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in December 1496, after a rainy day, an inn somewhere in the Black Forest, on one of the major north-south roads, was visited by a group of highwaymen in the middle of a freezing cold night. Fortunately, a band of adventurers present at the inn managed to fend them off. Because of the bounty on the highwaymen, they wanted to pursue, but the highwaymen had set fire to the stables, and their help was needed to save the main building.

After several hours, the fire was put out and the animals were calm enough to pursue the highwaymen, who took off with several of the horses. However, due to the frozen ground, there were no tracks to follow. Still, the master tracker of the group wanted to try his luck. While trying to find tracks, he suddenly slipped on a slippery patch of ground near the south exit and fell on his rear. When he stood up again, his pants were wet.

He then went back to his group and told them he knew where the bandits were headed. They went after the gang and soon caught up with them.

How did he know where the bandits were headed, and what direction did they leave in?

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  • $\begingroup$ How did the stables catch fire if it was all rainy? $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Nov 3 '14 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ I'm interpreting the first paragraph as, it stopped raining before the highwaymen showed up. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Nov 3 '14 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ @corsiKa Stables are covered buildings and would be warm and dry inside - ideal for starting a fire. $\endgroup$ – Trenin Nov 3 '14 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ I added a detail I forgot that could help find the correct solution. @Trenin You were really close, and I think that my additional detail could give you the clue you need. $\endgroup$ – Nzall Nov 4 '14 at 8:10
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Going off of what Trenin and JNF have said so far, the bandits went North.

If one man slipping on the ice is enough to break through then the horses surely would have left a path of broken ice. And since the problem description said there were no tracks, the would have had to have gone North.

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  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. Since you're the first one to give the correct answer, have 25 points. $\endgroup$ – Nzall Nov 4 '14 at 14:55
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His pants were wet from water used to put out the fire. Since the men putting out the fire were on the south end, they would have seen the bandits leaving if the bandits had gone south. The bandits went north.

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  • $\begingroup$ I never said that the men putting out the fire were on the south end. $\endgroup$ – Nzall Nov 6 '14 at 14:14
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They went south.

Because it rained and froze, there were puddles with frozen ice on top. The tracker when he slipped broke through this ice. Since the bandits left earlier, they would have left foot prints in the mud under the ice when they broke through. Thus, they were able to follow them.

Seems like the date, location, and fire are all red herrings.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not actually the right answer. You're thinking in the right mindset (yes, he did break through the ice), but your conclusion is wrong. $\endgroup$ – Nzall Nov 4 '14 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps if the bandits would have passed through there the ice would have been broken already? $\endgroup$ – JNF Nov 4 '14 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question is asking for a destination rather than a direction. Something like "the nearest pawn shop and used horse dealership". $\endgroup$ – Kevin Nov 4 '14 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Trenin if they took horses and the ground was frozen, maybe the guy's pants weren't wet from water but maybe the one of the horses relieved himself. $\endgroup$ – Bozman Nov 4 '14 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ I am looking for a direction. 2 people have each posted crucial pointers towards the solution, namely Trenin (who started off right, but made the wrong conclusion) and JNF (who made a striking remark, but hasn't continued on it). $\endgroup$ – Nzall Nov 4 '14 at 14:03

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