A young prince arrives at the ruins of Las Vegas with an elephant gun in his hands. The new Sphinx is waiting for him at the gates, unsurprised by his arrival, although perhaps a bit amused. Her hydraulics begin groaning loudly. She rises onto all four paws, and her fiber optic mane glimmers to life with rings of artificial color. Then, she speaks. “Coloradan Royalty, out here? To what do I owe the pleasure?”

At those words, the traveler draws and fires his deafening weapon, scarcely bothering to aim. The massive slug of lead somehow manages to strike the monster’s visage, shattering two crystalline eyes in her ring of twelve. Even so, it’s only enough to make her sigh. “Everyone tries that first, you know. Reload and shoot me again if you’d like. Try to destroy the last pretty thing in Vegas. You’ll fail.” She twists her neck one-hundred eighty degrees. “Or, we can try this again. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

He accepts futility and lowers his weapon. Then, “I’ve come here to conquer,” he declares. “I seek to stretch my father’s kingdom from the Cascades to the Appalachians. This place shall be a city of palaces to house my many wives and concubines, as well as every pleasure under the sun.”

“Oh it shall, shall it?” She laughs. “Then, let’s do this the old-fashioned way. I shall pose to you a riddle. Answer correctly, and I shall freely grant unto you that which your blood has already guaranteed you. If not, you shall die here and now. As you possess divine right and wisdom, surely this shall pose no threat to you, shall it?”

“Are you mocking me?” He grits his teeth. “Pose your riddle and be done with it.”

She smiles silently for a moment, then continues. “When you inherit your father’s kingdom, you shall inherit all of the mountains in the Rockies. Among these mountains, however, there are many caves. Would you agree, then, that the more mountains you shall inherit, the more caves you shall inherit?

“Yes,” he declares.

“However, the more caves that a mountain has, is it not less of a mountain? After all, there is no mountain at all wherever its stone has been mined or hollowed away. Therefore, would you not also agree, that the more caves you shall inherit, the fewer mountains you shall inherit?”

“Yes. Now stop testing my patience. What is the riddle?”

“If you agree, then we must conclude that the more mountains you shall inherit, the fewer mountains you shall inherit. Knowing this, dear prince, my riddle for you is: what shall you inherit? What is it that your blood has guaranteed you?”

The answer is, of course, “nothing.” Before the prince can offer his reply, however, the creature’s tail has already found its way around his throat.