Nin came to an abandoned keep that had once served as a toll-house. Now a gigantic and fearsome Sphinx had taken up residence there, demanding travellers answer her riddle in order to pass unharmed. Those that failed to answer correctly were devoured on the spot.
Nin bared himself before the mighty Sphinx and the Sphinx asked her question and Nin considered his answer. He stroked his ears, he ran his paws over his whiskers. He sat, and laid his rump on the soft ground.
“That is a tough one,” said Nin. “Will you give me a moment to mull it over?”
“Take all the time you need,” the Sphinx replied with a sneer.
Nin considered the riddle all day, and well into the night. Eventually he grew tired. He laid down and slept, and the Sphinx watched over him. When he awoke the next morning, the beast asked him: “Have you an answer to my riddle? Speak, and be devoured.”
“I’m still considering the question,” said Nin, the rabbit prince. He retrieved a stalk of dates he had been saving and began to eat. “I cannot think on an empty stomach,” he explained as he ate.
He offered the beast a fig, and she accepted it. “Tell me, why does a Sphinx ask riddles?” he asked offhandedly. The beast had no answer for him.
Nin—seeker of knowledge—resolved to investigate the matter.
He stayed with the Sphinx for many days, and asked her many questions.
He watched her devour travellers who answered her riddles incorrectly. He watched her bow to the strangers who bested her. He watched her contemplate the stars with lonely eyes. He watched all of these things, and he questioned them too.
Like a gadfly.
The Sphinx, at first, merely tolerated Nin’s presence—for he was quiet and observant and did not bother her as she worked. But soon this tolerance changed to acceptance, and, as the days wore on, friendship.
And the Sphinx found that she could not devour a friend.
One evening, she found Nin staring wistfully at the valley and the mountain beyond her keep, and she knew that it was time for them to part. She sat down beside the rabbit. “Remind me,” she began, “what was the riddle I asked you? I seem to have forgotten.”
Nin turned to her. “I can’t seem to remember, either,” he replied softly.
“Then I will give you a new one. Riddle me this, little prince: what do you call a meddlesome rabbit who won’t leave you alone?”
And Nin gave his answer.
He departed the follow day.