Tuesday, 21 August 2018


                                            Chapter One - Witches Beginning.

Abigail was seven when she saw her first goblin. It was the year that Matthew Hopkins was born, in 1620 and over twenty years would elapse before they met. It would be at the height of the Civil War that spanned the years from 1642 to 1649 that the so called Witchfinder General would hang some 300 women condemned as witches.
That would be in the future, but now all that Abigail could think of was that she was cold and so hungry. She had left the cottage that her mother and father had died in of the fever some days ago, to roam the woods, searching for anything to eat. She had eaten every scrap of the stale bread and boiled rabbit that her father had trapped before he became sick. All of the few vegetables that had been seeded into the garden had been eaten raw or cooked with the rabbit. Her mother had become ill a week ago and was still in the bed she had died in, while the body of her father was in a chair in the kitchen and was beginning to smell. Abigail did not understand why they had died so quickly, but she realised that she could do nothing for them now.
She had always been able to ‘call’ the wildlife to her in days gone by and now she needed to be able to do it in earnest, or die amongst the ferns and bracken. She knew how to kill a bird by wringing its neck, but doubted that she could manage to do the same to a rabbit as she was so weak. So she sat with a blanket wrapped around her and put forth her mind to gather what creatures she could entice within reach of her tired hands. Soon rustlings in the undergrowth signalled that she was being successful. She kept very still and waited. A female pheasant pushed through the ferns and walked up to her outstretched hands, looking for the food its tiny mind was sure was here.
Abigail closed her hand around the scrawny neck and she had enough strength left to choke it to death. She stripped off as much of the feathers that she could from the breast and sank her sharp teeth into the warm flesh. The blood ran down her chin as she tore and swallowed the meat. In close proximity to the old oak tree was a haze that shimmered as she stared at it. It cleared as she focused her mind on the shadowy outline that began to appear and a small green man stood looking at her. His ears were pointed and large tufts of hair sprouted from them. He had a pointed chin and almond shaped yellow eyes that had splits in them like a cat’s. His clothes were made from rabbit skins and he wore the skin from the head over his skull and face, looking through the eye holes.
He swivelled his head around to stare at Abigail and said, “You can see me! You’re not supposed to be able to do that!”
“Do you want some of my pheasant? I can always ‘call’ another one,” replied Abigail and waved the carcass at the little man.
“Thank you,” he said, “but there’s not much left except the legs, nevertheless if you are sure? He walked over to her and said, “What are you doing here in this dark old wood, all on your own?”     
Abigail told him about her parents’ untimely death of some kind of fever and her desperate plight. Their cottage was on the very edge of the village, but once the people knew that her mother was sick they abandoned her father to cope on his own.
“So young one, no-one knows that you are not sick and even if they did, none would help in fear of catching what they died of. If you are left here, you will die as winter is not too far away. So as you can see me and we are now friends, I will take you home to where I live and you can stay with me. Before we go, can you ‘call’ a rabbit and at least we can have a decent meal on the other side?”
Abigail concentrated and soon a pair of rabbits came hopping towards them.
The little green man broke their necks and popped them into a sack over his shoulder and said, “By the way, young one, my name is Mirkwood and I am what you people call a goblin. We sort of live in your world and our own at the same time, crossing from one side to the other. Now to do that, you need to take my hand and trust me to ferry you over there. I come here for the rabbits and other large game such as the bird you were eating. We’ll take it back with us and it can be used to make gravy to cook the rabbits in. What is your name?”
“My name is Abigail Widgeon,” she replied. 
Abigail placed her trusting hand in his and they walked through a hazy sort of mist and found herself in summer! All the trees were different and full of blossom and also strange fruits hung from their branches. All manner of different dwellings were dotted about. Most of them were fashioned from growing trees intertwined together with the top branches woven into roofs with stone chimneys built into the construction. There were no doors, just openings into the strange homes. Over the top of the openings were rolled woven blinds that could be let down if the weather became wet.
There were many of the green skinned people who had come out of their houses to see what Mirkweed had brought into their world. They clustered around the two of them and stared up at Abigail with curiosity. Some of them reached out to touch her, just to make sure that she was real.
The goblin shooed them away and held up the brace of rabbits and said, “Fetch a large pot and plenty of vegetables and we will have a feast this evening.”
The green skinned people soon dragged out a large caldron and lit a fire underneath and filled it with spring water, potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, swede, cabbage, the two skinned rabbits and what was left of the pheasant. Handfuls of herbs were added to the mix and all was brought to the boil. Half way through the cooking a small bucket of chopped apples were tipped in along with a basket of blackberries.
The pot had boiled for hours and at last Mirkwood was satisfied that all was cooked and he began to serve the contents to the assembly. First he gave Abigail a generous bowlful before serving the rest to the goblins sat around the fire. For the first time since her parents had died, she felt safe and dozed off.
She woke as the morning sun began to warm her face and realised that she was covered in a large blanket made from rabbit skins. Sat by the side of her was her new friend, Mirkwood, similarly wrapped in a cover of the cured furs. He was awake and had rekindled the fire to boil up a mixture of oats and ground seeds with goat’s milk. A pot of honey had been opened ready for breakfast with spoons and bowls placed ready.
“Good morning, my little sleepyhead. It’s a brand new day and you have much to learn about where you are and your place in this world,” the goblin said and smiled.
Thus started Abigail’s education in the ways of the faery folk and their world that lived next door to the human realm. She learnt how to open and close the doors between them so that she could travel from one existence to the other. In return she made specific forays into the human world to call the game to her and help feed the growing community that began to rely on her abilities. The goblin, Mirkwood taught Abigail how to concentrate her mind and cast false images into the minds of the humans. She soon found out that she could do much more than that as she grew older and left childhood behind.
She learnt to fly with the aid of a broomstick that she had made herself under Mirkwood’s instructions. It was important that she take the life-force from the tree and freeze it in the twigs that she bound with her own hair to the stout stave of the broom. There was enough room for her to sit astride the flare of the broom and Mirkwood stand behind holding onto her shoulders. Now as she flew, the magic of the forest spread up and into the brush, keeping her aloft. Mirkwood called it Earth-power and it existed in both worlds. All it needed was the power to harness it. Once she attained her eighteenth birthday she returned to the cottage that she had spent her sad childhood. To do this she walked through the village in plain sight leading a nanny goat by a lead, carrying a bundle of possessions strapped over the goat’s hairy back. She wore an old, well mended tartan shawl over her shoulders and a dark, nondescript long skirt and top. Her boots however were goblin made and sturdy leather and studded with iron wedges, Abigail had ‘persuaded’ a travelling cloth and clothes merchant to donate some of his well-worn garments to her use and in return she had made him a bottle of linctus that would soothe his sore throat. She fogged his memory of her a little as she changed into the dress of the puritans that lived in her old area. He would remember trading some old clothes for the remedy, but not her face or general description. 
She told those who asked, that she had been taken in by a relative to live in Colchester and had returned to reclaim her old home. Nobody questioned her story as she reinforced belief into the minds of all she met. When she finally got to the remains of the cottage she could see that much needed to be done to return it to something that could be lived in. The two mounds in the garden showed that at least the villagers had buried her parents after the fever had passed through. No-one however had decided to take up residence at the cottage and it had been left to deteriorate. 
To her satisfaction a great deal of strong men had followed her to her old home and with the tools that they had ‘thoughtfully’ carried with them, soon got to work on rebuilding and repairing the cottage. It was not too long when a horse and cart came dragging along, loaded up with reeds for redoing the thatch.
Over the weeks that the work was done she got to know the people of the village of Wainscot very well and made it known that she was a healer of some skill. One of the men had cut himself badly on his leg with a scythe and some infection had set in. Abigail got to work cleaning the wound and putting on a drawing poultice to pull out all the poison. Once she was satisfied that the healing balm she had put on the wound had done the trick, she made him sleep and sewed up the gash. Within a week Thomas Thatcher was walking around and putting weight on his leg. His grateful wife, Mary made sure that Abigail did not go short of vegetables and fruit from her garden. The miller, John Flour, fell and badly sprained his wrist making it difficult to move the heavy sacks of flour around the mill. Abigail splinted the swollen wrist and drenched it in cold water, instructing his wife Heather to do the same and keep the bandages cold. She also eased the pain with a mixture of crushed belladonna and willow bark taken in the morning and last thing at night. Again she was well looked after with a sack of flour delivered by the grateful son the following day.
Once the cottage was liveable she maintained that no more help was needed in rebuilding and put a little mental pressure on the menfolk to return to their own business while she moved in. Once they had gone she was able to open a ‘door’ and let her goblin friends into the house where they could do what repairs were necessary out of sight of the passing eye.
That night Mirkwood and Abigail went hunting, by flying the broomstick deeper into the wood where the rabbit burrows were numerous. Using her gift she called a dozen of them to their deaths and kept two, giving the rest to her green skinned friends.
In the village of Wainscot however there lived one person that did not welcome the return of Abigail. This was the reverend Giles Well-beloved, rector of this parish and was the main reason that the villagers had turned their backs on Abigail’s parents when they had become ill with the fever that had spread. He had preached that the fever was a punishment to the un-godly for their sins wrought upon this Earth. Those who died were called by God to make this realm a better place for those who had survived the sickness. He declared from the pulpit that the Angel of Death had taken only those who had truly sinned and had hidden those sins away.
It had not taken long for Abigail to find this out from the older inhabitants of the village. One Sunday she walked to the church and sat amongst the congregation and listened to the hell and damnation sermon that the reverend Giles spouted from the safety of the pulpit.
In the middle of his tirade against the hidden sins of his parishioners, she stood up and asked, “What greater sin could there be of the indifference that you made sure of against my parents, Jack and Rosemary Widgeon when they lay ill with fever!”
The reverend Giles Well-beloved nearly choked when he heard the accusation and replied, “They were sinners in the eyes of God and struck down because of what they did. By keeping the villagers away I made sure that no others became contaminated by their actions. You were part of those sins, Abigail Widgeon and I ban you from this church of the Holy God. Get thee hence away from this holy place and bygone foul spirit!”
Abigail stood in the pew and looked him in the eyes replying, “You are an ignorant man, Giles Well-beloved and no follower of the Holy scriptures. A more mean-minded creature could not be found in all of England. You are not fit to stand in that pulpit. Because of you my mother and father died needlessly when with a little help and care they might have lived through the fever. You even had them buried outside of the churchyard and put into the ground of the garden at their cottage. I will not rest until I see you gone from this place!”
With that Abigail turned and walked from the church with her head held high ignoring the shocked expressions of the members of the congregation.

                                                          Chapter Two. - Witches Bane.

“Ye shalt not suffer a Witch to live!”
Once again Matthew Hopkins’s hate filled group had tracked me down and enlisted the help of the local priest. I recognised the voice of Giles Well-beloved, the parish preacher to this small community. He was also the prime landholder as well. Fat and ignorant he peddled the hymns of retribution, promising all who would not agree with his view of Christianity to dance in the fires of Hell. There was very little of love of your fellow man in his sermons. The local people were terrified of what he could do and name from the pulpit of his church. He could smell sin where there was none and invoke the power of the Lord in casting any that he found wanting to the depths of Satanic fire. I picked up the stray cat that had moved in with me at my tumbledown cottage and tucked him under my arm, opening the front door to the little garden I had planted.
The fat oaf had raised a mob of frightened folk on his way here to carry out his wishes as well as other followers of the Witch Finder General who had sought him out. There were at least a dozen poorly dressed men and women in the group with fear written all over their faces. Whether it was fear of me or the reverend Giles, I could not be certain, but I knew that they would do his bidding. They were all stood at the boundary of my land, behind the makeshift fence that I had twined into the hedge.
“What do you want with me, Reverend Well-beloved,” I shouted to the wretch, “and what do you mean by implying that I practise witchcraft. Lies like that will place your immortal soul in peril. Be careful what you accuse me of, lest you invoke more than you can handle.”
“Do you see and hear good people? She is as unrepentant as ever and even now she has her familiar under her arm. An imp of Satan in disguise! I have told you that she prowls these woods at night, visiting unholy places to commune with the ungodly,” the reverend Well-beloved sputtered.
I calmly put the cat down onto the grassy path and it spat at the hostile crowd, taking a position between my feet, growling at those who ventured too close.
“Who was it that sat with many of you when the fever came and nursed you back to health? How many of you have sought my help with a difficult calving or lambing. Who has delivered those children that were difficult to enter this world and stitched the wounds that have befallen accidents with a scythe?  Have I ever done you harm in any way? Do not believe this man when he fills your heads with fear of Hell-fire over small misdemeanours that you might commit in daily life. His God, full of vengeance, is not your God with the love of the land and all that grows on it. What you are being told to do is a sin against the God he purports to worship. If you burn my home and kill me in the process, then these acts will merit a terrible punishment that will visit all of you,” I answered and turned, went inside, taking the cat with me.
Outside the cottage I saw the preacher exhorting the people into a frightened mob and being bullied by the group of Witch Finders. I soon saw the torches being lit and I waited for the next act to begin.
The goblin by my side looked through the window and said, “Why do you bother with these people, Mistress Abigail?”
“Most of them are good and practise no harmful ways,” I replied. “They are glad of my help when they need it, but what I am able to do scares them a little. The problem lies with the purveyors of their religion who see me as a threat to their domination. They read their Holy books, but do not understand them and the true meaning of what is written down there. They are not wicked, just ignorant and unable to read the truth for themselves. The strangers amongst them are agents of the Witch Finder General and do his will.”
The goblin and I interfered with the minds of the people with the torches and they put them out, making them think that they had set fire to the thatched roof. We gave them a fine blaze to watch until they were sure in their own minds that the cottage was completely burnt down. Shamefaced they crept away until only the reverend Giles Well-beloved lingered by the gate with his new group, fresh from Mathew Hopkins, staring at what he thought was a ruin.
I gave him and the others at his side something that would follow them to their graves and remind them for always, of what I had promised. Every time he went to his bed, his wife would appear to be two months dead and rotting. The food that she prepared would be crawling with maggots and anything that he drank would stink of piss. Added to this was the fact that he could not tell anyone about what he could see. All the members of Matthew Hopkins’ followers would suffer from the same malady when they returned to their wives.
The villagers I dealt with more leniently and merely filled their dreams with visions of the burning cottage, just for a month or so.
Eventually the penitent amongst the village came back into the woods; found that my cottage was still standing and I that was unharmed, much to their relief. The reverend Well-beloved lasted six weeks before he threw himself from the top of the bell tower onto the gravestones beneath. The others did not last as long and each of them committed suicide rather than continue to live in a continual nightmare.
I still have the cat, twenty years after the events that took place and my cottage is always well supplied with game, fruit and vegetables. Many of the descendants of the night of the ‘burning’ come and visit me and are always very respectful.
I make them welcome including the new pastor and his children whenever they visit. They never see the many other visitors to my cottage who break through the veil between the worlds. The miller always makes sure that I have fresh flour and all are welcome to eat my cakes. Mathew Hopkins ‘died’ some time ago, but in fact was dragged by goblins into their world to do penance for the evil that he did. I sometimes make the effort to see him and Giles Well-beloved as they toil endlessly in the pits of fire with others of their kind. They will be there for a very long time until they are truly penitent for what they did when on this Earth.   

                                               Chapter Three – Witch’s Justice.

After the suicide of the reverend Giles Well-beloved, Abigail concentrated her thoughts on the man who had sent his henchmen to destroy her. They had never returned to the Witchfinder General’s entourage as the mental conditioning she had placed in their minds would not allow them. They too had committed suicide rather than face the terrors of the mind that she had instilled into the very fabric of their souls.
Since their ‘visit’ to destroy her by branding her as a witch, Abigail had made inquiries as to where this hunter of witches could be found. He had purchased the Thorn Inn at Mistley not too far from Colchester and located on the banks of the river Stour. It was here that he was conducting the infamous witch finding trails and hanging on a permanent gallows some three hundred old and defenceless women. She led her small herd of goats down the road to a nearby farmer that she was on good terms with, who had ‘volunteered’ to look after them while she was gone. John Plunket had cause to thank Abigail as she had seen into the world all of his children and nursed his wife Sarah through a bout of milk fever. He willingly lent her his spare horse for her use and as she had paid the blacksmith to renew the mare’s shoes at her expense, he was grateful to her.
Abigail loaded her few possessions into a stout leather bag along with a change of clothes and tied it to the saddle. She checked the mare over and was satisfied that the beast was sound.
“I may be gone for a month or so, John,” she told him as she swung her leg over the horse’s back. “You look after my goats, old friend and make use of the milk. The old one may need to be slaughtered if she does not produce a kid this coming month and go into milk. I leave her in your hands. Goodbye for a while Sarah and feel free to pick what you might need from my garden. Do not let the produce go to seed!”
“I will, Mistress Abigail,” Sarah replied. “I will keep an eye on the cottage and make sure there is no storm damage if the rains come early.”
With that she urged the mare along the road towards the village of Mistley and the river. It was the end of August and as yet the thick mists had not come down so Abigail made good time as the mare was in good health and the roads were as yet quite firm. She urged the beast into a steady trot and cleared her mind of distractions. There was a rustle in the branches above her and a well-known weight dropped onto the saddle behind her.
“Surely you did not think that you would travel on this enterprise without Mirkwood?” The goblin asked.
Abigail smiled and replied, “My dear friend I have been waiting for you to show up. You must not be seen. Or any other sightings of your presence manifest itself to make people think that I am not alone.”
“This man kills old women for money. We have been watching his activities for some time. You humans are a strange and vicious race of beings. The time is fast coming when goblin kind will no longer hunt in your forests as it is becoming ever more dangerous for us to do so. The wild and empty places that are being cut down and felled are the old woods in which we have held our hunts for thousands of years. We have seen enough death during this conflict between the flamboyantly clothed men against the troops of sober shod soldiers. These are the people that are seeking out old women and labelling them as witches. They are full of superstition and ignorance,” the goblin answered and held on tightly as Abigail urged the mare into a gallop.
As the sun began to set, a smell of wood-smoke drifted across the road and Abigail pulled the mare to a stop. She stood up in the stirrups and listened to the sounds of people ahead camped across the roadway.
“Roundheads up ahead, Mirkwood, so it’s time for you to disappear from view,” whispered Abigail. “Re-join me when I set out on the road to Mistley on the morning. I will take shelter with the solders overnight. Don’t worry old friend; I shall be well looked after once I have located an officer and bent him to my will!” 
Mirkwood stretched up and grabbed a tree branch and disappeared from view making his way through the top branches until he could get a good view of the encampment. He then circled round the camp to the other side. He made a careful assessment of the situation and transmitted the view directly to Abigail’s mind showing the position of the officer’s tent. With that he translated through the rift and into his world where he took shelter for the night with another goblin.
Abigail urged the mare forwards at a steady trot until she came to a barricade across the road where a number of Oliver Cromwell’s militia were stood with rifles ready. While several pointed their weapons at Abigail two of them made their way towards her and one of them wrapped his heavy gauntlet around the mare’s bridle, bringing it to a stop.
“Where do you think that you are going mistress on this fine horse? This road has been closed by order of the Great Protector,” The one with two stripes declared.
Abigail slipped into his mind and retrieved the name of the commanding officer in charge of the battalion.
“I am here to see Major John Masters on business that he would not want to be left waiting to hear,” replied Abigail and filled the mind of the corporal with the apprehension of suffering the major’s displeasure.
“Yes madam! I will take you to him immediately,” the corporal stuttered and led the mare into the armed camp.
He led her to a storage barn that was surrounded by tables that had maps fixed to the wooden tops with pistols to prevent them from blowing away. Major John Masters and his officers were arguing about the layout portrayed. As he became aware of the intrusion, Abigail slipped into his mind and made him believe that he was awaiting news from her direction about the possibility of travelling on the roads. She also gave him the information that she was working for the Lord Protector in an advisory capacity collecting knowledge of the area to pass on to Major.
Using the information passed onto her by the goblins, she had an intensive familiarity with the roads in and out of the area. She allowed the corporal to assist her in dismounting and walked over to the officers grouped around the table.
“It’s good to see you again, Major Masters,” she stated and shook him by the hand. “If you are intending to march onto Colchester I would advise that you go by way of Mistley as the roads are in good repair. I have business there and would be pleased to accompany your battalion in that direction in the morning. May I enquire if there is room for me to sleep under cover at this barn this night?”
“Madam, I will make sure that there is a place for you and some privacy. You! Corporal Smith, make sure that is so and make sure that all is well for my guest,” he ordered. I do not have your name. Would you please state it for the record?”
“My name is not to be known, sir! I work for the Lord Protector as his ears and eyes. There are times that I mix with the royalists and it would go ill with me if knowledge of my name in both camps became known. What you do not know cannot be repeated. There are royalist sympathisers that farm and conduct their businesses in this area, so it is better that you do not know my name.” 
“I understand,” replied the Major. “These are dangerous times and it would seem that the devil himself is abroad. John Stearns and Matthew Hopkins are rooting out the servants of Satan as we speak. They are at Mistley conducting trials there concerning the finding of witches and their punishment.”
Abigail sucked in her anger and merely nodded.
“Do you know how many of the devil’s spawn have been tracked down and hung?” She asked.
“Near on three hundred,” answered the Major. “The world becomes a better place for all of us due to their diligence.”
“Thank you, Major Masters for your hospitality. I will make my way to sleep and see you in the morning.”
“I will see you then mistress. We will be moving out soon after first light whence breakfast has been taken. You are welcome to share our rations and our company,” the officer replied and turned his back on Abigail as she made her way to the back of the barn.
She laid her cloak over some soft straw and snuggled down into its warmth, but before she let herself go into sleep she laid some traps just in case she was visited in the night. She sent her mind out into the many rats that lived in the barn and put them on watch. Anyone who tried to approach her during the night would be facing a squeaking barrage of her little4 brown friends. She had scattered half of the loaf that she had taken from the table in pieces, as payment for the rats induced ‘help’ that she had instigated. Abigail pulled her cloak around herself and drifted off to sleep.
A frenzied squeaking woke her as the first early rays of sunshine broke through the morning mists. It was the corporal that had taken her to the Major, sent to waken her and invite her for breakfast.
“Good day corporal Smith,” she said. “I see that morning has dawned with some sunshine. Are you well?”
“Good day Mistress. Yes, the morning looks to be a good one for men on the march! Thank you for enquiring as to my health, but I fear that the cold has gone down onto my chest. Sleeping in the open air is not my idea of comfort, madam, but it is part of a soldier’s life and must be borne. There is a breakfast at the Major’s table waiting for you to join them, before we set out for Colchester,” the corporal replied.
“Wait!” Abigail reached into her bag and took out a bottle and said, “Drink this linctus and take one mouthful when the chest feels sore. It’s a mixture of rum and some herbs that will ease your discomfort.”
Corporal Smith took the bottle and removed the cork and sniffed the contents warily and smiled. He took a swig and smiled again as the potent liquid slid down his gullet.
“Thank you Mistress. Thank you for this. I will hide it away in my coat pocket. I won’t forget this kindness,” he replied and led the way towards the major and his officers.
Abigail followed him and was pleased to see that a place had been set next to the Major John Masters. A plate of bacon and eggs was served over a large slice of bread. There were jugs of beer and milk available so Abigail helped herself to a jug of milk. She had found out from experience that alcohol dulled her wits and mental talents so she avoided drinking any at all times. As she ate, Abigail slipped into the major’s mind to see what he had planned to do this day. He was having doubts as to why he was going to Colchester, so Abigail reinforced the need to march the men there and take up defensive positions. She inserted the ‘knowledge’ that cavaliers had been seen scouting the area and a show of force would be necessary to keep them from advancing. With that done she settled down to enjoy her breakfast and make her own plans.
Later on that morning as they had marched towards Mistley, Mirkwood dropped from an overhanging branch onto the back of Abigail’s saddle.
The goblin grasped his friend’s shoulders and bent forward to whisper into her ear, “Mistress Abigail you must be prepared for the horrors that you will soon come to see. Just outside the boundaries of the village are the gallows that these fiends have been using. They have not bothered to bury those that have been hung. Some still swing from the ropes while older bodies have been cast into an open pit behind the gibbets to rot or be fed upon by scavengers.”
“Thank you for the warning old friend,” she replied and grasped the reins of her mare’s harness much tighter.
Abigail began to pick up the smell of death as the horses rounded the bend and there by the side of the road was the gibbet with its grisly load swaying in the wind. The officers at the front of the column gave the horror a cursory glance and urged their horses past the site of execution and on towards the Inn known as the Mistley Thorne where Matthew Hopkins held court. With him was the older John Stearns who had the necessary papers from the Lord Protector to pursue their ghastly mission.
A flock of crows burst into the air from their feast, leaving the eyeless skulls grinning down at the passers bye. The column marched past the gallows without anybody taking much notice with thoughts concerned with dry and warm billets rather than the corpses hanging on the gibbets. The sound of the horses abruptly changed as the roads turned from mud to stones and the iron shoes clattered on them. Abigail looked along the main street seeking the whereabouts of the Inn and soon found it situated on a bend of the road. There was a large waggon parked in front, being unloaded into the building. The four heavy horses stood quietly, grateful for the rest while the goods were being hauled inside. She noticed that several barrels of beer had been rolled inside and there were quite a few still on the waggon. This would mean that the men under Major John Masters would be allowed to drink as much as they had money to spend.
It would not be a good idea for her to be about as the beer took hold and the men began to become uninhibited. Abigail would need a room at the Inn that she could make fastened and safe from intruders. She had accumulated a good store of money by trading goblin gold in the large town of Colchester some time ago. The majority of the coins she had secreted in a money-belt wrapped around her waist. The rest of them she had in a drawstring purse hanging around her neck. These coins she would allow the Inn-keeper to see so that he would know that although she had limited money, she would be able to pay her bill.
As she rode into the courtyard, Mirkweed leapt from the saddle onto the roof and made his way to where the windows looked out onto the street. She tied her horse to the rail outside the entrance and walked inside. Two men were in earnest conversation at a table in the corner of the room. They were counting out two piles of money from a strong box. Abigail let her mind gently enter into the conversation and found that the two men were the ones she was looking for. The money was payment from local communities for the finding and destruction of those who practised witchcraft. As Abigail dug deeper into the minds of the two witch-finders she found that as much as £23 had been paid by Stowmarket to alleviate the expenses incurred by the two men as they sought out the ‘guilty’ witches in that area. Sat with them were the two women that aided in the witch hunts by ‘pricking’ the unfortunate captive women looking for the devil’s spot where they would feel no pain. It was from these places on a woman’s body that they believed the imps of Satan would feed by drawing blood. Abigail contained her anger and made her way to the bar where the Inn-keeper stood watching her.
“Good man,” she said, “I would like to stay here for a few days, maybe a week. Would a shilling cover the costs of stabling my horse and a secure room with a meal?”
“Yes mistress it certainly would. Thankee kindly for your custom. What brings you to this part of the world?” He asked.
“I am travelling to Manningtree to seek out a master Matthew Hopkins to ask for his help in a grievous matter,” Abigail replied.
“Then you may look no further than the table over yonder good mistress. The man that you seek is sat over there smoking his pipe,” the innkeeper answered.
Abigail walked over to where the two men sat apportioning out the money on the table dividing the amount into four piles. Two of them were sparse and it took no scattering of wits to know that this was the women’s payment. The two larger heaps were rapidly swept into two large money bags out of her sight and placed into the large pockets of the two men’s coats. The women took their shares and moved away from the table and made for the bar and the Innkeeper’s stock.
The man with the pipe pointed the stem at Abigail and asked, “What can we do for you mistress? I heard you ask for me by name. Do you then know what it is that I do?”
Abigail made herself look overawed to be in his presence and replied, “I have information that you need to know, good sir. I have been told that you seek out the ungodly and vessels of the devil. I have come for your help. a few miles north of Colchester in the village of Leavenheath a coven of witches holds unholy meetings deep inside the woods that flourish in that area. The mayor of Colchester has sent me to find you and take you back there for you to do your civic duty and rid the people of this petulance.”
Matthew Hopkins sat a little straighter as he listened to Abigail’s plea and nodded his head in agreement.
“I have a little business to attend to at my home at Manningtree,” he replied. “In a few days’ time, I suggest that you accompany me there and we return to the open roads and make our way to this village and see what can be done. Has the Mayor mentioned the size of the fee he is willing to pay for this cleansing?”
 “He has entrusted me with that knowledge, good sir. A gold half-sovereign to be paid for each witch duly tried and executed,” Abigail answered and saw the look of pure greed suffuse the Witch-finder’s face.
His superior, John Stearns, shook his head and clamped Matthew’s arm with a burly grip and said, “This one you can do on your own. I need to get back to my farm. Dang it man, its harvesting time approaching and there is much to do. I will leave you with the letters of administration should you need them. Watch out for cavaliers on the road as they have little love for what we do.”
The knowledge that all the money earned this expedition would be his heightened his interest and he smiled at Abigail and said, “Well mistress we will be traveling together soon, but first I must away to my home in Mannigtree first.”
“Thank you good sir,” she replied. “I shall make sure that I am ready for you and the journey back along that dangerous road. I came here in company with Major John Masters who is making his way to Colchester to make sure that King Charles men do not infiltrate that area. I shall now make my way upstairs to my bed and have something to eat from the kitchen.”
Abigail did this and from the safety of her barricaded room after she had eaten, she slipped into the mind of Jon Stearns and learned that he believed in what he was doing in instructing Matthew Hopkins in searching out and trying these old women for the practise of witchcraft. He was terrified of the devil and the fire and brimstone preachers that warned that his soul would burn in hell if he transgressed. Unlike the so called Witch-finder General who was in this awful trade for the easy money that he earned from the towns that he visited. Realising that John Stearns would do more good than harm if he was turned in his thinking, she altered his mind. He would not leave his farm again to accuse people of witchcraft, instead he would write a book about it to show others a way of looking at the matter.
Mirkwood paid her a visit while she was safely tucked away in her bedroom and sketched out a map showing how the tidal River Stour bent round to nearly touch the outer boundaries of Mistley before it wound on its way to Manningtree. That following day she rode her mare around the area to get a good look at where she would lead Matthew Hopkins. There was a small jetty providing an anchorage place for a fishing skiff that would do nicely for her purpose. The wood looked sound, but had that slippery aspect that a jetty can get if it gets submerged too often by extra high tides.
A day later John Stearns had left the Mistley Thorn to return to his farm and Abigail and her quarry set off along the estuary road towards Matthew’s home. The road was deserted as the soldiers would soon all be going the other way towards Colchester and had little interest in the opposite direction. Mirkwood had gone on ahead to make sure that the road was empty and fit for Abigail’s purpose.
As they walked the horses gently along the road Abigail asked the Witch-finder General about his latest trial and subsequent execution of the three witches that he had hung.
“Do you believe that these old women were in league with the devil?” She asked as she caught sight of the Jetty around the bend of the road.
“Does it matter, Mistress Abigail? They paid the price and they fattened my purse while I was doing the Lord Protector’s work,” he replied.
Abigail slipped into his mind and could plainly see as she had seen before that this man had no fear of Devil or Lord as long as he was paid. The finding and execution of anyone who could be charged with the sin of witchcraft was just a way of earning money to him unlike John Stearns who was driven by misguided religious beliefs.
Abigail flushed with anger and said, “I am here to punish you Matthew Hopkins for the murder of some three hundred souls since you took it upon yourself to follow this road of evil. You will now get off your horse and walk to the end of the jetty up ahead. When you reach the end you will jump into the incoming tide and stay there until I let you out.”
The horse stopped and Matthew found that his body would not obey him, as step by step he was made to walk towards the end of the jetty. He strained every muscle in his legs not to continue along this walk, but to no avail. The tide was coming into the estuary and filling up the banks of the river Stour as it did twice a day, but now it seemed to the Witch-finder that it had a purpose of its own. He struggled to break the control of Abigail’s hold on his body and managed to turn round to face her.
Abigail smiled at the terrified man and said, “Would you like to really see an imp of Satan before you drop into the freezing waters of the incoming tide? Mirkwood, show yourself to the nice gentleman and help him on his way.”
A hazy light coalesced on the jetty and the goblin appeared in front of the man and prodded him in the stomach with the point of a cavalier’s rapier that he had ‘acquired’ from a dead soldier. His horrified eyes took in the green creature with pointed ears and sharp teeth before he lost his footing and fell into the water. The cold almost paralysed his ability to move before he hit bottom, taking in a gulp of salty water and he began to choke.
Abigail concentrated her mind and made him strike for the surface and made him hold himself against the wooden poles of the jetty. There she kept him bitterly cold and choking on the sea water flooding into the estuary until he was shaking with chilly spasms.
She looked dispassionately at him and said, “How many poor souls have you condemned to the ducking stool, Master Hopkins? Now you know how it feels to be really cold at dawn. How does it feel to have lungful’s of filthy seawater in your chest? You will now climb out of that water and get back onto your horse and we will gently ride to your home at Manningtree where I will deliver you to die. You will not be able to speak or communicate with anyone there and you will be put to bed in your own home where I shall look after you and make sure that your torment goes on beyond the throes of death. When your evil heart stops I shall take your soul into the netherworld and lodge you with the goblins to tend their fire-pits until such time as you genuinely repent for the murdering of those helpless souls during the years that you and John Stearn had in your jurisdiction.
By the time that they reached the home of Matthew Hopkins he was shaking with fever and pleurisy. Within a short time, tuberculosis developed in his lungs and fearing contamination, he was buried within a few hours of his death. He was hastily interred on the 12th of August 1647 in the graveyard of the Church of St Mary at Mistley Heath.
True to her word Abigail transported his soul to the world of the goblins where he toiled in endless thirst along with others of his kind including the reverend Giles Well-beloved.


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