Being the report of Bishop Julius Morninghope, emissary to the Pope for the New World, on the mysterious events in the American plains of winter, 1755. This report was sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints by Morninghope on the request of a small group of catholic colonial (white) residents of the New Red Empire, who believed the events of that fateful day should be better broadcast through the old world, which was at that time locked in debate over the spiritual rightness of what they called the “Renouncers”, that is, people who renounced English sway over the Americas and turned to the New Red Empire for protection. The Holy See was believed to be taking a position against the Renouncers, with the threat of mass excommunication, and the canonization of Father David Cantrus would serve to make such an excommunication extremely difficult.

The New Red Empire, having freedom of conscience as one of its central principles, was happy to allow Bishop Morninghope into Albany to investigate in more detail, and to send this missive to Rome.

Your Holiness

Please find below the full report on the matters which occurred on the Great Plains in winter, 1755, in support of the case for canonization of the priest Father David Cantrus. This information was gathered in Albany in early 1756 on the request of the local parish of Albany, who constitute the Actor Causae pursuant to this case. Investigation was performed by myself and a single Inquisitor, Hendrick Heim from Bern.

Initially, gathering information on the events proved difficult, but eventually I persuaded the survivors of the battle to speak to me. I was uncertain as to the veracity of their account; however, a survivor, one Dave Black, agreed eventually to submit himself to a mental Inquisition by Hendrick Heim. Heim was somewhat unusually affected by this mental Inquisition, but his sanity survived long enough to give a mostly lucid account of the events as they were witnessed by Dave Black. Although the unfortunate consequences of intruding on Dave Black’s mind have rendered the details a little hazy, I assure your holiness that the account is correct in all significant particulars (and especially Father Cantrus’ end).

Father Cantrus is most certainly not the only hero of this process, though he is the only one to have performed a miracle, so I refer to the group of actors as “the Heroes” for the duration of this report. They arrived in Albany in possession of significant information concerning the intentions of an organisation called The Iron House, which had invaded the Americas with the intention of finding and opening an ancient gate to hell, which the Heroes refer to as “The Red Gate”. The characters had a message from an Indian Sorcerer begging them to come to his aid and, being important figures in the New Red Empire, had decided to do so.

They were met at Albany by two old Indian witches referred to colloquially as “Coyote’s women”, presumably due to their manners and odour. They led the heroes to the Prophet, who was staying near Albany, and he informed them of the salient particulars of the matter: that a powerful wizard of the Iron House, one Alastair Crow, had landed in the Great Lakes region with a band of enslaved Irish soldiers and some British mercenaries, and was raiding the inland in pursuit of the Red Gate. The Prophet’s war chief, a heinous traitor and murderer known only as “Magua”, had led a warband to the scene of the Iron House’s arrival, but superior European magic prevented the savages from finding the intruder. As always happens at these times, the weak Indian Sorcerer turned to white folk for help. They told him that they knew what the Iron House sought, though not where it was, and upon discovering that the Iron House had the Thorntree as its objective, he offered to send the characters there quickly. He opened a gate to what he knew as the Spirit World, undoubtedly some outer part of hell, and they agreed to journey through it to the location of the Thorntree, shaving many weeks off the journey should they survive. Coyote’s women would aid them as guides in this spirit world, which sounds from their account like a greater and even emptier version of the real world of the Indians.

Within this spirit world all humans take an alternate form, and those of the heroes were (by their own account):

  • Father Cantrus: An angelic figure comprised only of sharp angles and flat planes wearing a formerly alabaster robe that’s now filthy with all manner of foul things. The being’s left arm is translucent and leaves shadows in the wake of its movements. Wings made of a combination of feathers and blades sprout from its back in an array of white glow and steely reflections that are marred by the blood that they have been dipped in
  • Dave Black: a great black badger
  • Anna Labrousse: a beautiful woman being slowly constricted to death by a dragon coiled around her
  • Merton St. Helier: a powerful centaur, bow in one hand, wine glass in the other, and very well hung
  • Brian the Hunter: A roughly human shape, but made of thorns… the longest nastiest thorns you’ve seen… the between the fronds of thorns light just disappears and the result is unnaturally deep shadows between the branches of thorns.  Out of the shadows thick, half-congealed blood slowly seeps, leaving constant blood trails behind him that after about 10m of walking seem to evaporate into thin air.  On close inspection, and with the aid of bright light, you can see that all Brians human organs are underneath the thorns in their relevant places, including his oversized heart!
  • Russell Ganymede: eleven foot tall, naked, super-short legs (stumps!), massive belly and arms; bleached, oozing skin (translucent!), and a stench of rotten eggs: like an ogre had been lying in sulphuric acid for too long. Recessed chin, chiselled forehead, “walks” using much of its arms, and exhales sulphuric vapour; drooling problem.

Coyote’s women took the form of coyotes in this spirit world. This world has many strange properties which make it difficult for the living (let alone the pious!) to travel through. By the account of our heroes, the spirit world is a strange land, indescribably vast, with some of the features of the real world massively exaggerated, and others strangely subdued. It doesn’t seem to have temperature or weather, but in the distance there are always storms. The heroes occasionally saw distant creatures, including:

  • Rolling rock (an Indian superstition, undoubtedly a demon)
  • Vast herds of buffalo, but strange and horrific and seemingly shrouded in shadow
  • Ancient battlefields, over which haggard coyotes pick, and through which ghosts and undead wander
  • Occasional great animal spirits – a huge boar, or a massive eagle
  • Forests of ancient, vast trees

The journey seems to take a long time, but simultaneously everything seems to have flicked by quickly, so that when they look back on things past they are already far away, and the detail not remembered clearly as if not much time was spent in them. Even the number of nights that has passed doesn’t seem to be clearly recalled or understood.

However, the heroes survived this land and emerged at the far side into a canyon, just after dusk. They emerged into a narrow culvert, and could see into a wider canyon which sloped down to enter an even wider, deeper canyon. In front of them they could see that the smaller canyon was blocked by a ring of wagons in a circle, which they would have to pass. Wandering about in dazed confusion between them and the wagon circle was a sick, weak-looking Indian brave, and in the distance they could see another figure wandering about in front of another part of the wagon circle. Beyond the circle at the juncture of the smaller and the larger canyon they could hear screams, and see a distant shadow.

The heroes attacked the wagons, but as they approached someone inside threw a bundle out of the circle. This manifested itself as a large and nasty Autonomous Sentinel Cannon, which immediately attached itself to the confused brave, and began shooting at them. They were also attacked by three riflemen hidden behind the wagons. Anna Labrousse summoned a monster in the form of a small version of Rolling Rock; this overwhelmed the cannon while Cantrus healed the Indian Brave which was feeding it, and the remainder of the party attacked the hidden riflemen. Merton opened fire on them with a pair of barrage pistols, which missed; then Ganymede, Dave Black and Brian’s dog Matilda took apart the remaining three.

They approached the other dazed figure and found him to be an Irish soldier, one of the soldiers they had freed from a curse about a month earlier, and this soldier told them the full details of the Iron House’s journey to America. He told them that the force that arrived had successfully fought all Indian attackers with powerful magic and military might, but when the Heroes enacted the ritual to free the Irish Mercenaries of their curse, the remaining Iron House soldiers turned on them. Their remaining Irish soldier had been sick with dysentery at the time, and so was not killed; when he recovered he had entered the stage of being suggestible, and had been brought along as food for the Autonomous Sentinel Cannon. In the battle between the Irish and non-Irish mercenaries much of the force had been killed, and they evidently had no healer; after that they had to rush through enemy lands, and had lost the remainder of their force. Only Alastair Crow and the 3 riflemen remained. The Irish mercenary knew they had set out in possession of 5 Myrmidons, but he did not know how many remained.

The heroes took this information and headed into the canyon. At the point where it entered the larger canyon they found the Thorntree, and with it Alastair Crow in the midst of enacting a great and powerful ritual. The Thorntree itself was a great, twisted monolith of wood and bark, so large it blotted out some of the stars of the early winter sky. It was dotted with thorns, the ones at its base as large as trees and the higher thorns only the size of elephants tusks or pillars in a small church. Hanging from the larger thorns and impaled on the smaller ones were Indians – women, braves and shamen impaled on the higher thorns, and children hanging, bleeding and tortured, from the lower ones. At the base of the tree, surrounded by a magic circle drawn in the sand of the canyon floor, was Alastair Crow, his back turned to the party of heroes. He was engaged in a ritual, and had open before him a small box.

The characters attacked. Brian the Hunter called forth walls of entangling thorns linking the walls of the canyon to the thorntree, in order to prevent attacks from within the canyon. Anna Labrousse summoned another monster, this one made of thorns and shadow; and they all charged forward. However, they were attacked immediately by two Myrmidons, one each side, which leapt over the thorn barriers and charged to attack. These were larger than previous Myrmidons they had fought – 12 feet tall, and much faster and fluid in their movements. Flying down from the canyon wall there also came two fly demons, the same sort that the heroes had fought at the Iron House’s headquarters in Bodmin. Battle was joined.

While Russell, Dave Black and Brian the Hunter took on the Myrmidons the Fly Demons swooped low, spewing vomit on the party. Merton fired on the Myrmidon fighting Russell, and Anna Labrousse attempted to rip off its limbs, while Cantrus healed those near death and banished the demons alternately. The Demons had soon been torn back to hell by giant angelic chains, but the battle against the Myrmidons was much harder. Brian the Hunter conjured another entangling patch of thorns, which held one of the Myrmidons long enough for Dave Black to kill it, though not before it had slain Brian, its captor. At this point a wizard hidden nearby cast a spell on Russell, forcing him to attack his party members; Anna Labrousse was then occupied casting magic to undo this spell while Merton and Cantrus attempted to kill Alastair Crow. Unfortunately, Crow was immune to all their attacks, magical or otherwise – even appeals to his chivalric nature to make him consider a duel against Merton failed.

This was a dangerous situation, for while the battle with the Myrmidon raged Alastair Crow had partly opened the gate to hell, and the heroes could hear the coming hordes of darkness. Father Cantrus realised that there was only one solution remaining to the party – he ran forward, grabbed Crow by the shoulder, and attempted to lock him in a soulgaze. He realised as he did the reason for Alastair Crow’s immunity – he wore around his neck a pebble the characters had used once to kill him, which he had turned into a charm against all their attacks! However, Cantrus’s soulgaze is no magical or physical attack, merely a revelation of the fate which awaits all sinners, and no mage is immune to it. Alastair crow, trapped in the vision of his own inevitable fate, screamed hollowly, but the gate remained open. In desperation, Cantrus pushed him in; but as he did so the remaining Myrmidon teleported over to his side and cut him in twain with its massive blade, before any could stop it.

In his death, Cantrus fell into the gate with the wizard, and with his dying wish invoked the miracle by which his supporters request his canonisation: He sealed the gate shut, forever, with his soul. The gate slammed shut, sealing wizard and Priest’s soul inside hell but protecting the mortal world forever from any infernal incursion through this ancient gate.

I should note that objectors might point out the local Indian tale which says the gate was opened with the bones of a priest, and can be closed the same way; I do not credit this story as anything but native American ramblings, probably peyote- inspired, and instead I argue that this was a miracle, invoked directly by Cantrus through his faith. It is rendered all the greater in its power by the sacrifice he made – taking a place in hell to prevent hell coming to us – and the nature of his own faith, which in previous confidential reports to the Inquisition has been described as “shaky” and “flexible, to say the least”. I present this miracle as evidence that the Lord has judged Cantrus’ faith to be sound.

On this basis I recommend that Cantrus be considered for canonization.

On this basis, and with the full support of the Inquisition, I also should like to point out that the remainder of the Heroes are a dangerous and unstable group, with few morals, fewer links to the New World, no loyalty to divinely appointed laws or rulers, and great power. I have seen what happened to Inquisitor Heim after he attempted to read the mind of Dave Black, even though Black had submitted willingly, and I have heard tales of all their deeds.

On this basis I recommend that Cantrus’ allies be considered for liquidation.

Finally, I note that traditionally a soul becomes a Saint by being reborn in a new, more powerful form, in service to the Church, on this mortal plane. This is impossible for Cantrus, since his soul is trapped in hell. He can only be canonised if his soul is rescued from hell to be returned to the service of the church. In the place of his death we should also be able to find the pebble which the wizard Alastair Crow wore, and which completely protects the wearer from Cantrus’s allies.

On this basis I recommend that a team of Inquisitors enter hell as soon as possible, to recover the pebble and Cantrus’s soul, the latter to enter into service to the church as a Saint, and the former to be used in completing the destruction of Cantrus’s allies.

Yours in holy observance

Bishop Julius Morninghope