Golden Sun belongs to Nintendo and Camelot, not me. Support them if you like the series! I just write fanstuff. And if you feel like borrowing any of my original ideas, please, go right ahead.
Things weren't quite as smooth the second time around. At least the shields were down; Matthew would have been pretty screwed if they weren't.
For one thing, he lacked Sveta's natural grace, as well as the improved senses granted by sharing a spirit. As a result, instead of landing deftly on his feet, he hit hard and rolled, which was made even worse by the fact that he had a greatsword strapped to his back.
For another, the door was still shut, and it was still designed to be opened by machinery, and Matthew no longer had feral strength, or – again – the spirit sharing benefits. When he got to his feet, struggling against the wind rushing along the surface of the ship, he found himself unable to get inside.
It took more than a few seconds this time. This meant that the dorsal cannons were able to react to his presence. Three of them were destroyed, yes, but there were still another handful left to deal with, and as he soon discovered, they had no compunctions about firing at a target so near the ship itself.
He barely had time to react before the closest gun, about twenty metres away, opened fire on him. The shell went wide, hitting a spot some distance away. Unfortunately, the blastwave still hit him, knocking the wind out of him and sending a wave of sharp pain across that entire side of his body. The noise was so loud that his ears rang despite the rushing air drowning out nearly all other sound.
He got back up almost immediately, watching the smoke clear from the spot the cannon had hit with some hope. Sadly, the hull still seemed mostly intact; it was really, really beat-up, but there was no hole big enough to enter through.
So with flight out of the question, Matthew decided to fight. He chided himself; he probably should just have tried that in the first place.
Before the cannon could fire again, he reached within himself, drawing on his psynergy reserves. The earth was far from where he stood, but he could still feel the spirits of everything that existed whirling around him, and the ethereal force lent him its power. His thoughts were given form, and he summoned a series of spiritual swords – one, two, three, four – that each slammed into the cannon from a different compass direction – north, south, east, west. Its gears grinded as it tried to track his movement, but the swords had pinned it in place.
Matthew raised a hand high in the air, letting his power travel down its length as one final, massive sword appeared above the cannon turret. He opened his hand, and slammed it palm-down as if he was pushing the sword downward with his own strength.
It plunged into the heart of the cannon, cutting it wide open. It also happened to detonate the cannon's ammo reserves and shatter its autoloader.
The cannon erupted in flame and smoke, little bits of metal scattered by the powerful gusts rushing over the deck.
But Matthew had no time to enjoy his victory. Another of the cannon operators apparently decided – rightly so – that he was a greater threat than his parents' airship. He felt, rather than heard, this next cannon open fire, and threw himself to the deck in reflex. A shell zipped by right above where he stood, sending his scarf dancing in its wake, and detonated in the air far off the port side.
This time Matthew didn't waste even a moment. He drew the Sol Blade, feeling its familiar grip. Power thrummed through it as though the blade had a mind of its own. By unsheathing it, Matthew was asking it to lend him its power. Now, just as it had countless times before, it obliged him without question.
He ran toward the last remaining cannon and the Sol Blade let out a howl.
There was a flash of light visible from the command deck. The cruiser shook.
"Your Highness, Cannon Six is down!"
The Empyror jumped out of his chair and ran to the window to look down at the deck. That was the fifth one they had lost. More than half their firepower was gone, and the Adepts had barely fired a shot.
He nearly choked when he peered down.
There was a huge crater where Cannon Six used to be. A literal crater on the deck of a metal airship. It had torn through the hull, too; he could see the inside of one of the rooms in the uppermost deck.
"Holy hell," he said, "what are these people capable of?!"
Matthew landed among the wreckage in the newly-ventilated room on the top floor of the cruiser. He sheathed the Sol Blade with a grateful squeeze, and hurried to the door. He threw it open and looked both ways. He vaguely recognized this hallway; he and Sveta had been through this way.
Unfortunately, even with the power he had at his disposal he wasn't sure it would be a good idea to tread the same path as before. Every remaining soldier at the ship would likely be trying to break into the shield generator room at that moment. They weren't on land, so he had limited options when it came to psynergy. They had the ranged advantage, so he couldn't fight them hand-to-hand. Perhaps he could pull off another Megiddo if he was lucky, but Sveta would be nearby – he wanted to save her, not vaporize her.
He decided that his best hope was to try to wreak havoc elsewhere and attempt to draw them off. He started toward the rear of the ship, but this time instead of stopping and heading downstairs, he kept going. The ship seemed to have a bit of a protrusion near the stern anyway. That looked important.
He went down one level to the gunnery floor. Then he went down another to the floor with the generator room. Then he went down a third, just on a whim, and made his way toward the rear, meeting worryingly little resistance.
That was when he found the engine room.
There were massive whirling turbines everywhere. Barrels of who-knew-what were scattered wherever it seemed most inconvenient. There were more gauges, dials, knobs and buttons than Matthew could count. And there were finally a few Tuaparang soldiers who hadn't gone to besiege Sveta.
One of them literally dropped his weapon when he spotted Matthew.
The man ran for an inconspicuous-looking box stuck on the wall and hit a big red button on it.
"He's in the engine room! Midship engine room, intruder alert!"
Matthew didn't bother drawing his sword. The dealt with all the other soldiers with a series of Clay Spire strikes, and walked menacingly toward the man who had run for help.
The box crackled, and an unfamiliar voice came forth from it. "Say again? Who's in the engine room?!"
Matthew punched the soldier in the jaw, dropping him immediately. Then, on a mischevious whim, he pressed the button too.
"Golly gee, Your Highness," said Matthew, "this stuff sure looks explosive!"
He let go of the button.
Nothing happened for several seconds.
Then the alarm started again, and speakers all over the ship crackled at once.
"All soldiers, be advised! Intruder in the midship engine room! Repeat, intruder in the midship engine room!"
Matthew smiled and drew his sword, glancing around for something to move around. He only had a few moments to prepare the battlefield for defense.
Sveta had heard the explosions, but hadn't made the connection until the shipwide announcement went out. She assumed it was the Tuaparang soldiers trying to break in and reactivate the shields, and she was nearly panicking; her barricade was woefully inadequate, and she was nearly exhausted from holding the door shut with her own strength.
The warning klaxons started blaring, and the pounding on her door stopped at once.
"She must have found another way out!" said someone on the other side.
"Downstairs, after her!" said another. "Hurry!"
She waited and caught her breath until they were out of earshot, then moved the barricade aside and wandered into the hallway. She could hear sounds of conflict below.
Her heart raced with fear. Someone had followed her onto the ship. Some fool had decided she shouldn't have to die alone, and had put the others at risk by doing so.
She suspected she knew which fool it was.
Fighting defensively was easier than attacking head-on would have been, but that just meant that it was a few extra minutes before Matthew was on the ropes. He had several cuts from where crossbow bolts had grazed him, though nothing had struck him directly just yet. There were bodies all over, but the enemy just kept coming. They were fanatics.
He threw out his senses, picking up what seemed like the beacons of hundreds of souls in the hallway around him, all trying to force their way in. It meant he could sense when someone was about to try to rush the door – one of them, at least, as he had quickly discovered that the engine room was big enough to have multiple entrances.
Without even aiming, Matthew sent another Odyssey pattern in the direction of the closest doorway. The spell was designed to be used against a single target, but he found that by spacing out the sword-strikes, it was also useful to deny an area to the enemy. One soul that had been preparing to charge in suddenly winked out, and the others backed off. But another group made for the door a few metres to his right.
He cursed and ran to intercept them, feeling the Sol Blade thrum with energy. The door flew open, and he swung the sword, sweeping the area with Radiant Fire. Then he reached out and pulled the door closed.
A bolt shot by just before the door was shut. Though it didn't impact, it cut through his sleeve and drew a sharp line of pain across his upper arm. He cried out and put a hand to the wound. It came away bloody.
"I probably should have put more thought into this," he said to himself.
The soldiers at the other door were starting to organize again. But Matthew was getting tired. He couldn't keep darting from place to place, fighting an enemy with better numbers and equipment. And he had already checked for alternate exits. None existed.
That was when he felt a surge of psynergy from somewhere nearby. Almost immediately after, he heard a howl.
Then he heard a loud thump, and felt about ten of his assailants' spirits fizzle out.
He peeked through the nearest door – the one he had just closed – and there she was. Like a whirlwind in the shape of a wolf, she tore through the enemy numbers. Her long claws tossed aside whole groups of enemies at once, and she still had room to throw out indiscriminate bolts of lightning.
With his enemies distracted, Matthew circled around and jumped out the other exit sword-first. He was not as efficient as Sveta was, but it was close. The Tuaparang autocrossbows were worthless in close range. In a flash, the storm of sword and claw brought the entire army to its knees.
Matthew finished off the last man. Sveta shapeshifted back to her normal form.
And then she dove at him.
He dropped the Sol Blade on impact, and she followed through to pin him to the wall. Tears streamed down her face.
She slapped him. Hard. "Matthew, you idiot!" she cursed. Then she kissed him. Then she slapped him again.
"Oww," he replied. "Nice to see you too. Thanks for coming to help-"
"Why?!" she shouted. "Why did you come back?" She hugged him tightly enough that he wasn't sure whether it was supposed to be affectionate or hostile. It could have been both. "You fool, you idiot... One of us was enough! We do not both have to die-"
"Yeah!" said Matthew. "Neither of us do!"
"Not if the others destroy the ship!" Sveta squeezed tighter.
"We can get off!" choked Matthew. "Felix said there was a way!"
Sveta stopped squeezing. "What?"
"The Empyror's always got a backup plan in case of emergencies," said Matthew. "Of course he's got some way to escape in case this ship goes down. All we have to do is find it before he gets to it."
"Yeah, I know you were looking forward to your heroic self-sacrifice and everything, but I'm gonna have to say no," he said. "You're getting a happy ending whether you like it or not. Got it?"
Sveta looked into Matthew's eyes, tears still streaming down her face. She said nothing.
He just smiled at her. "Don't worry about a thing," he said. "You don't need to be alone anymore. We'll help each other escape. Because we're a team, right?"
That did it.
She broke down sobbing, resting her head lightly against his chest. He drew his arms around her gently.
"After all that..." Sveta shook her head. "I am sorry for how I acted. I should not have given up so easily." She backed off and wiped her eyes. "I am ready to go when you are. Lead the way."
Matthew nodded. "For what it's worth, you were right too. I shouldn't have tried to keep you from doing what you wanted to. From now on, go on whatever crazy, suicidal adventures you want... as long as I can come along to make sure you get back in one piece."
She smiled. For Matthew, that made it all worth it.
Figuring that they had already seen most of the front and middle of the ship, the two decided to start walking toward the rear, checking each level individually until they found what they were looking for.
Their current floor seemed dedicated entirely to keeping the ship in the air. Fuel stores, engine rooms, spare parts... nothing of value in terms of escape. They reached the wall at the very end, and headed up one level.
Almost immediately they found what they were looking for.
The aft end of the ship on the second level seemed to be mostly dormitories, and for a little while, Matthew and Sveta assumed that they were still out of luck. But some distance down the hall, the rooms changed abruptly.
Spartan-looking bunkbeds were replaced with fine leather seats and clear windows. Simple doors made way for solid bulkheads. And, as with seemingly everything on this ship, there were a mysterious array of buttons and doodads in the middle of the far wall.
"Oddly shaped rooms," commented Matthew.
Sveta tapped him on the shoulder and indicated toward a sign hanging from the ceiling.
- ESCAPE PODS -
"I cannot believe I would have missed this," said Sveta. "It seems so obvious in retrospect."
Matthew nodded. "I just can't believe it was this easy. I mean, this can't really be it, can it?"
Someone cleared their throat loudly behind them. "AHEM."
They turned to look.
He was a tallish man, completely bald and sporting a goatee. He wore a splendid-looking black robe with red trim, and his hands were covered by odd-looking gauntlets covered in lights and gems. He was clearly not having a good day, as indicated by the bags under his eyes and the jagged cut on his leg. But his grin of unflappable confidence made all of that seem irrelevant.
"Queen Sveta, I presume," said the man. "And you must be Matthew, son of Isaac and Jenna. I am the High Empyror of Tuaparang. You two have caused me quite a bit of trouble, and I fully intend to get even."
He smiled, baring vicious, pointed teeth.
Sveta turned to Matthew and thumped him on the head.
Gonna apologize for the deceptive wordcount, this felt like a very intuitive place to cut the chapter but there's a huge friggin' review response later on that gets all introspective and philosophical, so that's where a lot of the chapter weight is. Whatevs.
Writing fight scenes is actually getting to be lots of fun, I need to do it more often. And I'll get a chance to NEXT CHAPTER
in the FINAL CHAPTER
except the epilogue
of DROPS OF JUPITER
That's right holy crap guys THE END IS NIGH
ARE YOU EXCITED, I'M EXCITED oh god I'll be so glad to have this over with
Expect it before the week is out.
godofmadness43: The Daedalus is kind of big and wide; when I envision the air cruiser, it's shaped a little more like a modern aircraft carrier or battleship, as in long and thin. But in terms of scale, yes, this thing is Daedalus-sized.
CreationsGoneAwry: Oh crap, if I keep putting people on the edge of their seat somebody's gonna fall off eventually, I'm just a disaster waiting to happen.
...Aaaand so ends the happy funtime review responses. This is where shit gets real.
Golden Joe: It seems like I should be feeling defensive, or angry, or even just a little hurt from the wording in your review ("I really hate your story"? Really?), but all I feel is validation. The fact is that every single one of your points is one that I have considered myself on at least one occasion, and I find it completely shocking that no one else has raised them. It's probably because a lot of people stop reading when they dislike something, and don't bother giving criticism; with that in mind, I am genuinely very, very appreciative of you sticking around long enough to give such comprehensive feedback. Thank you!
The truth is that I can and WOULD give specific examples and explanations for every single one of your points; I can say why I did something, I can say why it seemed like a good idea at the time, I can say why I regret the shit out of it, and I can say how I've worked to alleviate the damage. If you had a username and profile on this site I'd literally be responding via PM to answer every single point in a bulleted list. I can't do that here without 1) dominating the A/N with a single review response and 2) spoiling a ton of upcoming story for a lot of people, but I can summarize.
Simply put, DoJ is not the result of an attempt to write a good story. It is what happened when I ended up stranded, alone, in an unfamiliar part of the country for so long that I started to freaking lose it. I needed something to pass the time, something that seemed productive enough to trick myself into thinking it was worthwhile, and DoJ was that thing. For the first 20-or-so chapters, plot elements were written moment-to-moment without even a thought for the bigger picture. When I got bored, instead of stopping, I started planning ahead. Way ahead. I planned plot events that wouldn't happen for a year or more. And when I couldn't do that any more, I planned what would happen to Matthew and Sveta's kids. I planned what would happen to the Warriors of Vale five freaking centuries in the future. And since, by that point, it had become basically an original story tied loosely to the locations and magic system of Golden Sun, I changed direction from making DoJ readable to making it set the stage for my own little playground within somebody else's IP.
The nature of this website is such that it is very, very difficult to edit a story properly. I don't mean proofreading and technical issues; those are easy enough. But posting chapters as they're done means that you can't go back and remove plot elements. A card laid is a card played. That means that at chapter 71, I'm stuck with something like 12 central characters, each with plot and character arcs that demanded resolution. At least one of them serves no purpose but to set up a throwaway joke in a sequel.
In my own defense, if I were to take each character's plot arc and write it as if it were its own story, some of the more egregious issues would be less obvious. If I had a story just about Isaac and Jenna's marriage, with the whole Tuaparang thing happening on the sidelines, it would read better; if the story was about Rief growing more independent, or helping Maddie to get over her issues, then it would feel better-focused. The main problem, I believe, is that DoJ is a story made of too many stories. Like in real life, a series of unrelated incidents take place at around the same time in around the same location, and they influence each other in unexpected ways. It inflates the story's size, it introduces redundancies, and it obscures what would be completely reasonable plot arcs. If I were to rewrite the story to just have Matthew and Sveta's perspective, it would likely be under 40k words; instead you have this mess that is longer than any single Lord of the Rings book, longer than any single Twilight book, and when it is finished, will be longer than any single Harry Potter book (edging out Order of the Phoenix by only a few thousand words).
If you want, I'd be more than happy to discuss all this over PMs, but that isn't necessarily essential. It's just that despite this page-and-a-half long response, I haven't actually directly addressed any of your points and I do have solid answers to every single one. If you're interested, I can tell you, but some of them are also spoilery (still) and thus not great to leave out in the open like this.
Thanks for the feedback, and while I'm sorry the story isn't living up to your expectations, I really appreciate you telling me why! Point of interest, I was recently contacted by someone who read the story over a year ago and mentioned having to catch up; I literally told them not to bother because the story is a complete mess. That's how I feel about it, and I am very, VERY happy that there is only one chapter + epilogue left.