In a land that appears on no map
Is a tower with no doors or windows
In the tower with no doors or windows
Is a room with no entrances or exits
In the room with no entrances or exits
Is a box with no keyhole or lid
In the box with no keyhole or lid
Is a treasure without value or worth
In the treasure without value or worth
Is the rule of the breadth of the land
In the hands of a worthy man

It was a silly saying, Masaka mused, one that had been passed down from tongue to tongue so that it no longer rhymed in any language. But even today, in a world of automobiles and cellular telephones, many of his countrymen believed the old riddle that predated even the arrival of Islam. Many a village sage had laid the failure of government after government and the succession of coup after coup on the lack of that paradoxically worthless treasure.

Masaka didn’t believe the legend, but he believed in propaganda. That is why he had brought in archaeologists and surveyors to scour the records, aerial photographs and–if need be–the dunes themselves to locate a structure that matched the description of the legend well enough to pass. He’d taken time out from the tiring routine of personally interrogating and executing political enemies to review potential sites before selecting a site in the al-Qabs dune sea.

The tower was a relic of an abandoned trade route, and any entrances or exits it once had were obscured by sand. Masaka had his men dig an entrance from beneath. There was indeed a room, partially formed by rubble, with no ingress or egress. Masaka had his men tunnel through decorative limestone–ignoring the protests of the Western archaeologists. And in that room there was a stone object choked with rubble that could be charitably described as a box. Masaka removed the rubble personally; a bit of period papyrus subtly altered by his hirelings was tucked in his sleeve just in case.

What he hadn’t considered–what even the riddle was silent about–was what would happen should an unworthy man open that container with neither hinges nor keyhole.

He found out soon enough.