Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Writing Assignment - The Sphinx's Game

So my friend Phil and I have been working through the Master class episodes of Writing Excuses, which is a series of fifteen minute podcasts designed to cover the essential elements of what it takes to be a good genre fiction writer. Each week includes a specific writing prompt that connects to that week's topic.

Today I want to share my homework from Episode 6, where the prompt was to take a recent gaming experience where you lost and use the thought process behind that experience to inspire the elements of a story. I ended up with a piece that sounds almost like a transcript from someone's most recent D&D campaign. It's somewhat lighthearted, and I liked the way it turned out. I hope you do too. And at just over 1,000 words, it's a pretty quick read.

The Sphinx’s Game

            The beautiful ruby clutched in the hands of the jackal-headed statue made a stark contrast to the gigantic leonine figure whose sharp claws were, at that moment, shredding apart the remains of Bard and stuffing chunks of his corpse into the mouth of her shockingly beautiful face.
            “Guess that wasn’t the right answer,” was the best I could come up with at that moment. “Any ideas, Wizard?”
            My companion, robed in robes so purple they appeared black, had pulled out a musty tome from his pack and was quickly scanning the pages. “There’s got to be answer in ones of these books. Make yourself useful Rogue and help me look.”
            I shook my head, but she didn’t even notice, engrossed as she was. I doubt this monstrosity would ask a question whose answer could be found in one of Wizard’s books, but I’d been wrong about such things before.
            “We’re wasting our time,” Warrior complained, his greatsword gripped in both hands. “Bard may be dead, but we can still fell this beast. With the reward for that ruby, we can probably even afford a resurrection spell once we get back into town. What we need to do is come up with a plan.”
            At that moment, the large creature finished her meal and simply sat back on her haunches, her crystal blue eyes staring back at us coolly.
            “Let’s listen to the riddle one more time. Maybe the Divine will reveal something to me,” Cleric suggested. Without waiting for reply, he began approaching the magnificent beast.
            “Perfect! Cleric is the distraction, Rogue. When he gets close, strike from behind, and then I’ll draw her attacks. We can do this, but we’ve got to work together!”
            I glanced at Warrior, but shook my head. “You’re all crazy. Everyone knows that the best way to win is to cheat. And if you can’t cheat, you change the game entirely.”
            “Will you two shut up!” Wizard shouted. “I’m trying to concentrate!”
            And with that I dashed away, hugging the walls of the large cavern, hoping my cloak and hood might disguise my approach. Near the ruby, the monstrosity had just finished reciting her damned riddle again, but it seemed only Cleric had really been listening. She bowed before it, then slowly backed away towards where Warrior and Wizard were arguing.
            I reached the back of the cavern, and best I could tell the creature hadn’t noticed my approach. I slowly crept forward, thinking perhaps I could grab the gem and escape unseen. But all such hopes were dashed as the creature’s feminine head turned towards me and placed her two paws between me and the ruby. So much for that approach. Guess it was time to improvise.
            I threw back my hood and raised my hands, hoping the creature would interpret the gesture as meaning I was no threat. It was quite innerving to see her blonde hair, blue eyes, and perfect skin atop the body of an enormous lion, and the wings that soared above her only made her all the more intimidating. But I put on my most winsome smile and approached.
            “Such beauty is unexpected in a place such as this. Might this poor mortal hear the sound of your name, beautiful one?”
            The creature licked its teeth, and for a moment I feared it would attack. But then it replied, “I am Sphinx. You are either an intruder, or perhaps, a welcome guest. Have you an answer to my riddle?”
            “Sphinx? Such a name hardly befits one such as magnificent as you. One who is so wise, so beautiful, so fierce, and so strong. Tell me, madam, who has imprisoned you in this dark place? Surely you are not here on your own will. Would not the rugged peaks or the verdant forest be so much more to your liking?”
            Her face softened into a smile, and I swear to the Divine that I heard her purr before she replied, “You are well spoken for a human. Such fair words for such a small creature. I might ask the same of you. Why have you come to these depths?”
            “Great Sphinx, you must know that those who live above crave such trinkets as the ruby that stands before you. While I have no need of such frippery, alas I bound by my pledge to bring it back to the surface. But one such as you surely has no need for such a trinket. You are far more wondrous than any dirty stone.”
            “Little human, you think I shall simply give it to you in exchange for your kind words? I am not so easily charmed.”
            I gulped. “Of course not, magnificent one. Instead…instead I offer my companions. They are the ones that have forced me against my will to intrude upon you. Do with them what you will. Allow me to take this ruby, and if they cannot answer your riddle, do with them as you will. I only ask that you spare your humble servant.”
            I glanced back at them. Warrior and Cleric were closer than I thought, and Cleric’s eyes were wide. Maybe I hadn’t been as quiet with my words as I should have been. Wizard was now seated on the ground, a pile of books around him. He tossed another one aside and picked another one up, seemingly at random.
            “You amuse me, human. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed another’s company. You are certain, however, that you do not instead wish to answer my riddle?”
            “I am unworthy, Sphinx. For surely there are none who are as wise as you.”
            She smiled, and then her paw whipped out at me, knocking me off my feet and pinning me to the ground.  “Adventurers,” she said. “Have you an answer to my riddle?”
            They made no reply.
            Finally, she continued, “Then I propose a new bargain. Your friend here has decided to stay with me. In exchange for his service, I offer you the ruby you seek. Take it and be gone.”
            My three companions glanced at each other. Cleric shook her head, but Warrior just shrugged. Wizard quickly stowed his books, then approached. He slowly walked up to the statue and removed the gem. He bowed to the creature and then glanced at me.
            “Flattery works on dragons, Rogue. Not on a sphinx.”
            With that he turned and walked away. All too soon I was alone with this monster.
            “Now,” Sphinx said, releasing me from her grip with a wicked smile. “Let us talk.”

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you writing again! Keep them coming!

    The rogue is still alive to tell the history, after all. :-)