We ended standing in front of Max and Freya with Statler and Ninja about ten paces away on my left. Everyone else was gathered around us in a half moon with Night and the cadre on my right. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Carol standing in back. Zane and Woof weren't around. Not a surprise. The boy had taken to disappearing for hours with Woof and the girls from the house. Probably hunting lost travelers was my guess.
Max was standing there with his arms crossed and staring a hole into my client while Freya looked bored. We all stood there for a couple of minutes. Long enough that Thompson, with his fidgeting and repeated turning to look at the crowd for support, was getting on my nerves. Max definitely had our attention when he finally decided to get the show on the road.
He told the assembled multitude, "One of our people has been caught stealing from his own people." He paused here, swept the crowd with his eyes and then focused back on Thompson. He continued, "Not out of personal need. That would be wrong but different. A failure of communication because we always take care of our own and everyone of you needs to believe that or be gone. No one goes hungry. No one. No.One. Gets. Left. Behind." I didn't have to turn around to know that heads were nodding by now.
Max had uncrossed his arms, he pointed at Thompson and told us "We can not tolerate theft for personal gain. Any journey down that road ends in a place where the lights go off and we end as strangers tearing at each other to survive the darkness. I know what happened. Because of the seriousness of the crime, and because we are family, I want all of you to know what happened. Statler tell us what brings you here."
Statler, after being prompted by Ninja to turn and face the crowd, told what happened. Thompson had been caught red handed going through Statlers personal effects. All he taken was the gold that it was Statlers responsibility to safeguard for his platoon. Usually that wouldn't be that much as individuals kept their personal kills belongings and than gave to whoever they felt like.
An entire honor system was evolving around that practice with unspoken rules. No one kept everything from a kill. That had become taboo. Instead there was more public honor and respect gained by giving away. Of course if you came across gold and jewelry you hung on to most of it. Especially if you had a woman. Hell, that's what helped you get one.
You also cemented ties with your platoon by giving weapons or other goodies to those who needed it or you personally liked. The rest was given to Shelli to be given to newcomers and to those in the larger group who may be in need. Only lately had the practice of giving a small amount to the platoon or squad leader begun. He or she held it with the expectation that should their group decide to buy something it would be funded from that. If we ever came across a town with functioning bars I expected most of it to disappear into a happy bar owners purse. Statlers squad was good and lucky. They had been rich as a group. I was surprised by how much they had managed to squirrel away.