Title: The Crimson Fathers
Author: J. Todd Kingrea
Publisher: BHC Press
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy , Post-Apocalyptic
About the Book:
In a post-apocalyptic world where tyranny and medieval torture reign supreme and witch burnings are an everyday occurrence, a top Witchfinder must confront the very Church he serves when he learns of its dark past and twisted plans for the future.
With the Fifth Order in complete control of the Church of the Deiparous, Malachi Thorne and his friends must find “the Flame,” a powerful weapon which may be the only chance they have of halting the evil of the Crimson Fathers.
As they navigate the Tex’ahn lands and work with the resistance, Thorne discovers a devastating secret that may destroy them all and everything they have worked for.
Filled with swift action, unusual creatures, dungeon crawls, and an engaging cast of characters, The Crimson Fathers is a must-read for fans of epic fantasy and post-apocalyptic fiction.
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The Crusaders grew irritated. The first backhanded the brown-skinned deputy, sending him careening against the rock wall. The second Crusader slid the broadsword from the scabbard across his back.
“Never question our orders!” he barked. “Do as you are told, or I will gut you where you stand.”
“You shits!” a tall deputy exclaimed. “We ain’t afraid of you! There’s four times as many of us as there be of you.”
The second Crusader swung the sword as if it weighed no more than a quill pen. The blade finished its arc, trailing blood. The tall deputy’s head struck the floor, bounced and rolled down the stone steps. The first giant unsheathed his sword and leveled it at a constable’s midsection.
“Go,” he growled, “while you still have life in you. We will track the fugitives.”
Grumbling, but not too loudly, the men gathered up the corpse. One went to retrieve the head. The first Crusader held the constable at sword point. The other cleaned his blade.
“Ye going down in there?” a different constable asked. He was sufficiently out of sword range.
“No need,” the Crusader said. “They will have stayed with the passageway.”
“Begging yer pardon, but how do ye know? There’s a million hiding—”
A scream reverberated throughout the necropolis.
Everyone except the Crusaders flinched.
The deputy who had picked up the head was entangled in what appeared to be roots coming out of the ground.
“That’s why,” the second Crusader said as he watched without emotion.
The deputy screamed again. Then Thorne realized they were not roots.
They were tentacles.
Dozens of them wrapped the deputy as he continued to shriek. More tentacles encircled his torso and legs. His arms were pinned to his body. Between screams there was a moist, slurping noise.
A constable started toward the stone steps, but the first Crusader stopped him with a hand on the chest. “No,” he said, his voice detached and hollow. “He is already dead. You go down there, you will be as well.”
“B-But we can’t just leave ’im t-to that!”
By now the deputy’s agonized shrieks had become hiccupping squeals. More tentacles latched on to his body.
The creatures the tentacles were attached to wiggled out of the holes. They were like earthworms, pale white in color, almost transparent, and reeked of putrefaction. Thorne had heard of them before but had never seen one in person. He estimated them to be two to four feet in length. Shiny, viscous slime covered their ringed bodies. Fifteen or twenty of them slithered toward their catch, their tentacles stuck to every available piece of skin. They had no eyes, only lamprey-like mouths nestled inside the ring of tentacles.
“You cannot save him,” the Crusader reiterated to the assembled Churchmen.
“What the fuck are those bleedin’ things!”
The first Crusader sheathed his sword. “They are called Galorme. ‘Madworms,’ by their more common name.”
The deputy continued to twitch but made no further noise. More Galorme surfaced. Tentacles quested here and there. Thorne held his nose and breathed through his mouth.
“M-Madworms?” Amelia whispered to Teska.
“Move out!” the second Crusader yelled. The men took their headless colleague and retreated into the tunnel. The two Crusaders turned and continued forward into the other passageway.
Thorne silently counted to a hundred before moving. His knees hurt from crouching. Tua indicated that he heard nothing beyond the squelching and sucking of the worms.
“I-I have never seen anything such as this,” Tua mumbled. He buried his nose in the crook of his arm.
“Me neither,” Amelia said, horrified. Even in the phosphorescent light, she looked pale. “Wh-What are those things?”
Thorne rubbed his knees before straightening up. He sounded funny as he tried to talk without breathing through his nose. “Like he said, they’re known as Galorme, but people usually just call them madworms.”
Tua frowned. “Why madworms?”
Several of the creatures slithered toward a black opening beneath a rubble pile. A dozen or more worked together, using some of their tentacles to drag the deputy’s body. They quested along the ground, feeling their way toward the gaping hole as effortlessly as if they could see it.
Thorne paused and swallowed. The back of his throat tasted like phlegm, and he felt his stomach roll. He used the fingers on one hand to block his nostrils.
“It’s because of what they do to their prey,” he said.
More tentacles appeared from beneath the debris, guiding the body down into the earth. Thorne closed his eyes when he heard a faint moan as the deputy slipped out of sight.
“Oh my God!” Amelia cried. “H-He’s still alive!”
Thorne nodded. “Madworms drain most of the blood from their prey. Then they take them into their warrens. They’ll”—he cleared his throat—“they’ll keep him alive and incubate their young inside his body. When the offspring are old enough, they’ll…chew their way out.”
Amelia gagged and covered her mouth.
“And their prey remains alive the whole time?” Tua asked. Even his tanned complexion had lost color.
“Once a madworm starts drawing blood, they inject a kind of paralyzing poison. Victims can’t move, but they can see and hear and feel everything that’s happening to them. That’s why they’re called madworms. Their prey goes insane long before they ever die.”
Amelia turned away. She bent over with her hands on her knees and vomited.
“It’s a cruel, vicious form of death,” Thorne agreed. “But madworms aren’t intelligent. They’re simple creatures, like ants or birds. It’s just their way of surviving.”
“Yeah, nasty way of doing it,” Teska said.
Amelia shrieked. She stood trembling, finger pointing toward the archway they had used to get into the building.
Dozens of madworms crawled over stones and debris toward them, leaving pearly trails behind them.
Amelia screamed again, hands clenched in front of her mouth. She remained frozen as the foul-smelling things wiggled closer. Thorne moved across the rubble to help her. As he did, a deep rumbling came from beneath his feet.
“Shit!” He threw himself forward.
The rumbling grew louder. Stones grated together. The ground shook. A loud crash blasted through the cavern. The place where Thorne had just stood collapsed. The gaping pit sucked in rotted wood, stones, bits of metal and everything else nearby.
Thorne hit the debris hard, knocking the breath from his lungs. His hand flew open, and his sword clattered down the newly opened slope and into the sinkhole. The sound of tumbling rocks echoed from below. Dirt billowed in the air. Thorne lay on his back, holding his chest, mouth working like a fish.
Teska and Tua grabbed Amelia’s arms. They pulled her back and away from the madworms. More slithered through the arch.
Teska leaned out a window. Madworms crawled from their holes, tentacles flailing. She knelt beside Thorne. “Are you okay? Can you get up?”
He wheezed an acknowledgement, but she had to help him. More debris tumbled into the sinkhole.
“Back against the wall!” Tua yelled. He extended his arm for Teska to steady herself and Thorne. Amelia cowered behind him.
Thorne finally pulled in a lungful of the rancid-tasting air into his lungs. “D-Damn it! L-Lost my sword—”
“Never mind,” Teska said. “Head that way.” She pointed to the right. There was enough room to navigate the edge of the sinkhole and keep them away from the madworms. She led the way, Thorne at her back, Amelia behind him. Tua brought up the rear.
They climbed through a window on the other side of the building. There were no worms here, so they hurried down the buckled street.
Behind them, the rumbling came again, louder this time. The ground shook so hard it threw them off their feet. Rocks and dirt rained from the darkness overhead. Bats flitted and screeched through the air. The ground kicked and groaned. The building behind them shuddered and broke apart, collapsing into the hole with ear-splitting finality.
Coughing dust from their lungs, everyone stood and surveyed the damage. Nothing remained of the building except a handful of stones on top of one another. The pulped, glistening bodies of madworms writhed and twitched throughout the rubble, their stench even more abominable in death. A hole at least a hundred feet across blocked their path back to the safe room.
“Come on,” Thorne said, wiping cold dirt off his hands. “That’s bound to have alerted those Crusaders. We need to find another way out of here. Fast.”
About the Author:
J. Todd Kingrea is the author of the Deiparian Saga. The Witchfinder is his debut novel. An ordained pastor, he lives with his wife in Tennessee with their dogs, plenty of 80s metal, and an ever-expanding movie collection.
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