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The night has grown fearful. It has been a fortnight since the rising - when the dead have begun to shamble out of their graves, hunting and preying on sleeping men and women and children. The people are saying the gods are angry; they may very well be right. The land is cursed, and crops are failing. People are starving and terrified.

You have been entrusted by the emperor himself to lead a party to hunt down the source of this curse. Your searches have led you to a giant temple. Aided by two of your most trusted companions, you bravely step inside the giant structure.

"Welcome," an ancient voice speaks. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust - the room is a hallway, and sitting in front of you is a robed person. "What brings you to this ancient temple?"

"We seek to break this curse on the land," says one of your companions, a soldier in plate mail. He lays his hand on his sword, gripping it tightly. "Our expert led us here. Are you responsible!?"

"...No. But it was our folly that the curse ever came to pass... we were careless. We cannot break the curse, try as we might. Perhaps you may have more luck." the old man says sorrowfully. "But beware! Should you fail, a fate worse than death awaits you. Do you still wish to proceed?"

"Yes," says your other companion, this one a female - a scribe. "We have risked life and limb to get here. We will not balk now."

"Then proceed," the man says, "and may fortune be with you. But beware the traitor! "

You stride into the main chamber - a gigantic spherical room, dark except for the twinkling of small lights all around you, and illuminated panels winding around the wall - you count twenty-four. Inscribed on the panels are symbols - many of which you recognize. In the center of this room is a giant contraption of gears and what looks to be a cylinder suspended in the middle, with a seat on one end. And in front of the contraption are three figures, all hooded.

"Hello," you greet them. They incline their hooded heads and stand up. "We wish to break the curse on the land. How do we proceed?"

"Three names," the middle figure gestures to the contraption. "We ask that you name us."

"Then you will have what you seek," the first man says. This one is clearly a man - his voice is deep and powerful, and he is built strongly. He is clad in leather, and his boots appear rugged. You see something - his hands are red. "Is that blood?" your soldier friend asks.

"...It is. But not my own."

"...So you have killed. Why do you fight?"

"...Fight? I wield my weapon only for myself."

"So you are a mercenary," your friend asserts. "A sellsword who has seen many battles." You hear the distaste in his voice. You recall he hates mercenaries.

"No, that is not my name." the first man said.

"Then why is blood on your hands?"

"It is necessary," he explains. "For survival... and for sport. Not just me, but all humans... well, except for very few."

"War is never necessary," your scribe claims.

"I do not know war," he replies. "I only know how to survive."

You turn to the next person. "Hello."

"Hello," she replies. "You sound nervous. Do not fear - you seem to be a kind and just person."

"Indeed," your scribe says.

"And you as well, young woman. You are well-balanced, too. I like that. Balanced."

"I'm sorry... balanced?" she queries.

"You do not lean too far one way, nor the other," she said. "You have pride, but you are not arrogant. You love, but do not lust. Those are qualities I prize. Balance. ...What do you do for a living?"

She holds up her quill and parchment. "As you can see, I am a scribe."

"..."

"Greetings, friend," you say to the final figure. You hear a ghastly chortle. "I am no friend of yours, human. For eons, I have always been your greatest predator. I claim everything in due time. Fear me."

"Who are you?"

He laughs again, and terror fills you. "You know me. All living things know me. Many try to escape me... but they always fail."

"I do know you."

"Good."

You finally turn to the building itself. The soldier taps your shoulder. "Take a look - scratches and dents in the wall. I see smashed vases, some debris in the distance -" he gestures to the far side of the room, where you see the large panels - "There may have been a battle here... or someone decided to defile the place. What did that old man say? Beware the traitor? Could the traitor have done this?"

"It's possible." You turn your attention to the twenty four panels that line the walls - huge panels, spanning about maybe five hundred feet total, and twenty feet high.

"Twenty-four," your scribe muses. "A good number. It's twice twelve. But there's something else that's strange."

"What is it?" you ask.

"Why are the panels separated so?" she asks. "There are twenty grouped together on the left... but four on the right. They are separated by some distance... perhaps twenty feet? It's bizarre - why ruin such a perfectly symmetric number? This may be important. And the symbols..."

"Those are of the utmost importance," you assert. "Can you copy them down?"

She nods. "Of course. I'll number them as well, from left to right."

Panels

You take a deep breath. The fate of the entire world rests on your shoulders.

What do you do?

HINT: This puzzle has references to mythology, but it can be solved without any knowledge of it. Some people have correctly guessed the names of the first and the second people, but none have guessed the third.

To begin, we should first consider the state of the panels on the wall. The question we need to answer is, "Why is there a gap between the sections of panels?". Do that, and you may be able to crack the code. (You may want to look at this question: What characteristics of a ciphertext can be indicators of a particular cipher? ).

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm baffled and intrigued by the puzzle. It looks like some historic timeline. Could you tell us which 4 panels are set apart from the other 20? $\endgroup$ – jaydm26 Jun 4 '16 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @jaydm26 The first twenty are separated from the final four. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 4 '16 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ I should note that the panels depicted here are what the scribe has drawn; they are arranged from left to right on the wall. There's only one row. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 5 '16 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ The scribe has drawn identical objects, is that coincidence, or an artifact of how the document was produced. $\endgroup$ – Jasen Jun 6 '16 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ The third person could be Death. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jul 17 '16 at 16:53

11 Answers 11

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Here's a version of the tiles as they appeared in the room, side-by-side, in case it helps:

enter image description here

(Click for larger.)

Also, it appears that on certain tiles,

One image has been obscured by another. For example, in tile 18 it appears that the tombstone glyph is overlaid on the 3-arrow glyph, obscuring the heads of the arrows. And it also looks like in 7 and 21 the tombstone glyph is on top of the person-in-tree glyph. Pehaps that represents those things dying or being killed?

UPDATE

The first figure's name is

ORION

because

the space between the tiles should really be a tile of its own, but it has been destroyed. (The space is said to be ~20 feet, as are the panels.) That would mean there were really supposed to be 25 tiles, not 24.

If so, we could arrange the tiles like this:

enter image description here

Groups of 5 suggest perhaps a

Bacon cipher.

And in trying to figure out some names from that, I noticed that if you assume that certain pictures are associated with each of the three robed figures, you can at least get some stuff out. For example,

If you take the first person's pictures to be hunting-related stuff (the two types of bows, the deer, and the birds) and assign an A to each square that does NOT have those pics, and a B to each square that does have one, you get:

ABBAB
BAAAA
ABAAA
ABBAB
ABBAA

And that translates to "ORION" in Bacon cipher language.

Which seems very promising, but

I haven't been able to make sense of anything else this way. Maybe I just got that one because I was squinting just right and it's a coincidence. Or perhaps the 5x5 grid is right but it's somehow a Playfair or Polybius cipher. Hopefully someone can build on this!

OP has stated that finding the traitor is required for finding the last two names. Some thoughts on that:

- The traitor could be related to the tombstone symbol which is partially blocking some of the other figures.
- The traitor could be a symbol that indicates that the whole 5x5 grid must be rotated to be properly read.
- The traitor could be a symbol or symbols that indicate a different way to arrange the tiles into a 5x5 grid before Bacon-deciphering them. For example, instead of starting on tile 1, you start on tile 9 and make the square. Or perhaps the tiles need to be reversed to be properly decoded...

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice observation. You're on the right track. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 7 '16 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ I get ALGOL from coffin+tombstone and VIRGO from sickle+wheat+trees+apple this way. Algol is the bright star in the head of the constellation Medusa and has a long association with violence and death and the like. Virgo is associated with agriculture and justice. So perhaps these are all close enough to make the triad ORION, VIRGO, ALGOL. They don't seem like perfect matches, I haven't identified a traitor, and some symbols in the panels are left unexplained... $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jun 28 '16 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan Yeah, I'd come across ALGOL but not VIRGO. Nice catch. And I hadn't considered the traitor part. Perhaps the tombstone, which overlays/obscures some of the other symbols, is a traitor somehow? $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jun 29 '16 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ I am tempted (but only slightly tempted) to write a little program that works out all the 5-letter words arising from subsets of the symbols here, and look for ones that might be significant. (It would actually be a pretty simple program.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jun 29 '16 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan I have experienced—but not yet succumbed to—the same temptation! $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jun 29 '16 at 17:01
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I can't be sure about the other two, but I think I know who the first man is:

He's not a soldier. He's a hunter. He says what he does is for survival or sport, he claims that he isn't involved in war, and the blood could easily be the blood of animals instead of humans.

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  • $\begingroup$ This could certainly be supported by the panels in the first two rows $\endgroup$ – Xylius Jun 5 '16 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ Could be, but we need their names. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 6 '16 at 6:16
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the first is

a hunter the blood of animals is on his hands.

the second is

a judge, or perhaps the embodyment of justice itself, or perhaps Gaia,

the third is

Death, most fear him, and none escape.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps, but we require their names. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 5 '16 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Aurey if it is death, is "death" sufficient as a name? There are many names for death, and I am not sure what you would want. Confirmation would be nice, as "Death" is a name. $\endgroup$ – The Great Duck Jul 17 '16 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Nope, it's not Death. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jul 18 '16 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ If it is not Death than it is Time; else I break ancient curse with overwhelming power. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Sep 19 at 18:28
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I think that i know two names:

The images shows deer, arrow, sword and bow... These symbols may link to the Greek Gods Artemis and Orion. Both were hunters, being Artemis sometimes represented by a deer and Orion by his sword. Another good reason for the woman to be Artemis is her admirance for the scribe's love but not lust. Artemis was kind but avoided lust, as she is the protector of young and virgin girls. I first thought of constellations because of the last square, where i imagined the "stick thing" to be a representation of Libra(two plates facing themselves on high sky?) and the object maneuvered by some man as actually constellations.

The third one could be:

Well, in the 17th square, there are two arch and arrows and what appears to be a gravestone. This might refer to Scorpius that was the one that killed Orion. In squares 15 and 16 the sun and moon are very well separated, as two sides that never face each other. That's what happens with Scorpius and Orion. So maybe the traitor is Scorpius.

Also:

As mentioned before this seems to be a story line... Maybe it's the life story of Artemis, Orion, Scorpious, Apollo... Don't know

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  • $\begingroup$ unlikely to be related to ancient greek is it contains christian symbology. $\endgroup$ – Jasen Jun 6 '16 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Might have been a bad idea on my part to put the cross over the gravestone, but it was the best and most clear drawing of a grave I could pull off. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 7 '16 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ So it can be greek mythology(because of constellations)? Seems like majority of people are thinking this riddle that way. $\endgroup$ – hfa2010 Jun 9 '16 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ Most definitely - knowledge of Greek mythology will be helpful (but not necessary). $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 10 '16 at 2:34
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I can't quite piece anything useful together, so I will make notes here for the use of others. May wiki it later. Now that it's written, it's pretty weak, but this is all I can really wade through right now.

There are several indications of Greek, Roman, and possibly even Norse mythology in this story and the symbols.

The three figures...

Draw some similarity to the Roman trio: siblings Saturn, Ops, and Janus. Saturn is the god of agriculture (among other things). He is married to Op(i)s, goddess of fertility. Janus is depicted as two-faced, as he represents beginnings and endings, time, war and peace.

The scythe...

...is befitting of Cronus (equivalent of Saturn), who is often depicted with a scythe/sickle. He was the youngest of the original Titans who gained power through castration of his father Uranus and was eventually overthrown by his own son, Zeus. His equivalent, Saturn, prior to his marriage to Ops, was associated with goddess Lua, who was offered the weapons of those defeated in war (scythe + sword in Panel 1).

The sun and moon...

...and deer, bows, and arrows may represent Apollo and Artemis, associated with the sun and moon respectively. They are both associated with bow and arrow and with deer. Apollo is god of many things including music and light, depicted as a handsome young man. Artemis goddess of hunting, animals, and childbirth, depicted as a young virgin.

The apple...

...and the figure in the tree may reference the Golden Apple, which is a symbol in several myths from multiple origins.

Freia, from Das Rheingold, with the tree of golden apples
[Wikimedia Commons]

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So i basically joined just so i could have a shot at answering this.

The First guy is :

Cronus / Kronos or some other equivalent from other mythologies. I got here by reading more on the Gaia answer that jasen suggested before me. Also, the sicle that can be seen in the hieroglyphs is the weapon associated to him most. He used the same sickle to castrate his father whose blood has further stories, so the blood on his hands may be from there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nope, sorry! Nice guess, though. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 10 '16 at 2:33
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I think the panels are telling the story

of the capture of Persephone by Hades.

The female is

Persephone who represents the balance of the seasons.

The third is

Hades is the god of the Underworld and thus is the death that all living things try to escape.

I can only assume that the first one is

Orion, since I cannot think of any other male hunting figures in Grecian myth

I can more explain how the story works more in depth if you wish.

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I'm lost on the wall but

could the names be orion (mighty hunter), libra (a symbol of peace, balance and justice) and cancer (symbol of death maybe?) Something to do with constellations?

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  • $\begingroup$ It's pretty impressive how far you can get with just mythology alone. But actually, no knowledge of mythology is needed to solve this. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jun 10 '16 at 2:31
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    $\begingroup$ cancer's association with death is a recent invention. $\endgroup$ – Jasen Jun 26 '16 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ So too is the riddle? $\endgroup$ – Brent Hackers Jun 26 '16 at 16:55
3
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Going off of mostly the text.

I think the names are based off of the Zodiac Signs. To support this the room they enter is round and full of small twinkling lights (Stars). They point at a contraption (A telescope).

Therefore

The First persons:

is named Sagittarius. They are a hunter. This is supported by the blood being not his own but necessary for survival. As well as the symbols of the bows in the panels match with the fact the Zodiac sign for Sagittarius is often a Bow.

The Second Person:

Is named Libra. They like balance. Libra's Zodiac sign is often a scale which is also called a balance.

The Third Persons:

Since Sagittaruis is a Fire sign and Libra is a Air sign I believe the third person must be a earth sign. That being said of the three earth signs my best guess is its name is Capricorn. Capricorn's are know to be unforgiving and condescending which would support the third person saying they are no friend to the group

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I will be leaving my old answers for reference, they are at the bottom. I will also be summarizing up the answers and comments.

We now know who the first person is and it is

Orion, as solved by Dan Russell and confirmed by OP.

As mention by Gareth McCaughan in Dan Russell's comment, the second person could be

Virgo. The second person however, is probably not the traitor.

and the third person is

Algol

As for the betrayer...

Could Algol be the betrayer? The tombstone is covering some symbols, and assumed as a sign of betrayal. Also, it is mentioned that "the dead have begun to shamble out of their graves", "...scratches and dents in the wall. I see smashed vases, some debris in the distance...", "There may have been a battle here... or someone decided to defile the place" Algol is associated with death and violence could point that he is the betrayer.

(Just really a wild thought here, I believe what really happen was that Algol betrayed them and Orion ended up fighting him, which explains why his hands might be stained with blood instead from hunting. I don't think there's animals to hunt in the room XD)


Old answers

The first person is...

Orion, as solved by Dan Russell.

The second person...

Sounds like it would be libra, since it is usually depicted as balance and the constellation is a balancing scale. Could she be the traitor? During the dialogue with the scribe, it seems odd to me. Also, among the three people in the room, she is the only one that do not kill or anything related to death.

The third person...

If the names had to be 5 letters long, it could be Hades. As mentioned by the old man, 'Should you fail, a fate worse than death awaits you', which could meant that you get sent to hell. (But I doubt it's Hades, since it seems to be about constellations more than greek mythology )

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  • $\begingroup$ Libra is not the traitor. There are a few clues hidden in the story. You may need to do some guesswork to figure out what really happened; Gareth McCaughan in Dan Russell's answer has got some accurate insights. $\endgroup$ – Aurey Jul 25 '16 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ I'll give a more thorough read and update my answer $\endgroup$ – Foami Jul 25 '16 at 2:55
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I do not know the name of the second but here are my answer

First name

Orion. he is a well known hunter in mythology and the person kills (animals) for survival and sport. I.E. Hunting. Another would be Lycantus, a hunter cursed by artemis to be the first werewolf. Unlikely though as lycantus killed people if my memory serves right.

Second name (random musing)

It appears to be a judge or someone involved with balance. I believe I know of such a person in (greek) mythology, but I just cannot think of the name. May look for deeper clues...

Third name

He is death as all living know him and cannot escape. The only name in mythology I know for death is Thanatos. Therefore, his name is thanatos. I can also joke and say "Robert Oppenheimer". Upon the detonation of the trinity nuclear weapons test he remarked "I am become Death the destroyer of worlds". Could refer to that, though unlikely. My bet is on thanatos.

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