desert of doom - Ayaan Chettiar

The Adventurers : The Desert of Doom

“And this one goes right here.” said Adventurous Ayaan, plopping the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle into the board with a cry of triumph. Behind him, Adventurous Aayra smiled happily.

It was an uneventful Saturday morning in New York City, and the Adventures: a daring duo of explorers consisting of Adventurous Ayaan and Adventurous Aayra, were sitting in their living-room solving numerous jigsaw puzzles they’d found in a forgotten box in the attic. As Aayra put it, the puzzles were old enough to be considered historical artifacts themselves.

“That was the last of the puzzles.” said Ayaan, checking his watch as he gasped in surprise. “I can’t believe the time. We’ve been solving these forever.”

“I thought we were supposed to be meeting Cookie at 2.” said Aayra, cocking an eyebrow and Ayaan’s eyes widened in remembrance. He even touched the watch lightly a few times, as if hoping it had malfunctioned.

“In that case, we’re late.” he said at last, before getting onto his feet. “We best get going.”

Cookie the baker was the owner of Sweet Treats Bakery down the street and a good friend of the Adventurers. Being one of the community’s most important figures (hundreds of people came for his chocolate chip muffins alone every day), he was also prone to hearing snippets of information that the Adventurers found most interesting indeed.

This day was no different. The Adventurers had just opened the door to Sweet Treats Bakery, and heard the ringing of the bell, when Cookie looked up from a huge order of blueberry muffins and smiled.

“Welcome in, you two!” he said with a laugh as Ayaan smiled too. Cookie’s laughter was contagious. “Sorry we’re late.” apologized Aayra, but Cookie merely waved about his hand nonchalantly, like this was no problem at all. He pulled up a chair before spinning the sign hanging by the door to read Sorry, we’re closed, and even pulled down the covers for good measure.

“You look like you have something you really want to say.” remarked Ayaan and Cookie nodded without a word before thrusting onto the table a thick newspaper. The headlines read Historians to organize excursion to uncover lost city!

“A lost city!?” burst out Aayra in surprise as Cookie nodded once more. As explorers, the Adventurers had gotten into their fair share of crazy adventures, from finding wizards in Antarctica to uncovering lost temples to retrieving orbs from outer space, but that didn’t change the fact that a lost city was a most interesting discovery indeed.

“Because of budget cuts, this excursion could take months to organize.” read Ayaan. “Huh… that does seem like a hamper to the whole thing.” At this point, Cookie finally said, unable to control his excitement, “What if you two take up the mystery?”

Aayra shrugged at this, though it was clear she was just as excited as Cookie, and Ayaan nodded with a smile. It wasn’t as if they had anything on their minds either.

“Wonderful!” declared Cookie, clapping both hands excitedly. “Well, you better pack for hot weather, if you’re going to the Sahara Desert and everything…”

“The Sahara Desert!?” exploded Ayaan, as Cookie nodded and pointed to another line in the news entry. “The said city has been determined to be an ancient inclusion in what now consists of the Sahara Desert, and has been associated with a sect of Bedouins calling themselves the Sahara.”

“How are we supposed to get there?” questioned Aayra, as Ayaan shrugged. They had with them a sleigh used by Santa himself as a prize for aiding him, but reindeer were hardly suited for desert climate. Instead, they’d have to use a more conventional means.

“The plane!” exclaimed Aayra at once, as Ayaan smiled in understanding. The Mayor of New York had once gifted the Adventurers an ancient plane as a reward, the perfect transport to traverse the Sahara.

“Discovering lost cities really works up an appetite.” noted Cookie. “Two blueberry muffins, perhaps? On the house.”

After they’d polished off their muffins, the Adventurers thanked Cookie and returned to their house. The plane was still in their garage, taking up a substantial amount of space by itself. It hadn’t been used at all ever since they’d gotten it.

But all of that was about to change.

“We better pack up.” said Ayaan, as Aayra nodded. There was no telling how much time they might have to spend in the Sahara. On the bright side, the Adventurers always had an essentials kit ready for all sorts of destinations. All the duo had to do was pick up their desert bags and get into the plane.

“You do know how to fly a plane, right?” asked Aayra, as Ayaan chuckled. It was one of the things he’d always had a fancy for. The backyard of the Adventurers was in itself a gargantuan space, and had beside it a small tarmac for the plane if they ever needed it. It wasn’t ideal for large aerial vehicles, but the plane wasn’t huge in the least, and so the size of the tarmac was suitable.

“We better get this right the first time.” said Ayaan, all the same, firing up the controls. They hardly wanted to mess up on the speed, lose control and crash through the hedge at the end of the homemade runway. Aayra buckled up as the plane slowly rolled forward.

The engine roared as the plane tore down the tarmac with frightening pace before Ayaan pulled back the lever and the contraption took to the skies. Aayra was pushed back onto her seat and for a second had no idea what was happening.

Then she remembered. They were flying.

And it was amazing.

The Adventurers could hardly believe that they’d never taken out the plane for a test run, because its flight was exhilarating indeed. It was true that the Sahara Desert was far, far away in Africa but they knew places to get fuel if needed. It was time to sit back and enjoy the flight…

“Wake up, Aayra.” said Ayaan, slowly nudging his fellow Adventurer as Aayra stirred and awoke, rubbing her eyes. The plane was in the air, overlooking what seemed like an endless land of desert. Aayra took one glance at it and her eyes widened in surprise.

It had been nearly two days since the Adventurers had set off on their flight. They’d refueled numerous times, and as both of them regularly carried their passports about, foreign travel was hardly a problem. The plane worked fine as well, considering its age, and leave for a few occasional weird noises by the engine, the entire trip had gone perfectly.

“How are we supposed to find this lost city?” questioned Aayra, as Ayaan admitted, “I’m not entirely sure. But I’ve hit the books and the Sahara Tribe is the key to finding it. And I know the basic location for where they live.”

Aayra nodded her head before she narrowed her eyes in surprise, having seen something in the reflection. “What’s that?” she questioned, pointing at a second figure approaching from behind as Ayaan grunted and craned his neck around to see.

Another plane almost two times as large as theirs was flying behind, some distance higher in the air, but what really caught the Adventurers’ attention were the two people inside of it. The Evil Explorers. Mack and Vik.

Mack and Vik were downright cunning, sly and nasty. Above all, they hated the Adventurers with a passion. Ayaan and Aayra weren’t keen on them either, seeing that the duo was prone to attempting to take out the opposition; and according to them, the Adventurers were the opposition.

Vik was peering towards them, smirking nastily as Ayaan rolled his eyes. “Don’t sweat it, Ayaan. Those two are hardly going to know where the lost city is. The only thing they do know is how to take advantage of other people’s work.”

The next second, the other plane opened fire. This was the last thing that either of the Adventurers had expected. Sure, Mack and Vik were guilty of foul play; they’d tried to steal their reindeer a couple times, nearly stranded them on a mobile desert island, almost buried them in a cave-in, and ambushed them in a spaceship with an armada of robot penguins.

But shooting down a plane was taking things too far.

For a moment, Ayaan was stunned and then he tried in desperation to veer away. It didn’t matter because the left engine was already down and the right had caught fire. The plane itself was descending rapidly.

“Hold on, Aayra!” he shouted at the top of his lungs from the cockpit as Aayra screamed in terror. Ayaan pulled back the lever as the plane crashed into the sand before jumping slightly and slamming down again, the engine giving out as it skidded to a halt in the desert.

“So long, suckers!” yelled Vik through a megaphone from above, and beside her, Mack was chortling heartily as Vik waved at them with an arrogant smile, just as the plane disappeared from view.

“Are you okay, Ayaan?” asked Aayra, as Ayaan moaned and slowly got out of the cockpit, alright except for being clearly shaken up. The back of the plane was almost entirely gone. Upon crash-landing, it had broken off and taken most of their supplies with it. There was a very good chance they wouldn’t be getting them back.

“We still have our essentials, though.” said Aayra hopefully as Ayaan pulled out the two essentials bags and the duo strung them over their backs. Aayra kicked down the door as the duo exited the plane and were immediately hit by a burst of hot air.

“We better find a place to hole up.” said Ayaan. “This place is going to be freezing in the night.”

“Most of our clothes were in the other bags, though.” said Aayra, but so much sand was blowing about that it was near impossible to see where they might have landed.

“When was the last time you drank water?” asked Ayaan, as Aayra shrugged and replied, “Before I fell asleep, I suppose.” Ayaan took in a sharp intake of breath and then turned around. “We need to find an oasis.” he said. “We don’t have much water with us.”

They only had a bottle full each, which was hardly enough to last for more than a couple of days, and that too if they drank very little. Slowly, they began to walk forward, trudging with their boots in the deep sand.

Time passed like it wasn’t even there. Ayaan had no idea whether it had been minutes, or hours or even a day, but he wasn’t feeling too dehydrated, which was a good sign. He knew Aayra wasn’t doing well on that forte. She’d taken a few sips of water and was already feeling exhausted. He felt tired as well. Really, really tired.

The temperature had dropped greatly as night began to sink in. It was late evening, or so it looked, at least and they hadn’t found anyone… or anything for that matter. Nothing except a lot of sand. As far as sabotage went, stranding someone in the middle of the desert came pretty high in the list.

Slowly, Ayaan walked up a dune and began to look around for any sign that they were nearing an oasis. Then, he sighed, met with nothing but more sand. He heard a weak groan from behind and turned around, shocked to find Aayra strewn about in the sand, collapsed with exhaustion.

“Aayra…” he muttered, running down as he checked her temperature. This wasn’t good at all. Ayaan sighed, trying to lift her, knowing they wouldn’t be able to survive out in the open, when he heard the grunting of a camel.

Ayaan turned about to see half a dozen camels approaching with seasoned riders on their back and smiled. They’d been saved. The rider at first slid off his camel and ran up towards them. He spoke something in Arabic.

“I don’t know Arabic.” he said, shaking his head and cursing himself. If only Aayra was conscious. She was an expert in linguistics. Then, much to his surprise, the man spoke in English, “Boy, are you alright?” Ayaan nodded slightly and the man turned towards Aayra. He spun about and instructed something to another rider in Arabic. The rider nodded and helped him lift up Aayra and put her on one of the camels.

“Can you ride, boy?” he asked, as Ayaan nodded and admitted, “A little.” He tilted his head towards the rider behind him. “You ride with him.” Ayaan nodded and made for that camel, as the rider helped him onto the saddle. Then, the lead rider tapped the camel lightly and it grunted once more and began to walk.

For what seemed like an hour, they rode their camels, night sinking in entirely. Ayaan shivered slightly and noticing this, the lead rider passed him a shawl that he wore around him, keeping him warm. The stars twinkled in the beautiful night sky.

“We’re almost there.” said the lead rider, and Ayaan wasn’t sure if he was speaking to all of them or just him in particular. “Just a little bit further.”

A few more minutes passed and then Ayaan caught sight of what he’d been hunting for all along, a magnificent campsite by a gargantuan oasis that lit up the desert, more people emerging from inside their spacious tents, gasping in surprise at the visitors their riders had brought. The lead rider tapped his camel once more and it grunted, coming to a stop.

He got off the camel before helping Ayaan down. Turning around, he spoke a few words to the curious people and they nodded, going back inside their tents. It seemed like he was the leader. More riders helped to get Aayra down.

“Don’t worry about your friend.” assured the lead rider. “She’ll be alright.” Ayaan nodded, then was overcome by a huge surge of gratitude as he said, “Thank you so much, Mr.…”

“Ahmedullah.” he said. “But you can call me Ahmed. But boy, how did you get here?”

Ayaan told him the entire story, from Cookie telling them about the lost city to being shot down by Mack and Vik, to finding them in the desert. Ahmed was a great listener, asking exactly the right questions at the right times, and at other times, listening intently and hanging on to every word.

“You are here to find the lost city?” questioned Ahmed, his eyes twinkling, as Ayaan nodded. Ahmed grunted thoughtfully, then said, “I’ll show you something tomorrow, boy. For now, get some rest.”

The Sahara had prepared a tent for Ayaan to sleep inside but he nevertheless found it near-impossible to get any sleep, tossing and turning in retrospection of the day’s events. He couldn’t believe Mack and Vik had been as underhanded to shoot them down, felt like he was the luckiest person in the world that they’d encountered the Sahara, and at the same time, was excited to know what it was that Ahmed was going to show him.

Finally, exhaustion got the better of him and he dozed off.

“Wake up, sleepyhead.” came a familiar voice as Ayaan awoke to find Aayra standing above him. He pulled off his covers, rubbing his eyes awake and surprised to find her up so soon. Then, he checked his watch, which he’d never taken off the entire time. It was almost noon.

“How long have I been out!?” he exclaimed, as Aayra chuckled and admitted, “A really long time. But then, I don’t blame you. Yesterday was exhausting, for sure. Ahmed’s got breakfast ready, if you want it.”

Ayaan’s stomach grumbled ravenously as he sprung onto his feet and exited the tent. The Sahara were evidently morning people, already up for the day and in the middle of carrying out their daily chores. Ayaan knew that Bedouins were nomadic, and that the Sahara would likely be moving to someplace new. Some riders were at the edges patting their camels and feeding them carrots.

“I see you’re up, boy.” said Ahmed, as Ayaan turned towards him. “But I suppose I shouldn’t call you that anymore. What is your name?”

“Ayaan.” he replied as Ahmed nodded and conceded, “It’s an excellent name, I must say. Breakfast is over there.” He pointed towards a place to the side from where a delectable aroma was arising. “After that, we ride.”

Ayaan finished his own breakfast in record time, while Aayra had already finished hers. The rest of the Sahara were staying back, leave for the riders, led by Ahmed once more. Aayra would be riding with one of the riders once more while Ayaan had been presented with his own camel.

“You really think I can do it?” he asked, as Ahmed shrugged and admitted, “It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what you think.” Ayaan nodded his head at these words and then ascended his camel.

“We’re going to be riding North today.” he said to his fellow riders. “To Al’Musafir.”

Ayaan wasn’t sure what that meant but the riders clearly did while Aayra was also looking surprised on her own camel. The next second, Ahmed began to lead the camels forward, his own mammal leading the group.

“What does Al’Musafir translate to?” Ayaan asked Aayra when they were almost side-by-side. The beginning had been tough, but Ayaan was getting used to riding the camel now. The afternoon sun was blazing upon them.

“It stands for ‘The Traveler.” she replied. “I don’t know what that means, but it looks like we’re about to find out.”

Ayaan returned his gaze to the front as a giant complex reminiscent of a secret outpost came into view. The outpost was huge, a tall hexagonal structure that looked like it carried things of great value inside of it. Ahmed said something to the riders in Arabic, and they nodded as the camels began to near it.

Ahmed got off his own and began to walk towards the complex. “Welcome to Al’Musafir. The Key to the Lost City. Its tale goes back many generations.”

“What is it?” questioned Ayaan, curiously but Ahmed chuckled and said, “That answer cannot be given by me, but can be given only by Al’Musafir himself.”

Slowly, they began to walk inside. From the inside, the place looked like an ancient arena, spaciously built with sandy pillars and small platforms with inscriptions on top. One of them even held a prehistoric skull.

“Something gives me a strange feeling about all this.” said Aayra, as Ayaan nodded in agreement.

Ahmed lifted a cane and began to poke at parts of what seemed like nothing except a wall. It turned out that there was something, because the next moment, everything around them began to shake and the wall parted to reveal a dark chamber.

“You must venture down there alone.” said Ahmed. “I cannot accompany you. But fate tells us that once ventured, you cannot come out. Not until you complete the challenge. Only venture forth if you believe in yourselves with full heart. The consequences otherwise are… too painful to even comprehend.”

Ayaan and Aayra looked at one another. They didn’t even need to speak to convey what they were thinking. They already knew the answer. After a nod in Ahmed’s direction, the duo stepped inside the chamber, and the wall closed behind them.

Blue light illuminated the chamber as they caught sight of an ancient skull sitting on a platform in the center, when, much to their surprise, it began to speak, with a cold, raspy voice.

“Behold the final challenge to unlock the secrets of the lost city.” it said. “The ultimate challenge. But to truly understand history, one must study its greatest mistakes. The Lost City of the Sahara wasn’t always lost, it was a thriving, beautiful landscape ruled by five kings known as… The Sand Lords.

“However, it wasn’t meant to be. The Sand Lords became convinced that another was trying to overthrow them, and war ensued. Al’Musafir, the Traveler, who was the emperor of the city, tried to stop it but failed. The war consumed the city and it disappeared into the depths of mystery forever. This building was constructing in his name, a challenge to all who wished to discover the city. A test of the same thing that destroyed them. Trust.”

The chamber began to shake more violently as the skull continued, “One of you must venture out into the unknown depths of Al’Musafir’s pit, and confront a challenge of valor when they fight the ancient monsters of the lost city.” Ayaan gulped at the mention of monsters. “While the other undertakes a challenge of wit and mindpower. If the other succeeds, the one in the pit survives. But failure… means death.”

As if to make the point, the chamber began to shake even more violently and sand began to fall from above slowly. “This is the ultimate test of trust. If you trust the person beside you, you will succeed. Or you will perish. So, decide amongst yourselves, who goes inside the pit, and who tries to save them…”

The skull shook and then crumbled into pieces. “This is madness!” burst Ayaan, but now the sand had begun to fall even faster. “I don’t think skulls are the kind that mess around, Ayaan.”

Two doors began to slide open, revealing two chambers, one covered in darkness and the other with a few rays of light. It wasn’t difficult to figure out which one meant what.

“I’m going into the pit.” said Ayaan, at last. “No!” exclaimed Aayra, but Ayaan put a hand on her shoulder and reasoned, “I’m stronger than you, but if I’m going to make it, I’ll need your wits. I’ll hold whatever monsters there are for as long as I can.”

Aayra nodded but didn’t say anything. A small tear even trickled down her cheek. Then, she broke away from Ayaan’s hold and began to walk towards the illuminated chamber. Ayaan shot a final glance in her direction and ventured out into the darkness, as both rooms closed behind them.

Ayaan was immediately plunged into total darkness, though he was confronted with the sensation of the floor shaking and realizing it was parting into two from the center. Slowly, he pushed himself against the wall, determined to buy Aayra as much time as possible to complete her part of the challenge. The floor remaining continued to shrink, until there was nothing but air.

And Ayaan began to fall.

“Your challenge is to complete a puzzle of the emblem of the Lost City.” came an eerie voice from all around Aayra. The floor parted to reveal a puzzle board that ascended from the floor slowly, missing all but one piece that had been kept aside. The objective was simple. Aayra would need to slide the pieces around and complete the emblem.

It was in times like these that she thanked herself for doing her homework. The emblem was a saffron serpent shrouded in a dazzling bloodred flag. Slowly, she began to solve the puzzle.

Ayaan hit something soft from inside the pit and heard air hissing. This deep underground, there was no light at all, only darkness and a few growls from around him. Ayaan couldn’t even see his own two hands and was madly glancing around, the growls becoming more conspicuous.

Monsters, he thought slowly. Why did it have to be monsters?

Something brushed past his leg as he retracted his faithful dagger from his coat pocket. He heard a final hiss and then the monster slammed into him front, shoving him onto his back. Something cracked against his knee as he heard the baring of teeth and the monster bit into air. Ayaan shoved the dagger forward as it hissed, claws tearing into him.

Ayaan pushed the dagger further in, and the monster fell away. Then, something grabbed his leg.

And pulled him backwards into the dark.

Inside the other chamber, Aayra was confident that she had solved the upper half of the jigsaw. The head of the serpent was aligned perfectly, but she was having problems in getting its tail in the right place. Every second wasted was another Ayaan faced some mysterious horror. Aayra mumbled something and slid a piece towards the left. Perfect. Only six pieces to go.

Ayaan crashed his dagger as a monster shrieked angrily and something sharp cut into his right arm. Ayaan roared in agony as the dagger was torn away and more monsters lumbered onto him, Ayaan disappearing under a heap of beasts as they roared viciously.

Another monster grabbed his leg and began to pull as he heard the crashing of a weapon against a hard surface, likely the floor, and a primal growl that told him nothing good was nearby. So, he did what was exactly right for anyone in his shoes.

He screamed.

Aayra slid the final piece of the puzzle into place and snapped the other piece into its square as something rumbled and the puzzle board disappeared. Aayra smiled, though another part of her was still fearful about whether she was too late.

The only thing she could do was hope that Ayaan had made it through.

Light rays tore through the underground chamber as Ayaan closed his eyes tightly and heard the cries of the monsters as they vaporized into thin air. Ayaan finally opened his pupils, adjusting to the brightness as he saw what looked like a club lying some distance away. A few more seconds and it would’ve made contact with him. Part of his trousers had been torn away and there were bite marks in the flesh.

But against all odds, he’d survived.

There was an ominous rumble, and the floor beneath him began to raise slowly. The ceiling previously far above neared, and finally opened as the floor reached ground level. Aayra saw Ayaan and cried in surprise, hugging him tightly as the wall too parted and Ahmed and the riders walked inside.

“It seems you have passed the test, my brave explorers.” he said. “You have… discovered the lost city.”

As if to further his point, the sand outside began to shake as well. Ayaan and Aayra broke away from one another and darted outside the complex to the sound of a century-old civilization emerging from underneath the ground, a white marble palace and large shards of sandstone coming into view as the sand fell away, and where there was desert now stood a gargantuan historical city.

In the center of it all was an aged man who could have very well been in his fifties or even pushing three hundred. He sported a grey beard and two small, but intelligent eyes that spoke all that was required, that he saw more than the normal person did. Behind the Adventurers, the Sahara were all on their knees in a bow of respect.

“Al’Musafir.” mumbled Ayaan. “You’re the traveler.”

“And you’re the Adventurers.” said the traveler, eyes twinkling. They hardly needed to ask him how he knew this, or even how he knew anything at all. Slowly, the ground parted to reveal a final marble shard appearing, and speared on its top was the largest diamond gemstone the Adventurers had ever seen.

“You must have heard my tale of how mistrust and betrayal led to the fall of the city.” said the traveler. “And so, if any ever managed to stumble upon it, I would want them to be smarter, stronger and above all, purer than those before them. I hope you can forgive me… for the whole, succeed or die thing. In retrospection, it was a tad extreme.”

Ayaan and Aayra merely smiled in response. “What’s that?” came a voice from behind them, and the Adventurers turned to see Ahmed pointing to two fast-approaching lights in the distance. Ayaan’s eyes widened as he shoved Aayra out of the way, and the next second, a gargantuan SUV rolled into the lost city and slammed into the traveler, throwing him into the air and onto the sand.

Ahmed screamed what Ayaan could only take to be a nasty word in Arabic, taking a furious step towards the vehicle, but when the door opened, none other than Mack and Vik stepped outside, rifles slung around their backs.

“I hope nobody tries any funny business.” said Vik, with a sneer. “Especially you two.” She shot an angry glance towards the Adventurers. “You might have survived the plane crash, but the lost city is mine. All mine!”

“And mine.” said Mack from behind her, in an apologetic voice that was barely above a voice, as Vik sighed and rolled her eyes before conceding, “Alright, mine and the idiot’s.”

“Hey…” protested Mack, but Vik was no longer paying attention to him. Instead, her gaze was squarely on the gemstone, eyes twinkling as she raised a hand towards it.

“That gemstone belongs to the traveler.” said Ayaan. “It belongs to the Sahara, and if they desire it, then the people of the world. You’re the last person in the world who should have it.”

“See if I care.” said Vik, sticking out her tongue and rolling her eyes. Then, she plucked the gemstone out of the marble shard.

“You are not worthy…” came a spiritual voice, and for a second, Vik was so surprised she nearly dropped the pistol. Then, she saw the traveler, arms outstretched, eyes closed, and sniggered. “You think you can convince us not to steal this with your mumbo-jumbo, old man!” She actually laughed aloud, but at this moment, a huge gust of sand flew towards her.

Vik coughed heavily as Mack followed suit and the next second, the two of them were flying the air, sand flying all around them like a raged tornado. Vik was no longer looking confident, instead as scared as a small puppy, begging for someone to help her, while Mack was screaming about how he’d never read Pinocchio. The sand grabbed the gemstone from her grasp as the traveler finally opened his eyes.

“Pretty neat for an old man, isn’t it?” he said at last, raising a palm as wind whipped around them before throwing them backwards. The duo screamed before flying in the air like they’d been fired out of a cannon, and then landing in the distant sand.

“I don’t think they’ll be bothering us anytime soon.” said the traveler, finally, before turning towards the Adventurers and saying, “You’re very right, you know. The gemstone and the lost city should most certainly be made known to the public, and you two deserve the credit. As for my faithful Sahara…” he turned towards Ahmed and the riders. “I owe you a great debt.”

“It’s an honor.” said Ahmed, bowing slightly. The traveler then turned towards the sand once more as Ayaan finally asked, “What are you going to be doing?” The traveler shrugged before replying, “I’m going to venture the desert land, hunting for more mysteries, more secrets, and above all… more adventure.” His beard even twitched as he said this.

Ayaan nodded in agreement, as the traveler clapped his hands and the sand began to fill up from under him, and the next second, the traveler was flying away.

“Ayaan, look…” said Aayra, pointing towards a figure lying beside the lost city. Ayaan glanced in that direction and his eyes widened at last. It was the plane, as good as new, standing in front of their eyes.

“It was his way of thanking you.” explained Ahmed. “And I thank you too, Adventurers. Hopefully, fate tells we meet once more one day.”

With these words, he finally mounted his camel, followed by the riders. After a last nod in their direction, Ahmed and the riders disappeared into the desert once more.

“He left something else too…” said Aayra, pointing to a small note taped to the side of the plane as Ayaan darted next to her. The note read Please give my best to my younger brother, Antonio, the next time you see him.

“Antonio…” said Aayra. “As in ‘Milky Antonio’… As in ‘Antonio the wizard!?”

“You know what they say…” said Ayaan, with a small shrug. “It’s a small world.” The Adventurers pocketed the gemstone and took pictures of the marvelous lost city with their camera before walking towards the plane.

“What about Mack and Vik?” questioned Aayra, when they were buckled up in their seats. The SUV had been taken apart by the sandstorm. Ayaan pointed to a lone camel standing by the lost city, the one he’d rode to the complex but had been left intentionally. “They’ll manage.” said Ayaan at last, firing up the controls. “Get ready for takeoff, Aayra.” The next second, the plane began to tear down the endless line of desert sand and rose above into the beautiful sky.

Ayaan Chettiar

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