The riddle given in my previous installment, the one included with the latter collection of diary entries, pointed us to an English yew writing desk (of which the upper drawers were real and the lower drawers were false) and within, the leathern pouch mentioned in the diary.
Within the pouch was the afore-referenced letter from Brigit to Remy and a torn page from Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur but no silver key.
The letter read as follows:
Remy my love,
I write what may be my last communication to you. The injury in my hand has laid me low, and all of Danu’s science has thus far proved insufficient to stay the spread of the poison.
I write fearing the worst for both of us but hoping salvation for yourself. By the laws of the Fay, I cannot come of age while unwed and living under my mother’s rule. (Our marriage is not magically binding until you take possession of the dowry.) However, because you are of age, the oath you swore in the chapel is binding. Therefore, Danu has exercised the laws of the Fay to claim equal rights with yourself over all your land. I am certain that she will render it uninhabitable for you.
Take the dowry and this shall be undone. The purse I have sent you holds the key to opening the box.
Danu cannot take the box from you, but if she can open it, she will reclaim the dowry, and our union will never be legally effected. You must not let her open the box.
Until we meet again, if only in death.
P.S. Breathe hot upon the next missive which you receive.
The torn page bore the following text on one side:
…Then Sir Arthur looked on the sword, and liked it passing well. Whether liketh you better, said Merlin, the sword or the scabbard? Me liketh better the sword, said Arthur. Ye are more unwise, said Merlin, for the scabbard is worth ten of the swords, for whiles ye have the scabbard upon you, ye shall…
And the following text on the side opposite:
…give me a gift when I ask it you, ye shall have it. By my faith, said Arthur, I will give you what gift ye will ask. Well! said the damosel, go ye into yonder barge, and row yourself to the sword, and take it and the scabbard with you, and I will ask my gift when I see my time. So Sir Arthur and Merlin…
Our party was perhaps equally so disappointed as Remy appeared to have been — maybe more so since he at least had the silver key and we had none at this point. It was only a great while after finding the pouch and moving on that anyone returned to this pouch and made any sense of the Malory excerpt.
Contents of the telegraph box
I explained earlier that we found a bundle inside the telegraph: some dust and bones wrapped in a blackened rag. It was popularly supposed among us that this dust and bones were the remains of Brigit’s homunculus. Reviewing Remy’s diary entries indicated that it had delivered no message on his last visit but that its robe of Irish moss was replaced with a dirty handkerchief, so we applied Brigit’s latest instruction, “Breathe hot upon the next missive which you receive,” against the blackened rag.
Miraculously, the blackness melted away before our breaths but closed in quickly when the affected area cooled. With concerted effort, we forced the blackness away for long enough to discover and transcribe a message written on the rag:
Danu has placed a lock of her own on the box and attempted to move it beyond your reach. Here is a key to find it.
Bring me your offerings unclothed, and I will return them in stripes; ignore me, and black they'll be.
As for breaking the lock, rely on Danu’s flame. Its loyalty can be won if you find its favorite.
The party did not require long to identify the barbecue grill as the solution to this latest riddle. Within it we found a very large box with no adornments save a single of the black jewels which were familiar to us by now. We rightly surmised that this was Danu’s lock.
We played all of the songs we had found from the folder labelled “William’s Favorites” and shone the lantern on the box with each light we produced but to no effect.
We had some progress yet to make in other directions before we could get this box open, so in my next installment, I will return to the contents of the other three boxes which accompanied the latter diary excerpts.
Yes, I am aware of a continuity problem here, since Remy mentioned in his journal that he attempted to open the box even after receiving the pouch, which should have been impossible since, by that point, the box was supposedly hidden by Danu. Initially, it was my plan to have Remy hide the box, not Danu, but that’s not the way it came out in the end, so I ended up with this loose thread.
Perhaps Remy’s diary should have lamented not being able to find the box instead of lamenting not being able to open it. Let this be a testament to how very, very hard it is to make a treasure hunt. Issues of continuity (and pacing) are the last things you’d think of when enumerating the difficulties of composing these things, but they are real and they are hard. Everything about composing a treasure hunt is difficult.
The fact is that I was actually recognizing holes in the treasure hunt the day it was staged. I had to come up with times/places to insert two clues 10 minutes before staging was complete because I realized that although they had been more-or-less composed, they had been left off of my checklist and didn’t fit obviously into the story. What’s more, when we took a break for the night, I hand-wrote and hid an extra clue, without which I realized the treasure hunters would never figure out what to do with one of the items.
The temperature-sensitive blackened rag was achieved with a mixture of thermal dust (for purchase at http://solarcolordust.com/Site/Products.html) and water-soluble glue painted over a rag.