You’ve probably heard the story, if not the names. James Cooper was a young man at the time, and a bit of a scoundrel. He was madly in love with Bess, the daughter of the landlord of an inn Cooper often frequented. Cooper was fair with a pistol and knew how to handle a rapier. The landlord hated the attention Cooper paid to his daughter, thinking she deserved better, but was too afraid to confront him.
A rash of robberies on the roads near the inn gave the landlord his opportunity to get rid of Cooper once and for all. He spread word around that Cooper was the highwayman that was robbing people. When King George’s men came for Cooper, the landlord gave them all the information they needed to lay a trap: Cooper had promised to return to Bess that very night, when the moon shone brightest.
Of course, as you probably know, that backfired. The soldiers locked the landlord in his own basement, and spent the evening drinking, forcing Bess to serve them. As the night wore on and the drink took hold, they showed their true sadistic natures. They bound Bess at her window and… well, that old scoundrel Noyes tells it better than I:
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her.
Bess heard Cooper’s horse coming up the road. She saw the soldiers were priming their muskets; they’d heard his horse as well. She knew they would kill her lover before he ever knew they were there, lying in wait. So she warned him the only way she could. She pulled the trigger on the musket, shooting herself, but warning Cooper.
Hearing the shot, he fled, escaping the soldiers, not knowing that his beloved was dying as he rode. It was not until the next day that word of what had transpired reached him, and hearing this, he immediately charged back to the inn for his revenge.
The soldiers were still there. And it is at this point that the story you may have heard loses its way. Noyes tells you that they gunned him down in the road, and while it is true that they shot him, he did not die from the wound. They captured him and tormented him for most of the day. Finally at sunset, they flung a noose over the branch of an old oak that stood beside the inn, and hung him by the neck.
They left him swinging in the cool night breeze and went back inside the inn to quench their thirsts, laughing at the anguish of the landlord until his sobbing started to grate on their nerves. At which point, he too went to his maker.
In the morning when they stumbled from the inn, they found the Cooper’s body was gone. The noose hung empty.
The soldiers thought little of it, assuming someone had taken his body away for burial. But none of them would survive another fortnight. One by one they turned up dead, shot or stabbed, with never a shred of evidence indicating who the killer might be. Each death was different, with the one common thread being the look of absolute terror on the dead men’s faces.
* * *
That was 200 years ago. Two hundred years of trying to bring justice to the world. My pistols are a lot fancier these days, but the work is more or less the same. Evil still walks the world with a thousand different faces.
Two hundred years of bounty hunting; seems remarkable that the bad guys have never caught me off guard, eh? Well that would be remarkable. They do catch me unawares now and then. Thing is, though, everyone dies…once. And I already had my go at it.
I left the name James Cooper behind a long, long time ago. I don’t know how long I have to do this before I can be with Bess once again, but I figure I’m serving some purpose greater than my own. Something brought me back to do the work I do. James Cooper is long dead, but The Highwayman lives on.
I’m playing The Highwayman as a Munitions/Telekinesis build, with an emphasis on Munitions. For the most part I plan for him to be shooting things, but the ‘ego blade’ from Telekinesis fits (I think) his mystical story. I’m emphasizing Dexterity, Ego and Constitution. He’s barely out of the starter tutorial so we’ll see how he plays.
His colors looked a lot darker in the character builder (more like the ‘comic book cover’ image to the right than the screenshot above). My initial vision was for a hooded, cloaked killer, but I struggled with the cloaked bit. In the end I settled for a mostly hidden face and ‘functional’ clothes. The ‘wings’ were an afterthought…they’re an unlockable and I just wanted to show them off, I guess. Ditto the bracers. I wonder if angel’s wings would work. Hmm.
The story, of course, is from Alfred Noye’s poem, The Highwayman. If you have read it (or heard it — it’s been put to music in almost its entirety my Loreena McKennitt) you ought to. It’s a great story.
Feel free to snag The Highwayman’s ‘comic cover’ and stick it in your screenshots folder, after which you can ‘load’ him from the character creation screen.