Authors: Montana Ash
Elemental Paladins: Book One
This is an IndieMosh book
brought to you by MoshPit Publishing
an imprint of Mosher’s Business Support Pty Ltd
PO BOX 147
Hazelbrook NSW 2779
Copyright 2015 © Montana Ash
All rights reserved
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author and publisher.
This story is entirely a work of fiction. No character in this story is taken from real life. Any resemblance to any person or persons living or dead is accidental and unintentional. The author, their agents and publishers cannot be held responsible for any claim otherwise and take no responsibility for any such coincidence.
To the man who gave me my writing genes …
To my crash test dummies, thank you!
The scars were extensive and obviously hard won. Evidence of years of abuse at the hands of meaty fists, drunks and straight-up pricks most likely. After all, wasn’t that always the way? Some of the lines were pale and flat and spoke of abuse long gone. Others were fresh and open still awaiting their endpoint from the healing process of time. She traced her fingers lightly over each dip and ridge but felt no pity at the number of silvery lines present. Instead, she found herself captivated by the evidence of such remarkable endurance. She had always found scars somewhat fascinating – a reflection of survival, resilience and courage – a testament to a purpose fulfilled. And although the pain of a fresh wound was always sharp, there was a comfort to be found in the healing.
The loud clang of a heavy bottomed glass hitting wood jolted her out of her inspection of the bar she was currently seated at. A thick palm also slapped the aged wood, leaving little doubt as to why the once rich cedar bar top was now riddled with all those charming scars. A garbled request for ‘another’ accompanied the hand-slap. He didn’t appear to need ‘another’ of anything remotely resembling alcohol, she thought to herself, eyeballing the ridiculously inebriated older man.
Christ! It was barely four in the afternoon!
So yeah, okay, maybe that was a little hypocritical, given she had been seated at the same bar for a little over an hour herself. But it hadn’t been the guarantee of bad booze and bad company that had lured her in. No, it had been necessity which had made her enter the very aptly named ‘Dave’s Dive’ that day. She had been on the road nearly two full weeks now and she was utterly and completely exhausted. The relentless stalking from her enemies was catching up with her and she just needed somewhere she could sit and relax for a while. It was a fairly sad comment on her life that Dave’s Dive was her salvation, but for some reason her foes always found it harder to detect her when she was in hell holes like this one. As gross as it sounded, she thought it had something to do with the smell. Cheap booze, sweaty men and stale cigarettes were apparently the perfect subterfuge.
She sighed miserably as she ate her last piece of chocolate. Okay, so maybe she didn’t drink her feelings, but she was pretty darn good at eating them! The tiny brown squares of sugary goodness never failed to give her a boost no matter the time of day or night. In fact, vending machines had become her best friend over the years, sometimes her only friend. And if that wasn’t the most depressing thought of the day, she didn’t know what was! She wasn’t normally such a gloomy person but she was finding it harder and harder to shake off the funk. She was just so tired. She couldn’t even vent to anyone, let alone trust anyone to actually help her. That road had been tried and tested countless times in the past and always led swiftly straight to nowhere. Well, almost straight to nowhere, she acknowledged. There were always stops along the way at fun places like hospitals, funerals and mental institutions. No, she had learned the hard way that it was better for all concerned for her to remain a lone wolf.
She was more than capable of protecting herself anyway; she had trained mercilessly over the years to ensure it. She was also normally quite strong minded, finding relief and escape in her books. But she was just so … fucking … tired! And on top of that, her tremors were getting worse. She knew what would follow if she didn’t get some down time and she couldn’t afford that. She just wished someone would walk up to her and say, “Hi, I’m here to help you.” But she was nothing if not a realist, so until that unicorn came along shooting rainbows and diamonds from its pristine white arse, she was doomed to content herself with such dens of marvel.
And what a marvel it was, she thought. In addition to old Drunky McDrunk next to her – who was now downing his fifth scotch in as many minutes – the bar currently accommodated a half a dozen other occupants. They were slouched in alarmingly similar poses and scattered around the rectangular room like half-dead insects. Every now and then one of them would twitch or startle awake, usually followed by the release of some grotesque noise or smell. They were all male. Small wonder she was single. For her own amusement, she speculated on which fine specimen of male wonder would break first and attempt to woo her with his magnetic charm. There were some things she could always count on.
“Getcha anythin’ else?” Ah, he speaketh! She snickered. Those three words from the bar tender made a total of five words out of his mouth the entire time she had been there. When she had first stumbled in and placed her battered bag on the hard wood floor, the bartender had asked, ‘Getcha anythin’?” At first, she could do no more than stare at the hairy monstrosity above the surprisingly clear blue eyes. It gave the term mono-brow a whole new meaning. She had to force herself to look away for she could swear the thing was actually moving! The large proprietor had lumbered behind the bar, polishing glassware that was already clean and wiping benches that already shone. Although his clientele were walking petri dishes, he obviously took pride in his establishment. She could respect that.
“No, thank you.” A grunt acknowledged her reply.
She watched in bemusement as the owner pulled out an entire clean tray of glasses and proceeded to polish one with a clean, soft cloth. She didn’t even bother to feign interest in the newest patron as they entered with a warm gust of wind, bringing in the fresh scents of the ocean. Oh, she loved that smell and couldn’t resist raising her face to feel the welcoming caress of the breeze against her cheek. It whispered to her in comfort, gifting her relief from her pity party. She whispered a heartfelt thank you in return and dipped her head in gratitude.
Presently, an odd tingle shot through her body. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant but it was disconcerting nonetheless. Aiming for subtle, she casually rotated on her stool in order to cast her eyes around the dimly lit space. She almost fell off the damn thing – so much for subtle! There was no way to disguise her reaction to the three men seated in the booth next to the door. Her jaw dropped and her eyes damn near popped out of her head. She dipped her chin to swipe it along her shoulder, praying there was no drool there. They were absolutely stunning in their masculinity; broad shoulders, muscled arms, strong fingers and chiselled jaws. What kind of magical pub had she stumbled into?
They made no move to come to the bar and were apparently talking quietly amongst themselves, but there was a stillness to them that wasn’t entirely natural. They were all dressed much the same in cargos, boots and causal tees and she wondered if they all belonged to the same military unit or something. They were alert without seeming to be and were all seated so they had a clear line of sight to the exit. She had chosen her seat for that exact purpose also. She had only to raise her eyes and she could see the exit clearly in the well-polished mirror behind the bar. She couldn’t really make out their individual hair colours under the dim, unnatural lights of the bar, but they all appeared dark. She loved dark hair. She was dying to see what colours their eyes were. Piercing blue? Deep brown? Intense green? She didn’t really care if she was being honest with herself. She already had enough material stored in her slap ‘n’ tickle vault to keep her fingers happy for many a lonely night!
Obviously, she had been lost in her lust-induced haze for too long as one of the walking fantasies suddenly turned his head and locked his gaze on her. She couldn’t hold back the gasp when those hazel eyes met her own. They were forceful and penetrating, apparently seeing all the way to her soul. The tingle from before now became a sizzle of awareness throughout her entire body. It should have been sexual, but somehow it wasn’t. Instead, it was almost like a recognition. But she hadn’t met this man before, had she? Surely she would have remembered. She found herself released from the strange pull when the inevitable occurred; a filthy hand landing on her shoulder.
Pushing the handsome trio from her thoughts for a moment, she eyed the brave soul who had undoubtedly strutted over in an attempt to get between her legs. Fuelled with his liquid courage he was predictably disgusting in a sweat stained singlet that had probably been white – three weeks ago. His hair was slicked to his bowl shaped head in a mess of grey and brown grease. Said hair continued over his shoulders and down his arms almost like a carpet, before ending abruptly at his knuckles. His belly protruded over his pants which were just as stained as the rest of him and she prayed it wasn’t bodily fluids.
“Hey there, gorgeous.”
She blinked. His voice! Now that voice of his far exceeded her expectations. It wasn’t the gravelly result of years of nicotine abuse, rather a lilting feminine alto. It was utterly absurd coming from such a brute and she felt herself smiling for the first time in days. Unfortunately, the pelt on two legs mistook her smile for encouragement, smiling in return and displaying a missing front tooth, he leaned in close;
“They call me Bounce.”
She blinked again. Bounce? Really? “Oh no! I’m really sorry!”
“What?” High level of confusion from the poor Bounce.
“I’m … sorry.” She repeated slowly, just to be helpful.
“Huh? Why are you sorry? That’s my name!”
level of confusion from the poor Bounce.
“Ah, wow. My apologies. I thought you were telling me a sad story.” She pasted on her best miserable puppy-dog look. The poor chap looked even more confused than before if that were possible and actually peered over the bar at the owner for aid. Mr Mono-brow kept right on shining as he stared back in pity. It was a few more seconds before;
Yep, there it is – light bulb!
She cheered silently.
“Why you little ...” He snarled as his hairy arms reached to grab her. She allowed herself a wasted second in order to roll her eyes over his predictability before expertly spinning out of his reach and side-stepping behind him. She had the furry idiot’s right arm chicken-winged all the way to his shoulder blade before he could even grunt. Kicking a foot behind his knee, she forced him to lose his balance but caught him a mere inch before his nose made surface with the scarred bar.
“That could’ve been your face ...” she hiked him up straight and pushed him away, “... but I guess today’s your birthday.” Pleased with her witty repertoire – she liked to mix it up every now and then – she didn’t count on the ape regaining his balance so quickly. He was surprisingly spry, latching onto her forearm and yanking her close enough she could smell the sour alcohol on his breath. A disturbance in the air warned her of movement by the door.