Factitious Authenticity—A Riddle

Consider the following situation:         You are an official of the court of His Royal Majesty King Archibald. Twelve days ago, you were ordered by the King’s proxy to journey from the capitol North to the neighboring kingdom of Æsects. There you will deliver to the King of the Æsects a message which King Archibald wrote in secret code, and has hidden in one of three items you were given to deliver.

        The first item is a book, which the King has had printed on his newest acquisition, a printing press. The book has no cover, and consists of approximately 500 pages, each cut carefully to size, and stab-bound together at the spine. Each page of the book is printed with a single solid block of ‘a’ characters, one after the other. Each printed page is exactly the same, save the page numbers, which are written as expected, in the bottom center of each page. The numbers start at 1 and proceed to 500 without any omissions. Although the pages are printed alike, a number of the pages contain hand written ink markings. The markings are quick circles and ovals which seem to be circling some of the ‘a’ characters. The circles only include characters in a single line, never on multiple lines. Also, no page contains more than three circles, and fully 85% of the pages have no markings whatsoever. The placement of the marks on pages, and the pages containing marks are at seemingly random intervals.

        The second item is a string of beads. The string is strait, and does not join into a ring, bracelet, or necklace. The string itself is made of a leather cord, and is approximately one and one-half feet long. At either end of the string is a brass grommet which serves to hold the beads on the string, and provides a tasteful decretive flourish. Strung onto the string are two kinds of beads, a small bead of about a centimeter in diameter made of turquoise, a rare and highly valued mineral in the kingdom, and a large translucent glass bead approximately half an inch in diameter with a smoky sepia color. There are an equal number of each type of bead, in an amount that leaves about an inch of slack cord, allowing the beads space to slide around. The hole drilled in each bead is large enough for the bead to slide freely on the cord, but not substantially larger than the diameter of the leather cord. The beads are arranged in a seemingly random order on the string, some alternating, some in groups.

        The final item is actually a pair of items. The first being a small stuffed doll of a white rabbit. The doll is obviously hand constructed. It’s skin is made from a fine velvet which is completely white apart from a coffee colored patch on the back of the rabbit’s left ear. The doll is no larger than an actual baby rabbit would be, and is anatomically proportioned, but is posed to appear as if it is walking like a human being. The doll is loosely stuffed with some sort of batting, and a quantity of small round objects such as beans, beads, or river gravel. This stuffing gives the doll a limp and pliant consistency. The doll’s eyes are two polished black buttons, and its mouth and nose are stitched patterns in black thread. This black thread was also used to stitch the number ‘27’ on the bottom of the rabbit doll’s right foot. The numerals for ‘2’ and ‘7’ are reversed, as if seen in a mirror. The second item of the set is a matching costume which you have been obliged to wear. The costume is also of a white rabbit with a brown patch on the back of its left ear. The costume is constructed from the same material, and includes a hood with two ears which are stuffed with quill feathers to keep them standing. There is no face to the hood, and no feet to the costume, however, it does include a large drawstring bag in which you have placed the other items along with your supplies for the journey, and slung over your shoulder. The bottom of the bag is a circular patch to which the walls are stitched. On the seat of this circular patch is stitched the same backwards numerals ‘2’ and ‘7’, though much larger, basically inscribed within the circle which is about a foot in diameter.