Chapter Seven



Walker finally made the announcement all the men had been waiting for. “Supper’s ready!”  He watched as the men filed in, loaded up their plates and found places to sit among the rocks and logs still being used for seating. He smiled in appreciation at the generous praise given to him and his kitchen helpers for the delicious meal they had prepared from the boar Aiden had killed earlier.

Sometime later, after everyone had eaten his fill, Walker spoke up. “We all know the council met earlier today. Did you decide on a leader?

“Aye, we’ve chosen Thomas to act as our facilitator,” Aiden answered.

“That’s a great choice. Congratulations, Thomas. Will we now direct our concerns to you or can any member of the council respond to them?” Walker inquired.

Thomas smiled at the men gathered about. “You can approach any member of the council at any time. I was persuaded to be a spokesman for the council, to guide things along. However, I want it to be understood by all that I am not ‘in charge’. I am just helping to lead this group.”

Walker nodded to show his understanding, before asking Thomas what duties the other council members had. He smiled when he overheard what Galen tried to quietly share with the three young men sitting near him.

“Any b-bets Aiden is going to be in charge of b-building stuff,” Galen whispered.

“Yeah, and I’d put money on Troy teaching or something, if I had any!” Thad mumbled.

“You think they’re going to start a school?” Galen under-toned with rather mixed feelings.

Jordan dropped his head on his bent knees and groaned. “Hope not!”

“Well, you won’t find me in no fuckin’ classroom!” Spyke muttered under this breath.

“I will be acting as facilitator and leading the agriculture area. Larry West here,” Thomas said, ignoring the hushed comments and indicating the young ex-military man, “will be in charge of exploration.” Larry gave a wave to the crowd. “Troy Harris will take care of education and handing out daily work assignments, while our resident doctor, Lakota Evans, will handle all things medical.”

Levi smiled and nodded as if to say, ‘Well, of course!’ while Lakota just nodded his acknowledgement of what Thomas had announced.

Kelby held his tongue while quietly taking in everything that was being said. He glanced around every now and again to see what others were making of all this.

“Do you think exploration includes hunting and fishing?” Brodie wondered aloud. He and Gille had expressions of interest on their young faces as they waited for a response, after which they turned back to watch the antics of a couple of the puppies that had wandered into the tent several minutes earlier. They believed them to be the little creatures belonging to Mitchell and Preston.

Larry looked over at Thomas to see if it was alright to answer that and when Thomas nodded in the affirmative, he chuckled. “Yes, exploration includes assigning both those activities.”

“Last but not least, Aiden Shea will be handling construction.”

“Has the council had time to decide what some of the rules to be voted on will be?” Quentin questioned.

“Yes we have,” Thomas stated. “Aiden has the list written down.”

Although Aiden disliked public speaking, he was more than capable of keeping an audience enthralled. He remained seated but straightened up enough to make his presence known. Holding up the paper in his hand, he endeavored to impress upon everyone the purpose behind the list. “These are but basic rules to aid in the building of our new community. If ‘tis alright with ye all, we’ll discuss them one at a time so all yer concerns will be addressed. The first ‘tis as follows: respect for others and their property. For example, there’s to be no lying, no bullying or overly aggressive teasing, no fighting or brawling, no stealing or borrowing without owner’s permission. Do any of ye have a question or something to add?”

Levi cleared his throat and tentatively raised his hand.

“Yes, Levi. Did you have something you’d like to ask?” Thomas asked kindly.

“Ummm, is the ‘no lying’ rule truly necessary? I mean it is a basic issue of respect, but it’s sort of personal.” He glanced at Troy before dropping his eyes and continuing. “I would never lie to Troy. Well I hope I wouldn’t anyway. But if I did, I know he is perfectly capable of dealing with it. I really wouldn’t want anyone else involved.” Levi shrugged before looking up at the group. “It just seems like a bit of an invasion of privacy to me, I guess.”

Thomas contemplated for a moment before he responded. “To my way of thinking, the ‘no lying’ rule would apply to things which affect our community, not to personal areas. For instance, if you lied about completing a vital task that you had been assigned and people were inconvenience or endangered by that lie, then it would affect the community. However, if your lie was for instance, ‘I am twenty-five years old’ when in fact you are twenty-one, then that would be your own personal business and not that of the council.”

Levi bit his lip in thought for a moment before finally nodding agreement. “That sounds reasonable to me.” He was warmed by the reassuring smile Troy sent his way and smiled in return.

Thomas surveyed the group. “The council is always open to questions, so please everyone, feel free to ask what is on your mind.

“The next rule ‘tis fairly a given,” Aiden announced when no one else seemed ready to speak. “Everyone is expected to do their fair share. We as a council with yer best interests at heart also insists there be no wandering, as the Island is uncharted and there may be hidden dangers. This of course will change in time as men are sent out in teams to get a lay of the land.”

Lakota sat silently observing the men as they talked and discussed the rules the council had created. This was going to be a very interesting growth of a new culture, he decided. ‘I am fortunate indeed to be able to work with these men,’ he thought before raising his hand to get Aiden’s attention. “I like to strongly advise that we all avoid eating any fruit or plant matter until it has been identified.”

“Aye, ‘tis verra good advice ye have offered, Doctor,” Aiden wholeheartedly concurred. “The final item on the list is that everyone answers to the council, who will be responsible for overseeing assignments and handing out discipline as needed.”

“How will the council determine who will be assigned what?” Thad wanted to know.

“Excellent question, Thad!” Larry answered. “Last evening we all shared bits and pieces of ourselves and this information will hopefully aid us in selecting men with the abilities and interests to fill various chores. Of course, each of you will have a say in what you are or are not capable of doing. Although we are all, as individuals and as a group, expected to pull our own weight, no one will be forced to do something against their will.”

“Thank you, Larry. That sounds fair enough.” Thad sighed out his relief. He fully expected to do his fair share, but he also knew his abilities and limitations, and just wanted to make sure they would be respected.

Kelby waited a moment to see if there would be any more questions concerning this last rule before slowly raising his hand. He was shy about voicing his opinion but really wanted clarification.

Thomas noticed the raised hand. “Your name is Kelby, I believe. Did you have a question for us?”

Kelby nodded and blushed before clearing his throat to speak. “Yes. I was wondering about the mentioned discipline. Exactly what do you mean by that?” He shifted uncomfortably as the warmth in his cheeks increased.

Aiden smiled and gently answered in hopes of alleviating the young man’s fears. “The council has drawn up a list of consequences, lad, and they read as follows: Apologies to individuals or the group will be expected whene’er a wrong has been committed. Punishments for not adhering to the rules could involve writing lines or essays. Of course, stands to reason that anything involving pen and paper would depend on one’s ability to read and write, in which case another sanction will be decided upon. Extra chores like kitchen duties, collecting firewood, cleaning up after the livestock, or laundry may be assigned over and above one’s regular assignments. A loss of privileges such as participation in firesides, communal gatherings or expeditions may be handed out. And if necessary as a final resort, confinement or surveillance may be imposed.”

Dallas just winced slightly when he heard this. Kevin made a silent note to himself and frowned when he sensed a shudder go through the body of the man who was sitting so close to him.

The council members waited to see what effect Aiden’s words would have on the men in general. Each of them opened for suggestions and more than willing to consider all feasible ideas.

Kelby nodded his understanding. “It all seems adequately rational; thank you for clearing that up.”

“I guess we know what the council is for; to make decisions and run our lives!” Wes muttered for Wayne’s ears only.

Wayne dropped his voice to a whisper. “Among other things, it seems like they get to set rules and impart discipline. I am not sure I like the sound of that.”

“Hmm, me neither. We don’t do too well with rules, do we?” Wes said with a crooked smile.

“Well, there’s not much we can do about it right now, so I guess we just have to watch our steps and play it by ear.”

Having overheard the exchange between the twins, Nathan and Samuel glanced at each other, smiled and shook their heads.

Lakota stood at this point and asked if he could address the group. Everyone waited expectantly. 

“Gentlemen, as I said when I introduced myself, I am a physician and will offer my services to all. I feel it is vital that we begin to perform physical examinations immediately. I think that doing at least two a day should do well without interfering to much with anyone’s work schedule. Would two of you be willing to give me your time tomorrow? I can see one in the morning and another after lunch.”

“N-not m-me!” Galen called out. “Thomas had m-me see you already this m-morning!”

Lakota smiled at Galen. “You will see me again in a couple of days for a check on how you are doing, as we agreed I believe?”

“You and Thomas agreed, b-but I didn’t really w-want to!” Galen retorted, having changed his mind on the hastily made arrangements.

Thomas looked seriously at Galen. “You promised me the doctor could care for you. I would be very disappointed to know that you have backed down on that promise.”

“Yeah, b-but I don’t think it was to be so often!” Galen protested.

The doctor tried to assist his new friend, Thomas, with the recalcitrant young man. “Galen, I will certainly not need to see you that often forever. However, I would like to see you regularly until you have gained some weight and are feeling stronger. Is that too much to ask of you?”

Looking into the caring eyes of the doctor, Galen decided to co-operate and nodded his agreement somewhat reluctantly.

“I’ll be in to see ye first thing, Lakota,” Aiden promised.

“Thank you for stepping forward, Aiden,” Lakota answered.

‘There is no way I am going anywhere near the Infirmary!’ Gille kept his thoughts to himself.

Troy wanted to help move things along, so he spoke up. “I’ll volunteer myself and my partner to be available whenever you wish, Lakota.”

The young man in question sat up straight with horror and opened his mouth to protest. “But…” A quelling glance from the narrowing eyes of his partner quieted him.

“Troy, I will set aside a full day for you and Levi,” Lakota said giving a small smile to the distraught younger man. 

“Thank you, we will be sure to be there. Isn’t that right, Levi?” This last was said firmly with another glance at his partner, who looked both angered and mortified at having been put on the spot.

Lakota turned to their new council leader. “And you, Thomas?” he asked, knowing the question would be understood.

Thomas had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. “Oh, ummm of course, Doctor. You may put me down for tomorrow afternoon.” He cringed at the look Galen gave him.

“And I’ll see to it!” Galen snickered and moved closer to his mentor. Reaching over, he patted the older man’s forearm and cheekily assured him. “It’ll be okay, Thomas. W-we can go together.” Gales of laughter erupted when Thomas looked skyward as if praying for strength.

“If it’s alright with everyone else, I’d like a morning appointment,” Larry offered, with a dig at his fellow council member. “It’s only right that we members of the council set the example.”

Walker put his arm around Thad and Jordan’s shoulders before lightly suggesting, “Guess we’ll have to wait for ours, right guys?”

“I guess,” Jordan groaned his hesitant acceptance.

“Oh, hell! And here I was just hoping to get it over with,” Thad griped and scowled at the men nearest him when they found humor at his expense.

“My sentiments exactly, Thad. That’s why I opted for mine as soon as possible,” Larry laughed.

“Maybe it would work best if a schedule was posted so the men would be able to plan their days around the various appointment times,” Quentin helpfully suggested.

“Good idea, Quentin. If Lakota is in agreement, I’ll draw one up,” Yancey volunteered. “Is it alright if I put your name down for the afternoon the day after tomorrow?”

“Yes, that would be fine, Yancey.” Quentin smiled at the Doctor’s assistant, fully aware he was being coerced into getting his medical near the top of the agenda.

Brock had been quietly sitting back at a slight distance from the rest of the men. He had giving up all attempts to keep his eyes off the beautiful, young half-breed who had also remained silent throughout the informative supper hour. Men starting to leave the mess tent briefly interrupted this studying of the object of his attention.

‘That young man is badly in need of more friendship than that pup can provide,’ the big mountain man thought as he watched Raythe gently caring for the small animal he had taken under his wing. “You’re very good with that little fellow. At some point in your life, someone must have been equally kind to you.” Brock spoke softly to avoid startling the other man.

Raythe glared up from under lowered brows and sneered. “What would you know about it?”

“I am merely commenting on my own observations,” Brock coolly responded, his eyes narrowing at the uncalled-for rudeness.

“Well, why are you observing me in the first place? Have I done or said something that would cause you to notice me?” Raythe was well aware of having done so by introducing himself in such a provocative manner the night before.

“Yes, as a matter of fact you have! You strike me as being someone very much in need of a friend. I too would like to have a friend," Brock softly explained.

Raythe snorted. “A friend, eh? Why do you think I need a friend?”

Brock could hear the scepticism in the young man’s voice. He saw past the facade of bravado to the fear and distrust of others. “Everyone needs a friend sooner or later. I was merely offering, young man. I would never pressure anyone into accepting something they did not want. However, neither of us is going anywhere, so I’ll be around if and when you should decide my friendship is something you do want.” Brock started to get to his feet.

Raythe, afraid he had pushed too far and that the big man would walk away, cleared his throat and quietly commented. “I’ve always trusted animals more that people. People hurt you.”

“It sounds like you’ve been hurt a great deal in the past, Raythe,” Brock responded, sitting back down. “But if one does not learn to trust, one could very easily lose out on something that could prove to be very worthwhile.”

“Yeah, well I’ve tried it before and I always end up on the losing end!” the black-haired man retorted bitterly. The slight tremor in his voice did not go unnoticed and Brock realized the young man was on the verge of tears.

“I understand what you’re telling me, Raythe,” Brock spoke slowly, all the while petting the puppy that had scrambled over to him. “But I want to assure you that if you give me a chance, you’ll end up on the winning side.”

Raythe silently thought over what the big man was saying, then looked up and gave him a small, shaky smile. It caused Brock to hope that he might be getting through to the captivating creature in front of him.

In less than seventy-two hours of their disembarking here, a rough order of things had settled over the men and a feeling of calm acceptance had replaced most of their original horror and despair. The leaders amongst the twenty-eight men were strong of body and soul and through their determined actions, lent an example for the younger ones.  There was a definite gleam of purpose in many a pair of eyes and a community of sorts had sprung up.

With the evening meal behind them, most of the men dispersed to take care of a variety of chores that needed doing. Walker automatically got up to start setting the kitchen area to rights with Thad, Jordan, Mitchell and Preston offering to help out.

Aiden and Samuel volunteered to gather wood and start the campfire. Unbidden, Nathan and Larry joined in and the four men strode off in easy companionship.

Troy bent a stern eye on his partner and silently raised an eyebrow.

Levi caught the look, sighed dramatically, hung his head and offered, “Well, I guess I will be joining them too.”

Troy watched over his partner as Levi diligently collected the extra firewood according to the only sanction placed on him for ignoring directives not to leave camp. The older man had considered the punishment sufficient.

A few of the men chuckled and shook their heads sympathetically. Already, they were beginning to feel a part of one another’s lives.

Realizing the water level in their reserve was running low, Brock announced he would get it topped up and Raythe immediately offered to assist. After their run-in a short time ago, the young man suddenly seemed eager now to stick close to Brock. In truth, Raythe had been feeling lost and insecure for a long time and was basically sickened at heart though he stoically never showed it. After the weeks of uncertainty, Brock appeared remarkably calm, strong and tough. The big mountain man seemed like a lifeline to Raythe.

Neither man objected when Hendrik started toward them, silently lending a hand by grabbing up the two remaining buckets.  As he straightened up, Hendrik’s eyes locked with Brock’s for a brief spell. Each sized up the other, read the determination etched in the other’s features and took comfort in the knowledge. Then with a nod and a smile, Brock said, “Thank you, my good man! Much obliged.”

In fact, most of the younger men were equally hungry to latch on to anyone who could provide them with the security and leadership they so desperately needed, whether or not they realized it. A helping hand or a kind word was all that was needed to warm a heart and earn a smile of gratitude. Friendships were being easily forged and bonds quickly formed in these early days; ties which for some of them would last the better part of their lives.

As on the previous evening, a bonfire was again lit. Those not engaged in any chores willingly started gathering sticks and pieces of wood to throw onto the pile. People began to slowly drift towards it, drawn as much by the warmth as by the promise of companionship.

Seth settled down near the fire, after contributing a couple of dry twigs. He felt he had adequately contributed his share and now absently fiddled with his deck of cards while he watched Gille, Brodie and Spyke go for another round of wood. He glanced up when Wayne and Wes sat down next to him, and began to deal the deck.

Galen once again went to care for the livestock. He was pleased to see each of the mother sows in the roomy new pen with her offspring. After feeding all the animals and milking the goats, he paid the mule a visit. “B-betcha like being on this longer lead, eh Sadie? You got a lot m-more grazing space too!” he murmured as he brushed his hand gently down the creature’s matted flank. This was where Thomas found him.

Thomas looked towards young Galen and for a second hesitated on his next course of action. However, thinking about how close he’d come to losing the lad this morning when that boar was about to attack, spurred the older man to action. “Galen!” he called. “Would you take a walk with me please?”

“Sure! W-where are w-we going?” Galen happily accepted the invitation. “I have to p-put these in the ocean,” he explained, pointing at the two buckets of milk sitting under a large tree.

The two men slowly headed towards the beach with Thomas listening with enjoyment to Galen’s enthusiasm over the dinner and his ramblings about the decisions the council had made. After placing the two covered pails in the water to keep cool, Thomas guided Galen to take a seat with him on the sand so the two could watch the resplendent sunset over the ocean.

 “Wow, it’s so b-beautiful here,” Galen softly murmured, a note of wonder in his voice. “Look at the colors! And w-we sort of get to see them twice b-because of the reflection in the w-water.”

“Yes, it is a beautiful sight. However, Galen, there is something I'd like to discuss with you.” Thomas spoke seriously.

‘Oh-oh, he sounds rather solemn,’ the young man thought and suddenly remembered the older man mentioning them having a discussion a couple of times today. “W-what do you have in m-mind, Thomas?” he asked apprehensively.

“In the less than three days since we arrived here, you have headed off into those woods an equal amount of times without considering the danger that you put yourself into. After we talked last evening about the fact that you were inexperienced and could benefit from learning some things from those who know more, you ran off to avoid seeing the doctor. And even after almost being killed by that boar this morning, I find you’ve wandered off in search of moss for the infirmary.”

Thomas drew a deep breath for strength, looking at the wide-open beautiful eyes watching him oh so carefully. “Now don’t get me wrong here, lad. I do understand your very legitimate fear of doctors and I commend the kind thoughts behind getting that moss to pad the doctor’s examination table. However, that being said, you have taken very unacceptable risks by endangering both yourself and the future of this community; for it would not bode well for the moral and security of these men to lose such a young and vital member to his own careless behavior.”

“I’m sorry for w-worrying you, Thomas. I know I have a b-bad habit of w-wandering and that I don’t always think things out first.”

“You listened this evening to the decisions of the council and although they came after your wandering off, you were aware of the dangers because we had discussed this before hand, but you still decided to go. Is that not true?” he asked, watching Galen carefully for his responses.

“Yes, sir, it’s true,” Galen answered quietly as remorse for his actions began to overtake him.

“Galen, you are young and vital and also very special. I will not sit idly by and allow your ill-considered ventures to bring you to harm. I want to help you, Galen. I believe you need someone to guide you, someone who can help you learn to control your impulsive behavior. I also believe very strongly that discipline is the best way for someone to learn to control his recklessness. Will you allow me to help you in that way, to give you discipline when you need it? To take care of you when you need that too?”

“Hmm, w-what exactly w-will the discipline entail?” Galen was rather curious to find out what Thomas had in mind.

"You heard the thoughts from the council. Those would apply with the addition of physical discipline as well.  We can work together to decide on some rules, which you can live by. If you break those rules, depending on the severity, you could be given extra chores or lines to write or if serious enough, spanked.”

 “S-spanked?” Galen stammered wide-eyed and swallowed. “You mean you w-would use a b-belt or switch on m-me?” he asked in disbelief.

“No! I would only use my hand. But it would still hurt and you’d feel the sting on your bottom for some time afterwards. But I would never do you any harm, you have my word on it.”

 Galen continued to stare into the face of this man, wondering how on earth Thomas had become so important to him in so short a time, and chewed on his bottom lip. He read the concern and sincerity both in the other man’s voice and expressions. Galen had no doubts he could trust Thomas to be true to his word and with the impulsiveness of youth, quickly made the decision to confide in him.

“M-my grandfather often told m-my father to keep a firmer hold on m-me. I used to disappear for hours at a time w-without telling anyone w-where I w-was going. An idea w-would pop into m-my head and I’d just have to check it out. I get curious and excited over n-new things. It’s always b-been the ‘n-new’ that got m-me in trouble and I guess it still does. There is a lot of it here ‘cause it’s so different and there is so m-much to see and do.” He paused and took a deep breath, realizing the importance behind the commitment he was about to make.

“I’ll let you help m-me do b-better, Thomas. I know I need b-boundaries and I trust you to keep m-me safe.” Galen paused as a look of confusion spread over his face. “Thomas, you’re doing this for m-me, b-but what am I doing for you?”

A soft smile crossed Thomas’ face as he thought of how to answer Galen’s question. “Let me tell you something that I believe very strongly. It is my belief that when God creates a soul in heaven, he gives each person talents and abilities to make that person special and unique. Sadly, a lot of people go through life either not recognizing or not accepting the gifts God gave them. They instead fight to be something they are not meant to be. Now most people will tell you, that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough, you can achieve it, and in many cases I believe this to be true. However, we all have our limitations. Not everyone, for instance, has the ability to become a great singer. No matter how hard they try, they do not have the voice or range for it.”

Thomas laughed at this. “My mother once told me that it gave her great pleasure to hear her children singing with joy. However, she thought I should be aware that I could not carry a tune in a bucket and should not have any aspirations to join the opera.”

“Guess that explains w-why you didn’t join in w-with the singing last n-night,” Galen remarked with a cheeky grin, but immediately turned serious again in order to listen carefully to what was being said.

Thomas smiled and continued. “Though I may not have talent for music, I do appreciate it. I saw you have a guitar with you, so I’m thinking you have a talent for playing music. Am I correct?”

Galen shyly nodded his head.

“I also believe that God wants people to be together to form communities and families, so he made it that people would need one another to be at their best. This is why you hear the saying ‘opposites attract’. It means people with different strengths, form partnerships in which together they become greater than the sum of their individual parts. Now some people have the instinctive need to be leaders, to guide others in the right path, to nurture and care for them. However, these leaders and nurturers would be nothing without someone to lead; they would be empty and without purpose. But when they find the right someone to care for, they gain not only purpose, they also benefit from the talents and abilities of that person, so together they are stronger.”

“In our case, Galen, we have been thrust into a strange and sometimes frightening new place. We are all strangers here but we all have both this exile and the fact that we are attracted to our own sex in common. Though we’ve only just met, I feel that you and I can benefit from helping each other. I gain from fulfilling my need to lead and care for someone as well I hope I gain your friendship and the joy of knowing your special talents and abilities.” Thomas laughed at his own pretentiousness. “Does that long-winded speech answer your question?”

Galen blinked and stared up at the older man. “Yes,” he softly answered. “Kinda makes us equal, doesn’t it?” he asked rhetorically. His contented sigh gave proof of his understanding and acceptance of Thomas’ words. “Hmm, you and Quentin are on guard duty tonight, right?”

“Yes, we are. Do you want to stay up with us?” Thomas smiled; having a pretty good idea what query was coming next.

“Huh-huh, ‘cause I don’t like sleeping next to an empty pallet in the dark,” was the murmured response and explanation before the younger man jumped to his feet, brushed off the seat of his overalls and merrily suggested,  “Let’s go join the others at the bonfire, okay?”

Galen merrily skipped ahead of the man who had just become his mentor and very best friend as they headed back towards the encampment.

TBC….

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