In search of the key
The box found in the previous step of the treasure hunt was accompanied by a note which read: ‘ A diminutive tower stands beside the fourth of seven pillars, the key within.’
This refers to a cylindrical, grey water access cover. The balcony on the southeast and southwest sides of the house is supported with seven steel beams, the fourth of which meets the ground beside the water access.
Lifting the lid from the water access reveals a flat stone and a note. The stone is cut with a groove, bored with a hole, and engraved with a multiplicity of numerals. The note reads:
O’er cutten stones
Ye metal bones
Shall tell thee numbers three.
This long time they’ve
Lain in their grave
Beneath the bent oak tree.
In search of the metal bones
On the far side of the oak tree stands a grave marker, which I picked up affordably at Goodwill in November (convenient that the after-Halloween sales took place then). A bit of digging before the gravestone yields a box containing the metal bones, a model of a skeletal hand bearing a skull upon its ring finger.
The hand is actually a metal belt buckle, thanks to Jonathan. The knob and slot on the back of the buckle fit into the hole and groove on the cut stone.
Hint: lay the lid from a cookie tin atop your box when burying to minimize any damage it takes from shovel blows when being disinterred.
Opening the box
Laying the bones atop the flat stone, its fingers point to four numerals on the stone’s surface. Combining them into a combination for the lock depends on the treasure hunters associating poem from the introductory booklet with the metal bones:
Mark four brothers gaunt. All aslumber, each waits.
The third from the left carries dourest of fates.
To yield up their secrets the rest were forsworn:
The oldest, then youngest, and last, second born.
The gaunt, sleeping brothers are of course the four fingers of the skeletal hand. The finger bearing the skull ring is third from the left. The ages of the other fingers are to be inferred from their relative heights; therefore, the numbers needed for the combination lock come from the longest, the shortest, and the second longest fingers, in that order.
The next step describes what’s in the box.