All That Glitters…

medieval castle

Distance. The bright-eyed thunder of an eager crowd, thrumming with tentative energy, clamouring in the distance. But there, tucked away behind the sinews of timber slats, a dishevelled woman crouched silently. Timber houses had long been abandoned in the Prosperous City – with the earnest eyes and ambitious hands of the people, homes had become palaces carved out of marble. The city was furrowed between towering peaks of cosy green, and to find it, one only had to follow the border of the Aegean Sea. 

Kneel, kneel, before the One!
Rejoice carefree, in blinding sun,
Our mountains laugh with unbound care
Our flowers grow with passion rare
Along our pride of battles won

Gnarled skin stretched over wiry bones. The woman’s watery eyes peered keenly at the approaching crowd, watching, waiting. Already she glimpsed the lines crinkled in utmost jubilance around the eyes and mouths of olive faces bustling toward the Castle. With a grotesque grin, she pressed her ear to the wood as the first patches of conversation wafted into the stagnant air of the house. 

“The Sea… huge catches… darker!” Celebratory cries rang out, parading past her.

Fools! The woman thought. The Aegean Sea had darkened. How they cheered at the easy pickings of the fishermen on this day! The water had matured a few shades, and with this incremental change, the most heartily prized fish had emerged from their rare depths and flung themselves towards the sun. Her mind flooded with glee as she revelled in the delight of this occurrence – it seemed that even the most seasoned tongues of their proud nation succumbed to the allure of rare delicacies. They would not bother with the reason behind their new navy tides so long as their delight sustained them. The insidious plan of the Others was at its climax.

 As the sun ambled into the sea and drowned the Prosperous City in black satin, lamps were struck alight urgently in the Castle. The Prince and his loyal foot-soldiers pored through the ancient traces of lines across their maps and annals.  

 And far removed from the warmth of people, the old woman curled into an uneasy slumber in the crevice of a cave, cradled in a darkness forbidden to even the rays of the moon.  

The cunning thrive in dreams of grey
Pallid faces
Hearts of clay
Gold has frozen eyes and minds
And promised riches and untold finds
The travelled path now twists astray

*** 

The Prince was suffering from success. The silver spoon that had fed him was always attached to a humble hand. The Ego and the Self had long resolved their dispute and submitted to humility, and the truth of their beliefs assisted in course-correcting the ways of the kingdom. To put it simply, this was as close to utopia as had been achieved by man. 

The Prince, of course, could not have had it easier. 

His kingdom was expansive, and his nation had purified their collective ego – even in their moments of triumph. The bewitching, lazy fragrances and perennially drenching sun perfumed the city with an exuberance that was long-envied by neighbouring nations. Legend even has it that Monet had once traipsed along its fertile waters and immediately began composing his ‘Water Lilies’ series. 

You see, this realistic utopia was a product of careful abidance with their Prophetic text. Benevolent niyyah was dutifully formed and exchanged through the lens of glad tidings and goodwill. The dynamic systems of trade and taxes had been refined under the careful rule of the Prince’s predecessors, incentivised by the powerful desire to establish economic justice and prosperity.  

The Prince himself, of course, was beside himself with worry. He had long suspected the slow infiltration of greed across his population, and the fixated grip of riches was hard to shake. From long before he was born, there were whispers of a secret assembly, slowly fading from common society and taking residence along the borders. In spite of the opulence that the city afforded to all citizens, there were always those who wanted more, those whose ambition stretched to self-supremacy, those who wanted control.  

The darkened sea meant calamity. The Prince and his Advisor, with their wealth of knowledge, knew there must have been toxins and waste being released from the shore.  

They were not mistaken. Along the shorelines of the nation, a ragtag band of such delusioned men and women grew. Clusters of shrewd, powerlust eyes conjured their own dreams of wispy cities, where they would dance on diamond boulevards and become golden with wealth and rank. Towering mountains would cry out, “We will collapse for your ease!” in their visions of power, and their own reign would become so pervasive that it would become impossible to remember that anything had ever existed beyond the spirited, vigorous bustle of the Prosperous City.  

*** 

Reader, take heed and beware,
For those who seek the dragon’s lair!
Do not follow those led astray
Who worship wealth, and to riches pray
For impossible rank, and All-Powerful heir

Beware, beware!
For you have been told:
All that glitters is not gold

A massive, ugly machine contorted and puffed acrid smoke in the stillness of the dawn. Pipes heaved furiously with the force of sludge and chemical residue pumping into gentle waves. The old woman, no longer consumed by gaunt shadows, walked through an amalgamation of sulfur and smoke that coated the metal walls with sticky fumes. No doubt the Prince’s foot-soldiers would be arriving soon, but they would be met with a collapsing mine and futile rubble.   

“Captain!” She greeted, coming to a stop. 

“Have the last hauls been made?” A stern voice inquired. 

The woman nodded, barely containing her glee as she spun to face the workers sprawling across the mine. 

“All our precious metals and ores have passed the border. Trade can commence!” 

Brutish cheers echoed throughout the mine as each worker hollered with elation.  

You see, dear reader, by the time the stately Prince arrived, loyal foot-soldiers in tow, he was met with a crumbling mountain of debris and soot. The Outcasts were nowhere to be seen, yet their tools lay fragmented along the grass. The tiny entrance to the mine was prefaced by a heap of metal and fine dust. By then, the City would have much to fear. The seeds of hedonistic greed had been sown across the land, with traders selling gold, moldavite, and the rare and precious jewels found within the mountains in great quantity.  

The disease of greed would not peak in the lifetime of the Prince or any of his subjects alive at the time. In fact, it would be many decades before true classism emerged, rooted from the desire for control and influence – but this insidious temptation, feeding off ego and desire, would ensnare the world until its last days. 

Forsake the world and forbid its evil,
Waswas, now whispered through people,
Seeks anarchy and vast upheaval
Of a world damaged beyond retrieval… 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and conclusions presented in these pieces are strictly those of the authors. MYA does not necessarily endorse the personal views of the authors.

Nafisa Ferdousy

Nafisa Ferdousy

Nafisa Naz Ferdousy is a Law/Commerce student from the heart of Sydney’s south-west. Growing up, she was fascinated by history, myths and legends, and the poets who inspired her to develop her own creative visions. 

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