Turning Sixteen


Turning Sixteen

Salutations, Sir R-----! Might I presume that a glass of warming spirit might kindle your passion for wager upon this chill winter's night?

It shames me to have doubted it sir, it shames me to have doubted it!

As you will have no doubt read in the popular press, I was recently ordained as the Metropolitan of Moscow. Less well reported is that this was done at the request of the Empress so as to facilitate trade negotiations with the fervently religious, and perplexingly geriatric, peoples of Sedna; an extremely distant and relatively small territory entirely governed by its priesthood.

Their Pope G-----, having noted a disturbing decline in the piety of young folk since his day, some years ago decreed that every child must prove their worth upon their sixteenth birthday, sixteen being a sacred number to them on account of their having eight fingers upon each hand.
This proof takes the form of a trial by ordeal in which they must put sixteen sacred stones into their holy order using, what with their being rather weighty, wheels that are placed between them upon which they may be loaded, moved and unloaded rather than carried. If the task is not completed twixt dawn and dusk then the unfortunate child is sacrificed to their gods so as to make room for souls of a more pious disposition.

Now I shouldn't propose that you chance your life upon a wager, but perhaps you might chance your purse?


I shall write upon these here coasters the numbers one to sixteen, shuffle them right well and lay them out upon the table in four rows of four apiece. If, by means of repeatedly putting squares of four neighbours through quarter or half turns, you can contrive to arrange them in their proper order then you shall have a bounty of three of my coins and if not then instead I shall have two of yours.

Upon my description of this rite of passage, that miserable student whose acquaintance I am most cruelly burdened with set to blathering on and on about how he and some fellows of his once took an exceedingly lengthy tour about their lodgings in search of a quantity of pears for trade. Quite what bearing their fruitless meanderings might have upon the matter at hand, I cannot fathom!

But let us not dwell upon it; here take another dram and think upon your chances!

With thanks to George Wellen upon whose suggestion of a Hungarian rings puzzle this game is based.

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