(Let justice be done though the heavens fall)
Greed and trickery yield a rich harvest for one who knows his trade.
A pricker, who had served with Hopkins in East Anglia, travelled the land in search of wealth and people to accuse. He had had faired very well with the Scots, thanks to Montrose. He sensed that things would soon be less amenable to his kind, for the disorder of the wars was vanishing. The rumours that he had heard of Bellhamshire, and its numerous superstitions made him think that it would be a profitable place for him, to exploit. As he had heard of no other witchfinder, working that county, He was certain that there had to be those who were eager to engage his services, in such a superstitious county. In that dread county, his first call was Kenwick, where his welcome was not what he had expected, for the town’s people laughed at him, and he could not find a patron. Only a local clergyman welcomed him, at all warmly, offering the pricker — George Maltster — the hospitality of his home. Whilst the pricker stayed with the preacher, he was warned by the preacher, of the dangers he might come across, should he do ‘God’s work’, in the county. To illustrate his warning, the preacher told him the Mediæval tale of the Blood Of The Twin, a tale that was about Branwen’s encounter with the Blooddrinker Peter DeRom. Another warning that the clergyman told him concerned the witches of Black Oak Forest and a rumour about a circle of witches, who were the servants of Harriet, the cruel mistress of Griff Manor. The preacher’s parting words were; “Take heed of the tale of the Blood of the Twin, many hereabouts believe that it is true.”
Whilst in Kenwick, George Maltster recruited a few former troopers and their captain to assist him. Together, the company made the short journey, to Prior’s Seal. After a few days at Prior’s Seal, the villagers’ talk was of how the spring had ran with blood, when the local Vicar had arrived in the parish. They also talked of the deaths, of livestock, that had happened since the squire’s estate had been returned to him. The squire, who had fought for the king, had returned to the village on Black Monday — when the sun had disappeared from a clear sky. The pricker found the Vicar and the Squire’s family to be in league with the Devil. They were all hanged, except for the squire’s daughter, who escaped. After the hangings, the troopers looted all they could carry, from the squire’s house, as payment for their efforts. It was a similar story at Turnton, where the Preacher and Innkeeper fell foul of George Maltster. Baston Heath and Baston Wensel yielded similar souls, to be saved by the pricker, as did Prior’s Jabet and Abbey Warren. In each place, the pricker visited, at least one of the accused disappeared, into the night. After these marginally profitable ventures they spent a month in King’s Baston. Their time in King’s Baston was very profitable for the troopers and George Maltster.
From King’s Baston the pricker and troopers had an easy ride to Kymberlyn. It was the last week of October and waxing was the moon, as it had been for a whole week, when they arrived at Kymberlyn. Upon their arrival at Kymberlyn their welcome was very cold. After the troopers forced billets, for themselves, at the old manor house it was even colder. Kymberlyn’s mediæval church had originally been dedicated to St Thomas; it still has two lady chapels, one dedicated to Our blessed Lady with the raven hair, another to St Bridget as well as a shrine to St Mary the disciple.
The first person that pricker chose to persecute, in Kymberlyn, was a young girl. As soon as George Maltster had selected his first victim, the lord of the manor — Thomas Kymberlyn — challenged him, before the whole village. Rather than formally condemn the pricker, Thomas demanded that the pricker test him for witchcraft. After the challenge had been made, a tall hooded stranger did the same, and Brigit Forster, the sister of Colonel Forster, demanded that she be tested as well. This turn of events surprised and scared the pricker, who was made even more nervous, but he did not know why, by the words of the village preacher. Those words were, “Be as true as Saint Branwen and he will protect you.” The pricker accepted the challenge, for he feared that the villagers would have killed him, where he stood, if he did otherwise.
When the tall man threw off his hood, George’s breath failed him, for a moment. The man’s features were just too perfect, his skin unblemished and far too fair, to be real. There was something about the man’s voice had made him sound as if he was from a previous epoch, yet it was that the man looked as if time had never touched his face and would never dare.
Until the following Saturday, was what the pricker was given, to complete his work. He tried his best tricks to get them to confess or deny, but all three remained silent. First, he had them searched for marks. Eventually, he subjected them to a trial. Despite his best efforts, he could find no proof of witchcraft and also could not extract a confession — or denial — from any of them.
Saturday evening George Maltster stood before the village, with the troopers behind him and the three stood before him, naked and fettered. As the sun was about to set, the pricker declared them innocent of witchcraft and ordered the fetters be removed. As soon as he had given that order, the three turned to him and their fetters opened and fell to the ground. Before the fetters touched the earth, Thomas Kymberlyn and several other villagers let out vengeful howls and started to change shape. Whilst the bays echoed round the valley, Brigit Forster assertively raised a hand, with which she gestured as she murmured sturdy words. As the Brigit’s syllables rent the firmament, the raiment of a Knight Templar appeared upon the tall man, in who’s hands a strange bow materialised. When the pricker turned to the troopers for aid, they were stood frozen in place as if they were statues. It was then that George Maltster recalled who Branwen was — she had been the heroine of the tale of The Blood Of The Twin. Within moments of the emotion starting, Wolves and foxes prowled around were the Pricker and the troopers were stood.
Upon the village green, which was strewn with the rent clothing, of numerous villagers, the man arrayed in the raiment of a Templar spoke, “Think back, pricker! Who were your victims in these woods? What had they been first to do?” The pricker looked blank and shook his head. The tall man continued; “Is it not the case, that they had all accused others of witchcraft. Even your first two. You have never hanged a single person here or anywhere else who…” George Maltster cried out.
Sunday, the last day of October, the villagers escorted their prisoners deep, into the forest, where they met up with the villagers, of the other villages, of the forest. Men and Women, who were as tall and magnificent as the Templar stepped out of the very trees, of the forest.
Before the gathered denizens of the forest, George Maltster and the troopers were informed of their fate, which was to be an ancient fate for the evil doer. One, the youngest of the troopers, was allowed to go free, for he had aided the escapes. Formalities over, the festivities began. At the height of the festivities, the pricker’s accomplices where strangled or had their necks broken, after which the bound pricker and the bodies of the others were all placed within a wicker cage. Around the malignant filled cage, a fire was built it. Whilst the malefactors and the other fuel became ashes, the revels continued throughout the forest.
At dawn when revels ended, most of the villagers returned to their homes. A few such as Brigit Forster and the Templar just stepped into trees, most of those who left in that manner resembled the Templar, in appearance. The young trooper, the daughter of the squire of Prior’s Seal and Thomas Kymberlyn remained, in the clearing, in the woods, after the others had left. After having promised, the young woman, that she would receive, in the future, any aid and hospitality that she might be in need of, Thomas Kymberlyn instructed the trooper; “Take her to Griff Manor, and see that she arrives safely. On reaching there be sure to tell, your Mistress, what has happened.”