The sphinx tapped her claws on the rock she was currently lounging on, and scanned the dusty road that stretched out in front of her. It was completely deserted.
“Lousy road. I thought this was supposed to be a main highway?”
She flexed her paws, and noticed that the red paint she’d put on her talons was beginning to flake.
“Oh, and that just puts the tin lid on it! I haven’t eaten for days and now my talon paint is flaking.”
Supremely irritated, she scored a few deep grooves in the rock, and just for the hell of it added the only three words she was able to read or write.
‘Sorrelwing was here’.
She admired her handiwork briefly, before flicking her beloved tail-tuft around and running her tongue over it lovingly. She spent about half an hour absorbed in the task, and then her head snapped up as her sensitive ears made out the sound of hoofbeats.
“Oooooh…food,” she purred, and sat up abruptly, shaking back her curly red hair. She’d tried to straighten it out again that morning, but it hadn’t worked. Likewise, she still had freckles, and her cute turned-up button nose was still, obstinately, cute and turned-up. Something would have to be done. After lunch.
The man coming along the road looked like a standard farmer. Sorrelwing grinned, baring her four rows of needle-sharp fangs. Perfect. Farmers had an earthy flavour that was quite pleasant, and he was unlikely to know the answer to her riddles. As he approached, she sorted through her limited imagination to find an acceptable riddle.
The farmer reined in his horse and looked at her nervously. Sorrel smiled slowly at him.
“You must answer a riddle to pass. Succeed, and you may continue. Fail, and you will be devoured!”
The farmer’s face cleared, to the Sphinx’s puzzlement.
“Oh, right, you’re a sphinx. So you’re going to ask me that riddle about four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three in the evening, right?”
Sorrelwing looked at him, and tapped her talons irritably.
“Do you have any idea how long ago Sphinxes stopped using that one? You think I’m stupid? Everyone knows the answer to that one. No. My riddle is much harder.”
The farmer swallowed, terror returning to his face. Sorrelwing grinned again, and delivered her riddle.
“Tell me…what is the average wingspan, in feet, for a mountain Roc?”
“That’s not a riddle! That’s a question!” the farmer protested. His mount shifted nervously, more aware than its master of the imminent danger.
“Oh, so you’re declining to answer, are you? That’s automatic devouring. Step forwards, please.”
“Nononono, wait!” the human gabbled, holding up his hands. “Umm…twenty feet?”
Sorrelwing pretended to think about it.
“Well…you were close…”
Her acid-green eyes lit up, and she bared all four rows of teeth.
“But not close enough!”
She leapt, spreading her wings for extra momentum, and the farmer screamed.
Shortly afterwards, all that was left of him and his horse was a small pile of ripped and bloodstained clothing, and a bridle and saddle.
Sorrelwing belched, and licked her talons.
“Perfect,” she purred, and went back to perch on her rock and wait for the next passing human.