis and his Ten Elites.)
Mitigating Factor/Fruedian Excuse
|“||There will be no salvation for you and your kind. Those responsible for such gruesome deeds in Duscur and Enbarr.||„|
|~ The Flame Emperor to Thales, showing disgust upon his kin's crimes|
Whilst he claimed to be vengeful and tried to avenge his ancestors for being vanquished by Seiros, that excuse is made void because the Argathan ancestors are not sympathetic. They brought their downfall upon themselves due to their own racism, hubris and misanthrophy, something Thales and all of his minions has taken, to look down upon everyone except their own race. Thales' so-called revenge is merely an excuse for him to gain complete control over the entire world and total annialation on Sothis and her kins.
What is worse, Thales doesn't care about his minions and colleagues, as he intentionally sent Solon to sacrifice Kronya once she failed him. Even in the Black Eagles route, Volkhard/Thales will commit horrendous tactics to mess up with Edelgard's arrangement so that he could keep her in his control. No wonder why even Edelgard/Flame Emperor was disgusted.
Three Houses is actually one of the darkest Fire Emblem titles to date, and is pretty much as dark as (if not even darker than) Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War (which is arguably the darkest installment of the series by far), with most of the Three Houses cast are compsoed with Grey Zone characters.
Aside from corrupt aristocrats, minor enemies and bandits, most of the story's major antagonists (particularly in the War Phase) are hardly villains, with some of them only opposed the main characters because of the faction they were sided on - one route's antagonist could be another route's friend. Even some certain characters like Seiros, Edelgard/Flame Emperor, Dimitri (in War Phase) and the Death Knight are shown to be more complicated and sympathetic antagonists (especially in the cases of Edelgard and the Death Knight, who are portrayed as sympathetic Anti-Villains, despite controversies on Edelgard's characteristics and agenda).
However, Those Who Slithered in the Dark are unambiguously evil, being power hungry consirators that attempts to induce war and massacre to take over Fodlan, fulfilling what their ancestor had failed. As their leader and someone who has an important and vicious role in all routes, Thales is definitely the overall Big Bad of Three Houses, even beyond Rhea and Edelgard and having more active role than Nemesis (who is the game's Bigger Bad and a brute, but is much less active in present history except being the Golden Deer's final antagonist post-revival). Thales is responsible for most of the main characters' trauma and destructive events that influenced Fodlan's history, ripping its peace into pieces, only to use revenge as an excuse for his brutal quest for power.
Considering such a long list of child experiments, massacre and conspiracy he executed... A hard yes.