Quest for the Castle Treasure: Finding Freya’s device

This post is part of a series on the magical treasure hunt, particularly, the Quest for the Castle Treasure.

The most recent message

‘Freya contrived a device that would discover the secret of the castle treasure. The apparatus was placed high in the pantry, but the secret to the box lay in Freya’s head alone.’

Finding the device presents no great difficulty: it’s in the top of the pantry, just as the message said. However, the box is locked with a four-digit combination lock. The secret to opening the box, as the message says, is in Freya’s head.

The secret of the box

The treasure hunters discovered Freya’s remains toward the end of the Quest for the Murderer (next to Freya’s prayer book). Her skull can be opened by removing the calaverum; inside is a note, which reads: ‘Swab the castle map with the blood of the murderer.’

Recall that the murderer’s heart from the Quest for the Murderer is in a jar partly filled with blood (not real blood). When the treasure hunters spread this blood on the castle map, a message in green letters appears. (See how to make a blood message.) The blood message reads: ‘My box opens for but one day of the year, when the thrush knocks.’

Opening the box

Reference to a thrush knocking and something which opens for only one day of the year alludes to The Hobbit, concerning the secret entrance into the Lonely Mountain.

If the treasure hunters don’t remember the details, they can research the matter to learn that the day in question is Durin’s Day, the last new moon before winter. That date (it varies by year) will open the combination lock on the box.

What’s in the box is explained in the next post.

Quest for the Castle Treasure: Tea Service & Tree Stumps

This post is part of a series on the magical treasure hunt, particularly, the Quest for the Castle Treasure.

Within the box

The stones-and-bones box opens to reveal a bottle of aqua vitae and a colour cipher. Lighting the fluid produces a magenta flame, and the secret message reads: ‘Between a silver teapot and a diamond lavaliere.’

Treasure hunters from my family will recognize this as a reference to Piggins, a charming children’s book about a crime-solving butler who is a pig.

Within the book

Between the leaves of the book is a fill-in-the-blank puzzle. Treasure hunters use Bible knowledge to give answers, from which select letters are compiled into a secret message. The message reads: ‘depths of the stump northwest of the castle.’

Within the stump

Earlier this year, Dad cut down a tree on the property. Its stump is all that remains, and the middle of it has decomposed to pulp. Fishing around in that pulp, the treasure hunters find another bottle of aqua vitae and a colour cipher.

The fluid burns purple, and the message reads: ‘Decipher for glass of green, orange, and yellow.’

The jigsaw puzzle

The meaning of the purple message is that the colour cipher should be interpreted for all other possible colors as well: green, orange, and yellow. These three messages read as follows:

  • Lift the hen that roosts in the galley.
  • Peer beneath the stone that glows in the library.
  • Beneath a fountain in the garden.

Each of these three locations contains a bag of jigsaw puzzle pieces, all part of the single puzzle. When all three caches are brought together, the puzzle is assembled and turned over to reveal a message written on the back:

‘Freya contrived a device that would discover the secret of the castle treasure. The apparatus was placed high in the pantry, but the secret to the box lay in Freya’s head alone.’

The explanation comes in the next post.

Quest for the Castle Treasure: Stones & Bones

This post is part of a series on the magical treasure hunt, particularly, the Quest for the Castle Treasure.

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.

Quest for the Castle Treasure: Introductory Envelope

This post is part of a series on the magical treasure hunt, particularly, the Quest for the Castle Treasure.

The introductory envelope contains only the following map of the property, with four instructions in the lower left corner.

  • 28 feet on the bearing from Luz to Ashkelon
  • 43.25 feet on the bearing from Ephrath to Samaria
  • 33.75 feet on the bearing from Gath to Jebus
  • And beneath the green

The treasure hunters can find their starting point on the map, combine the three vectors listed above, and locate the next clue.

Being students of the Bible, the treasure hunters should recognize some of these place names; others they can find in a gazetteer; others they must look up in a dictionary (Luz equates to Bethany, Ephrath equates to Bethlehem, and Jebus equates to Jerusalem).

The players’ destination is the air-conditioning units on the northeast side of the house, around which is laid green artificial turf (to prevent weeds). Beneath the turf is a small, locked box and a note. The note reads: ‘A diminutive tower stands beside the fourth of seven pillars, the key within.’

The opening of this box will be discussed in the post on the stones-and-bones box.