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
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps, perhaps not. If it were, I certainly wouldn't want to tell you, now would I? :) $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


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")

  • $\begingroup$ Nice work! Now the question is- can you tell where they have gone? $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickN nah, I haven't got that far yet :-( $\endgroup$
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you're getting quite close, so keep at it! $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @PatrickN I've added a proposed solution. Is it right? $\endgroup$
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yup! Great work $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 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.


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