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Jotari

The Ethics of Marth Embarking

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*harp music*

*sepia colour tone*

On 3/8/2020 at 10:22 AM, Jotari said:

A lot of talk has been going on since release about the morality of Three Houses characters, but today I'm going to call out a lord that's been avoiding responsibility for three decades now. And that's the supposed golden boy and lover of peace, Marth himself.

Now I'm not talking about his overall war (though I legitimately think that could be a discussion and I'm appreciative the anime decided to have it).

*back to normal colour tone*

DISCLAIMER: This isn't a "Medeus was good and Marth was evil!" hot take. Not exactly. I want to seriously examine the situation presented in a story that didn't want us to take it this seriously in the slightest to maybe give people some more perspective on it.

So this is something I mentioned during my hot take of Shadow Dragon chapter 9 that I always intended to get back to. The original Shadow Dragon and all of its updates and remakes never intended to tell much of a nuanced story. It's pretty simple and straight forward. Medeus is evil because he's a big scary dragon and Marth is good because he's a prince with a magic sword (and blue hair). But as I mentioned in that quote from last time, the anime adaptation of Marth's story does have a segment wherein Marth's soldiers discuss whether they should get involved with the war and it is an interesting situation. Because unlike a lot of other Fire Emblem protagonists, by the time Marth gets involved the war is essentially over already. He's basically starting a second war to get back everything that is lost. And while Medeus and his cohorts were definitely not justified in what they did in embroiling the continent in war, what's done is done. Trying to undo it will cost a lot of lives on both sides, is that worth it? Or maybe to give a real world example, the Native Americans definitely didn't deserve what ended up happening to them and now face virtual extinction. Would it be justified for them in the modern day to raise up and take America by martial force should they have the ability? I assume most of us would agree that no, they don't. But of course that's not a 1:1 comparison, most notably Marth losing his kingdom happened within his own life time and not that of his ancestors. So let's look at Marth's situation a bit more.

Now Shadow Dragon is a stock fantasy, and a stock fantasy trope is the rightful heir. Of which Marth is. But, unless you're Blah the Prussian, we modern humans living in republics or kingdoms with only a nominal monarchy know the whole idea of a rightful heir is poppycock. Marth doesn't have any god given right to rule Altea (even if a dragon god chose his great grand uncle to do so). We know the best person for the job is who should be in charge and that is not automatically Marth by virtue of being born. So then the question becomes, is life under Medeus going to be significantly worse than life under Marth to justify the bloodshed he is going to cause by continuing the war over staying hidden? The only comment we can get about what Medeus plans for the continent that I can recall is Lorenz's recruitment with Shiida where she says he plans to conquer mankind. What exactly Shiida means by that or why she thinks that is left up in the air. We do know that there are humans in Medeus's Doluna but whether they are outright slaves being forced to fight, normal citizens being drafted to fight or volunteers who want to fight is also unknown. Hell maybe they aren't even humans and are manaketes who've lost their dragon stones like Gotoh. The closest we get is the singular character of Volzhin, the boss of Chapter 12 who definitely seems to be an Doluna loyalist.

So if Medeus is planning to genocide or enslave the entire human species, then yes, Marth is absolutely justified in going back to war. But the game doesn't provide us any real reason to believe that, and even more importantly, no reason for the characters to believe that (well beyond draconic racist). And most of Medeus's allies in other kingdoms are humans and, while being depicted as foolish for joining him, I don't think they're meant to be so colossally stupid as to fight for their own enslavement or genocide if Medeus is openly planning that. It seems with all the info we're given, that Medeus's primary goal was Archanea itself. Doluna doesn't seem nearly as concerned about anywhere else. Macedonia is the one trying to finish of Aurelis and Doluna don't even take personal control of Altea until after Camus proves to be a less than stellar pawn (and yes, Morzas, the mage dragon boss of that chapter is noted to be a cruel oppressor, so there's some motivation for Marth there, but he wasn't initially in charge, so Doluna had no explicit malice towards Altea, being fine with Camus doing a good job administrating it until Camus was dismissed for other reasons).

Another very important element to consider is Hardin and Nyna, whom are still alive and are still fighting by the time Marth embarks. So one could argue he's quite justified in wanting to save them. And that no peace treaty following securing Aurelis's sovereignty is possible. In that case Marth's actions are directly saving a people who would otherwise die and lose their sovereignty. Are the lives of what remains of Aurelis worth the cost that fighting the war across the rest of the continent is still an open question though, and not one we really have the info to answer.

And the final thing to consider is the consequence of what would happen if Marth didn't embark on his quest (I made a thread addressing that specifically once too). And the answer is that the continent probably would have continued to war as Medeus's allies turned on each other. As we know by the end that Michalis and Gharnef did plan to betray him and Gotoh probably would have found someone else to champion his cause too. So in an omnsicent sense, yeah, it is pretty much completely justified. Though Marth has no way to know it at the time so it wouldn't really influence his own moral decision, on the matter.

So...yeah. Hope that made you think a bit about a story designed in such a way that you weren't meant to think about this at all.

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10 hours ago, Jotari said:

So if Medeus is planning to genocide or enslave the entire human species, then yes, Marth is absolutely justified in going back to war. But the game doesn't provide us any real reason to believe that, and even more importantly, no reason for the characters to believe that (well beyond draconic racist). And most of Medeus's allies in other kingdoms are humans and, while being depicted as foolish for joining him, I don't think they're meant to be so colossally stupid as to fight for their own enslavement or genocide if Medeus is openly planning that. It seems with all the info we're given, that Medeus's primary goal was Archanea itself. Doluna doesn't seem nearly as concerned about anywhere else. Macedonia is the one trying to finish of Aurelis and Doluna don't even take personal control of Altea until after Camus proves to be a less than stellar pawn (and yes, Morzas, the mage dragon boss of that chapter is noted to be a cruel oppressor, so there's some motivation for Marth there, but he wasn't initially in charge, so Doluna had no explicit malice towards Altea, being fine with Camus doing a good job administrating it until Camus was dismissed for other reasons).

Regarding those human allies of Dolhr:

  1. Michalis sides with Dolhr with intent to betray it because of his own ambitions
  2. King Jiol of Gra was a massive coward who believed Dolhr's victory was inevitable and wanted to save his own neck, and he got tricked by Gharnef: "I deserve the same protection as the rest of the Empire! Betraying Altean was Gharnef’s idea! Let…let him fight the brat! Don’t just stand there, DO something! I don’t want to die!"
  3. Shadow Dragon says that, "However, the current king, Ludwik, was weak-willed and easily cowed: Doluna had little trouble forcing him into an alliance", and didn't the sequel also reveal that the King of Grust's children were held hostage? I can't remember.

So, yeah, even though they know Dolhr's goal is genocidal, they each still have their own reasons that outweighed that knowledge to them.

As for Medeus' goals, the prologue of Shadow Dragon says, "Long ago, Medeus, king of the dragonkin, conquered the continent of Akaneia, beginning an age of fear and despair for all its people" and refers to his reign as a tyranny. I couldn't find much more than that; I think it's the sequel that explains that his goal was indeed manakete-supremacy and making all humans second-class or worse. 

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And if Marth stayed hidden and Talys was taken over, and he was discovered?

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2 hours ago, vanguard333 said:

Regarding those human allies of Dolhr:

  1. Michalis sides with Dolhr with intent to betray it because of his own ambitions
  2. King Jiol of Gra was a massive coward who believed Dolhr's victory was inevitable and wanted to save his own neck, and he got tricked by Gharnef: "I deserve the same protection as the rest of the Empire! Betraying Altean was Gharnef’s idea! Let…let him fight the brat! Don’t just stand there, DO something! I don’t want to die!"
  3. Shadow Dragon says that, "However, the current king, Ludwik, was weak-willed and easily cowed: Doluna had little trouble forcing him into an alliance", and didn't the sequel also reveal that the King of Grust's children were held hostage? I can't remember.

So, yeah, even though they know Dolhr's goal is genocidal, they each still have their own reasons that outweighed that knowledge to them.

As for Medeus' goals, the prologue of Shadow Dragon says, "Long ago, Medeus, king of the dragonkin, conquered the continent of Akaneia, beginning an age of fear and despair for all its people" and refers to his reign as a tyranny. I couldn't find much more than that; I think it's the sequel that explains that his goal was indeed manakete-supremacy and making all humans second-class or worse. 

Jiol's logic in particular there makes no sense if Medeus's goal is genocide. The quote you provide itself shows that he believes the human allies of Doluna are to be protected.

1 hour ago, eclipse said:

And if Marth stayed hidden and Talys was taken over, and he was discovered?

A good point, but do we have any indication the villainous allied forces ever intended to conquer Talys? They've had four years to do so already and it's defenses are non existent. And the idea that he puts a target on the defenseless Talys by revealing himself is another point to consider (course said retaliation never occurs because the enemies immediately become super passive as soon as the game starts due to its primitive design).

Edited by Jotari

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37 minutes ago, Jotari said:

A good point, but do we have any indication the villainous allied forces ever intended to conquer Talys? They've had four years to do so already and it's defenses are non existent. And the idea that he puts a target on the defenseless Talys by revealing himself is another point to consider (course said retaliation never occurs because the enemies immediately become super passive as soon as the game starts due to its primitive design).

Why do you assume that Marth would even think this, especially after he had to literally ditch a knight to flee?  Security by obscurity is laughed at IRL for a reason.

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12 minutes ago, eclipse said:

Why do you assume that Marth would even think this, especially after he had to literally ditch a knight to flee?  Security by obscurity is laughed at IRL for a reason.

True. It isn't necessarily security as it "not high on Medeus's list of priorities". Talys is small fry, which means Dolhr could nab it easily, but does Talys have anything valuable either? Doesn't seem like it. And it's at the very edge of the known world, Rome would've taken to Britain sooner if it was south of Sardinia instead of north of Gaul.

Considering how rapidly Dolhr devoured the world, they might have preferred consolidating their possessions. Imperial indigestion -revolts- is an experience made worse if you're still on campaign, even if they can't possibly defeat you. Aurelis hadn't yet surrendered either. The runaway prince with a nonexistent army could be dealt with when there is nothing else to do.

Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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1 hour ago, Jotari said:

Jiol's logic in particular there makes no sense if Medeus's goal is genocide. The quote you provide itself shows that he believes the human allies of Doluna are to be protected.

It makes perfect sense even if Dolhr's goal is manakete supremacy: Jiol's an idiot and a coward who in that moment is being left behind to be butchered. He believes the Dolhr allies will be protected in war time and will at least get to live once it's over; he's motivated purely by not wanting to end up on a corpse pile outside a battlefield. The quote I provided shows his lack of understanding of how he's just a pawn that's outlived his usefulness. 

Medeus' goal is manakete supremacy; whether that goal goes as far as genocide, I don't know, but given how Dolhr operates, it definitely involves humans being reduced to second-class citizens at least.

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14 hours ago, Jotari said:

Now Shadow Dragon is a stock fantasy, and a stock fantasy trope is the rightful heir. Of which Marth is. But, unless you're Blah the Prussian, we modern humans living in republics or kingdoms with only a nominal monarchy know the whole idea of a rightful heir is poppycock.

I don't know man, I think there may be something to this whole monarchy thing. Maybe not for the same reasons as Blah has, but I can see some advantages.

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7 hours ago, Interdimensional Observer said:

True. It isn't necessarily security as it "not high on Medeus's list of priorities". Talys is small fry, which means Dolhr could nab it easily, but does Talys have anything valuable either? Doesn't seem like it. And it's at the very edge of the known world, Rome would've taken to Britain sooner if it was south of Sardinia instead of north of Gaul.

Considering how rapidly Dolhr devoured the world, they might have preferred consolidating their possessions. Imperial indigestion -revolts- is an experience made worse if you're still on campaign, even if they can't possibly defeat you. Aurelis hadn't yet surrendered either. The runaway prince with a nonexistent army could be dealt with when there is nothing else to do.

Just like security through obscurity, it's not forever.  Sooner or later something's gonna give, whether it be Talys getting screwed over by imports (I'm assuming trade is A Thing), some asshat letting Medeus know where Marth is, or perhaps a greater lust for power.

In other words, assuming that Marth could live out his life in peace makes no sense.  And if Marth's life is in danger, then raising an army to take out that threat is arguably self-defense.  So the entire argument falls apart.

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47 minutes ago, eclipse said:

Just like security through obscurity, it's not forever.  Sooner or later something's gonna give, whether it be Talys getting screwed over by imports (I'm assuming trade is A Thing), some asshat letting Medeus know where Marth is, or perhaps a greater lust for power.

In other words, assuming that Marth could live out his life in peace makes no sense.  And if Marth's life is in danger, then raising an army to take out that threat is arguably self-defense.  So the entire argument falls apart.

Its actually somewhat mentioned in story that the entire reason Marth managed to stay in Talys for as long as he did and then some is basically because Hardin is genuinely that much of a problem against Dohlr's invasion attempts so thats a very likely "something" that can give

Edited by JSND Alter Dragon Boner

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11 hours ago, eclipse said:

Why do you assume that Marth would even think this, especially after he had to literally ditch a knight to flee?  Security by obscurity is laughed at IRL for a reason.

Well because it's taken four years so far and he has been completely safe. And it's not like there's a massive amount of security involved in taking on the forces of a continental alliance when you're starting with basically nothing. If running away and hiding is really that useless, then Marth and co would basically have been better off fighting from the start.

Edited by Jotari

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On 2/2/2021 at 10:48 AM, Jotari said:

Or maybe to give a real world example, the Native Americans definitely didn't deserve what ended up happening to them and now face virtual extinction. Would it be justified for them in the modern day to raise up and take America by martial force should they have the ability? I assume most of us would agree that no, they don't. But of course that's not a 1:1 comparison, most notably Marth losing his kingdom happened within his own life time and not that of his ancestors. So let's look at Marth's situation a bit more.

Apologies for harping on your historical comparisons again, but... why this? I don't want to make a statement on the matter because I'm not qualified to do so, but that's such an absurd comparison to make. Marth losing his kingdom happened two years prior to the start of Dark/Shadow Dragon. If you're basing your argument on the assumption that Medeus is not acting genocidal (1), why do you choose an act of genocide as your IRL example to explain your point?

(1) "So if Medeus is planning to genocide or enslave the entire human species, then yes, Marth is absolutely justified in going back to war. But the game doesn't provide us any real reason to believe that, and even more importantly, no reason for the characters to believe that (well beyond draconic racist)."

--

On the topic: The narration is pretty consistent in presenting Medeus as evil incarnate (hell, part of his death quote is "So long as the darkness in your hearts continues to sustain me…I cannot be…destroyed…..") and that the Dolunian rule over Altea was tyrannical at best:

Quote

"Once Marth’s kingdom had been beautiful, blessed with rich soil and clear waters; now the eyes tended to notice instead the barren farms; the ruins; forlorn stares. Marth vowed to free Altea from its torment without any further delay.” (start of chapter 16)

“The Altean army! Welcome home. It’s good to see you. These years been nowt but dark days; it’s about time we had something bright to look forward to.” (Woman in one of ch.16's houses)

"Unlike General Camus who preceded him, Morzas had been a cruel warden, slaughtering many innocent Alteans at the slightest provocation. Marth roiled to think such a monster still sat upon his noble father’s throne.” (start of chapter 17; Morzas being its Mage Dragon boss)

“Thus Altea was liberated. Its people, ragged from years of Dolunian tyranny, scrambled to the castle and flocked beneath its walls, eager to celebrate what, for many, would be remembered as the happiest days of their lives." (end of chapter 17)

The Altean population does not accept the Dolunian rule and the occupational forces violently suppress any form of resistance. Everything the game shows (or rather tells, admittedly) indicates that yes, Marth's attempt to reclaim the Altean throne was ethical, even if the fantasy trope of the "rightful king" wasn't in effect. You could wonder "what if that's all propaganda that became a passed-down legend?", because SD does have a certain "Epos" feel, but that would go into the realm of fan fiction.

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10 hours ago, ping said:

Apologies for harping on your historical comparisons again, but... why this? I don't want to make a statement on the matter because I'm not qualified to do so, but that's such an absurd comparison to make. Marth losing his kingdom happened two years prior to the start of Dark/Shadow Dragon. If you're basing your argument on the assumption that Medeus is not acting genocidal (1), why do you choose an act of genocide as your IRL example to explain your point?

(1) "So if Medeus is planning to genocide or enslave the entire human species, then yes, Marth is absolutely justified in going back to war. But the game doesn't provide us any real reason to believe that, and even more importantly, no reason for the characters to believe that (well beyond draconic racist)."

--

On the topic: The narration is pretty consistent in presenting Medeus as evil incarnate (hell, part of his death quote is "So long as the darkness in your hearts continues to sustain me…I cannot be…destroyed…..") and that the Dolunian rule over Altea was tyrannical at best:

The Altean population does not accept the Dolunian rule and the occupational forces violently suppress any form of resistance. Everything the game shows (or rather tells, admittedly) indicates that yes, Marth's attempt to reclaim the Altean throne was ethical, even if the fantasy trope of the "rightful king" wasn't in effect. You could wonder "what if that's all propaganda that became a passed-down legend?", because SD does have a certain "Epos" feel, but that would go into the realm of fan fiction.

My overall point is two fold. The lesser is that the game doesn't do a good job of actually showing Medeus as evil incarnate. It mostly just leaves it as the fact that he's a big scary dragon. But the larger point is that even with Medeus being evil and in the wrong, Marth's choice to fight back is still a choice that (from his perspective) escalates the level of conflict present on the continent.

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4 hours ago, Jotari said:

My overall point is two fold. The lesser is that the game doesn't do a good job of actually showing Medeus as evil incarnate. It mostly just leaves it as the fact that he's a big scary dragon. But the larger point is that even with Medeus being evil and in the wrong, Marth's choice to fight back is still a choice that (from his perspective) escalates the level of conflict present on the continent.

What's so great about not escalating a conflict? It seems like there was good reason to expect the long term consequences of peace would be quite disastrous.

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18 hours ago, Jotari said:

Well because it's taken four years so far and he has been completely safe. And it's not like there's a massive amount of security involved in taking on the forces of a continental alliance when you're starting with basically nothing. If running away and hiding is really that useless, then Marth and co would basically have been better off fighting from the start.

. . .you don't know what security by obscurity is, do you?

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2 hours ago, eclipse said:

. . .you don't know what security by obscurity is, do you?

Exactly what it says on the tin...

5 hours ago, AnonymousSpeed said:

What's so great about not escalating a conflict? It seems like there was good reason to expect the long term consequences of peace would be quite disastrous.

Well that's why I went so into depth trying to establish what the game says about Medeus's designs for the continent. If the long term result of Medeus's victory are truly disastrous then, as I said in the OP, yes, it is justified. If on the other hand Medeus does what the humans have been doing to each other anyway (only instead of a noble elite of humans, it's a noble elite of sterile immortal dragons) then there is little reason to escalate the conflict.

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Just now, Jotari said:

Exactly what it says on the tin...

Not quite.  It's hoping that a vulnerability isn't found for whatever reason (not enough people looking for it, not worth the time, etc.).  Marth staying in Talys would be that exact scenario - that no one would look for him there.  Or no one would care.  Which IMO is one so bad that not even his New Mystery self would've entertained it.

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46 minutes ago, eclipse said:

Not quite.  It's hoping that a vulnerability isn't found for whatever reason (not enough people looking for it, not worth the time, etc.).

But that is exactly what it says? It's pretty self descriptive.

46 minutes ago, eclipse said:

  Marth staying in Talys would be that exact scenario - that no one would look for him there.  Or no one would care.  Which IMO is one so bad that not even his New Mystery self would've entertained it.

Well then they shouldn't have done it in the first place and should have joined Hardin before Aurelis was decimated. Unless we're to believe that Marth as a singular individual was the absolute turning point of the war and not his forces or the potential forces Hardin and Nyna lost in the intervening years, and that the singular skills of he brought to the table were impossible at age 12 compared to age 16...Maybe with his FE1 stats.

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21 minutes ago, Jotari said:

Well then they shouldn't have done it in the first place and should have joined Hardin before Aurelis was decimated. Unless we're to believe that Marth as a singular individual was the absolute turning point of the war and not his forces or the potential forces Hardin and Nyna lost in the intervening years, and that the singular skills of he brought to the table were impossible at age 12 compared to age 16...Maybe with his FE1 stats.

He is, actually, by virtue of being the only person in the world who can wield the Falchion. Elice is captured (I don't remember if Marth even knows she's still alive, but probably not), so Marth is the only known descendent of Anri alive, and Elice isn't a trained swordswoman anyway. I don't particularly like the "Chosen because bloodline" trope, but Kaga evidently did, so here we are.

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9 minutes ago, ping said:

He is, actually, by virtue of being the only person in the world who can wield the Falchion. Elice is captured (I don't remember if Marth even knows she's still alive, but probably not), so Marth is the only known descendent of Anri alive, and Elice isn't a trained swordswoman anyway. I don't particularly like the "Chosen because bloodline" trope, but Kaga evidently did, so here we are.

Well yes for finally taking out Medeus, but Marth gets Falchion in the third last chapter of the game after the Archanian league has already essentially won the war. So Marth's ability to wield Falchion doesn't play any role in the actual act of turning the tide of the war. That is to say if Marth (or more importantly his knights) had joined Hardin immediately or in year 1 or 2, they could have beat back the alliance of evil while Aurelis had more troops with an easier time of it than in the game itself up to and including taking out Ghranef. Maybe with Doluna standing alone after all that and waiting a few years for Marth to grow strong enough to wield Falchion in a position that is basically the inverse of Aurelis's position in the actual game.

Edited by Jotari

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6 hours ago, Jotari said:

If on the other hand Medeus does what the humans have been doing to each other anyway (only instead of a noble elite of humans, it's a noble elite of sterile immortal dragons) then there is little reason to escalate the conflict.

Is it better to be oppressed by dragons than by other humans?

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6 hours ago, Jotari said:

Exactly what it says on the tin...

Well that's why I went so into depth trying to establish what the game says about Medeus's designs for the continent. If the long term result of Medeus's victory are truly disastrous then, as I said in the OP, yes, it is justified. If on the other hand Medeus does what the humans have been doing to each other anyway (only instead of a noble elite of humans, it's a noble elite of sterile immortal dragons) then there is little reason to escalate the conflict.

We know that the original Dolhr Empire (as in the one in Anri's time) went so far as to make humans into slaves: the story of Macedon's founding was that it was originally just a place where human slaves of the Dolhr Empire were sent to work, with Iote having been one such slave, and he led the slaves in revolt by taming wyverns and using them as mounts in battle. 

Also, I don't think the manaketes are completely sterile. I mean; many of them probably are since we know the first sign of the degeneration was that their birth rate plummeted, but we know that the wyverns at least, even after succumbing to degeneration, are at least somewhat capable of reproduction (otherwise you'd think Macedon would treat them like a non-renewable and irreplaceable resource), and Naga somehow still had a kid while all this was happening. 

 

5 hours ago, ping said:

He is, actually, by virtue of being the only person in the world who can wield the Falchion. Elice is captured (I don't remember if Marth even knows she's still alive, but probably not), so Marth is the only known descendent of Anri alive, and Elice isn't a trained swordswoman anyway. I don't particularly like the "Chosen because bloodline" trope, but Kaga evidently did, so here we are.

If it makes you feel any better, Anri certainly wasn't chosen by bloodline since he was just a random peasant.

Plus, it is a little funny that Marth and them are believed to be worthy-because-bloodline, when they're descendants of Anri's brother.

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I'm not super familiar with story but from what I understood, Marth unified Archanean nations. Y'know through peace?
Medeus's plan is to rule the region with an evil fist. Corruption everywhere, Lots of poor, very little food. An oppressive rule with or without dragons regardless.

There's a reason Marth is called the "Hero-King". Marth's war brought peace on the whole region for many years.

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3 hours ago, Shrow said:

There's a reason Marth is called the "Hero-King". Marth's war brought peace on the whole region for many years.

This war brought peace for like 2 or 3 years, before Hardin went berserk. Granted, the next war brought Archanea a lasting peace. Probably.

17 hours ago, AnonymousSpeed said:

What's so great about not escalating a conflict? It seems like there was good reason to expect the long term consequences of peace would be quite disastrous.

This, the best most people (and Alteans, especially) could expect for the next long while was a negative peace of being oppressed by Gra and/or Dolhr. And there already was war in Aurelis, as Hardin and co fought against Medeus there. By bringing aid to Hardin, Marth helped establish peace (and reaffirm local rule) in Aurelis.

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5 minutes ago, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

This

I'm glad we agree.

Now let's see if the same logic holds up for US intervention in the Middle East and Somalia.

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