The Hyperborean Curse

This text was found in the early twentieth century during an estate sale in England. It appears to be an excerpt from “The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents”, dated 1653. Due to its late discovery, it does not appear in Goldthwaite’s nineteenth century reprinted edition of Relations. The first chapter of Relations, written by the Paris editor, recounts the capture by an English vessel of the ship which conveyed Father du Peron and the Canadian mail to France. The Father’s papers were seized and carelessly flung about by the soldiers; he rescued what he could, but some pages were lost, and the Relation for the year 1653 was not, in consequence, complete. Apparently the missing pages containing the excerpt were later gathered by the crew and given to the captain who filed it away until it eventually found its way to the estate sale.

I, Jesuit Father Pierre de Poitiers, am writing this account upon the order of my superior, Father Le Mercier. I shudder to recall the events of the past several months and do not willingly put my experience here on parchment. But I realize that in obeying my superior’s order I will perhaps exercise the demonic terror, which sits continually in the pit of my stomach.
Our mission here in Quebec is often refuge to many different Indian tribes, many seeking protection against the warlike and savage Iroquois to the south. Algonquins are predominant but we have been joined occasionally by Wyandots and Atiwondaronks. Agloolik, however, was different from all others. He came alone from the north, and in my few years of service at the mission, I had never seen an Indian of such appearance and dress.
Of the Jesuit fathers in Quebec, I alone took it upon myself to befriend Agloolik in hopes that he could be converted to Christianity. It was also partly out of pity, for I discerned that he was somewhat shunned by other natives. It was not just that he was of a tribe utterly foreign to these parts, but there was also about him an air of tainted power which seemed t alienate him from others.
Agloolik proved to be a quick learner, and as his mastery of French grew, so did our friendship. He also began to be more accepted by the other Indians at the mission, yet always I sensed a subtle reluctance on their part to fully embrace him.
When Agloolik accepted Christianity as his new religion, we were all overjoyed. As Jesuit missionaries in New France, we had seen few converts among the Algonquins and Wyandots. The few converts we did have were often the elderly men and women or sickly children unable to travel with their clan. So it always brought us joy to see an Indian convert when they were healthy and in the prime of life, not tempted by the sanctuary of our mission walls.
Before his conversion, Agloolik spoke little of his tribe or its culture. Now, alone in my chambers, I heard his confession. He revealed that he was of the Inuit people far to the north. He was to have been a shaman of a clan shunned for the terror of its secret rites and incantations. But he fled his family’s evil legacy and found a new people and culture to the south where he was not known.
In harsh, strained whispers he told me the lore and rites of his former religion as if the telling would expel its evil influence over his soul. Indeed, in the dim candle light of my chambers, the gloom became more oppressive, the air harder to breathe as if some dark essence were flowing out of him into the room.
I could clearly see that though Agloolik rejected his old religion, he still believed it; accepted its evil as real, not just a superstition. Perhaps it was the stress in his voice or his vivid descriptions of perverse summoning rites, but as I listened I felt a chill throughout my being and the hairs on my neck stood on end.
I noticed that during his narration, Agloolik nervously fingered a leather pouch at his belt. I asked him about this and he said he still carried trinkets of his old religion as defense against its evil. I chided and spoke of the power of his new faith and the glorious Savior. He smiled weekly but said he would keep them still. I did not pursue the issue since carrying a few heathen charms did not nullify his newly held beliefs.
Once Agloolik finished confessing his terrifying past, he seemed no longer so troubled. Indeed he never brought the subject up again and I myself was glad to not hear further details of an Indian mythos peopled with horrid, pitiless gods.
With spring came renewed warfare with the Iroquois. French reinforcements were sent to Montreal and the Iroquois repeatedly attacked Three Rivers up the Saint Lawrence. Ever since Governor Champlain had attacked them to win the friendship of the Algonquins in 1609, the Iroquois had been our bitter enemies. As Jesuits, we would have liked to be outside of regional native politics and concentrate only on saving souls, but we were still Frenchmen and ever found ourselves embroiled in the arguments of the human powers vying for control of the New World.
In mid May, I took Agloolik out in the fields to help a poor widow with her farm. We met a French settler by the name of Poyfere outside the mission and enlisted his support also.
It was thus that walking afield outside the mission that we were caught. Emerging from the nearby woods, an Iroquois war party quickly surrounded and subdued us. So it was that we found ourselves bound and helpless in a canoe heading southwest up the Saint Lawrence.
Our captors pressed through the night towards the French settlement of Three Rivers. I overheard whispered snatches of conversation and gathered that the leader among them was named Gautsh. From my supine position in the bottom of the canoe, I twisted my neck so that I could see more clearly our captors in the growing daylight. And I regretted it. It was not their terrible countenance and savage demeanor that now terrified me, but what hung at Gautsh’s belt just inches from my face: fresh scalps still dripping with thick red gore. Sorely was my faith tested in that moment as I began to give up hope of survival.
A few hours later they beached the canoes and pulled us ashore just short of Three Rivers. There it was they took their first measure of barbaric revenge against us. One by one, they held our hands out and carved full length, deep cuts along the underside of each finger. The pain was excruciating and our blood flowed in small rivulets off our hands. If we had had any thoughts of escape before, they were now dashed. With crippled hands we could handle neither weapon nor paddle. As for escape on foot, starvation would be a certainty being unable to use any tools to hunt or trap food. We knew there would be no rescue either. Our captors traveled stealthily in evening’s darkness so as to avoid any chance encounters near to our settlements.
Thus crippled we were taken south up Richelieu River and down Lake Champlain to its very southern end where this particular Iroquois clan made their home. Here, I could guess what horrible tortures awaited us. In 1642, Brother Jogues of our order, was captured and tortured to death at the hands of the Iroquois. The rumors of how he died were still the cause of nightmares in the Quebec mission: fingernails torn out, horrible burning fire…and even cannibalism!
We were dragged into the encampment and I saw by their dress that this was a clan of the Mohawk, fiercest of the five tribes that comprised the Iroquois nation. A group of men with clubs were waiting for us and at once we were set upon and severely beaten. I lost consciousness to the sound of their jeers and taunts.
We awoke, bound and naked on a rectangular, open spot of ground, our clothes dumped in a pile nearby. On all sides bonfires had been built. I could see that we were at the edge of their village. The entire clan was arranged around us calling and jeering and it became obvious we were the center of the nights coming ceremonies.
I looked overhead at the winking stars, merciless in their cold, white light which contrasted starkly against the hellish reds of the pyres burning nearby. The leering faces of our captors shone in the firelight, their savage features distorted in the dancing shadows, and I thought that this must surely be a visage of the Devil’s minions in Hell. In those moments before it began, I prayed. I prayed with the fervor of a holy saint about to be martyred. But I didn’t feel the stoic heroism of Stephen, rather it was all I could do to keep the rising terror and hysteria off my face.
I looked to my comrades and knew they felt as I did; poor Poyfere quivering with fright and my friend Agloolik wild eyed and afraid.
I saw now that the surrounding throng was arrayed on either side and in back of us leaving empty the spot in front towards the long, low buildings of the village. Into that spot stepped their chieftain, or sachem as they called themselves. On his face I saw no mercy or pity, but only maniacal, sadistic glee.
He approached us with an old woman at his side and told us his name was Kenutjie. The woman he said was Orenda and it was for vengeance of her brother’s death that we had been taken. He said there were three ways to appease a grieving family member such as Orenda.
He held up the bloody scalps I had seen earlier and cried that this was the first way; at which the surrounding Mohawks cheered and yelled. The second way was to torture their enemy to death at which we quailed and lost all hope even as the throng cheered again. But, he said…. there was a third way. If an enemy could nobly endure the torture with great strength and steadfastness, then might he be adopted into the tribe and made into a family member to replace the one which had been lost.
A dim ray of hope was aroused. I spoke urgently to Agloolik and Poyfere that they have faith and endure and thus might we be saved in spite of these heathen tortures. And then it began.
Even as I write this I look at my maimed hands. The finger cuts have healed, but the other scars are much worse. My ruined fingertips bereft of nails. The shriveled stub of my left index finger. It lasted all night, an eternity of hell in one night. Held fast by Gautsh and our original abductors, burning brands were thrust onto our flesh until we must surely pass out from the pain. But such was there skill at their craft that we remained conscious. I enjoined my comrades to sing hymns for encouragement and though it helped us to hang on, it didn’t stop the pain.
And ever the evil throng cheered and whooped their war cries, relishing in our torture; even the women and children no less than the men. But through it all my faith held me. Thinking that surely I was enduring nothing that my savior had not endured in his blamelessness, my faith became a dim, steadfast light in my soul that refused to go out and held my sanity intact.
Then Poyfere began screaming uncontrollably. I knew he had broken and could not bear it anymore. I felt tears of anguish for my comrade but dared not break down myself.
At this, Kenutjie approached, a leering smile upon his lips. He ordered Poyfere’s feet cut off and then he was bound to a stake piled with dry wood. Thus Poyfere died horribly, unable to even stamp at the flames consuming him. As he screamed his last horrible breath from his body, that evil sachem Kenutjie shouted in exultation proclaiming that thus was Aireskoi, god of fire honored.
On his foul face I could read no zeal even for a bloody, vile heathen god. I knew he savored the torture for his own selfish pleasure and the power it gave him over his people. For indeed, the Mohawk clan was now clamoring its bloodlust at a fevered pitch. That I could have ever seen such evil in a man, I would never have imagined before this night. But soon, there would be far worse.
Kenutjie then turned upon Agloolik. While warriors held him fast, the vile chieftain took his knife and slowly carved a strip of flesh from Agloolik’s arm. Kenutjie declared that thus is Aireskoi appeased and thus do the Mohawk absorb the powers of their enemies, whereupon he ate the bloody flesh before his victim’s face.
Agloolik cried out horribly in rage and pain, head sagging to his chest. I called to him to remember his savior and to persevere. But my own voice was broken with pain, and even if it weren’t, he was beyond hearing.
Suddenly, Agloolik’s head snapped up and a wild, demoniacal light filled his eyes. Kenutjie’s smile was stopped on his face as he met the gaze now directed at him. A gaze not of a tortured, beaten captive, but the gaze of a powerful, vengeful shaman of an evil religion older than the human race.
Agloolik’s voice burst forth in a hideous, otherworldly sound. In a voice that could not possibly come from any living thing, louder than the frenzied throng, he cried,” Ia Ia Ithaca… Ithaca, Ftghan Innumbli…Ithaca Innumbli!”
All noise ceased; no jeering torturers; no laughing, blood-sated mob…nothing. For a long moment, the silence reigned as Agloolik held Kenutjie fast with his eyes….and then he fell forward dead. At the exact moment his body hit the ground, dropped by his stunned captors, all the bonfires went suddenly out.
I looked about and saw a welling terror in every face. The air went suddenly cold, colder than a Canadian midwinter night, yet I new that this was May and but a moment before it had been hot with the heat of bonfires. Clouds of chill, vaporous breath issued from the Mohawks as everyone began looking furtively about.
And then the noise began. Out of the darkness surrounding us it came; first in quiet snatches and then in twittering voices. It gathered in intensity and seemed to become the harsh calls of hundreds of yabbering demons circling in the darkness. Quickening and intensifying the demonic voices became a rushing, encircling wind. Even as we all crouched in terror backing inwards, it took visible form: a mighty whirlwind of putrescent yellow and hellish orange. It screamed in its growing intensity and formed as a great funnel towering over all.
It’s apex formed and descended suddenly among us and everyone scattered in a terrified panic, running heedless into the woods. But some couldn’t help but look back. I could barely crawl but my sick fascination held me fast. Like Lot’s wife, I turned and looked upon a horrible wrath visited on an evil man.
Kenutjie was held above the earth as by invisible hands. Limbs spread apart, back arched, head back and mouth open to the sky. Held thus, like a fish about to be gutted, the apex of the demonic whirlwind was dropping into his mouth. Helpless he was held, until the entire storm entered him. He then dropped to the ground and all the noises ceased.
After a few minutes of silence, the scattered Mohawks began to emerge from the surrounding dark woods and looked at the fallen body of their sachem. Few words were spoken and my dead companions and I were all but ignored. Orenda, the sister who would be avenged, came to my side and cut my bonds. But like all others my attention was still fixed upon the fallen body of Kenutjie.
Suddenly it began to move. Slightly at first and then spasmodically with a foul gurgling noise. While others gathered to their chief cautiously, I scrambled backwards for it was then that real terror seized me and I knew what Agloolik had done. The fear of torture and cannibalism was as nothing compared to this.
As the foul beast rose up and took shape, others screamed and ran from the former sachem; but I stared, horrified knowing its name…Wendigo!
The terrifying realization came rushing into my mind as I remembered what Agloolik told me of his family. How they had preserved the memory of that ancient battle when the Inuto barbarians attacked the city of Olathoe in Lomar, last surviving province of ancient Hyperborea which had been smothered by the giant growing sheet of ice millennia ago. How his ancestors had taken and kept the knowledge of the Great Old Ones whom their enemy worshipped. How Ithaqua, brother of Cthulu, imprisoned by the Elder Gods could still be called upon. And how the evil men who practiced cannibalism were turned into human, flesh-eating Wendigo in mockery of Ithaqua as reward for service to a cruel, pitiless god!
I scrambled on bruised and battered limbs not daring to look at the monster taking shape but yards away. I found our discarded clothes and tore at the leather pouch retrieving the charm Agloolik had described. It was the Elder Sign. A carved symbol on a smooth stone disk. The sign looked like a six fingered tip of a fir tree and finding it I whirled holding it in ruined hands before me against the advancing monstrosity!
The Wendigo stopped short, overcome with killing lust but unable get past the barrier I held aloft. Fifteen feet it towered, slavering drool dripping from its long canine teeth and hyper extended tongue. Long rending talons hung from gangling arms. Its skin was as sallow and jaundiced as a decomposing corpse and its eyes glowed red in hellish menace.
Regarding the Elder Sign it suddenly fled into the woods howling with the demonic whirlwind voices spewing from its maw. The Mohawks gathered quickly again around us, all thoughts of torture and revenge gone. The only emotion left for them was stark terror.
I awoke late the next day to find Orenda tending my wounds. I found also that all the other clan members now accepted me as one of them as was promised if I survived the ordeal to their satisfaction. But all were uneasy wondering if they had seen the last of the Wendigo.
In the following days, I healed quickly under Orenda’s care. But there was no peace for any of us. Hunters began to disappear. Sometimes a body would be found shredded and partly eaten as if by a huge animal. Soon, none ventured beyond the village and so the Wendigo began to prowl in the darkness just out of sight. Many times, I advanced on it, Elder Sign held aloft, shouting the Lord’s Prayer and ever it retreated only to return later. From enemy, to family member, to protector I had become to this clan, but I knew I could not protect everyone, especially with dwindling supplies.
Unable to hunt or gather food, we were forced to disperse and run. Perhaps the other tribes of the Iroquois would have defense against such evil. But if not, it could only track one group at a time, so maybe some would survive.
Orenda, Gautsh, a few others and myself headed quickly south along Wood Creek by canoe and portage. And though it pursued us, it could not approach against the Elder Sign and the declarations of our Lord. Also, we perceived that with the warm summer winds now blowing in the woods, its power was fading. Its hideous, single-toed footprints were less pronounced in the mud, its form less solid and more translucent.
I was not sure exactly when, but at some point north of the Hudson River it was no longer following us at all, an arctic abomination banished by the warming weather. I do not think it died. Rather it is waiting for colder weather when it will return and hunt human flesh once more.
We continued south to Fort Orange on the Hudson River where I left my Mohawk companions for the company of the Dutch settlers there. I bid them all farewell and Orenda was saddened believing that she was losing her brother again. I told her that I would travel to Quebec, but that I would return the following year when hopefully there would be peace between the French and Iroquois.
And so I sit again behind the walls of the mission here in Quebec writing this narrative. I think often of Agloolik and our friendship. I also pray for his soul, trembling at the terrible knowledge that filled him and which could not be contained after being broken under torment.
I plan indeed to return to the Iroquois and bring them the Gospel and the news of salvation. The pressure from the Montreal reinforcements has brought peace and the five tribes of the Iroquois have requested my return.
I can bear them no ill will for the torture and the death of my friends. They have surely suffered evil and known terror ten times what I endured at their hands. If a new clan of Iroquois should reject and slay me, then so be it. But no people should be without our Savior’s Mercy when such evils as Ithaqua and his Wendigo haunt this world.

 

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