Gates to the Garden/Towns

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White Springs Branch

White Springs Branch is a moderate-sized faithful town, prospering under the eye of its Steward, Brother Absalom. The only unusual thing about White Springs is its proximity to a Territorial Army base, Fort McGill. Soldiers from the fort come into town looking for a good time, flirting with the local girls and generally being young men.


Brother Absalom was a tough, fair-minded Dog in his day and he’s been a good Steward. He simultaneously expects everyone to live up to his high standards and looks down on others. Perhaps coincidentally, he has decided to take as a second wife Leah, the prettiest girl in town.

Leah’s mother, Esther, is an alert and clever old woman. She is very protective of her daughter, and feels that she knows what is best for the girl. She also feels that her daughter is too good for Brother Absalom – indeed, for any man.


Infuriated by her mother’s overprotective and domineering attitude, Leah begins seeing one of the soldiers from the fort, Hector Cochrane. They haven’t had sex, but Leah is deceiving her mother.

Brother Absalom finds Leah and Hector strolling together. Enraged by the outsider’s presumption, he thrashes the young man with his walking stick. Hector cannot retaliate – he knows that if he struck the Steward, he’d be lynched and then the soldiers would attack the town.

Esther, terrified that Leah will ruin her life by going with either of the two men, locks her daughter up in the attic. She tells everyone that her daughter has gone to visit relatives in another town.

Demonic Attacks

Summoned by the violations of charity and hospitality, demons are fraying tempers and hardening hearts. This manifests in two ways. Firstly, the townsfolk have become polarized, with one faction supporting Esther and one supporting Absalom. Secondly, disputes between the townsfolk and the soldiers are escalating. There have already been a few fistfights between soldiers and young Faithful men.


Brother Absalom is a tough old character, a hearty former dog whose leadership and organizational abilities are matched by his charisma. He is married and has several adult daughters – but no sons.

Esther is equally formidable: almost every family in town owes her something for help in past years, and many adults remember her from their childhoods as a sort of favorite aunt. She is a widow, and Leah is her only family.

Leah is an attractive young woman in way over her head. She is attracted to Hector, and admires and respects Absalom. The romance of the soldier’s life and the status of the Steward’s both appeal to her.

Hector Cochrane is a romantic. He cares deeply for Leah and is willing to challenge Faithful traditions to win her love.

Colonel Pratt, the commanding officer of Fort McGill, is a pragmatist. He wants whatever will get his men through their tour at the fort with a minimum of bother. He does have a sense of military pride, and will not accept any solution in which the army appears to be at McGill on the sufferance of the Faithful.

The Demons

The demons want the community to tear itself apart. They want the Dogs, either by brute force or by inaction, to allow the fights to worsen until someone is killed.

If the Dogs don’t come

Sooner or later, one of the fights goes too far. A soldier badly injures a local. An angry mob of townsfolk attack some soldiers. Panicked, the young conscripts open fire. Faithful citizens are killed. The town erupts in a riot, and Colonel Pratt has no choice but to order his men into the streets to suppress the unrest by force.

Pike’s Crossing

Pike’s Crossing is a small Faithful settlement located by a ford, the eponymous Crossing. Winter is coming, and the harvest has been bad. Every family in the branch knows that it will take all their effort to make it through the winter – every family, that is, except the Fryes.


Lemuel Frye is the most successful farmer in Pike’s Crossing. Hardworking, intelligent and organized, he’s got to where he is today by backbreaking toil and constant study of agronomy. Ezra Gooden, on the other hand, is a poor excuse for a farmer. A dreamer, he organizes his time badly and his family is hungry. His youngest child, a baby girl, died recently. When the Dogs arrive in town, her funeral is concluding.


Instead of helping Ezra, Lemuel looks down on him. Instead of humbling himself and asking his neighbor for help, Ezra hates and resents Lemuel, who enclosed some land Ezra had let go to waste. When his daughter dies, Ezra blames Lemuel.


Lemuel has a teenaged son, Tobin. Tobin is attracted to Ezra’s wife, Sharon. Sharon encourages the boy and they have an affair. Tobin steals food from his father’s stores and gives it to Sharon. He says he is in love with her; she is wracked with guilt. When her daugher dies, she blames herself.

Demonic attacks

The demons are the winter. No matter how hard the townsfolk work, no matter how much food they store, something always goes wrong. They are always one mistake away from starvation.

False doctrine

Ezra’s loss has driven him into nihilism. He no longer believes that the King cares for him or guards him; he confuses the winter and the King.


We’ve met them already. Only Simeon Vance, the Steward, is worth further mention. A cheerful, hardworking man, Simeon is dumbfounded by Ezra’s insane grief. All he can say is “he’ll get over it.” This is not true.

The Demons

The demons want Ezra. Left unattended, he will fall further into despair. His family will begin to go hungry, and he will fall further and further. The demons want the Dogs to do anything that will make Ezra despair more, anything that will weaken the town’s ability to resist the coming winter.

What would happen if the Dogs didn’t come?

If Ezra finds out that Sharon has been sleeping with Tobin, he might kill her. He might kill Tobin. He might very well kill himself. But if things go badly enough, he’ll come to understand that the winter is the King, cruel, heartless, and hungry. He'll start to worship it instead.