It began with the dreams...visions filled with strange and disturbing specters from a time long ago. Colin McMahon has always been an easygoing artist who never takes his life too seriously--no great ambitions, no long-term relationships, no commitments. But the images that have begun to torment his nights have changed all that forever.
In his dreams he finds himself riding across the rolling hills of a battle-torn land, reliving the memories of a fearless young warrior who shares his name. He loses his heart to the image of a beautiful woman as brave as she is fair. And he helplessly witnesses the brutal rituals of a savage cult that makes blood offerings to a dark and cruel deity called Cromm Cruaich, the Crooked God.
At first Colin dismisses the visions as the product of an over active imagination...until they begin to invade his waking life.
A mysterious stranger appears to taunt him with hints of awesome powers. His partner is viciously attacked by an inhuman wraith. And nightmare creatures wreak bloody havoc on the streets of the city.
Seeking the truth, Colin sets out on a pilgrimage to Ireland, home of his ancestors. There, in a village untouched by the centuries, he discovers the living woman of his dreams and learns that the ancient cult of the evil god Cromm has arisen again, plotting to place the world under its terrible dominion.
Now, in a desperate attempt to ransom humanity from the power of the Crooked God, Colin must call upon the spirit of his warrior ancestor to help unleash the might of a long-buried holy relic from Saint Patrick. For in an age without peace, without hope, without faith, what can stand against the forces of violence, cruelty, and fear?
Kenneth C. Flint's Cromm is a compelling new experience in a spellbinding urban and dark fantasy. Blending vivid contemporary settings and engaging characters with the dark and mystic forces of Celtic legend, Kenneth C. Flint has crafted an unforgettable blend of chilling terror and exciting adventure.
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Double Dragon ebooks
February 22, 2012
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Excerpt from Cromm by Kenneth C. Flint
At first there was only blackness. And then the music began.
It was very faint-the rhythmic beat of drums entwined with the eerie piping of a wailing tune. He moved toward it, and as he did, its volume grew, drawing him out of the darkness into a red-gold light.
The light revealed him to be a young man, long hair rippling behind him, a heavy cloak about his shoulders. It glinted from the hilt and the silver-banded scabbard of a sword belted about his waist.
Before him towered massive statues of dark stone, spaced evenly to form a ring enclosing a vast space. The statues' forms were vaguely manlike, but also horribly not, each one somehow perverted, made grotesque. Their details were obscured by a thick, billowing fog that hung close above the ground, forming a canopy for the ring.
The swollen underbelly of the cloud was struck to crimson by the flames of bonfires lit within the circle of stones. Around these fires a vast crowd of dancers was milling.
There were hundreds of them, men and women, young and old. All were naked in a night so chill that their breath puffed out in plumes of white that rose up to join the billowing cloud overhead. They danced with unrestrained energy-unbound hair flying wildly about them, the smooth, pale flesh of their flailing limbs burnished to a ruddy sheen by the firelight. They trilled out ecstatic cries that twined with the wailing tune.
Around them, the circle of motionless statues looked down, titanic and alien beings aloofly watching these pitiful humans in the throes of their debauchery.
Like the statues, the young man also stood unmoving and untouched by the delirium that gripped the dancers. But as he watched the chaotic scene, his look of wonder changed to one of concern, and then of shock.
Within the ring of fires, the fervor was growing swiftly. The drums beat with an ever faster rhythm; the pipes wailed like creatures in some last, exquisite torment. Bodies moved sinuously, erotically together, twining until the crowd seemed one vast, writhing sea of limbs washed by the blood-hued flames. Soon the orgiastic frenzy reached its height.
And then, abruptly, the music stopped.
As the last notes died away, the dancing also ceased. The revelers stood suddenly still, suddenly quiet, turning to look about.
Another figure moved into view. It was a man clad in a long robe and an elaborate headdress, both made of feathers so brilliantly white that the bonfires created a glowing halo about his outline.
While he waited, the crowd before him parted, creating a wide avenue into their midst. Then he started forward with a slow and haughty stride.
From where the young watcher stood, the center of the area was visible for the first time. Another bonfire burned there, lighting a square, flat stone and another statue that squatted beyond it.
The man in the feather robe moved through the silent, intent crowd to the base of the statue. He stopped before it, lifting his head to look up at it.
The statue, glowing richly with red-gold ornaments, thrust up into the clouds above. Its hunch-shouldered body was a twisted parody of a man's. Its face, though mostly obscured by the shrouding fog, conveyed a sense of leering obscenity astonishing for a semblance crudely hacked from rough stone.
The feathered one lifted a sword before him as if in offering. The polished black metal of the blade took on a red gleam from the flames. Fat drops of a thick, red-black liquid suspended from its edge glinted in the light.
In response to his move, the statue seemed to come alive in the shifting fog and firelight. The distorted body seemed to stir slowly, the lips curling in a lewd and evil grin.
As the young watcher's face filled with revulsion, the crowd looked up to the grotesque being and cried out in jubilation.
The robed man turned, lowering the sword. He gestured sharply.
A group of women moved out into the young man's view. They appeared from behind the statues at either side to enter the avenue opened through the crowd. Each of them carried something. Before they turned away from him to walk toward the white-robed man, the watcher glimpsed what they all held.
The women reached the waiting man, forming a line before him and the flat stone. The infants squirmed with discomfort at the cold. Some cried out. Their wailing sounds, piercing now in the silence, lifted in a strident chorus that echoed away forlornly.
The young man stared intently, leaning forward slightly, body tensed.
The robed man gestured again. One woman came toward him. She laid the baby on the flat slab of stone and backed away. The white-robed one turned to stand over it.
The people around cheered in hoarse exhortation. A single drumbeat started-slowly, steadily-and with its rhythm a chant arose from the gathering. It was a single word shouted again and again, the volume quickly climbing toward a height of intensity. All of them now chanted together with the drum's beat, shooting clenched hands upward in repeated salute to the statue. The sound of the chant grew louder, faster, until each sounding of the word became a reverberating, throbbing thunder stroke:
"CROMM! CROMM! CROMM! CROMM! CROMM!"
The robed one put a hand firmly upon the infant's breast. It struggled feebly and whimpered, alarmed by the strangeness and the noise.
The young watcher's eyes widened in horror as he realized what was to come. He started to run forward, only to be suddenly brought up short as he came between the stones.
Beyond them, the man in white slowly lifted the sword in his other hand.
The young man pressed forward, straining to move ahead. But it was as if an invisible wall closed the opening, cutting him off from the terrible scene beyond. As the blade rose, he pounded desperately, savagely at the unseen barrier with his fists.
The sword stopped. Light flared from its keen edge.
His struggles ceased as he saw it. Helpless, he stared in anguish.
The feathered one smiled. The sword began to fall.
The young man opened his mouth to cry out...
... and then he jerked upright.
Mouth still open in a soundless cry, his eyes snapped open to stare ahead. Around him was darkness.
He sat rigidly, gasping for breath, shuddering violently as if from extreme chill. His upper body was bare, his chest and face beaded with sweat.
He seemed to catch himself, his eyes shifting to look about him into the darkness.
He scanned a room that was lit by outside lights shining in through a floor-to-ceiling fan-topped window. It was night, but the lights faintly illuminated the room, revealing shadowed but identifiable features: dresser, chair, a table holding a computer whose monitor stared back at him with its blank glass eye, and the double bed on which he sat so stiffly upright.
His gaze came around to a bedside digital clock. The glowing red numbers proclaimed the time as 3:10 A.M., then ticked off another minute of precious mortal time.
The sight of the clock seemed to reassure him. The tenseness of his body began to fade and his breathing slowed. He lay down again but stayed on his back, still rather stiff, arms at his sides, hands clenched. His face was drawn tight with concentration as if he were trying to will himself to relax. The unblinking eyes stared up at the ceiling with great anxiety.
Beside him, on the nightstand, the clock mechanically flicked away another minute of the night.