Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds Serials. 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
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MICHAEL ST.VYR assembled his riders at dawn the next morning. St. Vyr had already mounted Redbird With the help of Stevens, the out of work miner he had hired to help him with mobility issues. He looked over his hands from the back of his red-striped tricorn.
McCaffey wasn’t yet mounted because unless he was mistaken, he was going to have to take on a couple of challenges from the hands before they left this morning. For the most part, the ranch hands were young; the life they led on St. Antoni was a young man’s game. All of them wore guns; some McCaffey knew, would even be good with them. Three or four of them wore the wide sombreros, short jackets and big spurs marking them as vaqueros. They all eyed McCaffey suspiciously. He was on trial and he knew it.
“Boys, this here’s Alec McCaffey. He and my daughter Bethany are going to be getting married come Sunday. You’re all invited to the wedding of course. In the meantime, McCaffey here is going to be leading you against Johnson in my place. Any questions?”
“Yeah, I got a question—who the Hell are you?” The speaker was a tall, strapping redhead.
“I’m the man who’s going to lead you. Any questions?”
The redhead spat out a chaw of the flax seed some of the men chewed instead of tobacco. “I hear you’re a gunfighter. I bet you ain’t so tough without that gun.”
McCaffey unbuckled his gun and handed it to St. Vyr. “I’m not wearing my gun now. Still think I’m not so tough?”
With a grin of pure joy, the redhead came in swinging. McCaffey ducked under the strike and hit his opponent in the belly with a hard left. Red gave a grunt of pain and swung again with his right. McCaffey caught the fist at the end of the swing and busted Red over his hip into the dirt. Red sat there shaking his head to clear it until he realized the laughter and catcalls he heard were directed at him.
Mad now, he came up off the ground in a rush, intending to wrestle the smaller man to the ground where he could maul him properly. McCaffey ducked under Red’s flailing arms and delivered a hard uppercut to the chin. Red went down and stayed down.
A bucket of water from the tricorn trough restored him enough to hear McCaffey asking if anyone else had questions. No one had any questions. Red worked his jaw gingerly to make sure it still functioned before he spoke. “Well, I guess you are pretty tough without your gun.”
“Now that’s settled,” St. Vyr said briskly, “we got some range grabbers to run off out at Ruby Canyon line camp. Mount up.”
They headed south along the foothills towards Ruby Canyon. The spring at Ruby Canyon had been part of the Velasquez Ranchero that St. Vyr had renamed the Golden Tricorn when he had purchased the place more than thirty years ago.
Of course, the fact that St. Vyr legally owned title to the land didn’t mean he could keep it unless he could defend it. Three weeks ago, Johnson hands had moved a small herd of cattle into the canyon, driving out any Golden Tricorn beasts they could find, and taking over the line shack.
McCaffey had seen the place on the map in St. Vyr’s study, now he dismounted and walked forward examining the location in person. The line cabin had been designed to repel raiders looking to steal whatever they could find. The cabin was set too close to the sheer walls of the canyon to be attacked from that side, and the broadleaf trees surrounding it had all been cleared, giving the hut a good view of the circling area. Like many buildings on St. Antoni, it was made of clay bricks so it wouldn’t burn easily. A thin trail of smoke wafted skyward from the chimney. McCaffey looked up at the angle of the sun thoughtfully.
“We’ll wait until dusk,” he said. “Everyone take a break and clean your guns. Red, you can have the first watch.”
It was cool under the trees. The soft carpet of leaves made no sound as the men moved around. McCaffey and Stevens helped St. Vyr down from the saddle, steadying the older man as he sank down against a tree.
“You making it alright?”
St. Vyr grimaced. “Bottle’s in my saddlebag.”
McCaffey fetched the brandy for him and waited in silence while he drank it. After a few minutes, St. Vyr let out a long sigh.
“You did good with the men this morning. If you can do as well with Bethany, I’ll be able to die a happy man.”
McCaffey made a rude noise. “You’re too mean and cantankerous to die, St. Vyr.”
The older man smiled mirthlessly. “That’s a lie, but thanks anyway son. Suppose you tell me what you’ve got in mind for this evening?”
It wasn’t too hard to sneak up the cabin in the dark. The three men Johnson had left to guard the cattle were so sure St. Vyr was too crippled up to mount an assault on them that they hadn’t posted a guard. McCaffey, Red and a big handsome vaquero named Durango stood on each other’s shoulders and threw a blanket over the top of the chimney.
About five minutes later, three would-be land grabbers came staggering out the door, their eyes streaming from the smoke, coughing and spitting to be confronted by the Golden Tricorn riders. It was no contest. Even three very tough men, and these men were tough, were too smart to offer resistance when confronted by twelve armed men just spoiling for a fight.
“You reckon we should hang them?” inquired Red innocently. “I hear that’s what they do to cattle thieves down south.”
“We didn’t steal no cattle!” one of the men protested. “Those steers are legal! And we work for the man what owns them!”
“You know, Amigo,” Miguel remarked, “Maybe they are right. I think they are trespassers. Maybe we should tie them on the cattle and send them all back to the owner?”
All three men were patently horrified. It was obvious being tied to a wild cow was not their favorite form of entertainment.
McCaffey let this rough joshing of the prisoners go on until St. Vyr joined them. An involuntary silence fell. St. Vyr’s men were waiting for his judgement; the three hired guns were awed despite themselves. There was something about that tired, crippled old man that inspired fear.
St. Vyr sat his tricorn, his big hands resting on the saddle horn. “Reckon you boys haven’t met my new son-in-law. Come say hello, McCaffey.”
McCaffey stepped into the light cast by the oil lamp from the open door of the cabin. He ignored the three captives. “I’ve been listening to a lot of interesting suggestions about what to do with these three, St. Vyr. While I enjoyed the ideas, I think we ought to be proper law-abiding citizens and haul these three gentlemen (and I use the term loosely, very loosely) into town and charge them with trespass. Them and their boss.”
St. Vyr laughed out loud. “Son, you got an evil mind. Did you know Representative Lancer is coming to River Crossing next week? I heard Johnson is trying to get in good with him.”
One of the captives suddenly peered at McCaffey. “Hey, ain’t you Alec McCaffey?”
“Some people call me that.”
“How come he called you his son-in-law?”
“Cause he’s marrying my daughter Bethany come Sunday,” St. Vyr announced with satisfaction.
One of the men looked at McCaffey. “I’d sure hate to be in your shoes when Emery Johnson hears about that. He’s done got that little filly picked out for himself.”
McCaffey backhanded the man across the face, knocking him down. “That’s Miss St. Vyr to you. If I hear you refer to my future wife in such a disrespectful manner again, I’ll put a bullet where your mouth is. Understand?”
“Geeze, you’re touchy! Sure, I understand,” the prone man said hastily.