Time travel is the concept and central theme in the story of Fire Emblem Awakening.
Time travel is the concept of where one can travel freely from one point in time to another point in time, be it the past or future event. Time travel is an ability that very few beings possess, as meddling in the affairs of time is a grave taboo, even for godlike beings. Anankos even admitted that he cannot break the taboo more than he already did, before commenting that the fact that Naga could send so many children to the past is awing. Outrealm Naga performed a feat as well, bringing Chrom and the Shepherds to an alternate future that mirrors Lucina’s future.
In order to travel through time, a being of great power must open an Outrealm Gate, where one can enter through and cross through time, entering the point in time at target. However, even Naga could not fully control how the exitway of the Gate would lead them, as not only did Lucina get separated from the others, but some did not even land in the same points in time, as Laurent revealed that he arrived 3 years before Lucina arrived back in time. Furthermore, despite how Lucina went back in time before Grima, when Grima opened his own portal through time, he arrived earlier than Lucina, as he arrived prior to Robin’s meeting with Chrom, having tried to merge his memories with Robin’s.
To travel through time consumes an extensive amount of power, as Grima claimed that going through time rendered him very much weakened that he could no longer assume his dragon form, until 2 years passed and he harvested the life force of many human offerings.
Along with that, despite sending them back in time, Naga revealed that it’s unlikely that any of the children going back in time may ever return to their original time. However, Owain, Inigo, and Severa have the chance to thanks to a special stone that would allow them to return to their original timeline, though at a one time use.
Time travel also utilizes the butterfly effect, where the small changes in the timeline actually causes great changes towards that timeline. Despite how in the original future, Lucina had learned swordplay from her father, and all the children had been born and spent time with their parents, after going back in time, none of the other children had yet been born and Lucina was still very young, but despite that, they had gone into war with Valm and battled against Validar at the critical point when Grima is meant to be resurrected. This indicates that events from the future ended up occurring much faster.
Contrary to the belief that Lucina, the other children from Lucina’s future, the future Grima, and possibly even Naga believed, time does not actually function in a linear manner, but instead more along the lines of a multiverse theory, where choices cause a branch in the timeline, thus creating parallel universes.
Lucina and her friends, along with Grima, all came from the future under the belief that if the past is altered, the future will be changed. Interestingly enough, most of them seem to believe that to not be the case in their supports, as Lucina even stated that there might not be a world for her even if things are changed, though some still do, such as Yarne, who believes that his father might commit adultery and thus Yarne would cease to exist.
Evidence that prove that changes in the past hold no effect in the future can be given by the fact that non-story-relevant male characters can die instead of retreating should they be defeated, and if they are married, the fact that the future children still remain proves that changes in the past holds no ramifications in the future, and it is highly unlikely that any of the female characters are pregnant at the time.
Despite how eventually Robin succeeded in not killing Chrom and even foiling Validar and Grima’s plan, Grima himself was unaffected by the event when he should have, had time moved in a linear manner as he had feared. Even after his defeat, where he was sealed of killed, the future that he had brought ruin upon was still there, and was only restored because of Anankos’ ability to terraform the world back to its original state.
Using the concept of the multiverse theory, there are at the very least 3 known timelines by the events of Fire Emblem Awakening.
Timeline A: Destroyed World
This is the original timeline that was untouched by time travel for the most part. While the story progressed the same way in the past, this world was different in how the events of Fire Emblem Awakening took place.
One of the largest divergence is how the Ylisse-Plegia War had played out midway, and the continuing battles onward. In this timeline, Emmeryn and Chrom had been attacked by assassins led by Validar, where Emmeryn was murdered and Chrom was gravely injured, and Validar had succeeded in stealing the Fire Emblem.
After Gangrel was killed and the Ylisse-Plegia War ended, Chrom got married and had a daughter named Lucina, whom he had trained in swordplay.
When the war with Valm began, that was the war that would claim Basilio's life, as he is slain by Walhart. Due to having the Gules Gemstone on him, it’s possible that Walhart took it from his corpse. Eventually, Walhart too is slain.
At an unknown point in time, Chrom and Robin eventually battled Validar, who is hinted to have had the completed Fire Emblem. After a long and grueling battle, Robin somehow gets possessed by Grima and impales a spear of lightning through Chrom, killing him. Afterwards, Robin becomes fully taken over by Grima and they assume Grima’s dragon form.
After Grima’s return, the world was attacked by him and the legions of Risen. Many of the women in the Shepherds also got married and had children as well. However, eventually, all the parents end up perishing trying to help save the lives of others, leaving them and Lucina to take the fight, Lucina even inheriting Falchion.
With Risen overtaking all the corners of the world, Ylisstol became one of the remaining areas that had salvation from Grima’s wrath. Lucina and her allies tried to gain the 5 Gemstones and the Fire Emblem to try and perform the Awakening. Despite their best efforts, Inigo’s group fails to retrieve or somehow loses the 5th and final Gemstone, Sable. Despite this, Lucina attempts to perform the Awakening in Mount Prism, only to fail and is greeted by Naga, who reveals the possibility of time traveling and preventing Grima’s resurrection in the first place, which Lucina tells the other children.
Despite the arguments about whether to go back in time or not, the children eventually realizes that Grima was launching a devastating attack on Ylisstol. The result kills everyone there, save for the children. This in turn makes everyone agree to go back in time, though Grima eventually follows them, as Grima feared that his existence would be jeopardized otherwise.
Timeline B: The Altered World
This is the timeline that takes place in the story of Fire Emblem Awakening.
While the children all make different points in time, and are separated, Laurent ended up going even further back in time, arriving 3 years before Lucina, thus making him older than her by the time she finally arrived as well. Grima entered the past as well before Lucina arrived and to take control over Robin, only to fail, the result wiping out Robin’s memory, some of Grima’s memories appeared to them as a dream.
Along with the children and Grima, there were also several Risen that also followed Grima back in time and ended up being used.
When Lucina managed to prevent Emmeryn’s assassination, Validar was nearly killed, but Grima meddled and revived Validar, making Validar into Grima’s conspirator. Afterwards, the effects of time seemed to shift back to its original course as Emmeryn was captured and still seemed to die in the end. When Gangrel was defeated in the end, the war with Plegia ended, and Chrom married and had Lucina.
The war with Valm occurred approximately two years later and Chrom ran into the future Lucina, where they learned of the events that transpired in the future. When they were cornered in Valm, and Basilio went to confront Walhart, Lucina warned him of his demise at Walhart’s hand. Time seemed to follow accordingly, with Basilio being defeated, except with Basilio giving Flavia the Gules Gemstone to her. However, it is later revealed that Basilio faked his death, the warning allowing him to accept a cowardly approach.
When the war with Valm ended, and Validar managed to claim the Fire Emblem from Chrom, he seemed to have completed it. However, Robin having seen the completed Fire Emblem in the dream and a confrontation against Validar, had actually made several plans ahead of everyone, with Basilio acting as a conspirator, where Basilio was able to replace one or more of the Gemstones in the Fire Emblem with forgeries, thus Validar possessing an incomplete Fire Emblem.
Not only that, but the confrontation where Robin ultimately kills Chrom is averted as they were not fully under Validar’s control and managed to weaken the spell that would claim Chrom’s life. After Validar is fooled, he is then killed for good. However, Grima from the future restores his dragon form as a backup using the life forces of the many humans that were left to be sacrificed for him.
Thanks to Robin’s quick thinking, they managed to retrieve the Fire Emblem and have all the real Gemstones in place, thus completing it and allowing Chrom to perform the Awakening that would allow him to seal Grima away. However, Robin learns that because they are also Grima, they can actually kill Grima, rather than sealing him away, but the cost would be their own life.
At the end of the story, Robin can make one of two choices: to have Grima sealed, or to kill Grima at the cost of their own life. If the latter is chosen, Robin vanishes but is later resurrected.
Timeline C: The Future Past
This is a timeline that is identical to Lucina’s future, but is in fact a much worse condition than her own. Here, Chrom is dead, Robin became Grima, and the children are actually eventually killed upon their attempt to retrieve the Fire Emblem the Gemstones, and the world eventually sinks into darkness and is completely destroyed.
However, with the remaining power of Naga from that world, despite having been killed by Grima, she summoned Timeline B's Chrom and his allies where she sends them to where some of the groups of children are about to be ambushed and killed.
She first sends them to Cynthia, Kjelle, Noire, and Nah, who had retrieved Gules and Azure, but were ambushed by Risen, who are being controlled by a Male Morgan, where the group gets separated from each other, have their weapons taken, and are barricaded from each other to keep them from regrouping. As all the children lose hope and accept their defeat, even Cynthia somewhat, they are suddenly saved by Chrom and the others, who can also be the group’s parents and counterparts. The group then continue their journey with both their Gemstones, and renewed determination to never give up again like they had just done.
However, back at Ylisstol with Lucina, she meets Tiki, who informs her that Mount Prism had fallen and Tiki had just barely managed to get away thanks to the sacrifice of the humans stationed there as her protection. Tiki then saved Lucina from being killed by a mysterious person, but is fatally wounded in the process before the person escapes.
Naga then sends them to Inigo, Owain, Yarne, and Brady, who obtained Sable and Argent, but are chased by Risen led by a Female Morgan. Owain and Inigo decide to cut down the bridge to keep Yarne and Brady safe, but Female Morgan has some fliers that can catch up to them. However, thanks to Chrom’s timely intervention and the children’s parents and counterparts, the group succeeds in getting into Ylisse’s borders to deliver Argent and Sable.
Back in Lucina’s end, she holds a dying Tiki, they exchange words as Lucina begins to lose hope, but Tiki assures that she needed to have faith, as Tiki perishes in Lucina’s arms, as Lucina mourns her.
Lucina then meets with Severa, Laurent, and Gerome, who managed to bring back the Fire Emblem and the Vert Gemstone, and can only wait for the others to come back with their Gemstones. However, they run into the person that killed Tiki, who reveals themselves to be none other than the Fell Dragon Grima. Grima informs them that their companions are likely dead, though none of them believe him. However, Grima then easily cripples them, and despite Severa, Laurent, and Gerome standing in front of Lucina to try and protect her, Grima planned to kill them all.
However, Naga had sent Chrom and his allies finally to Lucina, where they stop Grima from delivering the final blow. Lucina and the others meet their parents and are seen by their counterparts, and the battle goes with them facing Grima. Grima is weakened.
Angered, Grima questions how it is possible for them to be that powerful, as this was not their world. As he tries to kill them all, he is suddenly stopped by the Avatar’s consciousness that Grima was supposed to have suppressed. Robin uses their power to send Chrom and the others away. The Outrealm Naga is shocked by this, but when they meet the spirit of Tiki, Naga realizes that Tiki intended on becoming the new Naga, and the Outrealm Naga understood that this meant that the world was now saved.
Lucina and the others confront Grima, who mocks them, as he declares that with that act, Robin was now thoroughly suppressed within him. However, he then learns that the Morgans he had sent failed him, as the 5 Gemstones had all gathered. However, Grima then declared that it was pointless as Naga was dead, and their hopes were doomed. However, Tiki arrives in her spiritual form and declares that she would become the new Naga, and not only that, but Grima defiling Mount Prism actually made the power of Naga no longer focus there, but the holiest place remaining, being Ylisstol itself, because Tiki’s corpse was there.
Grima tried to stop the Awakening, but Robin continued to actually restrain him, and this ultimately allowed Lucina to strike Grima down, defeating him at last.
With Grima defeated, most of the Risen were gone, with some leftover, Tiki would no longer remain in the material world because of her role as Naga, Lucina became the new Exalt, and all the children worked to help rebuild the world, with the spirits of Chrom and Robin watching over them.
- Fire Emblem Fates actually utilizes some form of time travel as well. In the Before Awakening DLC, this game's Corrin and their allies travel to before Chrom’s meeting with his tactician, to help them out. Laslow, Selena, Odin, Ophelia, and Caeldori all can speak to Chrom or Lissa here, despite how all of them are from the world of Fates where Odin, Laslow, and Selena entered after the story of Awakening was completed.
- There are several characters in Fire Emblem Awakening that are hinted to be from separate timelines:
- Yen'fay is from a timeline where he failed to protect Say'ri and she had perished.
- Aversa that stole the Einherjar cards in the Champions of Yore series is said to be from a world that was heading towards ruin.
- Morgan is stated in the epilogue ending to be from a different timeline from the other children. It is in fact strongly implied that Morgan may have come from the Future Past's timeline.
- Gangrel, Walhart, Emmeryn, and Aversa's survival in the battles is strange, with Walhart even claiming that he was actually dead, but his body still moved. This could be that meddling in the affairs of time has caused some effects on reality, which allowed them all to have somehow survived.