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Flash Friday 20/09/2013: Weapon of Choice (Part 4)

September 20, 2013

Click here for Part 3!

Or, you can find Part 1 here!

When heroes went out to perform their duty, they never had to worry about whether or not they were strong enough to perform the task that was set for them. This is because the path towards said task was always peppered with little quests on the side, to test the potential hero’s strength, intelligence, wisdom, compassion, and ability to put up with annoying little quests. Dennis had hoped for something a little more cerebral in terms of trials, mainly because he wasn’t exactly the strongest lad in the village. Sure, he has his fair share of upper body strength, but he used most of it to get books home from the library in the town nearest the village. In short, he was a mind-over-matter fellow, only because it would take a mind that could calculate basic arithmetic to win over his matter.

This is why he was relieved when he saw the crone on the bridge.

“Good sir,” the crone croaked, as Dennis placed a foot on the first plank of the bridge. “To cross this chasm, you must first answer a triage of riddles, of which I have pondered for many years, some of which I don’t even know the answer to.”

“You mean,” Dennis said, “you’ve made riddles you don’t know the solutions for?”

“Look, sometimes you have a really good one from a Christmas cracker, and then you lose the little slip of paper with the answer on it and it bothers you forever. Point is, I’m loaded, sonny. Would you like to give it a shot?”

“What are the terms?”

“If you can answer the three questions I pose you, then you may pass. Fail one…” The crone’s eyes darkened. “And you shall suffer a consequence most dire.”

“Usual terms, then,” Dennis said. “Okay, then, what is the first question?”

The crone shuffled on her feet, clearing her throat. It sounded like someone unclogging a flute after it had been used by a slug. “Answer me this question, lad; what holds a large arsenal of keys, yet can never open a door?”

Dennis squinted. He was hoping that the questions would be based on something he had more experience on, such as strange people having ten oranges and feeling benevolent enough to give him four, but only if Dennis could then tell the man how many oranges he had, at which point Dennis reckoned it would be none of his business and refused to judge a man based on his citrus stock.

“This is a bit of a bother,” Dennis said. “I don’t know.”

“Hah! Then I have outwitted you, on the first riddle, no less. The answer was a piano, of course,” the crone said, nodding to herself. “Rather like that one. Came up with it all by meself, I did.”

“That’s fair enough. So, what happens now?”

“Eh? What are you talking about, lad?”

“You said that if I didn’t answer your question, there would be a ‘consequence most dire’, or something.”

“Eh? Oh, yes, that. Yeah, the consequence being you can’t cross the bridge. That’s all.”

“Really?” Dennis said, scratching his head. “I thought you were going to kill me.”

“Kill you?” the crone said, her eyes wide with surprise. “What the bloody hell do you think I would do? I can’t go around zapping people just because they can’t get my fiendish riddles right. How will I explain that to the guards? I can’t exactly claim self-defense. Maybe against my intellect and hope in mankind’s ability to not be an idiot, but that’s hardly enough.”

Dennis sighed. “I feel sort of cheated, to be honest.”

“Oh, don’t give me that. You’ve probably had enough death in your young life, being a hero and all. Bet they played the old knock-off-your-parents trick on you as well. It’s all the rage, these days.”

Dennis shrugged. “It just comes with the career.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, there’s some right impressive dragons on the other side of this ravine that need slaying. If you really want, I can blow a mean raspberry. Trust me, my tongue is so old, it’s like having a leather belt in there.”

Dennis folded his arms. “I see. Did you meet her?”

The witch tilted her head. “Who?”

“My mother, before she died. Is it true, what she said?”

“True? What was true?”

“That you wear french lingerie under those hag-like clothes of yours.”

The crone blinked, covering herself with her arms despite wearing all-covering clothes. “What business is it of what I wear underneath?”

“Nothing. Absolutely not my business.”

“Well, why did you bloody ask then? And why the hell are you walking across my bridge?”

“Because,” Dennis said, holding up three fingers. He pointed to each one for each statement he made. “My mother. What she said. Your underwear. I answered three of your questions, crone, and now I can cross, like you said.”

The crone stared off into the distance, counting the questions herself. Then, she gave a stern glare. “This obstacle was to test your intelligence and wisdom,” she said, with bitter tones. “Not to see how much of a smart-arse you are.”

“Still, I met your terms, didn’t I?” Dennis said, now standing in front of the witch. “So how about it? Can I go by?”

The witch muttered under her breath, then stood aside. “Go on, then,” she said, “but you’re not having one of my gold star stickers that I give out to proper riddle-solvers. You can go sod yourself as a reward, if you really want one.”

“Thanks, but the pleasure is already mine,” Dennis said, walking across the bridge. If his quest was going to be silly, then he might as well have fun rubbing its nose into the dirt.

962 words

Go to Part 5 of Weapon of Choice!

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  1. Ashe permalink

    I think Dennis was rather clever, actually. The crone just doesn’t want to admit she was outsmarted.

  2. I agree that Dennis was clever. Doesn’t seem like the kind of world that has pianos in it, but maybe that’s why he found that riddle so difficult.

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