The unhurried steps of the camel's hooves on the soft sand belayed the urgency of the journey. Pale yellow of the animal's hair merges perfectly with the golden grains of the sand dunes like the two of them were made of the very same fabric.
At a distance, it is impossible to tell one from the other.
Behind them, what little trace the camel's passage has left is quickly erased by the low blowing wind, moving like an invisible snake across the sand, leaving nothing but its own imprint instead. Always changing, the desert. Always staying the same.
The sun is already peeking over the dunes, stretching lazily like it is in no hurray to start the day. Its light, still soft enough to be welcoming, is already bright enough to make man and animals cast deep shadows in the ground, broken and inverted images that waver at the fancy of the sand ridges.
Soon, the sun will be high enough to restart its attempt to scorch man and land and the traveler will be forced to, once again, find shelter in the shade and stop for the day.
The path to Rhacotis, or rather Alexandria, as it is now called, is long and dangerous and the load he carries is a precious one.
Yet, the man travels alone.
It would not do to call attention to himself and his load with the presence of a large escort. Though the desert is filled with thieves and murderers, the man is not scared for his life. His cargo, however- if it were to fall into the wrongs hands, all of Mankind would face its doom.
It was time to move it further away from the more populated areas, deeper into the heart of Africa and pray that it will be enough. The boat that awaits him in Alexandria's port will not be safer than the desert, but on the sea at least there will be others to share the burden he was charged with. From there, it will be easier to reach the western shores of Africa.
The small oasis, devoid of people this early in the trading season, makes for the perfect stop when both man and animals become too weary to continue.
It looks like a broken piece of jade in a sea of gold. Twice more precious than the shiniest of jewels.
The wind rustling through the scarce leaves up in the medjool trees is more noise than the man has heard in days, as even the animals, usually very vocal in their complaints, fall silent, as if they too understand the graveness of their journey.
A gentle nudge with the balls of his feet to his camel's soft belly and the animal obediently begins to lean forward, folding its legs gently underneath, allowing his rider to reach the ground.
The other animal, the one carrying something much heavier than the man, is exhausted beyond the point of recovery. He will not last much longer.
Carefully using the sturdy ropes around the animal's torso to lower his cargo to the ground, the man releases both camels and watches them pace, in their gangly and ground eating steps, to the small pond of water under the shade of a cluster of tall trees.
The day is growing hotter by the minute and the man can't do much but sit and wait until the sun starts to dip once again below the horizon of sand dunes.
He can't help but glance one more time at what is hidden beneath the sheets of cotton that cover the large box.
Lifting the edge of the simple, white fabric with a reverence reserved for kings and pharaohs, the man peels it away slowly, fearful of moving too far, of overstepping his boundaries. He uncovers just one of the sides, not daring to go any further.
The winged figure, kneeling on the lid, is an exact replica of the one kneeling on the other side, still hidden by the sheet.
The man can't see its down turned face, but the statue's expression is easy to guess. Wonderment and fear.
The box itself is rectangular, made of acacia wood, each side covered with thick golden plaques, each panel engraved with detailed images and words, reflecting the sunlight like mirrors.
The words are unfamiliar to the man, but the depictions are very clear to anyone blessed and fortunate enough to ever gaze upon them. Scholars have been studding the meaning of those images for decades, committing them to memory and safeguarding them for eternity.
Beautiful as those images are, the man cannot help the chill that runs down his back. It is not the first time he has seen them, but they are terrifying as ever, foretelling terrible happenings to come.
The end of the world.
As always, the curiosity to lift the lid open and find out what is inside comes and is pushed away.
It is not his place to open it. It is not written in his fate that he would ever be deemed righteous enough to ever lay eyes upon its contents. He is more than grateful for the small part fate has allowed him to play in this matter.
His part in this journey is to deliver it to safe port, just one of the many who were tasked with making sure that this object is kept hidden and safe until the time comes for it to be useful.
Despite the man's care and devotion, some things are simply not meant to be and the greed of Man can often surpass the wisest predictions. Neither the man or his two camels ever arrive to their destination.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.