In the year 1731, three Franciscan missions are struggling to establish themselves on the San Antonio River despite Apache raids. A young missionary, Fray Marcos, and an Apache woman warrior, Ahuila, fall in love. They must work out their fate in the face of cultural conflicts and prejudices. "Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross" explores a crucial time in San Antonio history, featuring courageous settlers, missionaries, Indian converts and fierce Apache attacks. The story will appeal to history buffs, especially Southwesterners. Plot is fast moving with powerful emotions, action, love interest, suspense, accurate background and landscape.
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Twilight Time Books
October 31, 2005
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Excerpt from Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Florence Byham Weinberg
Her first raid as an Apache woman warrior!
Ahuila smiled in spite of her intense concentration. None of the ten in her father's raiding party knew she was there, least of all Naiche, her father. He'd ordered her to stay behind with the rest of the tribe. Raids were too dangerous, he insisted, though he'd been her trainer. Of course he'd say that--she was the last member of his family and he loved her--but a father could love too much, for too long. She'd seen sixteen summers and was ready to take her slain brother's place. Besides, this raid was far less dangerous than most.
For three days she'd followed the horses on foot, loping undetected in their wake. By day her wiry body responded to the enormous demands she placed on it. Each night her skills were tested to the utmost as she crept with practiced stealth toward the raiding party's camp. She had become her brother, in a way, but she'd always bested him at riding, shooting the bow or hurling a lance, and why not? Her guides and guardians had all been men since her mother's death ten years earlier. She dressed like them; moved like them. They treated her with more respect than she'd earn as a chieftain's daughter.
Twilight befriended her as she inched forward, downwind of the horses. It was second nature to study the path ahead: no rustling leaves or rolling rocks, never a snapping twig. There, in a clearing ahead, her father's raiders were cinching multi-colored saddles on the horses once again. Their preparations for battle were unmistakable. She watched them mount, then saw her father point south.
Her pulse raced. This was it; they were going for the attack. She licked her lips in anticipation, proud of her father's skill and poise as he set his course with an air of regal assurance. When the party started off at a trot, she stayed close behind, no longer stealthy. They'd not hear her now. Their attention was trained ahead, on the unsuspecting caravan, its belly exposed like a fat bison, ready for gutting.
* * *
Father Gabriel groaned and changed position to ease his aches. He'd slept on the ground hundreds of times--discomfort was his constant companion--but it wasn't the unyielding earth or cold, damp air that kept him awake. Nor was it the rushing of the nearby stream. Countless risks to the caravan marched across the stage of his mind like theatrical scenes, every waking moment producing some new worry. The distance they had yet to cover was at least seventy leagues, all the while trying to control an unwieldy mob.
So much to comprehend all at one time! Too much, in fact. Three missions, including all his brothers in Christ; wagons loaded with the furnishings of their three churches; the military escort, native guides and a small group of neophytes--Indians being instructed in the Christian life--and of course the herd of horses, mules, burros, sheep and cattle.
The Apaches could well attack the caravan at any moment, unprotected as it was in the dark. The streamside offered no protection. They'd be after the horses, of course, and anything else they could plunder. He groaned again as he considered the folly of crossing this wild territory in such a clumsy way. Yes, there was the military escort sent him from the B�jar Presidio on the San Antonio, but the soldiers were spread too thin to do much good. There were also a few Indian scouts, but of what use were they?
And yet, thanks to the unfortunate chain of events that seemed to escape anyone's control, this was what he--Fray Gabriel de Vergara, President of the three East Tejas missions and leader of this motley caravan--had been compelled to do in order to reach the San Antonio River.
Reach it he must, if the missions were to survive at all.
He changed position once again. So far, his prayers had worked; there'd been no attacks. He knew he should pray every waking moment. Perhaps this was a good time. The black cave of the heavens was hung with millions of brilliant jewels, glittering through interlaced pine branches, and the moon was down.