This marvelous chest is 24 inches wide by 18 inches deep by 12 inches tall. It is fashioned of deeply stained oak and gold clasps. It has an intricate lock and a matching golden key. The lid has two large handles and three metal dials. Each dial is encircled by set of ten numbers. The first dial is surrounded by the numerals 1 through 10. The second, 11 through 20. The third, 21 through 30.
The three dials can be turned and doing so will cause them to slowly rotate with a mechanical clicking sound. The dials are stiff and can only be turned slowly. Each dial can be turned and set to any one of its 10 positions. Considering there are 3 dials, there are a total of 1,000 possible combinations.
This decorative metal chest was created by the master mage, Ulhuru (oo-LOO-roo) many centuries ago. Little is known of its construction, enchantment or the history it has seen. Should any mage or priest call upon higher powers (through spell or prayer) the Powers that be will cough up this cryptic response:
Ruled by numbers was Ulhuru, likewise is his chest
Robbed by thieves, he crafted this that precious few can best
All his holdings here he kept inside a single box
Which guards his treasures while yet lacking clasps and keys and locks
Surely mathematics was his primary delight
And nothing more than humble numbers keep his wealth from sight
Strong blows will not avail you for this chest is sealed tight
And opens for whoever uses wisdom over might
Unlike a normal combination lock, this locking mechanism has multiple combinations. In fact, out of 1,000 possible positions, there are 32 combinations that will unlock the chest. However, this chest is enchanted such that it has 32 different interiors. Each interior is a tiny pocket dimension anchored to the chest, occupying the same point in space and time, but slightly out of phase with the rest. They are, in effect, virtual spaces. In order to bring one of these dimensional interiors into phase with the outside world, it's combination must be dialed in. Obviously, only one interior can be dialed in at a time. When one interior is dialed in, the other 31 are out of phase and their contents are elsewhere, unseen and inaccessible.
Therefore, this chest is not limited to one set of contents. Different interiors can have different things stored in them. The contents of the chest will vary depending on which interior you set the dials for.
The chest can only be opened when one of the 32 correct combinations is dialed in. The dials cannot be turned when the chest is open.
It can be quite startling for a would-be thief to see an object placed in the chest and then see the chest opened later to reveal it is empty.
So, what are the 32 correct combinations? It's simple. Or rather, it isn't. Ulhuru, the genius sorcerer that created the chest, was a mathematical prodigy and loved prime numbers. He worked them into much of his magic including the creation of this wondrous item. Ulhuru created this device to serve him as the ultimate treasure chest. To foil thieves, he created a chest that required a fair degree of mathematical skill to solve.
In order to open the chest, all three dials must be set to a prime number. Different combinations of prime numbers will open different interiors.
The table below demonstrates the possible combinations using the three dials that will open the chest. The first column shows all prime numbers between 1 and 60. The last three rows show the individual correct numbers for each dial.
Therefore, the list of possible correct combinations would be: [2,11,23] [2,11,29] [2,13,23] [2,13,29] [2,17,23] and so on. There are 32 such correct combinations. The dials can only be turned when the lid is closed. The lid can only be opened by grabbing the handles.
If someone attempts to open the lid when the dials are not set to a correct combination, they will receive a painful jolt of electrical energy that will cause a minor amount of damage. This is not enough to kill or incapacitate someone, but it is enough to deter even the most stubborn thief from attempting every one of the 1,000 possible combinations.
Usually, when the chest is first encountered, the dials will be set to 1, 12 and 21. (In other words, each dial is set to its lowest possible NON-prime number). The fact that the first and third dials are set as low as they can go, but the second dial is not, is a hint as to the nature of the solution.
Ulhuru had a remarkable memory and did not create any means of determining the current contents of the chest or the combinations to retrieve them. He simply remembered where he put things in the chest. The fact that the chest lacks this particular feature has frustrated many of its owners since Ulhuru's demise.
Each virtual space is about four times larger than the size of the chest. Regardless of what is placed in the chest, it always remains light. The chest is tough and can take a lot of punishment before breaking. Once broken, all items are lost in ethereal space. Finding them will be difficult in the extreme.
This page last updated Wednesday, December 24, 2008. Copyright 1990-2009 David M. Roomes.