Dear Auntie Ora;
What is it that all men have one of; that is longer on some men than others, that the Pope doesn't use, and that a man gives to his wife after they're married?
The sphinx leant forward eagerly, muscles tensed under its tawny hide. The eyes in its humanoid face - at once beautiful and grotesque - gleamed with anticipation. A thin trickle of saliva emerged from the corner of its mouth.
Pythia DiStefano gazed up at the monster on the ledge several feet above her head. She cursed herself for not having exited the labyrinth the same way she came. After all, the spinning discs hadn't cut her all that deeply, and as for the bottomless chasm that had opened up behind her - well, she was sure she could have found a way across it somehow.
"You know who I am," she replied, playing for time.
"Oh yes," said the creature. "Auntie Ora, the famed informationalist. Answers to everything for a fee. Solving my little riddle should be a doddle for you, sister."
"How come you dumped the one about walking first on four legs, then two, then three? I knew that one."
"So did everybody else. I have to stay ahead of the game. You have thirty seconds to answer before I eat you."
Pythia absent-mindedly brushed a large poisonous spider from her shoulder. (Tenacious little buggers. Evidently she hadn't got rid of them all at the snake pits.)
"How about if I just leave the vase here? You'll let me go if I don't try to take it, won't you?"
She cautiously placed the vase she had been cradling under her left arm on the ground. She had no intention of leaving her trophy behind - Sibyl needed the ancient inscriptions on its surface to determine the best way to deal with sentient, rabid weasels. But she had to get the bloodthirsty mythical beast off balance.
The sphinx gave a hideous, sharp-toothed grin. "Too late for that, sister. Twenty seconds."
"Okay, okay, don't rush me! All men have one... the pope doesn't use it... I don't suppose it's the obvious anatomical answer, is it? That would be too easy, right?"
"Twelve," said the monster. "Eleven... ten... nine..."
"How about a clue? Just one teensy-weensy hint?"
"Four... three... two..."
"Car keys!" Pythia shouted. "They're different sizes, the Pope doesn't use his because he gets driven everywhere in that Popemobile thing of his, and wives need them to go shopping at the mall!"
"Nice try, sister - no cigar."
The sphinx hurled itself off the ledge, wings spread, fangs bared, claws extended - straight at the small figure of the human below. In one fluid movement, Pythia drew the pump-action shotgun from her rucksack and fired three rounds into the creature's face in mid air. Then she ducked and allowed the shattered body to sail over her head and crash into the tunnel wall opposite.
Pythia replaced the shotgun and sauntered over to the crumpled form of the sphinx. She nudged it with the toe of her boot. The monster stirred.
"Was that... really... necessary?" it gasped.
"Not strictly speaking, no. Inasmuch as the correct answer to your dumb riddle is 'His last name'."
"You... you knew? Then... why...?"
Pythia smiled. "You mean to say you didn't find it more exciting this way? Arrivederci... sister."
She picked up the vase and headed towards the light at the end of the tunnel.