The Mountain King

Dragon, Stone & Steam #1

Renege on a deal with a Dragon Lord, and become part of his hoarde.

It wasn’t easy raising three girls with Fae blood in the Outlands. If Kailigh wasn’t busy chasing them out of the local taverns, she was busy teaching them to hunt, shoot and kill- to fight against flesh traffickers from the Cities, prowling town for girls to send to rich patrons.

And now, with the youngest shot and fighting for her life, Kailigh has no choice but to petition for the help of the Dragon Lord Maddugh, King of Coal and Mountain.

Only he’s no fool- he knows right away Kai isn’t quite human. And three girls of courting age? He’s not about to let them slip through his fingers when his men are wanting for mates with even a drop of magical blood. So she’ll have to strike a bargain. He’ll save her daughter’s life, and help her hunt the man responsible, but he has a price.

A price he demands Kailigh pay in flesh.

The Mountain King is Emma Alisyn’s first dragon shifter urban fantasy romance, set several hundred years after a nuclear war on Earth. For readers who enjoy the following genres:

  • Urban Fantasy Romance
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Futuristic, dystopian, alternative history or post apocalyptic romance
  • Futuristic Steampunk

Mountain King has a heat level of 3-4 (one to two intimate scenes with softer language.) Readers who enjoy titles from Emma’s favorite authors like May Sage and Grace Draven will enjoy Mountain King.

For fast paced, romantic tension in a unique setting, download now.

CHAPTER ONE

Kailigh’s youngest daughter was only seventeen. Cinvarra’s dark curls lay limp and lackluster against her damp pillow, face deathly pale, a gray cast to usually golden brown skin, lips shriveled despite attempts to keep fluids in her. A flesh wound that should have healed cleanly was killing her. Once again, Kailigh questioned the decision to remain single all these years. If there’d been a man in the house, he could have stayed with the girls while Kai grabbed her flintlock and blades and hunted the vermin who shot Cin during the kidnap attempt.

Goddamn Ruthus Adjrius. He’d gone too far this time.

Kailigh stared at Doc as he rose from his crouch by the girl’s bedside, shaking his head. He took off the magnifying goggles he used along with tweezers to pick the bullet out of the wound. At least it had been the old—fashioned ammunition, and not a vaporizer, one of the deadliest accurate rifles that shot streams of deadly steam at scorching hot temperatures. Shooters wore special insulated leather gloves to protect themselves from the heated hand-holds—anyone who picked up a fully charged rifle with bare hands lost their skin down to the bone.

Her jaw, already sore from clenching, loosened in preparation to blast the man. She’d paid him to heal her daughter—paid in good garden fresh produce and a bag of coal he could trade for hard currency.

“I can’t help her,” he said. Kailigh’s fingers itched to smack him. Her eldest daughter, the silent one, stirred in response to her mother’s temper.

Kailigh glanced at her, forestalling any violence, then focused on Doc. “I paid you to help her. Why can’t you help her?”

“Listen, Kai, we’re in the Outlands here. If it were two hundred years ago, we’d have a nice sterile office with pretty wallpaper and I could just give her a dose of antibiotics and call it a day—but we just don’t have the medicines anymore for this kind of thing. Her blood is poisoned and it’s affecting her heart. If you could get clearance to take her to a City…”

Yeah, right. The Dome enclosed cities were remnants of the days before a thin haired moron started a nuclear world war, and the inhabitants protected their enclaves zealously. Outsiders were thoroughly vetted, and usually only permitted entrance if they were selling something some rich person wanted. They wouldn’t care about providing advanced medical care to an Outland girl. Especially when she was… different.

But Kailigh hadn’t spent seventeen years raising the girl, training her, threatening every man and no few women with death who looked at her, for Cinvarra to perish from a simple gunshot wound. They hadn’t cleared out of town fast enough once they’d sighted the airbus signaling flesh traffickers were coming. Kailigh had produce left to sell, a weekly quota to meet in order to make her quarterly budget for goods she and the girls couldn’t make or barter for here in town. So they’d waited till the last minute, when Kailigh had known better, and just hoped he wasn’t on board this run.

Goddamnit.

Kailigh closed her eyes, taking a deep, calming breath. “So, I’m supposed to just wait for her to die?”

“Go to Lord Maddugh. He can help her.”

Her eyes snapped open and narrowed on him, instantly aware of his queer tone. “How is that arrogant son of a Fire Dwyrkin supposed to help her?”

Doc frowned. “I don’t understand why you dislike the man, especially since he’s responsible for feeding most of the families around here. Knowing you, I’m sure he hasn’t done anything to earn it.”

Her mouth thinned. No, he hadn’t. But he was rich, powerful, and he controlled the coal mines. And he wasn’t human. The Dwyrkin weren’t all that bad—shifters yanked into this world when the War ripped a hole through the veils between dimensions… or whatever it was. The whole concept gave her a headache. Most of them kept to their small, scattered enclaves. Wolves, pointy eared bastards, stone men with wings, and… dragons. Like Maddugh and his people.

She’d dealt with his human foremen the last twenty years, keeping them at bay, and away from her daughters as they matured into young women. After she’d kicked her ex-husband out on his useless, philandering ass, they’d spent a harrowing year establishing that no, the lack of a male presence in their household didn’t make them prey. A few people had died. She’d even returned some of the bodies to the families. So maybe she just had issues in general, but still—the fire breathing serpent walked like he was a controlling prick, and that was enough for Kai. She’d managed to keep her daughters out of his sight all this time—and now Doc was saying she should just waltz up to the man and ask him for help? And what would the cost of that be?

Nothing was ever free. Goddamnit. For once in her goddamn life, why couldn’t help be free?

“Again, how do you think he can help her? Does he have a store of ancient antibiotics? Some arcane herbal medicine he can give her? Maybe his sheer loveliness will rouse her from her deathbed? Oh, I know! A kiss from a Lord, like in the old tales, will wake the sleeping beauty.”

Her voice cracked on the last few words. Wake the sleeping beauty—except this was no fairy tale. As beautiful as her daughters were—and her youngest outshone the two eldest by threefold—beauty was nothing but a curse in this mountain mining town. Too many men, too few women. But after years of searching when she was a young woman, Kailigh had settled here for good or ill. At least she’d been able to build a cottage, clear an acre of land and use her skills with plants to grow some of the best food for miles around. Food she protected as rabidly as her children—down the barrel of a lovingly maintained shotgun. An antique, the kind of bullets that didn’t cauterize a wound on entry. No, these bullets were meant to fester, to kill inhumanely.

She stared at the gold damask wallpaper, purchased dearly and hung with her own hands, eyes tracing the patterns until she was calm again.

Doc’s expression set as he gathered the few obsolete medical instruments which he owned and painstakingly cared for. He might be limited in what he could do, but he wasn’t a hack or a snake oil herbalist. She trusted that if he said the Dwyrkin Lord was her only option, then it was. But he probably didn’t appreciate her sarcasm any more than any other man would, even though he was a healer and not a warrior.

“Go or not, that’s on you,” he replied brusquely. “Serephone, try to talk some sense into your mother before your sister is dead. If you can’t go to the man who drives the economy of this entire town, then you can’t go to anyone.”

Sere said nothing, but then no one had expected her to. Kailigh realized it was time for Serephone’s twin, Persia, to be home. She’d stayed behind in town as a lookout while Serephone and Kailigh brought Cin home and fetched the doctor.

She turned to Sere after Doc left. “I’m going to see what’s taking Persia so long.” She wouldn’t admit to worry. Persia knew how to stay out of sight, and she’d had orders not to engage, just to cover their retreat in the commotion of the gunfight. Kai hoped they wouldn’t get a visit from the constable soon.

Serephone nodded, jaw tight. Probably angry she couldn’t go, too, but someone had to stay with Cin.

* * *

The deep pockets of Kailigh’s denim skirt held several little surprises Serephone had tinkered with over the years. That girl was damned handy with her tools, and had the ability to go into deep focus at the blink of an eye. Sometimes Kai wondered if her daughter was entirely sane, or if it was just a manifestation of leftover poison in the air.

She went through a quick check of her main rifle, ensuring it was loaded and that the telescope mechanism was functioning. The tiny pockets of her leather corset vest held emergency medical supplies. A disinfectant strip, needle and thread, makeshift tourniquet to staunch blood. Her aurapiece hadn’t been shattered in the fight, which was a blessing. Listening enhancements were hard to come by, and even Serephone couldn’t make something out of nothing.

Satisfied, Kailigh threw a short cape over her leather vest to hide the flintlock, smashed her wide brimmed hat over her head to help shadow her face once in town. She saddled her horse and was half way to town when a figure dropped out of the trees several meters in front of her. It was night, and the figure was slim, but Kai recognized the sure stride, relief welling. She slowed to a walk and then pulled up alongside her daughter, and dismounted.

“Here, take Horse home, I’m going back to town.”

She needed to talk to the constable before the traffickers paid him off, and she needed to know the whereabouts of her enemy. Today was the last straw—they were now at open war.

“Ma, don’t do anything crazy.”

She snorted, handing the reins to her second-eldest daughter and then patting Horse’s rump. It was evidence of Persia’s worry over Cinvarra that she didn’t argue with Kai, she just left. Well, worry and exhaustion. This life wore on the girls. Their eyes were too grim, even lavender eyed Cinvarra, the happiest of them all.

Kailigh jogged into town, staying off the path under the cover of the forest, avoiding buildings where lights were bright and patrons who spilled out onto the streets. It was a mining town, catering mostly to single men and a few families who’d settled here because the work was steady, if grueling. And steady work in the Outlands was hard to come by, if one weren’t a homesteader. One could make a decent living foraging ruins for scrap metal and tech, but the gear needed to protect a person from residual radiation and super bugs was expensive. Not to mention the requirement to carry one’s own water and filtration system, collapsible night time barriers to keep trouble and critters away… she grimaced. She’d tried it for all of six months when she’d been younger. The third time she’d almost died, she’d thrown in the towel. Some people were cut out for that life—Kailigh wasn’t.

Avoiding Stella’s, the saloon her arch nemesis preferred to frequent, and keeping an eye out for his men, Kailigh made her way through back alleys to the constable’s office, and rapped on the back door.

Constable Hatcher opened it immediately. A lean man with a hard face, hair cropped short to fit under the tall, rounded cap with the emblem of his office. “Get inside, Kai, hurry up.”

His tone of voice told her two things. One, he was aware she was in danger, and two, he wouldn’t arrest her unless she made him.

“Sorry,” she said.

Hatcher swore, lowering the setting of the single gas lamp of his scuffed iron desk. “You know Stella wants me to make you pay for damages, right?” he demanded. “What the hell was Cin doing in there, anyway? She’s not of age!”

Yeah, and Kai would lay into the girl when she was awake. “She’s dying,” Kai said, voice soft. “Lesson learned, I think.”

He stilled. “Ah, shit, Kai. Anything I can do?”

She shook her head. She’d ignored an offer of marriage from him years ago. Didn’t want his help then, didn’t want it now. Not that he was a bad man, but Kai knew she was stubborn and hell to live with. But she was tired, and getting too old to keep turning away help because she wanted to prove she could do it on her own. The old anger was wearing on her.

“I need permission to go to war. I need you to look the other way. Ruthus Adjrius has gone too far. How many girls have gone missing over the years?”

He didn’t say anything for a long moment, then sighed. “These fucking traffickers. They have backing in the Cities. Seattle is the worst.”

“Something made him decide today was the day. He’s been watching Cin for three years now, but never did anything. I thought he figured it wasn’t worth getting shot.”

“More manpower now.”

Which made all the difference. Kai was one woman with three daughters. But when Ruthus emerged from the airbus today, it was with a shiny new suit complete with fancy engraved sheathe for a rapier, and double his usual guard. He’d found financing. She’d watched from her produce stand as townspeople gathered, waiting on goods and loved ones to disembark. It burned a hole in her gut that flesh traffickers used the innocuous exterior to hide their dirty business. Some unsuspecting mother could be lingering near a vendor perusing cloth or candy and have her young daughter targeted for ‘recruitment’. The bolder traffickers would try to follow a girl home and snatch her right before the bus was due to leave—the mother none the wiser. But longtime residents knew. And watched.

“You make this fight quick, and you keep bystanders out of it, Kai.” He pointed a finger at her. “And if anyone files a formal complaint, I’ll have to arrest you.”

Who would? No one had taken on Ruthus because of the possible repercussions. Who wanted their home or business firebombed one dark night? But she wouldn’t live in fear of the airbus anymore.

But it wasn’t only her town, and the Dwyrkin Lord would have to do something about the mess, too.

“I’ll get backup,” she said aloud. “Just wanted to give you a heads up.”

“Kai,” he said as she opened the back door.

Kailigh paused with her hand on the knob. “Yeah?”

“You know it’s not really my permission you need, right? I don’t own this town.”

No. Goddamnit. Seemed like everything kept circling back to Lord Maddugh. She nodded once, grim, and left.