Michael St. Vyr had come through the portal in Gateway City with his
parents when he was a child. By the power of his own hard work and
ingenuity, he had carved a place for himself and his family in the long
wide valley at the base of the mountains ringing the northern continent.
He owned a Bluestone mine, gold, gemstone and silver claims in the hills
above the valley, and a cattle and goat ranch with a good house and
twenty acres of orchards.
Folks around River Crossing described him as a big man, solid, with a
mane of graying red hair. His three pretty daughters, well he thought
they were pretty, had recently come home from Copper City. He was on the
road leading from his ranch into town, because he had just come from a
meeting with his lawyer. Michael was pleased to think he had made
satisfactory arrangements to divide his property equally between his
three girls and their husbands in the event of his death.
"None of your daughters are married or engaged," his lawyer, Terrance
Milliner, pointed out.
St. Vyr waved that quibbling objection away. "Doesn't matter. I have
plans to take care of that. Before the year is out, I plan for all three
of my girls to be wed."
Riding home after signing the papers, his satisfaction was marred by an
uncomfortable itch growing on the back of his neck that got worse the
further away from town he rode. He knew better than to ignore the
He had been twelve the first time it happened. He and his parents
followed a Portal Runner through an unregulated gate to the raw new
world of St. Antoni. The emigrant camp where they were taken by the
Runner was a wild place. Young Michael’s family had only been in the
immigrant camp three days before his father had been gunned down and
robbed of the small number of gems he had been carrying to the money
changer. After Jess St. Vyr was killed, an investigation was done, but
the investigator simply reported it had been a fair shooting because
Jess had been armed. Michael and his mother had been left to fend for
themselves in the camp.
Michaels neck itched that day too; he had been afraid of something bad
happening that day, and had begged his father to let him accompany him,
but Jess St. Vyr had left him with his mother.
After her husband's death, Giselle, Michael's mother quickly discovered
that on this new world a woman needed to be tough enough to protect
herself or find someone to do it for her. A strong-minded woman, she
decided to learn how to take care of herself and her son. Michael and
his mother were left at the mercy of a society that expected its people
to be able to protect, feed and clothe themselves on their own. His
parents had been fleeing an organized gang back home, so returning to
earth on a permanent basis was out of the question. To support herself
and her son, Giselle became a Portal Runner. apprenticing with the woman
who brought them over. Portal Runners traveled back and forth between
Earth and St. Antoni, smuggling in goods and people. Between trips she
supported them with a variety of enterprises.
His father’s death had taught Michael a lesson; he never again ignored
the warning he got from his gut and it saved his life many times over.
He paid heed to the warning now, and carefully examined the area around
the road because paying attention to his surroundings had kept him alive
a long time. He could see nothing out of place, however. The road
leading from his ranch the Golden Tricorn into town was smooth; it had
been recently graded by his own workers. The deep drainage ditch that
kept the road from becoming a mire during the rainy season was dry. The
thorn bushes growing in it would be underwater when the rains came, but
that was not due to happen for several months. It was high summer and
the waves of knee high buttery grass, broken here and there with tall
thorn bushes, gave the undulating landscape a deceptively flat look.
Evening was drawing near and the valley was beginning to cool from the
blistering heat of a summer day. Long shadows had begun to shade the
The road had no heavy traffic this late in the afternoon, but it was
busy enough to be safe from bands of roving outlaws. Deciding he wanted
a better look around, he dismounted and fussed ostensibly with the cinch
holding the saddle on his red and black striped tricorn. St. Vyr took
the opportunity to loosen the gun in his holster while he was pretending
to fiddle with the cinch. He never got the chance to draw it.
Without warning, a savage blow followed by the crack of a high-powered
rifle hit him in the lower back. His Tricorn, Redbird, had been trained
not to flinch from gunfire and stood like a rock when Michael collapsed
against him. But when a second bullet burned the animal across the rump,
he took off running, leaving his master to fall half in, half out of the
St. Vyr slumped to the ground, still conscious but unable to feel his
legs. He felt lightheaded, and knew he was in danger of passing out. He
touched his waist and brought his hand away red with his own blood. The
light wavered in front of his eyes and he knew he had to find cover
before whoever fired the shots came to see if he had killed him.
Desperately, he used his powerful arms to drag himself all the way into
the drainage ditch at the side of the road. He slid sideways and rolled
down into it. The ditch was dry this time of year and overgrown with
thorn bushes. Just before he passed out, he rolled under a bush, praying
there wasn't a Sander, one of St. Antoni's poisonous reptiles, lurking
under it seeking shade from the heat of the day. Michael pulled some of
the dead bushes lining the ditch over himself before blacking out.
Tricorns, like the horses they had replaced, were herd animals. The
stallion ran hard for a few miles and then slowed to a more moderate
pace as he made his way back to the ranch. Reaching the barn, he stopped
outside the corral where he had the remuda tricorns for company.
The ranch house itself was a large two-story structure built with sun
baked bricks made of the local dried grasses and clay found along the
riverbanks. High walls, broken apart with narrow slits for windows made
from the same material, enclosed an inner courtyard. Barns and corrals
for animals rested against the outside wall facing the fruit and nut
orchard, and a bunkhouse for the workers attached to the other wall.
Racks of Bluestones to power the ranch's steam generators were stored on
layers of frames under a roof supported by long poles, so they couldn't
develop moisture and catch fire. St. Antoni's first immigrants had
discovered the bluestones by accident soon after they arrived. A man had
spilled some water on a pile of them and they burst into flame. His
partner, an engineer, experimented with adapting the chemical reaction
from the mixture of stones and water to create enough heat to run a
steam engine. The first few steam generators had been made from parts
smuggled in from earth, but the engineer and his partner soon got rich
making their own generators with parts made from a home-made alloy of
iron, carbon, copper and tin.
Coming home several hours after Redbirds arrival, Michaels daughter
Jeanne found her father's tricorn loose in front of the corrals.
Annoyed, because she hadn’t counted on her father being home and
possibly asking her questions about what she had been doing, she was
busy thinking up excuses as she rode up.
Her father had given orders that the girls weren't to ride out alone,
which Jeanne had disobeyed, and not for the first time. The youngest of
Michael's three daughters, she was accustomed to getting her own way by
a combination of sweet cajolery or tantrums. Jeanne wasn't above using
her looks ruthlessly to obtain what she wanted, but she knew her father
wouldn't be fooled by the attributes that distracted others. Growing up,
she had gotten away with doing forbidden things because when she was a
young girl, people were diverted by her huge blue eyes that she could
make swim with tears and her quivering lips. As she grew older, men
especially failed to see past the lush figure, golden hair and
red-lipped mouth. They frequently missed the hard-headed intelligence
peeking out of those lovely turquoise eyes.
When her father didn’t appear, she dismounted and breathed a sigh of
relief. She tied her gray striped mare up to the hitching rail in front
of the tack room and unsaddled her. Coming out with a brush and
currycomb after she deposited her saddle on a rack inside, she was
surprised to see that Redbird, her father’s mount had come up to the
hitching rail where she had tied Grayling her own tricorn, and was
investigating the feedbag she had dropped over her nose.
"Redbird, how did you get loose?" she demanded of the tricorn, picking
up his trailing reins. As she moved to re-tie him to the rail, she
spotted the wound, still oozing a trickle of blood, on his rump where
the second bullet had grazed him. When she stepped back and looked more
carefully at the stallion, she could see a smear of blood on the stirrup
Her first impulse was to remount and back trail Redbird to see if she
could find her father. Looking around for help, she realized the stable
area was empty. This time of day the thirty or so people who earned a
living working for St. Vyr around the home ranch were probably inside
resting from the burning heat of the day. The herders and farmers who
normally would have been close by were doing the same in the orchards or
out in the fields with the stock. Jeanne finished tying Redbird to the
hitching rail and ran through the open doors on the courtyard to the
house, shouting for her sisters, her grandmother and Margo the
"What is it, child?" Giselle, her grandmother asked in alarm when Jeanne
burst through the French doors leading from the patio to the sitting
"Papa’s tricorn came back without him," Jeanne gasped out. "There is
blood on the stirrups and he has a bullet burn across his rump. Where is
"Margo went into town to do the weekly shopping," Bethany, her older
sister said, referring to their housekeeper. "Did you say Papa was hurt?
Where is he?"
"I don’t know," Jeanne said. "Redbird was loose by the corral when I
got back. At first, I didn’t notice he was hurt. Where was Papa going
"He went into town to see the lawyer," Iris, the next oldest sister,
"Jeanne, go saddle us some mounts while we change into riding clothes,"
Bethany ordered. Jeanne ran back outside.
Bethany looked at her grandmother, her grey eyes worried. "Gran, You
need to send someone out to the men working in the pastures closest to
the house and have them come in and help with the search. If Papa was
shot between the ranch and town, he’ll be found somewhere along the
road to the Crossing."
Giselle nodded her understanding and left quickly, calling for Macon,
the head gardener.
Bethany came downstairs a few minutes later, dressed in homespun grey
pants and shirt. The tight shirt and pants fit snuggly on her hourglass
figure, and the grey color brought out the red highlights in her hair.
she went to her father’s gun cabinet and loaded rifles and pistols for
herself and her sisters. She belted on a holster belt specially made to
fit around her waist. She slid a handgun into the holster.
"Oh, no," Iris protested, her green eyes widening when she saw the
weapons. She was tucking her white blond hair up under a wide-brimmed
leather hat. "Surely we won’t need those."
"If something happened to Papa," Bethany told Iris grimly, "It wasn’t
an accident. Jeanne said Redbird had a bullet burn across his rump. Do
you want to be helpless if we need to rescue him?"
Bethany handed the second pistol and rifle to Iris who took it
reluctantly. Despite her height, this middle girl of Michael St. Vyr's
had an air of fragility, belied by the expertise with which she checked
the pistol and rifle.
"Where is mine?" Giselle asked, returning from her errand. Like the
girls, she had changed to homespun pants, shirt and boots. She was a
beautiful woman despite showing her fifty years of age, and could still
turn heads in the tight pants and shirt.
"In the gun cabinet because we need you need to stay here in case Papa
makes it home," Jeanne informed her as she came back in through the
window. She took her weapons from Bethany. "The Tricorns are ready to
"Thank you, Jeanne," Bethany said. She turned to Giselle. "You are our
best doctor. You know you need to stay here in case someone brings Papa
home wounded, Grandmother."
Giselle gave reluctant consent to the plan. "I'll give you girls three
hours to find him, and then I'm coming out to look also."
The land between the Golden Tricorn and the town of River Crossing
looked flat, but it was pocked with shallow dips and cuts in the earth,
making searching for a wounded man who might be trying to hide, slow and
difficult work. The knee-high grass growing off the road could hide a
body as well.
It was Iris who spotted the marks Michael had made when he dragged
himself into the ditch for cover.
"Here!" Iris called, dismounting and sliding down into the waist deep
ditch. Her tricorn smelled blood and pulled back nervously on the reins,
nearly dragging her back up the embankment.
"Papa!" Jeanne called urgently. "Where are you?"
She too dismounted, and taking the reins of Iris’s tricorn, she tied
the nervous animal to her saddle horn. She had no fear of her own mount
running off because she smelled blood; she had spent hours training
Grayling not to flinch under more difficult circumstances than a smell
she didn’t like. When Bethany dismounted, she handed the reins of the
tricorns to her and joined Iris in the ditch, carefully lifting the
bushes to see if her father had crawled under them.
Iris had just spotted one of Michael’s boots sticking out from under a
bush against the far bank, and she rushed forward, yanking the bushes
out of her way.
"Be careful. There might be a Sander under there. You know how they like
the shade when it’s hot," Bethany warned, referring to St. Antoni's
large poisonous reptiles.
"So, shoot it with that damn gun you insisted we bring," Iris retorted,
dropping beside her father and picking up his wrist to feel for a pulse.
Jeanne had finished moving the brush aside and she too dropped beside
Michael. "He’s bleeding. It looks like someone shot him in the back.
We need to get him out of here and back to the ranch."
"The doctor’s house in town is closer," Bethany objected.
"Should we move him?" asked Iris doubtfully. "What if it hurts his
"His back’s already hurt," Jeanne snapped.
"That might not be relevant anyway," Bethany observed. "I don’t think
the three of us can get him back up the bank on our own. Here," she
pulled bandages, rags and a bottle of alcohol out of her saddlebag. "One
of you see if you can clean the wound and bandage it. I—"
Her head lifted sharply as she heard the unmistakable clop, clop of a
buckboard driven by a team of tricorns coming down the road from town.
"It’s Margo," she cried, waving frantically at the driver. Margo
snapped the reins, and the team broke into a gallop, coming to a sliding
stop when they reached the girls.
"What happened, Nina?" Margo asked.
"It’s Papa. He’s wounded, and he’s down in the ditch. We will need
help to get him out of there."
"Dios mio!" the middle-aged housekeeper exclaimed, tumbling off the
wagon seat and coming to look down into the ditch.
"I think we'll soon have help to get him out of the ditch," Jeanne said,
pointing to a plume of dust rising on the road from the direction of the
ranch. Shortly, about fifteen of the ranch hands thundered up on
lathered tricorns, demanding to know what had happened.
With their help, it proved easy to move the wounded man into Margo’s
buckboard. Margo made a wide, slow turn to jostle Michael as little as
possible, and headed back into town. Iris and three of the hands, who
were just aching for someone to attempt to stop them, rode with the
Bethany turned to Jeanne. "You’d better go back to the ranch and let
Gran know what happened. She’ll want to come into town. Take a couple
of the men with you."
Jeanne nodded and remounted.
Bethany remounted her own tricorn and looked over at the hands that had
stayed with her. "Durango, who is the best tracker?" she asked a tall
slim man with a wide brimmed hat.
"Red and I," he replied. "You want us to find out who did this?"
"Yes," she said grimly. "I’m putting you in charge. And Durango, when
you find him, we need him alive to be able to talk to the Sheriff. I
don't care if he dies afterward, just if he lives long enough to talk. I
want to know who did this."
She turned her tricorn and kicked her into a gallop, following the wagon
into town, unaware of the startled look the men exchanged before they
set off to find the sniper.
Unlike his father when he had been shot, Michael St. Vyr lived, but he
would never walk again. He was lying in bed, unable to do anything but
fume when he overheard Emory Johnson's attempt to coerce Bethany into
"You can marry me or end up in a whorehouse," Emory told her arrogantly.
Giselle had taught Mike's girls to take care of themselves. Bethany
shoved him away and stomped over the front door which she threw open.
"Get out!" She snapped.
Emory hesitated, but Stevens, Michael's attendant had come to the door
of Michael's room, and Margo's son Paco was standing in the kitchen
doorway watching, so he stalked out.
"This isn't over," he told Bethany.
"It had better be," she retorted. "If you come back here, I'll make sure
someone shoots you."
Michael knew then that he needed to start his plan for taking care of
his daughters as soon as possible. Accordingly, he demanded pen, paper
and a lap desk be brought to him. He wrote a letter and addressed it to
McCaffey & Miller Range & Mine Detection in the City of
Bitterstone. Margo's son Paco took it into town and paid a runner to
take it to Bitterstone.
His daughter Bethany sat in the straight-backed chair across from him
looking down at her clasped hands. Except for her red hair and grey
eyes, she 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 considered a spinster;
old enough to be on the marriage shelf while younger women passed her
by. She was wasn't unmarried because of her looks; Bethany's full, lush
figure, fiery red hair and icy grey eyes as well as her father's riches
had attracted many men in the past, but by choice she was still
unmarried. Although there was no social bar to a woman competing for
work with men on St. Antoni, most of the work in the frontier society
still required more physical strength than all but a few women
possessed. With so few opportunities for women except marriage, Bethany
should have been grateful for the marriage proposition her father had
just presented to her. Instead, she regarded it with mixed feelings.
"Mind, I’m not forcing you girl. If you’ve got a fancy for someone
else, why, I can put this to Iris as she’s the next oldest. But so far
as I can see, you haven’t got anyone else in mind."
‘No," she retorted, "and there is no one else eligible either! At
least no one I could stand to be married to."
"Just so. The only really eligible bachelors around here aren’t fit to
sire pigs—well except for Carlos Madonna and I think he’s got eyes
"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 shut the door softly on the downstairs room. Her
father had posed a solution to their problems 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, anxious to discover the outcome of
her discussion with their father.
The three girls shared a father, but different mothers and each of them
had inherited their mothers looks. Iris was a tall slim blond, with dark
green eyes and her mother's patrician beauty. Just now, she looked
anxious. Jeanne, the youngest, had inherited her mother's full,
red-lipped mouth, statuesque figure and her turquoise eyes. Just now the
lush mouth was hard, and her blue 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 'lady's'
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 was
murdered by raiders. 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. When Copper City, where they were living, was
taken over by a rival gang faction, he had come east to rescue them but
none of them had spent much time here on the ranch since the oldest,
Bethany had been twelve 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
"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 for violating the Portal Rights Act. 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 and gemstone claims. Apparently, there is trouble
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 for us," 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 bind a man
to us is through a marriage. 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. Remember what it was like for the Jones women when
that Smith gang in Copper City killed their men?"
Iris shuddered. "The Smith's turned them into whores. I'd rather die."
"I won’t let that happen to you, and I won’t do it myself," Bethany
assured them, calm descending on her as she came to terms with her
agreement with her father.
"Why does Papa think this man will be better than the Johnsons?" Iris
"He was recommended by your uncle, Iris," Bethany replied.
Jeanne frowned at her. "And if he is worse than Emory Johnson?"
Her sister smiled grimly at her. "Gran has a contingency plan for that.
But first we let him defeat the Johnsons."
Jeanne gave her a penetrating stare and Bethany nodded. Jeanne
swallowed. Unlike the softer Iris, she had a good idea of what her
grandmother's 'contingency' plan might be. "I see."
Excerpted from "Warriors of St. Antoni" by Gail Daley. Copyright © 2017 by Gail Daley. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.