By Rachel Ann Michael Harris
Mehdi leaned back to see the top of the sheer cliff rising before him made of the same yellow sand he stood upon. He couldn’t believe it. He was here.
“Never seen a cliff before, kid?” Jasper chuckled behind him.
Correction, they were here.
Jasper shook his head. “Considering that village you come from, this would be pretty wonderous.”
Scowling, Mehdi turned away. He couldn’t mess things up. Just as Jasper needed him, Mehdi needed Jasper. For now.
Jasper tapped a button on a small disc to activate a glowing image of three round chambers separated by tunnels.
“It will be difficult for a poor boy like you, but ignore the first two chambers. Everything’s a trap.” He pointed to the last chamber. “This is where you’ll find the lamp. It’s guarded, so you’ll need to be quick.” He clicked off the device and smiled. “But, just in case…”
Jasper rubbed his thumb across a plain, golden band on his finger. Like wind blowing the top of a dune, the man disintegrated from the head down, then reformed behind Mehdi.
“A miniaturized re-location device,” Jasper explained. “Similar to those on spaceships, but it only works for short distances. Should get you out of a pinch.” He tossed it to Mehdi.
Catching it, Mehdi examined the ring with its single emerald. A short groove to one side allowed the stone to move and activate the device.
While Mehdi placed the ring on his finger, Jasper wiped away sand from the cliff to reveal a metal door with a round, glass window.
Jasper shook his head as he leaned closer to the door. “On Earth, we only have stories of genies. Can you believe they actually exist on Zohar? It’s said their eyes glow gold when they use their powers. Imagine that.”
Mehdi resisted the urge to scratch his eye and instead balled his hand into a fist.
“What I would give for a genie,” Jasper whispered. “Even a half blood.”
“That would be a waste,” Mehdi mumbled.
When Jasper turned to him, he shrugged.
“I know the lore. Half genies live by the full laws of their kind but only have half the power.”
“See,” Jasper pointed at him, “I knew there was something special about you. Brains.”
Jasper grasped Mehdi’s shoulders and pulled him to the door where Jasper typed in a sequence on a pad.
“How do you know the code?” Mehdi asked.
Jasper gave him a half smile. “My secret.”
The door opened, and Jasper pushed Mehdi inside. “Remember, get the lamp, ignore everything else, and you and your mother will never want again.” With the press of a button, the door slipped shut.
Mehdi turned toward the dim tunnel. That lamp was his only hope to bring his family back together. With his hands shaking, he took a deep breath and strode forward.
The corridor opened into a large, metallic chamber filled with rows of fruit trees. Pears, apples, oranges, and others that Mehdi had never seen before hung ripe and ready to eat. Just a few could feed him and his mom for weeks, and the seeds could grow more trees. If he just grabbed a few…
Steeling his nerves, Mehdi walked through the chamber and into the next tunnel.
This one led into a cavern made of regular stone, but the crevices were packed with diamonds, rubies, sapphires… jewels in every color of the rainbow. His foot sent an amethyst skittering across the floor. His breath caught. He and his mom would never be poor again… But there were more important things than gems.
Taking a breath, he marched across the chamber and into the last tunnel.
The third was a white dome with a single pedestal in the center of the room holding a golden lamp. It had a slender handle and spout, with an etching of a gardon—a creature covered in scales, fur, and long whiskers trailing from its cheeks. Slowly, Mehdi reached for the lamp.
The wall across from him hissed as air released from a rising panel. A low rumble echoed through the chamber as a living gardon slowly stepped into the room. It was pure white save for the golden whiskers and the spines trailing down its back and tail. But Mehdi was focused on the claws.
The creature crouched and whipped its tail.
Mehdi grabbed the lamp and bolted.
With a roar, the gardon tore after him.
As he reached the gemstone chamber, Mehdi glanced back. The gardon was one pounce from making him supper.
Hope this works.
Placing his thumb on the emerald, he slid the stone to the side and felt himself lift away from the ground, then drop to his feet on the far side of the fruit chamber.
Mehdi ran until he slammed into the outer door, searching for the release. Jasper peered at him through the window.
The gardon skidded to a stop, growling low.
“A Chinese Dragon,” Jasper muttered. “They exist too.”
“Yes, let me out!”
“Put the lamp on the floor first.” Jasper commanded.
The creature inched forward.
“The man who built this tried to defy me.” Jasper’s eyes were cold. “Don’t underestimate me like he did.”
The creature took another step.
“You shouldn’t underestimate me.” Mehdi placed his thumb on the emerald and allowed his eyes to shift from brown to gold as he gave the ring a boost of power. Crouching over the lamp, he swiped the stone to the side as the gardon leaped.
With a thud, he landed on his back on the roof of his house. He’d made it. They’d made it.
With trembling hands, he pulled out the lamp. Tears clouded his vision as he rubbed a finger across the etching. Nothing happened.
But he knew it wouldn’t. Being half genie meant the law applied to him, too. Sniffing, he tucked the lamp under his vest.
“Don’t worry, Baba. We’ll get you out.”