The Girl Who Died

I first encountered Maribelle in Chapter 5 of Fire Emblem: Awakening. She rode on horseback alongside a young mage named Ricken as Wyvern Riders advanced on them. Chapter 5 proved to be the first truly difficult chapter of the game. The tutorial was over, but I didn’t have the wealth of options at my disposal that I would later in the game. I wound up restarting the chapter over and over again until I managed to complete it without any of my characters dying. Since I already had a mage in my party, I put Ricken on the sidelines. I needed an extra pair of healing hands, however, so Maribelle found a permanent spot on my team.

As I progressed through the game, I didn’t find myself very fond of Maribelle. She was prissy and uptight, often criticizing her team members’ manners in their conversations. Instead of wearing protective armor like most soldiers, she was dressed in upper class garb that had no place on the battlefield. Her unusually high magic resistance made her useful, but I had to keep her out of the way in fights, because a strike or two from a bow or axe would have been all it took to reduce her HP to zero. Several times throughout the course of the game, I carelessly left her in a vulnerable position, and restarted the chapter so I could continue on with her.

Character death in the Fire Emblem series is not something to be taken lightly. Unlike XCOM, where there are unlimited characters, and training a new character from scratch is relatively easy, the only characters you gain in Fire Emblem are the ones the story provides you with. Each character has their own specific skills and personality traits, but if they die in battle they’re gone forever. Assuming you’re playing Classic mode.

I didn’t find myself very fond of Maribelle.

Losing a character in Fire Emblem can be crippling, both from a gameplay and narrative perspective. Take, for example, the archer Virion. Not only was his womanizing nature constantly amusing, but his arrows made it easy to weaken an enemy before letting a teammate finish them off. He worked well with the beautiful pegasus knight Cordelia, and over the course of the game, the two characters fell in love. Thanks to some time-travel shenanigans, their feisty daughter Severa also joined my party. These three characters were irrelevant to the overarching story of Fire Emblem: Awakening, but the tale of the family that fought together wound up being one of my favorite aspects of this playthrough. Losing any one of them would be devastating.

Maribelle, on the other hand, didn’t have the same impact. She had the odd conversation with a party member now and then, but did not manage to form any meaningful bonds. I tried to build a relationship between Maribelle and the tactician, but the two rarely had time to interact. Maribelle primarily patched up wounded soldiers who had retreated from battle, while the tactician spent most of his time on the front lines leading the charge. Maribelle’s healing spells were useful, but as my characters grew in strength, I gained other party members with the ability to heal, making her less important as the game went on.

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Later in the game, I reached Paralogue 16, the Manor of Lost Souls, where I was tasked to rescue Nowi’s daughter, Nah, from a prison full of the undead. I had no plans to use Nah, and the level was optional in order to progress, but the loot and experience I would obtain was too great to pass up. However, Paralogue 16 proved to be one of the most frustrating chapters in the game. Walls would crumble and rebuild themselves without warning, leaving my army exposed to attacks that were impossible to see coming. With each reset I would learn more about the dungeon, only to be blindsided by a new trap or ambush.

My finger hovered over the power button to turn the system off and try again, but I stopped.

After several nights of frustration, I thought I had the level all figured out. I was sure that my strategy was flawless, and figured that if I could survive a particular swarm of enemies, the rest of the chapter would be easy. As part of my defenses, I placed Virion and Maribelle together at a choke point where only a single enemy could attack each of them at a time. Even if Maribelle were to take a hit, she would survive. When the time came to put the plan in motion, I was blindsided by the game once again. When Maribelle was attacked, Virion shot an extra arrow, finishing the enemy off. Another enemy took the place of his fallen comrade and shot Maribelle with an arrow of his own, ending her life.

When I saw this turn of events, I yelled in frustration. Once again, I had failed to keep everyone alive, and the thought of playing this level again even after I had figured everything out angered me to no end. My finger hovered over the power button to turn the system off and try again, but I stopped. I considered how much Maribelle was worth to my team. She had no husband and few friends, so there were few bonuses she gained from fighting alongside them. Her offensive magic paled in comparison to my front line fighters. Her healing abilities were her greatest asset, but she was far from the only warrior patching up wounds. I decided to let her die.

Just as I had suspected, once the wave of enemies had fallen, the rest of the level was easy. I looted the rest of the treasure and finished off the remaining enemies, ending the nightmare chapter once and for all. The experience my team gained prepared them for the next storyline battle. But I had a problem: for the first time in the entire game, I was down a party member.

I decided that the best replacement for Maribelle wound be Anna, a cute red-haired trickster who was a recurring character in the Fire Emblem series. Anna was considerably weaker than Maribelle, but with a little level grinding and a magic sword, she filled the spot quite well. Unfortunately, Anna’s skillset made my assassin, Gaius, redundant. I reworked a good chunk of my team in order to accommodate for Maribelle’s absence. After changing classes and reequipping a few team members, I was ready to continue on with the story.

While the game considered Maribelle’s death nothing more than a line of code, it weighed down on me far harder. It would be unreasonable to expect the developers to write dialogue for every possible scenario in the game, but nonetheless I imagined the ramifications of Maribelle’s demise. A funeral was held for Maribelle, where the soldiers became aware of their own mortality as one of their own was lost for the first time. Virion had no idea a little showing off would lead to a fallen comrade, and sought solace in his wife and daughter.

The tactician, who had been attempting to court Maribelle, understood that it was not meant to be, and instead focused his thoughts on battle strategies as a distraction. After being rescued from the wyverns, Ricken believed Maribelle and he could survive anything. Nah silently blamed herself for getting captured. Anna was normally upbeat and cheerful in the face of danger, but understood that she was a replacement for a woman who had been part of the army far longer.

As I played through the rest of the game, I didn’t alter my decision to keep as many soldiers alive as possible.

Now that Maribelle was no longer part of my team, I slowly forgot about her as the missions became more intense. Anna did her part thanks to her healing, and made good use of the magic sword I gave her. However, she did not interact with any of my other party members, making her seem like the odd one out. Every so often, I would find a situation where a magic-resistant soldier would be useful, only to remember that Maribelle was no longer available. I found ways to work around it, but Maribelle’s absence was continuously felt.

As I played through the rest of the game, I didn’t alter my decision to keep as many soldiers alive as possible. I restarted for characters I barely used, and had only placed on my team because there was an empty slot. When things got down to the wire against the final boss, I restarted the entire last chapter after carelessly putting my sorcerer in danger. Even with the completion of the game at my fingertips, I couldn’t bring myself to let anyone else die. Once I had slain the last enemy in the game, I watched the final scenes play out, where each party member went their separate ways. Whether settling down as husband and wife, or wandering the land and becoming a legend, each soldier’s story came to a close in a different way. All except for Maribelle, who had died on the field of battle.

Maribelle would never find love. She would never return to her life of luxury. She would never meet her son, Brady, who looks intimidating, but is timid compared to his mother. She did not wish to be a soldier, and was roped into the cause rather than choosing it. However, because of her sacrifice, the army was able to continue on fighting stronger than ever before. Maribelle was not the most useful soldier, nor the most likeable, but she will forever live on as “The Girl Who Died.”

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