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Author Topic: Help with Town: Red Horse Pass  (Read 7279 times)
Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« on: November 10, 2005, 06:44:32 AM »

Last time I did this, I got great results, so I'm going to try again.  Below, I've posted at town I'll be running in about two weeks.  I wanted a town with no Hate and Murder, no Sorcery, not even False Doctrine.  I wanted everything to stop at the Sin level, but I still wanted a nice chewy town with lots of stuff going on.  I wanted all the NPCs to be fairly sympathetic, including the non-Faithful.  And I wanted the threads of the backstory to be tied to one another at different levels, woven together so that tugging on one thread would reveal or loosen another.  This is a small settlement; people should be involved in one another's lives.  I think I've got some of that here, but that's what I think I need the most help with.

Please take a look at the town below (not nearly as long as Olive Grove was) and let me know what you think.  Any comments will be gratefully received, but I'm particularly looking for ideas that will let me make the town "denser" without taking it beyond Sin.  I'm looking for a conflict-rich environment without a single cultist or even a single corrupt-worshipper.  I want a bunch of fairly good people at each other's throats.

...................................

Red Horse Pass

Red Horse Pass is a small settlement of perhaps sixty households, located in a mountainous area populated largely by (non-Faithful) copper miners and (partly Faithful) shepherds.  Tradesmen in the township survive by providing services to folks passing through the town on the narrow roads.  The roads themselves are narrow and treacherous, riddled with switchbacks and steep grades, and the mountains around the town are dotted with mining camps and small seasonal settlements of Mountain People.  Red Horse Pass has always been a quiet, peaceful, industrious town of mixed Faithful and non-Faithful.  Generally, the Faithful and non-Faithful have lived in harmony.  Lately, though, something’s wrong.

1A. Pride –

Brother Joseph Mills owns a general store.  He’s been a fixture in the town for decades, and he is well-known and respected.  Recently, a young man arrived in town and opened a dry-goods store in competition with Brother Joseph.  People have been frequenting the new store, and it’s hurt Brother Joseph’s business a little.  Worse than that, it’s made him feel deeply betrayed.  He’s known this town for fifty years.  He’s given free candy to these people’s children.  He’s extended them credit when times were hard.  He feels he has earned a right to their custom.

Brother Isaiah Very, the new shopkeeper, has a wife from Back East who is a convert to the Faith.  They argue from time to time, but Sister Jessamine has usually accepted her husband’s decisions as being final.  Recently, however, she’s begun to long for “civilized” things such as coffee and tea, things strictly proscribed by her Faithful husband.  She thinks he’s being a stick-in-the-mud about the whole thing, and she doesn’t see why he can’t show her a little leniency.  After all, she didn’t grow up with this kind of self-denial, and she can’t be expected to get used to it all at once.  She’s been buying coffee and tea from traveling tinkers and secreting it in the family home.

Maria MacAloon is the town’s schoolteacher.  She’s not Faithful – in fact, she’s Dogmatist (Presbyterian) – but she is well-regarded by many of her Faithful neighbors, who nevertheless keep their children out of her school for reasons of doctrine.  For over two months now, she’s been courted handsomely by Brother Martin Cross, and she’s encouraged his suit.  But just recently, he’s introduced the condition that she must convert to the Faith before he marries her.  This has caused Maria's submerged resentment of the Faithful to surface.  She feels she’s gone out of her way to be friendly to these people, and they should know by now that she is a good woman.  It's bad enough they won't let her teach their children or attend their dances, but for Martin to require that she abandon her parents’ religion is insulting and unfair.  Her religion is as good as his.  He should marry her as she is.

Brother Francis Lloyd lost his parents and elder brother to a carriage accident some time ago.  For a while, he was genuinely inconsolable, so grief-stricken that he could not work.  Fortunately, with the money and land he inherited, he had no immediate need to work.  Eventually, his grief lessened, but he had by then slipped into a habit of indolence.  When the money ran low, he began to borrow rather than work.  He is into Brother Joseph for a hefty sum, but he reasons he is entitled to consideration because no one in town has suffered as he has.

1B. Injustice –

Against the counsel of his wife, Sister Agatha, Brother Joseph has begun to call in debts from his customers.  He explains that with competition in town, he can’t really afford to let credit go unpaid for as long as he has.  In reality, he is acting out of indignation, not genuine need.  His actions are putting a strain on his neighbors, and some have been forced to liquidate some of their belongings to pay their debt to him.  A few of them are quite upset about Brother Joseph’s actions, including Brother Martin, who has borrowed rather heavily from Brother Joseph to finance his courtship of Maria.  Brother Francis is the worst hit.  His debt is considerable, and he will probably have to sell some of his mother’s jewelry to pay it off.  It’s either that or find work. 

Brother Joseph’s refusal to extend credit has sent several townsfolk to Brother Isaiah’s shop.  This has both worsened Brother Joseph’s trade and put Brother Isaiah in an awkward position; he is not as familiar with the townsfolk as Brother Joseph is, and he isn’t accustomed to extending credit to people when he doesn’t know them well.  He has established a no-credit policy until he can get to know his neighbors a bit better.

Brother Martin, feeling the pinch of Brother Joseph’s new policy on credit, has had to sell some of his personal property to pay down the debt.  He is beginning to reckon his courtship of Maria in terms of dollars and cents; he knows this isn’t fair to her, but he can’t help it. 

Maria is indignant at Brother Martin’s condition that she convert.  She knows the straits he’s in right now, and she could alleviate his burdens if she were to call off the engagement and return his gifts.  She isn’t doing that, and is instead dropping hints about some nice things she’s seen in eastern catalogs.  Her pride is bruised, and she’s lashing out at him.

Brother Francis, unable to get more credit from Brother Joseph, retaliates by giving free room and board at his home to the traveling tinkers who’ve always siphoned business away from Joseph’s shop.  These are the same tinkers from whom Sister Jessamine buys her coffee and tea, and now Brother Francis knows Jessamine’s secret.  He tries to use it to bully Brother Isaiah into giving him a line of credit, but Isaiah flatly refuses.

Brother Isaiah, upset with his wife for putting him in an awkward position, clears all the hidden coffee and tea from the house and puts sharp – even tyrannical – limits on his wife’s comings and goings.  He’s practically placed her under house arrest.

2A. Sin –

After numerous complaints, the town Steward, Brother Patrick Lemon, approaches Brother Joseph, asking to see his accounts so that he can reassure the townspeople that there is good cause for calling in their debts so precipitously.  Brother Joseph has prepared for this, and he shows Brother Patrick a set of false accounts which make it seem as though his business has been running in the red for months.  The Steward is taken in, and he agrees to urge the townspeople to pay their debts, though he asks Brother Joseph’s forbearance in the cases of families with young children.  Joseph solemnly agrees to this.  His wife later scolds him for his actions, but he reassures her this will all work out for the best, and no one will get hurt by it.

Brother Francis is getting desperate.  He thought it would be a good idea to let these peddlers into his home, but neither of the shopkeepers is taking the bait.  He hires one of the tinkers to break into Brother Joseph’s store at night.  Brother Francis knows just where the peddlar can find the floor-safe, and he knows Joseph rarely takes the time to lock it.

2B. The Demons Attack –

A tinker named Brennan is found collapsed and convulsing in Brother Joseph’s general store, the contents of Joseph’s floor-safe and a few small items lying scattered about him.  The quivering tinker lies in his own filth, and he is running a high fever.  Brother Joseph sends for Brother Nathaniel Pettibone, the town’s only doctor.  Dr. Pettibone examines the man, then orders Brother Joseph’s store closed and the Steward alerted.  “Tell him Corporal Forbes has come to town.”

The disease (cholera) spreads quickly, with four more cases showing symptoms the next day.  The doctor turns the town hall into a pesthouse and orders anyone with symptoms brought to him.  He urges the Steward to close the town to travelers, with no one permitted in or out.  The Steward, unfortunately, has no authority over the non-Faithful, who come and go as they please.  The disease reaches epidemic proportions in no time at all, and drinkable water, medicine, and food begin to grow scarce.  When word gets out along the roads, the town becomes a pariah among its neighbors.  It has never been more isolated.

3, 4, 5. Skipped –

6A. The People –

The town’s Steward, Brother Patrick, has cholera.  He needs help holding the town together until he gets well.  He wants the Dogs to try to contain the town and prevent people from entering or leaving until the epidemic passes.

Brother Joseph’s wife, Sister Agatha, has cholera.  He refuses to take her to the pesthouse.  He wants someone (the doctor or the Dogs) to come to his house and save her, even if it means neglecting others in the town.  He is willing to pay as much as they want for this consideration; he is a wealthy man.

Maria MacAloon has cholera.  Three of the children at her school have cholera.  She wants the Dogs to save the pupils, none of whom are Faithful.  She wants some indication that the Faithful care for others besides themselves.

Brother Martin wants Maria healed.  He also wants the Dogs to convince her to convert to the Faith (especially if she begins to die).  However, he will be satisfied if the Dogs authorize a marriage between Faithful and non-Faithful.

Brother Francis is scared.  He has bought all the medicine from the tinkers, and he’s hoarding it against his own illness.  He also believes it was his tinker who started all this.  He doesn’t want the Dogs to come sniffing around his home, so he’s posted signs reading “Sickness!  Keep Off!”  If sick people come around, he might just have to shoot them to protect himself.

Sister Jessamine has cholera.  Brother Isaiah wants the Dogs to say it’s okay to let her have tea, coffee, even laudanum if she wants it.  He will tell the Dogs about the tinkers on Brother Francis’s property.

6B. The Demons –

Naturally, they want the Faithful to die of cholera.  Better still, they want the Faithful to kill one another over cholera.  They want Brother Francis to withhold his stock of medicine until more people die, and then they want someone to discover too late that Francis had the medicine all along.

They want the fissure between Faithful and non-Faithful to widen and deepen, beginning with Maria and Brother Martin.  They do not want a Faithful/non-Faithful marriage.  Instead, they want recriminations, intolerance, and violence.  They want Sister Jessamine to blame her husband for bringing her to this pestilent backwater to die in the watery contents of her own bowels.  They want Maria to despise the Faithful for treating her like an unclean thing despite all she's done for them.  Most of all, they want the non-Faithful (including miners and laborers with sick families) to view the doctor as favoring his own coreligionists over their wives and children.  Make the Faithful look like a bunch of inhuman zealots who are happy to take, but unwilling to give back.

They want a complete breakdown of order, beginning with a defiance of the Steward.  They want mobs to crack open Brother Joseph’s store, Brother Isaiah’s store, even Dr. Pettibone’s house, in search of the hidden medicines they know must be there.  They want misrule to carry the day, with Corporal Forbes riding along on its shoulders.

6C. If the Dogs Never Came –

Clearly, more people would die from cholera.  More than this, chaos would take hold as long-buried resentments flared and people began to let petty prejudice turn into full-blown hatred.  The non-Faithful would learn to despise the Faithful and to act against them, not just here, but in neighboring towns as well.

Appendix: Notes on V. cholerae:
   
       Aliases: Corporal Forbes, Collywobbles, Cholera morbus
   
       Incubation Period:  The incubation can be from a few hours to five days, but most infections become apparent around two or three days after exposure.  Rare asymptomatic carriers can have cholera in their gall bladders for several months before the disease resolves.

       Diagnosis:  Symptoms begin with a watery, painless diarrhea and sometimes vomiting.  Late symptoms can include severe cramps and shock.  The worst risk is dehydration.
   
       Transmission:  Cholera is highly communicable.  The germ, V. cholerae, is present in the diarrhea and vomit of infected persons.  V. cholerae can also remain viable in stool for up to 50 days, and it tolerates water, so drinking water can become infected.  V. cholerae has been found to be viable in soil for more than two weeks, and it can remain viable on metals (including coins) for about half that time.  It remains viable on human fingertips for usually about two or three hours, though it can survive longer in less hygienic conditions.


..................................................

So, that's Red Horse Pass.  And here's what I'm thinking:

I should do something with Dr. Pettibone, but what?  I'd like to time him into the backstory before the cholera comes to town, and in a way that makes him something other than the stereotypical "gruff but good-hearted town doctor."  I think town doctor's get the shaft when it comes to richness of role, and I'd like to remedy that with Dr. Pettibone.

I should also tie Steward Lemon in more tightly, make him more active, perhaps a more complicated guy.  I'm not sure how, though.  I thought about involving him in a love triangle, but that just didn't seem to work the way I wanted it to.

Finally, I have a sense someone should be stirring up the non-Faithful laborers and miners.  Not sure who this could be, but I've wondered if maybe Maria might have a brother.  How would that work, I wonder?
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Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2005, 09:05:24 AM »

I know I've already handed folks a lot to read, but I was mulling over my own questions at the end of the previous posting.  How does this work for you?

Dr. Pettibone and Steward Lemon have a history together.  Pettibone (Brother Nathaniel) used to be a Dog.  He and Lemon (Brother Patrick) were part of a small company sent to quell an uprising of Mountain People that threatened a Faithful settlement.  During the campaign, they came upon a M.P. village filled with the dead and the dying.  Someone recognized small pox.  Brother Nathaniel decided to help these people, for all that they were non-Faithful and the enemy.  Brother Patrick argued against this course, but Brother Nathaniel prevailed.  Four of the company fell ill with the pox, and before Brother Nathaniel could see to them, two were dead.  Then a returning band of M.P. warriors fell on the company and butchered six more men before the Faithful could retreat.  After that campaign, Brother Nathaniel resigned his Calling and became a surgeon.  He and Brother Patrick remain close friends, but this new outbreak of disease will surely test that friendship. 

I'm not sure yet how to express this backstory in terms of Town Creation steps, though I am pretty sure how it translates in "6A. The People": Steward Lemon wants Dr. Pettibone to help the Faithful before the non-Faithful, and he wants the Dogs to back him up on that.  Dr. Pettibone is torn between his duty to the Faith and his oaths as a surgeon; he is inclined to treat the worst cases (all non-Faithful) first, but he keeps thinking of how badly that worked before.  The Demons want him to fail, whatever he does, but they'd like to see him prefer the Faithful, so as to stir the resentment already brewing in the town.

The next one is easier...

Pride --  Ferghus MacAloon is the brother of Maria.  She is his only living relative, and he loves her fiercely.  Born of Scots immigrant parents, Ferghus has served the United States of America in time of war, and he’s proud of his citizenship.  He feels his service entitles him and his family to equal treatment from everyone in the U.S. and its Territories, including the Faithful.  He deeply resents the way the Faithful withhold their children from his sister’s school, and he (correctly) suspects the Faithful shopkeepers of offering better prices and more credit to their Faithful customers.

Injustice --  Ferghus doesn’t care for the idea of his sister marrying some religious separatist, and he won’t stand for the notion of her converting to this ungodly faith.  He’s meddling in her freedom of choice, and he’s tried everything short of violence to keep Brother Martin from her door.

The People --  Ferghus MacAloon is irate.  He wants everyone in town treated equally, and to him, that means his sister gets treated first.  He also won’t tolerate Steward Lemon trying to control the comings and goings of the non-Faithful.  And Dogs?  What are Dogs?  They’re not proper United States lawmen, that’s for sure.  If they get in his way, they’d best beware.

What follows from this introduction of Ferghus is probably obvious.  If a mob defies the Steward or breaks open the stores, he'll probably be at the head of it.  And if his sister dies, there'll be a reckoning.
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ScottM
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Posts: 221

Fresno, California


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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2005, 09:40:18 AM »

The town looks good & tangled, especially with your late addition of Ferghus MacAloon.  I suspect that played hard, there'll be enough to keep people busy.

Was healing a big deal in previous towns?  This town seems like an "and more" relating to healing, though I didn't see much of it regarding Olive Grove.  It's certainly an interesting idea for a town.

I know you want to keep the town small-- but would a school teacher (for only the unfaithful) and two dried goods stores be supported by the community?  If you made it larger (or made it clear that a lot of country farmers travel in/ send their kids to Maria, but aren't part of the town), it might hold together a little better.

After your first town, I'm very interested in seeing how your group handles this one.
--Scott
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Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.
Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2005, 10:09:19 AM »

Was healing a big deal in previous towns?  This town seems like an "and more" relating to healing, though I didn't see much of it regarding Olive Grove.  It's certainly an interesting idea for a town.

Thanks, Scott.  No, healing hasn't been much of a factor, other than the players trying to doctor up a couple folks they shot down.  That's one of the reasons I wanted to try it out.  I'm going to see whether or not my players are interested in being healers as well as killers. 

I was also motivated by an earlier discussion on these boards regarding People/Furniture.  In part, this town is an experiment to test whether my players have any real interest in anthropomorphizing abstract things like Disease.  I figure all the elements are here.  Corporal Forbes is practically a person already, and he's devastating this town, bringing all manner of petty jealousies and other bad feelings to a boil.  It's a small step, if the players want to take it.  We'll see.

Quote
I know you want to keep the town small-- but would a school teacher (for only the unfaithful) and two dried goods stores be supported by the community?  If you made it larger (or made it clear that a lot of country farmers travel in/ send their kids to Maria, but aren't part of the town), it might hold together a little better.

Excellent point.  Perhaps I should make the town a little larger.  I don't think it would hurt the town much, though I'd want to keep it small enough to make the "only one doctor" thing credible.  With the two shops, the point is that the town is big enough to accomodate two competing stores, but Brother Joseph doesn't feel he should have to compete, so maybe a little larger...  Likewise, I hadn't considered what the Faithful do about schooling.  Seems there should be a second schoolhouse, and that might mean a larger town.

Quote
After your first town, I'm very interested in seeing how your group handles this one.
--Scott

Thanks, Scott.  That's kind of you to say.
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Danny_K
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2005, 07:21:45 AM »

How about making Dr. Pettibone not the stereotypical town doctor from Stagecoach, but a tough-minded guy who feels he knows what's best for the town?  Maybe what he wants from the Dogs is that they do what's necessary to save the town and what no one else is willing to do -- enforce a real quarantine on everyone, Faithful or not.  I thought of this before reading that Pettibone is an ex-Dog, but that makes it fit even better.

So then the Dogs are placed in a nice bind: either they overreach their authority by quarantining the town (and pissing off the non-Faithful, especial Fergus), or the doctor holds them responsible for every additional death.  For that matter, what if the doctor wants them to help him full-time in healing the sick?  Another nice quandry, as they'll never get to the bottom of things if they spend all their time playing nurse.
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I believe in peace and science.
Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2005, 08:02:08 AM »

Maybe what he wants from the Dogs is that they do what's necessary to save the town and what no one else is willing to do -- enforce a real quarantine on everyone, Faithful or not.  I thought of this before reading that Pettibone is an ex-Dog, but that makes it fit even better.

I love this idea.  It ramps up the internal tension for Doc Pettibone, which is bound to be played out in external tension and conflict.  He's determined to enforce the authority of the Dogs on all and sundry, for the good of the whole town.  All the while, he's seeing the massacre of his company replaying itself in his mind.  He wants to help the worst-off, but at what cost to the Faithful?  And if he's the town's only real doctor, who gets to enforce that quarantine?  The Dogs, that's who.

Quote
So then the Dogs are placed in a nice bind: either they overreach their authority by quarantining the town (and pissing off the non-Faithful, especial Fergus), or the doctor holds them responsible for every additional death.  For that matter, what if the doctor wants them to help him full-time in healing the sick?  Another nice quandry, as they'll never get to the bottom of things if they spend all their time playing nurse.

Danny, you're a genius.  I think this has legs.  Doc Pettibone may become a more interesting character for my players than Ferghus will.  And if the Doc's throwing authority around, he and Ferghus are going to be lining up on very different sides of this particular conflict.  And since both he and Ferghus have violent histories, things could Escalate credibly and readily.  Nice.
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oliof
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Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2005, 02:08:19 AM »

Neal,
once again you created a very compelling town I'd just love to run. But I think I'd have the same problems with it as I had with Olive Grove: For my head, there is too much of everything. You have great ideas, but maybe it's possible to condense them somewhat. I'd probably cut out the Sr Maria part - not to say it doesn't fit perfectly, but it feels like a baroque addition.

So my question is: How do you handle this lot of NPCs? I counted 17 named characters in Olive Grove, and around ten in Red Horse Pass. Do You have relationship maps or at least some kind of diagram that shows who's connected to whom?
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Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2005, 08:28:14 AM »

So my question is: How do you handle this lot of NPCs? I counted 17 named characters in Olive Grove, and around ten in Red Horse Pass. Do You have relationship maps or at least some kind of diagram that shows who's connected to whom?
Harald, thanks for the kind words.  To answer your questions:

First, I run longer sessions than DitV is generally designed to support, so I've been designing towns that are probably two or three towns in one.  I figure if a town would take a normal gaming groups two or three sessions to resolve, then it will fit nicely into one of my sessions.  It also helps that I only have two players right now; when I shift my gaming days and gain a larger group, I'm sure I'll have to scale back on the complexity of the towns a bit, to account for more time spent in conflict-resolution mode.

Second, I don't build any kind of maps or mnemonics.  Instead, I just re-read what I've written until I'm comfortable with what's there.  It's the same thing I've been doing for years in other games.  It can get pretty byzantine, but after a while, certain key NPCs start speaking to me, acquiring voices and mannerisms.  If an NPC doesn't eventually speak, he or she gets cut.  Also, I usually start with two or three NPCs, then imagine others connected with them or parallel to them.  So there is never the shock of suddenly having to keep seventeen balls in the air; by the time the fourth and fifth come along, the first three are settled into motion pretty predictably.  When I try to diagram or map human relationships, I find it to be wasted prep time: it's just something else I have to consult.
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oliof
Member

Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


WWW
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2005, 08:49:44 AM »

Neal,

that makes sense. For running Olive Grove, I actually only read the town description four times and referred to the script a few times during the game. It was just too many names, and I mixed them up. I think writing down the names on a sheet would have helped alleviate the problems I had with starting the game.

Now, I need to train my memory.

Regards,
    Harald
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Neal
Member

Posts: 143


« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2005, 10:45:00 AM »

You know, I was thinking about something this morning...  I wonder if I've served Brother Martin up too lightly.  He's certainly got a history with Ferghus, and maybe he's a little afraid of the man.  And he does love Maria.  But two things, I think, water down his part in this.

First, he's willing to accept a marriage between himself and a non-Faithful Maria, even though it isn't his first choice.  I'm having some misgivings about that.  Maybe Brother Martin should stick to his guns.  I mean, Maria has no offspring or Faithful kinfolk to pray for her after her death, so if she doesn't convert, she may be damned.  Perhaps I shouldn't even mention that Martin's willing to accept her as she is, and let the Dogs offer that up as an option, if they should choose to do so.  And then, of course, Maria will have something to say about it, as well.  She may refuse conversion, even -- or especially -- on her deathbed.

Second, I think with the introduction of Ferghus, Brother Martin might have an additional thing to ask of the Dogs: take Ferghus out.  Just get rid of him, however they have to do it.  Keep him from stirring up the people and interfering with the lives of the Faithful.  And there we have room for the implied threat: do this or someone else will do it.

Any thoughts?
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