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September 8: It’s raining, and Russian Emperor Czar Nicholas awakes, confused.
Someone enters, completely soaking. “It’s positively vile – I’d resist going outside.”
It’s Czarina Alexandra. “Anyway, my dear, you look awful. What’s wrong?”
Nicholas gasps. “Pray, get me a priest, my queen,” he croaks.
In rushes Rasputin. “I am here, sire – what unsettles you so?”
“I dreamed in the night of one gazing at the skies.
He spoke confusion to me, saying ‘The Twelve reside within me.
Seek them out and see. Once eleven horrors I yield up,
the last remaining revealed shall be.
’ On waking, upon my pillow
lay this…” – Nicholas indicates an envelope – “…narrating this specific conversation, verbatim.”
Standing up, Rasputin – unruffled – asks to look inside but recoils as
lightning explodes overhead. Staunchly carrying on, Rasputin, pulling it open, reads…

Hints / Explanatory notes (not part of the puzzle):

- The puzzle above is written loosely in the style of a traditional 'It was a dark and stormy night' joke (Google it, if unsure), whereby at the end Rasputin reads a note which... says precisely what has just been written in the text block! You are not trying to work out what Rasputin 'reads' at the end - it just added an extra challenge to the construction of this puzzle. The puzzle itself is contained entirely within the text block. Every word is deliberately chosen and important.
- Italics are purely for narrative emphasis (not clues).
- For the purists out there, the solution could be described as 'stylised'.
- Heed the tags!

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    $\begingroup$ Should this have the [enigmatic-puzzle] tag? At first glance, at least, it's not at all clear what the puzzle is. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Aug 8, 2019 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan Added! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Aug 8, 2019 at 4:58

1 Answer 1

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Noticing that

The text mentions the numbers 12 and 11, and that the text has 12 lines each with 11 words - suspiciously grid-like, especially when combined with the word-search tag...

I created this:

Grid created from first letter of each word
letter grid

In which we find the following:

libra, scorpio, leo, taurus, pisces, aries (if 8 counts as 'e'), capricorn, cancer, sagittarius, virgo, aquarius

Which are

11 of the 12 signs of the zodiac. The 12th, gemini, is missing. Or is it...
Marking the location of each word so far, we see the following:
word location in grid
Which is the sign for Gemini, the last missing piece to the puzzle.

And at last, all are revealed!

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    $\begingroup$ rot13(V guvax gur vagrag jnf sbe lbh gb jevgr bhg gur ahzore 8 nf "rvtug") $\endgroup$
    – Cloudy7
    Aug 9, 2019 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the last is "revealed" by its absence? $\endgroup$
    – shoover
    Aug 9, 2019 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ rot13(Creuncf gur funcr bs gur pvepyrq jbeqf pna or eryngrq gb gur flzoby sbe trzvav.) $\endgroup$
    – hdsdv
    Aug 9, 2019 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ You are 99% of the way there!! Two comments above this one are particularly helpful... ^^ $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Aug 9, 2019 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Great job - exactly right! A green checkmark is incoming... I was struggling to read your grids on my phone (the formatting goes a bit funny) but it reads just right on my laptop screen - if you ever want to reproduce the grid as a spreadsheet screenshot, that might add a nice little flourish and make the solution clearer to phone users (don't want you getting downvotes for formatting idiosyncracies!). +1 and well done! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Aug 9, 2019 at 13:34

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