Three things strike you immediately about this hall. First, while it’s been nicely decorated and even equipped with hot- and cold-running piped music, calling it a hall is perhaps a bit generous, as it clearly used to be a cellar of some sort, and retains both a deep chill and a strangely pervasive smell of cheese.
Second, while it’s quite long and broad, with alcoves stretching off to each side, the ceiling’s only just high enough for you to stand straight, but not without minding your head as you move.
And third, there’s a tuatara.
The Keeper is busying himself with the reptile, giving it some water and generally fussing over it. You prop up the somewhat chilly wall and hum along to the music: The Keeper is clearly a fan of the old Rat Pack standards. Eventually he shuts the tuatara’s enclosure and pays you attention.
“Sorry, I do like having my little chats with Fred.”
He sees you looking blank.
“Fred? The tuatara?”
It’s certainly an interesting name for a tuatara. And it’s also a matter of interesting legality…
“Look, I can see you’re going to be all ‘have you got a permit for that?’ and the paperwork’s all in order. Or, I suppose, it will have been all in order when I get round to going back and sorting it out. It’s nice to have the company, anyway.”
You can’t tell how the tuatara feels about the relationship.
“Anyway, I couldn’t have a museum of Tuataria without having a tuatara. It would be like having a museum of Austria without a kangaroo.”
You open your mouth to correct his error, but he ploughs on rapidly.
“You know the whole tuatara thing started during the very first hunt set by that Green chap? It was a very simple clue – identify the new thing on the wall behind him – but it took an awfully long time for them to work out that they had to put ‘it’s a tuatara’. They even ended up calling their server that for a couple of weeks – nerds!”
The Keeper guides you down the hall a bit, as you duck to avoid the speakers. The Keeper cocks an ear at the music.
“Ah, Dean Martin. He was a lovely man. When he could stand up. The stories I could tell…” He trails off and starts crooning along tunelessly: “Wheeeeen the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!”
He notices you edging away.
“Sorry. Fred never likes that either. Anyway, what you’ve got here in each alcove is a little puzzle for you to solve. You’ll then find what’s inside – there’s some stuff you might find useful. And possibly some other things. But we don’t talk about those.”
You give him a significant look, but he ignores it and carries on.
“Remember that I much prefer British English spelling – helps me fit in with the tea drinking. Now, go on: see what you can find.”
Ahead of you are six locked alcoves, each with a board in front bearing a short piece of doggerel.
You sigh, and set to work.