Mind Trap – Subterra

Leaving the strange ruins behind him, Ryan descended slowly into the enfolding darkness. The afternoon sun was going to set soon, and without any light source, Ryan decided to go as far down the stairs as he could. Placing his right hand on the wall, he focused his attention on the steps, hand feeling along the uneven wall, careful not to blunder and fall down.

Nearing the steps where he could no longer see very much beyond them, his right hand encountered a protrusion. He looked up and made out what appeared to be a rusty metal ring set in the rough stone wall. Several things clicked in his mind from reading medieval stories and adventures.

“Torch bracket!” he thought.

He felt around the torch bracket and felt the reassuring smoothness of a cylindrical object held loosely in its embrace. Much too cylindrical. It was also plastic instead of wood.

“What the?”

“You idiot! You gave him an electric torch?”
“I’m sorry, I panicked ok?”

Turning the flashlight curiously in his hands, Ryan found the on-off switch. And flicked it on.

“Hey, it works!”

“Why don’t you throw him a laptop too?”
“I said I was sorry, didn’t I?”

Beaming at his unexpected good fortune, Ryan decided to ignore the question of what a modern torch was doing in a place like that. Waving the flashlight to his left, he found … nothing. There was nothing beyond the left side of the stairs. Ryan shuddered from the disastrous possibility he averted by using the right wall to guide his descent.

He looked at the sunlit entrance behind him. Chasing darkness away with his flashlight, he peered at the seemingly unending flight of steps descending in front of him. He gave a sigh.

“Here we go.”

The illumination from the flashlight was weak. Ryan could barely see a few steps in front of him. He didn’t have any spare batteries, and there weren’t any around the torch bracket. Despite the possibility that the flashlight might give out at any moment, Ryan still proceeded carefully. One step, two step, three step…

And then a click sounded in the silence. Ryan froze. His left foot landed on a step that submerged slightly. A whimper escaped his mouth. Heart pounding, yet too afraid to lift his foot, he squeezed his eyes shut and waited in the deathly quiet.

“I thought I told you to take that thing out.”
“It adds excitement, don’t you think?”

After several seconds, a soft crackle was heard from his left. Ryan instinctively hunched down a little. When the expected flying spears or spikes or whatever unpleasant surprise didn’t happen, he risked a peek. A crack appeared in the air, blue light streaming out of it. Then it was gone in a second.

Taking in air in ragged breaths, Ryan quickly pointed the flashlight at his left foot. Still there. He looked up ahead, and saw a faint orange glow. He pointed the flashlight at the steps before him, and made a decision. He took a deep breath and started bounding down the steps, two or three at a time, towards that questionable yet hope-giving orange light.

He reached the bottom of the stairs quickly. The right stair wall joined up with a wall in front of him. Ryan turned to his left and found the source of the orange light, a real fire burning torch in a torch bracket this time. It was at the end of a corridor, perhaps 12, 15 metres long.

He walked slowly towards the torch, not daring to run. Several nerve-wracking moments later, he stood at the end of the corridor. Another corridor branched to the right. As Ryan turned, he noticed some writings carved into the stone below the torch.

His army’s SIZE was PUNY,
And he’s said to be loony.
His troops fell, FORTY to EIGHT.
So tell me, was that his fate?

There’s another seemingly senseless set of carvings beneath that poem.

KYTUPEGINY

Shrugging with confusion, Ryan turned to move along the corridor on his right. Up ahead was what appeared to be a brightly lit large room. Realising that he’s still pointing the flashlight in front of him, Ryan switched it off and placed it in his pocket, since there’s enough light to see.

As he walked along that corridor, there was a noticeable drop in temperature. Ryan shivered. Near the end of the corridor, he saw two bronze statues, armoured with helms, chest plates and wielding in a raised position, the ugliest pain inflicting weapons he had ever seen. It looked like a sword, with two hooks at the end. Ryan wondered what a weapon like that would do to him, then realised it would do as much damage sliding into his body as it would do coming out.

Imagining the statues hammering down on him while he’s passing through, Ryan backed up a little. Then proceeded at a run and made a mad dash through to the room, rolling into a ball and laid on the floor in a foetal position. No sound and movement from the statues. Ryan got up and dusted himself off.

“I hate this place.”

He looked around the room. Three torches burned in the middle of the left, right and front walls of the room. At the corners furthest away from the corridor were two stone statues, a goat on the right corner and a lion on the left. Ryan turned around and saw a dragon statue on the right corner and a tall smooth plaque on the left. There appeared to be writings on the plaque, so he moved towards it to investigate.

There were two rows of numbers at the top:

935
9351246780

Then there’s a drawing of a fire symbol in the middle, and this below it:

RBETTOLCQUCQJVE

Confused again, Ryan looked around the room. Dead end.

“There’s got to be something here,” he consoled himself. “Some brick panel, or contraption or…”

Ryan looked up and grinned. “Or puzzle.”

What should Ryan do?

The answer will be published here in a comment a week after, or when a reader submits an answer. I think I cut off the fun too soon for the last puzzle, so I’m going to wait a few days first, even if a reader answers correctly.

When you submit an answer, please include your reasoning too. Part of the fun of giving the answer is explaining it. Anyone can come up with an answer. Not everyone can fully explain it though. Oh man, I hope I gave sufficient clues…

No torches were harmed in the writing of this puzzle. Flashlights and batteries each sold separately.

[UPDATE: There were no takers for this puzzle. So I answered my own puzzle. View answer.]

Mind Trap – Strange Ruins

He blinked. Ryan could feel the light falling on his eyelids. His head still hurt, so he kept his eyes closed.

Birds were singing. “That’s a good sign,” he thought.

There was a whiff of musty damp earth. He clenched his hands, and clutched a handful of leaves. Ryan took a deep breath, and coughed. Blinking his eyes slowly open, he surveyed his surroundings. He was propped sitting up against a tree. Slivers of sunlight slipped through the leafy canopy above. This was definitely not the city.

Panic gripped Ryan and he scrambled up. He coughed again.

“Where am I?”

“You couldn’t find anyone else?”
“It has to be him.”

Trying to calm down, Ryan hazily recalled the events of the evening before. Something about a taxi and the driver turning around to face him and spraying something into his face.

He had to start moving. In the distance, he could see a massive stone structure. He started walking. There was a soft crackling to his right. He only caught a glimmer of bluish light before it faded together with the sound.

After what seemed like an eternity, he reached what appeared to be the entrance to some ruins. Aztec, or maybe Incan. It didn’t matter. It looked pretty run-down. There was a tall white totem pole on the left of the ruins. At an equal distance reflected to the right, an ebony statue stood in stark contrast to the surroundings.

And straight ahead in the centre, sat a curiously squarish structure. Ryan moved closer and saw 2 stairways set in the structure, leading downwards, like twin nostrils of a slumbering giant. Brushing aside the unpleasant feeling of venturing into the nasal stone passages, he noticed some carvings above the stairways.

51 82 68 87 65 89
66 69 72 73 78 68
83 84 65 84 85 69

Ryan was still thinking about which of the two uninviting routes he’s going to try when he looked at those carvings again. Smiling again, he chose his route.

What was Ryan’s choice?

The answer will be published in a comment here after a week (on 23 May). Or if some genius reader adds in a comment. Whichever is earlier.

[UPDATE: Christopher has already solved the puzzle. View answer.]

Continue the adventure…