Jonathan and Ellen Ware have immigrated to the area from their farm in Illinois with 13-year-old Christy Ware and her two older brothers. The Wares are only one of the families that will soon be caught up in the burning issue of slavery with raids from the Border Ruffians out of Missouri and John Brown's small army devoted to ending slavery and helping runaways to escape to the north.
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Kansas is deeply split by the national conflict. Jonathan Ware and his wife are deeply troubled that their sons have enlisted on opposing sides of the conflict. The Wares and the other homestead families are subject to raids by renegades from both sides. When Jonathan Ware and Bishop Jardine are killed, the women are left without protection. Earlier Christy Ware and her father had discovered a hidden valley, opening out from an underground river.