Last week I had a poll to determine which piece of the lore I would cover first and the most popular request was to cover Charlie and Them, and that's what we'll be doing today. We'll be covering what lead up to Charlie becoming the Shadow Queen and theories on her plans as well as who They are and Their significance to the story. Charlie
The current antagonist of the story, Winona's sister, Maxwell's former assistant and the Shadow Queen herself, Charlie was first introduced as Maxwell's assistant for his magic shows back in the William Carter Puzzles. Unlike Maxwell, who likely had somewhat of an understanding that his 'shadow tricks' were real and potentially dangerous, Charlie was completely unaware of their nature as evidenced by her letters to Maxwell.
Her and Maxwell appeared to have been on good terms prior to being dragged into the Constant, with Charlie even suggesting they can use her family cabin to take a break from the magic business for a while when she saw Maxwell's 'study room', where he would likely examine the Codex Umbra, and was concerned for his wellbeing. Maxwell also cared for her and is still implied to, with him protecting her from the shadows in the William Carter Puzzles and showing remorse for his actions in DST.
In The Final Act, we see Maxwell and Charlie performing for an audience, with Maxwell reaching into the Codex Umbra to grab the shadows to pull them out of the Umbra for their act. Ironically, Maxwell gets grabbed by Shadow Hands instead and after a brief struggle and relief from the Shadows, two large hands appear and grab both Maxwell and Charlie, thrashing them around before the video ends.
What happens next? Well, we're not sure on the details. What we do know is that the end result is that Maxwell ends up on the Nightmare Throne and it persuades him to bring others into the Constant, and Charlie gets 'possessed' by the shadows and becomes the Night Creature that terrorizes the survivors when they're in complete darkness without any way of seeing their surroundings. It should be noted that while Charlie does 'share' her body with a shadowy force, she does appear to be able to control herself at times as seen in the A New Reign Cinematic.
It should be noted that while we can't pin down exactly when Winona's Cinematic takes place, given that Charlie appears in both her non-shadow and shadow forms rather than as the Queen we know her as now, and that the real Wagstaff (Don't Starve's Wagstaff being a projection of him instead) and Winona are transported into the constant, it's very likely that it takes place right before the ANR cinematic. Just wanted to clarify that she didn't intend to kidnap her sister. There are comments that are made from her that can be found in the files as well that confirms that she did not intend for that as well.
Now, for ANR. For the cinematic there's quite alot to dissect.
First off, Charlie appears and casually lets Wilson be unbound from the Nightmare Throne. This is something that's always caught my attention since Maxwell was on the Throne for who knows how long but he was bound to it and never received any form of help. This implies that Charlie held what happened to both of them against him and never tried to help him as a result. Another thing is that the Throne only allowed Maxwell to be freed when Wilson used the Divining Rod to 'unlock' him from it using the Nightmare Lock. Wilson being stuck on the Throne implies that it was then locked yet again to trap him. So Charlie being able to just unlock it with the tap of her finger without even touching the Lock was always very interesting to me, especially since the Throne is sort of an object of 'ultimate power' yet she can manipulate it.
Side note: In hindsight, I should've probably included Wagstaff and The Throne in that poll I made. I'll get around to discussing both of those things eventually though.
Next, Charlie's shadow side attacks Wilson after he's been freed and seemingly tries to kill him. While you could write it up as her trying to torture/kill him, given that we see her doing something with the Ancient Gateway in the Forge trailer, it's also possible that she was sapping the power of the Throne from Wilson to make her its rightful owner or something similar. Once Wilson's been taken care of and the shadow side is done with him, she opens a portal back into the Constant to drop Wilson in.
Next is what I'd say is the most interesting part of the trailer. Charlie reverts to her human half and looks confused and worried about Wilson's whereabouts but doesn't seem too concerned, as if she's used to her shadow half hurting others or people disappearing on her due to that half killing them. She proceeds to pick up the Throne after the explosion from her powers knocks it over and her shadow half redesigns the Throne room to be very dark and menacing in design. Her human half however, has other ideas on how the Throne room should be designed and gives it a much more grand appearance with white ceramics. The two sides fight over how the Throne room looks (with human Charlie's magic being represented by white and shadow Charlie's being represented by black) until eventually there's a blast of red magic that transforms the Throne room once more, this time with the throne room comprising of various whites, blacks and greys as well as roses. This implies that after a brief internal conflict, the two sides 'fused' or reached a balance/compromise (compromises in my uncompromising game smh). This fusion is the Shadow Queen we know now, her magic being symbolised by red in the cinematic (which was also the colour used for when she took the power from Wilson, potentially implying both sides of her wanted the throne at that point) and her being associated with roses elsewhere.
Why she suffered this fate whereas Maxwell was bound to the Throne is unknown. It should be noted that Maxwell and Charlie's fates seem to parallel that of the two Ancient rulers in the Metheus murals. One (the staff wielder) abused the fuel for their own purposes while their assistant (the torch bearer) kept them in check, eventually things get out of control and the 'king' is left alone on the throne while the 'queen' is taken by the shadows. Klei obviously wanted to do this but trying to reason why ingame is something I can't do with the current information sadly. It could be that Maxwell stopping the shadows from taking Charlie had upset them and they decided to fuse with her instead due to Maxwell's disrespect. Who can say really.
Now as for what her plans are now, who can say for certain. We see her influence ingame as she finishes off the Ancient Fuelweaver in the Atrium, leaving behind the fossil but seemingly taking the Fuelweaver himself since the Shadow Atrium is lost and he gets sucked into a portal of sorts. We then see her at the Ancient Gateway after it's been activated when the survivors go into the Forge, either taking some of its power, seeing where the survivors ended up, trying to understand its power, or it could be that she was trying to reach out to something in particular (since the Gateway likely doesn't just lead into the Forge since Wortox says that's where he came from and the Metheus Murals showing that the Ancients used it to further use nightmare fuel). That thing, being Them. Them
Throughout DS/T's lifespan we've constantly heard of Them from Maxwell, Battlemaster Pugna and the Ancient Fuelweaver. Who they are is a question that's been asked fairly often, with RoT there's been theories that even the Moon can be some form of Them. Based on the information we have, They are an unknowable force that seems to have been the source of all nightmare fuel and has destroyed the lives of both the Ancients and the denizens of the Forge (and quite possibly more we don't know of) after they both depended on Their power for their civilisations to thrive.
With respect to the Ancients, the Fuelweaver's dialogue implies that he is indeed the spirit of one of the Ancients, potentially even the King. His dialogue also implies that he's trying to 'save' us from a much worse fate that awaits us if we continue down this path the survivors follow and says that They are coming and it's inevitable, that Charlie is not Them (when she grabs him at the end) and curses Their name which implies that they hold a grudge against Them. Because of all this, we can infer that the shadows we know of are not an extension of Them like how Gestalts are extensions of the Moon Entity, that whoever They are are not in the Constant the survivors reside in, that Charlie even when corrupted isn't actually controlled by 'Them' and that They had a big part to play in the Ancient's history, likely being what brought their civilisation to ruin. Another thing to note is that when being taken, the Fuelweaver remarks that someone is easily deceived. Whether this someone is us being deceived by Charlie as she uses us for her plans or Charlie being deceived by Them is unknown.
With respect to Pugna, he constantly brings up the Throne and Them, saying that the denizens of the Forge were 'severed' from the Throne and had no 'staff' to provide. That They destroy all that They touch and that his plan is to use the Gateway to destroy the Throne. For what 'staff' refers to, in the Metheus Murals we see that one of the two main Ancients wields a staff (which the Ancient Cane skin is based off of) and in the second mural we can see in the top of the mural he performs several tasks such as reanimating a fossil (the Fuelweaver's fossil), creating tools, growing crops, etc. This could imply that there are staffs that one can use to use Their power to improve the quality of life for a civilisation and that there was no staff that was given to Pugna to provide for his people, and that they were trapped in the Forge by the Throne/Them. Furthermore, They destroying all that They touch further supports that the entity in the Gateway that killed the Ancients were indeed Them.
Maxwell's quotes state that They are in the Throne Room as well. Saying They might have gotten tired of him, that They showed him terrible, beautiful things, that They just watch him, and that when he first got to the Throne Room there was nothing but dust, the void and Them. This implies most things in the Throne Room are Maxwell's creations, though since we know that Pugna is aware of the Throne and Maxwell's quote implies he doesn't know what he's talking about with respect to his reasoning and plans but doesn't comment on knowing him prior, it's likely that the Throne existed before Maxwell got to the Throne room and either They brought it there for Maxwell to be bound to or the Throne is the embodiment of Them or an extension of Them. It's noteworthy that Maxwell is most likely referring to Pugna's plans to destroy the Throne when he says Pugna's deluded and not Pugna stating that They abandoned his people.
So, why aren't They here? How are They returning? And what's Charlie's plan which most certainly involves Them?
Well, to answer that we need to look at the Metheus Murals once more. Specifically the first and last images.
As we can see, the Gateway's appearance changes in every single mural (the second and third have previous been used in the post if you would like to see them). What's important is that the first version has a very symmetrical and complete design, lined with black and white energy. The final design shows the black energy is out of control and there's next to no white in the mural. Now of course black and white doesn't have to specifically be Shadow and Lunar magic alone, but for the first Gateway's design it can be a safe assumption (especially since we know the Ancients once worshipped the Moon) to make that the Gateway was powered by both Lunar and Shadow magic when it was activated. As the murals progress, we also see less and less of this white energy/Lunar magic being used in the Gateway. This could have lead to Their power being out of control and Them emerging from the Gateway, killing off the Ancients except for one of the rulers, who the second ruler had defended with what appears to be Lunar magic. What could have lead to the Gateway being destroyed could be that Lunar and Shadow magic are both required to make a stable rift in space for the Gateway, and the lack of Lunar magic lead it to destabilise and partially destroy itself. We know Lunar and Shadow magic combined can be used to mess with reality itself too.
The Celestial Portal and Moon Rock Idol both use moon rocks and a purple gem and are involved with carrying our survivor into a separate instance of the Constant and bringing another survivor into our instance. This, alongside Walter's Slowdown Ammo which uses the same materials, are the only instances of both Lunar and Shadow materials being used to construct something (if I'm forgetting something please inform me in the comments) and they both involve warping reality/space. This provides evidence to my theory that Shadow magic isn't sustainable on its own for the Gateway, which could also be why the Gateway destabilises after the fight with the Fuelweaver (it only destabilising after he leaves could simply represent that it can only sustain itself for a short amount of time using Shadow magic and that time is represented by how long it takes us to fight the Fuelweaver).
So, with this information, and that Charlie achieved a 'balance' of both her Light (human) and Dark (shadow) selves, she could be trying to repair the Gateway and use a balance of both Lunar and Shadow magic (similar to her two sides achieving balance and the first version of the Gateway) in order to bring Them back through a stabilised portal.
What her plan is after bringing back Them however, is beyond me. And anytime I try to guess, Klei just adds new lore that throws any theories I had out the window. Personally, I would prefer that Charlie remains the main antagonist given the years of build-up we've had with her. While the same can be said for Them, having Charlie's grand plan being to be the assistant for some other entity that uses shadow magic again just doesn't sit well with me. It's possible she's trying to obtain the power of both Them and the Moon Entity, however considering the power they've both showcased, I'm at a loss as to how she can possibly do that. Since the Ancients kept Their power in check for a while, it's possible she can use both magic to keep the portal in check so They can't be unleashed as they once were when they killed the Ancients, and she can then use Their power to increase her own. But, why would she? Again, not sure. It's important to note that the ANR cinematic does imply that she's not on the side of the survivors or the side of Them, she's on a side of her own. And what that means for her plans is something that only Klei knows at this point.
As of now if I had to guess what's next, the survivors are likely going to obtain a source of Lunar magic in either the next update or the one after that that Charlie can then use as a source to stabilise the Gateway. Whether that be from the Moon itself somehow (the teaser name 'Fee Fi Fo Thumb' implies a beanstalk so something from the Moon itself is only improbable due to technical limitations) or from whatever we grow in the next update (again, update name implies a beanstalk or some sort of plant) or something else entirely, I'm not sure. Something to note is that the Celestial Orb has been called the 'moonrockseed' for the longest time in the code so it's likely that whatever we grow is going to have to use the Celestial Orb somehow.
Before I finish, I didn't really touch on how the Ancients started using Their magic and the fuel. To summarise: after they worshipped the Moon (why they stopped is something we don't know but it's implied they willingly stopped rather than the Moon just cutting off their power. This is implied due to the buried Celestial Sanctum which is specifically found with an Archives tool and the fact they still used Lunar magic for the Gateway) they were on the verge of their civilisation dying out until something happened which caused a 'dark wave' to pass over their city, causing them to molt and attain stronger bodies and then begin to abuse the fuel. From the 'dying out' portion of this paragraph onwards, we can use the Ancient Murals as reference.
And with that, that concludes my post on Charlie, her plans and Them. To anyone to stuck around to read the whole thing or to anyone who even read part of this, I greatly appreciate your time and to the people who read my Forgotten Knowledge lore post I thank you for encouraging me to continue writing up on Don't Starve's lore. I hope this post was as enjoyable as the last. I do understand it was super long once again though and I apologise for that, there's just alot to cover with Charlie and Them, especially since one or both are likely to be the main antagonists of the series.
The poll asked for me to cover Character Backstories next but given the amount of lore that would be in total (even if some barely have lore) I might hold off on that to cover something else or split that into two posts. We'll see. Until then, take care!