Crypts of Phanos
by Jaxon Reed
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Deep under the city of Phanos, the crypts are filled with monsters. Dungeon Corps works hard to contain them.
Recruited from prisons, outcasts, misfits, those expelled from academies and even rare volunteers, Dungeon Corps produces outstanding fighters.
When an ancient threat troubles the Queen’s Land once more, a grizzled veteran leads his young team down into the depths to rescue the lost and slay a horror known as Ludge.
But two on his team hold closer ties to the monster than anyone realizes. They are elves, running from assassins tracking them relentlessly since birth.
Ludge should have died 50 years ago. Now it’s up to the team to finish the job. In doing so, they uncover startling secrets known only to a chosen few.
They discover the elves’ forbidden existence and their raw untapped power can reshape the world.
If they survive.
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Several blocks away, Tawny poked her head around a corner. She and her brother Toby hid in a quickly darkening alley. They were elves, a somewhat unusual sight in this human city. Tawny thought there might be 100 elves here, out of 15,000 or so people. The siblings stood out for other reasons, as well. Besides their pointy ears, they both had auburn hair. Most humans had brown hair, or some variation. Auburn, with crimson highlights, marked a stark contrast from more typical hair. Also they both had green eyes, which was unusual even for elves. Tawny’s sparkled with magic, a characteristic she had not yet learned to control, and people often stared at her while she walked down the street. Although, truth to tell, Tawny was unsure if they were staring at her feminine figure as much as her sparkling eyes. She looked remarkably attractive, curved in such a way at the chest and hips to excite males of all races, including elves, humans, and even dwarves. Toby stood out for other reasons. For one, he stood extraordinarily tall at seven and a half feet. He towered over everyone else in a room, elf or human alike. Also, Toby was a simpleton. He did not speak, but looked upon the world with amiable happiness, usually with a silly grin on his face. All told, Tawny thought, they made for lousy thieves. They stood out in a crowd, were easily identifiable, and they were both young and relatively weak. Finally, Toby would likely do something stupid to give them away. But Tawny was desperate. They were far from home and completely out of money. The last two nights they had spent sleeping in this alley. No one wanted to hire a pair of odd-looking elves. She and her brother had traipsed through the streets for two days asking any merchant they could find. Despite Toby’s large size and obvious utilitarian value as a common laborer, and despite her attractive figure, they could find nobody willing to give them the time of day, much less work. So now, in desperation, she had allowed herself to become open to the idea of using magic. They were going to steal something. If food, it would be eaten on the spot. If money, or something worth money, it would be quickly turned in for food somewhere. Tawny was desperate. And hungry. By the look in his eyes, Toby was hungry too, although he never complained. They rarely came across enough to fill his stomach. She glanced at her brother again and steeled herself for the task at hand. He was her responsibility. Tonight, they would eat. The carriage making its way down the street in the dusk of early evening looked to be just the ticket. Quietly, Tawny stretched her hands out toward the magic lights atop the poles on this isolated street and made a pulling motion. One by one, each light went out, casting the nearby area in darkness. “That should provide some cover, Toby. I don’t know Invisibility yet, but this should help hide us.” Toby grinned down at her and nodded.
Pediford sat atop the magic carriage holding reins that went nowhere. That was the thing about magic carriages. They were controlled by reins as if pulled by horses, but no horses were present. The reins simply disappeared in the air. Some speculated the horses existed on the aethereal plain. Pediford had no idea if this notion was accurate or not, nor did he care. But Pediford, the manservant for House Lackilan, had no qualms controlling a carriage via reins floating in the air. Indeed he was quite used to such extravagant displays of wealth. Dressed in fine green livery and wearing a white powdered wig, as customary for servants in the great houses, Pediford displayed the poise and confidence of an upper crust servant in Phanos society. Ahead of him the streetlights went out, one by one. That finagled its way through his calm exterior. He displayed his trepidation by raising a single eyebrow. He turned his head and spoke to the occupant in the compartment behind him. “Milady, it would appear we are to be set upon by bandits, forthwith.” “Very well,” Lady Lexa said from inside the carriage. “Be a good man and dispatch of them, won’t you?” “But of course, milady.” As the carriage slipped into the darkened portion of the street, Toby stepped out of an alley. Pediford saw a hulking shape blocking his way in the dark. “Oh, dear.” Instead of pulling on the reins to stop, Pediford continued forward. He shouted, “I say! You there! Move out of the way!” Toby hunched his shoulder and braced his legs for impact. He held out both arms, closed his eyes and looked away. The carriage drew closer. Pediford debated trying to go around the strange giant on the narrow darkened street, but there was little room. Besides, he thought, what if that was the bandit’s plan? “I’m warning you! Move over! I shall not be responsible for your demise!” The carriage continued at a stately pace, drawing closer to Toby. Pediford knew the cretin would feel nothing at the front of the carriage, where horses normally would be if were not for the magic. He had experimented himself, and there was truly nothing there. But, the carriage itself would make an impact. Pediford felt determined not to halt. This was how bandits worked, after all. They lured the unsuspecting into stopping, then pounced. Pediford made a snapping motion with the reins and sped up just before impact. The front of the carriage slapped against Toby’s open palms, but instead of knocking him down, it pushed the giant elf back on the street. His feet slid and he grappled for a foothold, scrambling and pushing back with powerful legs. The carriage slowed. Pediford stared down in the darkness at this giant creature impeding their progress. He snapped the reins again, urging the carriage to gain speed. But Toby had a foothold now. His shoulders and arm muscles bulged and he grunted. A paving stone lifted from the pressure on it, providing him with enough leverage to push back. The carriage ground to a halt. Tawny cast Fleet Foot and raced from the alley. Her movements blurred and she streaked to the back of the carriage. She climbed up to the top in a flash and reached for the boot, the chest traditionally strapped to the rear, only to find the handle locked. Tawny cast Open Chest and the lock clicked. She pulled it open and reached inside, grabbing a small moneybag. “It’s true! I can’t believe it, they really do keep money in here!” She jumped down to the street and said, “Toby! Let’s go!” Toby’s eyes were squeezed shut under the strain of holding the carriage in place, but when he heard his sister he opened them and smiled. He jumped off to one side, letting the carriage start moving again with a sharp jerk. Pediford rocked back in his seat at the sudden motion. Tawny grabbed Toby’s arm and said, “I’ve just learned how to extend the spell on another person. Let’s go!” Together they swished down the street, becoming a blur in the dark to Pediford. “I say!” A block away, the blur stopped. Thump! Thump! Tawny and Toby lay dazed on their backs, looking up at a narrow strip of dark sky visible between the buildings. Tawny groaned in pain then turned her head to glance at her brother. He looked back, slack-jawed and thoroughly stunned. They heard footsteps hurrying toward them. Tawny straightened and her heart jumped in her chest. Four city guards ran up, bronze chainmail rattling. They stopped, swords drawn, staring down at the elves. One of them said, “All the major intersections in the city’s center have anti-magic spells on them. It helps to stop things like Fleet Foot, Invisibility, and other tricks that thieves or robbers may use.” A clatter over the paving stones made everyone turn and watch as the magic carriage rolled up out of the gloom. From the driver’s seat, Pediford yelled down, “I say! Good job, city guards!” One of them reached down and plucked the moneybag out of Tawny’s hands. He said, “Is this yours?” The door to the carriage opened and the lady inside stepped out. The guards stared at her. One of them openly gaped. She wore a long maroon form-fitting gown, with a slit to her waist allowing one shapely leg to peek out when she walked. Curly chestnut hair cascaded down to the small of her back. Tawny thought this lady must surely be the most beautiful human she had ever seen. The lady studied Tawny intently, looking her up and down. Tawny stood and awkwardly brushed herself off while the guards gripped their sword hilts and puffed their chests out. She turned and gave her brother a hand up. Toby stood and slouched, looking very guilty while facing the guards. He towered above everybody else, even while hunched over. Tawny popped him in the side, and he straightened up, blinking. Then he turned to the lady in the maroon gown and gave her a silly grin. Much to Tawny’s surprise, the woman smiled back at him, after giving Toby a head to toe examination of his own. Finally, Lady Lexa turned to the guards, the smile growing wider on her face. She said, “Well, that depends. I thought I was going to be part of an exercise with new recruits for the Dungeon Corps tonight.” The guards blinked in surprise. So did Pediford who gave Lexa a very quizzical expression. One of them said, “We never heard of any such exercise, milady.” Lexa nodded confidently. She said, “Oh, you wouldn’t have. These things are usually kept quiet for obvious reasons. Now let’s see, how was it supposed to go? I believe the recruits were to try and stop the carriage somehow, then swipe our moneybag. Isn’t that correct, Pediford?” The servant frowned, still staring at her with a confused look. He blinked and said, “Um. Yes?” Lexa nodded again. “Yes. Then they were supposed to get away. However, in this last part, I believe we can all agree the recruits failed.” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot while looking at the elves. Tawny did not know where the Lady was going with this, but decided to play along. She crossed her own arms and said, “We didn’t know about the intersection spells.” “Ha! You should be ready for anything. If you think this was bad, you should see what’s down in those dungeons.” Lexa raised her eyebrows at the guards, as if imploring their support. Several nodded in response. “Oh, yes,” one said. “The dungeons are terrible. Especially the crypts.” Lexa turned suddenly for the carriage. She stopped halfway to the door. She said, “Very well. I think we’re done here. Pediford, retrieve our bag. Guards, could I please trouble you to make sure these recruits make it to Dungeon Corps? It’s not far from here, but I would hate for them to get lost in the dark. Something has happened to the lamps around here.” The guards straightened up, then bent at the waist knuckling their brows as Pediford closed the door behind Lexa and retrieved the bag. Tawny watched as the magical conveyance passed. She saw Lexa through the carriage’s windows, staring at them. Lexa gave her a smile, then the vehicle disappeared in the gloom. Tawny thought, What was that all about? As the carriage clattered away, the smiles on the guards’ faces melted. They stared hard at the elves. The one who spoke to Lexa looked up at Toby, then down at Tawny. He said, “Are you really part of Dungeon Corps?” Tawny said, “Uh . . . we’re trying to get in?” He came to a decision. He said, “Alright. I’ll take you there myself. The rest of you stay and keep an eye out. Hail the Mage Hall and fetch someone out here to relight those lamps. You two, follow me. I want to see you sign the parchment.” Tawny looked up at Toby and gulped, nervously. Toby just smiled back, seemingly happy regardless of circumstances. Must be nice, Tawny thought, and not for the first time. The Creator may not have blessed Toby with much in the way of brains, but he was truly the happiest person she knew. She said, “Come on, Toby. Let’s follow the man.”
Jaxon Reed is a science fiction and fantasy author. Amazon's Kindle Press selected his book, The Empathic Detective: A Mystery Thriller, for publication through Kindle Scout. Recently, Ghostsuit: An Empathic Detective Novel also won a contract through Kindle Scout.
Other recent books include Thieves and Wizards, an epic fantasy, and The Redwood Trilogy Box Set, a science fiction bundle.
Jaxon is an Aggie, living in Texas on a ranch with his wife and boys, several cats, and one pound dog.
To receive the latest updates on new releases and opportunities for free reader exclusives, please visit www.jaxonreed.com/free/
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