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Back when you were a kid, your parents always told you and your brother the family legend about your grandfather's hidden treasure. It was quite a good story, and there was even an ancient map and a letter to support that the crazy man really did hide all of his money somewhere in your area:

The ancient map

The letter

Now that your parents and brother are long gone, your house is on the brink of collapse, and you work almost fifteen hours on the field yet can't earn enough money to pay back your debts to the merchants of the eastern trading post, this hidden treasure is the last hope to get your life together.


The letter in plain text

To find my treasure you have to leave our house:
Though it is the center of your map, no one finds adventure who stays in his bed.
The riches do not wait for you at the cliffs of the volcano of despair
In fact, the opposite of fire will show you the way.
But don’t rush! I did not say you should go to the watery marshes, my fortune is not there.
The best you can do in the swamps of sorrows is that you place the eastern trading post to
your north... then don’t go there, no, quite the opposite!
Maybe the place is the fields of labour - will you find money through honest work?
No, I’m kidding, just find my hidden treasures, which are nowhere near that place.


Hints

The only tag on this puzzle is , so it needs to be approached like one. The raw text of the letter won't help you by itself; there is a reason why it was posted as a picture originally.

The map and the letter are on two different papers, and the size of the images reflect the scaling of these papers. Basically, they have the same width.

As with every good treasure map, there is a clearly visible X on this one too.


Additional useful information, thanks to Weather Vane's work:

Weather Vane inspected the map very carefully, but couldn't find any hidden information in the colors or the font choice. (There is no steganography.) This is only a regular map on an old paper. It has a thick paint layer on the colorful parts, which do not hide any secret, and the white places were most likely scrubbed to make the paper more transparent and give it a more visible distinction.

Skylar's work showed us the following:

Skylar found one of the three important instructions in the text:
"place the eastern trading post to your north" which makes him think that a rotation takes place somewhere in the puzzle. Correctly finding all three hints will tell you exactly what to do with the map to find the treasure.

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  • $\begingroup$ My edits (further edited by PilsNot3) didn't mess up the riddle, right? $\endgroup$ – Skylar Oct 9 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ No, thanks for the edits! $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 9 at 7:18
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(I'm continuing the work of others here, especially that of Paul.)

I think the treasure is ...

... buried in the easternmost patch of crops:

An X marks the spot!

How to find it:

The text has several instructions. From the hints, we know that the transparency of the images is important and that the images have to be overlaid. The crucial parts are:

The best you can do in the swamps of sorrows is that you place the eastern trading post to your north...
— Turn the map so that the trading post is now the northernmost point.

To find my treasure you have to leave our house:
Though it is the center of your map, no one finds adventure who stays in his bed.
— Place the text on the map so that the middle of the paper (near "go to") aligns with the window of the house. (The top of the text is the new north, i.e. where the trading post is.)

In fact, the opposite of fire will show you the way.
— At least in the concept of classical elements, water is the opposite of fire. After placing the text over the map, the three pools should highlight some text. It takes some fiddling, but it finally looks like this:

Pools of radiance ...

The final instruction:

The highlighted words are not eastern fields. I'm guessing here, but the pool that corresponds to not has a red herring in it, so I'll ignore it to get eastern fields. The map has several patches that are small copies of the fields of labour and one of them is in the east.

(When I say east, I mean the original east before rotating. "Not the eastern fields" could mean any of three other patches, all in the west.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Think about rot13(qba’g tb gurer, ab, dhvgr gur bccbfvgr) That could be rot13(n uvag gb qebc gur "abg"). $\endgroup$ – Bananenkopp Oct 10 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Bananenkopp: Yes, that could be. I'll use the tried and true strategy to wait what the OP has to say about it. :) $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Oct 10 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ This is indeed the correct answer. And yes, rot13(I placed the red herring in the lake as a hint). I also started a bounty to award it to Paul's original answer, but please upvote it too :) $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 10 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ Here's a picture that more clearly shows the critical features. I hope this helps anyone who may be confused! $\endgroup$ – Skylar Oct 10 at 21:40
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How about this:

Perhaps rotate the map so that the Eastern trading post is in the North (of the swamp?) and then place the map on top of the text. The three ponds should pick out the solution (water is the opposite of fire). I don't have the software to actually do this and show a nice picture here. At the rotated angle, the window of the house would appear as an 'x', though I'm not sure of the significance of this.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's a good idea! Here I've turned the map by 135°, so that the trading post in the south-east is now in the north. The centre of the text near "go to" is aligned with the the house's door ("leave our house", "center of the map"). The three ponds are now more or less horizontal and near some (not very meaningful) text. Perhaps some fiddling can give better results. ("Opposite my eastern"?) $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Oct 10 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ Very good work! Play a little more around, it's hard to see when is the trading post on the north, as it has more building, but the words under the lakes will make obvious! ;) (Also, align the X-shaped window with the center, not the door) $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 10 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ This answer was used to create the final solution. As there are additinonal things involved in that, like the red herring, and it has a complex explanation, I accepted that as the final answer, but I also started a bounty I want to give you - expect it in the next 24 hours :) $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 10 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, it's absolutely right to accept the most complete answer. I've never been given a SE bounty before, thank-you! $\endgroup$ – Paul Reynolds Oct 10 at 13:51
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Is it here? (in the blue box)

here
(click for larger image)

The picture below is used to explain my reasoning:

this image

From the letter:

The best you can do in the swamps of sorrows is that you place the eastern trading post to
your north . . .

This quote suggests

to turn the letter sideways and put it next to the map. (as shown to the left of the map in the image above)

It can then be seen that

the words "fields of labor" in the letter line up with the big field in the map. The word "treasures" lines up with my proposed treasure spot.

In a similar manner,

The words "the swamps of sorrows" in the letter line up with the swamps of sorrows on the map when the letter is not rotated. The word "riches" lines up with the other coordinate of my proposed treasure spot.

In conclusion,

each of the orientations of the map reveals a coordinate of the treasure. Many other parts of the map line up in certain orientations, (the volcano has the letter upside-down) but I could not figure out a meaningful location on the map using the other coordinates. (other than that big dot between the house and the pond in the lower-left corner)

Oh, and for the third hint:

The dashed blue boxes form a cross shape, similar to an "X".

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    $\begingroup$ Very good thoughts, and this solution would also be a great puzzle, but here it's not correct. Other places do not align with their name in the message, and the word 'fortune' or the first 'treasure' do not fit the logic. But you found one of the main instructions hidden in the letter: "place the eastern trading post to your north". It really means you have to rotate something, but why not follow what was written in this sentence? $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 9 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ I predict that I'll like this answer better than the actual solution. Although you never know. $\endgroup$ – Cloudy7 Oct 10 at 5:39
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Failed attempt.

I tried adjusting the map colours with an image editor and although there seems to be a trace of lettering to the right of "Our house", I could not make anything of it.

About the hints:

I superimposed the two images, which have transparent backgrounds.

OP makes a point they are same width which implies they are the same scale, however the text is of different sizes so it's no use aligning the location texts.

I was hoping to see an X in the text image to show where the treasure is, but there isn't an X in the text.

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  • $\begingroup$ Transparency will play an important role, but I have to admit, not on the places I left transparent here (the letter without a backround is more of a mistake). Also, there is no steganography in the puzzle, everything that is needed can be done with a regular piece of paper you hold in your hand. $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 8 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Is the spelling mistake on the map relevant? $\endgroup$ – Weather Vane Oct 8 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Oh no, I haven't even noticed it has a spelling mistake :( (So no, not relevant) $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 8 at 17:46
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Sorry if I'm too stupid:

enter image description here

Otherwise... what is it?

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    $\begingroup$ No, but recognizing it clearly takes some puzzling knowledge, so it's not a problem if you did not know what it is. It's a red herring, a common expression in puzzles: it is something that misleads or is a false hint. For more info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring $\endgroup$ – Annosz Oct 7 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ Aha, thanks for the explanation! $\endgroup$ – WhatsUp Oct 7 at 6:28

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