This is how the world ends; swallowed in fire, but not in darkness.
The Golden Chevalier
I won’t rehash the points that Aliseyun and Guan have already raised so well but I find the argument persuasive and no other candidate fits the apparent pattern of Awakeners so well, nor does anyone else meet so well the criteria that Rufus has some idea who the Awakener is than the one we already know has been involved with the Ironbloods. Other things that I think point to Ash being tied to the Golden Knight, though these are suggestive rather than hard evidence:
First, his Variable Axe. When he properly joins up with Class VII he mentions that his weapon was given to him and that it’s custom-made. By whom, we ask, and why give it to Ash when any normal weapon would do just as well? I think there’s a very good reason for it and that someone knew that Ash would become an Awakener and wanted him to have experience with a weapon that would match his Divine Knight when the time came to operate it. We know that personal skill transfers directly into piloting from Rean’s example of adapting both the Eighth Form when Valimar was unarmed and later all his Eight Leaves training once he got an appropriate weapon, and he was able to do it without any formal training in Giant Robots For Dummies. So, if you already know that a given Knight uses a particular weapon, the best way to make sure its Awakener can pilot it effectively is to give them experience with a very similar weapon in their everyday life. We see this with Crow and Ordine as well. Crow’s double sabre is noted to be an archaic weapon and it just happens to match what his Knight carried. I doubt he picked a very old and difficult to master weapon at random and we know Vita guided him to Ordine. I think Ash is in the same situation and that’s the reason for the mystery surrounding his weapon.
Another interesting parallel that I find suggestive is the name of the militia group he led during the civil war: Fafnir. The mythical individual (dwarf or giant depending on which story you read) who used magic to transform himself into a dragon in order to guard a horde of… gold.
I’ll close out with the prediction that Weissmann was the one who brought him to Raquel per Guan’s theory, with the added detail that his sharing a name with George ‘Georg’ Nome has been noted to not be a coincidence by Kondo. Given the former’s direct involvement in Hamel, he would have been had every opportunity to be the man who brought Ash to Raquel and he already took a direct role in shaping what happened with the other two Hamel survivors, directing them towards Ouroboros. He’s also someone we know could have tampered with Ash’s memories if, as is quite likely, Ash actually died at Hamel. Kondo did say we need Joshua to explain Ash’s situation and the most likely thing the only surviving eyewitness could confirm is that Ash, like Lianne and Rutger, is supposed to be dead.
The Golden Knight
Like last time, I’ve gotta throw some total crack at the wall and see what sticks. Given that the last Knight is Gold and assuming Ash is an Awakener per above, we have a machine whose rough contours sound kind of familiar…
Oh right, these guys. Given Falcom’s love of mecha references and Nagano’s works in particular, I will not be shocked if the final Knight’s name is some play on Auge, Arusqul, Patraqshe or any of the other names associated with the L-Gaim or Five Star Stories machines.
An Observation on the Knights
Not a prediction, just an observation, the second transformation we see Valimar undergo in screenshots reminds me a good deal of Possession in the Masoukishin subseries of Super Robot Wars. Given some similarities between Valimar and Cybuster, I would not be surprised if this was intentional on Falcom’s part. And given how that series ended it ties in nicely with my next actual prediction:
The End of the Divine Knights
The Divine Knights are all destroyed or otherwise end up inoperative by game’s end. I doubt this is a very controversial opinion. We know they’re the vessels for the power of Steel and everyone is working to obtain that power (whether the combined entity or its separate Fire and Earth components) and that doesn’t leave much room for the Knights to still be around afterwards. Given the effort it took Ouroboros to partially charge up the second-generation Aions, I don’t see there being a viable replacement for the Knights’ own power source, certainly nothing that could be made compact enough to fit inside their frames. Well, I suppose that Ouroboros could hack together a way to run a Knight off of power from Aureole but they seem unwilling to actually make use of that power now that they have it so I don’t see it as likely.
Similarly, I think we’re going to see Valimar and Ordine’s AI’s ‘die’ by the end of the game and it’s going to be a bitter moment. The same can be said for all the Knights but those two are the only ones we’ve actually seen so far, the former being by far the more developed as a character.
The Final Battle
I’ve been saying since Sen II that the way the games has approached final boss battles was building its way towards something. Before we learned about the Great One, I was operating on the assumption that there was one Treasure powering the Knights and another off doing something else and thus we’d have two final bosses, one for Divine Knights (against the non-empowering Treasure) and one on foot, against the one powering the Knights. Since Fire and Earth are fused, that original idea seems out. However, the Knights have been a part of the arc’s final battles from the start and III continued this so I can’t imagine a scenario where there’s no big Divine Knight fight at the end. So, I’m going to predict that when the Great One is restored, not all of the power will be withdrawn from the Knights at once (the final dungeon’s likely to be saturated with mana too, which might help) and they’ll be able to operate just long enough to serve as the first phase of the final battle, beating the boss up to the point that our heroes can proceed to slice, shoot, punch and otherwise beat it to death on foot, or at least to the point that we get another ‘I’m outta here’ moment like Weissmann experienced with Aureole. Then once the fight is over, the Knights will ‘die’ as the last of their power fades.
Another less than controversial prediction: Angelica is alive. Whatever you think of George after Chapter 3, he doesn’t need to actually kill Angie to accomplish his goal, just hold her somewhere so that she can’t reveal what she’s learned about the Gnomes before Alberich is ready to reveal himself. I think the best evidence in favor of this is negative: Her body wasn’t found in Crow’s grave when Rean and co investigated it. If George killed her and needed to dispose of her corpse, he had a perfect place to leave it but elected not to, which means that whatever happened he had to take Angelica somewhere else. If he’s going to do that, he doesn’t need to kill her to silence her. He also took Crow’s dummy and took the time to refill the grave so he wasn’t exactly in a rush and I doubt Alberich stayed around to get his hands dirty with a shovel; he even turned around to leave before Angie was shot. And while George may have removed the evidence Angelica discovered about the dummy corpse, he seems to have overlooked her very distinctive brooch that Juna would later find. Or did he leave it there on purpose, or allow Angie to leave it behind? If he had time to fill in a grave, he surely had time to check for and notice a shiny metal object before departing. So, I’m pretty convinced he didn’t kill her but wants Alberich to think he did and is putting on at least something of an act for the time being. One last point of interest, in the very last scene on day one in Heimdallr, George slips up and almost calls ‘Siegfried’ Crow, before stopping himself. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I also predict that Olivier is alive. As much of an impact as his death of all people’s would have, I don’t see it happening. First off, his death was not inevitable; the prophecy links the spilling of the ancient (Arnor) blood to the opening of the way to the Gral of Erebos. However, the way was already open when the Courageous was destroyed, the Nameless One was awakened and the process for beginning the Great Twilight was underway. Olivier’s death plays no part in it, unlike the spilling of his father’s equally noble blood which kickstarted the entire mess. Next, Olivier has had a massive Chekhov’s Gun situation with Schera since the very end of The 3rd. Just when we know she’s in Erebonia, they kill Olivier off and render whatever they discussed in private moot? I don’t think so.
There’s also the many parallels between Olivier and Dreichels that I’m certain Falcom has set up intentionally. Set Valimar aside because that’s the only thing Olivier doesn’t have going for him. He shares Dreichels’ mixed parentage which left him an unlikely successor to the throne, he had a Vander for a childhood friend (Dreichels and Roland being where the tradition got started), he spent time outside the Empire learning the ways of another land and making friends there and he eventually returned to the Empire to try and help it in its hour of need, concerned that warring factions would tear it apart. Both also fell in love with a woman who could probably tie them in a knot without even trying hard and both women just happen to be associated with the color silver. I don’t think this is a coincidence and I think Falcom is setting Olivier up to literally become the second coming of Dreichels. I’m certain Eugent will either die of his wound or someone will help him along and if Cedric doesn’t die I also don’t see any path to him becoming Emperor at this point, more likely he either is found unfit to rule or he chooses to abdicate in Olivier’s favor. Olivier may not want the job but he’d be a damned lot better at it than Cedric would and it would nicely resolve the lingering Crossbell question as well. But most importantly, Olivier and his attempt to find a third way for Erebonia is exactly what the Empire is going to need in the future.
Oh yes, there were two other major characters on the Courageous, weren’t there? Well, I do think that Victor is dead. He was already badly messed up by his fight with McBurn in the Infernal Castle and he’d passed down the techniques of the Arseid School to Laura, so she’s ready to take over and Victor’s no longer necessary. He’s also the most likely of the three to try and sacrifice himself for the other two to make it out. So, rest in peace, Victor, you were an Awesome Kiseki Dad. Lastly there’s Toval… and he’d better be alive because if he’s not, Ein Selnate is going to be pissed. So, since we saw the Courageous explode with them onboard, how do I think they survived? Well, there’s one member of Ouroboros who we didn’t see in III but who has an interest in Olivier and who has already snuck onboard the Courageous once before and has access to teleportation powers: Bleublanc. Calling it now, just when the camera was off Olivier and before the Courageous exploded, Bleublanc swept in, declared that he would steal Olivier like Olivier had stolen his heart and teleport away with as many people as he could reach.
Ghostly Knights and the Calvard Connection
Another observation rather than a prediction: The ‘transparency’ effect that we see around Ordine, Zector and Argleon in III is not because they were destroyed at some point in the past or because their Awakeners are supposed to be dead. It can’t be the former because Ordine and Argleon were only damaged and were in known locations afterwards and it can’t be the latter because Aion Type-Alpha II is seen with the exact same effect and it’s an autonomous machine that doesn’t have anything to do with the Divine Knight system. We also see the members of Hercules appear and disappear with the same effect so it’s clearly something else at work. One other interesting observation is that while Ordine is seen with the effect in its first two appearances, it stopped as soon as Crow boarded. In its third appearance in the Gral, it didn’t display the effect at all and neither did any of the other Knights. I don’t think this is strictly because Crow was onboard in the second encounter though, as Argleon had the transparency effect even when Arianrhod was piloting it at Juno. What it means, I have no clue right now but we’re about to find out.
Here’s a negative prediction: I don’t think that Priscilla is going to be revealed as the Golden Butterfly. I really do like the idea since she would fit on so many levels (personal appearance, age fits, she matches the associated tarot symbolism extremely well) but I keep running into two stumbling blocks that I can’t reconcile. First is the timing, by the point that Ouroboros destroys the Moonlight Horse and absorbs some of its membership, Priscilla has already been married to Eugent for something like five years. I have a hard time believing that either the order was totally okay with one of their assassins taking a half-decade long holiday or that nobody noticed the Empress of Erebonia vanishing from time to time. There’s also the question of how the daughter of a minor noble family would end up in an assassin’s guild, though that’s much less of an obstacle than how she managed to keep it a secret. One possible explanation that gets around the latter issue is that Priscilla is a plant inserted into a minor house, but then you get the additional issue that she must have been investigated by various members of the nobility before her marriage. Since the aristocracy is entirely too fond of hiring jaegers to murder people, it’s difficult to believe they wouldn’t have noticed something wrong in Priscilla’s history, especially in a country that’s so proud of its noble bloodlines. Musse could get away with her fake identity because powerful people were covering for her, including the one person (Aurelia) in the best position to blow the lid off her act, and on top of that a schoolgirl doesn’t receive much scrutiny. A potential Empress on the other hand…
So yeah, as neat a theory as this is, with the facts that we have I’m just not seeing it as being terribly likely.
Death Bingo, or Christ Who’s Gonna Die First?
People are going to die in Sen IV, that much is beyond obvious. Setting aside the characters who III appears to have killed but their deaths are officially listed as ‘uncertain’ (of whom I only think Victor is actually dead) we still have a lot of people who are more or less likely to kick the bucket in the final chapter of the arc. So, here’s my predictions, sorted by likelihood.
‘Certain’ Tier: Eugent, Rutger
Eugent doesn’t require much explanation. He’s not (necessarily) dead yet but he has to get out of the way sooner or later for someone else to ascend to the throne and with the fulfillment of the prophecy his role in the story is effectively over. On top of that and perhaps more importantly, his survival would be massively inconvenient for Osborne, who used the story of a Calvardian assassin as the pretext for declaring war on the Republic. Eugent being alive won’t jeopardize that but Eugent letting slip that the assassin wasn’t associated with Calvard in any way most certainly would.
As for Rutger, we see Fie clearly saying goodbye to him in the second WebCM and his arm is transparent. He’s not long for this world. Farewell Rutger, you were pretty cool for a scary jaeger.
‘High’ Tier: Alberich, Arianrhod, Ash, Crow, Osborne, Roselia, Sharon
Almost all of these people fall under the general category of ‘not supposed to exist’. Alberich and Roselia have experienced unnaturally long lives through unknown means, I think Ash was killed and then resurrected and most of the rest of them were definitely dead at some point. Alberich as Asshole-in-Chief has obvious villain death flags and I’m quite certain that he, Ouroboros and quite possibly Osborne are just biding their time until the backstabbing begins. If anyone’s going to be the casualty of that, I think it’s going to be him. Osborne is likely because he kind of needs to be dead for Crossbell’s liberation to happen, or at least removed from the political playing field. He’s also literally heartless so he’s in a similar position as other Awakeners where he could be fated to die once the Great One is restored. I foresee a couple new levels of complexity thrown at us so we don’t necessarily feel great about his death but I still see it happening. Roselia has a death flag since Emma is thanking someone for guiding the Hexen for so long in the trailer and, well, she’s a vampire, that’s just asking for it in fiction.
Then we get our Awakeners (assuming my prediction about Ash is correct) all of whom should be dead. I don’t see them remaining around after the Great One is restored in the same way I don’t see the Divine Knights remaining around. Arianrhod especially, since she has her line in the first WebCM that makes it sound like she’s ready to finally die and we know that something happens involving her to get Duvalie worked up. There’s also her Ouroboros title, which suddenly takes on a whole new meaning now that we know the two Sept-Terrion fused to form ‘Steel’. I think the only thing she’s living for is to finally end the curse upon Erebonia and then she’s going to be prepared to die even if the removal of the curse doesn’t kill her. Despite her being one of the most honorable members of Ouroboros and someone I really like and don’t want to see die, I just see no way of her surviving the game.
Ash gets the general ‘should be dead, so dies in truth once the Great One is restored’ thing and the same goes for Crow. The only way I see him not dying (again) is if Kondo throws in a massive nod to A Tear of Vermillion at the end and Rean more or less literally jumps into Gehenna to save him. But that’s probably more wishful thinking on my part than anything else.
Lastly there’s Sharon, the one character in this tier who isn’t supposed to be dead already. She had all sorts of death flags in III and while the whole thing was a massive subversion in the end I expect that she’s going to end up sacrificing herself for Alisa, saying that the only time in her life she was truly happy was as ‘Sharon’ before passing away. Farewell, Super Maid.
‘Medium’ Tier: George, Lechter, Vita
George’s fate is linked to Angelica’s. If she’s truly dead then George is a corpse-to-be, no questions asked. If she’s alive, I foresee the possibility of him surviving but some form of sacrifice is quite likely. Lechter wants very desperately to atone for his father’s sins and that makes him much more likely to do something suicidally dangerous than the other Ironbloods. Ending of III aside, I like him and don’t want him to die, so my hope is that Klose gives him a very good talking-to and convinces him to live, but I won’t be too shocked if he doesn’t make it.
Lastly there’s Vita. She has a major death flag insofar as her role in Ouroboros is effectively over once Phantasmal Blaze is completed and she’s not even participating in the final phase of it. However, I like her dammit and I don’t want her to die. Also, with Arianrhod being all but certain to die I don’t see there being any need to kill two Anguis in a single game, but I could see her leaving the Society once everything is over. And, say, retiring to Elin with Crow so they can eventually raise a family of disgustingly good-looking children who they will teach all manner of (literal) magical card tricks. …let me have my fantasy, I want to see a happy ending here so badly.
‘Low’ Tier: Cedric, Claire, Rean, Rufus
As much as I want to see Cedric die horribly right now, I think it’s far more likely that he survives but is removed from the line of succession one way or another rather than being killed. Similarly while I want to see Rufus go die in a fire, I have a feeling Kondo would keep him alive out of spite. I like floofy’s idea that he gets recruited by Ouroboros as a new Anguis, much like Mariabell was. Since Arianrhod is almost certainly going to die, that opens up a slot. Claire strikes me as the least likely Ironblood to die, barring some situation where she tragically has to choose between her loyalty to Osborne and her friendship with the protagonists and it gets her killed.
And then there’s Rean. While he could conceivably die through the same mechanism as other Awakeners once the curse is eliminated and while it would be an amazingly bittersweet way to end the arc, I just don’t see it happening. Falcom’s put him through way waaaaay too much crap over three games to not give him a chance at some happiness in the end.
Where Are They Now? A Look Forward
In which I make some guesses as to what old and new Class VII gets up to, other than the obvious business of ‘stop the world from ending’.
Rean: Survives but ends up without his ogre power due to the elimination of the curse. I expect him to finally get himself together and find where he belongs, and to dedicate himself to mastering the Eight Leaves One Blade School. I won’t be too surprised if he returns in the final arc as the sixth Divine Blade. Oh, and he is going to adopt Altina as a little sister, yes he is.
Alisa: Continues to work with her mother and grandfather, properly confesses to Rean and says she’ll be waiting for him when he returns from a journey to go find Yun Ka-fai and complete his training.
Elliot: Will demonstrate the importance of music (a thread that’s been brewing since his Sen I bonding events) as it has the power to reach out to people afflicted by the Great Twilight, including the mother of all Gagharv references when at some point he will play the Undersea Melody. Please Kondo, you know you want to…
Laura: Becomes the new head of the Arseid School and inherits the ancestral sword. Pretty obvious.
Fie: Possibly smacks the smug out of Cedric at some point during the game, continues working as a bracer and at some point takes her special someone to meet her ‘other family’. Only it’s going to be Laura, not Rean.
Emma: Ends up encouraging the Hexen to break their isolation once the Sept-Terrion are restored and takes up a leadership role among them in the absence of Roselia.
Machias and Jusis: Oh, just get a room already you two… but I also see them both stepping up as political activists in the future and giving form to Olivier’s original hopes for Class VII, especially in Jusis’ case with Rufus likely to end the game ‘missing’ and most certainly out of a job in Crossbell. And Machias is all set for a confrontation of some sort with his father.
Gaius: He’s a Dominion, he does Dominion things. And I still see him picking up Scarlet as a Squire, and possibly Linde as well because how great would that be?
Sara: With Victor and Rutger both dead, she’s going to need to find a new nice middle-aged man to fantasize about. Turns out there happens to be one heading for Erebonia just now. Cassius: Estelle, Joshua, Renne, I’d like you to all meet your new stepmom…
Millium: There’s no way the process that transformed her into the Sword of Demise can be reversed, or else the Ironbloods wouldn’t have been so distraught when she took Altina’s place. At most, I could see Rean hearing her voice at some point while he’s piloting Valimar, possibly as one last push to knock him out of his full-time demon state.
Juna: Will finally get her Crossbell back by the end of the arc.
Kurt: Lacking any Arnors in need of his protection, will get dragged to Crossbell by Juna ostensibly to open up a branch of the Vander School as a bit of cultural rapprochement. But really because, having finally Gotten That Boy, (J)Una wants to keep him nearby.
Altina: Will become Altina Schwarzer. And continue to give Rean grief, but at least she’ll be happy.
Musse: Will also step into a prominent political role by the end of the arc… and will also attain international fame as the author of a steamy tell-all about the side of Rean Schwarzer that the history books won’t record and the Septian Church will probably ban.
The Fate of the Faeries
Another VERY crack-y prediction: We’ve seen evidence for almost everything in Erebonian Folklore, even if the legends have only a loose relationship to the actual reality. Well, there’s one that stands out for not appearing at all so far and that’s the Faeries. Aside from some suggestions that Lianne was believed to have been a changeling due to her beauty and strength there’s no real mention of them at all. I suppose this could explain Lianne’s resurrection but we’ve already got a couple potential explanations for that (being an Awakener, the curse or a combination thereof) so I’m thinking maybe the faeries are something different. We know that the legends of faeries all say they like pulling pranks on people and we also know that at least one local variety of the legend says they take the form of girls. Well, Sen III introduced a new character who just happens to be named for a downright iconic fairy/spirit from The Tempest: Ariel Lenheim. We know that Olivier has some supernatural senses (graphically demonstrated at Stargaze Tower) which could just be his Arnor blood but… why do they have a power like that in the first place, and why is Olivier’s apparently so sensitive? Maybe he’s gotten a little boost in magical sensitivity from his mother’s side of the family… And maybe he’s genetically predisposition to be outrageous too. So there’s your uber-crack, Ariel Lenheim was a Faerie.
The Holy Beast
Linked with the above, Unicorns also still need an explanation. Maybe the Holy Beast of Fire is the ‘horned lion’ of the Thors symbol and it’s where the idea came from? As an alternative, an enemy seen in the first WebCM may or may not be the original form of the Nameless One and which looks to have a single horn, though it’s hard to tell. Since the term used in Erebonian Folklore to describe unicorns is the same one used to describe the Holy Beasts, I think this has to be where the connection is made.
The Eighth Dominion(s)
Let me round out my predictions with the roaring lion in the room: Barkhorn. I still like my theory about him and even if a few pieces of it no longer hold water, the main concept still holds. I am (obviously) completely certain that he’s not dead. First and foremost, he’s been built up as a character since The 3rd so it completely strains credulity that he would be killed offscreen, just at the moment when it seems like we were going to meet him properly. From a purely narrative perspective his death doesn’t feel right. Second, his death serves no immediate narrative purpose because the story Gaius tells about his Stigma makes no sense. We’ve already seen two firsthand accounts of a Dominion at the moment their Stigma awakened and in both cases, it’s clear that a Stigma is something that you have at a far earlier point than it actually manifests in its full form. Kevin says that the first time he perceived his Stigma was almost a decade before it absorbed the Spear of Loa and he became a Dominion and Wazy was able to hear the ‘voice’ of an Artifact for an unknown but clearly considerable span of time before his Stigma absorbed that Artifact. What both of these characters have in common is that their Stigma was already there and they simply needed the right catalysts for it to fully awaken. In both cases we also have evidence that someone who already possesses a Stigma can sense the signs of it in another person, given that Ein already suspected both Kevin and Wazy of possessing one. Both Dominion also describe their Stigma as a ‘seal’ that is engraved upon their soul. Absolutely nothing that we’ve seen so far suggests that it’s possible for a Dominion to simply transfer their Stigma to someone else. Actually, the fact that there are ever seats open suggests that this is not the case, else the past Fifth and Ninth Dominion could have passed their Stigmas on to a Squire or Knight and we wouldn’t get situations where a particular seat has been noted to go for a long time without someone to fill it. So, faced with the possibility that everything we know about Stigmas is wrong or that there’s something wrong about the story Gaius tells us, I’m going to opt for the latter explanation every day.
I’m not going to rehash why I think Gaius already had a Stigma (see here) but it’s quite likely that whenever he claimed to sense something via the wind, it was his Stigma and he simply attributed it to ‘wind sense’ because that’s how he was raised. I think that instead of Barkhorn ‘giving’ his Stigma to Gaius, what happened in Calvard was that the Stigma Gaius already had awakened and perhaps Barkhorn was there in part to assist in the process, like Ein helped trigger Wazy’s awakening. Now, there’s no reason for Gaius to say Barkhorn died and passed on his Stigma when he hadn’t, unless it serves someone’s interest for people to think that Barkhorn is dead. One possibility which I think we can dismiss is that Gaius truly believes everything that he said, even if his beliefs do not match reality. If the only thing that happened to Gaius was that his mentor died and his Stigma awakened (attributed to Barkhorn) then his very obviously reticent behavior around his old classmates doesn’t make much sense. He’s very clearly hiding something and is hesitant to open up about what’s gone on, until circumstances force his hand; in particular he’s very prone throughout Sen III to deflect questions without actually answering them, contrast to how he behaves in the first two games. Clearly he got a crash course in Being A Dominion courtesy of Ein. Even if he believes everything he told Class VII in Heimdallr Cathedral, his behavior doesn’t match his story. So, Gaius clearly knows something that he either doesn’t want to tell his friends, or he can’t tell them. I think that Barkhorn is alive and Gaius is under orders to conceal that fact.
We know that this sort of thing is what the Gralsritter do; Kevin’s ascension to the position of Fifth Dominion was kept a closely guarded secret, thus enabling Kevin to get within bowgun-distance of Weissmann without the latter suspecting. As a ‘secret’ Dominion, he was a one-time ace in the hole. The Gralsritter may have seen the appearance of a new Dominion so closely linked to Barkhorn as an opportunity to pull that trick again, giving Gaius a story to tell and assigning him Barkhorn’s number, thus covering the fact that Barkhorn is still alive. Given Ein’s love of long-range planning (see what she did with Ries and Elie) an opportunity like this to hide Barkhorn and get a new member who has connections to movers and shakers within Erebonia would have been a gift from Aidios. On that line of thinking, one intriguing possibility is that Barkhorn has been set up by Ein as an infiltrator within Ouroboros (thus linking back to my Fifth Anguis theory) and as a part of that mission he needs to either make Ouroboros think he’s dead or Ouroboros wants everyone else to think he’s dead and Ein is playing along while chessmastering the whole thing from the shadows. Gaius himself may not even know the full story but he must know some of it. The way that he waits until Thomas is present to explain matters and is deferring to him at points in the narrative suggest that there’s coordination from above and Ein wants to be sure that the right story is being told, with Thomas being there in case Gaius can’t pull off the necessary lying to his friends.
In any case, I am quite certain that Barkhorn’s role in the story is not over and at some point in Sen IV we’re going to learn what really happened in Nord
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