The trio left, wandering the street so the bears could get used to their temporary bodies. There were some distrustful looks cast their way and others were openly hostile. Puppets were barely tolerated in the Crossroads.
“I think we need to hurry up and leave,” Montrose said. “We aren’t exactly welcome looking like this.”
Hamish nodded. “Part of that is because you look like puppet bears. It’s like you were created like a mockery of plush bears.”
He led them to a new section of town. Barnabus seemed confused.
“I’ve never been here before. Is it new?”
“Yes,” Hamish responded, “this appeared recently, but most avoid it because of the door leading to the Workshop.”
“What,” the bear exclaimed. “There’s a direct passage here?”
“Yes, but we don’t know how or why.”
They stopped in front of a finely crafted wooden door, covered in delicate designs. It was a thing of beauty created by a master craftsman.
“Here it is,” Hamish said in a somber voice. “Be careful, bears. The place can be a veritable warren of rooms, much like Crossroads. Don’t get lost in case you need to make a quick exit.”
Montrose looked at him speculatively.
“Have you been there before?”
“Once, and I lost several friends on that misadventure.”
“I apologize for bringing it up, he said contritely.
Barnabus put his hand on the handle and looked at Montrose.
Montrose drew in a breath.
“Let’s do this.”
Hamish rocked back as the door was opened and Barnabus, without a word, walked through. Montrose silently followed him through.
The pair were in a corridor of polished wood, graced with delicate designs. The place was beautiful, until they looked closer at the designs. One wall was graced with a carved depiction of a Garden of Souls, the lines spread out like a spider web. Montrose shuddered.
“This looks recent,” Barnabus said. I am wondering if it is a sign of a power shift.”
They continued to walk down the hallway until they saw an open portal. Inside was an immaculate carpenter’s shop. Half-finished puppet heads sat on the bench. They all swiveled to look at the bears, some of them with empty eye sockets.
Barnabus gave Montrose a look and walked away, making a whistling sound. They continued down the passage, passing numerous workshops for a variety of tasks.
“This seems more orderly than Hamish indicated,” Montrose said.
“It may have changed significantly. The place certainly looks ordered and efficient. I find myself wondering how many dolls and puppets are created here.”
“Where is everyone,” Montrose whispered.
“Who knows? I expected it to be full of dwarves and gnomes here hard at work.”
Montrose stumbled in shock.
“Those are real? I thought they were just a myth?”
“No, and always tread cautiously around them.”
Montrose looked at him skeptically, but dropped the subject. It was some time before they found a workspace that wasn’t for carpentry. They walked in slowly, looking at the spools of familiar string. It was the same that was in the nightmare where they joined Marley. Barnabus walked forward and ran his fingers along the string.
“This is a marrionette’s string,” he said at last, looking around, “a lot of it.”
“How many marionettes could this be for,” Montrose breathed.
“No, how many Gardens could this create?” Barnabus’ face distorted in revulsion.
Montrose’s mouth dropped as he looked at the spools with new eyes.
“Could the cabinet we saw have been made here as well?”
“Possibly. Wood was once alive, so it could retain more life energy. That Garden was collecting energy. The cabinet was the battery itself.”
Montrose looked around.
“I think we have enough information. Let’s get out of here,” he said.
“We still do not know for certain that Shankill is behind all this, but I think you are correct. There must be a reason we haven’t seen anyone, so let’s make that a winning streak.”
The bears returned to the corridor, then froze. It changed while they were inside the work space.
“I don’t think the Workshop likes us,” Barnabus said.
“How could it even…” Montrose stopped, recalling what his friend had said. “It’s alive, isn’t it?”
“Yes, and it knows we shouldn’t be here. We’ve walked into a trap.”