Comics: Once Upon a Trope

Cryptic Clues


The hero is eating a sandwich alongside her sidekick. A cloaked stranger approaches.

Stranger: Beware!

The hero looks up, surprised, mouth full of sandwich. The stranger gestures with their gnarled hand. 

Hero: I’m sorry, who’re –?

Stranger: This way comes the ravenous beasts of yore, heralding the approaching darkness. Do not stand in their way…

Hero: You know I’m a hero, right?

Stranger: …for all in their path shall burn!

The hero looks confused. The stranger uses their forearm to hold their cloak up to just beneath their eyes.

Hero: Thanks, but if you could just clarify –

Stranger: I have spoken!

In a whoosh of their cloak, the stranger vanishes. The hero is disgruntled.

Hero: Can’t anyone warn me of danger without speaking in riddles?

The hero and the sidekick look thoughtful.

Sidekick: We’ll figure it out. The “approaching darkness” must be the upcoming war…

Hero: So maybe the “ravenous beasts of yore” are former warlords, seeking glory.

Sidekick: If “all in their path will burn,” do you think they have atomic weapons?

Later, the shocked-looking hero and sidekick are outside. There’s a colorful sunset, and a stream of extinct animals are approaching. Some have mouthfuls of grass, another has managed to grab some human food. They look unbothered by how all the ground they’ve touched is on fire.

Hero: Let’s get out of their way.



  1. Jeppsson

    I wanted to have a cryptic clue in my story, but I made it so that the heroine had a very hard time reaching and communicating with the helpful clue-giver; she could only get a snippet of a message.

    I also had another individual give her cryptic clues, really speaking in riddles like in the comic, but turns out that person was an asshole who was just messing with the heroine.

    • Chris Winkle

      Lol, I like the asshole subversion, that’s great.

      • Jeppsson

        Thanks Chris! Funny thing is, although I thought it was a fun subversion, I also thought it was obvious from the get-go. But when Husband and other people beta-read it, they thought it was like THE BIGGEST TWIST.

        • Adam

          Dude there is a good story called avoiding stupid deaths in the 41st Millenium, and in it it had a ranger who warned the main character with all these cryptic hints and just when the main character was about to shoot he he laughed and told him he was messing with him. He then told them everything about the enemy army. It was a great subversion.

  2. S.T. Ockenner

    I love how they think “oh, we’ll fight human warlords with bombs” but then it was actually flaming dinosaurs attacking at night.

  3. S.T. Ockenner

    I came up with an idea for a movie trailer from this:
    It opens with suspenseful music, and a cryptic message. It cuts to a bunch of people gathering, and the suspenseful music gets even more suspenseful. A glowing, multicolored spaceship lands slowly, and a section of the spaceship opens up and becomes a bridge of sorts, as a great shadow begins to descend from it- briefly cuts to nearby house with garden gnomes- and the suspenseful music becomes epic and action-y as…a horde of gnomes comes running out from the spaceship, led by a super tall gnome in a black coat wielding a great-sword, with a super tall red conical hat. Cuts back to the house as the garden gnomes begin blinking, then shriek and jump into the window, and we hear human screams, crashing, and see blood spurts, and hear the gnomes giggling. Cuts back to the spaceship, and then cuts to the heroes, who are watching in the crowd of civilians, who are now all scattering and screaming as the gnomes begin attacking. I call this movie “Gnomes”

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