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In Over Your Head · FiM Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
The Sphinx
Daring Do leapt through the stone archway as the passage collapsed behind her. Air displaced by the falling rocks pushed her, and she shot from the corridor like a dart ejected from a blowgun. For a long moment gravity went away, and there was only the sensation of wind ripping at her feathers in the dark, and then she met the stone floor again.

She came to rest on her side. Blood tinged the air, riding atop the dank scent of dust and stone and ages that clogged her nostrils. She coughed a little cough, and marvelled that her ribs were still intact.

Ow. Ow. Seriously, ow. Half her hide felt raw, but at least she was in one piece. She rose with a quiet groan. It was dark, and she fished a flare from her saddlebag and gave it a twist. Brilliant red light burst from the tip, blinding her for a moment.

The room was wide, dozens of paces across. Massive stone blocks made up the walls, and she could barely see the ceiling, so high was it. Dust, undisturbed for years, swirled with each breath, and the floor all around was littered with countless white sticks that crunched beneath her hooves—

She froze. Not sticks. Bones.

Hundreds of bones. Thousands. A graveyard worth of bones, all scattered on the stone floor. A scream tried to crawl its way out of her throat, and she choked it back down.

And then something broke the silence. A voice like a god’s, so loud it shook her chest and rattled the bones strewn all about.

“Well, that was interesting,” the thunderous voice said. “I’ve never seen a pony enter that way.”

The air moved again, and a tremendous form fell from the ceiling. It landed with a crash in front of Daring. Wings the size of sails stretched out, cupping the darkness, and a leering face craned over her. Shark’s teeth in a pony’s maw, borne on a lion’s body.

“It’s been years since I had a visitor,” the sphinx said. She smiled, and sparks dripped from her jaws. “I’m glad you came. I’ve been lonely.”

“Oh, um…” Think, think! “Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Daring Do, and I was actually just looking for the exit when I—”

“The exit!” The sphinx’s grin split her face nearly in half. “You’re in luck. It’s just behind me, up those stairs. Can’t miss it.”

“That’s great.” Daring Do sidled slowly to the right, nudging away the bones in her path. “Well, then I’ll just—urk!”

A paw the size of a dinner plate crushed her to the floor. Sharp bone fragments dug into her skin, and she struggled for breath beneath the sphinx’s terrible weight.

The pressure eased after a moment, though the paw remained. “Oh, why the rush? Surely you can stay for a bit. Not long, I assure you.”

“Right, right!” Daring gasped. “A riddle, isn’t it? You have a riddle for me?”

“Ah.” The sphinx’s grin faded, and she gazed at the bones all around. “Yes, a riddle, and then I’ll eat you. That’s how it goes.”

“Or… maybe I’ll get it right and you’ll let me go?”

The sphinx snorted. Furnace air and ashes seared Daring’s face. “All the long centuries leave me in doubt. Very well then, mortal, have your riddle.” She leaned back, tall and imposing as a statue, and spoke.

“What do sphinxes want?”

To eat ponies. The words were on Daring’s lips, about to fly, when something bade her pause. She glanced around at the mouldering bones, and the darkness, and the monster towering above her.

Lonely. Was that it? Worth betting her life on?

The paw pressed down. Claws bit into her hide. “Well?”

Daring gulped. “They want somepony to answer their riddle. So they don’t have to eat them.”


The paw lifted. The sphinx jerked her head. “Up the stairs. Enjoy your freedom.”

Daring stumbled to her hooves. She dusted herself off and slowly edged toward the passage, her eyes never leaving the sphinx. The monster never moved; its gaze never lifted from the faint smear of blood where Daring had lain.

Daring paused. She could hear the air moving through the stairs. She could smell the desert above. It was just moments away. She could already taste the sunlight.

Instead she stopped. “Say, uh…”

The sphinx turned to regard her. Its visage was like stone.

“You, uh, wanna come with me?”

Silence again.

And then the sphinx smiled.
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#1 · 4
Very nice:

A few things, though. The sphinx is sometimes "she" and sometimes "it," and I'd like to know why she doesn't just leave on her own. Maybe she's too big to fit up the stairs? Whatever the reason, have Daring recognize and address it at the end, author, and it'll make things even nicer.

#2 ·
A very pony spin on the classic tale… though Baal Bunny does raise a good point about the ending. Still, you had literally no words left, so I can give it a pass given the circumstances. Presumably you also had to skip over the inevitable wing injury that kept Daring from softening her initial landing. Overall, great work. Here’s hoping you expand this.
#3 ·
Air displaced by the falling rocks pushed her, and she shot from the corridor like a dart ejected from a blowgun.

This is not how physics works. The air gets sucked up into the space the rocks previously occupied (otherwise, they couldn't fall down: the vacuum pressure would hold them in place).

"Tinged" refers specifically to color, not scent, so try a different word. It's also not clear where she's bleeding from, and that probably bears mention if it's enough for her to smell and enough to make a blood smear on the floor that you can see from a distance. It would be more realistic if you didn't mention blood at all, honestly.

Others have commented on the "why can't the Sphynx leave" already, but that should be addressed.
#4 · 1
A fun little story that leaves me wanting more. Not because it feels like it should be a longer story, as is the case with many minifics, but because I just want to read more about these two's adventures together.
#5 ·
Ticks a lot of my boxes, this. I read an article once on how you can get away with unwieldy/misappropriated word combinations for descriptions, so long as the end result is evocative. Sometimes you nail it here, but sometimes it doesn't quite work out—at least, not for me.

Oh yeah, and the above points, too.

I liked this, though, and it brought a smile to my face at the end. Would love to see it expanded on. Thanks for sharing.
#6 · 4
The entrance being too small for the sphinx to get out makes sense.

Daring Do having access to heavy explosives also makes sense.

Just saying, author.

Just saying.
#7 · 2
I was a little confused by how much blood Daring did or didn't leave on the floor. I also noted one particularly odd-looking turn of phrase:

She coughed a little cough

But I like that this was a complete story, in the sense of Daring not only facing a challenge and succeeding, but transcending it and trying to befriend the Sphinx. The thing I feel is missing is a sense of why Daring wanted to be there in the first place. Presumably she knew about the Sphinx and sought out the dungeon, but why? She doesn't gain anything at the end; she just reaches the exit.

I know, it's a quibble. But Daring doesn't just go down into dungeons for the heck of it, right? (And if she did, that could actually be a cool opportunity to deconstruct the usual genre she ends up in...)

Tier: Almost there
#8 ·
· · >>Icenrose >>georg
Strange pick of words ‘Air displaced’? Why not just blown out? Your first section really reads academic. Even the second paragraph is somewhat clunky. ‘Blood tinges the air’ sounds like the air is coloured in red, for example.

Dust swirling with breaths? It's like she's breathing dust. You mean with each step maybe?

all scattered on the stone floor […] the bones strewn about: redundant. We know that already. You're already strapped on words, so don't use them to tell us something we already know. Ditto “And then something broke the silence. A voice like a god’s,…” “Then a godlike voice resounded,…” Same image, 50% words saved.

Ponies have maws? Really?

The plural of Sphinx is sphinges. You like 'moving air'. The Sphinx is a she, then a it.

Small flubs. Of course, it's rather a scene than a story. Problem here is that the stakes are low: we all guess that DD will get away scot-free. Consequently, there's not much tension. The end is, well, rather good. Now, there's still a fundamental question left unanswered here: why is the Sphinx watching over the exit and not the entrance?

In all, not bad, but not outstanding either.
#9 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
I don't have much to add here that hasn't already been said, Writer. This is a nice little adventure tale, but there are some logistical concerns that need to be addressed in order for it to make more sense.

The plural of Sphinx is sphinges.


I learned something today.
#10 · 1
Pedantry :P
#11 · 4
The Sphinx — A+ — Nothing dingable, and very believable Daring Do. Falling rocks do displace air and can cause multi-ton equipment in a coal mine to be thrown around like matchsticks during a cave-in. I do find it odd that a sphinx that size eats *around* the bones, unless she just needs decorations. Interesting that a sphinx would want *not* to do the thing DD most fears, but knowing somebody’s goals is exposing a weakness. And at the end, it appears DD is willing to use that exposed weakness not to hurt the creature, but to offer it help. Quality behind the scenes work.
So would a group of Sphinges be a Press Conference?

...I'll see myself out.
#12 ·
I actually really dug this story. Having just recently done a college paper about the Sphinx in Greek legend, this certainly had me reflecting on the original tale more than I probably would have. The Sphinx being a lonely creature who just wants to befriend someone, yet just eating all who come to meet her because they don't know what she wants is such a sad idea. It certainly adds a different level of interpretation to the character, and for that, I like this story.

That ending was great, by the way. Perfect recognizance of the beauty from the beast.
#13 · 2
Okay, while I personally question the sanity of inviting a creature that has, personally, killed and eaten enough of my kind to fill a graveyard to come along with my when I leave it's lair... It does seem like a very pony thing to do. So, thumbs up for being clever, insightful, and in character.