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This Is My Land – Warriors of St. Antoni chapter 8

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

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 8 This Is My Land  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

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.

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Hellcat – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 7

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

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 7 Hellcat  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

BETHANY accepted Alec’s edict of not leaving the ranch without an escort the following morning with good grace.  Jeanne was furious.  Since it had been left to Bethany to impart this good news, her father and McCaffey having retreated to the den to look at maps, Jeanne’s wrath was directed at her sister.

“Jeanne be sensible,” Bethany begged.  “It’s not forever, only until—”

She ducked as a coffee cup sailed past her head, and the rest of her argument was drowned in Jeanne’s shriek of outrage. The cup hit the wall just as McCaffey opened the door to investigate the commotion.

“Don’t you try to give me orders!  You’re not my mother!  I don’t give a damn—”

“That’s enough.” McCaffey’s voice was quiet, but that quiet voice had intimidated men who killed for hire.  Unfortunately for him, Jeanne was made of sterner stuff.

“Who are you to be giving orders?” her voice dripped venom, and her blue eyes snapped fire.

McCaffey calmly pulled off his bandana and wiped coffee off his sleeve.  He stuck the handkerchief in his pocket before he answered her.  “I’m the man who gave those orders you’re objecting to.  I am the man who will marry your sister.  I would appreciate it in the future if you would not throw things at my wife.”

“And just how do you think you can keep me from riding when and where I please?” Jeanne hissed.

McCaffey shrugged.  “I ´could lock you in your room, but since I don’t want to tie up a man to keep you from sneaking out, I figure the easiest way to keep you from riding is to spank you hard enough that you can’t sit a tricorn.”

Jeanne stared across at him.  He meant it.  She usually found that if she yelled enough, people gave in just so she would shut up.  This man was different.  Only one other man had ever stood up to her this way, and with him, she had a weapon she sensed would do her no good with her new brother-in-law. It was apparent that McCaffey was unmoved by blue eyes and honey colored curls. Oblivious to these attributes, he was continuing in a reasonable voice.

“You and your sisters would be a high card in Johnson hand.  A man who’d shoot another man in the back wouldn’t stop at kidnapping a woman.”

Jeanne tossed her head.  “I can take care of myself!”

“Under most circumstances, you probably can.  These aren’t most circumstances.”

“Oh, all right!  I guess I can stand it for a few days anyway.”  She sat down in her chair with an ill-tempered thump.

“You can also,” McCaffey continued deliberately, “apologize to your sister for throwing hot coffee at her.”

“In for a penny, in for a pound, is that it?” Jeanne inquired.  She gave Bethany a rueful smile.  “Sorry, Sis.”

Jeanne had insisted on riding into town with Bethany and McCaffey this morning when they went to see Pastor Meeker.  Since he had restricted her from going on her own, she informed Alec, he couldn’t well object to acting as escort.  They dropped her off at the general store to do her shopping on their way to the Parson’s house. She did, in fact go into the store and buy a hair ribbon, but as soon as her sister and McCaffey had disappeared around the corner, she came back outside and mounted her tricorn.

Nestled at the foot of the mountains with easy access to the river, River Crossing was a town divided.  On one side of the river was the older part of town, a general store, a blacksmith shop, a seamstress, a courthouse, a small eating-house, three churches, a schoolhouse and three saloons on the main street.

There was The Hotel, spoken of in capital letters by everyone.  The Hotel was new.  It had been built on the site of the fourth saloon with money from the silver mines up in the hills behind the town.  The Hotel had a grand dining room, a ballroom (used for the weekly dances the shrewd owner had instigated as a way of bringing in money), new finagled bathrooms on each floor and gas lighting.  The Hotel had a very elegant saloon with red velvet draperies and a mirror that ran the whole length of the bar.  The town leaders had frequenting the saloon in The Hotel, citing the rarefied atmosphere and good conversation.  Liquor was served by waiters in black velvet suits who carried weighted clubs to enforce the house rules. Ordinary miners were not allowed in The Hotel saloon.

On the other side of the river was Minerstown.  It was reached by ferryboat hence the name River Crossing.  Minerstown was wild.  Decent women didn’t come across the river.  Several long bunkhouses owned by the various mines were at the far end of town.  A railroad line ran up into the hills to the mines and made trips twice a day, taking miners to work their shifts and bringing down ore from the mines to be processed. A few of the miners had families, but most of those preferred to locate their families across the river.  There was no school, no churches, and no courthouse.  The mining companies owned several eating-houses and a general store.  The laundry was run by a Chinese emigrant named Wong who had a sharp knife and a short way with people who took liberties.  Since the mine owners knew his business was essential to the town’s operation, they protected him and the other business owners brave enough to open shop in Minerstown. Of course, in Wong’s case, this protection consisted of not prosecuting him after he cut up three miners who attempted to take liberties with his wife and daughter. Cuttings were nothing unusual in Minerstown; it was a rare evening when three or four didn’t take place.  Since the mine owners disapproved of their employees shooting each other (rendering them unable to mine silver), they enforced a strict ordinance not allowing guns to be carried on this side of the river.  The weapons of choice were knives and clubs.

The six saloons on the main street  had drinks served by waitresses who served upstairs. None of which cut into the business at the far end of town where for a price a man could find a better class of feminine companionship. The woman who ran this pleasure house used six big, tough knuckledusters to keep order, and herself carried a sharp stiletto and an equally deadly pistol.

The ferryboat was still run by the man who had started it when he slipped through the Portal fifty years ago, Old Man Grainger.  No one knew Old Man’s first name, and since he was a cross-grained codger with a sawed-off shotgun and a short temper, no real effort had ever been made to find out.  The area around the ferry was frequented by the rougher elements; ranch and farm hands who wanted to prove they were tough enough to have a good time across the river on one side, and on the other side by miners who wanted to prove they couldn’t be intimidated by the more law-abiding elements.

Just below the ferry landing on the edge of the Crossing, there was a bend in the river shaded by a huge broadleaf tree.  Jeanne tethered her tricorn where it couldn’t easily be seen and leaned against the tree, watching the river’s lazy flow.  It was deceptively peaceful here by the river.  Minerstown was quiet since most of the miners were at work or sleeping off last night’s debauchery.  The next shift change wouldn’t be for at least two hours.

A large, hard hand came across her mouth and she was dragged back against a man’s body.  Jeanne bit down hard and kicked back hard with the heel of her riding boot with its sharp spurs.  A grunt of pain was her answer as teeth and spur bit home.  Involuntarily, the man’s hold loosened, and she jerked away from him, drawing her gun.  Fast as she was, he was faster.  He had her gun hand and pinned her against him.

“Hellcat,” he remarked. “It would have served you right if I had been someone else.”

Jeanne had collapsed against him in relief.  “It was the only way I could see you,” she said.  “I was hoping I would see your tricorn in town—”

“I saw your tricorn too,” he retorted.  “That’s why I followed you down here.  I ought to blister your fanny for this stunt.  Do you know what would have happened to you if I had been someone else?”

“Samuel, will you please shut up!  I don’t know how long it’s going to take Bethany and McCaffey at the preachers.  ´He threatened to beat me too if I rode out alone anymore.  Said I was a liability—”

“Who said?  Who threatened to beat you?” Jeanne read the incipient violence in his voice and smiled.  All the Johnson men were handsome, tall and golden haired with blue eyes except Samuel.  He had the dark gold hair, but his steady eyes were brown, and a closer inspection showed an obstinate jaw.

“My new brother-in-law—at least he isn’t yet, but he’s going to be.”

Samuel Johnson drew back a little and looked at her.  “Let’s sit down and start over.  Why can’t women tell a story straight instead of always starting in the middle?”

“If I didn’t love you I’d shoot you for remarks like that.  Give me back my gun.”

He pulled her down with him on the bank and kissed her until she was breathless.  Faintly, from across the river came a woman’s scream and the sound of breaking glass.  Samuel reluctantly lifted his head.

After a moment, he said.  “This isn’t a good place, Hellcat.  Tell me about this new brother-in-law.”

“That gunfighter Dad was waiting for arrived last night.  Bethany is going to marry him.  They came into town to make wedding arrangements today.”

Samuel pulled thoughtfully at his lower lip.  “Emery sure will not like that.”

“Who cares what Emery likes?  My sister can marry anybody she wants, you know.”

“I know,” he agreed absently.  “Does this gunfighter have a name?”

“McCaffey is what Dad called him, but I don’t know if that’s his real name.”

“Alexander McCaffey?”

“I think so, but he goes by Alec.  Why?”

“Whatever else he is, Emery is my brother. We may not see eye to eye about some things just now, but I don’t want to see him killed if I can help it.”

Enemy lines. There it was, between them, just as it always was.

“Let’s go away,” said Jeanne impulsively.  “The next steamboat that comes up the river, let’s just get on it and go away.  Away from both our families.”

“It wouldn’t stop Dad,” Samuel replied honestly.  “If he thought we were together, he would still think he could use you if—if something happened.”

“You mean if my Dad and sisters were dead,” Jeanne said in a hard voice.

Samuel didn’t answer her.  He pulled her to her feet and put her on her tricorn where he stood looking up at her. “I wish it was different, Hellcat.”

Jeanne stroked his soft, dark gold hair back from his face.  “Me too.”

He stood there in the shadows, watching to make sure she got safely back to town.

The interview with the parson was not going well. Bethany studied the minister of the church she had attended since she came back to the Crossing with exasperation mixed with affection.  She could tell that Parson Meeker was unhappy about her coming marriage because he kept fidgeting in his chair and tapping his foot.  He frowned at the young couple across from him.

“I think you should consider this more carefully, Bethany,” he said.  “Marriage is a very big step.  You have just met this man.  I really think you should wait until you know each other better before making a lasting commitment.”

“I’m sorry, but we intend to be married this Sunday,” she said firmly. “Of course, there is always Margo’s priest,” Bethany added thoughtfully, throwing down the gauntlet.  “I really would rather be married in my church of course…”

Mrs. Meeker, silent until now, gave a soft shriek of consternation.  “Get married in another church?  John, what can you be thinking of? Of course, he will marry you!”

Parson Meeker pushed up his glasses with his finger and tapped his foot again.  “You always were the most obstinate, self-willed child,” he said, at last.  “Very well, Bethany, I will perform the ceremony after church on Sunday.”

He gave McCaffey a minatory look.  “If you don’t treat her right, you must answer to me, young man.”

McCaffey looked at Meeker with amused respect.  “I promise I will take good care of her.”

 

A Warrior Comes – Warriors of St. Antoni chapter 6

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

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 6 Negotiations   https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

THE MORNING her prospective bridegroom was expected to arrive, Bethany woke early after a fitful night’s sleep. The darkened sky was just showing the first streaks of light when she got out of bed to sit on the window bench in her room. A light breeze floated in through the open shutters. She propped her chin on her hands and looked out over the ranch. From here, she could see the kitchen gardens outside the walls, and the groves of fruit and nut trees leading up to the mountains. Everything was quiet, but she knew it wouldn’t last; already she could hear Iris’s goats and Jeanne’s geese stirring around. Below a cooking pot clanged, and a door slammed as Margo Alvarez, the housekeeper started a fire in the iron stove for breakfast.

Life began early in the valley, even up here in the foothills; by three o’clock, the temperature would have reached one hundred degrees, and everyone was eager to get chores done to avoid working in the heat of the day.

The train bringing Alec to the Crossing wouldn’t arrive until noon so he couldn’t get to the ranch itself for several hours, Bethany assured herself. He would ride out from town and that was at least a two-hour ride. Although there was a railway stop about a mile away from the ranch, it wasn’t used except during roundup to load animals for the markets in the big City States. There was plenty to do to get ready for Alec’s arrival. She stood up and dressed for the day.

By lunchtime, Bethany had worn out her welcome with most of the household. She had squabbled with both her sisters, snapped at Margo and accomplished nothing the entire morning. In exasperation, her Grandmother, recognizing the ill temper for the nerves it was, thrust a broom into her hands with instructions to sweep the flagstones on the courtyard and stay out of everyone’s hair.

Both the large, arched wooden gates in the courtyard had been thrown open for the day allowing the breeze to cool the house and grounds. Bethany had barely begun her task when she discovered both Iris’s and Jeanne’s especial pets had again escaped confinement and invaded the courtyard.

King George, Iris’s irascible Billy goat, was sneaking toward her Grandmother’s prized flower bushes. He loved the taste of them, which was why he was not allowed in the courtyard when they were in bloom. Lulubelle, Jeanne’s pet goose, felt the courtyard was her property, fiercely resenting any encroachers human or animal. When she spied George, she hissed and spread her wings, attempting to drive him out of her territory. King George responded to her threat by lowering his head and stomping his feet. It was obvious battle was about to be joined.

Out of the corner of her eye, Bethany noticed the two riders dismounting just inside the gates. She ignored them and started toward the combatants, intending to use her broom to separate the pair. She was too slow. Just as she approached, King George lowered his head and charged. Lulubelle, back-winging to avoid his rush, smacked into Bethany. Furious at what she considered an attack from behind, Lulubelle hissed and honked, battering Bethany with her powerful wings and bill. Reeling backwards from the impact of the forty-pound goose, Bethany threw up her hands to protect her face and didn’t see King George charging until he butted her in the stomach. Still shielding her face from Lulubelle’s wrath, Bethany stumbled backward and landed on her rump in the raised flowerbed around the well. Lulubelle shrieked in anger. Meanwhile King George, the picture of innocence, ambled over to nibble on the forbidden flowers.

Bethany discovered the uproar had drawn an audience—the two riders, Grandmother Giselle, Iris, Jeanne and several of the stable and dairy hands had all rushed into the courtyard to see what was happening. The younger of the riders booted the indignant Lulubelle, still shrieking madly, off Bethany and knelt beside her.

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

Bethany wiped away a trickle of blood from under her nose, noticing as she did so that her hand was covered with dirt and blood. Her dress had a streak of white bird poop all down the front. She looked up into concerned dark brown eyes and blew out a breath before she answered. “No, I’m fine, thank you.” She wiped the dirt off her hand as well as she could and let him pull her to her feet.

“I’m Alec McCaffey, ma’am,” he said, still retaining her hand.

“How, do you do,” Bethany said, resigned to the ridiculous first impression she was making. “I’m Bethany St. Vyr. I’m sorry for the rude welcome. We don’t greet our guests with this kind of hullabaloo. May I present my sister Iris,” she gestured to the ethereal girl with the silver gilt hair who was detaching the goat from the flowers. “And this is my other sister, Jeanne.” He looked over at the honey-haired amazon checking for injuries on the still complaining goose whose cries had turned from wrathful to pitiful.

“That dratted goose!” Giselle came bustling up, firing off orders. “Just look at you! Bethany, go in the house and let Lisette help you clean up. Jeanne! Iris! Get those critters off my patio! Paco,” she called to one of the watching stable hands, “Come and take the gentleman’s Tricorns.”

She turned to the younger man, who had reluctantly let go of Bethany’s hand. “You must be Alec McCaffey. I’m Giselle St. Vyr. My son has told me so much about you.”

“Pleased to meet you ma’am,” he bowed over her hand. “May I present my friend and mentor, Henry Miller?”

Henry laughed. “No need, son, I remember Mike’s mother well. Nice to see you again Mrs. St. Vyr.”

“If you don’t mind, we like to see to our own Tricorns,” Alec intervened. “We’ll join you in the house as soon as that’s done.”

Giselle nodded. “I remember. Just come in that door and Paco will show you where to clean up. We’ll have tea when you join us.”

Bethany had retreated to the house where she was pounced upon by Lisette, her grandmother’s maid, and led off to change her clothes and wash her face.

“I can’t wear that,” she protested, when she saw the afternoon tea dress Lisette had picked out. “I’ll look overdressed.”

“You need to make a better impression,” Lisette retorted. “You want to get the upper hand in this marriage you use your best assets.”

“Lisette, he just saw me with a bloody nose and covered in bird poop! Nothing can change that kind of first impression!”

“He watched you all the way to the door,” Lisette retorted, undaunted. “Play your cards right and you’ll have him right where you want him.”

After washing their hands and dusting off the trail dust, Alec and Henry were led to a room on the ground floor overlooking the patio garden. Giselle St. Vyr greeted them, offering tea or coffee and a selection of small cookies and sandwiches.

“My son will join us soon,” Giselle promised. “After the shooting, he takes some time to maneuver his new transportation.”

“Rumor has it he was shot from ambush?” inquired Henry.

“Yes. We were lucky that we found him as soon as we did.”

“Who is investigating the shooting?” Alec wanted to know.

He frowned when Iris responded, “The sheriff supposedly, but since he almost never leaves town, I don’t see how he could find out anything!”

“Well, if he investigated,” Bethany added, seating herself on the sofa, “he would have to go into who had the best motive to shoot Papa, and that would lead to his biggest campaign supporter—Ira Johnson.”

She accepted the cup her grandmother handed her and passed it to Alec.

“Lulubelle suffered no injuries,” Jeanne announced from the doorway. “No thanks to you kicking her.” This last was directed at Alec with a glare. Lulubelle, he concluded, must be the goose.

“What about your sister?” he demanded indignantly. “That bird gave her a bloody nose and might have pecked out an eye!”

“She was defending herself!” Jeanne declared, “She thought she was being attacked from behind as well as by that miserable Goat!”

“Did you discover how he got out again, Iris?” Bethany interjected hoping to change the subject before the argument could continue.

“Well, there were hoof marks on the fence, so I’m thinking he must have climbed it. Goats are brilliant, you know, unlike geese,” Iris responded sweetly.

“Lulubelle’s smart—” Jeanne began.

“Ah, I see my girls are making you welcome,” Mike St. Vyr boomed out. Jeanne and Iris exchanged glares but quieted down at the sound of their father’s voice.

He rolled the chair into the room. “If that’s coffee, I’ll take a cup.”

Giselle poured it and handed it to Jeanne to take to her father, along with a small plate of sandwiches.

After tea, Michael St. Vyr and Alexander McCaffey retired to the den, while Henry went out to check on the tricorns. Iris went to examine the repairs to the goat enclosure she had ordered. Giselle and Bethany went up to her room to decide on her dress for this evening and Jeanne claimed she needed to check on Lulubelle again and disappeared.

In the den, McCaffey sat forward in the cowhide-covered chair and glared at St. Vyr. “Your letter made me curious enough to come out here, but I’m just not sure what I think it said is what you meant.”

St. Vyr rolled a brandy glass around in his huge hands. In the light from the windows, iron gray shone through what had once been a fiery head of hair. St. Vyr had been a powerful man before the rifle shot had crippled him, and immense power still showed under the blue homespun shirt he wore.  Since McCaffey knew St. Vyr owned a rich silver mine and could have afforded to wear a silk shirt had he wanted to do so, it was obvious he was more comfortable in homespun.

“You didn’t make a mistake. I will make out the papers deeding you one third of the Golden Tricorn and the Lucky Strike, the day you marry my daughter, Bethany.”

McCaffey’s face showed none of his inner turmoil. To be offered everything he and Henry had worked for years was a tremendous temptation.

He knew from the gossip they had picked up In Junction City what St. Vyr was facing. He wasn’t surprised St. Vyr wanted a gunman, but the nature of the offer had thrown McCaffey off balance.

“You’re offering an awful lot more than fighting wages, St. Vyr. Why?”

St. Vyr looked at him. “The Doc says I may not last much longer.” He lifted the brandy glass. “I like this painkiller better than laudanum.  You’re right. I could hire a bunch of gunmen and take care of Johnson and his sons. But what about after I’m gone?  Besides, anybody I hired, well if he didn’t have some stake in the pot, he might get to thinking there was only three women to keep him from taking over. If he was married to one of my girls, he’d be family.”

McCaffey snorted. “If I was that kind of coyote, St. Vyr, I don’t reckon being married would stop me.”

St. Vyr set the glass down on the desk with a bang. “Dammit!” he roared, driven to the last ditch, “I want my girls to be happy. I always wanted one of them to marry a man who could take care of things. Well, they ain’t done it.”

“Why did you pick me?”

St. Vyr smiled a little wryly.  “You recall a job up North for a man named Bill Spears?”

McCaffey was surprised. He had brought that job to a successful conclusion avoiding the usual blood bath.

“Spears is kind of my brother-in-law. My second wife Louisa was sister to his wife.  We were courting about the same time and we got to be friends. He still writes to me. Bill told me quite a lot about you.”

McCaffey got up and stood looking out the window. It was a measure of how disturbed he was that he turned his back on St. Vyr.

St. Vyr watched him in silence, trying to see him as his daughter would. The boy was well enough looking he supposed, although Bethany had never seemed impressed by good looks St. Vyr reflected, if she had been, she would have accepted the oldest Johnson boy’s proposal.  McCaffey was a little below medium height, not slim, but not fat either and he moved with the smoothness of a well-honed blade. His dark hair was clean; his wedge-shaped face clean-shaven, dark brown eyes looked out over a large, well-shaped nose. The nose had a scar across it, the obvious legacy of a knife fight.

“St. Vyr,” said McCaffey at last, over his shoulder, “what makes you think you can order a girl to marry someone? Here on St. Antoni women have rights.”

St. Vyr took another sip of his brandy. “Bethany’s a good girl. She knows her duty. You needn’t be thinking I’m going to foist an antidote on you either. She’s got her mother’s looks. ‘Course she got my hair, but on her it looks good. And she will always tell you the truth. There’s been times when I wish she wasn’t so truthful, but that’s another story,” he added hastily.

“St. Vyr,” said McCaffey grimly, trying to take control of the conversation, “let me make this real plain. I am not about to marry any girl who feels she doesn’t have a choice. The very last thing I want is a wife who resents having to marry me.”

St. Vyr chuckled.  He levered himself up out of his oversized chair with his crutches.

“I think it’s time you and my daughter got better acquainted. Let’s go to dinner.”

Exasperated, McCaffey followed his prospective father-in-law out of the room.

Bethany was nervous.  It was too early to go back downstairs, so instead she fussed with her hair which Margo had helped her sweep into a loose knot at the crown of her head. Soft red curls wafted around her face. She checked her dress again in the mirror, and decided, again, that it was perfect for a dinner at home ‘en famille’. The dress was a soft green made of thin material in deferral to the heat and in the new style. The bodice was deceptively modest, the sheer cloth descended from a high collar to the waist. Only if one stared hard, it could be seen that the sheer overblouse covered a low-cut chemise of the same color. The nipped in waist showed off Bethany’s hourglass figure to perfection and the full skirt swayed enticingly when she walked. Gran had picked out the dress, and Bethany wished for that strong presence to be in here giving her a pep talk. Bethany was sure there was no social situation, not even this one that Gran wouldn’t have been able to handle with aplomb.

I can’t do this! She thought in panic. And then that other voice, the one she had listened to all her life said, Oh, yes you can. You must. Do you want to be out in the street earning money for food on your back, like those Jones women in Copper City after the Smith clique took over?

After Momma Clara was killed, Giselle had come and taken all three girls back east to live with her. Iris had stayed with her other grandparents in Port Breakwater a lot, but Bethany and Jeanne had lived with Gran in a modest house in Copper City.

Gran had supported them with the profits from her gemstone business Until the clique war between two rival factions had destroyed her livelihood. Michael St. Vyr had come east to remove his family when he heard about the trouble, but it had taken him days to get to Copper City using the trains and stage routes. Bethany understood the only thing standing between herself, her family and poverty was the Golden Tricorn and the Lucky Strike.

When her father had explained his plan to keep them all safe to her, she had agreed.  If I am going to sell myself to save my family, she had thought grimly, it won’t be for a few dollars.  At least I’ll be a married woman so no one will call me a whore the way they did poor Priscilla Jones.

Her father had promised her he would try to find her the best man he could, but he had explained that the kind of man who could lead the firefight  to rid themselves of the threat the Johnsons posed, might not be cultured or refined.

The dinner bell chimed. Bethany opened the door to find Margo’s son Paco waiting in the hall.

“You look muy bueno, senorita!” he exclaimed.

Bethany laughed. Paco’s juvenile admiration was soothing to her nerves. “How come you’re not at dinner?” she asked.

He skipped ahead of her down the stairs. “Mama said to come and tell you how you look, so you feel better,” he chortled, and ducked into the hallway leading to the kitchen before Bethany could catch him.

Despite Margo’s suburb food, dinner could not have been called a success. Since Margo preferred for her and Paco to eat in the kitchen, Giselle, Iris, Bethany, St. Vyr, Henry and McCaffey sat down at the dining room table.  The dinner conversation about the latest campaign to notify Earth of St. Antoni’s existence was stilted.

Jeanne came in halfway through dinner and made herself disagreeable to her father, hoping to divert St. Vyr from delivering a scold because she disobeyed him and rode out alone.  The tactics succeeded, despite St. Vyr recognizing them. Clara, Jeanne’s mother had often done the same for similar reasons. Giselle and Iris fled the dining room as soon as dinner was over. Giselle claiming the privilege of old age to retire early, and Iris to help Margo in the kitchen.

Although Bethany was glad to escape to the parlor after dinner, Margo having told her not to help to clear the table tonight, she was annoyed with her youngest sister for making a difficult situation harder. So when she saw Jeanne sneaking off up the stairs, she called after her. “You had better get Margo to help you get those grass stains off your blouse, if you hope to wear it again.”

Jeanne frowned at her, trying to look at her back over her shoulder. “What grass stains?” she demanded

“You can’t see them, dear,” said Bethany sweetly. “They are all in the back.”

Jeanne opened her mouth to retaliate and then heard her father coming out of the dining room. With a gasp, she fled upstairs. Bethany stalked into the parlor and sat down with a thump in a chair.

When Paco brought in the tea tray, she gestured to him to set it on the low table in front of her. “Bed for you, young man,” she said. Paco gave her a hug before he left.

McCaffey sat his cup down on the table with a decided click. “St. Vyr, I think your daughter and I need to talk. Will you excuse us?”

“Now, see here,” St. Vyr blustered, “it’s hardly proper—”

“Papa,” Bethany interrupted him peremptorily, and added a short sentence in French.

Michael opened his mouth and then shut it again. There were some things a man just didn’t say to his female offspring, no matter what the provocation. “I’ll be in the library,” he announced, just as if that was what he had planned to say all along.

McCaffey, who had learned his French in Madame Tussaud’s House of Pleasure in the French settlement in Azure City, was not sure he had just heard his prospective well-bred, ladylike bride say what he had thought he’d heard.

“What did you say?” he demanded.

Bethany eyed him speculatively. Papa had promised he would not force her to marry a man she found repulsive and so far, she had found nothing in McCaffey to dislike. It was time for another test. Composedly, she said, “I told him that unless he planned to lie between us in the marriage bed, he would have to leave us alone sooner or later.”

McCaffey choked on a mouthful of tea and had a coughing fit.

Eyes watering, he looked at her. “Your father said you were truthful to a fault. I see now what he meant!”

“Truth is always preferable,” Bethany said. “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember later what lie you told.”

McCaffey came over and sat down opposite her in the comfortable wing chair. “Since you prefer the truth, you may as well know I told your father I will not marry a woman who is being forced to marry me.”

Bethany was taken aback. It had not occurred to her that a man who hired out his gun would have scruples about marrying her. Something inside her that had been tense uncoiled at that moment. McCaffey’s attitude was something she recognized—she had seen it in her father.

“But you are a Romantic!” she exclaimed. “How extraordinary!”

“Don’t be a damn fool!” snapped McCaffey, annoyed. “I’ve seen enough marriages to know it is rough enough when both parties want to get married.  Marrying a woman who has been forced into it is a recipe for disaster.”

“No, you are right, of course,” Bethany said. Papa, she remembered did not like to be thought of as a romantic either. “Both parties in a marriage must have good reasons for entering the marriage. Papa is not forcing me to marry you, you know. He would never do that.”

“I don’t mean he would beat you. Look, being forced by circumstances isn’t much different from being forced in other ways. It isn’t right.”

It suddenly dawned on Bethany that unless she changed his mind, McCaffey would not cooperate with the plan.  She would have to be very careful she realized, if she judged wrong, he would get up and walk out.

“My mother’s grave is up there under one of the trees,” she said. “So is Iris’s mother.  My mother didn’t have to come out here with Papa to this wild land. Gran had a good house then, and she made a comfortable living supporting herself. Mama came here because she and Papa had a dream to build a home. It was the same with all Papa’s wives. I remember the day Jeanne’s mother died, you know. Margo had taken us out to pick berries. We were on our way back when we heard the shooting and saw the fires. Margo wouldn’t let Carlos, Iris and I come here until after she had made her decent. It wasn’t fit for us to see, she said.”

“Your father has done a fine job here. I understand how proud you must be of him.”

“No, you ´don’t understand,” Bethany said. “Do you know what happens to women like me, like my sisters and grandmother when they have no income? Do you know what they do to survive? Well I do. I saw what happened to some of Grans customers when the Smith Clique took over in Copper City. You are a man; you can work.  For a woman, there are very few places for women to work and stay respectable.  I can’t sew a straight line, none of us can cook, and I am a terrible teacher; you should have seen me attempting to teach Jeanne how to dance. I thought we would pull out each other’s hair! Jeanne and Iris are no better. Besides, our mothers died for this land. I will not let that awful man and his cocksure sons come and take it away from us. They shot Papa in the back! Oh, I know the sheriff said he couldn’t arrest anyone without proof. But I know who did it.”

She turned around and looked McCaffey straight in the eye. “I can’t shoot a gun well either, and I am no warrior woman that men will follow me into battle, even if I knew how to win a fight like this. But I can marry a man who can do these things.  I don’t know what you want in a wife. I don’t know that I could be other than I am. If it turns out I’m not the kind of woman you want to marry, I can’t change that. I can’t pretend either that I have been struck by a bolt of lightning and fallen in love with you.  But I will pledge to you that I will do everything I can to make a marriage between us work. But you are correct; we must both be willing for the marriage to be a good one.”

There was a long silence. McCaffey got up and went over to the open French doors. Dusk was turning the sky a faint mauve color. He wanted to believe her. He wanted it so badly in fact that he didn’t trust his own judgment. If she was telling the truth, she was offering him everything he had worked for since he had walked out of his stepfather’s house at fifteen; a home, a family, and work he could be proud of. If her words were a trick, it was a good one. Could Bethany be so good an actress? He looked at the clear gray eyes, the soft rounded chin, and the firm mouth. He simply wanted to believe what she was offering. Still, if it was a trick, he could apply a simple test.

“I guess we can go into town tomorrow and get married,” he said.

Bethany, who had been thinking bitterly that she would have to tell Papa she had failed, was stunned. “What?” she blurted out.

“I said,” he repeated, “that we can go into town tomorrow and get married.”

“Tomorrow? No, we can’t get married tomorrow. There must be an announcement in the paper, we must see the Preacher and send out invitations.”

“Tomorrow,” he said.

Bethany eyed him a little warily. She wasn’t sure what had changed his mind, but she wasn’t about to let him ride roughshod over her either. “Tomorrow,” she stated firmly. “We will go into town, put the announcement in the paper, and talk to Preacher Mayer about holding the ceremony after church on Sunday. We will also,” she added, “make arrangements to hold a reception at the hotel the following Saturday.”

She stacked the cups and saucers on the tea tray so she could take them to the kitchen. Aware that he was watching her with a slightly proprietary air, she suddenly felt shy, so to make conversation, she asked, “Did Paco tell you which room is yours?”

McCaffey took the tray from her and set it back down on the table. “No, he didn’t.”

“The first one at the head of the stairs. Your friend is next door.”

She stopped, because he had taken hold of her shoulders. She could feel the warmth of his hands through the thin material as if she were naked to his touch. After a moment, he tipped her chin up with his finger, forcing her to look at him.

“It’s going to be a long time until Sunday,” he said ruefully before he kissed her.

Bethany had been kissed before. When she had gone east a few times with Gran to see Iris’s grandparents, several men had tried. After all, she was more than passably good looking and her father owned a silver mine. She had been little impressed by the procedure.  Emery Johnson had tried, but his kiss had been brutal. This was different. McCaffey’s hold was firm, but she could have released herself if she had tried. His mouth was warm and tasted faintly of brandy and the mint tea she had served after dinner. Without realizing it, she felt herself relaxing into his arms. When he felt her response, the kiss deepened. He coaxed her lips apart with his tongue and his arms came around her, one hand slid down over her buttocks, pressing her up against him so she could feel the hard bulge of his arousal. Bethany had spent a lot of her growing up years around animals; she knew what pressed against her. She was startled to feel an answering heat between her thighs. When she felt herself lifting against him so she could feel more, she came back to herself with gasp of shock.

McCaffey let her go, smiling down at her.

“Good night,” she gasped, and fled upstairs, leaving the tea tray behind for Margo.

McCaffey stood in the doorway and watched her run up the stairs. She had felt good, he realized, and it was obvious her response to him hadn’t been planned. He whistled to himself as he gathered up the loaded tray and took it out to the kitchen.

It wasn’t until he was undressing for bed that it occurred to him the interview with Bethany had not gone as he had planned. He had intended to explain gently to her that he would accept the job, but not the marriage unless some real feelings developed between them. He scratched his head. How he had ended up engaged to her with a wedding planned for next Sunday? Furthermore, that sweet faced girl had virtually told her own father to mind his own business and Michael St. Vyr had obeyed her.

 

The Wrong Man – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 5

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 5 – The Wrong Man  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

THE PROPRIETOR of the Ferry Boat Hotel in Junction City was a canny man. The railroad was coming across the desert to Ferry. And the settlement once a convenient crossing place on the Wild Mans River was the only stopping place reachable by train from the Eastern City States. There were rumors that the railroad planned to build a fancy hotel to take advantage of travelers who wanted a break before riding the on to the Western City States but that was for the future. In the meantime, Tom Clancy expected many folks who couldn’t afford a high-priced hotel would need a place to stay, and who knew, perhaps his place would one day rival Fred Harvey’s El Greco Hotel in Breakwater Port. In the interim, he had divided his Miner’s Rest Saloon in half and separated the halves with batwing doors. On one side, his regular customers could still congregate for food, liquor and cards. On the other, a man could safely bring his family for a nice meal or courting couples could enjoy a soft drink from the new soda machine.

On the Saloon side, Henry and Alec were enjoying a quiet supper before heading up to their room for the night. It was early evening.  Arriving well before the rush from the incoming train, the mixture of miners coming off shift and cowboys in town for a weekend spree, they had could choose a table against the wall dividing the two areas, providing them a good view of all the customers.

At the bar, a tall, raw-boned man with dusty clothes leaned his double-barreled shotgun against it and ordered a whiskey. “You, better check that gun Mac, the bartender reminded him. You know how Sheriff Melody is about not following the town ordnance.”

“Yeah, just as soon as I get a drink,” the man called Mac replied.

At the sound of the name, Abner Johnson looked up. Like Mac, he hadn’t turned in his tied down handgun. Pa had said to wait, but here he was with a golden opportunity to rid the family of this McCaffey. He strode to the bar and bumped the man, knocking the shotgun to the floor.

“Hey, watch it!” he said loudly, shoving Mac again.

Instead of reaching for the fallen shotgun, Mac slowly turned to face him.  “Kid, you need to settle down,” he said mildly. “Joe, set him up a drink.”

“I don’t drink with dirty Irish Micks!” Abner sneered.

“You got a big mouth, Kid,” one of the other men offered. “Maybe we ought to shut it for you.”

“Now, Tim,” Mac drawled, “he’s just a baby with a loud mouth”.

Across the room, Henry touched Alec with his hand and jerked his head towards the bar. “Trouble building,” he remarked.

Alec turned his chair to watch. “Both with guns, this could get ugly. Kid’s looking to make a rep as a gunfighter.”

Henry shook his head, “Big man’s shotgun got knocked down, and he hasn’t got a handgun; besides, he’s a blade man. He’s got a big-ass knife in his boot and another down his back under his shirt. My moneys on him.”

Abner slapped Mac across the face and stepped back so he could draw. A cowboy sitting nearby stuck out his boot and Abner tripped. He went down on his rump, accompanied by jeers and laughter from the crowd. Furious, he scrambled to his feet and jerked at his gun.  His draw was fast and sure, but before he could fire, ten inches of steel flashed across the room and speared itself into his throat sticking out the back of his collar. Abner’s bullet went into the sawdust floor.

“What’d he make me do that for?” the man called Mac complained.

“Guess he was looking to make a name,” suggested one of the bystanders.

The outside doors swung open and Ira Johnson came running in to kneel by his son.

“Who did this?” he demanded.    “It was a fair fight. He tried to pull his gun on Mac here Mister,” offered the cowboy who had tripped Abner gesturing to the tall rawboned man standing at the bar.

Sheriff Melody pushed his way past the crowd. “Anybody, see it?”

“I saw it, Sheriff,” the bartender said. “Mac here was minding his own business when the kid shoved him and then slapped him. He was looking for a fight. He tried to pull iron and Mac knifed him.”

“That’s right, Sheriff,” corroborated several witnesses.

The sheriff eyed Mac with disfavor. “Jeb Mackenzie, maybe I ought to have you check that knife and the shotgun.”

“Sheriff, my son was just a boy,” Ira protested. His son was dead and he would grieve for him later, but perhaps the situation could still be salvaged. “This man McCaffey is a known gunfighter. I say this was murder.”

“Didn’t use a gun, used a knife. And Mackenzie here is a pain in my ass but he’s no gunfighter,” the sheriff retorted. “It looks like a fair shooting to me.”

“His name’s not Alec McCaffey?” Ira asked.

“Nope. This here’s Jeb Mackenzie.”

At the back table, Alec exchanged looks with Henry. “Well now,” Henry observed. “Looks like Mike was right and you’ve bought chips in this game whether you anted up or not.”

“Yeah.  I think we better check out and take the train tonight instead of in the morning.”

 

A Warrior Comes – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 3

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

  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

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.

“Papa— ”

“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.

The Letter – Warriors of St. Antoni – Chap 2

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 2 – The Letter

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THE YOUNG runner looked doubtfully again at the letter he was being paid fifty copper chips to deliver. It was addressed to A. McCaffey, esq. The sign over the door simply read “McCaffey & Miller Range & Mine Detecting”. The messenger shrugged and opened the door. Inside the plain room were two wooden desks, a gun rack, and a wood burning stove with a battered coffee pot and two tables, one of which housed a stack of wanted flyers. The faded window shade that came halfway up the window fronting the street was drawn, but intense light glared in over the top of the glass panes.

The two desks had been positioned so that anyone entering by the door was automatically caught between them, but it wasn’t just the feeling of being trapped that made the messenger uncomfortable; it was the men. On the surface, this should not have happened. Outwardly, the two looked like prosperous townsmen, but the messenger could sense a faint edge of vulnerability when he entered the office and it made him nervous. On St. Antoni, you paid attention to things like that or you died. The young messenger had been living on his own for more than ten years and he was still alive.

The older man was tall and skinny with a grey beard and bushy eyebrows, dressed in a faded plaid shirt should have looked neat and tidy, but somehow didn’t. The younger man was a little below medium height with a tough wiry build and mild brown eyes in a wedge-shaped face. He was dressed in a neat dark suit with a white shirt and string tie. Despite their different appearances, they regarded the messenger with almost identical expressions of quiet watchfulness.

“Ah—which of you is A. McCaffey?” the messenger inquired looking desperately from one to the other.

“That would be me.” The younger man held out his hand for the letter.

The messenger thrust a clipboard at him in haste. “Oh, please sign here, sir.” A. McCaffey dipped a quill in an open inkwell on the desk and scrawled a signature. He accepted the letter pushed at him, and exchanged grins with the old man as the messenger fled without waiting for a tip.

“You suppose he’ll change his drawers after he gets back to the office?” the old man was trying hard not to laugh. “You really oughtn’t to scare the boy that way. It’s bad for business.”

McCaffey made a rude noise. “Shut up, Henry. Besides, maybe it was your sour puss that scared him.”

The return address was the Golden Tricorn ranch in River Crossing. He turned the letter over several times before he opened it and began to read. Afterwards, he shoved it at Henry and went to stand looking out the window although not directly in front of it, as Henry read.

Henry was a slow, deliberate reader. When he was through, he refolded it carefully. Thoughtfully, he tapped it on the desk.

“Well, now. This is quite a proposition. Going to do it?”

“How, the Hell should I know?” Alec demanded almost fiercely.

Henry tapped the letter again. “Don’t hurt nothing to meet her, check out the situation. You can always say no. Been awhile since we got out in the field.”

Alec gave him an old-fashioned look over his shoulder. “You think I should go find out, don’t you?”

“Son, you ain’t been happy for a while. Oh, we’re making money, especially since we started hiring men for fieldwork, instead of doing the tough jobs ourselves, but you been looking for something. Maybe this is it.”

Chapter 15 – New Beginnings & Historical Notes

The Handfasting is an epic tale of a family’s struggle to survive on an alien planet. In Book 1—A Year And A Day, A witch from the right side of the tracks finds herself paired with a hard-bitten soldier handpicked by a computer program. In Book 2—Forever And A Day, a marriage of convenience between two determined, strong-willed people sparks a planetary war and puts at risk everyone they love. In book 3 — All Our Tomorrows, A warrior/priestess teams up with a Bard from another world and genetically created children to defeat a deadly enemy and save their planet from destruction. Book 4—From This Day Forward, When she finds the body of a retired shopkeeper on the beach, a series of mysterious events draw the new owner into a web of passion, terror and murder.  She must find the killer and discover what he wants before he gets her too. (still in production. Expected release date April 2017)

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays

Download a PDF copy and read Chapter 15 – New Beginnings and Historical Notes on Vensoog

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This is the last chapter of the serial. If you would like to read A Year And A Day in its entirety, you can find the whole book in either e-format or a soft cover trade paperback on Amazon at

Gail Daley A Year And A Day- Science Fiction Romance http://www.amazon.com/Year-Day-Handfasting-Book-ebook/dp/B01DH60RJM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462033094&sr=8-1&keywords=gail+daley

 

15 – NEW BEGINNINGS

 

CORA insisted that Katherine remain in bed to recover from her leg wound. Once her children and all the extended clan had walked through her room in the infirmary to make sure she would live, Zack ran everyone out and shut the door.

Katherine looked him over. “Well, you look as though you didn’t even get a scratch,” she observed.

“That’s because I know what I’m doing,” he retorted. “What in the Hell is wrong with you — taking on a combat-trained veteran in a knife fight? I nearly had a heart attack when I realized what was going on. I knew I was too far away to help you.”

“She was going after Juliette. Did you think I would stand for that?”

“Why didn’t you shoot her? You had a gun, and I know you can hit what you aim at.”

She looked at him a little sheepishly and said, “I’m sorry, I guess I was just so angry—”

“I think we made a mistake in the Handfasting Ceremony,” he remarked off the cuff.

“What?” she cried.

“Yes,” he continued. “We should have done the Forever and a Day one, not the Year and A Day. It’s obvious you need a keeper and I’m elected.”

Katherine gave a gasp of relief. “Damn you Zack, what did you scare me like that for?”

He smiled sweetly at her. “Payback’s a bitch isn’t it?”

Katherine threw her pillow at him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL NOTES

 

WHEN opened for colonization, the Founders considered themselves fortunate because Vensoog was a semi-tropical paradise.  The Islands of various sizes connected by water channels (although of a slightly higher saline content than oceans on Old Earth) were strung around the equator between five larger landmasses. Two ice-covered regions were found at each of the magnetic poles.

Every year the Islands and the five semi-continents were subject to swarms of insects that pollinated the entire planet. The double moons in a close orbit created heavy tide surges during the storm season that followed the swarms and cleared out the insect population. Abundant mammalian and avian life populated the planet; a variety of edible fish lived in the sea. The planet boasted several species of mammals the settlers dubbed Nessies and Sandies or Water/Sand Dragons because of their resemblance to the fabled mythical beasts of old earth. Some of the native species were found to be slightly empathic with chameleon abilities; the Water/Sand Dragons.  The settlers dubbed a small empathic and chameleon-like vermin predator Quirkas. Because the Quirkas were small, cute, and soon seen to bond with humans, they were quickly adopted as pets. They proved adept at hunting the varieties of small vermin and insects that infested homes and animal enclosures. There was a variety of furred mammalian flyers bearing a resemblance the Old Earth Legends of the Pterodactyls. These Dactyls shared the mildly empathic and chameleon characteristics of the Sandies and Quirkas. Dactyls were found in all sizes from large enough to prey on the Nessies to small enough to fit in a human hand.

The temperate climate of the islands was hospitable to both man and the animals the settlers brought with them to suit their agrarian lifestyle. A spaceport was developed on an island next to the largest continent. Unfortunately, the settlers had copied other spaceport designs without taking into consideration Vensoog’s weather. The high winds generated by the first storms toppled the Space control tower and the settlers were forced to rebuild, wisely adopting a dome architecture style for the remaining buildings.  The new colonists settled first on the Islands closest to the spaceport for convenient access to the supplies being brought in and had started spreading out onto the major continents when the Karamine Wars had broken out.

The society the colonists created was one of the social experiments designed on Old Earth after the last planetary war when space exploration had become cheap because of the discovery of an efficient faster than light drive. It had become easy to colonize a planet and carry on sociological theories undisturbed by conflicting viewpoints. All it took to develop a colony was enough money to register a claim to a planet with the Confederated Worlds and buy ships and supplies to launch out into space with like-minded colonists.

Vensoog’s founding colonists had been led by a cadre of wealthy women who decided the male-controlled society governing most of the Old Earth caused most of the wars that continually afflicted it. Recognizing the struggles for power had produced most of the strife in the past, the colonists theorized that changing how political power was handled would change how society reacted to resolving conflict. The colonists blamed the breakdown of the extended family on a lack of responsibility felt by both men and women for the children they created. To counter-act these influences, they designed a planetary government loosely based on clan structures copied from Old Earth with a ruling parliamentary body made up of representatives from each clan, with provision for additional seats to be created as the need occurred. Inheritance of titles, ruling offices and property would descend through female lines instead of the male.

Recognizing the need for planetary cooperation, representatives from each clan met several times a year to make major decisions concerning planetary welfare. This body regulated laws in areas outside of immediate clan control, such as River and Ocean navigation or joint Clan ventures. Since the clans all came from different ethnic groups and ancestry on Old Earth, they each had different ideas of how they wanted their clan to be run. It was agreed that inside their own jurisdiction, each clan was free to set up different sets of laws to reflect their ancestral traditions, providing those laws adhered to the principles set down by the colony designers.

The discovery of valuable deposits of Azorite crystal power stones on Vensoog became highly prized as an export and made possible many of the non-mechanical solutions to the difficulties facing the new colony.

The group of “wise use” ecologists who colonized Vensoog preferred non-technical or non/industrial solutions to planetary problems but they were not averse to using gene manipulation to achieve the “non-mechanical” effects they wanted. Many times they genetically enhanced abilities already found in the domestic animals and plants they brought with them from Old Earth to suit their needs.

The Clan based culture was supposed to provide a stopgap when individuals fell through the cracks of society. The founders reasoned there would be less violence if everyone felt they had a place in the social order, and the loose makeup of a clan would provide room for individuals who wanted to improve their lot in life or move up the social scale. It had been determined that a factor causing trouble in the past was the power holders (males) wanted to ensure their families kept what had been earned, but they had no real way of guaranteeing it was their own descendants who inherited since they could not be sure if their progeny really belonged to them. A woman would always know to whom she gave birth. Vensoog was not a true matriarchy (men were allowed hold positions of power, but could not pass along those positions or property except through their daughters). Allowance was made for those individuals who didn’t want to join a clan; they fell under the authority of the clan’s joint Security Council.

To make sure their plan for establishing a society was not tampered with, rigorous psychological testing had been given to the original prospective colonists to certify they would be flexible enough to adapt to the new power structure. Additionally during the voyage, the new colonists were subjected to sleep training and mental manipulation to accustom them to accept the changes.

The prospective colonists, had been tested for “special talents” and high aptitudes with psychic gifts. The overt reason was allegedly that greater empathy should encourage group consensus. A covert reason was several of the clan bloodlines had always had the talent to perform what could have been termed “magic” by uninformed persons.

The founders were mistaken on several assumptions. The theory that greater empathy would provide group harmony had not proven out. While inbreeding had produced high levels of certain types of psychic ability, it had not improved either communication or willingness to heal areas of disagreement. Human women were just as susceptible to jealousy, envy and downright cussedness as were human men.

The Karamine wars between the Confederated Worlds of which Vensoog was a member, and another star-faring race with whom humans had come into conflict, wreaked havoc on both sides.  It left some planets in radioactive ruins and others devastated by Bio-genetic weapons. Economic disaster, starvation and anarchy now stared many planets in the face. After nearly fifteen years of sustained warfare, the humans and their allies finally pieced together a truce of sorts. The truce came about because both sides had used up so much resources they could barely feed their populations and maintain communication within their sphere of influence. In the Confederated Planets, outlying planets like Vensoog now fought off onslaughts from pirates who preyed on them using captured ships, and subsisted on meager alliances with the few Free Traders who had held aloof from the conflict.

Unless it had strategic importance or resources, The Karaminetes policy was to use atomics to burn off a planet opposing them. On planets they deemed too valuable to destroy, biogenetic weapons were employed. The Karaminetes noticed the large deposits of the valuable mineral Azorite that Vensoog had in abundance so instead of using atomics, they attacked it with a devastating bio virus. On planets they didn’t burn off, the Karaminetes used conquered native populations as slaves. A study of human societies had convinced the Karamine Legion that in human society the males were traditionally the most rebellious so the Bio-weapon used on Vensoog targeted males. As a result, all the men and boys on the planet who didn’t die outright from the virus were rendered sterile. The virus had no effect on the female reproductive system since the Karaminetes planned on harvesting ova from captured females and creating more women slaves.

Happily, the virus had a very short life span and dissipated after a few months, which would have allowed the Karaminetes to settle on Vensoog themselves in time.

Fortunately for the colonists, the truce was declared before the Karaminetes took possession of the planet. Although no more bio-genetic attacks would come, the colony was still in deep trouble. The reserves of viable sperm from the lower mammals brought along for colonization and periodically replenished by the colonists, had been protected in the freezers at the original landing site. Unfortunately, in the two hundred years after making landing, to ensure the colony remained biologically diverse the Vensoog colonists had used all the frozen human eggs and sperm they had brought with them. With no new children being born, the colony faced extinction. The planet’s population would die out within three generations, unless something could be done to re-introduce new viable human sperm to allow more children to be born. Each of the clans worked frantically to come up with a solution.

After studying the political and physical mess left by the war, Lady Katherine O’Teague had come up with a plan to restore biological diversity among Vensoog’s human population. She concluded new male colonists were needed. The best candidates for new colonists would probably be found among returning soldiers. In theory, the Confederated Worlds military force was composed equally of men and women, but, most those choosing a career as soldiers were still male, and the men whose worlds had been destroyed would need new homes. While Vensoog wasn’t the only planet to suffer from the bio-bomb virus, thousands of people had been left homeless when planets been burned off.

The Clans agreed to present proposals adopting the displaced soldiers in their sector of space to military commanders. Vensoog would accept new immigrants providing anyone who applied could pass the immigration screening and was willing to either take part in a temporary Handfasting agreement with suitable Vensoog women or was willing to provide genetic material. Clan representatives traveled to Fenris, Camelot, and Avalon where many of the returning soldiers would be decommissioned. After the first wave of ex-soldiers had been assimilated on Vensoog, the clans had agreed the screening program would remain in place on Fenris and the other planets for other potential new immigrants to use. A joint clan undertaking with Vensoog volunteers from each clan willing to take up temporary residence on these planets would have to be found to administer the screening programs.

 

 

ALIEN WORLDS ROMANCES

 

 

THE HANDFASTING SERIES

A Year And A Day

Forever & A Day

All Our Tomorrows

From This Day Forward

 

PORTAL WORLDS NOVELS

Warriors of St. Antoni

Spell Of The Magi

 

NON-FICTION

The Modern Artist’s Handbook