Deep in the middle of the Happy Snappy Swamp, where the mist and fungal spores hung heavy, Devious Daisy Gator wasn’t quite asleep on a log. She lifted one lazy nictitating eyelid a degree higher to examine the mysterious figure lurking at the edge of her domain. Drat it if it wasn’t that wretched gator-hunter, Kungfury.
As ever Kung wore a curious paper bag over his head around which flies circled endlessly. Goodness knows what he actually had under that bag, but whatever it was he no doubt had on his mind thoughts of alligator stew, so it really was unfortunate to see him.
Daisy sighed a deep bellows breath. He would just have to be confronted head on. He was already squelching through the mud towards her so she stretched her long body and paddled across the swamp to meet him.
“Ah, there you are, wicked crocodilian you,” said Kungfury, when he caught up to her. They were close to Daisy’s favourite mangrove tree and Kung lifted his shotgun. He pointed it straight at her. His eyes just about showed through the two holes in his paper bag head.
Devious Daisy’s heart beat harder but she swallowed and smiled her most winning smile.
“You should know, good Sir, I’ve recently acquired a magical shot-proof jacket from the Witch Celene. If you shoot at me your weapon will do me no harm. On the contrary, I will eat you for daring to bring a gun into my swamp.”
Mr. Kungfury blinked but stood his ground. Kung had probably never heard of the Witch Celene, but the story clearly had an impact despite it being a complete fabrication. In truth, after Celene’s favourite feline familiar had inexplicably gone missing, relations between Daisy and Celene had been poor. But Kung was unlikely to know this. And sure enough Kungfury tucked his shotgun back under his arm, apparently believing it was useless.
Still, he wasn’t going away.
“Ah, but you wouldn’t want to eat me,” he insisted. “I really wouldn’t taste very good. Besides, even without a shotgun I fancy you’d find me no easy meal. I have skills other than shooting. Quite possibly neither of us would come away well from a fight. Maybe we can resolve this another way.”
Daisy’s slit-pupil eyes narrowed further. What trickery was this? Though it was possible he was telling the truth about being a match for her; true, he appeared merely human, but who knew what lurked under that paper bag?
“What did you have in mind?” she asked. Might as well find out. She was after all an alligator, so expending unnecessary energy was also not her style.
“We could have a contest,” said Kung. “A test of wits. A test of knowledge. We can ask each other questions. The first to fail to answer looses, and does what the other one asks.”
“I’ll never agree to be served up as alligator stew,” grumbled Daisy. “If I win–which of course I will–I shall eat you. But if–hypothetically–I should loose, what would you claim?”
Kung held up his hand. “If I win, you must agree to return to Sansarland with me to join the HoverDerby. It just so happens I’m in need of a team mate, and I think you would fit the role quite well. As a team we might win first prize. Then you’ll never go hungry for fish again. The rewards for playing the HoverDerby are great. You never need expend valuable energy on hunting again.”
Daisy had to admit, this sounded tempting. She’d heard of the HoverDerby. Matches took only five minutes. That left plenty of time for sleeping.
“Very well,” she said, hopefully not too eagerly. “I’ll ask the first question.” She was confident she could outwit the renowned hunter. Her stomach was also starting to rumble.
“How many teeth do I have?” she said, grinning broadly at Kung, showing many of them off.
“Well, let me see,” said Kung. He appeared to be glancing at her mighty jaws. Perhaps he was trying to count, although of course that would do him no good at all. But he also glanced away and produced a mysterious glowing brick from a secret pocket on his shirt; he started tapping at it with his finger.
“What’s that?” said Daisy. “No magic. That’s cheating.”
“It isn’t magic,” promised Kung. “Just a little light I brought from Sansarland. You have 80 teeth.”
Daisy blinked her nictitating lids. “That’s correct,” she said. “How did you guess?”
“You’d be surprised,” said Kung, and smiled, almost as broadly as Daisy herself. Daisy glared at him.
Now it was Kung’s turn to ask and he wasted no time. “How many players are there in the HoverDerby?” he said.
Daisy ground her teeth, all 80 of them. She ought to know this; she was sure everyone living in Sansarland knew the answer, but she rarely left the swamp. Nevertheless she recalled a time when a rather foolish adventurer had wandered into her swamp, a fellow who was also a player in the HoverDerby. And before he tragically died, they had had a most interesting conversation. From the man, Daisy had learnt much about life in the city, including a thing or two about the HoverDerby.
“There is no fixed number,” she said. “Just even-sided teams. Trick question, methinks. Yesh.”
“Hmm. That’s correct,” admitted Kung. “I had no idea you were such an expert on these things.”
Daisy puffed out her chest. “There isn’t much I don’t know. But I bet there are some things you don’t know. For instance,” she said, grinning a bit wider, “What am I afraid of?”
Kung’s eyebrows knitted together. This time he didn’t produce the glowing brick, but despite his expression, he soon answered. “Nothing,” he said, with apparent confidence.
“That’s correct,” said Daisy, ignoring the fact she was in fact scared of cold, heights, drought, duct tape and yes, very afraid of shotguns.
“Good,” said Kung. “Brave alligator. My question is: How many flies are circling my head?”
Finally, a question Daisy wasn’t worried about at all. Like all gators she’d spent several years of her early life focused almost entirely on nomming flies. Counting a swarming mass of them was no problem at all.
She did a quick tally of the many tiny creatures circling Kung’s paper bag head.
“Ninety six,” she said, raising her enormous chin out of the water and creeping closer to Kung.
Kung visibly swallowed and tried to inch away, and Daisy wasted no time coming back with a new question. “How many people have I eaten?” she said, and this time she actually chuckled: a low sound from deep within her belly.
“Just a moment,” said Kung, no longer able to disguise the nervousness in his voice. Once more he produced the glowing brick from his pocket, though what exactly it could be was unclear. He tapped at the brick, and stared at it for some time.
“Come on, come on,” said Daisy. “I don’t have all day.” Her belly rumbled, loudly.
“26,” said Kung, at last.
Daisy glared at him. “How did you know that?” she demanded.
“We notice in Sansarland when people don’t return from the swamp,” he replied. “My turn,” he said. “What do I have under my paper bag?”
Daisy grumbled. “Not a fair question,” she said.
“It’s as fair as most of yours,” said Kung.
Daisy just snorted, felt her belly rumble, and tried to think.
“Give me three guesses,” she said.
“Okay,” said Kung.
“Your head,” she said.
“No,” said Kung.
“Another person’s head,” said Daisy.
“Wrong again,” said Kung.
“All wrong,” said Kung. “Pack your belongings, Miss Gator. We’re going to the Hoverderby.”
Daisy hissed and protested but an agreement was an agreement. And since she had few belongings other than her larder, which Kung refused to let her take, they made good progress and soon arrived in Sansarland and joined the HoverDerby. Here as Kung had promised, they made a formidable team and won many matches and lived happily, if a little snappily, ever after.
This is a work of Sansar fanfiction. The HoverDerby was a game coded by Galen and built by Jasmine and enthusiastically played in Sansar through much of 2018.
If you enjoyed this story you can support the author by taking a look at her other work and subscribing on Curious Fictions. Her work there includes another piece of Sansar fanfiction: The History of the Sacred Non-Cow