Me: Do you know an animal that's good for traveling in the desert?
Elie: I don't know.
Me: A camel! And there are two types - dromedary with one hump and bactrian with two. Which should they take?
Elie: Dromedary, I think.
They got to the town and found a merchant.
"We'd like to trade our horses for some camels," Sarai told him.
When the man looked at their fine horses, though, he saw how powerful they looked. Why would they want to trade such fine beasts for camels, he wondered. Perhaps there is something wrong with them.
"Your horses are obviously tired and growing weak," he said dismissively. "It will cost you much more than that to get these four fine camels."
Me: What did Sarai answer?
Elie: They're strong, and very good.
"Then why are you looking for camels?" the merchant wanted to know.
Elie: We want to cross the desert, said Tiana.
Me: Oh, Tiana said that, did she?
Well, the merchant smiled. "You know, I have a caravan of traders who will be leaving tomorrow with a load of spices to trade for silks on the far side of the desert. If you carry some of the spices on your camels, then, I'll be happy to trade."
They agreed and moved all their packs over to their new camels. The caravan set out early the next morning. They rode over the sand dunes for some time. Each wore a scarf wrapped tightly around their head and face to keep the sand out. Only a thin slit stayed open for their eyes.
After a time, they came to an oasis in the desert. It was the only fresh water for miles around so they stopped to refill their canteens. While they were stopped, Sarai asked them about the treasure trove rumored to be hidden in the desert. The traders grew very quiet and wide eyed.
"We've heard of it, yes, but no one who's every gone looking for it has come back with anything," one finally said. "Some don't come back at all."
"It's guarded by a powerful genie who won't let anyone in," added another.
Elie: We're not afraid!
So the traders pointed them in the direction they believed the treasure was hidden. Off rode Sarai with her companions on their camels.
Elie: Did they fill up their camels like a gas tank?
Me: The camel's hump is kind of like a gas tank, but it doesn't have a place to just pour stuff in. Do you know what it's made of?
Elie: Food and water?
Me: That's right- and the camels had plenty to spare.
Just over the fifth dune they saw a stone archway set down in the sand. A desert breeze swept away some of the sand as they approached.
All of a sudden, a blue and green mist began swirling up from the ground. It billowed larger and taller, soon as large as a tall tree. It whirled around in a slow circle, a slow tornado of color. The mist began to clear at the top and they found themselves staring at a genie large enough to hold them all in his hands.
From the waist up, he looked like a man with a broad chest, long thick arms, neck and head. But instead of legs he had the swirl of mist still spinning about. His brow furrowed as he looked down at them.
"Just what do you think you're doing here," the genie bellowed.
Sarai smiled at him. "We're not here for your treasure," she said reassuringly. "We just want the old king's scepter. Do you happen to have it? We've already gotten his crown from the goblin king."
The genie smiled and shrunk down to just her size. He reached over and fondly honked her nose. "I knew that already, but it's so good to hear you say it! So many people just want to take all the treasure, or at least as much as they think they can carry out without my noticing."
"Before I let you in, would you mind if I cast a helping spell on you? Just a little something to assist you as you go," the genie asked.
The genie waved his hands slowly in circles, gradually reaching toward Sarai. As he did, his hands turned pale, even patchy. Soon they became mist again and he held them toward her eyes. Some of the mist flowed in and her eyes glowed briefly.
"There! Now, you can see that which you seek even better. You path will be always visible to you," the genie told her.
As she looked around, she found she could now see the smallest grain of sand on the next dune, and even the one beyond that. On the door to the treasure itself, she could now see the lock and, in seeing it so well, knew just how too open it. She opened the door and started inside.
The genie called after her, "Remember, take nothing but the scepter!"
She entered a large room filled with golden coins, polished gems, fine crowns and jewelry, and more. Everywhere she looked, there were glitters and sparkles in the dim light. But she walked carefully around these looking for anything that looked like what Alatar had described as the scepter so many days ago.
A thin line seemed to appear in the air, almost like a thread in blues and greens. It lead her to the corner under a table. There, beside a wooden crate stuffed with beads and under folded tapestry lay a black iron scepter. It looked nothing like all the riches and finery in the room.
Still, Sarai knew that this was just what she was looking for. It was even heavier than it looked at first sight but she was able to carry it in both arms. She carefully walked back around the other piles scattered throughout the cavern.
Emerging back into the glaring sunlight, she found the genie watching for her. "Good - you have only the scepter," he beamed. "I knew you could do it - something about your smile told me so. Had you taken even one other coin, I would have to imprison you forever in the cavern, transforming you to treasure as well. That's what most of it is, you know. Overeager explorers who wanted only wealth. Sometimes true riches are not to be found in gold or silver, you know."
With that, he honked her nose again and whirled down to a faint mist by the door as it creaked closed.
Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.
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