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Blistering heat terrorised a lone traveller as he trudged through the cruel desert. Shivering mountains stared menacingly beyond the infinite horizon, daring to attempt the impossible task of reaching them. Days daunting didn't sway the traveller's stubbornness to keep a promise. Two years from home, from his wife and daughter, now a few days more and he'd fall into their arms, but their reunion had to wait. Desert... devouring. Need... shelter. Luck glimmered at the opening in a sand dune. Just a few more steps. Nearly there, and… He tumbled through the cave’s entrance, stopping with his back against rugged stones and his eyes peering to a moist ceiling. Every bone ached, and his eyelids grew heavy. Just a little rest…

“Who enters?” Whispering wind woke the weak traveller, but he remained silent to the illusioned voice. “Who enters?” it repeated, clearer. That wasn’t wind, unless wind could talk. “Answer.” A new energy surged through the traveller’s body and cleansed him of pain. He jumped to his feet and peered through the treasure littered cave to… Wait. Treasure littered?

Marble, bronze, and gold coins lay scattered scarcely under the traveller's feet. Deeper, it turned an ocean. Lodged in the waves were jewel-filled chests, crowns, blades, shields, and bows, skeletal remains of a round beast with dagger claws and teeth, thick scaly armour and fine silk cloaks.

“Tempted?” the mysterious voice refocused the Traveller’s attention.

“Curious. I assume you’re royalty, but I am unfamiliar with desert monarchs. Are these collected treasures?”

“Gifted. Are any of interest?”

The Traveller browsed the collection again, bored with most, with widened eyes at a previously unseen cart of ripe pears large enough for a plentiful family meal, and he was starved enough to eat one. “May I pick a pear, please?”

“You may,” the figure said.

Across the field of treasures, the traveller ventured to the cart, dug through the pear collection, and selected the smallest. With eyes returned to the shadowy area, the traveller noticed a silhouetted figure sitting crossed legged. A first glimpse of the mysterious voice’s source.

“Thank you,” the traveller said, biting into the soft skin of the juicy pear. His dry, blistered lips smoothened, while his desperate hunger and thirst subsided. A smile pursed in his refreshed lips at the last bite.

“You may have eaten a larger one,” said the figure.

“These gifts are yours, so why should I take your finest?”

The figure fell silent and left the traveller wondering if he should speak. No, he shouldn’t. This was the figure’s kingdom. He speaks first. The silence stretched to boredom until the voice emerged from the darkness, question-like “Odd place to travel through, a desert.”

“Such I realise, but two beautiful women await my return, an eagerness I share.” His gloomy eyes slipped down slightly, but forced to the figure as he spoke.

“What luck you have to feel love so passionate you dare death to see them.”

“Luck is kind to me, and I cannot repay. A million caves of treasures this generous I would give in thanks, but I am not one to give other’s possessions.”

“If you had my treasures to give, would you?”

“Yes, and none I would keep. Simple is a wealthy life, but something worthier I have.” He trailed his words with a reminiscent smile, like he had seen his daughter’s first moments, laugh and word. The following silence, he ignored, but the rustling of feet against gold, he could not.

A pale elder man emerged from the shadows, drenched in thick, faded robes. His rough, dark grey beard swung between his knees, while his bald, thin head shone brightly. The traveller waited as the man limped towards him, though he gradually became steadier the more steps he took. The elder stopped nose to nose with the traveller and gazed deep into his eyes before stepping back.

“You are decent” were his final words before a snap sent the traveller tumbling backwards and stopping on his back.

He shot to his feet, dizzy, and looked for the elder man in the empty cave. What? He was just there. It took him a few seconds to realise a rolled parchment was held tight in his clenched fist. What? again ran through his mind. He unravelled it to find, “A million caves of treasures I have given luck. Her final gift is eternal happiness, now enjoy such with your great loves.” written inside. A smile curled in his lips as he rolled the scroll and kept a tight grip. What a perfect heirloom. Now refreshed, he cautiously peered out of the cave to see a tame desert in need of conquering. Time to see them again.

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