I'd like to say the reason I found the Cube was because I solved all the meta puzzles, cracked the number strings, and have all the answers. Alas, no. None of us did. As far as I'm aware, the reason all of us who were involved in the endgame found ourselves in Rockingham Forest is because cjr22 and Chippy nailed the amorphous blobs as being the Jurassic strata, which led by a series of inevitable steps to the Jurassic Way and the red kite centre on Forestry Commission land at Fineshade Wood.
There were more elegant ways of getting there that didn't involve the Library of Babel, according to Kurt later, but we were at lunch when he told me and six people were talking at once (including Violet, loudly) so the details haven't stuck. But I'll do my best to talk about what we missed later. (TIAG - I mean, of course, the writers who scripted kurtnviolet.)
I've been thinking about why it was me that found the Cube and not one of the teams that came so close, and I've come up with a combination of four reasons. One is obviously luck: it didn't take luck to find it, but it took luck not to be beaten to it and luck not to be chased away by the Forestry Commission, other players or inquisitive children. Two more reasons are archaeological training and some literal mindedness, of which more later. The fourth reason is lifestyle: I am self employed and am currently working Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I could afford both the time and the petrol to visit the woods from London on both Thursday and Friday, when others were stuck behind desks, or scraping together the money for a weekend visit with friends.
On the Thursday I had a hospital appointment first thing. I expected it to drag through into the afternoon but promised myself that, if it didn't, I'd take a trip up to Fineshade Wood for a look around. I had no expectation of winning, but thought it would be foolish not to take advantage of having the time available and it would be fun to be involved in the endgame. The appointment finished very early, so I went. If it had overrun as I had expected then I doubt if I would have made it up there at all and the Cube would have been found with metal detectors on the Monday morning, instead of by me on Sunday lunchtime. On such small things...
I took with me my trusty trowel - the veteran of several years' worth of archaeology volunteering - as well as a print-out of the photos from the Library of Babel, a map of the woods from the Forestry Commission website, a laptop with a mobile internet card, and copies of puzzlecards 30 and 156, End of the Line and Going Dotty, as I knew there'd been speculation since last summer that the former represented directions, and no-one knew what the hell to make of the latter. I felt a bit of a fool for abandoning real life and going, as I knew there was no chance of me finding anything, but I also knew I'd regret it forever if I didn't at least try.
I hit Fineshade at about lunchtime. There were more cars than I expected, but I barely saw any people. Just a couple of joggers with fast, yappy dogs, and some people at the picnic tables in the car park. I remembered that CT had said you'd know which path to take if you knew who they were so, since like most people I believed CT to be Scarlett, I looked for a red path on the woods map board. There is one, a circular route, and better still you can take it by ignoring the mixed blue / purple path and turning left (ie, throwing away the mingled amethysts and sapphires and taking the one choice that remains, which isn't to the right). From then, as I walked the path, I looked for anything that might fairly be described as a quadruped to meet the next bit of the clue. I tried to stay aware of everything from chalk horses on the skyline (I imagined I might turn a corner and be confronted with one between the trees) to bridleway signposts. There were quite a few of the latter, and two in particular led to very promising looking clearings 10m back (20 ammot = about 10 meters was fairly easy to research and I think many people had done so). I scraped around a bit with the trowel, looking to see if there was any evidence of old digging, but there was nothing.
And here's where I take a moment to lecture on the usefulness of archaeology in treasure hunting. Not until the very end, Sunday lunchtime, was I digging for the Cube. Up until then I was digging for evidence of disturbed ground. Archaeology in Britain is based largely on the ability to detect holes that were dug and refilled anything up to 3000 years ago. Compared with that, finding a three-year-old hole is not the hardest of tasks. Instead of taking a spade and driving repeatedly downwards in search of metal, I was using a far more precise trowel to scrape back an inch or two of leaf cover and topsoil across fairly wide areas, looking for signs of a round pit where the fill had a different consistency or colour from the surrounding ground, or had settled a little. It's a quicker method, and far more efficient.
But it didn't get me anywhere on Thursday. By the time I was three quarters of the way around the circular path I was feeling considerably less pleased with myself. The light was starting to fade, I was on a long, straight section of path that didn't seem very promising (it later had houses on it, which seemed to rule it out completely) and I'd finally realised that by turning left out of the carpark I'd doomed myself to walking clockwise - which meant every turn I took was a right turn. I saw a wildlife hide on stilts down a side path but ignored it, because it was well off my route, but did stop to investigate another hide which turned out to be of a different design - no legs, and therefore not a quadruped. I amused myself by writing in the wildlife spotters' book that I'd seen peacocks but no quadrupeds, and signed it with a Cube symbol. But by then I'd pretty much given up. I wanted to go back round the path in the opposite direction, but there was no time. I decided to use the last of the light to visit Wakerley Great Wood. I knew it had footpaths too - I'd been able to get a map off the Forestry Commission website by jiggering with the URI for the Fineshade map - so I figured I might as well spend a couple of minutes there.
The moment I saw the Wakerley walks board, I knew it was the right place. It fitted the clues perfectly - unlike Fineshade, where you had to force them. There was a purple path - which meant CT was Violet, not Scarlett - and that path eventually joined with a blue one. At the point they met there was a single path available which was neither blue nor purple, and by following it there were plenty of opportunities to turn left. I phoned home to report, and Beloved Other Half said "Let's get up early tomorrow and look".
So we did.