Apex (Challenge repost)

Avatar Author: falconesse This space, like many of my ficlets, is a work in progress. Read Bio

They sought out her clockwork tower to hear the gods’ words from her lips.

Bronze-plated dragons with snapping shrapnel teeth guarded the landings. Those who weren’t eaten faced a wind-up Sphinx that spat out ticker-tape riddles. She hated it when they answered incorrectly; the Sphinx’ broken voice-recorder played back their dying screams for hours, until she went out and gave it a kick.

It played a fanfare when they got it right, and the whirring gears as the door to her chambers unlocked warned the oracle of impending guests.

They all entered the same way — awestruck, breathless, grateful to be alive… but smug, too. After all, hadn’t they bested dragons? Hadn’t they outwitted the Sphinx? Sometimes, when the gods were done speaking, she’d add an extra task for the most arrogant. The gods didn’t seem to mind.

When they were gone, she’d feed new riddles to the Sphinx and stare out across the city, wondering why heroes rescued princesses from dragon-infested towers, but left prophetesses behind.

View this story's details


Oh no! This story doesn't have a prequel. Want to fill in the blanks and write one?


Oh no! This story doesn't have a sequel. Want to fill in the blanks and write one?

Comments (7 so far!)

Average Reader Rating

  1. Avatar Pyropunk 51 (PPP LoA)

    i really like the description of the broken Sphinx. Good job portraying the lonely priestess.

  2. Avatar Spiderj

    The run-down sphinx is great and it’s a very well contained short story. It’s rare to see short fantasy/sci-fi like this that paints a broad picture but knows it isn’t necessary to fill in every blank.

  3. Ahfl_icon THX 0477

    Very cool. Ah, it’s for the fantasy/sci-fi challenge. I get it now, though even before that realization I thought it worked extremely well at blending technology and magic. You darn near created a whole new world in that short little story! Killer ending too.

  4. Avatar falconesse

    Thank you, all! I hadn’t written it for the challenge originally, but jesteram encouraged me to enter it in there, so I figured I’d give it a try.

    It’s funny – the story sprang from a completely different idea altogether, and in its original incarnation there weren’t any steampunk/sf elements to it at all. As I wrote it, though, the voice just wasn’t working. I deleted it and started again from the oracle’s POV rather than the hero’s, and this is the result.

  5. Avatar jesteram

    I gave the original five pencils, but I don’t think anyone would mind if I gave the re-post five as well. I’m glad you entered! The phrase “ticker-tape riddles” is my favorite, I think.

  6. Avatar Vashau Taslet

    Stunning! is the only words i can use to describe this piece. this short story is so well rounded,it reminds me that greatness can still be achieved in things under a single KB.

  7. Avatar Oy

    Great! Sounds like something I would hear listening to the Drabblecast! You should submit it…

This story's tags are