The Legend

As told by Ms. Hattie Gorwich of Breer, and transcribed in the Notes of the folklorist, Dr. Queismuller

There's some as say he's just a story, and he'd never been real a' all- Ye'll believe them a' yer peril. I seen him, and the Taxman's seen him, down a' th' cross-roads, and the Engineer what came up t' run us off and build a mill seen him- and drove him plenty mad, too, and, well, we doesn' have a mill we doesn' want, does we?

Now the Pentaclavians, they'll swear he was an heathen ghoulie, a demon out o' hell- don't you believe it. No devil'd save a wee lassie from a load of Blackhat Gunners out on th' moors like old Johnnie did.

And Lord 'Arry, back in the day, he said'n Johnnie was as mortal as you 'r I, and there weren't nothing t' him but a bandit wi' a good aim and a pile o' slow-burn ropes. E'en put out banners fer his arrest. And look where 't got him. I hardly need t' tell ye what good came o' that idea.

He weren't no mortal, no. No, I reckon th' Church's on t' somthi', much as anyone is. He was a ghostie alright, but he wasn't no demon shade. No, I reckon he was one o' th' laddies what fought fer Good Prince Allister 'gainst the Crown- on this very spot, mind, a thousand years ago if 'twas a day- all risen from his grave t' fight fer Liber'y and whatnot. Ye can still find their corpses out on th' moors, ye know.

That, 'r elst he was somthi' what came up from below the hills- Certainly seemed like 'twas elf-shot what he loaded his pistols wi'. And th' Good Tribe aren't no devils, sure as I'm standin' here, despi' wha'e'er th' vicars may tell you.

—Here, the folklorist notes, Ms. Gorwich spat three times to her left and, removing her glove, turned it outside-in and replaced it.—

But ye'll be wanting me t' start at the beginning. Ye know the history as well as I do, of course, how old Reg Pennick killed King Phillip and set himself up as Lord and Master o' the whole o' th' land, and set t' taking it over in th' name o' th' Pentaclavians an' o' Parliament. Well, let me tell you, and it didn't seem such a bad idea a' th' time- we was taxed into th' dirt back then, and the army took nine-tenths of th' wool an bread what we made, and Lord Help you if ye got on th' wrong side o' a lord or a magister. Ye'll be seeing some o' th' boys from Breer what fought for old Reg in th' registra' doon a' th' church.

But, o'course, Reggie turned out t'be worse e'en than old Phillip, what wi' his Blackhats what he hired from th' continent running all over th' place, and chopping off th' heads o' those what still followed the old church, and outlawring dancing and singing, and having whipped those what wouldn' lis'n t'him, until 't seemed like 'twould've been be'er t' just've left old Phillip in power, and o' course th' people got ideas.

And o' course, Reg Pennik didn' like that, nor'd Lord 'Arry what he pu' in charge o' th' North Countries; and when our boys started making trouble fer them, they made 't e'en worse. Ye couldn' be seen out after sunset, 'r they'd shoot ye, and ye couldn' travel in groups o' more'n two'r three, an' ye needed a permit from one o' their lieutennants 'r th' other 'f ye e'en wanted t' do that. An, o' course, ye could ferget abou' saying anything agains' them, 'r doing business without them getting a cut o' 't.

Now, 'twas abou' then when Johnnie made hisself known. 'Twas nighttime, and a pair o' wee lassies- They was the Greevy sisters, mind, if ye've heard o' them- they was a coupla' miles out on th' moors, and they must've los' track o' th' time, fer th' sun went doon 'fore they e'en thought o' heading back. O' course, 'twas dark 'fore they e'en got back t' th' road, and they got mighty scared, o'course, cause they knew th' Blackhats'd kill them if they was seen.

Now, as they walked home, they began t'hear a clip-clopping behin' them, like as if someone was riding up on an horse. An, o'course they started t' run, only they begun t' hear another set o' clip-clops from th' other direction. Now they knowed they was trapped there, and clutched each other, 'cause they knew that Reggie's men'd shoot them on sight. And sure enough, thats who th' clip-clopping in front o' them belonged t'- a pair o' Blackhats, forreners both on some mission or another.

I couldn' tell ye why- fortune, I guess 't must be- but They stood staring a' each other in th' light o' th' Blackhats' lantern fer wha' must've been near fifteen minutes- that's wha' Caroline said, though I reckon two- they was staring a' each other, until Caroline- she was th' younger, mind, no' much more'n five, Bess wa' near on forteen- until Caroline started a-bawling. An, o'course, th' corp'ral said fer them t' shoot, bu' a' that moment, the other clip-clopping- the one from behind, ye remember- rounded the bend, and a voice yells 'Hold yer Fire!', and, o'course, 'twas a man's voice, so the Blackhats lookt up 'fore they could shoot, and th' lassies turned, and then Bess started bawling, too, and the Blackhats started t' quake in their boots, fer 'twasn't a man a' all what spake 't seemed, bu' a grea' bony man on a grea' bony horse.

He wasn't holding naught bu' th' reins o' th' horse, bu' he migh' as well have been holding a firebrand fer all th' ligh' and smoke he gave. His hair was long and tangled, like a wolf, and 'twas burning and smoking and reeking. There's scarse as foul as the smell o' burning hair. And his face, 'twas foul t' look at, what wi' his eyes two balls o' hellfire, and his skin all bony and stiff and white. And fer his gob he had a ghastly, toothy smile, like 't had been cu' into his face.

And he leapt from his horse, and he was still thirty-odd fee' away from th' lassies, mind, le' alone th' Blackhats, though he leapt th' distance in a second, clear over th' lassies' heads, and grabbed th' musket o' one o' th' blackhats and ben' 't clean around t' face him. And, o' course, mos' o' th' Blackhats ran scared, save fer three- one tried t' jump old Johnny, and he must've had iron 'neath his gloves, fer th' Blackhat go' a set o' cuts on his face an inch-odd deep fer his troubles when Johnnie smacked him. An' th' second Blackhat an th' third tried to gang on him, an' he jus' drew his two pistols, fas' as lighting, an' sho' them through their hearts.

The two lassies, o' course, had tried t' hide durin' th' fight, fer they took old Johnnie fer a Devil, bu' Johnnie turned and leapt again, and landed jus' in front o' them wi' a swirl o' his coat- 'twas green, then, and all unsullied. And he said he was called John Green-Coat, and he wisht them no harm, and would they be so kind as t' go riding wi' him, and wi' that, he picked them up like they was dolls and leapt t' his bony horse. And Bess and Caroline were scared, fer they thought he'd ride them off t' th' Green Countries, or some robber's-hole out in th' moors. Bu' they found theirselves instead back in their beds that night, wi' th' windows broken but scarce else wrong, and noone'd've believed them, weren't those two Blackhats dead, and that musket bent.

After that, word spread o' John Green-Coat an' his ride agains' the Blackhats despite of what Reggie and 'Arry wanted, an' despite what Sherrif Cawdor, what was appointed Lieutenant for Breer, did abou' it. And John Greencoat was seen all throughout th' North Countries- here he'd be lobbing a grenade into a crowd o' Blackhats, and there he'd be burning doon a barracks, and over there he'd strung up the Pentaclavians' bishop by his ankles in an old yew tree, he was seen all over th' North Countries, till 't seemed he must be a devil, but a kindly one, like.

And th' Border Guard was scared o' him and couldn' be found out nights. But still, there wasn't need t' fear th' thrash, 'r th' thrash-monkeys, 'r th' dirty great cats, 'r highwaymen, 'r ghosties 'r robbers o' any kind while John Greencoat was out riding, fer they was scared o' him too, 'r elst they was following him.

And o'course after a while they wasn' all John Greencoat, fer young men who wanted t' fight fer their freedom, 'r simply t' raise hell, were soon going abou' in masks and green overcoats. And Lord 'Arry sent out a flier what said he wanted John Green-Coat dead fer money, bu' he had t' take 't back on accoun' o' too many youngsters said they were John Green-Coat. And then he said what everyone dressed in th' mask and jacket was t'be shot.

Now th' order spread faster among the Johnnie Green-Coats than 't did among th' blackhats, and some stopped and broke their masks and burnt their coats, and some stayed out on th' moors, fighting wi' th' real Johnny.

Aye, bu' ye're a forreiner, ye'll no' know th' story. There's much t' tell, bu' 't gets dark, I've not go' time t' tell o' all their adventures.

Ye'll be wondering wha' this fellow John Greencoat has to do with John Bloodycoat, though. I'll tell ye tha' at least, and how th' story ends. 'Twas in Breer-town, aye, that 't happened. Th' laddie Will Strut had no' heard th' order, and he wen' out in th' evening t' th' barracks in a green coat and a mask he carved himself, and he had wi' him a sling-shot, and some stones, and he took t' firing them a' th' barracks. And the blackhats came out and scared him off, fer they knew he wasn't but a lad o' forteen, and he couldn' hurt them. Bu' Sherrif Cawdor came out, and he said what they should've shot the lad, and bade them open fire, which they did, bu' 'twas dark, and they didn' hit th' lad. So Sherrif Cawdor said that if th' soldier's wouldn' kill th' boy, he'd do i' himself. And he got on his horse and took his pistol and went after th' laddie, who o' course run off into th' moors, fer th' barracks was outside o' town ye understand. And so Sherrif Cawdor, dirty little ra' o' a man what he was, he shot the laddie in th' back and bade his horse tramp him till the laddie was cold and dead, and he left his body there on th' ground that night and thought he'd had done wi' 't.

But, o'course, 't weren't the end. No sooner had he got back t' th' barracks then John'd found th' laddie's body, all broken out on th' moors; And so John, he took poor Willie back t' th' church, and layed him on th' doorstep, just as he was, excepting he'd taken th' laddie's coat. And he was a sight t' behold, he was, all firey and mad as he rode down th' street, and he was wearing Willie's coat, mind. And so as I said, when he got t' th' church, he layed poor Willie out on th' doorstep, and he turns t' go, excepting that the vicar saw him as he walked out th' gates, and so he turned and leapt th' distance back t' th' church-door, and pulled out his dirk an' th' old parchment what I showed you, an' nailed 't t' th' door, and then he was gone.
—Here, the folklorist has enclosed the text of the parchment, which, he notes, is still to be found at the Old Church in Breer..—

A Curfe I Ley Uponn ye Mann
Who Stayned yis Greene Cote Redde
His Forrein Broode Shalle Quit this Lande
And I Shalle Keep His Hedde
- John Bloudecote

—Here resumes Ms. Gorwich's narrative—

And after that, 't didn' seem like any of Pennick's men could go out on th' moors nights, fer fear o' devils in dirty cloaks what beat them back t' camp, and moaned fer Cawdor's blood. And so Cawdor sent word out t' Lord 'Arry and Reg Pennick, and they sent him a hunter fer t' track John Bloodycoat down and kill him, fer they'd not say he was naught but a crooked and wild man, fer 't weren't politic t' do so. And so th' hunter reaches Cawdor, right, and he goes out and waits by th' crossroads a' night, and he says

'John Greencoat, John Greencoat, come out t' play
We've met some nice fellows from over th' sea.'

which was what th' people'd taken t' calling when they'd be wanted Johnnie Greencoat's help. And so Johnnie arrives, o'course, silent-like and beats th' hunter soundly what wi' his iron hands and all, until he's so bruised and bloodied as t' have t' return t' th' barracks, and John bids him send out Sherrif Cawdor fer t' duel.

And, o' course, Sherrif Cawdor said as he weren't going to, and he sends out th' hunter th' next night, only wi' maille under his clothes. And th' hunter waits by th' crossroads, and says

'John Greencoat, John Greencoat, come out t' play
We've met some nice fellows from over th' sea.'

And Johnny, he arrives, right, and he can tell straight away tha' th' hunter's wearing a maille-coat, and he's not going t' have none of i', so he just spits flames into th' hunter's face, and singes off his beard. And again, he bids th' hunter go back and tell Sherrif Cawdor t' come out and duel. And again, th' sherrif doesn't, excepting th' nex' night, he bids th' hunter take a pail o' water wi' him. And, so this time, the sherrif calls out

'John Greencoat, John Greencoat, come out t' play
We've met some nice fellows from over th' sea.'

and he's ready wi' his pistols drawn, excepting John Bloodycoat is faster, and shoots them from his hand, and draws out his greatsword and th' two have a square fight, but 'tweren't much 'f a fight, fer John beat th' hunter quick and, again, bade him send out Sherrif Cawdor, or he'd burn th' barracks doon. And when th' soldiers heard o' this, they kicked ou' Sherrif Cawdor and left him t' face John Bloodycoat on his own.

And so Johnnie goes riding up t' th' Sherrif, and knocks him doon. And th' Sherrif, he's terrified, fer he' was a coward a' heart, right, and it's terrible different facing a lad o' fourteen than a great bloody Phantom craving yer head- no' tha' he deserved any better, mind. And so Cawdor says 'Spare me, Spare me John Greencoat'. And Johnny, he says 'Ay, but John Greencoat would've spared ye. Only ye did such a good job dying this coat red, what I wanted ye t' complete th' job'- only he says it better, mind, fer he had a way with words did Johnnie. And so he tries t' run, does Cawdor, excepting he can't. And wi' that, Johnnie pulled ou' his sword, and there's a crack o' thunder, and th' sherrif's a-lying a' th' crossroads wi'out his head, and Johnnie weren't nowhere t' be found.
And, well, after tha', you know, th' wars turned in our favor. They marched on Parliament, right, and kicked Reg Pennick's lot from office, and ousted them from every dale and town in th' land, and put Queen Jane and in power, who was th' first decent ruler we'd had in a long time; and John Bloodycoat was riding beside them all th' while. And them what gave Reg Pennick th' boot, right, they wore green coats what had been stained wi' red dye, 'r blood while they was doing i'.

Appearance By all accounts John Bloodycoat was truly monstrous: an enormous figure atop a black horse daubed in phosphorescent paint, his face hidden beneath a sneering mask, his hair wild and long and braided with burning rope. He was swathed in a dark green overcoat spattered with mud and blood and phosphorus. It is said he was surrounded by smoke which smelled of blood and stagnant water and sulfur and burning hair.
According to legend, his hands were iron claws; he could jump twenty feet in a single bound; he could breathe fire.

No account survives of his voice. Should he be encountered in person, he won't talk much, but when he does, it's in a hearty and eloquent, if faintly demented, baritone.

Special Equipment
None consistently: he was reported, on various occasions, to wield a flaming sword, or a pair of pistols, or a whip; on one occasion, he was even said to have attacked Pentaclavian troops with a blacksmith's hammer. Most frequently, though, he was said to have used his iron claws to attack his victims.

Roleplaying Notes
John Bloodycoat is a political boogyman, essentially. There are, of course, countless legends, not all related, about his exploits; the story narrated above is only a bare-bones account.

This far on, it's impossible to say what is legend and what is fact- there were certainly reports of a bandit named 'Johnne Bludcote' dating from the Civil War. Nonetheless, he remains a powerful influence in the folklore of the Northern Moors- parents use him to comfort children afraid of the dark; political causes adopt him as a symbol; sightings of him are reported from crossroads and bridges on lonely, moonless nights.

His exact nature is more or less up to GM discression: He could have been human: a local citizen, fighting government oppression in disguise; a political radical; even a common bandit preying on the invaders. He could have been supernatural, as Ms. Greer suggested: a Demon, or a rogue Fay, or a Lich whose tomb was desecrated as 'pagan' by Reginald Prenderick's forces, or the last god of an ancient pantheon.

It's even possible that he never even existed at all, 'John Bloodycoat' being simply a code-name used by various rebel groups, perhaps taken from local folklore, or a hero created to rally the people against oppression.

Should the PCs meet John Bloodycoat, it should be an eerie, frightening experience; he isn't actually evil, but he's violent, otherworldly, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous. It's perhaps best if they don't find out his exact nature.

Still, unless the PCs are siding with the forces of oppression against the common people, (or doing anything which could be equated with such in his mind) John Bloodycoat and/or his followers are more likely to appear as an ally than an enemy.

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? Quest

Every society has their stories of mythic heroes. King Arthur. Hercules. The Monkey King.

Sometimes villians also get in on the mythic status action: Professor Moriarty. Sauron. Jack the Ripper.

In the end, every game world needs a fine assortment of larger than life people, if only just the stories of their exploits.

So this month's quest is Mythic/Historical NPCs.

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