The Last Jester

Matthew Hopkins, the self styled Witchfinder General had during the course of the past two years executed nearly 70 men and women. By Drew's count of those 70 people nearly 45 had been tattooed heroes from the Dark Ages. Hopkins had systematically sought out the heroes and used their woad tattooes as "evidence" that they had a pact with the Devil. Such strange and unusual markings were often enough alone to convict the person of witchcraft and send them to the gallows.

John Muckle (normally called Muckle John) rolled up his sleeve and looked at his own marking a stylised Oak Tree that was the symbol of Lugh. Well Lugh could no longer help him since the third of the great enchantments was cast, but there may be others if he could find them.

He had been fortunate to escape with the King when the Scot's Presbyterians seized them, but the King was looking to deal with them and head back south towards London. A mere Jester would not be able to determine the King's policy, though through dudicious use of wit may be able to sway it.

It was obvious that Hopkins was himself either a tattoed Hero himself or one of the followers of the Jealous God, though he knew not who is was, nor why he was systematically killing off all the other heroes. It was a worry how easily Hopkins was finding the Dark Age heroes and he suspected that there was more to Hopkins "assistant" John Stearne than met the eye.

Muckle John knew only one person who could see the Woad tattooes of people through anything they may have hiding it. Geriant ap Rhys, a follower of Toutatis, was well known amongst the heroes to be able to see the tattoes through whatever special vision his God had granted him. Either he was co-operating or he was being co-erced in same way to helped the self styled Witchfinder General locate and hang other heroes. The question that Muckle John had to ask himself was, would he go back south with the King and oppose the Witchfinder whilst the King opposed Parliament?

Many of the heroes he would trust to help him defeat the Witchfinder had already been killed. Boudicca, the first and strongest of the heroes had already been declared a witch and hanged, though she had injured 5 of the Witchfinders followers in the process of her capture despite having no weapons. That one was definitely a wild one and not one he wanted to get on the wrong side of. Two sisters who had been acused of Witchcraft had distinctive tatooes decribed in their hearings. One was a scarab beetle and the one was a a stylised fish. So it seemed that the poisoner and the traitor Queen were gone too. The only others that he knew were still alive and awakened were Taliessin and one of the other three traitors. He distrusted the traitor Bedwyr and the words of the bard would probably not help him here.

There were others in the Parliamentarian cause though that were speaking out against the self styled Witchfinder general. He did not know if they were tattooed heroes or not, but even if they weren't then together they might have enough political muscle to stop the Witchfinder. If he could recruit them to his cause then perhaps the Witchfinder could be stopped in time. There were two main difficulties with this approach though. Firstly he was known as a King's man and it was unlikely that Parliamentarians would meet up with him. Secondly as the King's jester they probably wouldn't take him seriously anyway.

The more he thought about it the more impossible it seemed. But then he wasn't tattooed for nothing and John Muckle was not known for giving in easily. He smiled wryly to himself. Had it been anyone else making such a foolish decision he'd have mocked them mercilessly. But the King's Jester had one big advantage - no one mocked the chief mocker!

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