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A cold wind carrying the whispers of the dead city swept across the faces of the two explorers. The sun was setting and soon the entire city would be shrouded in darkness. The conflagration had dealt serious damage to the city. A few ruins scattered here and there was all that was left of a once-great city, razed to the ground centuries ago. It was something Julian always pondered on, as to what could have driven someone to destroy such an elegant city. Only a tyrant who regarded knowledge with such disdain would have been compelled to do such an act he thought. But why hadn’t anyone stood up against such an abhorrent act, Julian mused. And it was then that he remembered a lesson he learnt back in history class, about a man named Tharindu Bandara who was so vicious in his quest to quench his thirst for power. Despite the countless number of people he had killed, he had been the subject of much adulation by the wealthy people who helped to stay him in power, in exchange for benefits. It was he who had destroyed this wonderful city, and Julian was sad that not a single sane person had done anything to rescind the unrighteous accord the wealthy had with Tharindu, which might have been able to put an end to the devastation.

It was not like Julian to go on such risky treasure hunts, and he definitely would not have taken part had he not been inveigled by his companion Joe. Joe, on the other hand, had a flamboyant personality which drove him to drag his friend to his devastating plan. The only thing that prevented Joe from coming alone was the fact that the treasure map was written in an esoteric language and Julian was the only scholar capable of deciphering its secrets. They had been going on for several days now, and the end was at sight. They had spent most of their final day trudging over ruins and it was nearly nightfall when they found themselves in front of a banal looking building which Julian identified to be an ancient shrine. It was an infraction to enter the sacred area for it had been the place of worship of the inhabitants for many generations, but Joe was quite determined to finish the quest.

It took a lot of effort but in the end they managed to get the doors open which had rusted due to centuries of abandonment. The room had an air of mystery and it was difficult to see across the room through the dense cobwebs. A plethora of torn books littered the floor of the shrine. Towards the center of the room was an altar, strewn with more ancient tomes. In front of the altar was a seated skeleton holding a chest which was covered in a thick layer of dust. Julian was reluctant to open the chest seeing the skeleton, but Joe’s predilection to take risks made him blind to the repercussions of his actions. Julian realized the capricious behavior of Joe and tried to talk him out of opening the chest. However this led to an altercation which ended up in Joe hitting Julian in the face. Julian lost his balance and fell to the ground. Joe grabbed the chest but just as soon as he opened it, his visage got contorted in pain, as though something had bitten him. His eyes started to turn crimson and he started shouting and thrashing around in delirium. He struggled in pain for sometime and then collapsed. It was then that Julian realized what Joe’s motives had been all along. He had wanted to get the treasure for himself, and had only brought Julian along because he couldn’t read the map himself. But being a very magnanimous person, Julian forgave Joe for what he had done. Julian was sad that Joe’s prevarication had led him to his untimely death. At that very moment, he experienced catharsis within himself and confessed that a prisoner to greed would culminate in sudden demise of his desires.

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