FOREWARNING:

There are many spoilers to the Golden Sun: Dark Dawn game in this story. Read at your own discretion.

Prologue: That Which is Done

There were consequences to every action. Every deed, grand enough to topple kingdoms or small enough to go unnoticed, had an effect on the greater picture. Matthew learned that early in his life, under the careful tutelage of his father. The return of Alchemy was supposed to bring happiness and prosperity, an end to the pain of the old world.

But looking upon the ravaged land before him, Matthew was no longer so certain. The air was clear for the first time in weeks, sun shining on dying plants and the corpses of the long-since deceased. In the distance smoke rose over a small town, likely a fire caused by the last of the shadow creatures.

"It's our fault." Matthew said simply, staring from atop his cliff. He said it to no one, and the words seemingly dissipated into the wind, unheard. "If Tyrell hadn't broken the soarwing... or if we had died in the Ouroboros... or... This could have been prevented."

There were tears now. So many deaths... and for what? His quest wasn't to save the world or bring everlasting peace. It was to find a blasted feather! A snowball of events led out of control by puppet masters and their all too unwitting accomplices. But he was still guilty.

Matthew sunk slowly to the ground, placing his feet over the edge of the cliff, head in arms as he watched the smoke rise. Tiny figures darted almost imperceptibly in front of it, waving their unseen arms or shouting in their unheard voices.

"If we had died, Blados and Chalis would have found someone else." Matthew snapped to attention, looking behind towards the voice. Sveta sat next to him, staring across the flat-lands, her expression blank. "We did what we had to."

"Not just any adept could navigate those mazes or fight those monsters." Matthew sighed. "The Tuaparang needed us. Us specifically. If we hadn't been so caring we could have stopped Ryu Kou from starting the Alchemy Dynamo. We knew it was evil."

"Are you saying we should have killed him?" Sveta narrowed her eyes. "You've never killed a man, Matthew. You wouldn't say that so lightly if you knew what it felt like."

Matthew paused at her words. Of all the people traveling with him, Sveta was easily the most enigmatic. She said little yet was willing to sacrifice so much, even her own life, to right wrongs that weren't even her responsibility.

"The eclipse never should have happened." Matthew glanced behind him as he spoke. The camp was a fair distance away, further down the mountain, well out of earshot. "It's my fault for allowing it. Because of me, Volechek..."

"Volechek did what he had to. We were prepared to do the same." Matthew winced as he remembered the agonizing climb to the top of the Apollo Mirror, how his soul had merged with Sveta's, briefly, and how he could feel her pain as the light burned through the Umbra armor and into her flesh. If Volechek hadn't stopped them, the two of them would have died there, together.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry." Looking at Sveta now, he could tell the pain of the road was taking its toll. Constant battles with monsters from the darkness coupled with the sheer exhaustion of the speed in which they had ascended to the Apollo Sanctum, and on top of that the burn marks left on her arms and legs from shielding the rest of the group from the deadly light.

She had lost the most and gained the least from the journey, and now she was expected to lead a devastated country that was all too likely to blame her for the deaths and destruction.

"Being remorseful about past events will get us nowhere. You look from the top of this mountain and see pain and destruction wrought by your hand." Matthew winced at her words, but could not deny them. "And where will that lead you? Will you cower in a corner and cry for forgiveness to deceased gods?"

"Of course not!"

"I didn't think so." Sveta stared at him, her emerald eyes boring holes into his consciousness. Before the events at Apollo Sanctum her stares seemed shy, bashful even, but now that he had merged souls with her once, he felt as if some greater understanding into the mind of this beautiful, yet dangerous, queen-to-be had been made.

"What was it like for you, back then?" Sveta cocked her head quizzically at Matthew's question. "Where our souls... merged. I mean, I don't even know how it happened, but I knew you needed my help."

"The division between my consciousness and yours was broken. We were the same individual, sharing thoughts, emotions, memories, everything. What made us truly unique and singular was shattered." Sveta stared back out across the plains. "A phenomenal breach of privacy, if you ask me, but I suspect my embarrassment at you seeing all that I've seen is a small price to pay for stopping the eclipse. We thought we were going to die, after all."

"I felt something from you, though." Matthew struggled to recall the hazy memory. The entire sequence now seemed like a dream. "I feel like you said something important, something that propelled us forward, but I can't remember now."

"If you can't remember, what chance do I have?" Sveta smirked. "It's likely nothing that matters. We both have more pressing issues to take care of now."

Both turned back to the landscape now, silent. Matthew had noticed the change in her personality since Apollo Sanctum. From quiet and shy, Sveta had become critical and unfriendly. Though she rarely snapped at Matthew, there was one instance where she had nearly gotten into a brawl with Karis, when the two had been such close friends before.

And then there was the incident with the wounded wyvern. Back on the endless wall, they had encountered a wyvern that had apparently been spared death from one of the darkness monsters by the timely activation of the Apollo Mirror. The creature was wounded in its wings, unable to fly, but was otherwise uninjured.

The Sveta Matthew used to know would have talked to the creature in some strange bestial language, comforted it and even healed it, provided it wasn't hostile. The Sveta that sat beside him now slit its throat mercilessly, stating that a wyvern that couldn't fly couldn't hunt, thus it would die anyway.

Matthew knew it was because of Volechek's death. She had lost her brother twice, but now there was no hope of seeing him again. She had nearly killed her brother herself, only to have him sacrifice himself to activate the mirror.

"Sveta..." Matthew started to say. She glanced at him, her eyes that seemed to gaze upon the landscape so harshly before softening as she looked at him. "I know you tell me not to beat myself up for what happened... but do you blame yourself for Volechek?"

"It should have been me." She said quickly.

"He would have died anyway." Matthew countered, only to notice Sveta turn away.

"But I got you involved." Matthew bit his tongue, letting her continue. "If I had been stronger, I could have activated it myself, without your help. When I asked you for help, I expected a yes. Nobody would let themselves die, but you... you're too selfless. And you were the last person I'd want to take with me to the grave."

"It's over now, though. Volechek can't be brought back through lashing out at others or killing animals." Matthew stood as she did. She didn't look into his eyes, instead focusing down towards the camp, where Kraden was telling some ancient story. None of them so much as glanced in Sveta and Matthew's direction.

"Doesn't mean I won't stop." Matthew felt his jaw drop. Sveta was staring right at him, her eyes cold and serious. "If I have to do it all myself, I'll destroy the Tuaparang for what they've done. I'll slit the throat of the High Empyror with these claws, if it gives me my revenge."

"You'd have to kill me too." Matthew stared back. Sveta was shaking, almost imperceptibly, but it was there. "If I hadn't been there, Volechek would still be alive. I played a part in his death just as much as the Tuaparang. Are you willing to slit my throat as well?"

Sveta didn't answer. For a moment longer they just stared at each other, Matthew trying his hardest not to look angry and Sveta completely impassive and serious. After a long while, Sveta finally spoke.

"We should get back to camp."

ooo

"Get outta my face, kid. The real men here have some work to do." Eoleo grunted, pushing Tyrell out of the way. Matthew watched, uninterested, from the sidelines, atop a small tower of crates on the ship's deck. It had been a week since his talk with Sveta on the mountainside and she only seemed more withdrawn than ever.

"I told you I wanted to help! And don't call me a kid!" Tyrell grabbed Eoleo by the shirt, leading the older man to growl in response.

"I swear you fire adepts are all the same." Kraden chuckled from off to the side while Eoleo and Tyrell continued their grappling for control of the ship wheel. "Even when out in the middle of the ocean aboard a pirate ship, you're all too eager to challenge the Captain, Tyrell. And the Captain is all too eager to return in kind!"

"This kid ain't got the faintest clue what to do with a wheel." Eoleo pushed Tyrell back, grabbing for the wheel. "He'll be so brutal with this baby, I bet. He'll probably ram us into a reef."

"Let me try and I'll prove you wrong!" Tyrell wiped a trickle of blood from his lips where Eoleo had elbowed him. "I bet it's easy."

"A ship's like a woman." Eoleo put his hands on his hips, ignoring the wheel for the moment. "If you rush in all bravado and try to have your way with her, she'll kick you in the cojones and toss you overboard."

"I'm sure you know all about that, old man." Tyrell shrugged, leaning back against the rail. "I'll bet it's happened before."

"For once someone's been called old man and it hasn't been me!" Kraden laughed, enjoying the spectacle. Matthew simply watched. "This reminds me of how Garet and Jenna would have their spats, all those years ago. All you fire adepts can't ever back down from a challenge."

"They don't call me the Prince of the Pirates for nothing." Eoleo boasted, preparing as Tyrell got ready to charge again. Matthew turned away at this point, repositioning himself atop his tower of crates so that he faced the seemingly endless sea. He heard, and felt, Karis stomp by underneath him, yelling at Tyrell to stop his monkey-like antics yet again.

Usually this would amuse him, but now...

Matthew saw Rief chatting with Amiti on the other side of the boat. The two had become fast friends, despite the differences in personality. Himi was likely downstairs praying. Sveta hadn't even left her cabin all day, Matthew thought to himself.

The conversation he had with her kept repeating itself over and over in his head. What did Sveta's silence mean?

Answers did not seem easily forthcoming and Matthew couldn't focus here with Karis, Tyrell and Eoleo shouting up a storm. He jumped from the boxes, landing easily to make his way inside the ship.

Some pirates nodded to Matthew as he passed them below deck. Others merely walked past. The ones who showed respect were the ones who had seen him fight, funnily enough. Matthew normally would have felt some sort of pride at this fact, but not today.

He hurried to Sveta's cabin, knocking on the door quietly. A soft "come in" greeted him. When Matthew stepped inside, he couldn't help but feel something was out of place. Sveta leaned against a wall, hands behind her back. The Umbra gear was lain out on the lone desk in the small room, the battered armor seeming to radiate darkness.

She looked up, her eyes red from crying and expression pained. Matthew closed the door behind him before approaching. He hadn't gotten two feet before she shouted.

"Get back!" Matthew stepped back instinctively, noticing she was wearing her Umbra knuckles. She wasn't shouting it as a warning against something else... but as a threat. "I don't know what I'm going to do if you come any closer. I... thought I trusted you. I really did. The first human to earn my trust, think of that. The first one not to stare in shock or try and harm me for being different."

"Sveta, what's going on?" Matthew said carefully.

"I had thought about what you said." Sveta's eyes returned to the floor, her ears dropping. "I thought it was you that needed me, not the other way around. I was going to be the pillar of strength, and instead I'm killing any monster that comes my way. I don't want to hurt you."

"If you're just killing monsters, then..."

"It's not enough!" Sveta shouted, once again locking eyes with him. Matthew stepped forward, to which Sveta stepped back. "I want... no. I NEED my revenge. I can't keep going like this. Monsters will only keep me from lashing out for so long."

"Sveta..." Matthew stepped towards her again, then once more. She bristled and, with not so much as a warning for Matthew to defend himself, struck at the Venus adept. Matthew blocked the punches with his fists, but instantly regretted it. Sveta wasn't a normal girl and she certainly could throw a punch.

Matthew stepped inside her next swing, grabbing her arm and forcing her back, where she fell onto the bed. Not wanting to hurt her, Matthew climbed on top of her, pinning her arms down.

"I should be thanking you." Sveta said, tears welling up in her eyes. "I should be celebrating the fact that there are humans who are willing to work together with those like me."

"When I look at you, I just see a human with pointy ears." Matthew cracked a smile. Sveta's expression relaxed, but she still stared. Matthew wanted to say it was a cold stare, but there was something else to it.

"But all I want to do is hurt others. Why can't I just move on, like you, Karis or the rest?" Sveta looked away. "Eoleo lost his father, yet he can still smile and laugh. What can I do? I'm weak, Matthew."

"When I looked into your memories, I didn't see a weak girl." Matthew loosened his grip, letting Sveta's arms free. "And when I fought at your side, I knew you were someone worth dying for. When you asked for my strength atop Apollo Sanctum, that last thing on my mind was fear of death. Your strength kept me going."

"But neither of us was ready for death." Sveta climbed out from under Matthew, sitting across the bed from where Matthew planted himself. "Neither was Volechek."

"And I'll bet none of the Tuaparang are ready to free their souls of their bodies by your hand just yet." Matthew climbed up to Sveta, sitting up against the backboard of the bed with her. "Just like what you told me. You can't beat yourself up for what happened. I... still blame myself."

"It's not just blaming myself, though." Sveta looked away. "I wouldn't feel this way if I just hated the circumstances and how I didn't do enough to prevent them."

"Then what's bothering you?" Matthew nudged her gently. Sveta looked down again and he could see a single tear fall.

"Because... I... blame you."

ooo

"What!" Karis stood suddenly, as did Tyrell. Matthew shook his head again, emphasizing his point. Eoleo simply nodded.

The four stood in a lower storage hold of the boat, where crates were lashed together to hold supplies and prevent them from breaking in rough seas. They had gone down to retrieve a crate full of old food that Kraden and Rief wanted to feed to the dolphins and other creatures that had started to gather in the wake of the ship. Once there, the subject of returning to the Goma Plateau had come up.

"How can you just not come back!" Tyrell demanded to know. Karis was equally mortified. "What's more important out there!"

"Answers." Matthew said simply.

"What kind of a response is that, Matthew? Isaac is likely worried sick about you!" Karis said emphatically. She was appealing to Matthew's emotions, but he knew that he couldn't go back. Not yet.

"You say you'll need a ship, and you've got one right here." Eoleo grinned. "I wouldn't mind havin' you on board for awhile longer. You're good in tight spots."

"Don't encourage his insanity, Eoleo." Karis fumed. "We didn't go all this way just to not go back."

"You have the Roc feather and I've still got loose ends to tie up." Matthew sat on a crate, he'd grown fond of the habit, trying his best not to appeal to his desire of returning home. "Just tell my Dad that I'll take a little longer than you two."

"And you think we're just going to let you be?" Tyrell said through gritted teeth. "After all the danger we've been through I'm not just going to leave without you."

"If either of you try to follow me, I'll kill you." Matthew said simply. Tyrell and Karis recoiled in shock. Even Eoleo was surprised. "This is too important, and too dangerous, to have you two involved."

"Look, kid, don't be hasty." Eoleo, for once, was trying to be the reasonable party.

"It's an extremely dangerous mission so you'll threaten to kill us if you follow you? Great logic!" Tyrell shouted, fuming. He stormed off, slamming the door to the storage room on his way out.

"It's your choice... but you should think this over more." Karis shook her head. "Tyrell has a point for once. After this long journey, facing death so many times, how can you not trust us enough to take us with you?"

"I do trust you. I also know that if you come along, you will die." Matthew responded. Karis shook her head. "I'd rather that didn't happen."

"I'll... talk to Tyrell. Just think about this more. Please?" Matthew nodded and Karis left, calling out to Tyrell.

There was a long silence in the hold before Eoleo finally spoke. Matthew knew what he was going to say before he said it.

"It's those dreams, isn't it?" Matthew nodded. Eoleo sighed. "I'm more than happy to take you wherever, but dreams can't truly mean anything, even if they seem that real to you."

"Four shall enter. One shall return." Matthew stated, repeating the line he heard so often, whispered from the darkest corners of his mind while he slept. "If it's a prophecy, I'll prove it wrong by entering whatever it is by myself. I'll face the danger alone. I just need you to help me find it."

"And what are you going to do about Sveta?" Matthew stared at Eoleo in shock, almost disbelief. What did he know about her? "You and her... have a thing, I've noticed."

"It's not like that, Eoleo." Matthew winced, remembering Sveta's words.

"Even still," Eoleo took a deep breath, "she's been all torn up inside since Volechek died, so I'm not so sure leaving her in Belinsk is the best way to keep her peachy and safe. Maybe you should consider staying with her for awhile instead."

"No. I'm finding whatever is haunting my dreams at night." Matthew said stubbornly. "I'm the leader here and you've already offered your assistance. Just understand that when I finally confront the creature, I face it alone."

"...Fine. Understood."

ooo

"What the hell is his problem?" Tyrell snapped angrily, pacing about his bedchamber. Karis lightly laid a hand on his arm, trying to calm him.

"It's his own choice that he doesn't return home with us. I don't know what caused it, but it's his choice." Karis almost swallowed her next words, but she knew they were true. "If he doesn't want us to come along... then we shouldn't."

"He threatened us!" Tyrell buried his face in his arms. "He threatened the two best friends he's had, the two that have been by his side since day one!"

"Then it goes to show how serious this must be."

"All the more reason not to listen to him!" Karis couldn't help but agree. "We should follow him, then. If we stay far enough away that he doesn't know we're there..."

"That's stupid and you know it." Karis sighed after she spoke. "I just wish he confided in us as much as he used to. Now it seems he's always with Eoleo or Sveta."

"Yeah... that half-animal chick. What does he even see in her?" Tyrell slumped onto his bed, defeated. "She acts like she's all quiet and mature but she's just as bad as her brother was."

"Don't say that!" Karis found herself offended. Even if she and Sveta had been fighting lately, she still held the girl in high regard. "Matthew has always been a quiet one about what goes on in his head. Sveta might not have anything to do with this at all. Remember the time where he randomly ordered Eoleo into the Eclipse and we thought he was mad, only to find out that Matthew had led us straight to Ryu Kou? He always knows what he's doing."

"Wouldn't hurt to tell us about it more." Tyrell said, clearly irritated. "I sometimes wish things were like how they used to be. Before I broke that stupid soarwing."

"No use dwelling on the past, Tyrell." Karis sat next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder. "There are so many cases where if we had just been a little bit quicker, cleverer or luckier we could have saved a life, or stopped the bad guys, or turned this entire journey around. If we brought each down upon our minds we wouldn't be able to bear the weight of it all."

"I just want this to be over."

"Yeah. It'll be a luxury to sleep on nice beds again, provided Isaac and Garet haven't burned the place down without me to watch the place for them!"

"Unless I do it for them once I get back!" They both chuckled, enjoying the few seconds reprieve from the weight on their minds.

"I had hoped we'd all go back together, you know?" Karis lowered her eyes to the ground. "When we first encountered those Tuaparang soldiers when we found Kraden... you remember when one of them knocked me out?"

"Yeah, I do."

"That was the first time I thought we were in danger. I thought 'I'm dead! And there were so many things I wanted to do...'" Karis sighed. "To be able to return home in one piece would be wonderful, but we need Matthew too."

Tyrell swung his arm around Karis, rubbing her shoulder. They stayed there for a few moments before Karis spoke again, this time with a serious expression.

"I just hope he doesn't get himself killed."

"Yeah..."

ooo

And there was the light lost to darkness, emerging, bound in chains, into a world of darkness and nothingness. So deep below the earth, so close to the eternities of hell that no light reaches there. No light can escape and all that enter are trapped forever.

Here Matthew felt his hand moving, the Sol Blade shining in his grip, lighting the way forward. He heard a voice behind him, but dim and unfocused. Only a smattering of phrases could be made out.

"A noble soul, run through and through."

"It's just a little bit further." Matthew heard himself say. "I can see it now. Just over those rocks up ahead."

More words from behind. Matthew called out again, swinging the Sol Blade. Why was he saying like he could see something when all around him was darkness? Who was he talking to?

A breeze could be felt, somehow. No light, but there was feeling. Of rocks to the side, above and below, stretching for miles. He was in the pits of hell itself, it seemed. Not even the light of the sun could find its way down here, where nothing lives. Nothing grows.

All around him was nothingness, yet he was walking. Something behind him was walking. Two forms walking through the dark. Matthew pressed onwards, aware of the barely perceptible grip on his jacket to make sure they didn't lose each other.

"Four shall enter. One shall return."