Pick Your Own YA Fantasy Part 10

PYO-Logo[Welcome to part ten of my continuing blog series. I write the book, you pick the plot. For earlier parts, see part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6part 7part 8, and part 9.]

John scrambled to come up with an answer. Riddles were tricky things for him. He loved reading them over from the comfort of his bed or a sofa, thinking about what the answers might be before he inevitably snuck a peek on the really hard ones. But it’s one thing to try and answer a riddle when you’re in your pajamas on a snow day. Trying to figure it out when an ancient sphinx is staring you in the eye . . . that was a whole different experience.

Still, there had to be a trick to it. He just wasn’t seeing it. What was found once in a while and twice in a billion years? Did it have something to do with the seasons? What came in spring and winter, but not summer or fall? Snow? Flowers? Once in a while, I can be found . . .

And then it hit him. The riddle was a trick. A game. The answer was in the set up and the actual question: Once in a while, “i” can be found. What am “i”? Sure,  the grammar was off by a bit, but it had to be:

“The letter i,” he blurted out. “The letter i.”

The sphinx gazed into John’s eyes, unblinking and unmoving, as if weighing his response and seeing if it passed muster. The stare went on long enough that John began to second guess himself. Had he gotten something wrong? Was it a different letter, or an entirely different sort of answer? Had it been “time”?

“That is correct,” the sphinx said at last. “I shall not destroy you.”

Liese breathed a sigh of relief, a sigh echoed by John. But once again, the sphinx said nothing. Those feline eyes just stared at John in much the same way a cat might watch a mouse it was thinking about eating but hadn’t gotten around to killing yet. “Great?” John said at last.

More silence.

John cleared his throat. “How do we get to the entrance to the library, then?”

“I shall aid you, but only in my own way. Every answer is a riddle. Three paths lead from this spot in the maze, and every path branches seven times before they reach their end. Branch leads to branch, and way leads to way, but only one leads to the goal you seek. The way you face now lies north. Every season in a single year is a passageway, starting in the east. Go down the path of the final season, traced in the pathway of the sun in the sky, then follow its course, never turning, except when you’ve taken the number of steps found in thirty weeks. Take that passage, and your destination lies at the end. Good luck, young man and woman. Be wise, and be vigilant. There are many much harder tests to come.”

And with that, the beast turned and padded onward into the darkness. John and Liese watched its tail swish as it passed, then turned to each other. “Did you understand any of that?” Liese asked. ”

John couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. He’d been hoping she would have the answer for him. He shook his head, admitting, “I got lost somewhere with the weeks and seasons.”

“I think I understood some of that part,” Liese said. “We’re supposed to count off the seasons in a year in the direction the sun moves, so that’s east to west, starting with the passage on our right, with every path getting one season, until we come to the end of a year. Then we go down that passage until we’ve stepped . . .”

“The number of steps in thirty weeks,” John finished. Maybe he’d caught some of it after all. It had seemed difficult at first, but when he broke it down, it seemed clear. Count off four seasons: that would mean the passage on the right was the first, the left was the second, behind him was the third, and then back to the passage on the right for the fourth. They’d go down that 210 steps, turn, and then take that path to the entrance to the library. When he explained this to Liese, however, she hesitated.

“It seems too easy, doesn’t it?” she asked.

And John had to admit that it did. Would the sphinx really make things that straightforward? But they still needed water or a way out of the pyramid. If he couldn’t come up with a better answer, then he’d just have to go with this one. He thought it over for a moment, then made up his mind.

Make a Choice

Is John going with the straightforward answer, or does someone have a better idea? I need a specific alternative if you choose something else. Feel free to talk it out on the blog, but as usual, the most popular answer wins out.

And to make things interesting, I’m putting this on the table: all but one of the paths John and Liese might choose will bring them to a fate they’d really rather avoid. Let’s do our best not to kill them, shall we?

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