Thursday, 13 August 2015

Timequest - Crowns and Time Loops

Written by Reiko

Temporal Corps Private Journal #12:I steal a crown and send it on a journey through thousands of years of history before returning it to its fated owner. Now that I’ve finished all the missions, I just have to track down Vettenmyer by breaking the code hidden in his creepy messages. The guy’s a nutjob. Without his messages, I never would have found him.

Last time I thought maybe I had to drug one of the sultan's wives in Baghdad with the ether from the Molotov cocktail, which was a good idea, but not the right scenario. Instead, we're going to use that trick to steal a crown! In Rome in 800 AD, Charlemagne is refusing the crown unless there's a sign from God. The firework mask trick won't work here, but maybe I can do something to the crown. I've got to get it, first. There's a priest sort of vaguely guarding it, but he isn't paying much attention to me. Which makes it easy to slip a damp handkerchief over his face…

Assaulting a priest in the name of saving the world...

The crown and five more points in my possession, I slip out of the cathedral unnoticed. Hmm, what could be more royal than a crown? Let's go see King Tut. He decides he wants to play a game with me using the crown, so he gives me a map of the inside of the pyramid, including the key to the tile code. I get five more points for this. Immediately after that, though, he gets called away by his mother, making the crown inaccessible. I guess I'll just have to go retrieve the crown from the pyramid in 1215 AD.

How convenient that Tut gets called away right after hiding the crown.

Back in the pyramid, I press the tiles in the order Tut gave me, and the blades of the trap come to a halt, allowing me to proceed. Advancing to the next room gives me ten more points. This room holds a rickety bridge over a chasm. The bridge is flimsy and partly collapses as I cross, but I make it to the King's chamber, which holds an ankh, probably the amulet mentioned on the map.

Unfortunately, there isn't any way to get the crown out of the tiny crack in the wall in this time. Tut was a lot smaller and able to squeeze into that area to leave the crown there. However, there might be another way. Probably Napoleon would be interested in retrieving such an interestingly anachronistic artifact from Egypt.

I jump over to Rome in 1798 and throw the rock through the window of the Palazzo Venezia to get Napoleon's attention, then show him the ankh and the map. He gets very interested in this and tells me to meet him in Cairo later. I get five points for showing him the ankh and thirty for the map, and he hands me his bracelet, so I think this part of the mission is done. Napoleon also gives me a pass allowing me free passage on any French ship bound for Egypt (which I don't need) and entry to his camp at Cairo (which I do).

Yes, Napoleon is quite interested in Charlemagne’s crown.

In Dover, Nelson's lamenting the fact that he thinks Napoleon's going to Egypt, but he can't be sure, because England also seems likely, and he can't leave his own shores undefended. I show him the pass Napoleon gave me, and he jumps up all excited and heads for Egypt. Nelson also leaves behind a grappling hook he was playing with. I think that will be handy because the bridge over the chasm inside the pyramid collapsed behind me in 1215 AD. I doubt anyone's gone in and repaired it since then, given the traps. I don't get any points for talking to Nelson, but I do get five points for the hook.

History of Cairo in 1798, altered by triggering Napoleon’s and Nelson’s actions.

In Cairo, the newspaper headline has changed to announce Napoleon's invasion and the destruction of his navy. That doesn't seem to have slowed him down too much, as he's ready to go when I show the pass to his goons. He follows me into the pyramid as we retrace the route I took in 1215 AD.

Napoleon must be tiny. What’s “Guruka”??

Unfortunately, the hook alone doesn't seem to be sufficient, as there's no rope left. Fortunately I have the vizier's turban. I'd already taken the glass ruby out of it, so it had unwound into a length of cloth. I tie that to the grappling hook and throw that up to catch on the strut above the chasm. Then Napoleon and I swing across the chasm. Napoleon is apparently small enough to squeeze in and get the crown. When we exit the pyramid, he happily disappears into his tent after proclaiming that he would be crowned with it, which gives me 25 points.

We meet Napoleon’s goons again, but still don’t receive the crown back.

I'm going to have to find the crown elsewhere again. Fortunately, I know where there's a mostly unattended museum of Napoleonic Rome in 1940. It's simple to grab the crown from its case when the guard isn't looking. Napoleon wore it, in theory, but I have to wonder if Napoleon’s head was large enough to wear Charlemagne’s crown, given that his body was smaller than average.

The neat thing is that Napoleon's had it engraved, labeling it as the crown of Charlemagne. When I give it back to Charlemagne, it's going to suddenly have this engraving where it had none before, which ought to be miracle enough for him. Never mind that it's been aged by several thousand years in the process. That makes me wonder, though, after that point, where was the crown after Charlemagne actually wore it? I've created a huge time loop here, but presumably the crown still exists somewhere on its second pass through that time, unless it was destroyed or permanently lost sometime after Charlemagne?

I got curious, so I did a little research. According to Wikipedia, the “Crown of Charlemagne” was a title for French crowns used starting from the thirteenth century. Charlemagne would have been crowned with an imperial crown of the Roman Empire, but nobody seems to have that one anymore. A later imperial crown, used from about the eleventh to eighteenth centuries, is now on display in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Napoleon didn’t use this, but made a new crown for himself when he took the throne and called it also the Crown of Charlemagne. His crown is on display in the Louvre in Paris.

The crown is now engraved, courtesy of Napoleon.

So it’s not really surprising that there's some skepticism (according to the display card in the museum) about whether that crown was the one Charlemagne wore, because it wasn't, yet! (I love this kind of time travel, with objects in time loops to fulfill various requirements. That's probably one reason I loved Chrono Trigger so much, especially the side quests.) In order to make a stable time loop consistent with modern knowledge of the crowns, I would also have to retrieve the crown again once Charlemagne (and any successors who used it) finished with it, and replace it in the museum display. That would close the loop and make Napoleon’s crown truly the same one that Charlemagne wore, if paradoxically in reverse order.

Actually, if Charlemagne or the Pope at the time had left any written record about the coronation miracle, I wonder if Napoleon would have been more suspicious when he retrieved an unengraved crown from the pyramid and caused the engraving to be done. Well, anyway, after all that lead-up to it, the actual coronation scene is rather anticlimactic, really, and with thirty more points, now all ten missions are complete.

That’s all there was to the coronation.

Almost time to track down Vettenmyer and enter the endgame, but I've still got a couple of loose ends, first. In 44 BC in Peking, a barbarian army is threatening the city. I need to sound the alarm because the guards on the wall are gone. It took me some time to think about my inventory and realize what I could use to make enough noise: the conch shell I took from Dover near the beginning of the game. I can blow into the shell to sound the alarm. The emperor gives me an imperial seal in thanks, plus I get five points.

Sounding the alarm in Peking...

Centuries later, an old eccentric emperor has barricaded himself in the Forbidden City. I show the seal to the eunuch guard, who looks very surprised and escorts me in to see the emperor. Who, of course, interprets this to mean that my ancestor helped his ancestor, not my own self mere hours earlier, but same difference. He gives me a box left "generations ago by a traveller from a distant land". I get ten points for this.

“My honorable ancestor was in debt to your honorable ancestor.”
No, he was in debt to me, but nevermind.

How would Vettenmyer determine that this box would be the reward for this particular debt? Anyway, I start opening the box, and it's like one of those nesting dolls, with several layers of smaller boxes within. When I get to the last box, it opens to reveal a carved jade bar with another message: "You act like you bought your brains at a five and ten cent store." In English. Of course. Vettemyer strikes again.

One more point for me, and since the score is now at a multiple of five again, I'm hoping that's the last message and I've found them all. Including the one from the very beginning ("Beware the Ides of March"), which I'm not sure counts, I have twenty messages. The only loose end I never did anything with was the philosopher, plus I haven't gotten into the Tower of Babel. Now that I think I have them all, I'm sure there's a code hidden in the messages, so I assemble them all and start looking for patterns. There are a number of suspicious clues, like "Numbers are important when you have no sixth sense and everything seems out of order." (Pay attention to numbers, and find the right order of the messages, in other words.)

Suddenly it jumps out at me: each message points at or outright says one of the numbers from 1 to 19. I reassemble them in order, and all becomes clear.

Messages with their numbers and locations:
  1. Zeke is Number One! (1361 BC Baghdad)
  2. Everywhere you go, I've been there too. (44 BC Baghdad)
  3. Keep three things in mind: you're confused, I'm not, and you're never going to catch me. (1798 AD Baghdad)
  4. Eventually you will acknowledge me as the master of the fourth dimension - time. (1588 AD Peking)
  5. If this fifth crusade succeeds, I'll eat my hat. (1215 AD Rome)
  6. Numbers are important when you have no sixth sense and everything seems out of order. (1519 AD Cairo)
  7. Things would be better if you were the seventh son of a seventh son. (1519 AD Peking)
  8. Old man Drexler looks like he ate a lemon. (800 AD Dover)
  9. Will it mean the end of the world? Nein! (1588 AD Rome)
  10. Eternity will pass before you figure out a tenth of all this. (452 AD Dover)
  11. Risk is just a leaven to make your interest rise. (452 AD Baghdad)
  12. .12 calibre bullets won't even slow me down. (1588 AD Cairo)
  13. Saying you're not stupid is like saying thirteen isn't an unlucky number. (452 AD Cairo)
  14. As for teenagers, I think they should banished [sic] from the academy. (452 AD Mexico)
  15. You act like you bought your brains at a five and ten cent store. (1798 AD Peking)
  16. Eat my dust. It's the sixteenth century and you don't have a clue. (1588 AD Baghdad)
  17. Actually, I've been wanting to do this since I was seventeen. (1215 AD Mexico)
  18. Sandtraps surround the eighteenth hole - deathtraps surround my lair. (800 AD Cairo)
  19. This is the last message I will leave in the nineteen hundreds. (1940 AD Rome)
The first character of each message spells out the answer: ZEKE IN TOWER. SAY EAST. So EAST is the password to the Tower of Babel! Which is to the east of the Ishtar Square, so it's rather self-descriptive there. Oddly enough, I noticed that the first letters of the messages can also be rearranged to spell ZEKE IS NO.1 START WAY EE (if you include the 1 from the twelfth message in addition to the period). In other words, from the place that the first message ("Zeke is Number One!") is located (although you have to go up from there to actually see it), you just have to go east twice to find his hideout.

Next time, the endgame. I'm sure I missed something with the philosopher, but I'm not stuck yet. We’ll see how it goes.

Mission status and score so far.

Session Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 21 hours 0 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. The more the game progresses, the more it seems like an elaborate prank that Vettenmeyer is playing on you. It will be interesting to see if there is an in-game justification for the clues in the written messages, or if it's just the classic hubris of the game (or movie) villain.

    1. Seeing that the Game Over screens are very real, I doubt it's a mere prank.

    2. A prank in the sense of a deadly game that The Joker or Riddler would devise, perhaps!

  2. Forgot to mention in my previous comment, but I was amused by the suggestion that Napoleon was the size of a child. He certainly wasn't the tallest man, but for the time wasn't much below average. He certainly wasn't a slender fellow either, so quite why he's able to get the crown and you aren't is a mystery.

    1. Yes, indeed, I didn't think he was that small either.

  3. As a note, I've been reading up on WWI through 1920s firearms and I've picked up that 0.12 is very small for a bullet. The smallest I can recall hearing about is 0.22 (rabbit hunting and such. I think Nixon was shot with one without feeling it). .32 was used in a lot of WWI sidearms and it is considered underpowered today.

    (That said, the Italians and the Japanese used smaller bullets, but I have no idea how to convert metric bullets into imperial bullets)