# What have we lost?(a cipher of indeterminate value)

A strange man in a bow tie with a serious comb-over left you this:

"A simple cipher," he says, "and I leave it to you to find out what has been lost." Can you?

On an OOC note, I have no idea how hard this would be…? Also, sorry for the bad image quality.

• This looks like an abugida of some sort...
– Deusovi
Feb 5, 2016 at 3:04
• Is the text on the back of the paper of any importance? Is it the decrypted text? Feb 5, 2016 at 7:36
• The text on the back is completely insignificant, sorry about that...
– AJL
Feb 5, 2016 at 11:25
• What looks to be punctuation (e.g., some commas, the question mark at the end) - can we assume that that is in fact punctuation? Feb 5, 2016 at 13:18
• Yes, it is in fact, actually punctuation
– AJL
Feb 5, 2016 at 21:38

Plaintext:

We knew that land once, You and I,
and once we wandered there
in the long days now long gone by,
a dark child and a fair.
Was it on the paths of firelight thought
in winter cold and white,
or in the blue-spun twilit hours
of little early tucked-up beds
in drowsy summer night,
that you and I in Sleep went down
to meet each other there,
and mine was tangled fair?
- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Little House of Lost Play: Mar Vanwa Tyalieva

Solve path:

The word separators were the biggest clue. I began by highlighting all of the repeated words. The separators also told me the very first word could not be a one-letter word, or else there are too many unique one-letter words (and I'm already expecting one extra for the). This tells me the horizontal line is a separate letter. There aren't many two-letter words I expect to find at the beginning of a sentence, mostly IF, NO, or WE. The most frequent three-letter word is either THE or AND. After assuming WE and AND, the second repetition of WE was right next to a long word beginning with W and containing a few of NDE. A pattern search turned up the word WANDERED, which confirmed that the horizontal stroke across the letter meant a letter E followed that letter, and likewise the curve below means A. Then, a word following WE and ending in W has to be KNEW. I continued solving it as a simple substitution and learned that the vowels have whole-symbol forms (in addition to the combining forms) for when they appear at the beginning of a word, and in other places.

By the time I completed the line in the long days now long gone by, I decided to google it and found the source. So I only discovered the "double letter" combining symbol after the fact.

The only tools I used were the drawing program Inkscape, and a small program I wrote for finding dictionary words according to various patterns.

### Transcript

Z- AT-Z (R_N) D_TOETJ-, B|C STO LY, STO ETF Z- Z_TO-Z-O (R-Z)F LT G D|TV O_BQ T|Z D|TV V|T- KB S O_ZA JR*DO STO S W_LZ Z_Q L() ET GU_(RQ) EW W*Z-D*VR() LT Z*T(FZ) J|DO STO ZR*(F), @Z LT (R-) T D.F QU.T (Z*D*)() R|CZQ EW F_ZDB (CJ)A-O CUK-OQ

LT OZ|ZQB Q.H~FZ T*VR() (B_D) B|C STO LY LT QDF~U Z-T() O|ZT (E) UF~() F_JR E(R-Z) (R-Z-), B|CZ O_ZA R_LZ ET B|CZ ZR*(F) T*VR(V|Z)T STO H*T- Z_Q (ST)VD-O W_LZ?

Key:

• A: weird curly A
• B: beak pointing northeast
• C: curly spiral
• D: delta
• E: @
• F: flower
• G: γ
• H: horseshoe
• J: curly J (maybe a cursive T?)
• K: ampersand
• L: weird lambda
• N: dome character
• O: circle
• Q: double circle
• R: manta ray-ish shape (ginkgo leaf, maybe?)
• S: integral sign
• T: treble clef
• U: backward ampersand
• V: spark on top of Aries symbol
• W: waves
• Z: zigzaggy 3
• -: bar through previous symbol
• _: cup under previous symbol
• ~: tilde over previous symbol
• *: asterisk over previous symbol
• |: vertical bar through previous symbol
• .: dot under previous symbol
• (): dome over enclosed symbols
• line 7 character 1 should be E Jun 2, 2016 at 12:21

Out of curiosity, I tried to extract the text from the back of the papers, in case there's a clue. The pictures are pretty noisy (probably a cell phone camera) so it's difficult, here's the best I could do:

It appears to be a letter of some sort. I can read the date (January or February 28, 2016) on the top of the first page; I can see a fragment "-ing our" at the end of the third or fourth line on the same page; and I can see a signature in the middle of the second page.