# Riddle of the Mysterious Salesman

A riddle. Each pair of lines contains some clues - expect history and wordplay!

Duck or dragon, through the Veil,
Simpson, young goat, all for sale.

When you take away two of my letters
you make me a pawn for my betters,

but take just one, if you please
to make a villain of the seas.

Some say I'm a thief, they lie;
All's fair in war - but who am I?

• Is the title in any way related to the riddle? – stackErr Nov 22 '14 at 22:18
• @stackErr, it's related to the first two lines but not really a clue in itself. (man, it's hard coming up with a descriptive title for a riddle) – kviiri Nov 22 '14 at 22:19
• Nice one! Glad to see the riddles haven't died out on this site :-) – Rand al'Thor Nov 22 '14 at 22:37

Privateers

Because

Duck or dragon, through the Veil, Simpson, young goat, all for sale.

Francis Drake (Drake meaning male duck as well as draconic monster), William Death (through the veil meaning death), Otway Burns (Mr. Burns from the Simpsons animated sitcom), and Captain Kidd (kid being a young goat) were all privateers, ship captains hired by governments for use in war.

When you take away two of my letters you make me a pawn for my betters.

Private (er), bottom level military rank.

But take just one, if you please to make a villain of the seas.

Pirate (missing a v), a seaborn raider. OP added that a Letter of Marque was needed to make privateering legal. Without one, you're a mere pirate.

Some say I'm a thief, they lie; All's fair in war - but who am I?

Though privateers would often plunder their targets, they were not pirates because their actions were sanctioned by governments. It's war, so they merely take their spoils.

• Correct, well done! But the "one letter to make a villain of the seas" actually refers to something else! – kviiri Nov 23 '14 at 8:33

I still can't make sense of the first two lines, but here's my attempt:

PRIVATE.

When you take away two of my letters
you make me a pawn for my betters,

Take away P and A, leaving letters which rearrange to RIVET. A rivet is a small fastener in a large structure, so could be called a 'pawn' for the bigger and stronger things that force it to conform to a certain shape.

but take just one, if you please
to make a villain of the seas.

Take away V, leaving letters which rearrange to PIRATE.

Some say I'm a thief, they lie;

Private as in private property; this refers to the slogan 'Property is theft'.

All's fair in war - but who am I?

A private is a soldier of the lowest rank. This is probably sarcastic; privates have seen the worst and dirtiest parts of war, and they are just nobodies in the grand scheme of things.

(I could also make

PRIMATE

fit all but the first two lines and the last one.)

• Not quite - but a good guess nonetheless. – kviiri Nov 22 '14 at 23:59
• @kviiri - Neither the first nor the second tries are right? :-( – Rand al'Thor Nov 22 '14 at 23:59
• That's right, neither is correct. The first two lines, with enough thought, will make sense when you get the correct answer! – kviiri Nov 23 '14 at 0:02