Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds series. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.
On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.
Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.
With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life. To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017
Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni
Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 3 – A Warrior Comes
THE GOLDEN Tricorn Ranch was in the foothills above a wide valley in the City State of Kenefic. named by the Irishmen and women who first came through the Portal and settled there. The GT had been originally owned by a family who had come through when the Portal had been discovered. They had died out, and the last of the family had sold it to Michael St. Vyr. St. Vyr had been a placer miner who had made his fortune placer mining in the hills above the Valley and who still maintained a substantial holding in a silver mine high up in the mountains along with some placer claims in the hills.
After buying the Golden Tricorn, St. Vyr, a canny man, put in wells, collected water in ponding basins, and diversified the shaggy cattle and goats that were the ranches traditional crops by adding orchards of fruit trees in the winter and nuts in the hot summer. He added a dairy farm and geese both of which were managed by his daughters.
After Michael had been shot, the family had converted a ground floor room into a bedroom. Once used as the library, it still smelled of leather bound books and the lemon and glycerin mixture Margo Alveraz used to polish the desk and tables. That smell was overlaid now by the scent of chamomile, camphor and bandages. They had moved St. Vyr here after the shooting and his once vigorous body lay wasting away in the four-poster bed that had replaced the overstuffed chairs and tables, but his mind was still as sharp as ever. According to the doctor, He would never walk again. He eyed the new wheeled chair, an ingenious affair brought by the doctor, malevolently. It was going to be his transportation from now on. A large chair body with the legs removed, had been placed between two bicycle wheels with a short axle connecting them. The chair moved when the wheels were turned by hand.
The woman who sat in the straight-backed chair looking down at her clasped hands bore little resemblance to her father. At twenty-four she couldn’t be considered a girl any longer—in fact by the standards of the pioneer society in which she lived, she was more properly considered a spinster; old enough to be on the marriage shelf while younger women passed her by. She was under medium height with a full, lush figure, fiery red hair and icy grey eyes. She should have been grateful for the marriage proposition her father had just presented to her. Instead, she regarded it with mixed feelings.
“Mind, I’m not forcing you girl. If you’ve got a fancy for someone else, why, I can put this to Iris as she’s the next oldest. But so far as I can see, you haven’t got anyone else in mind.”
‘No,” she retorted, “and there is no one else eligible either! At least no one I could stand to be married to.”
“Just so. The only really eligible bachelors around here aren’t fit to sire pigs—well except for Carlos Madonna and I think he’s got eyes for Iris.”
“And she for him—not that she would admit it. Very well, Papa. I will meet this Alexander McCaffey. If we agree we are suited, then I will marry him; but I won’t consent until after I meet him.”
He scowled at her. “You’re as red-headed stubborn as your mother, but I agree. Now go and tell those two with their ears glued to the door your decision. I’m tired.”
Dismissed, Bethany St. Vyr shut the door softly on the downstairs room. Her father had presented her with a problem she would have liked more time to come to terms with. Unfortunately, her two younger sisters were lying in wait for her in the hall. Iris was a tall, slim blond, blue-eyed with the patrician beauty she had received from her mother. Just now, she looked anxious. Jeanne, the youngest, was a tall, full-breasted beauty with a fierce expression who had inherited her mother’s honey colored hair and turquoise eyes. Jeanne looked ready for battle, the full lips thinned and her eyes snapped furiously.
“Well?” Iris whispered.
“Yes, what did the Doctor say?” demanded Jeanne at the same time.
“Come into the parlor,” Bethany gestured to the room across the hall.
Once inside the room Iris’s mother had designated the “ladies”’ parlor”, she shut the door and sat in one of the overstuffed chairs. She waited until her sisters had taken seats before she answered.
“The paralysis is permanent. The Doctor is sure, but that wasn’t what Papa wanted to talk about.”
Iris covered her face with her hands. Jeanne sent her a half-contemptuous look at what she considered an over-reaction. None of the girls had ever been close to their father. He had sent them all east to be raised by his mother after his last wife, Jeanne’s mother had died in childbirth. Michel St. Vyr hadn’t had good luck with his wives. All three had died on him, leaving him with daughters and no son to take over for him. It was true he had come to rescue them when Copper City where they were living was taken over by a rival gang faction, but none of them had spent time here on the ranch since the oldest, Bethany had been ten years old.
“Then he wanted to talk about the ranch,” Iris stated. “Who is going to take over handling the railroad holdings, and running the ranch and the mines?” the practical Jeanne asked. “Us?”
Bethany shrugged. “For the time being Papa is going to continue to run things from his chair— ”
“What about the Johnsons? Isn’t he afraid they are going to take advantage? After all, we know one of them shot him from ambush, probably that horrible Abner, even if we can’t prove it…”
“Well, as I started to say, Papa has a plan for that. It involves all of us. It is pretty much the same plan he told us about when we first came home— ”
“I’ll not be a sacrificial goat! He’s not marrying me off to some old man!” Jeanne exploded.
“If you don’t marry someone how do you expect to live if we lose the ranch and the mine to the Johnsons? Go to work as a cowhand?” Iris asked. “If we returned to Earth we would have nothing and probably be put in jail. Here at least we have money and land. If we allow it to be taken from us, how will we support ourselves? I mean the railroad practically runs itself and we get some revenue from the shares, but— ”
Jeanne jumped to her feet. “I can run the ranch!”
Bethany shook her head. “While I agree that you could do that under ordinary circumstances, that isn’t the case right now. What do you or any of us for that matter, know about fighting a takeover like this? Jeanne, you know as well as I do, that the men won’t obey you if we must fight the Johnsons. No, Papa says we need a warrior to defend the ranch. A male warrior that the men will follow. In fact, he’s already sent for him.”
“What about Carlos?” objected Iris. “He would help us.”
Bethany shrugged. “He says Carlos has too much to do defending the Lucky Strike and the gold claims. Apparently, there is trouble there too.”
Jeanne took a deep breath for another blast, but Bethany cut her off. “In any case Jeanne, you aren’t going to be the ‘goat’, I am.”
Her sister deflated like a wet pig’s bladder and sank back into her chair. “You? But that isn’t fair to you either— ”
“What if he’s horrible?” whispered Iris.
“Papa isn’t forcing me,” replied Bethany mildly. “He did say that Alec McCaffey is young with an established investigator business and he has resolved situations like this before, so he will have the experience to take over the fight. If he is good enough, maybe the two of you won’t have to marry to save the ranch and the mines. I do have the right to refuse if we can’t stand each other.”
“Honey, we can’t ask you to do this,” protested Iris faintly.
“That’s right!” Jeanne seconded.
She smiled at them. “Do you know I love you both?” Bethany held out her arms and enfolded them in a tight embrace. “This is the best way. If we want this man to take up our fight, we must offer him something substantial, and to safeguard our ownership of the holdings, he must be bound to us. According to both Gran and Papa, the best way to do it is through a marriage to one of us. Kids, I’m the eldest. This is my job. We all know what happens to women who don’t have money or a way to support themselves. You remember what it was like for the Jones women after that Smith gang ran the Joneses out of Copper City. I won’t let that happen to you, and I won’t do it myself.”
Bethany didn’t get any time to herself until after dinner when she managed to slip away from her anxious sisters into the inner courtyard of the house. Bethany had always loved this space. It was so quiet here. The home ranch house was an l-shaped, two-story structure made of fired mud bricks built around a center courtyard with high brick walls of the same material forming the other two sides of the square. Arched wooden gates on the two the high walls not a part of the house, opened to the stables, dairy barn and geese cote, which in turn gave access to the land outside the walls. The high walls with their narrow openings had provided defense against attacks by outlaws in earlier years. Now the courtyard provided shaded benches under fruit trees and flowering plants with luxurious scents. It was too early for the fruit to be ripe, but hard little green balls were already beginning to make fruit. Grans flowers made splashes of bright color against the whitewashed walls. A brick pond with colorful fish, surrounded by raised flower beds was attached to the shaded well in the center of the flagstone courtyard. Razor, her grandmother’s green striped Bobcat, yawned and stretched from his perch atop the wall enclosing the well. Dubbed Bobcats by the settlers who first saw them, The Bobcats of St. Antoni were about twenty pounds and They had short, stripped fur in various colors. Mostly Razor hunted the large rats and mice attracted by the grains kept in the barns.
The setting sun had already gone behind the building, creating a shaded oasis from the late summer heat, but Bethany’s white blouse clung damply to her body. A faint rustle of clothing caught her ear. She was not quite alone then. “It’s alright, Gran,” she said.
Her father’s mother came forward and sat beside her on the bench, stroking Razor’s tufted ears when he leaped down to join them. How did Gran always manage to look so cool, Bethany wondered. Giselle St. Vyr still managed not to look wilted in her fashionable, long sleeved blue blouse and trousers.
“I thought you might want to talk about it,” her grandmother’s voice was soft. “I think I met him once you know.”
Bethany turned her head. “Really? What was he like?”
“Very presentable actually. I could tell someone had taught him manners. Oh, not the kind you sometimes see out here, but true Gentleman’s manners. He had rescued a kitten from some boys who were tormenting it,” she added inconsequently before she patted her granddaughter’s hand and went back into the house.
Her emotions a wildly teetering turmoil of hope and fear, Bethany continued to sit there in the growing darkness until it was time to retire to bed. Her prospective bridegroom rescued kittens and shot people. It was quite a combination.