Many centuries ago, an oasis town on the Old Silk Road finds itself in the grip of a terrible drought. The children of the town notice that their friend, an old retired trader at the caravanserai is growing increasingly distressed. At last he confides that he suspects he may be responsible for the drought, and tells of events that occurred long before they were born. In a time of civil war, this trader undertakes a perilous trading mission. On the way, he encounters two army deserters and overhears them talking about a treasure of great mystic powers that they are trying to recover. This is a chalice through which one can see all time and all the world. Hoping to gain this treasure for himself, he offers his services as guide to a desolate region in the desert where the soldiers have presumably cached it. Presented as an ancient message, this literary fantasy resonates as a story for our times.