You are the powerful prince El-Tham of Merkand, and to display your power and largesse, you allow a number of foreign alchemists and mystics to inhabit your court. However, this morning the rooms of two of them were empty, the occupants having apparently departed in the middle of the night. Later, a sizable quantity of gold was found to be missing from your treasury! These two men are suspected of the deed, and a search was made of their remaining effects in order to find any clues as to where they have gone. Nothing of note was found, save a scrap of parchment with some cryptic symbols on it. Can you, in your royal wisdom, decipher the document and find if it has any clues to these thieves’ whereabouts?


  • $\begingroup$ Is the mis-spelling of 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern' an intentional part of the puzzle? $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 30 '15 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps, perhaps not. If it were, I certainly wouldn't want to tell you, now would I? :) $\endgroup$ – Patrick N Dec 30 '15 at 20:23

Additional progress:

Having read f"'s spoilers for the first three rows, I find that the fourth row is

a Vigenere cipher with the key BRIEF, reading (spaces added) VITRIOL OF THE PRIME FOOL.

Furthermore, the fifth row is

a Vigenere cipher with the key SKULL, reading (spaces added) SOMEWHERE ELSE IN OUR MIDST.


El-Tham and Merkand are, respectively, anagrams of Hamlet and Denmark.


The names Rosenkreuz and Guilderstein apparently invoke Rosicrucian and possibly Masonic elements in connection with alchemy. Consider Die warhhaffte und vollkommene Bereitung des Philosophischen Steins der Brüderschaft aus dem Orden des Gülden-und Rosen-Creutzes (The True and Complete Preparation of the Philosopher's Stone by the Brotherhood from the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross), for example. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosicrucianism.

I offer a solution

Helsingør, known in Shakespeare's day as Elsinore (taken from "somewhere else in our midst")

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Nice work! Now the question is- can you tell where they have gone? $\endgroup$ – Patrick N Jan 6 '16 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickN nah, I haven't got that far yet :-( $\endgroup$ – phoog Jan 6 '16 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you're getting quite close, so keep at it! $\endgroup$ – Patrick N Jan 6 '16 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickN I've added a proposed solution. Is it right? $\endgroup$ – phoog Jan 7 '16 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yup! Great work $\endgroup$ – Patrick N Jan 8 '16 at 15:37

Some progress:

The first row is

a pigpen cipher reading the key is in a name.

The second row is

a Vigenere cipher with the key "rose", reading three gems reduce the rest.

The third row is

a Vigenere cipher with the key "four", reading distill the spirit of humor.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.