In mid May, 2006 Gerry has been Clan Father for three weeks when a special meeting of the Clan Board is requested by a clan member living in Dareena. The Board consists of the Clan Father, the Great Mother of the Clan, selected advisers, and senior clan members. The Board has more authority than the Clan Father alone, and is a great deal easier to organise than a Clan Table; which is a meeting of all the eligible clan members where a quorum of 55% of the members is required, except for the Annual Clan Table held on the last Saturday of April each year: it qualifies regardless of how many people are in attendance. The Board meeting is to be held at 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday.
At 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning Gerry is at Far View, the Amir Clan residence, in the Young Children's Playroom spending time with some of his children. His mother and the clan's Great Mother are there as well. The door opens when an aunt shows a middle aged woman and two young women into the room. They're taken over to the Great Mother and introduced as Wayena Silverstein and her daughters, Juna and Meara. Distant cousins on their first visit to Far View. Wayena and her daughters were born in Berana. They're here so her husband can seek assistance from the clan because he's a migrant and has no other family in the country. All the adults present are introduced to them.
Since entering the room they're all looking around at the children and the room's extensive facilities. After being introduced Wayena sits to talk with the Great Mother and seek her support for her husband's proposal. Twenty-two year old Juna, a very pretty woman, sits with Gerry's mother and talks to her about the clan. Seventeen year old Meara, an average looking teenager, walks to where Gerry is playing a game with a group of three year old children. When they start the next round she joins in and encourages more children to join the game as well, some do. She spends the next hour having a good time playing with the children, and the children are really enjoying her time with them. They get a lot of adult attention, but always welcome more because there's so many children and this is fun attention, too.
At 10:45 a.m. Gerry stands, gently saying, "Sorry, munchkins, I've an appointment to keep and have to go." The children with him sigh. He turns to Meara, "Will you be staying the night, I'd like to take you out to dinner, if you are?"
Curtly, Wayena answers, "No, we're leaving after lunch. Anyway, Meara still has school and university to finish before she has time for an affair. I've already heard a lot about you, Casanova Gerry."
Hearing Meara sigh about the short visit, Gerry firmly says, "I don't know what you've heard, and I don't care. But you're staying the night and not leaving until after you have lunch tomorrow. Mother, please make suitable arrangements." Turning, he leaves the room.
A shocked Wayena turns to speak to Lara, Gerry's mother, stopping with her mouth wide open when she realises Lara is talking on the phone and making those arrangements. Turning to Wayena, Lara says, "He's right, it's extremely rude to just turn up to spend a few hours seeking money and then dash off again. You're staying the night." Standing, she walks out, leaving an amazed Wayena in her wake.
Standing up, the Great Mother says, "Well, I've not heard Lara that angry since the Dareed War. You really do know how to upset people, don't you? And Gerry isn't a Casanova. He may have over thirty concubines and most of the children in this room are his, but his problem is keeping women out of his bed, not getting more in. Except for close family members, Meara is the fourth young lady he's asked out to dinner in his life. And two of the others were for special birthday dinners he'd set up for classmates because their families couldn't afford the cost for a real party." Turning around, she also leaves the room. Leaving a stunned Meara and Wayena in her wake.
Wayena is shocked by this, and all in the room are watching her closely. A three year old girl asks, "Meara, will you agree to marry Daddy when he asks you? I'd like you to be my mummy. Mother's nice, but only visits every other weekend because she's very busy with her career and I'd like a full-time mummy."
While Wayena is stunned by this, Meara is only surprised, and replies, "What makes you think he'll want to marry me?"
The girl says, "Because he likes you a whole lot."
Lucie, another young woman helping to care for the children, says, "Amarayah speaks truth. Like me, Gerry sees with the heart not with the eyes. Thus he sees and knows your gentle heart. I saw how he reacted when you got close enough for him to see your heart properly. He was greatly moved by what he saw. I've not seen him respond to another person like that in a long time, not since Amy died." All the residence adults present are surprised by this because they know she has The Sight, but she rarely speaks about what she sees.
Wayena and Meara are stunned. Meara says, "Should he ask, I'll give his request careful consideration, but I hardly know him. I'd need time to learn what he's like."
Looking up, Lucie says, "What's he like? I doubt anyone will ever know all of him. But he's solid, he was in charge of the patrol that fought at Tim's Halt. He won't speak about what he saw at the farm Thistledown, but others who saw it throw up when asked." Meara's eyes go wide, because she'd read about that at school. "Already he runs several successful businesses he created, and gives large amounts to local charities each month. In many ways he's softer than a plush toy, and in some others he's harder than diamond. I know he's personally executed captured murderers and he's risked his life to save children. Our Gerry is a very complex person. How old do you think he is?"
Quietly, Wayena says, "Eighteen, nineteen."
And Meara softly says, "Seventeen, eighteen."
Shaking her head no, Lucie says, "No, he's not that old, but his grandfather says Gerry is much wiser than he. The clan agrees, that's why we voted him in as Clan Father this year, the youngest ever. So get used to the idea you're staying overnight. No one has out stubborned Gerry before, and now, as Clan father, he has the authority to make things happen. He's been a member of the Guards for some years and is a Captain, acting Major. You don't get that rank without having the skill to go with it. Also, he's a qualified doctor, engineer, and scientist, so he's smart as well. He's the current Amiri Amur Elder, too. But the best way to get an idea of what he's like is to watch how he interacts with the children, especially the slow ones. Ask them what they think of him, watch him at lunch and dinner tonight."
Meara nods, and goes back to playing with the children. She really likes children, and would like to work with children when she finishes school.
The Board Meeting
The meeting starts at 11:00 a.m. when Isaac Silverstein presents his story. He's a smart chemist and been working on some ideas. Sadly, he had a business associate he trusted. The associate lodged all the patent paperwork in his own name and is getting rich marketing Isaac's inventions through a company the associate owns outright. Isaac has another idea and wants clan funding to set up a business to develop and market the idea, he gives a summary of it. Because the room lighting is set to highlight Isaac the rest of the room is very dark and he can't make out any details of the board members.
When the members start to discuss the idea, Gerry asks, "Are you more a scientist than a businessman?" Isaac nods. "As such, I'm sure you posted articles about your work in various scientific journals. If you've copies of them with you, I'd like to see them." Isaac opens his briefcase and hands the journals to the Master at Arms; he'd brought every document he could think of as having a possible bearing. The Master at Arms hands them to Gerry. While reading the articles, he asks, "Do you have copies of the patents your old partner lodged?" Isaac hands them over. Gerry studies them closely. He notes the journal articles are older than the patents and they include a lot of the same information that's in the journal articles, word for word.
Picking up a phone Gerry calls and speaks to a patent lawyer he has on retainer. He then makes another phone call. Turning back to Isaac, he says, "This isn't worth discussing. You haven't got the business smarts to do this without getting ripped off again. It'll be better for you to sign an employment agreement to work at our clan owned research facility and get a proper wage while getting recognition and royalties for your work. I've set up a meeting for you on Monday morning, she'll send you a confirmation e-mail later today. This way you can look at some non-commercial research of interest to you as well." Isaac smiles, and nods.
Gerry continues, "I've also arranged a lawyer to sue your old partner, your journal articles prove prior art and his patents won't hold up in court. We can tie him up in court for years, the easiest option is for him to sign over the patents and pay royalties. Worst case scenario is you can legally sell the same product, so we can go into that business and just wipe him out. Since your meeting will be in Carmel you can stay here until then." Isaac has a wide smile when he nods, this is much better than what he'd asked for. He leaves very happy, and so do the board members because this doesn't require any decisions by them and is a neat solution to all of Isaac's problems.
At lunch Gerry is aware of the scrutiny he's getting from Meara, Juna, and Wayena. He ignores it, but notices the increased tempo when he leans over and corrects one of his younger, simple, cousins on using the cutlery. He wonders what happened and what was said after he left the room that morning.
During lunch Isaac is happy and talking a mile a minute about how the board had seen the problem with his proposal, how to get around it, and how they're helping with the old problem. He explains about how their life will improve if he gets a contract with General Research Labs, the clan research company. Wayena looks at Gerry all through this. She's of mixed emotions because she knows this is the best result, but dislikes the thought Gerry is responsible for it happening, she's disliked him since their earlier talk.
After lunch Gerry is amongst those supervising a large group of children going to the park in View Port's shopping district, it has a good playground and they're going to play there for a while. Meara joins them. When they arrive the park is full of children from around town and the orphanage opposite. Meara notices Gerry knows and has a kind greeting for every child. She watches him all afternoon.
At 3:30 p.m. Gerry walks over to the orphanage and talks to the woman supervising the younger children playing in their enclosed playground. Smiling, the woman calls the children to her, forms them up, and starts walking up the street, they're all smiling. The older orphanage children see this and smile. Within a minute all the children in the playground have stopped playing and are watching Gerry like a group of hawks. When the column of children enters the ice-cream parlour Gerry stretches and yawns. Meara is frightened when every child suddenly yells and runs towards the ice-cream parlour, with the adults in close pursuit. Only Meara and Gerry are left in the area. With a grin he walks towards the parlour, and calls out, asking Meara if she'd like an ice-cream. Confused by the events, she nods. Entering the parlour she finds it packed and the staff are lined up like starters in a race, there's absolute quiet. Gerry reaches up and rings a bell inside the door five times. Pandemonium breaks loose when children yell with delight and those near the counter start giving orders to the staff. As soon as a child has an ice-cream they leave. Seeing Meara is confused Gerry gently turns her head towards a sign on a wall, the only one on that wall. Reading the sign she realises Gerry is buying an ice-cream for every person in the store. She also realises the way the children reacted means this is a fairly common event. Twenty minutes later they're the last to be served and he pays with his credit card.
Walking back across the square Gerry stops to talk to a woman with three children. Noticing the way she holds herself, he says, "Louise, take your dress off." She shakes her head no and starts to cry.
The eldest child, a nine year old girl, tartly says, "He beat her up again, last night." Lifting her own dress she displays a large bruise on her lower ribs, "And I got this for trying to stop him."
Turning Louise around Gerry undoes her dress and opens it up to examine her bruises. Doing the dress up, he says, "You know what this means, don't you?"
Crying, Louise says, "He'll go to prison for a year."
Shaking his head, he says, "For hitting you again, yes, but for hitting Jess again, he dies."
Louise's eyes go wide and she shakes her head no. When she pleads for her man, Gerry says, "He can't live in town or near children any more. Either sterilisation and you move to a mountain farm, leaving the girls here, or he dies. That's it, I won't risk the girls any longer."
Crying and shaking with her pain she looks at Jess. The girl says, "You and he have known the problem and the options since the last time in court. You can't have him and us. And I spend more time caring for Carla and Jenny than you do. I know how much you're tied to him, go to the mountains, we'll be all right staying here. We'll find someone to care for us. If he stays we'll be running away soon, anyway."
A large and surely man strides across the square. Reaching the group he roughly pushes Jess aside, knocking her down. Gerry moves like a striking cobra. Suddenly the man is on his knees with an arm up his back and a gun in his mouth. With a voice of frozen helium, Gerry says, "Shut up and be still, or I fire."
Wide-eyed and crying, Louise says, "The mountains."
Two police officers walk over and ask what's going on. Putting the gun away Gerry draws an identity card from his pocket, he shows it to them and orders them to get an ambulance. When it arrives he has the man sedated and taken to a hospital. Louise goes with him. The girls stay with Gerry.
When the ambulance and police leave another woman walks up and asks what's happening. Jess tells her. The woman asks Jess if she and her sisters want to stay with her family from now on, because Jess and the woman's eldest daughter are best friends. Jess smiles, and nods. Gerry smiles, and says he'll work out the paperwork with Child Welfare Services for them. The woman leads the children away.
A worried Meara, asks, "That was a bit assertive and hard, wasn't it?"
A very calm Gerry, replies, "What you mean is you think I was very pushy and brutal. Yes, I was, but no more than the situation called for. He's a vicious brute who spent time in prison for bashing his first wife to death. Louise's first husband, the father of her children, died in an accident. Yet Louise won't leave him, as you saw. There's a fourth girl still in the hospital, been there for five weeks, he bashed her, but we've no evidence. While he hits only Louise I've no power, but when he hits Jess and she tells me about it I've the power and authority to act, so I did." Meara stares at him, "As well as being the Amir Clan Father, and Jess' father was a clan member so she is too, I'm the Amiri Amur Elder and this is Amiri land. I judged and sentenced him for his mistreatment of the children, now I've clear evidence of it."
Note: Later Meara learns they were both sterilised that day and moved to a remote mountain farm to live on and work it.
Walking by him Meara realises he must be an exceptional person to be a Clan Father and Amur Elder at such a young age. She's not sure what an Amur Elder does, but knows it's something to do with tribal law administration and is the second most powerful tribal position.
At 4:30 p.m. the Far View contingent head home. After a shower and change Meara is in a lounge room watching a movie when Gerry walks in with a fawn coloured roll under his arm and a leather roll in his hand. When he walks over to one of the tables everyone in the room stops what they're doing and watches him with bated breath. Placing the things he has on the table he stands beside it, obviously waiting for someone else to arrive.
An Important Request
A little later his mother enters the room and walks up to him. Lara says, "You want to speak to me about something important, my son."
Smiling and nodding, he hands her a sheet of paper, "Yes, Mother, something extremely important." He turns, "Meara Silverstein, will you please come sit at this table." She walks over to the table and sits down. Lara reads the paper, her eyes go very wide and she looks at Gerry. Nodding, Gerry undoes the roll, flipping it out on the table, all can see it's a lovely fawn animal hide. Reaching out and touching it Meara feels how lovely and soft it is. It looks beautiful. With care he opens the leather roll to remove a knife, fork, spoon, salt and pepper dispenser, and a set of gold strips to lay them all on the hide in a set way. All in the room have gathered to look at the table, many gasp. Looking about the room, Gerry selects a woman, "Lucie, Meara doesn't know the ways of the tribes. Will you please honour me by explaining the meaning of these items and this ceremony to her?" She nods. He turns to Lara, "Mother, please negotiate for me." Turning to Meara, he says, "Meara, regardless of what happens here, now. I'd like you to accompany me to dinner at six thirty tonight." She's confused by this, but nods, because she wants to go to dinner with him. He turns and leaves the room.
Sitting down at the table opposite Meara, Lara says, "Lucie, I'll wait until you've finished your explanation, the tribal rules will allow this delay." Lucie nods.
Sitting beside Meara, Lucie explains, "This hide of a mountain lion may only be used in this manner if the man has killed the lion himself with bow or knife. Hunting mountain lions is unlawful and now they may only be killed in self-defence. The quality of this hide shows it was killed by an arrow in the head. Some years ago Gerry defended a group of girls from an attack by a mountain lion pride; he killed five with arrows and one by knife while it raked his back." Meara stares at her in surprise. "Gerry has formally asked you to table and placed this before you as part of an important tribal ceremony. The hide shows he's a good hunter and provider. The knife, fork, and spoon represent his wish for you to cook for him. The spices represent a request for you to flavour his life. The gold represents his ability to provide more than just food. In this ceremony it's now usual to just present an animal hide of some sort; Gerry has provided the full, formal, ancient ceremony. I think this is to make a point of how serious he is. He's unmarried so he's asked his mother to conduct negotiations on his behalf. If he was married his first wife or chief wife would conduct the negotiations. Do you understand what I've said so far, please nod or shake your head?" With wide eyes Meara nods, and goes to speak, Lucie interrupts, "Please don't speak, under the tribal rules Gerry has invoked with this ceremony you're only permitted to say Yes or No to the formal question Gerry's mother, Lara, will ask shortly. With these items Gerry is showing you he's a warrior of worth and able to provide for you in all ways. In doing this he's indicating his wish to marry you." Meara turns and looks at Lucie, her eyes questioning, "No, none of us have spoken with him of this morning's discussion. But I think he was headed here, even then. I wasn't the only one to see it within him."
Standing up Lucie steps back from the table. Lara says, "Meara Silverstein, my son, Gordon Mannheim, known as Gerry amongst the peoples, warrior of note, wishes you to be his first wife. I now formally ask on his behalf, is his courtship welcome or not?"
After taking a deep breath, Meara says, "Yes." All present smile.
A smiling Lara, asks, "Can you commit to a betrothal now or do you need time to fully measure him, his courtship, and your feelings? You may now speak freely."
Meara replies, "I've feelings for him, but I'm concerned about some things I've seen today. I need time to get to know him properly. Also, my mother will be against this. She has plans for me to become famous and rich. I don't know how to remove her from this matter so I may make my own decision without her comments or interference."
Lara, says, "You answer wisely, because it'll take time for you to learn about my son. Like Shakespeare wrote: he's a man of many parts. His responsibilities and duties are many, being his wife won't be easy, but it will have its rewards as well as challenges. His wife will have greater challenges than I." Seeing Meara's odd look Lara looks around the room. Loudly, she says, "Apart from Meara, anyone present who's outside the line must leave the room." They wait while about a third of those present leave, Lucie locks the door behind them. Lara says, "My son, Gordon, faces a very much more demanding life than my husband, King Herbert." Meara gasps at this. "Herbert rules the country, but he already relies very heavily on Gordon for advice and wisdom. Gordon is already Royal Protector, Amiri Amur Elder, Amir Clan Father, an officer in the Guards, a doctor, an engineer, an inventor, the owner of the most significant businesses in the country, and well on the way to being one of the richest men in the world. He's the richest man in this country, now. He'll be the main policy maker for the next King as well."