There are a couple of patterns with my favorite characters. They’re either incredibly minor, or they die some time in the series.
In Cline Sharil’s case, he falls under both of these categories.
He’s a rather minor character from the Tales of series, appearing only in Tales of Xillia with barely more than five or ten minutes on the screen.
(If you’ve played the game and don’t remember him very well, I wouldn’t blame you.)
Putting this post together has actually been harder than I expected. The lack of information that we get on him in-game is hard enough to juggle — my problem is keeping what’s canonically known about him straight and separate from all the love and attention I gave to him in a blog I had dedicated to giving him a more developed character.
There isn’t a whole lot of time dedicated to Cline on-screen, but looking at the role the game gives him is important. And if you haven’t played Tales of Xllia yet, — and you definitely should — be warned that this post is nothing but spoilers.
You meet him as you’re passing through Sharilton. After the team runs into and befriends Driselle in the marketplace, she decides to take them to her home, which turns out to be a rather large manor.
After an important and slightly menacing pair of people seem to be exiting from the front of the building — which you later learn are Gilland and King Nachtigal himself — Cline walks out of the manor, seemingly deep in thought.
He greets his younger sister and her new friends warmly, introducing himself as the governor of the town and a member of one of the Six Ruling Houses of Rashugal. He invites the team inside for tea before he is shortly called away by because of things that he has to attend to. Alvin shortly follows, evidently to tell him that you had been the ones responsible for infiltrating the laboratory at Fennmont.
Instead of turning Jude and his companions over to the military, he instead asks what they saw in the lab, citing suspicion of Nachtigal since his assumption of the throne. Despite his shock, Cline believes their story and also reveals that Nachtigal can be the only one behind these experiments.
Rowen catches the team before they leave the city and learn that the reason for the king’s visit had been to demand that Sharilton’s citizens be “drafted into service,” the implication being that they would also be experimented on and have their mana drained. Rowen solicits your team for help rescuing Lord Cline, as he’s rushed off to try and rescue the citizens that had been taken.
After successfully rescuing the foolhardy governor and his citizens, Cline learns of your plan to reach Fennmont by passing through Fort Gandala. He offers his assistance, stating that House Sharil had never been particularly loyal to Nachtigal, already on the verge of declaring war.
You spend a few days in Sharilton, waiting for Cline to arrange passage for you through Fort Gandala with the connections that he has there.
Just before he’s about to send Rowen out to check on the preparations and the girls have left for their last chance to shop together, Cline voices his dissent with King Nachtigal’s rule. Rather than let the human experiments continue and risk having Nachtigal declare war on Auj Oule, Cline plans on making the first move and he asks for your aid. But before Jude has a chance to accept, Cline is murdered by a Rashugal soldier on the roof.
So what is it about Cline — besides my inherent attraction to anyone with a tragic setup — that’s stuck with me for so long?
Part of it is how young Cline Sharil really is. At 24, Cline is acting as the governor for an entire town, as well as the head of one of the Six Ruling Houses of Rashugal. How in the world does someone so young end up with so much responsibility?
He inherits it.
If you play the game without stopping to snoop through bookcases and random rooms for lore — which is what many people do during their first playthrough — you’d be missing out on a lot of the backstory and world building that’s gone into the game. But even if you go through and pick up every scroll and hunt for every piece of text, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to find everything you need.
The thing with some of these Tales games is that all of their lore isn’t necessarily found in-game. There’s a lot of extra material that’s released with them, from fan bibles to official guides, and some of the finer points end up scattered among them.
If you take a look at this timeline neatly compiled by a few dedicated fans, you can take a look at everything that happens prior to the beginning of the game. From the birth of the world, to the birth of certain characters, major military battles, and the beginning of Pan-Rashugalism that Nachtigal is in the process of implementing.
One of the political events to note is the Purge of the Six Houses in Trames 2287. (There’s also a lovely explanation of the calendar system if you need it.) During the purge, Cline’s parents are accused of political treason, tortured, and eventually executed.
Given that Cline was born in 2269, he’s about 18 years old.
Imagine the immense grief of having your parents tortured and executed. Add on top of that the prospect of having to raise and comfort your little sister and govern an entire city, on top of ultimately reporting to the king that killed your parents.
That’s not to say that Cline had no help — I’m sure House Sharil had advisors, servants, and any number of staff to help alleviate some of these things. But imagine the burden that all of his would place on a person.
Most people wold have probably cracked under the pressure, but Cline embraced it.
Cline is primed to stand at the center of a completely different story of a very vast world. Starting a civil war would be a huge strain on Sharilton and on Rashugal as a whole. And if relationships with Auj Oule are already shaky given Nachtigal’s actions leading up to this point, Rashugal could be leaving itself open for attack.
If Cline is half as competent as the game would have us believe, these are all things he would have considered. What’s more, Cline never once seems to be motivated by resentment.
Cline’s entire demeanor would suggest that everything he does, he does for the sake of someone else. In an optional bit of dialogue, Rowen says that the only complaint he has of Lord Cline would be that he spoils Driselle too much.
An unremarkable NPC in Sharilton notes that, “The governor of this city is such a wonderful man. Not only does he personally visit the local bakery to buy cakes, he even knows the names of everyone working there!”
Cline took Rowen in when he encountered the old man, ill and wandering along the road. It’s hard to believe that a man as distinguished as Rowen J. Ilbert — another member of one of the Six Ruling Houses of Rashugal — would choose to serve a young man that he didn’t find promise in.
Multiple times in your interactions with him, Cline takes the burden of responsibility himself. He personally pursues those residents of Sharilton that were taken by Nachtigal’s troops, even though he knows there’s little he can do in combat. He recognizes the difficulty of even beginning to think of standing up to Nachtigal’s reign, but he claims it as his responsibility.
Cline doesn’t resent the responsibility, the title, the nation that took his family from him. Instead, he recognizes that he is poised to maintain the peace.
But before he even gets the opportunity to fight for what he believes is right, he’s assassinated. And in the grand scheme of Tales of Xillia, Cline boils down to plot advancement and his death is an excuse to welcome Rowen to your party.
My biggest point here is that the game doesn’t do his backstory justice — and really, neither do a few discrete points on a timeline that fans had to pull together to make sense of him.
Cline Sharil’s life, and the meager backstory that the game provided him could have been developed and written into a compelling narrative of its own. Even if we remove the intense introspection brought on by immense grief and responsibility that I would be interested in, Cline could have been an opportunity to further develop the nation and the world that he lived in.
Hopefully the next time you run into a short-lived minor character, you’ll remember Lord Cline and take a moment to think about what they could have been.