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The Puppet's Parquet is one of the mysterious locations of the Hedge. It is a utopian pleasure pit that attract unsuspecting victims to devour them alive in a process that create the Hob-Puppets that inhabit the place.
The characters find a hatch. It’s made of strong wood, and its center consists of panes of stained glass showing a red butterfly with golden gears on its wings. Faint light shines up through it, and music drifts — muffled, yes — up from within. It sounds tinny. Like a music box. The hatch is not locked. In fact, it wants to be opened, and the changelings can probably sense that. What they find is a ladder made of braided vines (shellacked with some kind of sap, only slightly sticky) that descends into a darkness flickering with playful light.
A hundred yards down, the ladder ends at a platform, and from the platform descends a set of spiraling steps: a staircase made of oiled wood, cobwebs fluttering above and dust long gathering, only faintly disturbed. Another hundred yards down, the characters find the rooms — a room here, a room another thirty-three steps down, and another beyond that. Many rooms. Too many to count. In each room, one will find untold pleasures. A table full of sweet meats and sweet treats, of frosted mugs of hornet’s mead and silken napkins freshly washed and pressed. The next room? The softest beds ever. The smoothest sheets, hospital corners, pillows stuffed with the velvety down of some exotic Hedge bird. The room after? A sitting room. Hot thistle tea. Warm dream-a-drupe brandy. Cool glasses of crisp moonwater.
All sitting on tables warmed by a blue-flame fire, paired with plush chairs stitched of oiled leathers. Keep going downward, and more rooms reveal themselves: a training room with combat dummies (gussied up like scarecrows), a pillow-covered lounge with cabinets stuffed with Thorn-plucked narcotics, another dining room (this one home only to cakes and pies), and so on, and so forth. The characters poke around. Maybe they partake of the treats and pleasures; maybe they’re wise enough to know that all the good things in the Hedge come part and parcel with bad things. Eventually, the puppets surprise them. They’re not puppets, really, not exactly — more like automatons. Think Disney animatronics, or those singing creatures at Chuck E. Cheese. Their mouths are plainly hinged — so too are their elbows and knees, and one can easily see where the plasticine flesh has gaps (where the neck moves, for instance). Their eyes are glassy and dead. They move with herky-jerky imperfection, like robots.
They want to serve, these automatons. They’ll bring tea when the cups are empty. They’ll bring a pipe so one can smoke strange herbs or will prop up a new training dummy after the old one is shredded. One will disrobe and offer itself (herself? himself?) as one lies back on the swish-posh bed. They don’t seem to want to hurt anybody. They only want to serve. Some of them are human in appearance. Others look like changelings — a mien of bull’s horns or skin like boggy seaweed. Some appear like goblins from the Hedge: a small cat-man with a velour tuxedo, a toad-faced and squat-bodied butler, and so forth.
The changelings might be suspicious. But maybe they partake of the pleasures. They expect bad things to happen, but no bad things come. It seems an oasis, a lost paradise, a utopian pleasure pit where one can get a little R&R in the maddening Hedge. Except, then they go to leave. And they find that the ladder has retracted. The walls of the pit are stone, and slick with moss and oozing fluids. The weird music continues to drift. The puppets continue to try to push pleasures upon the characters — frankly, they start to get a little pushy about it. And when the changelings try to leave — shaping a new ladder or slowly trying to find footholds in the walls — the automatons are there, smiling and trying to pull the characters back.
Truth is, they’re not automatons. They’re hobgoblins. This is how they serve the Hedge. Some even believe that this whole place is one big hobgoblin, a living belly, a sculpted bowel — because, over time, it starts to digest the characters. They notice their skin grows waxy. An elbow suddenly hangs on a loose joint. They can no longer blink. If they wait too long, they’ll become automatons just like the others, joining the Parquet as its pleasure-serving hobgoblin puppets. They are digested... at least, in a fashion. And once they are, the ladder drops again, gladly serving to deliver more visitors.
With the Puppet’s Parquet, the following rules are in play:
• Climbing down is easy — the ladder wants you to use it. The braided plant flesh serves to give one a good grip. Assume climbing down to be an instant roll (Strength + Athletics +3). Climbing up with no ladder is difficult; the walls are slick, oozy. The Strength + Athletics roll suffers –4 dice, and is now extended: a total of 12 successes are needed.
• Once in a while, a hobgoblin or two emerge from the Parquet to replenish some of the lost stock (goblin fruits, the meat of other goblins, etc.). This is both a good way to find the Parquet (tracking the automaton back to the hatch) and might be a way out. The hobgoblins try to sneak out when the characters slumber (or are too gluttonous or drugged-out to do anything), and this requires the ladder dropping for a period of about 30 seconds.
• At a bare minimum, the food, drink and drugs provide the following effects: +3 to Social rolls, –3 to Mental rolls, –1 to Physical rolls. Many also offer effects similar to the narcotics
- Dancers in the Dusk, p. 96-97