All That Shimmers
[04.19.00] » by Lara Germer
'We were just starting to rebuild after the war with Highland,
and now this...' Makai thought sourly, worry permanently etched into
his facial features. His precious Two River City was once again being
threatened by outside forces. That was, of course, why they had been
called to Muse for this conference. The safety of Muse and the rest
of Jowston depends on it, Fitcher had said in his note. Potentially a
bigger threat than Highland.
Makai shook his head as he ascended the stairs to the Muse
conference room. How many times in the past had he climbed this very
path, in the face of war? Each time, any hope of solution dissolved
into petty bickering and angry words. Hopefully, this would be
different. The enemy they faced was more mysterious, seemingly more
dangerous than Highland itself ever was. Maybe this would open the
eyes of the other mayors and end the feuding between them.
As selfish as it might sound, however, Makai truly only cared
about those he governed, the humans, wingers, and kobolds of Two River
City. But he knew he couldn't face such a formidable enemy without the
help of the other cities. That was the reason he had come, to join his
forces with those of Muse, South Window, Tinto, Matilda, even Greenhill.
Freed was a reasonable man, Teresa was certainly sensible, but Ethan,
newly appointed commander of the Matildan knights, was more cowardly
than himself when it came to taking risks. If anyone would be more than
reluctant about sending his troops anywhere, it would be him.
Makai looked up and noticed Teresa standing by a window,
apparently lost in thought. 'Poor Teresa...it's not been long since
Shin disappeared and we're already being thrust into another conflict...'
He approached her from the side as she continued to look out upon the
vast plains surrounding Muse, oblivious to his presence. He studied her
soft features a bit before attempting to start a conversation. "You know
you don't have to be here, Lady Teresa. I'm sure the others would
Teresa jumped, startled by his presence, before hastily
regaining her composure and turning to face Makai. "It's my duty to
be here, Lord Makai," she replied. "You above all others should realize
Makai cocked his head to the side in askance. "Don't be
stubborn, Lady Teresa. Your health is more important than a meeting
that you know will accomplish nothing." Teresa shot him a look and
then returned to gazing out the window, but before she could respond,
Ethan strolled up from behind.
"So, this is where the two weak mayors spend their time before
conferences," he jeered. Teresa rolled her eyes, and Makai sighed
deeply, but both otherwise ignored Ethan's biting commentary. "What's
this? Are you both too high and mighty to condescend to reply? These
are the people I rule Jowston with?"
"Ethan, they're expecting you in the conferance hall," came a
commanding voice. All three turned and saw Gustav grinning widely as
he pointed down the hall at a waiting group of emmisaries. Muttering a
curse, Ethan strode away from the mayors to greet the crowd. Returning
his gaze to the two soft-spoken mayors, Gustav winked. "That Ethan kid
is a spoiled brat. Thought you could use a chance to escape from him,"
"My thanks, Lord Gustav," Teresa said as Makai nodded in
acknowledgement. Gustav patted them both on the shoulder, then
followed the young Matildan commander. They watched him go,
eventually turning their respective gazes back to the window.
After long moments, the mayor of Greenhill finally spoke up
once more. "They're counting on me back there, you know," she said.
"The people of Greenhill?" Makai asked. Teresa nodded. "Why
would they have any reason not to?"
"I don't know if I can help them this time..." She looked at
the ground then, feelings of remorse and guilt washing over her. "This
isn't the same as Highland. We don't have another hero to lead us..."
"I know, but we do have each other. That's the best we can
"But will it be enough?" Teresa, sending one last look at
Makai's puzzled features before leaving toward the conference hall.
Makai stared after her, pondering the meaning of her words. Would
their efforts alone truly be enough, or would they once again be
forced to seek a leader? More questions he didn't have answers to.
All he knew was that they would have to present a united front to their
adversary, or Two River, and the rest of Jowston, would be lost.
Inside the conference hall, accusations were flung about
carelessly and innocent questions were answered with harsh remarks.
Just like every conference held before. Makai stared at his hands,
folded on the table before him, and waited for the latest round of
the "Who's more brave" contest between Ethan and Hauser to end.
Teresa, sitting next to him, was lost in thought once more, no doubt
thinking on what might have been had Shin stayed. Fitcher was no where
to be found, which struck Makai as strange. He was the one who called
this meeting, Makai mused. Odd that he's yet to make an appearance,
and messengers to the town hall turned up no trace of him.
Finally tired of the gratuitous name-calling, Gustav
stood abruptly, throwing his chair back, and pounded his fist on
the table. "You're ALL acting like spoiled children. We're the
people who have to lead Jowston against an enemy, and you can't
even agree on what we should have for dinner tonight!" Makai thought
he saw Teresa smirk before her face was once again pensively neutral,
"Gustav is right," Ridley followed. "The future of each
city and its citizens depends upon us." Makai had asked Ridley to
join him at the meeting, to represent the kobolds. He felt no one
could better describe the anxiety they felt than the intimidating
Hearing no further commentary, Gustav continued. "In case
you all have forgotten, we're supposed to be discussing what action
we should take against this new invader."
"We can't do that until Fitcher gets here, though," Ethan
countered. "He's the one who called this meeting, not you. I say we
should wait until he arrives." Hauser and Freed, the representative
from South Window, nodded in agreement.
Gustav sighed loudly. "Fine, but when an army shows up on the
doorstep of Muse, or South Window, or even Rockaxe, think about this
meeting and how much wasn't accomplished." He started toward the door,
arms swinging stiffly and back rigid. "When Fitcher gets his worthless
hide here, call me. I'll be out on the balcony." The wide door slammed
shut behind him as everyone looked on.
"A little fresh air might be best for everyone," Teresa remarked.
"Sitting here and bickering will result in nothing more than hurt feelings
and skewed rationalizations." She soon exited through an archway, followed
by Makai and Ridley.
Ethan watched them go, then commented, "What's wrong with a little
Out on a terrace, Makai, Teresa, and Ridley sat on a bench, looking
out over the city. "I don't see why we have to put up with humans such as
Ethan," Ridley grumbled. "We shouldn't have let that boy run off like
that..." Teresa, forever calm and composed, placed a hand delicately on
Ridley's shoulder to still his anger.
"He deserved to make his own decision about his future. He gave us
so much, it was the least we could do for him," she said. Ridley nodded
reluctantly. Makai marveled at Teresa's inner strength and her ability to
sooth even Ridley's often disgruntled nerves. "It's like Lord Makai once
told me, Sir Ridley. We must not turn on each other as we do every other
time. It's the only way we can pull through this."
"As usual, you're right, Lady Teresa," Ridley acknowledged. Teresa
smiled softly and removed her hand from the kobold's shoulder. He stood,
then, and with a bow to the two mayors, retreated back inside, braving the
storm of angry words that he would be sure to meet.
"You are wise beyond your years, Lady Teresa," Makai said once they
were alone. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and smirked.
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Lord Makai." He laughed lightly,
despite the tension of war that hung in the air about them. "What will you
do when we defeat this new foe?" He noticed that she used the word 'when',
"I plan on returning to Two River to live out the rest of my days,
I hope peacefully," he replied. "What about you?" Makai turned to look at
her and saw she was staring at him quizically.
"I would like to resign as mayor, but the people of Greenhill depend
on me far too much. It's trying at times, but I must handle the pressure.
They expect me to..." Makai looked at Teresa as she bowed her head, a
sorrowful look etched upon her face. He started to reply, but then a shadow
on the horizon caught his eye. He stood and slowly approached the railing,
gazing out upon the scene. Teresa watched him in wonder before joining him
at the edge.
A cloud of dust was quickly expanding and approaching the city of
Muse. As it got closer, Makai could make out distinct horses and soldiers.
He looked around and saw that they were closing in from all sides. A flag
was then in view; the emblem of the Toran Republic.
Teresa sharply inhaled as she, too, could make out the sign. "What
are they doing here? Did Fitcher send for their help?" she asked in a rush.
Makai could only shake his head numbly. "If that were the case, they
wouldn't approach like that..." Suddenly, the door behind them burst open,
revealing a haggard-looking Gustav. Makai studied his face, looking for
answers to unsaid questions.
"You've seen it, haven't you?" the mayor of Tinto asked. Makai nodded.
"They've surrounded the city. We've found Fitcher's body in a forest nearby."
Teresa gasped quietly, and Makai could feel his entire body go numb with the
realization they had been stabbed in the back. "It's only a matter of time
before they reach the conference hall. It was planned so perfectly... How
could we have not seen it coming?" Gustav clenched his fist and pounded it on
the wall near him.
"We didn't know who we were fighting, Lord Gustav," Teresa responded.
"There's no way we could have been prepared for such an assault. Especially
not from who we thought were our allies."
"I know, but even so--"
"Lord Gustav!" came a shout from inside, interrupting him. A young
messenger emerged, panting heavily from a fierce run through the hall. "They've
entered the town, sir! Lord Ethan surrendered immediately, and Lord Hauser
fought bravely, but lost."
"Then, Hauser is..."
"Dead, sir. The Toran army is relentless." Gustav, Makai, and Teresa
thought over the implications of Hauser and Fitcher's deaths and Ethan's
surrender. "If I may say so, I will stand by you to the death, Lord Gustav."
"Thank you, son, but it is best if you get away from here. Find a
place to hide and leave when it's safe."
"As you wish, sir." The boy saluted, then ran back into the building,
leaving the trio of surviving mayors alone on the terrace.
"You two should hide as well. We can't afford to lose all the leaders
in one blow," Gustav said. Makai shook his head.
"I won't desert you and the others now." Teresa nodded as if to agree
with his sentiment.
"Neither of you are fighters. You wouldn't last five minutes against
them," Gustav protested.
"I will not run away, knowing you might die. Bring me a sword and I
shall fight," Makai asserted.
"As will I," Teresa agreed. "I fight for Greenhill, even if it means
"Very well. I'll be back with the weapons. Stay here and don't give
away your location." Gustav flew through the archway as fast as a man of his
stature could as Makai and Teresa watched.
"We'll probably die, you know," Makai remarked. "You don't have to do
"If you can fight for this land, so can I," she replied. He looked at
his fellow mayor with a great deal of respect, and she returned his gaze. "Good
luck, Makai." He blinked at that; it was the first time she had ever addressed
him without some sort of title, as a friend rather than a fellow mayor. He
reached out and grasped her hand in his. She didn't resist his gesture.
"I wish you luck as well, Teresa." Then, they heard a shrill scream
and the pounding of many footsteps hitting the marble floor. "They're here."
"Gustav must have fallen..."
"May Jowston find a new hero..."
We knew it was over when Gustav fell. There was no hope of recovery, and
certainly no hope of escape for Teresa and I. The best we could do was stand
before the leader of the Toran army and refuse to surrender. We were both killed,
of course, for resisting, but we would not give in as Ethan had. He would be
branded a coward and killed as an example. I can't help but worry about Two River,
even in my death. May they escape before the Toran army slaughters them as they