Next week, I will be posting the sixth and final chapter for one of my smaller fics on FFn, “The Confessor.” It takes place on the continent of Jugdral, in the world of Fire Emblem 4. It’s actually only the second FE4 fic I’ve written, despite FE4 being probably my favorite Fire Emblem and the first one I actually beat. There was actually a surprisingly large amount of consideration and re-editing which went into this fic, which I didn’t mention even in the author’s notes. Allow me to give you some more in-depth designer’s notes here! BTW, be wary of spoilers for both the fic and FE4!
This story revolves around an INCREDIBLY obscure character: Palmark, who only shows up for one chapter and then dies. He’s a Bishop, and combined with his obscurity, you might be able to tell why I liked him: Renault is an obscure bishop as well! XD
More importantly, though, his obscurity and actual lack of characterization worked well for the sort of fic I wanted to write. FE4 already has an excellent cast of characters–indeed, a very compelling one, at least for its time period. Alvis is one of the most fascinating villains in the series, his noble, lofty aspirations for Jugdral foiled by the ruthless and underhanded methods he uses to achieve them. The protagonist (of the first half), Sigurd, is profoundly sympathetic despite being somewhat dimwitted. I wanted to write a story which would explore all of these memorable personalities, even if only briefly. I thought one way of doing that would be through a sort of ‘Forrest Gump’ type character: Someone who wasn’t particularly notable on their own and who wouldn’t steal the spotlight away from others, but who could conceivably meet all of them and who would also be privy to their most personal, revealing thoughts and secrets. A wandering religious confessor, as it turned out, would be an ideal narrative device for this sort of thing, and the obscure Bishop Palmark seemed like an ideal candidate.
Palmark and his social status illustrates a common Gunlord trope these days: The corrupt yet sympathetic church. XD As his dialogue in the first chapter illustrates, the main religious body of Jugdral (the Blagi Church) is as concerned with status-jockeying and making money as it is with the spiritual health of its parishioners. Palmark is no different. At the same time, though, Palmark does have sincere belief in his religion and is sincerely concerned with his flock, even if that often conflicts with his desire for an easy life. The Church itself is one of the few remaining opponents of government oppression by the end of the story.
This illustrates my own attitudes towards religion: While I cannot deny the corruption historically endemic throughout religious institutions, I’m also not the sort of hardcore Dawkinsian anti-theist one can sometimes meet these days. I think it would be dishonest of me (and cheap and lazy as an author) to portray religion as an unmitigated evil. That sort of plot’s been done to death in SRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, anyways. In the end, the genuine redemptive power of religion (regardless of whether or not one truly believes in it) and the strength of its moral precepts, regardless of how much they may be tarnished by corrupt individuals, shines through and provides salvation to the protagonist. Despite The Confessor being a very short story (6 chapters and maybe 11k words total), it shares this basic story base with Wayward Son. Haha, now that I consider it, maybe I make too much use of this particular trope…I photoshopped an image from Dave Willis’ Shortpacked to make it depict me at my writing desk:
XD XD XD XD
Anyways, though, Wayward Son’s Eliminean Church and Jugdral’s Blaggi Church are not exactly the same, though. While they do have some similarities, they are different in many important ways. Allow me to examine a few of these ways:
First, the Blaggi church is explicitly polytheistic, while the Eliminean church is monotheistic. There is some evidence in Fire Emblem 7’s English script that the Eliminean church has many gods (One enemy Bishop makes a reference to them), but the Fire Emblem 6 fan translation makes reference to a singular God, so I went with that. In Fire Emblem 4, however, the Blagi Church, despite having some Catholic trappings (Bishops, for instance), resides in a much more pagan Norse/Germanic setting. Also, given how the Divine Weapons in FE4 come from the power of a bunch of Dragons (who selected human Crusaders to do their will), I thought it would make more sense for humanity to worship those Dragons as a pantheon of gods.
Also, the Blagi church has a liturgical language, represented in the story as German. In Wayward Son, however, there’s no liturgical language (like Latin for Catholicism) and all services and prayers are in the common tongue. This is just a personal quirk on my part: I really wanted a lot of “Fan German” in The Confessor. XD XD XD As I mention in the Author’s Notes in the fic, there was originally a lot more fan german in there, but it was a little *too* excessive so I took it out. XD XD
As for the similarities, I think they’re obvious: Both religions have a well-defined ecclesiastical hierarchy and are influential in the politics of their world, and they also both have the Sacrament of Confession. There’s evidence for Confession in FE7, as the Eliminean Church is even more explicitly based on Catholic Christianity and a character (Bartre, talking with Renault) mentions confessing. There’s no evidence for it existing in Jugdral from the games, but no evidence for it not existing, either. 😉 Thus, I thought it was a good addition for the purposes of my story. 😀
Back to the subject of Palmark himself, I’d hope to think he’s in character…that is to say, the tiny, tiny slivers of characterization he got in FE4. He only has 2 conversations: One with Alvis, and one with Celice (the protagonist of the second half of the game) right before he disappears, or as I like to imagine it, he dies. I naturally fleshed out his character a great deal–the tension between his faith and his cowardice is my own invention, but one I think is supported by his dialogue, where he’s relatively subservient to Alvis. Maybe this is where I went Out of Character…in my fic, Palmark loathes Alvis, but in the game there’s no indication of him being anything other than loyal. I resolved this by having his feelings towards Alvis grow more positive due to the Kaiser’s ‘last confession.’ I hope it worked!
In reference to Alvis, chapter 4 was actually supposed to be a lot different, and I’ll show you what it was originally supposed to be here. I actually wanted Prince Yurius (Alvis’ son who was corrupted by an evil spirit and who became the last boss of the game) to have a confession of his own. I removed it, though, because I didn’t really think it fit in properly with the story, and replaced it with Alvis’ first confession, where he reveals his betrayals to Palmark. In retrospect, that may have been a bad choice, as there would be no reason for Alvis to reveal his plans, even in the form of a confession. Still, given Alvis’ confidence in his schemes, I think it’s believable, and also, the suicidal aspect of it (Palmark could have easily revealed what he said and destroyed him) gives a bit of insight into his guilt and personal turmoil over having betrayed a friend. Overall, I think the chapter 4 I have up works better, but I’ll show you guys what I completed of the original draft before I abandoned it. Here is is:
Chapter 4: A Prince’s Confession
Palmark sat alone in Barhara’s formerly majestic cathedral. It was completely empty, as usual following Alvis’ coronation as Kaiser of Grandbell. He was very much in the pocket of the Loputo Sect, and they loathed the old religion. Citizens who tried to worship—though technically protected by Alvis’ law—soon disappeared, and thugs who vandalized the churches, even the great ones such as this cathedral, went entirely unpunished. Its formerly beautiful stained-glass windows had all been either broken or stolen, its face covered in disgusting, blasphemous graffiti, and its interior plundered of every single valuable by shameless thieves. Only a handful of its wooden pews had not been looted, and it was in one of these that Palmark sat. Since most people in Barhara avoided it now it had nothing left to steal, it was one of the few places in Jugdral where Palmark could find any peace, quiet, and respite from the horror all around him.
It was also the only place he could kindle the waning flame of his faith.
Blagi had taught that the Gods were beneficent. That was very hard to believe after the terrible events of seventeen years ago. He remembered it as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. He also remembered Sigurd’s very last confession equally clearly. Palmark choked back a bitter sob as he remembered how all of his predictions had come true. Sigurd had been re-united with his wife…and learned she was married to the now-Kaiser himself. He had indeed led his army to victory…and subsequently to their fiery deaths, all executed for treason.
The authorities had made a convincing case against the Holy Knight, at least after Alvis had been properly crowned. However, Palmark could never bring himself to believe it. Sigurd had been the most honorable, upright man he had ever known. How could he have committed treason? How could Lady Diadora have forgotten about him entirely? It had to be some sort of hideous mistake. Somewhat had to have set it up—some dark power who sought the ruin of good men. Sigurd and his army were innocent!
And yet they had died anyways. The Gods had watched as noble, innocent blood was spilt yet again—and none of them, out of the entire pantheon, had done anything.
The Lopt, on the other hand, had only one God. And it seemed more probable that He existed than anyone worshipped by the old religion. Not long after Alvis had rose to power, the Lopt Sect began ruling Jugdral in his stead, turning the continent into a nightmarish bloodbath. Children were sacrificed every day to slake the thirst of the terrible Loputousu, adults were reduced to slavery in His name, and anyone who dared to resist would be swiftly consumed by His dark acolytes. Naga and the other Gods had done absolutely nothing to stop this. The people, crying for salvation, received none from on high. Had the Gods truly abandoned them? Had They never existed at all?
Palmark’s sob turned into a look of grim determination as he looked down at his vestiary. The grey he now wore—they grey of a full bishop—reminded him that while the Gods may have been quiet, they were not necessarily absent, and that this new God may not be as irresistible as He thought.
Why had he never just converted to the Lopt sect? Palmark could never really answer that question, not even to himself. The best answer he could think of, however, was his own cowardice. For reasons he could not comprehend—at all—Kaiser Alvis had ordered him to replace the dead Claude within the Edda religious hierarchy. Even when the Lopt Sect’s purges began, he had been protected by orders from Alvis specifically. Why was the Kaiser extending such favor to him, when almost all of the other clergy had been exterminated? Why would the confessor of the “traitor” Sigurd deserve such mercy? Was it because he had once served Alvis’ father? Witnessed Duke Victor’s suicide? It was possible, but Palmark figured his former association with House Velthomer would lead to the Kaiser’s animosity, not kindness. In any case, however, only Alvis’ personal favor provided Palmark with a shield against the worst horrors of this terrible age. He got the distinct impression he would lose that favor if he left Edda, even if he no longer believed. Therefore, he kept up the charade…for no other reason than to protect his own skin.
Another sob, now. He buried his grey-haired head in his wrinkled hands and began to weep, openly. “Gods, forgive my deceit, forgive my worthless life,” he spat bitterly. “Oh, wait, you don’t exist. Lord Loputousu, then? Dark Lord, will you forgive me? Redeem my wretched existence? But you don’t give mercy or forgiveness either, do you? So then, what am I to do?”
“Your job.” The voice behind him was apparently that of a young man’s. It was also cold, unfamiliar, and slightly mocking.
Palmark nearly fell out of his seat as he jumped up in surprise, his chest aching as his heartbeat increased, seeming as if it would tear itself out of his body. Gasping, clutching his chest with one hand while keeping the other on a pew to prevent himself from toppling over, the Bishop turned to see…
A youth—more like a teenager, really—with long, straight red hair (the same shade as the Kaiser’s) standing before him, at the nave of the cathedral. He was clad in gilded black robes and an unbelievably showy purple cape with pauldrons of pure gold, the likes of which Palmark had never seen before. He had a wry smile on his face, and his red eyes were narrow and scornful. They also radiated enough fell power to make Palmark’s knees shake.
“Forgive me, Father. Did I startle you?”
Palmark didn’t even bother to answer such an obvious question. Instead, he stammered as he quickly wiped his red eyes, “W…who are you?!”
“Such a shame. You don’t even recognize your Crown Prince?”
“Y…Yurius? Prince Yurius? Is that you?”
He nodded. “You should bow, Bishop Palmark. I might get irritated if you don’t show me the proper respect…”
Palmark was terrified out of his wits, and immediately dropped to his knees, knowing full well Yurius could simply wipe him from existence if he so desired. The Bishop could simply not afford to offend him, even if that meant following his every order like a servile dog. The quest for self-preservation was something Palmark knew very well, after all.
“O-Of course, my lord. Forgive my impertinence, I beg of you! How may I serve?”
“Why thank you, Reverend. I don’t need anything much from you today. I’d just like to take confession, if you please.”
“Is there a problem?”
You are the most devoted servant of the Lopt I know of, Palmark thought. What insanity are you playing at?! Obviously, he didn’t say this. He managed to stutter out something different: “No, but…why?”
“Because I desire it.” The Prince’s voice grew cold, and more malignant, somehow—Palmark felt the hairs on his neck stand up. “Obey, or…”
“Y-yes! Yes, of course, Your Highness!” Without wasting a moment, without understanding what sort of game Yurius was playing, he scrambled to his feet as Yurius knelt down before him, in a sort of perverse mockery of humility. He reached out to touch the boy’s forehead—the cold, clammy almost corpse-like flesh of his forehead—and mouthed the words he had said so many times before, and no longer believed:
“Alle wir haben sündigten, denn wir sind alle menschlich. Lassen Sie Ihre Sünden und in den Namen der Götter und der Heiligen, sie wird verziehen zu.”
Yurius didn’t say anything for a moment…and then, suddenly, the cathedral itself seemed to change.
It was the middle of a spring afternoon, and the large building was lit by sunlight streaming in from its empty windows. That light seemed to wink out for a moment as a surge of dark power burst forth from Yurius’ body. It would have bowled Palmark over…if he wasn’t rooted in place by that same dark energy, His heart was racing, he was crying again, but he felt his entire body in the thrall of some kind of unholy force. His muscles were rigid, as if he was statue, and would not obey his commands—he was frozen in place.
But he could still see, and he could still hear. And this allowed him to understand every word of the Prince’s dark litany.
“Oh, noble Gods,” spat Yurius, his voice dripping with sarcasm and scorn, “I confess to this: I am the destroyer. The scourge. The violator. The locust. The blood dripping off a murderer’s hands, the insanity in the eyes of a merciless soldier. I bring fear and misery to your worthless children, squander their lives for my own entertainment, and sustain myself on their flesh and their souls. And I will succeed where I previously failed. I will purge every last one of them from this continent, and remake this world in my own image. The sun will never rise again for the human race.
“I confess to you, “Gods,” but not because I need your forgiveness.” His voice began to change, then. It grew deeper, harsher, more guttural, as if it was coming from something more than a single young man—something older, crueler, and much, much bigger. Yurius drew himself up to his full height, picking himself up from his knees and looking down upon Palmark. And when the Bishop saw his face, he screamed.
The visage of the dark prince bore only the slightest similarity to a human’s. There were dark purple veins crisscrossing his face, pulsing with arcs of evil energy. His jaw had expanded and distended, far more than any normal human’s should have been able to move, and even worse, they were now filled with teeth. Hundreds upon hundreds of teeth, three rows of teeth, each of them as long and sharp as a needle, and each of them moving, wriggling inside of his mouth individually. Over those teeth flicked a long, wormlike tongue dripping a smelly whitish-green ichor onto the dusty cathedral floor. That wasn’t the worst thing, though. No, the most terrible thing—what nearly drove Palmark mad—was the Prince’s eyes. They were now completely black, broken only by a ball of violet light inside each of them. It wasn’t just an iris—it couldn’t have been. Palmark could see what was inside that violet light—shades of infants being dismembered, men being cut up like cattle, and women being set aflame, all screaming inside of his head in wailing voices of unimaginable agony.
Eeesh…pretty dark, huh? Maybe that was another reason I dumped it: I wanted to keep this fic in it’s T rating. XD
Well, that about does it for this entry…hope it provided you some insight into my writing, the ideas behind it, and the process of editing and consideration which has gone into even one of my smaller fics. As usual, I dunno what I’m gonna offer next week, but I hope you’ll stay tuned to see! 😀