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Like everything about Highdark Hall, there are conflicting stories about the Hedge Maze that stands on the West Lawn of the Enclosed Park. The Presenter must decide which, if any, are true. Uncovering the facts of the matter will take persistence, resourcefulness, and courage on the part of Player Characters.
The famous Hedge Maze of Highdark Hall was constructed in 1729, nine years after the completion of the house. Inside it are the last works of the brilliant but deeply troubled sculptor Peter Nicodemus, who also created the bronze equestrian statue of Lord Gerald Altumber in the courtyard of the west wing. The mystery of Nicodemus’ disappearance, which occurred shortly after completing the statues, has never been solved. Neither can the books of Nicodemus’ famous occult library be accounted for.
The walls of the Maze are 8 foot tall yew hedges, cut sharply and cleanly. By walking around it one can see that the structure is hexagonal in overall shape, about 90 feet across at its widest point, with each face of the hexagon about 50 feet in length. Entrance to the Maze is through a 10 foot tall archway of fancifully wrought iron, barred by gates of likewise construction. Through the gates the 5 feet wide, graveled interior path can be seen. Inside, the labyrinthine Maze twists and turns upon itself, and the high walls of yew generally keep the floor of the interior shrouded in shadow. Only for a brief time at high noon are the corridors well lit. At each dead-end in the maze is a life-size bronze statue of a mocking satyr, place atop a 2 foot high granite pedestal. While each satyr has the same visage, each is posed in a slightly different position. At the center of the maze is a life-size marble statue of a beckoning nymph. She is completely nude, and standing atop a low platform of black marble a single foot high. She faces a bench of white stone. Despite the numerous strange stories about the Maze and its history, the structure is well maintained. The gates are always locked at nightfall, but determined lovers have found them not difficult to pick. Keys are held by the Gardener, the Butler, and Lord Nathaniel.
Rumors and Gossip About the Hedge Maze
Those who walk into the Hedge Maze at night will hear the sounds of a man laughing, footfall in the gravel behind them, and a woman screaming. It is said that sometimes the way out from the center appears to be longer than the way in.
A young woman was supposedly buried in the maze along with her unborn baby, but nobody knows who it is, or why they were placed in unhallowed ground. I’ve never seen any such grave, and probably the whole story is just nonsense.
The Hedge Maze is admittedly creepy, but if there was anything ghostly about it, how does the Gardner keep it so tidy? Go into it and see for yourself. Nothing will happen. That place is only dangerous to the virtue of young women who meet their sweethearts there!
If a man makes it to the center of the Maze, he must give the Nymph a kiss. Otherwise he will be cursed to have his manhood fail him when he most desires its use! They say the lips of the Nymph are as are warm as any girl’s, even though she’s made of marble. Never enter there at night, however, because you risk the jealousy of the brazen satyrs. If you check one in the morning, it may be in a different pose than it was the day before. They walk as flesh in the darkness.
Sometimes the sound of pipes can be heard coming from the maze. They say that maidens who go into the Maze alone do not leave still maidens, and will thereafter find ordinary men… inadequate.
If you kiss the nymph at the center of the Maze you will be approached by a beautiful young woman in a bloody maid’s dress, who will seem to have come from nowhere. She will demand that you kiss her as well. If you grant it, her face will become a mask of corruption and rot. If you do not give her what she desires, or break off the kiss, you will surely die that night!
The Maze is inhabited by sprites, who sometime use their magic to confuse those who enter. They never harm children, but they are very jealous of lovers. Couples who kiss in front of the nymph will have True Love for the rest of their days, if they can manage to leave the Maze together. The jealous sprites will do everything to prevent that from happening, however. In fact, it was those sprites that kidnapped Peter Nicodemus and the kitchen maid that loved.
Swear that you will never repeat what I am about to tell you. They are always listening. A certain man was in his youth a frequent guest of the house. He pursued a dalliance with a kitchen maid, though of course his future position made it impossible that she could ever be his wife. They were together in the Maze when she revealed that she carried his child, and demanded that he marry her. In a panic he struck and killed her. He ran to the Lord of the Manor, who enlisted the aid of the Gardener. The three buried the maid’s body inside the Maze, and swore each other to secrecy. The next morning, Lord Roderick, who was Lord Nathaniel’s father, announced to the household that the maid had eloped with some young swain. Shortly thereafter the Gardener was found drowned in the Misty Tarn, even though he was well known to be an excellent swimmer. This all happened when Lord Nathaniel was a boy, and ever since then the Maze has been haunted by the ghost of the maid. It was never haunted before that time, no matter what anybody else tells you. If you enter the Maze at night on the anniversary of the murder, you will see a vision of the crime, and learn the identity the killer. For the love of Jesus do not try. Once you know who it is, you will no longer sleep soundly at night. Just as I cannot!
The site of the Hedge Maze once had a ancient cairn on it. When Lord Gerald excavated the spot in 1709 he found the skeleton of a young woman who was with child. The Maze was erected on top of her body, to keep her spirit confused so she would not haunt the grounds. She still wanders the maze by night.
The sculptor Peter Nicodemus was hopelessly in love with a wanton kitchen maid. In fact, he gave the nymph at the center of the maze her face, and put his own face on all the bronze satyrs. The maid told Peter that she was pregnant with his baby, and he promised to marry her. Just after the Hedge Maze was completed, Peter decided to take a final tour to see his creations. There he unexpectedly found his beloved. She was engaged in carnal relations with a footman, in front of the nymph that bore her likeness! The faithless woman laughed at Peter, and told him that the baby was in fact the footman’s. Apparently the maid and her lover didn’t even pause what they where doing. Peter exploded in anger, and strangled the maid. The footman escaped and ran to the House. When he returned with help, Peter Nicodemus had disappeared. As you know, he was never seen again. It is said, however, that his soul inhabits the bronze satyrs, and the soul of the wanton maid is trapped inside the marble nymph.