In a kingdom far far away there is a castle with an irritated king. Why irritated you ask? He just came back from a trip to the western world and he was thrown out from nearly all the parties... just because he refused to do all those hard math riddles. Seriously, he felt so insulted by their insolence... yet also strangely inspired! He would right this wrong directly! As soon as he gets back in his castle he calls in his head of guards to devise a new password scheme.

A merchant comes and the guards ask him

Original version... containing a mistake... see comment on accepted answer :'( : Kind merchant, what brings you to our gates?

Kind merchant, what is it that brings you here?

The merchant closes his eyes for a bit and says

Trade and wares for our sovereign, my fair guards.

And they let him right in.

Behind the merchant a couple of spies for a neighboring nation were waiting to be let in. They had come and gone from the city many times, but they grew suspicious as the guards were behaving differently from other days and turned around to listen for awhile from far away whilst acting as if they were waiting for a bit.

A monk arrives at the gate, and the first guard says

Father, it shames us that we have to ask this of you, but what...

And the second guard continues

... brings thee here?

And the monk answers

It is quite all right my children, I have heard of this new scheme your rex has thought of. Be that as it may be, I will be here for awhile, if you need my help or advice, visit me at the monastery.

And walks right in.

A forester arrives at the gate and says

Do you really need to ask me again? I have left and entered all the time.


Yes, Yes, we do.

And the forester sighs

That king of ours... as much as I love him, sometimes... sigh

And the guards chuckle to each other and let him right in.

A beggar arrives at the gate

Don't come to our city! Not like a piece of filth like you will know our password! If you knew you would just spoil it.

The first guard exclaims. The second guard gives an irritated stare at his companion and kindly says

Well... he is half right, do you?

The beggar, doesn't even wait to think and starts answering directly

Yes of course I do... the monarch... ehm... I have heard it from our own monarchs mouth when he announced it last week. I may be cripple and without arms, but I am not an idiot!

And in he goes.

For two hours nobody turns up at the gate, before the unloved mother in law of the second guard turns up.

Welcome back, need help?

The first one says kindly, seeing she is pushing in a cart that's far too heavy for her. The lady smiles kindly at him and is about to answer when the second interjects

What brings you here to our gate at night?

The lady halts, thinks for a bit, then scowls at her daughters husband angrily before thinking for a bit longer before answering half afraid:

It is all to honour our kind and just and fair overlord of course...

And the second guard replies

You dare call our fair King an overlord?! You...

Before the first interjects and whilst helping her in through the gate says to the second guard

You ass! She did not deserve that! If you ever do something like that again I will seriously tell your wife!

At which point the second guard goes white with fear.

During the exchange one of the spies looks at the other and says

I know it! It's so simple! This sounds just like that king of theirs!

He walks up to the guards and they say

So, decided to return after all? Hiding in the trees and everything...

And the second continues with

Anything you wish to say for yourself?

The spy looks doubtful for a bit... goes silent... and then exclaims

His Majesty! His Majesty wants me in!

The guards look at each other, nod, and kill him in one move whilst the first says

You idiot, did you forget who we are?

The question is: What should the spy have done/said differently? And why?

It didn't all work out as nicely as I was hoping, because of a reason I can't disclose (should have checked better before I started). Either way, still think it's a nice simple puzzle with a nice little twist in there to keep you guys thinking for a bit :P Though who knows, maybe you will get it within minutes :P


If somebody else would have given the spies answer to the same question they would have been let in. Might have been scolded for giving a 'poor' answer, but definitely would not have been killed.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Honestly, so curious whether this will be easy or hard (making puzzles for a couple of groups quite often, but you guys are a lot better than all of them combined). $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 0:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My series is slowly sneaking into other puzzles. $\endgroup$
    – warspyking
    Nov 12, 2014 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ @warspyking: Just to be fair, introducing it on this site does not make it your series yet ;-) These puzzles are... old. Heard some at least before 2000. Even did a real life one once :P (which also influenced this one a bit as you might see once someone figures out the solution). $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ Something to do with calling the king His Majesty? His Majesty is the usual honorific, but no one except the spies use it. Everyone else uses something much less common. Unless the King is actually a dinosaur, in which case this puzzle just got much more interesting $\endgroup$
    – JamesENL
    Nov 12, 2014 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ Does the monk get in? What about the beggar? The other three make it clear what happens but with those two, it doesn't say whether they go in or not. It's not even really clear whether or not they're giving an answer. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 1:40

6 Answers 6


I think I see the pattern (although it doesn't work for one of the answers), but I don't quite know the answer.

The number of words in the sentence the last guard speaks is the number of letters that you need to use in the pronoun referring to the king.

Kind merchant, what brings you to our gates? (8) | Sovereign (9?)

... brings thee here? (3) | Rex (3)

Yes, Yes we do. (4) | King (4)

Well... he is half right, do you? (7) | Monarch (7)

Anything you wish to say for yourself? (7) | Majesty (7)

My guess is that the guards just knew the spy was a spy, having seen him hiding.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Now I want to cry in a corner... for a long long long time :'( I am officially an idiot. So, in the original version I wrote by mistake "bring's", which made for 9 words... when I corrected that (mind you, this was at 2AM) I somehow forgot correcting the answer (I was just spell checking). SORRY EVERYBODY!!! Like seriously, I am so sorry! I promise to never write a question anymore in the middle of the night... even if I have to stay up till 3 without anything to do! $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ And will do the spellcheck before checking the riddle the last time... not after. Ach. To everybody@do please remove your upvotes from the question~ And that does also explain why it took so long to figure out~ I was about to check the question again when I came back from work (now), but then you had it figured out already... Either way, yeah, I was irritated by a lot of those guards letting in all those people who were obviously not welcome at the party :P So that's why they said "You idiot, did you forget who we are?", because they are guards, just knowing the password isn't enough :P . $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder I don't follow - in the spy's challenge, there were 7 words in the last guard's sentence and the spy said "majesty". Is Otala's logic wrong, or was he just killed because they knew he was a spy since he was hiding in the tree? If it's just because he was a spy, what should he have done differently? $\endgroup$
    – Joe
    Nov 12, 2014 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe: He shouldn't have tried it out himself directly when he was suspiciously hanging around the gate all day. (See the hint as well) $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder Besides that one hiccup, I think this was a pretty good puzzle =) $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Nov 12, 2014 at 21:10

The answer:

The spy should have indicated that he served the king.

The explanation:

The merchant said "our sovereign lord" and was let in. The monk, who wasn't let in, described the king as "your rex". Perhaps he doesn't officially serve the king, and was opposed to claiming the king as his own? The forester, who entered the city, talked about "That king of ours". The beggar (without thinking) begins with "the monarch" but corrects himself with "our own monarch's". It's not clear whether or not he was let in, but it's also not clear whether or not the mistake ruined his chance. The spy made the mistake of invoking "His Majesty"; he should have said something with a possessive pronoun, like "my liege".

  • $\begingroup$ Not the intended pattern, but nice find none the less. Upvoted and question has been fixed regarding the two who where it wasn't mentioned outright that they were let in. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ I could slightly alter this to fit the edits to the question... or are you saying that the real answer is significantly different? $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ Well, SE isn't supposed to have 'real' answers. All I can say is that the accepted answer will be significantly different. Though you're somewhat in the right direction... $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ And just one last thought: Your rex I was justifying as valid for a monk because they would be well versed in Latin and a monk's direct king would be God. (Not saying that's historically accurate, that was just my in-puzzle justification :P ) $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:28

To answer what they should've done differently, I'd say

Give up, the guards can see you in the trees.

Which also answers the question why he was killed.


After reading the accepted answer, I decided I have one that makes more sense:

Each visitor must say at least as many words as the sum of the words said by the two guards.

Guard: 9 words, Merchant: 9 words

Guards: 14 + 3 = 17 words, Father: 43 words

Guard: 4 words, Forester: 11 words

Guards: 26 + 7 = 33 words, Beggar: 36 words

Guards: 4 + 9 = 13 words, Mother in law: 14 words

Guards 12 + 7 = 19 words, Spy: 7 words

If the spy had not been waiting behind the trees, his answer would have been correct, because the first guard wouldn't have said anything, and he would only have had to reply with 7 words.


It has something to do with pronoun use. There are a lot of possibilities, but my best guess is as follows: the King must be referenced in the response, and his description must be preceded by a first- or second-person pronoun. Ergo the "Did you forget who 'we' are?" from the guards.In all but one case, "we" and "our" (first person) is used. Even so, the monk uses second person and is apparently admitted to the castle. I found no consistent pattern between the pronoun use in the question asked by the guard and the response.

  • $\begingroup$ See comment on other answer~ $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ It seems like you can't have two spoiler blocks right in a row. They either have to be the same block of text (you can use two spaces in a row to enter a new line, but you can't have more than one new line), or you need text in between them. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Envision Really? I want to test that but it technically wouldn't be a question or answer... $\endgroup$
    – warspyking
    Nov 12, 2014 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ @warspyking as far as I can tell. They don't really describe it anywhere! But you could test it by typing an answer without submitting it. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2014 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks to James Massey for fixing the problem, at any rate. I've found that spoiler blocks break for all kinds of reasons on SE. Hit the Return key a little bit too hard and... oop. $\endgroup$
    – COTO
    Nov 12, 2014 at 2:26

Probably wrong but...

Everyone mentions the king and the guards (often indirectly). The spies only mentioned the king. Explains why the guards say 'did you forget who we are'.

Problem is I don't think the hint likes this interpretation.


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