In the Grand Old Days, when every creature spoke the same tongue and sin had not yet entered the world, the Creator approached every sort of creature with a simple treaty. In exchange for their love and their loyalty, the Creator would keep them from harm. Each group signed a treaty in turn.

Over time, the creatures began to drift apart and squabble over meaningless things. New sorts of creatures arose through intermingling, and many spurned the offer of treaties from the Creator or inclusion in an existing treaty, holding themselves to be wholly self-created. The new creatures eventually became focal points in the squabbles since, unbound by treaty, they could be enlisted to bring harm to those on the wrong side of disagreements.

At the first such action, a dog killing a sheep over who owned a grassy field, the assembled creatures split into two opposing groups–those who supported the dog and those who favored the sheep. Blinded to the petty nature of their squabble, the creatures prepared for war.

It was then that the Creator reappeared, brandishing the treaties. To harm another, the Creator cautioned, would be to break the treaty commitment of love and loyalty. The creatures, perhaps goaded by the “self-created” new ones, spurned the Creator’s offer and renounced the treaties. The Creator, saddened, withdrew from the field and allowed battle to be joined.

On that bloodstained field, the unity of the world was forever broken.

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.