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Three Riddles 

    Once upon a time, there lived a humble farm family with two young daughters on the verge of adulthood. The first daughter Alice was anything a parent could ever ask for in a child. She was blessed with the kind of beauty that was harder to come by than a unicorn. Her perfect scarlet hair would be suitable for a princess in any fairytale, even the blonde ones. She was a farm girl in a princess’s body. Every day she was showered with love from those around her, except for one: her older sister Veronica. The older sister, in this fairytale, happened to be runt of the family. She was smaller than her sister, and also much less attractive in every way, shape, or form. However, turn your back on this girl once, and you might discover there is more to her than meets the eye. This will come in a wave of staggering anger as your most valuable belongings seemingly disappeared into thin air.  


    "Go fetch the eggs, Veronica!" said Pop. 

    "Pop, I am already milking the goats. Can't Alice do something for once," Veronica shot back. 

    "Not a chance, Honey. She is getting ready for the royal presentation at the palace with your mother. You know, the one your mother has been talking about for months. The one where the winner gets the king's hand in marriage…" Pop paused, then began again, "Look. Do this one thing for me, then you can go into town for the festival." 

    "Really?!" She immediately turned vibrant.  


    "Thank you!" she said, giving Pop a big hug.  

    "Just stay…" Veronica was already out the door, "…out of trouble." 

    She grabbed her bucket, ran outside, and completed her chores. Soon, she was on her way into town, excited about the big event and the exotic crowds that were bound to follow. Veronica was always the more adventurous of the sisters. Things like festivals, forests, castles, and shiny things always fascinated her. But ambitions like that always come with a catch. Veronica's catch was a particular fondness for stealing. All too often she found herself in trouble with the city guard. In fact, if she gets caught stealing one more time, it's straight to the city jail.  


    "Mum," said Alice.  

    "Yes, dear?" Mum responded. 

    "What happens to our family if I win this silly little competition?"  

    "Don't call it silly, ALICE OLIVANDI! You know exactly what would happen. You, me, your sister, and your father would become royalty. In other words, we would never have to worry about anything ever again. Not to mention, all of your sister's crimes would be forgiven as well," Mum sighed. 

    "Hehe. Silly little donkey is always getting us into trouble. We wouldn't have that problem if she looked more like a girl than an ass." 

    "Unfortunately, true. She got her looks and her affinity for stealing from her father," Mum paused and looked up from adjusting Alice's dress , "Don't tell either of them I said that." 

    They both started to laugh.  

    "I would never, mum!" 


    As Veronica entered the bustling town, she was approached by a shady character wearing a jester's hat. He opened his coat unveiling a plethora of trinkets and knick-knacks. It was obvious he was part of the riff raff, but fortunately, a familiar riff raff. 

    "One for ten, three for twenty-four… wait, VERONICA! Goodness. I am so sorry, lil' miss. I dint recognize ya." 

    "That's ok Uncle George." 

    "Dint expect ta see you ere, Missy. S'pecially after da problem wid the gold watch last week." 

    "I was hoping you forgot about that." 

    "A thief don't forget things like dat. Try not ta forget da housecarl when tryin to steal a household trinket next time." 

    "Very funny Uncle George, but can we please not talk about that." 

    "Yea yea," he murmured as people shuffled by all around us. There were vendors lining the streets selling everything you could think of, from elixirs to foreign spices. 

    "Great! While you are here, you mind telling me about anything… shiny you have seen today. I figured you might have already scoped out the best of the best. Am I right or am I right?" Veronica grinned.  

    "Course you're right. I've got the perfect thing in mind too, but you gotta promise Ol' Georgie one thing." 

    "What? What is it?" 

    "Don't tell ya mama I said an'thang. She yells at me wheneva you be getting' into trouble. SO DON'T this time, ight." 

    "Uncle George, I cross my heart and hope to die. I will not get caught this time. Where are those goodies?" 

    "Ok ok. I'll show ya."  


    “What if I’m not pretty enough for the king?” remarked Alice with a sliver of nervousness in her voice.  

    “Alice. You are all the best parts of me. Of course, you are going to be enough for the king.” 

    “True. I am the better version of you,” Alice stated with a clear tone of confidence. She knew how beautiful her mother was, and hearing her mother say what she did was all she needed to hear. She had always looked up to her mother in that way, and, in turn, always in need of acceptance. 

    There was a brief moment in Mum’s head where she debated slapping her daughter. It was a fleeting feeling. A pinch only hurts for a second… and so does a remark like that from your daughter.  

    “Haha. Good one,” Mum finally spoke. “Ok. It is almost your turn to meet the prince. Confidence is good, so keep that up. Do not let me down Alice. This is very important to your mother, and it should be for you too.” 

    Inside Alice’s head she said, “Should it be!? I never signed up for this, but now I am in too deep. I need to go through with it now and make Mum happy.” 

    “I won’t let you down!” she exclaimed out loud.  

    “Next maiden, please present yourself!” said a booming voice resonating from the hall beyond.  

    Alice knew it was her turn. As she walked into the throne room, she only perceived five other people. There was a boy around the same age as herself sitting upon a throne. There was the king’s mother, standing to his right, his twin brother, the blind prince, standing to his left, an announcer holding a scroll, and two gleaming guards between her and the crowned heads. Alice took a breath deeper than she ever had before, exhaled, strode out in front of the throne, looked the king dead in the eye, kissed his ring, and walked back out. But that wasn’t Alice. She knew that was the traditional greeting, but she also knew tradition could only get her so far in the king’s eyes. 

    “Next maiden, please present yo…” 

    “Wait. Sir king!” Alice yelled, turning back into the room. “I have something to say to you.” 

    “Then speak it,” he said back in a young noble manor.  

    “You have been my everything since I was a young girl… I have stayed up countless nights wondering what this moment would be like… finally meeting you. Deep down, I always knew it would happen someday. Living on a farm, a girl simply looks forward to having dreams of a moment like this… of an opportunity like this. Sir king, I can become the best wife… the best queen… the best mother to your children that you could ever imagine. All you have to do…” she walked up to his throne, knelt down at his feet, and took his hand, “is believe me.” 

    There was a short silence in the throne room after that. Everyone watched as the king pondered on what to say to the beautiful girl. Then, his mouth began to move. 

    “I will do my very best.”  

A    lice, not sure whether to be happy or sad, got up, smiled in the king’s direction one more time, and started walking out of the room.  

    “Next maiden, please present yourself!” 


    It was nearly evening when the king made his choice. All twenty-one of the fair maidens were standing before him in the throne room.  

    “While all of you are exceptionally beautiful… one of you stood out to me beyond the rest. One of you showed me that you were worthy of me. That one of you without the slightest sliver of doubt in my mind, is going to be my queen. That one of you…” 

    He paused, turned away from the group, and looked out towards the extravagant stain glass window behind the throne. One could hear the drop of a needle, and the suspense in the air could be cut with a knife.  

    “… is Alice.” 

    The wedding between Alice and The King took place that very evening. The whole city was invited, and the celebration was magnificent. Travelling bards were in town from the City of Melody, and renowned magicians were in town from the School of Sorcery. All of them arriving just in time for the royal festivity. Everyone would know the name: Alice Olivandi.  


    “Righ there. All your needs outta be met with that beauty!”  

    After a day of journeying throughout the winding overcrowded city streets, we found ourselves about one-hundred yards away from the red tent of the traveling jeweler of the royal council. To most the tent would blend in with any other tent, but for us, we knew right away. There was a small patch on the outside flap of the tent with tigers jumping out of the sun, undeniably the seal of the royal council.  

    “I think you outdid yourself, Uncle George.”  

    “O’course I did! It’s me!” he proclaimed.  

    “You always do.”  

    Out of the corner of Veronica’s eye she spotted something she liked: something shiny, something gleaming, something gold. Her luck was finally looking up, for the sparkling medallion was lying on the city street outside of the tent as if someone had misplaced it. Without question it had been dropped by the royal jeweler. The time to act was now. The longer Veronica waited, the higher the chances the jeweler might realize he was missing something valuable. Veronica knew this, so she seized her moment.  

    With a “good luck” and a wink Uncle George bid farewell to Veronica already fixed on the glimmering medallion laying so lonely on the city street. She made up her mind and started to run towards it. Faster and faster. Nothing mattered except that she got what she came for. She tripped, but it didn’t faze her. It was so close.  

    “I GOT IT!” Veronica cried. Not a second passed after she picked up the medallion before everything went dark.  


    Veronica awoke in a cave. Dark damp walls surrounded her, only illuminated by a faint flickering of yellow light not far off. She was dizzy and her legs weak, but she got up anyways. The light was drawing her in. Her curiosity had an unbreakable pull that had her unable to stay where she was. Step by step she ventured closer to the flickering unknown.  

    As she glanced around a corner, it was all suddenly visible. A young man wearing a ragged torn-up black cloak was sitting alone on a log next to a fire. Veronica could barely make out that his eyes didn’t seem quite normal. Without an exit in sight, she weighed her options. One: go up to the boy and ask for help. Maybe he knew what was going on and could tell her where she was. But then again, he could also kill her… or worse. Two: walk the other way into the darkness and try desperately to find a way out of the cave. But how long does the cave go on? What could be out there lurking in the shadows? What if she couldn’t find her way back to the light? She made up her mind: deciding that she would go talk to the boy but would stay a good distance away. Should the worst happen, at least she might have the chance to run back into the darkness.  

    Veronica crept her way slowly towards the mysterious figure. She positioned herself across from the boy on the other side of the fire. Walking closer she noticed that he was completely blind. His eyes were cloudy and colorless. He was wearing something on his shoulder. It was the royal seal: tigers jumping out of the sun. She stood there confused for a second. She wondered if this someone was from the castle. Before she could open her mouth to ask what was going on, he began to speak.  

    “You’re awake. I have been waiting to thank you for falling so easily into my trap.” 

    “Um… where am I? Who are you?” 

    “Before we get to any of that, answer this riddle…” 

    “No. What is this: some game?”  

    “That is exactly what this is. What is always found on the ground but never gets dirty?” 

    Veronica thought for a moment, but the answer seemed simple enough to her. However, she wondered why he was asking her riddles. She had questions that needed answers. 

    “A shadow,” she said. “…but what is this place? Why am I here?” 

    “Correct! You are here because someone in YOUR family has just become a member of THE ROYAL family. Isn’t that great!?” 

    “What? Oh! Alice must have won the competition. Why does that have anything to do with why I am here with you in this cave?” 

    “Yes, Alice… Your sister is my twin brother’s new queen.” 

    “You’re the prince?!”  

    That would explain the royal emblem on his shoulder. 

    “I would’ve been the king, but it turns out nobody wants a blind king ruling their kingdom. When father died, my brother was immediately chosen for the throne, despite me being the first out of the womb. I WAS FIRST! That family is nothing to me anymore. I decided a long time ago that I would leave that family the first chance I got. Today was that day. You might get the opportunity to be my first… gift to them after leaving,” he smiled, “whether you be alive or not.” 

    “You’re some twisted freak! Are you saying that I am a prisoner?” 

    “Ah. Ah. Ah. I can only answer if you can solve my riddle.” 

    “Why should I answer your damn riddle? Go to hell. Let me go!” 

    “Hey hey hey. You’re just like me. You and I… we are the runts, the outcasts of our families. Believe it or not, your uncle Georgie and I used to be good friends. He told me all about you.” 

    “Why would you do this to me, then?” 

    “He WAS a good friend of mine. Now, he is only an asset. He is the only reason I am giving you a chance to live. Answer these riddles, and you’ll be free.” 

    Veronica’s mind was racing. Uncle Georgie never mentioned that he used to be a friend to the prince. Could the prince be lying? Did Georgie lead me to this sick trap?  

    “Did Uncle Georgie know about this?” she asked.  

    “Answer the riddle.” He responded. 

    “Fine. What is it?” 

    “The person who made it doesn’t need it. The person who bought it doesn’t want it. The person who needs it doesn’t know it. What is it?” 

    This one was hard. It took her a longer time to think about it.  

    “Is it a coffin?” 

    “Yes! Well done. You’re on a roll. To answer your question, yes. Your uncle knew about this the whole time. I offered him gold beyond his wildest dreams for him to lead you to my trap. He only asked that I give you a chance to save yourself. Me, being the gracious friend I am, kindly obliged.” 

    “AM I A PRISONER?”  

    “Of course, you are! But there is hope! Yes, there is hope. You have already answered two of my riddles correctly. Answer one more correctly, and you’ll be out of this place for good.” 

    “What if I don’t get it right?” asked Veronica. 

    “Ah Ah Ah. What did I say about asking me questions?” he replied.  

    “Ask your damn riddle already.” 

    “Such spunk! Maybe I will tell you what happens if you answer incorrectly. Yes, I think I will. If you answer incorrectly, I will take you away to a foreign land. There you will work for me arduously until your new family pays for your release. And if they don’t… they’ll receive your head in a box. Simple as that.”  

    Veronica was not going to give him any enjoyment in seeing her nervous. She was on the verge of breaking down in light of hearing about Uncle Georgie’s involvement in all this. He was the person she trusted the most. Not anymore.  

    “Just ask me the last riddle, so I can get out of here.” 

    “What gets broken without being held?” 

    She repeated the question in her head. What gets broken without… being held? What gets broken… without being held? Glass. No. What gets broken… without being held? 

    “A PROMISE! The answer is a promise.” 

    The smile on the prince’s face faded. The psychopathic joy he felt fizzled away. The look in his eyes turned into a look of disappointment. Veronica was correct.  

    “Well done.” He murmured.  

    With a snap of his fingers, Veronica was back on the city street lying on the dirty ground, alone, relieved, confused, and broken.  

Coby Klumb is a senior at Covington Catholic High School.

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