Aliah, p.4
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       Aliah, p.4

           RoxAnne Fox
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  The sun set not long after venturing from the safe confines of Babilli … well, safe compared to the open desert. The map had shown the star I should locate and follow to find the canyon. Many times I found myself bringing the lantern close to glance at the map and look to the stars to see if the alignment was correct. Each time I was happy with my trajectory, I would snuff the lantern so as not to draw attention.

  There were always knives hidden on my person. Even in the palace, I had not left them behind. It was a tricky venture, but no one attempted the life of Tryphon and I was so unassuming it never dawned on anyone to check. Those knives saved me more than a few times so I was hard pressed to be apart from them. As I made my way through the dark, windswept desert, I was glad I had them on me.

  The sky shifted as my journey continued and hours passed one by one. As my lids began to feel heavy, I saw the horizon ahead change from star scattered black to purple, and blue, then pinks, red and orange. The sun peaked over the edge of the cliff ahead in the distance and the sight of it renewed my vigor. Leaning down, I patted the camel, giving him words of praise, and hoped he had enough in him to make it the short distance. He was a strong beast and hadn’t faltered once which made me feel the two men gave me a much better camel than Tryphon had intended.

  The sun was just starting to warm the land when we made it to the shade of the canyon. Dismounting, I was happy to see not a soul around and a small spring near the entrance of the temple. The camel lapped at the cool water and I tied him to a downed tree where he could rest in the shade. After filling my water bladder, I unwrapped my shawl and splashed some of the cool water on my face, scrubbing away the dirt and sweat. The spring felt so nice, I decided to wash up, never having the ability to do so in the city.

  Stripping down I walked into the cool water and sat. The pool was shallow but there was enough room for me to clean up and feel refreshed before continuing my journey. There had been a few short stints where I had dozed on the long ride to the canyon so after cleaning off and redressing, leaving off the items which hid my femininity since no one would be about to see me, I felt ready to enter the ominous façade in the canyon wall.

  Looking up at the sheer face, I put my filled bladder around me and wound my thick hair into a loose braid. Snatching a piece of desert grass, I tied it around the end and let it fall to my back. Posing as a boy with long hair seemed like a folly idea, but my hair was one thing I loved about me and I would die before cutting it … even if it had led to my discovery more than once. Pushing aside the thought, as well as a stray strand, I approached the temple.

  Bringing only the map, which showed the path to the lamp in addition to the water, my hidden away knives, and the lantern, I entered the temple with care. There was nothing impressive about the long hall I crept down, other than the symbols written in a language I had never seen trailing all through it.

  Giving in to curiosity, and since nothing had happened in the few hundred feet I had ventured in, I walked up to one of the writings and touched them. Nothing happened, and the stone didn’t feel odd or anything, they were just ancient words from a culture I had never experienced in Babilli. Shaking my head, I continued on, checking the map to be sure I was heading in the right direction as I came upon turns and corners, and tried not to be disappointed.

  Maybe I had gotten myself worked up into thinking there was something more than a special glass lamp to warrant the place forbidden, maybe even something magical. In a world where I had to steal half-eaten scraps, I’m not sure what kind of magic I was thinking of finding in an abandoned temple carved in the side of a canyon, but I was still a little let down. Pushing aside my disappointment, I at last made it to a large door as indicated on the map.

  Looking up at the huge thing, I glanced at the words Tryphon had written on the map. Words I was required to read at the door. My brow pursed, as it did each time I had looked at them, and I was yet again unsure how the unknown words would open a door. Figuring there was nothing else I could do, I mean I had gone that far, I took a deep breath and started to read the phonetically written out words.

  “Aperi, inquam. Da mihi djinni.” Expecting nothing to happen, nothing had been impressive thus far, I was shocked to see the symbols carved in the door light up green before the door rattled open with dust and pebbles raining down. Stepping back, slack-jawed, I watched the doors opened inches at a time until they stopped and the last bits of dust cleared. Beyond them fires blazed in braziers lighting up more treasure than I could ever imagine.

  Crossing through the doors, they remained open as I took in the spectacle around me. It was no wonder Tryphon had said to not touch anything, though it was hard to not want to take one small item, like a crown, or gem, or sack of gold, or … something! There was just so much. Swallowing down the dry lump in my throat, I turned the map over and looked at the path to where the lamp should be. Tryphon had told me there would be riches I wasn’t to take, but there was no way I could have known there would be the piles, dune sized piles, of gold and gems I saw around me.

  Averting my eyes, I stayed focused on what I had come for. Once I had my freedom I could find my way back and get what I wanted. It wouldn’t take any time at all to copy the map in the tavern before I returned with the lamp. Tryphon would be sure to take the map back, but I knew where to get parchment and charcoal. Scribing a crude map would be easy and I could use it to get all the treasure I wanted before leaving Babilli behind for good.

  Smiling over the various items I might take when I ventured back, I navigated the paths of shiny things until I found a single pedestal with a plush black pillow on it. On the pillow, sat the glass lamp and neither item had a spot of dust. Trying to not be worried, after all the place did hold magic, I gathered the lamp up curious as to why it was so important in a cave full of such riches.

  Brining it close to my almond eyes, I squinted my dark depths at the glass and was surprised to see some kind of fog on it. It wasn’t as clean as I had first thought. Grabbing the edge of my shawl, I rubbed at the glass to see what was contained inside and started at the bottle moving in my hand. Letting out a yelp, I almost dropped the damned thing as it began to vibrate in my hands. Instead of dropping it, I clutched the thing to my chest and fell back into a pile of gold coins from the motion.

  As soon as my hand hit the stamped metal, I heard a loud groaning noise and recognized it for what it was. Jumping to my feet, I held the still pulsing bottle to me as I wound my way back through the piles of treasure to the door.

  “No, no, no, no. Oh, please, no.” My words were useless. As I rounded the last corner I saw the last glimpse of darkness beyond before it shut solid, with me on the inside holding a now warming glass lamp.

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