Dreams of Winter - A Forgotten Gods Tale Book 1 by Christian Warren Freed Book Tour and Giveaway :)
Dreams of Winter
A Forgotten Gods Tale Book 1
by Christian Warren Freed
Under the rigid guidance of the Conclave; an order of holy men seeking to bring back the glory of the time of the gods, the Order of the Inquisition and their Prekhauten Guard divisions the seven hundred known worlds carve out a new empire with the compassion and wisdom the gods once offered. But a terrible secret, known only to the most powerful, threatens to undo three millennia of progress. The gods are not dead at all. They merely sleep. And they are being hunted.
Senior Inquisitor Tolde Breed is sent to the planet Crimeat to investigate the escape of one of the most deadly beings in the universe. Amongeratix, one of the three sons of the god-king is loose once again, the fabled Three. Tolde arrives on a world where heresy breeds insurrection and war is only a matter of time. Tolde is aided by Sister Abigail of the Order of Blood Witches in his quest to find Amongeratix and return him to Conclave custody before he can begin his reign of terror.
What he doesn’t know is that the Three are already operating on Crimeat. Each serves a different emotion: Vengeance, Sorrow and Redemption. Their touch drives the various characters beyond themselves and towards an uncertain future that can only end one of two ways. Either the Three win and finally destroy the gods, or humanity stops them and continues to survive.
Christian W. Freed was born in Buffalo, N.Y. more years ago than he would like to remember. After spending more than 20 years in the active duty US Army he has turned his talents to writing. Since retiring, he has gone on to publish 17 military fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as his memoirs from his time in Iraq and Afghanistan. His first published book (Hammers in the Wind) has been the #1 free book on Kindle 4 times and he holds a fancy certificate from the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.
Passionate about history, he combines his knowledge of the past with modern military tactics to create an engaging, quasi-realistic world for the readers. He graduated from Campbell University with a degree in history and is pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in Military History from Norwich University. He currently lives outside of Raleigh, N.C. and devotes his time to writing, his family, and their two Bernese Mountain Dogs. If you drive by you might just find him on the porch with a cigar in one hand and a pen in the other.
The Bloody Man arrived at night. Twice the size of a mortal man, he didn’t move, didn’t even blink. The villagers of Kovlchen were both frightened and amazed. No one had ever seen anything like this before. Prayers were whispered, blades sharpened. The man was heavily muscled, sculpted almost, and completely covered in dark crimson blood. Arms at his sides, he stared out at the world with empty eyes. Villagers flocked to see the Bloody Man, if such a being might be called a man. Those daring enough moved closer, eager to get a better look. Mothers hurried their children home, lest they become contaminated or infected.
A week passed and with it the novelty. People talked less of the blood covered man. The mayor and constable decided that, while the man had not so much as blinked during in the time since his arrival, something had to be done. They sensed a latent threat and gave voice to that paranoia. A town meeting was called in the local tavern.
“The question is not what as much as when,” Mayor Zenningberg told the assembled audience. “This bloody man represents a danger we have never experienced.”
“But he has done nothing,” farmer Aenni reasoned. The old man was well known for his wisdom. “How can we act against a being that doesn’t even seem to breathe?” “That is not the point! Sure, the bloody man may not have acted against us yet, but that is not to say he won’t soon,” Zenningberg insisted.
A chorus of cheers and murmurs filled the room. The people were frightened. That much was certain. An undertone of fear laced the smoke thickened air. Old and young alike could feel it. Danger lingered just beyond the borders of common sense. The bloody man was a danger. He must be dealt with.
Zenningberg held up his hands for silence. It took a moment, but the crowd finally stopped their chatter long enough for him to continue.
“My friends, I love this village. I have spent my entire life here and devoted the last fifteen years to making it the best village in the middle kingdoms. The Baron of Berchenfel has used this as his model community. That being said, we cannot allow this thing to remain here. The longer he stays the more danger we are in.”
“Danger from what? He hasn’t moved at all.”
Zenningberg caught the familiar face of Prentiss. He snorted. The lad was the local troublemaker, a youth who did not see the value in the wisdom of his elders. The boy needed to keep his mouth closed and go about his business.
“Prentiss, imagine what would happen when he does move. That creature has got to be nearly ten feet tall. And look at the muscles on him. He’s a beast of man and I for one do not wish to find out what he means to do.” Zenningberg smiled to himself. He could feel the mood of the crowd shifting back towards him. “Let us not forget that he came here by supernatural means!”
“Prove it!” Prentiss shouted.
“How can you deny otherwise?” came a frail voice from the back of the room.
All eyes turned to see Father Dorchea striding towards Zenningberg and the podium. The Father was the most respected man in the village. When he spoke, people listened.
His stern eyes leveled on the crowd. He was a thin man, old and covered with liver spots. His hair, what was left, was thin, close cropped and streaked gray.
“This Bloody Man is a message, sent to us by the Gods to confront our sins against the Fathers,” he told them.
“Father, the gods do not always interfere with the whims of man. What have we done to draw the wrath of the gods?” asked the mayor.
Father Dorchea slid through the crowd to stand beside his friend. “My friends, who are we to question the creators of all life? Are we not the children of gods? The very spark sent unto this world to bring joy where once only darkness reigned. This is not an easy thing of which I speak. My heart aches from the signs before my eyes. The Bloody Man is a bane to our continued existence.”
Arguments spread through the crowd. Some for, some against the continued presence of the Bloody Man. Perhaps the worst part of the situation was that gnawing uncertainty buried within each of them. Uncertainty can be a powerful emotion; strong enough to spark unabashed fear or peak the highest curiosity. Fear slowly won out. The tide of emotions turned towards the bitter prospects of the potential horror the Bloody Man represented and how best to deal with the situation.
It was all talk until Jarris Thoom came in carrying the limp form of his youngest daughter. Tears streaked his cheeks and his voice trembled as much as his waning strength. “The Bloody Man! It was him! He killed my Elisa!”
Zenningberg bellowed for quiet. “How Jarris? How did he do this thing?”
Jarris sank to his knees. He cried uncontrollably, gently placing Elisa’s body on the dust covered wooden floor. “Those kids,” he whispered. “I told them not to go near him. I told them, I told them, I told them.” He looked up into the panic stricken eyes of both the Father and the Mayor. “They just wouldn’t listen. They had to go play near this monster. And he killed her!”
Zenningberg passed Father Dorchea a sidelong glance. In a voice just loud enough for the two to hear, he said, “that settles it. We have to get rid of him somehow.”
Dorchea nodded and dropped down to comfort poor Jarris.
“Everyone, listen to me!” the Mayor roared to be heard. “Go to your homes and find what weapons you can. Tonight we will end the threat of this Bloody Man. Go now!”
“And what of the gods? Will they not punish us for what we seek to do?” Prentiss asked accusingly. “I don’t believe much in gods and signs, but if what the Father and poor Jarris Thoom said are true then something must be done, but violence is not the answer.”
“There is no other way!”
“He has already killed once, are you so willing to let him do it again?” Zenningberg asked.
Prentiss shook his head. “A moment ago we all preached peace and now look at you! Nothing more than a blood thirsty mob! We were not raised this way. This village has avoided going to war for three generations and now we throw it all away on the whim of a single incident? I cannot stand for this.”
“Our paths have already been chosen!” Father Dorchea replied. “The gods demand action.”
“And if we die?”
“Then the gods decreed.”
The simple answer was chilling. An eerie silence settled over those gathered for a tender moment. The atmosphere stifled. A choking feeling hung at the back of everyone’s throats. Jarris Thoom solved it all in a single act of violence. Hatred and rage collided in his mind, creating a super emotion that no sense of morality or reason could overpower. He looked up at the young Prentiss.
“That thing killed my little girl!” he roared. Jarris moved quicker than anyone anticipated. On his feet and dagger drawn before they could react, he plunged the old, nicked blade deep into Prentiss’ chest. The youth fell with a cry, dark blood flowing down his tunic.
In that moment every bird launched into the sky. A thunder clap so loud it shook the foundations of the world began a whirlwind. The Bloody Man blinked once. The emotions he felt were indescribable, but he’d felt them before. More than once he had been forced to act in response, lest they become too much even for his soul to bear. Strength filled his muscles and his skin danced with electricity that glowed blue in the dark of night. The first to die were those closest. At nearly twelve feet tall and thicker than three men put together, the Bloody Man swung his fists like clubs, smashing and crushing bone and muscle. Men and women ran screaming. Some tried to make a stand, but it was not enough. Nothing was enough to stem the tide of violence pouring from the Bloody Man. It was a scene from Hell. Broken bodies began to pile up. Hatred so deep it set fire to every building in sight consumed the village. The Bloody Man did what the gods had created him to do. He killed. And killed. And killed until there were none left to oppose him.
Mayor Zenningberg died from fright. His old heart couldn’t comprehend the sights opened to him. Father Dorchea knelt before the Bloody Man and prayed for those few moments before his head was crushed like a piece of rotten fruit in the Bloody Man’s mighty fist. And then the Bloody Man stopped suddenly. His eyes opened and he saw the devastation he had caused for the first time. Not a soul lived in the village of Kovlchen. Even the smallest dog and youngest child had been killed, their bodies a travesty of human form. Homes and shops were leveled. The entire area looked as if a massive earthquake had ravaged it. He tilted his head back, horrified at what he had done.
“NOOOO!” he cried, and dropped to his knees in misery.
Not again, he shook his head. Not again. Tears spilled from his eyes. The destruction burned what was left of his heart, ate at the depths of his soul. Pain and suffering seemed his eternal companions and he didn’t know why. These people had done nothing to deserve the horror he’d unleashed. Murder. That’s what it was. Sheer, brutal murder. No one would ever learn what had happened to the quiet village of Kovlchen on that dark autumn night. An entire people were destroyed before the sun had the chance to rise.
The Bloody Man cried for them all. Every last soul he sent back to his father caused a tear so large it created a sea of raw agony. He sank to his knees. The old doubt had returned to his soul. He remembered why he had fled humanity so many centuries ago. He wasn’t made for this life, but there was no alternative. The Bloody Man yanked himself to his feet. His movements were timid, like a scolded child.
Ever had he been this way. The gods had cursed him. The Bloody Man walked through the carnage, praying for a sign of life. Death mocked his efforts. Agony filled faces stared back at him. He heard their twisted laughter echoing back from the depths of Hell. This seemed his lot in life. Suffering. His soul cried through the dark hours of the night.
And then he found it. Found that single spark of life that suggested hope had not died. He knelt down beside the body of a small child and gently cradled her in his massive arms. A tear fell, splashing on her cheek. The girl groaned and breathed deep. She opened her eyes; radiant green and speckled with fear.
“Shhh,” he whispered. “Do not be afraid. I will not harm you.”
She screamed and struggled in his grasp.
“Please,” he pleaded. “I will not hurt you.”
He finally set her down, expecting her to flee. But she didn’t. She stood fast and stared back in wonder.
“What happened to my momma?” she asked. Her voice was strained and broken.
He bowed his head. “I am sorry.”
The Bloody Man stood and turned to leave.
“Wait,” the girl asked. “Who are you?”
He stopped long enough to look back over his shoulder with pained eyes. “Sorrow. My name is Sorrow.”
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