[Welcome to part two of my continuing blog series. I write the book, you pick the plot. For part 1, please see here.]
John took another look at the three items on the table. The dagger was interesting and all, but it made him think of quests to kill evil wizards. He wasn’t sure he was up for any assassinations this evening. The heart, meanwhile, probably came from the innards of a fire demon. That’s what it looked like, anyway. And if there’s one thing John didn’t like, it was being hot. Sweating through a battle on a plane made of lava was less than appealing.
The book, however . . .
Yes, it had an eyeball. And yes, that eyeball was glaring at him at the moment. But all John could think of was what might lie inside it. What sort of a book needed a living eyeball on the cover to be complete?
He cleared his throat and raised his arm to point at the book. His hand only trembled at a little.
“The book, huh?” Khalid said. “Interesting choice. Not sure if it’s the one I would have gone with, but there you have it. There’s no accounting for twelve-year-old taste.”
John frowned. “Why?” he asked. “What adventures would the other ones have led to?”
The djinn poured the cake batter into a prepared pan. “I suppose there’s no harm telling you now. The knife, of course, is the famous Dagger of Jal’Daq. It’s one of the three sentient blades of the third century, and its sense of humor has only gotten worse over the years. Frankly, it’s a relief you avoided it. Who wants to spend their whole adventure chitchatting with a kitchen utensil that makes bad puns? But if you had picked it, we’d be on our way to the foot of the Himalayas, on the hunt for the Prince of the Yetis.”
John’s shoulders fell an inch or two. A hunt for the Prince of the Yetis, wielding a magical, sentient dagger? That sounded like an awesome adventure. Maybe he’d chosen poorly, after all.
Khalid continued, putting the cake pan into the oven as he spoke. “The heart, on the other hand, comes from a vast underwater volcano in the South Pacific. It’s weakening, as you can tell by how small it is these days. Somebody needs to go down there and take care of whatever the problem is. My guess? A lavamite colony. Those critters wreck absolute havoc on a volcano, and they breed like rabbits. On the other hand, volcanoes are well-known to be extremely generous to beings that help them out of tight spots.”
“Extremely generous?” John asked.
Khalid nodded. “Let’s just say that whoever helps that volcano out isn’t going to need to worry about lunch money for the next few millennia. But you didn’t pick that one, either.”
John wished he’d never asked about the other adventures. There was no way this book adventure could be anywhere near as cool as the other two. Why did he always have to make the wrong choices?”
“Chin up, John.” Khalid clapped his hands and began rubbing his fingers together. The air above his hands shimmered, like you’ll see above pavement on a hot summer day. “Returning the Lost Tome of Ra to the buried Library of Alexandria will be more than a little fun, I should imagine. Dangerous, of course. Scorpions and asps, you know. And there is that small matter of the mummy horde to deal with. But still, excitement all around I should say, with a fair to middling chance for some plunder and loot. Like I told your Great Uncle Urville: you’re going to be getting the adventure of your life, no matter what.”
If that had been meant to cheer John up, it hadn’t quite worked. “Mummy horde?” he asked. But he didn’t have a chance to hear a response before the entire room filled with a white light and intense heat. John put his hands up to shield his eyes, and while his eyes were clenched shut, a wind picked up in his kitchen. Not a little breeze or even a gust: a whirlwind of epic proportions. It thundered in his ears and tore at his clothes, and just when he thought it might pick him up and fling him to the far reaches of the world–
It was gone, replaced by a calm, steady heat.
John peeked out to see what had happened. His kitchen has vanished. Night had been replaced by day, and his neighborhood had been swapped out by an entire desert. Dune after dune of endless sand stretching off into the distance. The sun beat down on him from above, not a cloud in the sky, which was so blue it hurt his eyes. “Where am I?” he asked.
Khalid appeared in front of John, laughing. “You know, I’d heard kids these days weren’t that well educated, but I didn’t think it had come to this. What do you mean, where are you?”
John gestured in front of him. “The desert. I get it. Very funny. But where in the world am I?”
“Turn around and find out, Johnny Boy.”
John did as he was told, and he felt foolish the moment he did. No wonder Khalid had made fun of him. The three great pyramids of Egypt towered over him, three mountains of rock jutting up into the sky. John had known they were big, but he hadn’t imagined they were this big. Even from a hundred yards away, they were enormous. Off to his right, he caught sight of the Sphinx. Tourists milled around the area, posing for Egyptian themed pictures while vendors wandered the site, selling their wares. There were even camel rides being offered.
John turned to Khalid, who was now dressed in flowing robes that hid his translucent bottom half. “I thought you said we had to get to the Library of Alexandria. Isn’t Alexandria far away from Cairo?”
The djinn nodded. “Of course. But I also said we had to get to the buried Library of Alexandria. It didn’t actually burn down in 48BC like you read in the history books. It was transported by magic, deep beneath the earth. And what better place to pick for the front door but the Great Pyramid?” He looked up at the tallest pyramid and smiled.
“Transported by magic?” John asked. “How do you know?”
“Because I’m the one who transported it, of course.” Khalid sounded offended.
“Then how in the world is this supposed to be an adventure? You know how to get in, you know where the book goes. It sounds more like an elaborate errand.”
The djinn sighed. “When I transported the library, I was told to make it almost impossible to enter. There was only one way in, and it’s heavily guarded and warded. The key was lost a thousand years ago, cast into a dimension where even I can’t find it. And even if we manage to get in, do you remember the bit about the mummy horde? Believe me, this is no cake walk.”
“But that’s even worse,” John said. “It’s impossible.”
“The Tome of Ra wants to get back to the library,” Khalid said. “With it on your side, you have a leg up on anything that might get in your path. But one way or another, you need to get out of this sun before you bake to death. Heat stroke, my boy. Heat stroke.”
John looked back at the tourists and the pyramids. “Where do I go? How do I get in?”
“That’s the spirit! The entrance is deep within the Pyramid of Cheops. They only let 300 people in each day, and I’m afraid all the tickets are sold out.”
“You can’t just magic our way in?”
“Look at you,” Khalid said. “Weren’t you the one just complaining that you didn’t want this to be too easy? No. I’m not going to magic our way in. Using magic too close to the portal could have dangerous side effects. Why else do you think I transported us such a safe distance away from the entrance?”
“Then what do I do?”
The djinn didn’t seem to care. “You’re resourceful. Resource your way in somehow.”
John sighed. Khalid could be so . . . obstinate sometimes. But he took a breath and stopped to go over his options. He had to get into the pyramid, but he couldn’t use magic.
“Well?” Khalid was tapping his noncorporeal foot. “Time flies, John. What’s it going to be?”
“What’s the rush?” he asked.
“The rush? Every minute we delay, more mummies get added to the mix. There’s a rush, believe me.”
“Fine,” John said. “Then the way I see it, we have three options. We can try sneaking into the pyramid when no one’s looking. We can try to go in with a different tourist group and hope no one notices us. Or we can risk using a bit of magic to go in without the guards seeing us.”
Khalid nodded approvingly. “Masterfully deduced. And which option have you chosen to go with, O Wise Leader?”
Make a Choice
Well, dear readers? What’s it going to be? Sneak, Blend, or Magic?