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A So-Called Heretic is Issue #6 of Origins, the first volume of The Gerosha Chronicles of Dozerfleet Comics. It is an origin story for John, Kicked Deer, and Marge Domeck; explaining how John and Marge arrived in the right place at the right time to be transformed into the Gray Champion and Mapacha. It's also an origin for the Society of the Icy Finger and Hester's locket, two major plot elements in The Gray Champion: Chillingworth's Revenge.
John in England
In 17th-century England, a cult leader named Samuel Fortin tells his followers of an event in which the Marlquaan struck several rubies. They decide to look for one particular Marlquaanite ruby, one that, if guided, can give or take away Marlquaan bonds to whomever the wielder wishes. Samuel's right-hand man, Eric Sylvester, warns that their Society of the Icy Finger isn't alone in knowledge of all things pertaining to the Marlquaan. He warns them that a certain John Domeck has been keeping them in mind. Samuel assures Eric that there is no need to fear John Domeck.
John is revealed as being in prison for refusing to affiliate with the Church of England. He explains to the warden that Samuel and his followers mean to overthrow the monarchy and establish an Icy World Order. The warden doesn't take the threat seriously, until John points out the window. Theresa Welling, a maiden serving the visiting Duchess of Saxony during her stay in London, comes under attack from Samuel Fortin while in possession of the Handler's Ruby. One's bond to the Marlquaan, as John explains, is only secured under the Handler's Ruby so long as the powered individual is physically holding the ruby. Being separated from it takes that power away. The warden accuses John of being "a heretic of the worst kind," and of "meddling in a devilry like none the world has seen before." John argues back that if Marlquaanite powers fall into the wrong hands, they may very well be used for devilry. And for that reason, he intends to retrieve the Handler's Ruby and return it to its rightful owner - Miles Wealthington of Oxfordshire. The warden mocks John, but fails to notice that he has dropped the keys.
The warden goes off to use the bathroom, and John seizes the distraction to escape from prison. He immediately flees amidst the shadows, finding a black-cloth mask and heading straight for Samuel. He catches up with Samuel, who is about to kill Theresa. A battle ensues; and John manages to secure the ruby. Samuel ends up falling to his death. Theresa offers to have her rescuer rewarded, but he reminds her he is a wanted man - a so-called "heretic," for knowing too much about the Marlquaan and refusing to be part of the Church of England. He vanishes with the ruby, whom he then returns to the rightful owner. He warns Miles to flee to America with him, so that the Society cannot use it a second time. Miles agrees.
Meeting Kicked Deer
The story fast-forwards to several years later. John establishes a presence in Lynn. John and Miles have collected several more Marlquaanite rubies, and are now sharing with each other the secret locations where those rubies are being hidden. John suggests a storage center beneath the church in town would be a safe spot, since nobody would dare desecrate a church to get to the rubies. Miles is uncertain of that, but goes along. He entrusts the Handler's Ruby to John while embarking on a trip. That trip involves special hiding away from the church of the two rubies too dangerous to entrust with the church building: the Beamer's and the Grand Ultimates. He warns John to keep the Handler's on him in the event he should ever have to use it. John expresses his doubts about being worthy to wield such power.
Eric Sylvester and his men begin to suspect that an Indian tribe in the area might know where the rubies are being hidden that John and Miles made off with, after spotting a non-Marlquaanite ruby in the chief's possession. They soon rain down ammunition on the tribe's camp, killing all but one squaw that escaped. That squaw, a recent Christian convert, went by the named "Kicked Deer." Eric sends his men to stalk her down, as she leaves with her pet wolf Fellerfang for shelter in the woods. John encounters her as he is out hunting. When he sees who's after her, he finally decides to make good on Miles' offer and use the Handler's Ruby - if only to save Kicked Deer's life.
Meanwhile, Miles buries the Grand Ultimates' Ruby deep underground, after first encasing it in a hard-to-open outer seal container. He also crafts a necklace pendant to hide the Beamer's Ruby inside of. He keeps the Spinner's Egg Ruby handy in case he needs it. He then gives the Beamer's Ruby inside its pendant as a gift to a pregnant woman in Boston, telling her not to share with anyone how she got it. The pendant later becomes known as Hester's locket, with several generations of secret-keepers protecting it from falling into the wrong hands. Around that same time, an Icy Finger exile Blue Spectral Marlquaanite dubbed the "Shrouded Entity" starts appearing in the forests outside Boston. Miles confronts several of the Entity's minions, and learns of how the Entity's power works. Dubbed "the Black Man" by locals, the Entity begins enslaving Bostonians and creating evil clones of them - after extracting DNA from stealing their blood to put in his "book."
An attack on Miles by some of the Entity's minions, who try to recruit Miles in "the dark arts," results in Miles spinning the Spinner's Egg and becoming an angelic entity dubbed "Oraphim." As Oraphim, Miles fights off the minions and battles the Entity directly. He manages to chase the entity out of Boston. However, the Entity arrives in Greenland and begins terrorizing the natives there. Oraphim tracks him down, and traps him in a ball of ice. That ball of ice is then buried in the northern-most parts of Greenland, and Miles forfeits his powers as Oraphim due to a belief that having so much Marlquaanite power could go to his head and jeopardize his faith. Word of what happened makes its way back to Lynn, as John and Kicked Deer honor Miles' sacrifice.
The Icy Finger strikes back
Kicked Deer quickly falls in love with John, and the two of them get married within a year. They begin discussing their knowledge of the Society and its ambitions with the local minister. He seems reluctant at first to take John seriously, until John shows him the Handler's Ruby. Rev. George Spellingworth decides that the ruby should be buried beneath the church's foundations, ruling that it is evil.
However, John's insistence that the Marlquaan is real rubs many other colonists the wrong way. Suspicions arise that he and Kicked Deer are secretly practicing witchcraft. However, nobody can substantiate anything. A few more years pass, and John has become a neighborhood watch. Kicked Deer, going by "Katherine Domeck," begins selling her Indian braid designs and becoming a schoolteacher. She teaches children about both English and her own tribe's histories. The Marlquaan controversy appears to be in the past.
That's when a man named Jordan Smithson arrives in town. John expresses to his captain concerns that Jordan, eccentric from the beginning, might be a member of the Society. The concerns are ignored. Before anyone knows it, various murders begin to happen. John once again dons his mask to find out who is behind the murders. He suspects Jordan, but Jordan slips through his fingers. He leaves John a threatening letter, stating that he will always be one step ahead.
John tries to have Jordan arrested immediately, but Jordan vanishes. Rumors and whispers begin to resume that the Domecks are witches, until young Margaret is sent home from school for getting in a fight to avenge her mother's honor. John warns the families whose children tormented his daughter that they are giving the Society exactly what it wants, as Jordan and the Society continue to sow seeds of discontent. John finds himself removed forcibly from his position after warning the town that Jordan and the Society are using them for evil.
John and Kicked Deer retreat with Margaret into the woods, looking for a tribe that will accept them. Jordan returns to town and commits a few more murders, then convinces the townsfolk that John and his "witchcraft" are responsible. The town soon descends into civil war, as half want Jordan to pay for his slander and the other half believe him. The minister makes off with the Handler's Ruby in search of John, realizing that things have gone too far. The Society arrives in force in town, and spells out who they are. The townsfolk who hate John allow themselves to become members of the Society, not realizing that it has a satanic goal. The town soon goes into a lockdown, the despotic Society not allowing any but a few elect to go in or out.
The minister's attempts to find John end in failure when Society members catch up to him and reclaim the Handler's Ruby. They use its power to find and capture John and his family. Kicked Deer is executed, while John and Margaret watch helplessly. Father and daughter are sent to the beach, where the Society and its followers in town prepare to execute them. However, they capture a young boy named Robert Boyde. Robert was one of many who tormented Margaret in school on allegations of witchcraft. However, he overhears a conversation between John and Jordan that convinces him that John was telling the truth. He is immediately spotted by a Society member while hiding behind a tree, and is killed in front of Margaret as he apologizes to her. While dying, Robert prays for a miracle.
Into the 21st century
Some 400 years later, billionaire scientist Dereck Johnson generates a Marlquaan storm in his company's lab. It goes disastrously wrong, to the point of instigating a synchronized Marlquaan storm 400 years in the past. Right as Jordan and company are about to run John and Margaret through with spears, a bolt of red lightning strikes that area. The Handler's Ruby is destroyed, and Jordan along with several of his cohorts are found incinerated on the beach. John and Margaret are nowhere to be found. A friend of the preacher's notes that the so-called "heretic" John often spoke of a Roman slave named Lord Zeras who was similarly struck by Marlquaanite lightning - and then lived to tell about it after arriving on the scene again some time later. A small number of surviving Society members retreat, noting the words.
They vow amongst each other that the Society would make as one of its goals the discovery of where - and when - John Domeck would reappear. They also wonder what happened to the Beamer's Ruby. A cutaway reveals that the Beamer's Ruby has come to be known as Hester's locket, while a young Hester Prynne wears it around her neck. Another cutaway shows Margaret in the 1990s, as she is being adopted by Cuban-American immigrants. A final cutaway shows John in the 21st century, donning his Gray Champion outfit for the first time. Meanwhile, Miles Charleston joins the Society officially.
In October of 2010, Classic Gerosha was abandoned to pursue Comprehensive Gerosha. The first major work being pursued for combining this revised continuity together in one cohesive whole with various other Dozerfleet works was Ciem: Vigilante Centipede. That work and its sequels were later abandoned for Sodality, as Comprehensive Gerosha was abandoned for Cataclysmic Gerosha.
One of many works that was tied into the greater universe of The Battle for Gerosha and Ciem was an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story The Gray Champion. However, this new version reinterpreted Hawthorne's character as a superhero. The Gray Champion: Freedom's Apparition was formalized in 2011 as an official title for the adaptation, talking about John Domeck as the titular Gray Champion in question. However, many steps were required to truly integrate all the different proposed Gerosha-related Dozerfleet works into a shared universe. Therefore, nearly every major character that was either a Phexo or a Marlquaanite required some backstory to explain their abilities.
The Tragedy of Lord Zeras was proposed as a story to explain the origin of all Marlquaan-begotten singularity separating Gerosha universe history from default history. It was set to be eventually followed up by First Meethlites, to explain the origins of the Meethlite's bizarre skintone. Rise of the Phaelites would dabble more into the origins of Phaelite-Meethlite rivalry, and why the Hebbleskin Gang turned into the force of evil that it did. While Pilltar and Navyrope are fairly self-explanatory, Extirpon's origins are entirely dependent on the events in Freedom's Apparition to make sense. However, Freedom's Apparition by itself introduces the character of John Domeck - without entirely fleshing him out as a character with any real history. His mannerisms in the 21st century make little sense, given no one's ability to relate to him.
A So-Called Heretic sought to mend that problem, giving a backstory to John and Marge so that readers/audiences would be more able to relate to them. Originally, A So-Called Heretic was shelved for writing alongside A Miner Named Sam and Vile Magenta Cloak, two stories designed to give backstories for Honeybee Samuel and Meshaluta. Those latter two were scrapped, however, when the Comprehensive Gerosha narrative was pursued. It effectively placed the Meshalutian Trilogy in a separate universe from Gerosha entirely, with re-writes to 90 to make it ready for public release delayed possibly forever. As well, immediate plans for Cursed is the Ground and The Natural Logarithm were scrapped.
Even so, this story remained. While discussing the Marlquaan a bit more, along with John; the Marlquaanite rubies prove a valuable MacGuffin. The Beamer's Ruby in particular, which becomes Hester's locket, would prove critical to the plot of Chillingworth's Revenge. As such, it tied the Hawthorne fanfics together in a way that made them fit almost seamlessly into greater Gerosha mythos.
- Oraphim I and II SDCPM files
- Gray Champion (comics)
- Chillingworth (comics)
- Hester's locket
- Kicked Deer
- The Gray Champion: Freedom's Apparition
- The Gray Champion: Chillingworth's Revenge