The sun was beating down relentlessly, draining the energy from Lief and Jasmine as they trudged through the desert. Dragging their feet in the sand – they had given up on covering their tracks – they both scanned the horizon, searching for anything to break the never changing landscape.

Looking down to where Jasmine was walking beside him, Lief thought that they'd never get out of the desert alive.

"I've led Jasmine to her death," he thought as his mood slipped from tired to depressed. "We're going to die here in the desert, forever trapped in this arid land. Our friends or family will never see us again, and Deltora will fall into turmoil at the news of the death of their king and the loss of the Belt…"

He was so lost in thought that he had stopped looking forward. As a result, he did not see Jasmine jump for joy when she spotted something in the distance.

"Lief! Oh Lief look!" she cried, pointing out a little to the west of where they had been walking.

Lief looked up and followed her finger, but did not see a thing. He thought Jasmine was playing some sort of cruel joke on him as retaliation for all the trouble he had caused her. He sighed and looked back down to his feet, shaking his head and saying nothing.

Jasmine was slightly annoyed by his reaction and she smacked his arm, "Don't you see it Lief? Something's out there, and by the looks of it, its some sort of building. And where there are buildings, there are people. And if there's people, we can get out of here!"

"Jasmine, I see nothing! I don't have the vision you have; so don't blame me for not seeing a speck off in the distance. If you're right, then maybe we can reach it and maybe we can get help. But I doubt that we will do any more that die here in this accursed desert," he growled, the heat was taking its toll on him, body and mind.

Jasmine, who did not want to cause any more trouble, said nothing. If he did not see it, then he did not see it. There was no way to force him to see something he couldn't. They would just have to get closer and hope that someone would be there to receive them.

As they walked on, Jasmine kept pointing out this strangely shaped building, although Lief still could not see it. It was rounded at the top, sort of like the entrance to a cave, and sloped down into the ground. The more Jasmine looked at it, the less she thought it was some sort of building.

"What could it be?" she asked herself, thinking of every possible thing it could be. "Could it be a cave? No, we are not even close to a mountain, or anything stable enough to hold a cave… A new sort of dwelling? Doubtful. What could it be?"

At last Lief could see it, a small rounded shape in the distance.

"But what is it?" he asked, baffled as to what this mysterious thing was. Jasmine just shook her head and said she had been thinking for hours at to what it could be, but came up with no answers.

As night fell and the air grew frigid, the pair decided to sleep for a short while and then continue their travel in the night, so they could reach their destination quicker.

Sleeping in turns, they both absorbed as much energy as they could and set off again, eager to arrive. They spoke very little, only breaking the silence to ask for water or a bit of food, consumed by their thoughts.

Lief was feeling in better spirits, he almost began to hum but stopped himself to be able to concentrate on his guessing of what it could be they were heading toward. "Could it be we are nearing a new civilization that Del has never heard of before? If that is the case, will we be welcomed with open arms or thrown out of the city? What if it is the mouth to a secret underground tunnel leading out of the Shifting Sands? Could we really be this close to escaping this horrible land?"

Shivering, Jasmine began to rethink traveling during the night. It was easier to keep warm when they were moving, she knew that much. But was it worth it? They could catch something, and getting sick wasn't an option. She shook her head; anything to get to their destination quicker was best. She did not want to risk their efforts because she was cold.

She looked up at the stars, mystified as to how there could be so many out here, when in the city she could barely see any. Lief picked up on her wonder and whispered, "It's beautiful isn't it?"

She nodded, not wanting to tear her view from the night sky. She breathed out and looked back to the spot in the distance, surprised by what she saw.

"How is this possible? Did we really move this quickly?" she wondered. The speck in the distance had turned into an enormous opening, the mouth of a large tunnel. "Where could this lead?"

Lief had also been surprised at the largeness of the opening, "Is this a… tunnel?" He looked at Jasmine who looked at him, equally surprised, mirroring his own reaction.

The mouth of the tunnel seemed to have been carved out of a sand dune, only it was rock instead of sand. It sloped downward at a sharp angle and Lief could only guess it would level out further down. It was extremely dark in there, and both were apprehensive about going into it. What could be hiding down there? Would there be people or monsters?

Standing on its edge, they both debated whether or not to go in it, "But Jasmine, it's dark, we don't know what's in it!"

"Lief, this is about our only chance at getting out of this desert! And besides, did we just walk all this way to chicken out and run away?" said Jasmine. She just wanted to go in it and get it over with.

"Can't we at least wait until the sun comes up to go in there? Then we can have a little light to see what's in it," argued Lief, who wasn't too keen on the idea of plunging into the unknown in the middle of the night.

Sighing, Jasmine agreed, "Fine. But the moment we have enough sun, we're going in. No more negotiating around the inevitable, we have to see what's in there."

Lief, who was pretty satisfied with himself, sat down on the side of the entrance to the tunnel to get some rest. Jasmine sat by him, clearly annoyed by having to wait to go into the mysterious tunnel. She crossed her arms and stared straight ahead, waiting for the sun to rise, signaling that they could venture into the dark abyss.

A/N: Hey! So there was chapter 16! Sorry that I sort of disappeared again... Stupid school has me going mad, so I really haven't had time to think of anything to write, but here you go :) I'm going to try to update by the end of next week maybe but I can't make any promises okay? Thanks for reading!