On May 22, 2009, Melissonomoi added seven new songs to her 8tracks playlist with the following message: "in three days time, two lines will twine." Three days later, a newly registered forum member named sveinjt posted a thread concerning letters he had found in his attic.
Who is Nicolas Belmont?
A new topic on the official forums posted by forum member sveinjt asked "Who is Nicolas Belmont?", indicating that he found a pile of papers signed by the mysterious man in his mother's attic:
I live in Lofoten Norway and I found something in my mother’s loft the other day. Its a pile of papers with some diary writing on it. Its signed by someone named Nicolas Belmont. I tried to find out who it is and then I put the name in google. I found this site here and I thought maybe you could help me finding out what this is. I scanned all the pages and put it on flickr.
—sveinjt, forum post
In a later post, sveinjt says that the pages are, in fact, not the original ones written by Nicolas Belmont, but rather are copies of the originals typed by his father. This makes the handwritten statement on the first page clearer. The queen names were written on the margins of the original text, but are annotated at the bottom of the typed version.
Ok. So many questions. I am afraid a cant answer very many of them.
I talked to my uncle, my aunt, and my other grandmother. They know nothing. They agree its dads handwriting.
My dad was born in 1956 and his father in 1932 so this happened before they were born. None of them could be on the boat with Amundsen.
The pages are written with my dads typewriter I think, so can’t be original.
I wonder why he was so interested in this, but from all you say I think maybe its dangerous. I don’t want to say my full name now. I wonder should I never have posted them because it says it should be hidden.
I will remove the pages now, and try and forget about this.
Thank you for the help.
—sveinjt, forum post
Below are the text versions of the writing on each of the page images. The translations were provided by Svimen.
|Page 1 text
18th June (0330hrs)
It is the things we cannot speak of that prove to be the most vexing, most draining and perhaps even most damning of all. And so it is with no small amount of bitter amusement that I find myself arriving in the face of Misery as we approach the bay, her face gleaming in the midnight sun.
The captain of our chartered vessel, a local fisherman, and his two sons know little of the circumstances that have led us here, nor are they concerned with probing any further. After all, it was R.A himself who enlisted their help in this elaborate ruse, and I am only too certain that they were chosen not only for their ability to ferry us to our intended destination, but more importantly for their discretion in matters beyond their comprehension.
I can understand why he picked this particular bay for us to await his signal. Only a local seafarer would dare navigate the perilous currents along the bay while the surrounding mist keeps us out of sight and innocuous to all others, distracted by their ongoing search for the Nobile.
An hour passes. Then two, before the radio crackles into life and breaks the silence, transmitting the message we have been waiting for.
It fills me with both dread and hope. We have passed the point of no return.
There is scribbled names in the margins of each page. Cleopatra is a name at least. I assume the others are names aswell
Side 1 image given by sveinjt
|Page 2 text
18th June, (2045hrs)
Our course takes us northeast. A fog descends upon us, isolating us from the outside world. We are like Jonah, trapped in the belly of the fish. We hold our breaths, as if uncertain about what awaits us on the other side: and there, the narrow stop of landmass, almost impossible to find if one wasn't aware of its presence. My heart is filled with momentary relief as I see him waiting for us. Above us I can hear the rotors of the Latham circling the Barents skies, slowly disappearing in the distance.
The crew shares a look of deep contemplation as each man faces up to the dubious certainty of our return from this monumental task, yet they all board the vessel with a silent resolve. They would follow him to the end of the world, and beyond, and I find that I share their loyalty now as I did years ago, in a different place.
I embrace R.A. like a long lost brother. Much has changed since our previous meeting. the days are turning darker. What we discovered in the southern ice has affected us, and the world, and not in the ways we had imagined when we set out on our first journey. I fear not only for my own life, and his, but that of my family so far away. The wheels are turning now, and though they are slow, they will not be stopped.
R.A. asked to see the key one more time. His face, for just a moment, was that of the younger man I knew so many years ago, filled with youthful wonder, unworn by the weight of duty that would hang upon it in these dark times, It hails from somewhere in the Himalayas, forged by monks and inscribed with arcane symbols. It is a thing of wonder and danger, a key to forbidden realms, and our map to an unseen world.
R.A. examines it closely, prodding its lines, its mechanisms, marveling at a craftsmanship that defies even the most accomplished mechanists today. Once again, as years before, he traces a finger delicately across the symbols, but this time with far more caution and foreboding of what those symbols entail.
We head west into the Arctic swells, away from the illusions we think of as civilisation and into the cold, black truths that dwell within the eldritch ice.
I wonder what these names means. What could the connection between the story/fairy tail about King Arthur and these pages be?
Side 2 image given by sveinjt
"Above us I can hear the rotors of the Latham circling the Barents skies, slowly disappearing in the distance." refers to the plane on which R.A. supposedly disappeared historically. Apparently R.A. was not on the Latham according to Nickolas Belmont's Journal.
|Page 3 text
19th June (0900hrs)
How much the times have changed! As a child I feared the darkness, its unknowns and monstrous black promises terrifying me. Now, in this nightless sky, I feel exposed, the possibility that that which is unknown might become more terrifying to me than any uncertainty the shadows ever offered. R.A. has been speaking with the captain, working out the course we must traverse while all I can do is watch.
Mountains rise from the sea like the jaws of some titanic creature attempting to eat the sky, the stars, the sun itself. I shiver at the thought, remembering times past that are better forgotten.
One of the sons, perhaps wishing to practice his languages, spoke to me in broken French of the mountains before us. He, it would seem, was not an admirer and he noticed I was of a similar disposition. When I asked him what the mountains were called, he merely grinned and then snapped his mouth, mimicking nature's marine predator before telling me the local name for it. A fitting name. A name with an omen wrapped in its harsh utterance.
Haven't heard of any of these.
Side 3 image given by sveinjt
|Page 4 text
20th June (0030hrs)
It took longer than I had expected, but the fisherman's sons are sensing the gravity of our adventure, and they feel a part of it, as though they have joined a holy crusade, swords held high, seeking a distant Jerusalem, in the company of a man who is more than a man - a symbol, a hero.
The boys keep their distance, tongues stilled with intimidation upon even the most casual attempt at conversation. They see something in R.A's eyes, or something in the eyes of all the crew, and it demands a space and quiet they feel instinctively compelled to respect. Instead they come to me for conversation, our language a melange of gestures, Norsk, French, broken English. They speak of the area, its rise and
fall, a failed mining town swallowed up in its avarice, its plentiful coal unable to prevent its decline due to treacherous currents and its deceptive landscape. We passed the bells still hanging in the air, another reminder of how tenuous human civilization can be in this desolate land that brooks no error and forgives no trespass.
It is an old story, told in every part of the world, and yet it is one that even today we refuse to heed; the arrogance of humanity, the belief that we have somehow conquered this world when in truth we barely understand what it is we dwell on. but the lure of power, or knowledge, or glory is a siren's call, and our crew, R.A - even myself, we are all as guilty of answering the call as anyone else.
The difference is, so far we have lived to regret it.
The few I recognize are queens.
Side 4 image given by sveinjt
|Page 5 text
20th June (1030hrs)
R.A. began to speak of the waters around us, pointing out sights and it was an offering that the sons gratefully accepted. While they may know the lay of these waters, they don't often know the lore, a deficiency he was quick to rectify.
He told them stories of the earlier explorers, men he was quick to point out as having achieved, he believed, far greater accomplishments than himself. The sons were quick to disagree, but he hushed them gravely with a simple, commanding stare. He spoke of a Dutch explorer, tormented by the spirit of a polar bear as he mapped these northern passages. The bear took the form of its living brethren, stalking the explorer and his crew at every opportunity, jumping onto his boat, hunting his men and leaving him be only when he finally understood his failure.
He came to these waters as a man of conquest, not a man of humility. Only when he had been shown that the land itself was the final arbiter of all things that transpired did he realise that an explorer does not best the land he comes to - he engages it. The cartographer's spirit within paid proper homage to his discovery and it was only then that the north opened itself and its secrets to him.
Of course, as to be expected, once it embraced him it never let him go.
without bitterness he said to the boys, "Remember his tale. Remember the welcome our kind can expect."
Impossible for me to find enough information in the library here in Lofoten. Wonder who they are?
Side 5 image given by sveinjt
|Page 6 text
20th June (1630hrs)
Guilt is like a black fruit that grows, cloying, thick and sour within my heart. I know this must be done, and yet I cannot help but wonder if what we do now is the right thing, or, if it is, will ultimately matter in the end. The world is marching of its own accord down a path that could very well unravel what we attempt to do here now and yet still we persist. Why? For honour? For redemption? Or something as selfish and human as curiosity?
As we pass the busiest port in the area, I experience that same familiar feeling of caution. It never ceases to amaze me how when one brings all the races and creeds of the world together in one place, such as a port, the immediate atmosphere is one of intense suspicion. There is work being done here, yes, but there is also ambition, negotiation, transaction and lies. It is what some would call progress, and yet the cost to lives and spirits may be too high to pay. And it pales in comparison to what may come should we fail.
We have already seen what comes of our misplaced intentions. Our last journey might have been a catalyst, one that may have fuelled the advance of our Age by generations. That march of progress is visible even here in the outlying regions of the north. And now we have another, and moreover we have the whispers from the highest offices of power that this time, the interest in such findings could be far more than cursory. The scent is in the air, and there are others contemplating how best to begin the hunt.
We know more, however, we have moved faster, and, perhaps most important of all, we have a greater understanding of what is at stake. While other forces consider rumour and speculation before acting, we carry the heavy burden of past experiences, our hands wet with blood that has been spilled in the years since the first revelation in the Southern hemisphere. We have brushed against the monolithic secret of the gates and it has cost some of us, the best of us, our spirit, our sanity. The naked truth of what we have seen is something that could conceivably rend the delicate mechanism we proudly call civilisation asunder - and yet others merely see it as an opportunity for greater power.
My only consolation is They have yet to learn the nuances of these gates. They have yet to understand how to pick its arcane locks. And I can only pray that it stays this way for time immemorial.
Side 6 image given by sveinjt
|Page 7 text
20th June (2200hrs)
The fisherman and his sons will remain here for a time. I tried as best I could to impart how important their innocuousness is. My only regret is that I could not bring myself to tell them that any knowledge of their involvement in our efforts would be their doom. If we do not return, they are to take their leave and never speak of this again.
We are close now to our destination: a mining town of proletariats at the end of the scarab trail. I hear word that our final contact has been seen. He urges us on, impatient. Time is precious and what lies before us will brook no stay of execution. We embark on the final leg of our journey and I pray that it is not in vain. The secret we guard may be timeless, but we certainly are not.
This is my final entry. I have asked the captain to take these pages and keep them safe. They are the key to the lock that protects yet another key, and without them no one else will be able to find the quickest route in this game of thrones.
And yet, I pray no one ever reads these pages. If you are, then it is most likely because we have failed.
May the gods have mercy on our souls.
June 20th, 1928
I have at least heard about Nefertiti too. Cleopatra and Nefertiti. Egypt. But as far as i know the others do not have anything to do with Egypt.
Side 7 image given by sveinjt
On May 26th, 2009, community members received an email from Aveline Belmont regarding the notes received from sveinjt.
From: Aveline Belmont
Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:17:42 PM
Subject: The journal pages
I swore I wouldn't do this again but circumstances being...well, circumstances. Can't fight circumstances.
You've found something important and it doesn't belong to you. By 'you' I mean everybody in your big cuddly love-in of a community.
But as chance (or circumstance) would have it, it's exactly what I've been looking for. More or less. And you've managed, yet again, to both help me and hurt me. Thanks a whole fucking lot. I mean that with all
So I have a box. A very old box. I found it in Halifax. It's locked. The lock has 25 digits. And Belmont's journal contains the code. I know, because I've been looking for those pages. The fact that they should pop up in Norway makes absolute perfect sense. The fact that they should be found by a civilian with absolutely no fucking idea of
what he's getting into - in the context of recent events, yeah, that makes perfect sense as well.
If he knows what's best for him, by the way, he'll go away, far away, and stay away until this is all over. People are going to be looking for him. Bad people.
Here's the deal: I need that code and you're the guys who will find the code. Once I have the code, I can open the box. If I need your help again, I'll let you know. And at the end of all of this, I'll let you in on a little secret.
By that point, if I'm not already dead, I can afford to share.
And the sooner? The better.
—Aveline Belmont, email
On May 27, 2009, Melissonomoi posted the following tweet:
A popular interpretation of this message is that it is a reference to the pages of notes left behind by Nicolas Belmont to be used as a key for the locked box in the possession of Aveline Belmont, which contains a yet unknown key to a yet unknown lock. The contents of the box might possibly be a key to another puzzle (lock) or to an actual gate.
Many interpret the mentions of polar bears, coal mining, and sharp, tooth shaped mountains and not to mention the proletariat mining camp as a reference to Bear Island, Norway.
Hidden text and queens
: False color image of the first page, created by Spyne
It was discovered that when the first page of the set was viewed under high contrast, a second, lighter, body of text became visible. Within this text were referenced a different ordering of queens.
The three queens revealed were:
- Agrippina the Elder
Another interesting point is that the hidden text is, by majority, the same as the visible text, except for a few variations. Firstly, the list of queens is enumerated at the top of the page, rather than the bottom, and an extra paragraph is added between the third and fourth paragraphs of the original text. The hidden paragraph reads:
I imagine a million possibilities, all bleak, all causing me to break into a cold sweat as I consider the gamble we have taken, one that can easily be lost. R.A insisted this was the only way, that we have to be dead to the world if we are to save it from itself.
—Nicolas Belmont, forum userSpyne
This brings up questions of why, since these typed pages were created by sveinjt's father from the originals by Nicolas Belmont, would this paragraph be omitted from the final version? An argument may be made that the hidden text comes as a result of a failed first draft that was typed on a page overlaying the page used for the visible text. Why this discrepancy? There is no certain answer as of yet, but the hidden paragraph may yet play a role in solution to this Alternate Reality Game event.
The key: 25 digits
One interpretation of the 25 digit key solution involves using the first letters of each word in the names of the queens to represent their position within the alphabet. The full listing of the queens in the notes are:
- Livia Drusilla
- Yohl Ik'nal
- Marie Antoinette
- Agrippina the Elder
- Number of Queens: 17
- Number of Words: 25
After puzzling over the meanings of the names of the queens for the duration of the day, forum member Rosner came up with a solution, which disregards the queens from the hidden text:
Well, in fact we got a 17-queens problem (counting the queens, listed on the 7 pages), isn't it?
The number of unique solutions of course is too low to reach 25 digits. The positioning sequence though has exactly 25 digits. Unfortunately it's a bit dull i fear but maybe worth trying.
17-queens problem... this fits too damn well...
The queens... game of thrones (being chess)...
could it be true?
After a bit of debating of whether or not it was the correct answer, the forum member sent out the answer to Aveline. A short while later, a response was issued:
Well, congratulations. It worked. You solved it. Nicolas was a big chess player and game theorist so it makes sense for him to come up with something as convoluted as this.
The box is open. I promised to share and, much as I hate to admit it, you guys have given me valuable insight before. So this is what I
—Aveline Belmont, email
Attached to the e-mail were three photographs of illustrations contained within the box. It is unclear if that is all that was in the box, but Aveline was kind enough to entrust us with the three photographs.
Now the community was presented with yet another puzzle, just as Melissonomoi's earlier tweet suggested: the key, the lock, the key, the lock. Whatever the case, the community moved onto what was inside the box.