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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Missan waved her hand gently in front of her group and ghostly runes floated in the air, suddenly visible. They formed a pattern in the narrowest part of the hall facing them, obstacle wraiths promising death for those touching them.
Missan carefully walked between the runes, making certain her dark purple robe and hood did not touch any.
She turned when she made it to the other side, and waited for her team. Jeffers the ranger came next, easily walking between the traps. He was followed by Deena, their archer and cleric.
Dratchet the half-dwarf was clumsiest, for all his abilities with a battle-axe. Everyone held their breath while he worked his way laboriously through the traps.
Finally Choster walked through, after giving a final look back at the passage they had just passed.
Choster was a vampire, and a swordmaster. Many Dungeon Corps groups shunned his kind, but Missan and the others accepted him. He had saved them more than once with his unique set of skills
Choster jumped into high speed and blurred through the traps in the blink of an eye.
Missan said, “Someday I need you to teach me how to do that, Choster.”
He smiled at her, fangs showing between his pale red lips.
He said, “You know my price.”
She shuddered involuntarily, then turned to lead the way forward as the passageway grew wider.
Deena sidled up next to her and confided in a low voice.
“He doesn’t take much blood. He just likes a sip to see what you taste like.”
Missan shuddered again. She said, “Was it worth it for what he taught you?”
The other woman nodded firmly.
“Yes. It’s a different kind of invisibility. It’s like . . . becoming a shadow. You merge into the surrounding darkness. And it’s undetectable by other mages who are on the lookout for Invisibility.”
Missan grunted in acknowledgment. The Shadow spell did sound interesting, and useful. But she really wanted Choster’s quickness spell. What did he call it? Enhanced Motion? Whatever it was, he had assured her she had the capability to learn it. All he asked in return was a taste of her blood. So far, her revulsion had kept her from acquiescing to his deal. But when he showed it off in front of her, it seemed so useful. She had to admit, she was tempted.
They came to set of large double doors. They were at least 12 feet tall and half again as wide. Two large brass rings nestled together in the center.
Missan and Choster exchanged glances. He raised a dark eyebrow at her, questioning.
She said, “Wait. Let me see if I can sense anything, first.”
Dratchet moved to her right and pulled his axe from the sling on his back. He bent his knees, crouching into a fighting position.
Choster moved to her left and held his palms out, preparing a defensive spell. Jeffers pulled out his enchanted sword, activating a group shield, while Deena stayed in the back, preparing a healing spell for all of them.
The simple act of “looking” into a room could trigger a variety of traps, alert monsters or let enemies know of their presence.
But Missan’s group had fought together for years with the Dungeon Corps. Choster was the newest member, and he had been with them several months. The team moved smoothly, anticipating one another’s actions.
Missan held her hands out and cast the spell while the others tensed. If whatever was behind the door could detect the spell, it might well burst through and attack.
Missan said, “I sense . . . a large room, 1000 feet square. Tall ceiling, 30 feet high. Several corridors branching off in other directions. And in the center of the room . . . a little boy?”
Deena frowned behind her, her protection spell forgotten.
She said, “A little boy? Are you sure?”
Missan nodded, concentrating. She said, “He seems . . . he seems to be waiting for us. He’s looking right at the door.”
“What in the world is a little boy doing down here?” Jeffers said, turning his scarred face toward her. “Is he human? Elven?”
“He’s human. I don’t know what he’s doing here. It doesn’t make sense. This is a newly discovered dungeon, there shouldn’t be anybody here, much less children.”
“He’s a gheist,” Dratchet said, confidently. He set the huge axe on the floor head first, holding the handle’s end lightly.
Missan shook her head. “I don’t sense a spirit. This is a boy. In the flesh.”
Choster said, “I’ll go take a look.”
Before anyone could object he turned into black mist and quickly flowed to the floor, then under the doors.
The other four looked at one another. Dratchet picked up his axe again and the spell casters resumed preparing to cast.
The doors opened suddenly, screeching on unoiled hinges, making them jump. Choster smiled at them, flashing his fangs.
“Come on in. It’s safe, I think.”
They approached the door with trepidation. Inside, in the center of the large room, a young boy of perhaps ten or eleven years of age stared at them. He wore bronze chainmail that had been made for dwarves, and carried a shield painted green with a white boss in the middle. At his side he carried a steel short sword.
The Dungeon Corps team looked at him in astonishment.
Jeffers said, “I did not expect him to be armed.”
“Who are you?” Deena said.
Missan said, “What are you doing here?”
The little boy addressed them, showing not an ounce of fear or concern.
He said, “I’m looking for the Prince. Have you seen him?”
Missan and Deena looked at one another in confusion.
Missan said, “This is not one of Prince Synthan’s Children Soldiers . . . is it?”
“Can’t be,” Deena said. “That was fifty years ago.”
“He’s a gheist,” Dratchet said.
Deena glared at him and said, “Will you quit saying that?”
“Please,” the little boy said. “If you’ll tell me where the Prince is, I need to find my way back to him. I’m . . . I’m lost down here.”
Missan said, “Are you looking for . . . Prince Synthan?”
He nodded, his eyes lighting up.
“Yes! Have you seen him? Do you know where he is?”
Everyone on the team looked troubled now, even Choster.
Jeffers said, “Could it be a sleep spell of some kind? Kept the lad dormant down here all these years?”
Missan said, “We’re not even near Melody. It’s 30 miles from here!”
Choster said, “There’s a vast network of tunnels and caves underneath the sunken city of Melody. I’ve heard about it. Several teams have tried exploring parts of it. No one has ever been through it all. They
say deep below, an underground river flows. It’s entirely possible this dungeon is connected with Melody Hall.”
“That would certainly explain why he’s lost,” Deena said. “But it doesn’t account for the fact that the Children Soldiers went down into Melody Hall with the Prince five decades ago.”
Dratchet spat to one side and said, “Still say he’s a gheist.”
“Will you shut up?”
Jeffers interrupted the brewing row between Deena and Dratchet. He said, “Somebody needs to tell him,” nodding toward the boy who remained in the middle of the room, watching them.
Missan sighed and said, “I’ll do it.”
She walked slowly toward the room’s middle, drawing nearer to the boy. He stared at her now, giving her his full attention. She stopped a few paces away.
“Hi. Uh, yeah. So, Prince Synthan is dead. He, uh . . . he died a long time ago.”
The boy’s mouth dropped open in shock. Then his eyes narrowed to slits.
“No. No, I’m not. It happened a long, long time ago. Prince Synthan was killed in Melody and—”
The boy’s voice changed, growing deeper and echoing throughout the chamber. His body changed, too, swelling larger. White, aethereal arms sprouted out of the body, along with a monstrous head.
Dratchet yelled, “I believe I’m owed an apology!”
Deena said, “Shut up, Dratchet! Everyone, ready!”
“I’ve never seen a gheist like this, though,” Choster said.
The thing attacked. Its white ghostly arms swept toward Dratchet, his axe swinging and connecting with . . . nothing. But when the long pale arms reached Dratchet’s flesh, his spirit ripped out of his body.
Deena saw the half-dwarf’s spirit struggling to pull up, then something sucked it down to the floor. She watched in horror as his ghostly hands slipped below the surface.
She lit up her protective dome and ducked as one of the huge white arms swung through the spell, disintegrating it. Deena jumped out of the way and nocked an arrow, loosed, then nocked and loosed another one. The arrows sailed through the aethereal form.
She took careful aim with her third arrow and loosed it at the boy’s face. It poofed into dust before hitting him.
Missan fired Lightning at the boy, then Fireball and Radiance. Nothing happened. The aethereal figure surrounding the child seemed to soak in all the spells.
Jeffers ran forward with his enchanted sword and swung at one of the large arms. His sword whiffed through air. The arm came back and slapped him in the chest, sucking out his spirit. His lifeless body fell to the ground.
“Choster! Nothing is working!”
Choster heard Missan, but he was too busy flitting around the child and the aethereal form, trying to score a hit. One of the ghostly armed slapped into him, and Choster popped away like a bubble.
Missan backed up, lobbing spell after spell into the monster. Nothing she could think to sling at him had any effect. Deena cast a protective dome around them again, but the huge arms poked through it. She cast a healing spell on Missan, even though the woman did not need one . . . yet.
Missan said, “Go.”
“What? I can’t leave you! At least come with me. We can run for it!”
They retreated to the huge double doors. The little boy in chain mail advanced on them, his face snarling in hate. The giant ghostly body loomed out of him, long white arms swinging toward the women.
“He’ll chase us. You go. I’ll give you some time.”
Missan flung more spells at the creature. Deena opened her mouth to protest and watched as the spells were simply absorbed by . . . whatever that was.
She turned and fled through the doors. At the chokepoint she felt very grateful that Missan’s spells still displayed the hidden runes floating in the air. She quickly but carefully weaved her way through them. Behind her she heard Missan scream . . . then silence.
Deena stopped to catch her breath. She looked behind her and heard the boy moving out of the doors and into the corridor.
She turned to run, then stopped to cast a message spell.
“Dungeon Corps, this is Deena Marceaux with Sergeant Missan’s team. We have found one of the Children, but he’s a monster! He—”
She looked behind her and . . . there he stood. A little boy looking up at her.
He said, “Boo.”
The ghostly form sprang from the child, huge arms reaching toward her like scythes. It sucked her spirit out of her body.
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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