Sutler's Creek is a medium-sized town with a mixed community of Faithful and Gentiles.
Sr Lucy and Br Carl are converts to the Faith and have arrived from Back East. Carl's a railroad engineer, Lucy's a doctor.
When they arrived, Sr Lucy became unhappy with her lot. She wanted her own life and found the strictures of the Faith stifling. She started an affair with Henry, a gentile in the town. Carl found out and confronted Henry. A fight ensued: Carl was killed, Henry was wounded. The TA sheriff, Walter Brackett, resentful of the Faithful, declared it was self-defence.
Lucy has since been courted by two Faithful men, Br Moses and Br Silas. While she is playing along with them, she has no intention of marrying either.
Lucy is continuing her affair with Henry. She's also helping with his convalescence.
Lucy thinks she does a good job of running her life. She doesn't want to give up her freedom.
Moses wants Lucy for a second wife, but the King hasn't called him to marry again. He wants Lucy as a trophy wife. He's showing that he can support the new family by paying for the upkeep of Lucy's children. (Henry is also buying gifts for Lucy too.)
Neither Moses nor Silas can court Lucy as they would like. Moses is speaking against her independence among the Faithful.
Silas has been getting frustrated. He's been relieving the tension by becoming violent with some of the gentiles.
Rodena, Henry's wife, has been speaking against Lucy. She's persuaded the gentiles to shun the Faithful and they're being ignored in the stores, paid-for goods not delivered, and so on.
- Sex: Silas and Lucy have had sex when his youthful hormones got the better of him. He's ashamed of what he's done and wants to make it right by marrying Lucy. Lucy regards it as a mistake and is trying to get him to back off.
- Disunity: Sr Anne, Moses's wife, is speaking against Lucy, saying that she's bad for the Faithful and should be expelled from the town.
- Faithlessness: Lucy is refusing her suitors and therefore refusing to accept her role in society.
- Faithlessness: Moses is reglecting Anne in his attempts to win over Lucy.
- Continuing ill-will between Faithful and gentile communities. Henry's wife, Rodena, is agitating against Lucy and, by extension, the whole Faithful community. Things are spilling over into low-level violence, with Moses and Silas as the main targets. There's also vandalism, abuse, and the like.
- Silas is taking the lead in the defence, organising watches and inciting the Faithful to oppose gentile attacks.
- Others caught up in the attacks: Br Israel and his wife, Sr Mehatabel; Br August and his wife, Sr Marilla; and Br Jeduthan and his mother Sr Jemima. Gentiles James and Izetta Morell and Everett and Roxanne Carter.
- Sherriff Brackett continues to hold Enoch in gaol.
The demons want this to be habitual by feeding the cycle of violence.
Other members of the Faithful are getting involved with the violence and the town is beginning ot disintegrate into two mutually-hostile camps.
With the Branch Steward in prison, the town is leaderless in a time of hardship. Sr. Obedience, an ex-Dog and Enoch's wife, has stepped forward to organise the Faithful. She is siding with Lucy as well as pulling the Faithful around her.
- Lucy, Obedience: When the King has given someone a vocation, they should follow it even if it means rejecting their normal social role.
- Obedience: Consorting with demons is allowable, so long as the ends justify the means.
- Anne: We should expel people from the Faith if they cause trouble for everyone else.
Sr Obedience is leading the community in prayers to support Lucy. She says that forcing someone into a role they don't want is a sin.
Anne is praying to the King of Life to cause Lucy to question her faith, with the intention of making her leave the Faith. All in the service of the community at large.
Obedience is leadin the whole community in her worship, so she's a false priest. She knows exactly what she's doing. There are mutterings about Sr Obedience not being the one who should be leading the community, but she's an ex-Dog and she's taken charge. She's taken to wearing her Coat again, and has her old ones hung up in Enoch's study, in a show of authority.
Obedience is a sorceror. She's encouraged Lucy and Silas to become possessed (though neither of them know it). This is so they can better fulfil their roles (healer and defender, respectively).
The demons want Sr Anne's mutterings to come to the ears of Br Silas, so he will kill her to prevent Lucy's expulsion.
They're also trying to twist Obedience's judgment so that she sees Anne as a threat and kills her.
What people want from the Dogs
- Lucy wants the Dogs to allow her to stay as a single woman, supported by the Faithful community. She wants to remain in her role as town doctor. She wants the Dogs to support her through her crisis of faith. She wants to keep her affair with Henry a secret.
- Silas wants the Dogs to bless his proposed marriage to Lucy. He also wants them to forgive his pre-marital sex with Lucy. He genuinely loves Lucy. He also wants the Dogs to approve his martial actions in defending the Faithful in the town. He thinks it makes him a candidate for Branch Steward, as Enoch can't cope.
- Moses wants the Dogs to approve of his second marriage to Lucy. He also wants them to convince Anne that he deserves a second wife. He's also angling for the Dogs to make him the Steward, as he's the richest man among the Faithful.
- Enoch wants the Dogs to broker a peace with the gentiles, to get him out of gaol, and to put Obedience back in her place.
- Obedience wants the Dogs to support her, or at least stay out of the way, while she unites the Faithful against the gentiles. Once the situation has come to a stalemate, she'll use her command of the demons to negotiate a settlement. Then she'll exorcise Lucy, Silas, and herself. She's using her knowledge as a Dog to manipulate the demons to her own will, to give her the temporary power to see the town though this difficult period. If she thinks the Dogs will understand, she'll explain her plans. But she won't be swayed.
- Anne wants the Dogs to see that Lucy is the root cause of all the problems and should be expelled from the Faith. She wants the Dogs to convince Moses that he hasn't been called to take a second wife.
- Other Faithful generally want a return to peace. They're going along with Obedience at the moment, but quite a few are sympathetic to Anne's point of view.
- Henry wants his ongoing affair with Lucy a secret, but to continue. He wants the fuss do die down as it's making their liaisons more difficult. He just wants the Dogs to have nothing to do with him.
- Rodena wants the Faithful out of her life and out of the town. She wants the Dogs to take them all away.
- The gentiles want the Dogs to keep the Faithful under control and calm the problems in the town.
- Sherriff Walter Brackett wants to impose TA law on the town and he's prepared to break a few heads to do it. He has a low opinion of the Dogs (usurpers of his authority) and really just wants them out of his way so he can do his job. If the Dogs prove to be effective and on his side, they may earn his respect.
The demons want...
- the divisions in the town to harden, by encouraging the Faithful to see the gentiles as their enemy.
- to encourage the divisions within the Faithful by producing a split about what to do about Lucy.
If the Dogs never came...
Enoch would stay in gaol.
Anne would gain some converts to her point of view, from among the womenfolk who've been caught up in the violence. That would make her a false priestess and a sorceror. She'd use her power to undermine Obedience and thus cause a split among the Faithful.
Obedience, despite her best intentions, would become more authoritarian. Attitudes against the gentiles would harden and the violence would come in shorter, but more intense, bursts. People would end up getting seriously hurt, and then killed. Things would culminate in a showdown between Obedience and Brackett, followed by lots of violence.