Garet bolted out of his house and up the hill towards the Sanctum, fumbling with his belt the whole way. He was dressed in his best, wearing a red tunic trimmed in dark blue. Many rows of chairs had been set up in front of the Sanctum doors, and these were quickly filling up with villagers and several notable out of town guests like Master Hammet, Lady Layana and Master Hama. Kyle and Dora were sitting directly in front, holding hands and smiling away. Off to one side of the building, Picard, Felix, Ivan and Isaac were gathered, making final adjustments to their own formal wear.
"You're late," Ivan admonished as Garet joined them.
"I overslept, I'm sorry," Garet said when he caught his breath. He buckled his belt and straightened his scabbard strap. "How's he doing?"
"He's a nervous wreck," Ivan said with a wide grin.
"I am not!" Isaac declared. His hands were trembling as he tried to tie his scarf. "What's with this thing today?"
"You're hopeless," Felix said. He shooed Isaac's hands away and tied the knot himself. "There."
Isaac smoothed the front of his formal tunic. It was dark blue with a row of shiny brass buttons down the front, and his mother had lovingly embroidered the edges of the sleeves with fancy curlicues in gold thread. He ran a hand through his hair and inhaled deeply. "I only wish I could do something with this hair."
"You don't want to look too different from your normal self," Picard said.
"Yeah, Mia might not recognize you otherwise," said Garet.
A bell sounded from within the Sanctum, and the boys lined up in front of the doors. The guests still milling about immediately took their seats and fell silent.
The Sanctum doors slowly opened and Sheba and Jenna filed out. They wore dresses of similar styles but in purple and red, respectively, with a single flower in their hair. Jenna flashed a coy smile at Garet, who seemed stunned by her appearance. He stared at her slack-jawed until Felix jabbed him with his elbow.
Megan came out next, scattering flower petals in her wake. Then Mia appeared. Isaac stood up straighter but grinned as he met her eyes. She looked radiant in her simple light blue gown, with the shimmering skirt billowing out behind her. Her hair was woven in a long braid and she wore a wreath of daisies on her head. She took Isaac's hand, blushing and smiling, and they both faced the doors. The Great Healer emerged from the Sanctum and the doors closed behind him.
"Friends, neighbors, honored guests," the Great Healer said in his deep voice. "We have gathered here today to witness this man and this woman join in the bonds of matrimony. Together they have crossed the world, brought peace to us all, and experienced more in their young lives than many of us ever will. Through all of this, they forged a powerful bond of love, and today we shall make official what many of us have known for a long time." He smiled at Isaac and Mia. "The bride and groom each have prepared statements. Mia, if you would?"
Mia faced Isaac and they joined their other hands. "Isaac, there are so many things I want to say, so many things I could say, but I wasn't sure how to narrow my thoughts down to what was most important. It seems like a lifetime ago that we met in Imil. I didn't realize then how drastically you would change my life. A lot of the trials we went through on our quest were unpleasant, but standing here now with you, I don't think I would change a thing. All of those obstacles only made us stronger in the end." She looked straight into his eyes and he squeezed her hands. "Even knowing there will be more hardships in the future, I am certain that we belong together. No matter what happens, no matter where our lives take us, as long as I'm with you, I feel we can do anything."
The rest of the Adepts smiled, as did much of the crowd. The Great Healer looked to Isaac. "Isaac, if you would?"
Isaac looked down at their hands, running his thumbs in circles over Mia's knuckles. "When I was a kid, my father told me that he became the man he is because of my mother."
Kyle and Dora looked at each other. He kissed the back of her hand.
"I didn't understand what he meant back then," Isaac continued. "But I think I do now. If there's one thing I learned from our journey, it's that you are infinitely stronger than I am, Mia."
Mia's eyes widened. "Isaac..."
"I mean it." He looked up at her. "There were so many times I came close to breaking down or giving up, but you never faltered. You were what kept me going. That used to scare me, and it gave me all kinds of doubts about whether or not we could stay together. There are, unfortunately, a lot of people who could and did target you to get to me."
Jenna, Garet, Ivan, Sheba, Felix and Picard looked amongst each other briefly, understanding all too well what Isaac was talking about.
"But I'm not afraid anymore," Isaac said. "I was so worried about my own weakness, about my own ability or inability to protect you, that I completely ignored your strength. I forgot to trust in you when I'm facing something I can't handle myself. Can you forgive me for doubting you that way?" She nodded. "Then, can I ask you to lend me your strength when I might need it in the future?"
"Of course," she said, smiling. "Whatever strength I may have is yours for the taking."
"Thank you." He smiled. "You hold my heart and my soul, Mia. And I can't think of anyone I would rather have protecting them."
The Great Healer smiled as well. "Does the Best Man have the rings?"
The color drained from Garet's face. All eyes turned to him and he started furiously rummaging through his pockets and belt pouch.
"Don't tell me you forgot them!" Felix hissed.
"Of course not! I have them here somewhere I swear!" Another tense minute passed and then Garet's hand found something. He handed it to the Great Healer.
"I need the other ring too, Garet," the Healer said, holding up the lone gold band. The crowd laughed and Garet's face turned bright red. Isaac, Felix, Ivan, Picard and Jenna all sighed and shook their heads. Sheba and Mia suppressed giggles.
Another minute of tense fumbling and Garet found the other ring. "Very well," the Great Healer said. He gave one ring each to Isaac and Mia. "Do you, Mia, take Isaac to be your husband? Do you promise to love him and cherish him, in sickness and health, now and for the rest of your days?"
"I do," she said. She slid the ring in her hand onto Isaac's finger.
"And do you, Isaac, take Mia to be your wife? Do you promise to love her and cherish her, in sickness and health, now and for the rest of your days?"
"I do," he said. He slid the ring in his hand onto Mia's finger.
The Great Healer raised his arms. "Then, by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Loud cheers and applause erupted from everyone. Isaac and Mia kissed and he twirled her around once before they released. Garet, Ivan, Felix and Picard drew their swords and held them aloft to form an archway, though Ivan had to stand on a chair to be the necessary height. Hand in hand, Isaac and Mia passed under the bladed arch and led the crowd down to the village square for the reception.
Garet sheathed the Fire Brand and Jenna was immediately at his side, latched onto his arm. "Would you escort a lady to the party?"
"Of course." They kissed and started walking down the hill. Felix passed them, flashing a resigned sort of glare.
"I'm really glad it won't be your job to keep track of our rings on our wedding day," Jenna said with a grin.
Garet blushed. "I didn't lose them, I only forgot which pocket I'd put them in. I put the rings in this tunic right after Isaac gave them to me precisely so I wouldn't lose them."
"What do you intend to do about yours after we're married though? I'll never forgive you if you lose yours, you know."
"That's easy," Garet said. "Once you put that ring on my finger, I'm just never going to take it off."
Jenna leaned her head on his shoulder, taking one of his hands into both of hers. His were so big that they dwarfed hers by comparison. He could probably crush a rock with his hands if he tried, yet as powerful as he was, his embrace was so gentle. She loved that contradiction, his brute strength versus his kindness, his buffoonery versus his genuine compassion. That was what made Garet...Garet.
"I like that plan," she said. "That's the kind of simple but sweet logic you're best at."
"I try my best. I can't wait for our turn either. Today's all about Isaac and Mia, but soon we'll have our own special day where everyone comes out to celebrate us." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "You look really pretty in that dress, by the way."
"Thanks. Wait until you see the wedding dress Mom and I have been working on!"
They joined the massive throng of people in the square. Many tables and chairs had been set up, and there was a small platform with several musicians playing lively music. Some of the people were helping themselves to the wine and ale, some were inspecting the roasted meats and other fine foods, and others were just chattering. Many more people were lining up to offer congratulations to the bride and groom.
Looks like everyone turned out to celebrate Isaac and Mia, Sheba said in her mind.
I had a feeling this would be a huge party, Ivan said back. It's quite appropriate.
I thought this event would never come, Sheba said. It feels as if we've been discussing it or hearing about it in some capacity for eons.
Ivan smiled, staring through the crowd at the jubilant Isaac and Mia. I'm very happy we were able to see this day.
Why are you two standing off to the side this way? Master Hama came to join them and their wordless conversation. Did you require a little private time?
Ivan and Sheba blushed. It's not that, Sheba said. We simply wished to observe the festivities from afar for a bit.
I see. Hama looked to her brother. May I ask you something, Ivan?
Would you be willing to return with me to Contigo after Garet and Jenna's wedding? I feel I've taken advantage of Hammet's hospitality long enough, and I have a nostalgic yen to return to the to the city of our birth.
Ivan looked to Sheba. I would like to visit you there often, but my first wish is to stay with Sheba. She has not yet decided where she wants to settle.
Actually, I'm thinking I'd like to stay here in Vale, Sheba said. With regular visits to Kalay, Lalivero and Contigo too, of course.
Really? Ivan smiled. I'd like that.
I think that is a fine choice, Hama said. I see that all of you have forged your own family bonds during the course of your experiences.
I like to think of it that way, Ivan said. It's not a typical family, but it's one I wouldn't trade for anything.
And there is always time to form plenty of new bonds as well, Sheba added
That is a wise outlook on life, Hama said. Very wise indeed.
The music suddenly stopped as Kyle climbed onto the platform. He waved his arms to get attention and the crowd went silent.
"Thank you," he said. "Dora just wanted me to tell all of you how much we appreciate your attendance at this celebration. Thank you for coming to support our son and our lovely new daughter. And thanks to all of you who donated time, labor and amenities to make this all possible. We wouldn't mind if this party lasts all night." The crowd cheered. "Now I think it's the Best Man's job to lead us in a toast."
Garet ascended the platform. "I'm really bad at this stuff, so I'll keep it short and then defer to Felix." The crowd laughed. Garet looked down at Isaac and Mia. "Isaac, there were many times I wanted to exchange you for my real brother. I've always felt that you helped bring out the best in me, for good or for ill. And Mia, I think you bring out the very best in Isaac. The two of you have the kind of bond I'm trying to make with Jenna. We've come a long way, but we aren't quite at your level yet."
Jenna hopped up on the platform. "Yes, Garet and I have our own special kind of bond. Which is why I'm going to hurt him later for saying these things in public." Garet flashed a fearful look, but she smiled playfully and kissed his cheek. The crowd applauded. The two of them stepped down and Felix stepped up, holding a glass of wine.
"I don't have much to add that hasn't been said already," Felix said. "I feel it's sometimes easy to dismiss sentiment as a weakness while lauding pessimism as strength. But real power comes from character, from trust and from relationships with other people. I'm thankful to Isaac for teaching me that important lesson. And I thank both Isaac and Mia for having the strength to forgive someone like me for my transgressions. I wish you both all of the best. You deserve it." He lifted his glass.
"Hear! Hear!" the crowd chorused.
The music resumed and Isaac and Mia started to dance. More couples slowly joined in, including Garet and Jenna, Ivan and Sheba, and Kyle and Dora. Felix smiled and made his way off to the the fringes of the crowd to refill his wine. Picard was there, wistfully watching their friends.
"That was a lovely toast, Felix," he said.
"Thank you, Picard," Felix said. He faced the crowd like his friend and sipped his wine. "So tell me, what do you intend to do now that you're banished from Lemuria?"
Picard's jaw fell. "I...what makes you think I was banished?"
"I've suspected it for awhile. You returned a lot earlier than you said you would, and you've avoided making any mention of Lemuria since you arrived. Plus you said it was a possibility when you agreed to help us." Their eyes met. "I'm sorry, Picard."
"Don't be. I'm certainly not happy about being banished, but I'm honored I was able to take part in so noble a quest." He paused a moment, thinking about home and his mother and uncle. But he smiled despite his regret. "And I'm even more honored to have met all of you."
"I'm glad you can be so sanguine about it."
"There's little use in dwelling on things one can't change," Picard said. "And at least, if I can't be in Lemuria, I'm lucky enough to have another family to welcome me with open arms." He sipped his wine. "What of you? Have you made any future plans?"
"I still have my sister's wedding to slog through." Felix grimaced, looking at Garet and Jenna as they danced. "I'll never understand what she sees in that buffoon."
"I get the feeling there's no one in Weyard good enough for you little sister. But surely Garet isn't so bad."
"I'm outnumbered in the matter regardless," Felix said. "Mom and Dad are thrilled, and obviously Jenna's not backing down. I'll just have to learn to cope." He took a big gulp of wine. "I'm practicing that right now."
Picard chuckled. "You've really changed. I remember when I met you, how uptight and serious you were. Now you crack jokes and smile more."
"Being serious is my role in life. Someone has to do it. But you're right that I can smile now. I used to have to force it. I don't anymore."
Jenna came running up and grabbed her brother's arm. "Dance with me, Felix. I insist!"
"Picard, do you mind?"
"Not at all." Picard took Felix's glass. "Go and enjoy yourselves."
"Mia, Sheba and I all want to dance with you too, Picard," Jenna said. "We;re not going to leave you out, I promise."
"Of course. I will be right here waiting until you fine ladies are ready." He watched them run off and join the rest of the crowd. He raised his wine glass. "To my new family. May we stay this happy together for the rest of our days." And he took a sip.
Isaac and Mia stealthily escaped the reception and went a bit up the hill.
"Everyone will be looking for us," Mia said.
"I just wanted a moment alone with you," said Isaac. "To help me savor this day and all it represents." He wrapped his arms around her waist. "Being a hero usually means that you can't get everything you want in life. Sacrifices have to be made for the greater good."
"But just because you can't have everything, doesn't mean you can't have anything," Mia said. "I really feel like this is the beginning of a brand new life for us."
"Me too." He briefly touched her chest. "Whatever that entails. I meant it when I said I'm not afraid anymore. I love you, Mia."
She placed a hand on his chest. "I love you too, Isaac. And I will stay by your side for the rest of our lives, I promise."
They kissed, long and slow, with a sense of tranquility that neither of them had ever felt before. No more fear, no more doubt, just complete trust in each other. Whatever lay ahead in the future, they would face it together.
"Hey guys, you're missing your own party!" Garet called. "Get back down here!"
Isaac and Mia quickly rejoined their friends and family. Twilight settled over Vale, the sky changing to majestic tones of orange, pink and lavender. A peaceful end to a peaceful day, the beginning of a new era of prosperity for all of Weyard. And as the night wore on, eight Adepts continued to celebrate what their bonds of love and friendship had accomplished, a hard-fought victory that had made them inseparable and invincible to any obstacle they came across. From afar, the village square glowed like a star fallen upon the darkening world.
An eternally shining light.
I can't name specific names because the list would be much too long, but a big thank you to everyone out there who stuck with this story from the very beginning, despite the ridiculous delays in my finishing it. And a special thanks to those who kept encouraging/harassing me to finish even after long periods of neglect. You guys know who you are! And thank you to everyone else who read this or any other story I've posted on this site, past, present and future. Writing completes me, and it's all the more fulfilling knowing other people have enjoyed what I've worked hard to create.
This is also the part where I make the obvious official: I am now at least semi-retired from writing fanfics. I can't completely rule out any future Golden Sun works (not with Dark Dawn coming out), but this is definitely the last story in this particular timeline. That said, I'll keep the contact information on my profile current in case anyone wants to reach me in the future with questions, comments, or what have you.
Thank you for reading, everyone! Be seeing ya!