Shrine Motifs

“I intend to keep that promise.”

Some notes on various motifs of this shrine’s conception and presentation. Be warned that the entirety of this page contains massive spoilers.

Layout: Ruins of Memory

Rose as depicted in the header image is fan art drawn by Rosangela Ludovico (also known as dubiousdisc). I had commissioned it all the way back in 2018 with the intention of turning it into a layout, though the actual revamp did not happen until over four and a half years later. The image was inspired by two pieces of official art, namely the ones of Furni the Water City and Capital Vellweb, and a verse from the theme song: “If from where you’re standing / you can see the sky above…”

[…] Rose, gazing at the ruins of the past, bearing the weight of its history, and at the world she is fighting to protect. The back of a woman who has been deserted by the world but continues to fight for it — misunderstood, weary and empty in every regard, but determined and strong. It should have a heavy and melancholic air to it.
excerpt of my commission request

When I think of Rose, this is how she appears in my mind’s eye: her solitary back turned to the party and the viewer, gaze drifting off into the distance — alert, slightly standoffish, proud, resolute, unbending, wistful, lonely.

For most of the game, this is her body language as she keeps to the back, always maintaining some distance between the group and herself, gaze lowered. This is how she is depicted in three out of four pieces of scenic official art before, in the piece that chronologically comes last, she finally stands side by side with her comrades and looks into the same direction, facing the future at long last.

In The Legend of Dragoon, your quest has you revisit many ancient sites of the far past, strongholds of both sides in the war, most of them little more than ruins now. Among them, Capital Vellweb with its throne of the Holy Emperor and even more so its Tower of the Seven Dragoons arguably hold the most personal significance to Rose. When the party arrives at Vellweb, Rose relays to Dart what hopes the place used to carry for the Human side during the war.

Not one to speak much of herself, I wonder what thoughts crossed Rose’s mind as she gazed at the ruins of the capital, back turned to the viewer both in the game and also in the official art, where she is so far in the background that I had hardly noticed her when I first looked at the piece. Did she reminisce on the time she had dwelt in that place as a hero of the people, on the moments she spent with her comrades? How did she feel in that instant, returning with a new group of comrades to retread once familiar steps of staircases long turned to dust?

I had meant to revamp the shrine when I received dubiousdisc’s gorgeous piece, but was stumped on assets to incorporate the ruins into the layout. On a random evening in 2022, I looked, not for the first time, at Anastezia Luneva’s graphic collection The Northern Fields — and it struck me to try applying it to this shrine, even if there were no ruins to be found. It reminded me of the Prairie that the small party crosses at the start of the journey (though its somber colours are closer to Marshlands or Nest of Dragon), and something about it seemed so very wistful, as if calling to old times that will never return.

Though I had initially only meant to use one piece of landscape from the collection, the layout took its own shape from there. A watercolour shape made for a good makeshift silhoutte of the Tower of the Seven Dragoons when turned upside down, and from afar, the birds almost resemble Dragons (a nod to the game’s epilogue?). Even the various ornamental borders made their way into the layout, breathing life into its pages as into a well-worn history book.

In the end, I have, by pure chance, achieved my vision of Rose standing firmly in the present, gazing with undefined melancholia at the looming derelict contours of the distant past. Are the birds actual birds or are they Dragoons, and if so, of which age? Past and present collide.

Title: Valkyrie

Valkyries (“choosers of the slain”) are beings from Norse mythology frequently depicted as armed shieldmaidens on horsebacks. In servitude of the god Odin, their task is to choose who may live and who may die on the battlefield. Among the fallen, they select the souls of heroes to guide to Valhalla, the hall of afterlife, so that the chosen ones will fight on Odin’s side during Ragnarök, the prophesied end of the world and end of the gods.

Rose may not exactly do the choosing, but rules over the life and death of each Moon Child as part of a mission that extends far beyond a human’s life span. Just as Valkyries are heavily associated with war and battles, Rose’s reality is a battle that goes on long after the war has ended. Rather than serving any god with regard to the inevitable end of the world, however, she fights to save the world from its prophesied doom.

When I struggled with naming this shrine, this passage on Wikipedia just… struck me:

Simek says that the valkyries were closely associated with Odin, and that this connection existed in an earlier role as “demons of death”. Simek states that due to the shift of concept, the valkyries became popular figures in heroic poetry, and during this transition were stripped of their “demonic characteristics and became more human, and therefore become capable of falling in love with mortals […].”

Myths and legends are a constant element in the game, and the Black Monster is featured in so many of them. These tales can change as time passes, as does the player’s perception of the Black Monster as they uncover more and more of the true story. Eventually, it turns out that the people’s perception is very warped, understandably so. Rose’s killing is fact, but that twisted grasp on the Black Monster omits the motives behind those actions, causing Rose to be cursed and misunderstood.

Prompt: The Road to Hell

This shrine was created as part of BAB’s The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions Challenge. The prompt offered freedom of interpretation, which is to say, it did not limit its interpretation to a specific meaning of the proverb. Rather than the ambiguous takes, I chose to take it at face value; as a non-native speaker who had come across the proverb for the first time, that literal meaning appealed to me the most.

As someone on the GameFaqs forums once put it: Would you choose to save the world at the cost of being condemned for all eternity? Would you continue to save a world that does not want you in it? Rose would — and does, a hundred times over.

The hell that Rose plunges herself into is the memory of the people, history itself. She is not remembered as the hero she once was and the hero she still is, but as terror personified, nothing but a murderous beast. But Rose’s hell is also a personal hell, as she sacrifices more than just her life in order to carry out her mission. Because really, when everyone you have once loved is long gone, and you have repressed all your emotions in the wake of all the killing you’ve done and the millennia you have lived, not even remembering how to smile, could you even call that being alive anymore?

Even so, Rose continues to stand upright and to walk the path she has chosen. Though she knows that she will never be able to wash off all the blood that she has shed, and though the people will curse her until the end of time, she knows what she must do in order to protect and preserve that which her memory cherishes.