From the Letters of Father Canis: The Priest

Chain Border

Letter to his holiness Father Saint-Alban (1735-1791), one of a series of seven, uncovered at Chartres in 1902 during renovations to the Southwest wing. Translated from the Latin into Modern English by Dr William Bowden (Oxon).

Dear Father,

It has been some time since our last communication, and my prayers are with you always. I have been unable to write to you previously due to circumstances beyond my control, and, because of fear of the interceptions that have plagued our correspondence. I am sending this letter through our most reliable channels and thus God willing, am expecting it to arrive to you as yet unread.

Recently I was called upon to perform a wedding ceremony in the remote fishing village of [unknown] on the shores of the Lacis Razuul. This area in the western seaboard of Romania is a dark and godless land, riddled with poverty, disease and suspicion. I traveled down to the region in disguise; all too aware of the recent murder of our mutual friend Father Anselm, and the hatred that our brotherhood inspires in many of these superstitious people.

Upon arriving at the village I was greeted by Razvan Bocinsky: the groom. As the hour of the wedding was already approaching - I had been delayed several nights in transit - we repaired to the church with all speed. I was shocked to see the dilapidated condition of the building and immediately understood why Razvan had been insistent the ceremony be performed outdoors. The guests (what few of them there were) assembled immediately at the sight of him into a large semi-circle, through which we strode. The bride was already in position by a wooden makeshift altar. I gathered my thoughts and began to utter a prayer of thanks. Almost immediately gruff peasant voices began to murmur, suggesting somewhat rudely that I get on with the marriage. I even thought I heard one grizzled looking character utter: "Priests, they are the devil themselves!"

Although in truth my knowledge of the local dialect is poor at best. At this point, sensing my confusion, the bride (Mirela Aamodt) took my hand. She spoke quietly and quickly to me: "Father, please marry us now."

So I commenced with the vows and...ended with the same. Forgive me for this transgression Blessed Holy Father.

After the ceremony, the guests moved to a local Taberna to celebrate, and I decided to remain at the church, curious to find out all I could about this abandoned house of God. In the rectory next to the church there were records and diaries of the previous clergyman, a Father Von Wolkenstein, who was a man of our own cloth. It seems as if 25 years ago our Brother had a thriving parish; and truly felt as if he was bringing hope to these superstitious folk. Late into the night I pored over the diaries, till I felt as if I could hear his voice speaking to me from beyond the grave. His final entry was troubling. It described the death of a local woman during childbirth. Whilst the infant (a little girl) was saved, it seems that the mother died in horrible pain. Such pain it was, that she cursed Father Von Wolkenstein for all eternity; and judging by his comments he was very shaken by this. The final line was also somewhat chilling: "Those are screams which a man taketh to his grave."

As it was late and my candle was running low, I decided to stay the night in the rectory, which (unlike the church) looked surprisingly much as I pictured it was 25 years ago. One could almost imagine this dwelling to have been occupied till the day before I arrived. After performing my ablutions and the first psalm of the Sacrus Liturgica, I retired to sleep. I believe I did fall asleep, but after a period of unknown duration, awoke to hear a strange screaming sound. It was eerie and haunting and...dare I say Father, not of this world. I immediately sat bolt upright in my bed, but found I couldn't detect the direction from whence it came. At first I thought it was outside in the woods or even in the church, but then it seemed as if it was in the room, flitting from corner to corner. Sometimes flying above and around me. Paralyzing me with dread. At long last it seemed to subside to a low moaning, and I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck when I realized that the moaning was coming...from my very own throat!

I closed my mouth, and suddenly the silence in the room became oppressive. I felt as if I was being strangled by a total absence of sound. It was as if an unearthly quiet had fallen...and I must admit, Father, I have not been that afeared since Prima Gargis and his Demon Inquisitors. Finally though, I plucked up the courage to reach for my tinderbox. As I put my hand out of the bed, I suddenly heard a kind of whispering sound. At first it sounded a bit like wind, but after a while I could hear a voice, a strangely familiar voice, calling to me. "Faaarrrrther," it said. "Faaarther Canisssssss!"

Father CanisThis was too much for me. At this point I lost all reason, jumped out of the bed and ran towards the door. Before reaching it, however, it slammed violently in my face and I heard the turn of key in lock. I slumped down against the panels, clutching my crucifix and praying to the Blessed Virgin. I was shaking with fear, which was not lessened by the fact that I could still hear that strange voice. "Faaaartherrrrr.........sssssssspeak to mmmmeeee." it said.

It seemed as if I had no choice, and furthermore I now felt as if a giant weight was pushing me against the floor. I was totally unable to move. I cried loudly, "What do you want ?"

"Abbbbbbsolutionnnnnn." came the reply.

"Who are you ?" I asked.

"I wasssss the Priessssst here, I wassss Faaaartherrr Vonnn Wolkensteinnnnn!"

"What is your sin?" I ventured.

"The girl you married todayyyyy, herrr mother wassss a seerrrr and a soothsayerrrr."

"Was she the woman in your diary, the one who childbirth?" I interrupted.

"...yessssss, sheee wasss Lucilaaa Aamodtttt. Her screamsss have become miiiiiine. Herr curse hassss become mine. I...wouldn'ttt aaaabsolve herrr on herrrr deathhhhhbed, I thoughtttt sheee wasss ann....abominationnn. Now I have become annn abominationnnnnn. There isssss nnnnno Goddd hhhhere !"

"Can you...father ?" I asked, finally feeling as if I could breathe.

"Onlyyy sheee. Onlyyyy sheee cannnn absolve meeeee. Only sheee cannn forgive."

"But... "

"You cannn bring herrrr. You cannn resurrectttt herrr..."

"But how...I?"

"You are offfff the Allianccccccce! Thisss I I wassss. Also chosennn. I seeee yourrrr mark, I feeeel your Knowledge. Assist meeeee!"

I felt the weight upon me suddenly increase to that of a temple bell. I barely managed to nod my head slightly. Father, he was asking of me the profane knowledge - the resurrection of a spirit to save his soul. And I was powerless to resist. In fact, once I had agreed to his demands I became calm, almost methodical. Here I was in a house of God, preparing to raise the dead and using secrets gleaned from the unholiest of sources. I told myself that a soul was at stake, that God had given me such knowledge in order to do his will. I recited the Hidden Canons that you yourself had taught me, and yet largely I felt a profound, almost burning, sense of curiosity. Curiosity and…duty.

I was led to the back of the rectory. Next to a child's swing there was a small rosebush. The voice ordered me to dig there. After several minutes I found a spade and began my unholy labours. After what seemed like an epoch the edge of the implement struck something. After several minutes more I uncovered a coffin; it was pitted with age. Opening the box with some difficulty, I found inside the earthly remains of Lucila Aamodt. I began the incantations, which for reasons you can well understand Father, I will not print here. For a long time nothing happened. Then I heard the voice whisper:

"Sheeeee issssss here!"

Abruptly I was startled by a squeaking sound behind me. Father, in truth the swing was moving by itself. It was rocking back and forth with an increasing rapidity. Then, as if time had been a lake which had suddenly frozen, it stopped in mid swing. At the same instant, once again, I felt the silence encroaching upon me. It was like a Python wrapping me tighter and tighter. Before I could react however, the unholy quiet was broken by a female voice:

"Who is it that calls me thus from my slumbers…from my rest…upon a night such as this?"

As I opened my mouth to reply, I heard the voice of Father Von Wolkenstein say:

"Itt isss I isss I!"

"YOU!" screamed the woman's voice, "How have you done this?"

I found myself rather boldy speaking up, Father. I said: "I, Father Vitorio Canis...of the order of Jesuits have called you forth, so that this man's soul may be free from torment. He has suffered enough…twenty five years of pain. RELEASE HIM!"

"What know you of torment Priest?" came the woman's reply. "What know you of pain, oh man of the cloth?"

"I know enough. I know that suffering is an evil, but that Jesus can forgive us our sins as he suffered for all mankind!"

"Would you suffer for this man, oh priest, would you suffer for your mankind?"

Father, I know not what possessed me at that moment, but it seemed as if the only bargain I could make to save this man's soul - was sacrifice. Thus momentously, I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs: "YESSSSSSSS!"

As I spake those words, I felt violent waves of torment roaring through my body. I have never experienced pain of the like. Every second was stretched out before me like a vast field, a horizon of agony. Every nerve inside was like an ocean of tears. My eyes filled with the engines of Hades. Horrible groanings and bone splintering rendings tore at my mind. Suddenly I was the pain of many men, of many women:

I was a sailor drowning horribly.

I was a prostitute being beaten.

I was a hanging, I was a guillotine, I was a sword.

Father CanisI saw strange deaths, accidental deaths, casual slayings and brutal woundings.

I was the torturer, his instrument and the victim.

I was a disease creeping first through a vapour, then a limb, a body, a family, and a city!

Later I was a statue locked under the blazing sun in some ancient Mesopotamian clime. I saw my city built and sacked. I saw everything I had known destroyed and turned to dust. Then, over time, I slowly collapsed and withered away, to join the restless sands of the desert, rolling fitfully for a hundred lifetimes.

At last, I was in death, lying in my own coffin, being consumed by worms, being transmogrified till I was bones, then once again dust.

This was the final vision I remember, for I believe I must have lost consciousness. When I awoke the following morning I found myself in that very same bed where I had lain many hours before. For a while I idly wondered whether it had not been some horrible nightmare; or perhaps some night-tripping spirit had hexed me in my slumbers. As I prepared to leave, glad to be gone from this strange place, I glanced down again at the final page of Father Von Wolkenstein's diary. With a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realized that it was unlikely to have been merely a dream or delusion. Scrawled on the bottom of the page was this; "Canis, under the third step, second flight. F.V.W."

I found the step a few minutes later. It had what looked to be a repairment, but was in fact a small board which I was able to pry from its place. Inside the tiny cavity within, I found several scrolls of a nature with which we are both familiar. I will study them at length before sending them to you. I believe they will make worthy additions to our library Father.

The only remaining point of interest left to mention occurred when I was leaving the town. I had organized a ride on a horse and cart heading for the lower east region of the Carpathians. As I was about to board, Mirela Aamodt appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and kissed my hand.

"Thank you," she said, and immediately began running back in the direction of the village.

"For the wedding?" I shouted at the retreating figure.

At which point she turned around, laughed and yelled out: "No!" before continuing on her way.

I stared at her retreating back, beginning to wonder if she had some of her mother's reputed second sight, another seer perhaps. I was shaken out of my reverie by the gruff voice of the man who had been watering the horses. I think it was that same grizzled individual who had been at the wedding.

"You look puzzled Father Priest," he said irreverently as I was ushered aboard. As we began to move off he yelled at me: "She understands you priests. All too well…yes, all…too…well."

His final words seemed almost to be swallowed up by the trees. I can't be certain Father but it sounded to me that he said; "After all…her…father…was…one…of…you!"

I remain your faithful servant. On This Seventeenth day of October in the year of Our Lord Seventeen Eighty four

Father Vitorio Canis.

Translator's notes:

1. Prima Gargis (1743 - ?) was one of the most feared inquisitors of his day. He had a reputation for cruelty that transcended even the standard practices of the period. Gargis continued to perform his duties despite an official end to inquisitorial methods, and was most successful operating from outside the pervue of his masters at the time. He escaped imprisonment several times (twice by Spanish authorities) and was suspected of being in league with occultists resulting in a Papal decree (1765) banishing him from Catholic countries and formal excomunication. There is no record of what became of Gargis or his followers and he has thus remained an historical mystery.

2. The Alliance, refers to a secret society within the Jesuit organization. Believed to have been formed by Cardinal Armand Duplessis, Duke of Richelieu (1585-1642), during his reign as Chief Minister for King Louis XIII. It is speculated that Richelieu collected vast amounts of Pagan literature through various means. These included the Cabinet Noir (his intelligence network), and several religious "reformations" undertaken by Louis XIII at Richelieu's behest. Despite Richelieu's obsession with secrecy, as well as that of his antecessors, several records exist of experiments undertaken by the church utilizing Pagan practices.

It is also speculated that Richelieu was in a position to use these methods to influence the crown as well as furthering the interests of the Society of Jesus (commonly referred to as The Order). Despite the fact that the Society was officially disbanded in 1723, and as a result Jesuits were largely persecuted throughout Europe, it is clear from this letter (among others) that The Alliance had indeed survived.

3. The mark that Father Von Wolkenstein refers to is no doubt a small innocuous tattoo just below the right eye. These tattoo's appear in several paintings of the period, and are most commonly mistaken for a mole, which was precisely their function. This simple device allowed members to detect each other from a distance, or at official functions without anyone realizing. There were of course additional signals required, most lost to antiquity, in case of encountering infiltrators, impersonators or genuine pigmentations.

4. The library - and the fact that Canis writes to the Cardinal of "several scrolls of a nature with which we are both familiar" - suggests that the church was still actively engaged in collecting Pagan literature at the time. It also reinforces the claim that both Canis and Saint Alban were members of The Alliance. A fact still disputed by some scholars: Nesbitt, Barswaad,Vukelic et al.

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