In the Amiri tribe a boy becomes a man when he's Stood the Tests of Manhood and passed them. This is a set of tests to ensure a young man has the skills and attributes to make a worthy adult member and warrior of the tribe. They include the use and care of weapons, jungle craft, leadership, knowledge of the laws, courage, and many more skills. All the tests can be retaken twice in the testing period, except the Coup, which can be taken only once a year. This simple pass or fail test requires the young men to enter another village and remove something of value without being captured. They leave a token in place of the item. They return the next day to hand back what they've taken and collect their token. Points are assigned on the value of the item, the level of security beaten, and the status of the person who owns it. This is because the higher the status means the higher the security to be beaten when they collect what it is they've taken.
Well in the past it was called the Raid, because they stole something of value and death was the result of failure. With civilisation this changed to a less fatal process. Great Coup is when the item can be returned before midday the next day while the owner is on the alert, and without being caught returning it. Being caught in the removal or return is a failure. Most settle for the Coup by using a formal ceremony to return the item and collect their token. In the one hundred and eighty years of its existence no one has been successful in the Great Coup, although many have failed by being caught trying to sneak the item back to where it was taken from.
The young men usually Stand for the tests when twelve or thirteen years of age. Some wait until fourteen years old and some Stand early at eleven years. The youngest on record was the Great King Garandu who stood when ten years old, that was over seven hundred years ago. The boys can't Stand at sixteen years of age or later, and thus can't be a warrior.
You don't have to be a warrior to stay a member of the tribe and participate in most of the tribe's life, but only warriors can hold positions like Tribal Elder, Amur Elder, Clan Father, and many other positions of high responsibility. Also, you're a legal adult as soon as you pass the tests, otherwise you have to wait until you're eighteen and a legal adult according to the parliamentary laws.
There are similar tests for girls with the same age restrictions. But few of the young girls have worried about going through the tests since World War Two. There are very few advantages for a girl to be a legal adult until after she finishes school, so most don't bother with it, because, by then, they're legal adults by the parliamentary laws due to them being eighteen years of age.
Just before his ninth birthday Gordon Mannheim asks for a formal meeting between his mother and himself with the Clan Father on the afternoon of his ninth birthday. The Clan Father is the clan's Patriarch and Leader, currently his grandfather - King Edward. Perplexed by this inquiry his mother arranges it. Two weeks later at 2:00 p.m. on his ninth birthday she escorts Gordon into the Clan Father's office.
Clan Father Edward asks, "Well, young Gordie, what's so important it requires a formal meeting?"
Giving the formal bow of great respect, he replies, "Clan Father, I seek your support in Standing the Tests of Manhood this year." Both adults are surprised, because they didn't expect this for another year.
Edward responds, "Why the great urgency, young Gordie, surely next year will do?"
Gordie responds, "No, Clan Father, it won't. My plans don't allow me the time to do this next year. And the sooner I'm legally an adult the better my own plans will go." His mother starts to speak, but King Edward holds up his hand to stop her.
With concern, Edward asks, "And what of any plans your parents or I have for you? Also, those Standing are already half way through their training, can you catch up?"
Smiling, Gordie says, "I've already incorporated all those plans you and my parents intend for me into my own plans. If you've others you haven't yet told me of, then you're too late. You should've informed me well before now. However, I may be able to include some adjustments. As for the late start! I've deliberately left my start late to catch unaware those who'd prepare to stop me counting Coup or work against my Standing early. The training done so far is for things I already know and can pass with ease. I can pass all the tests already, only the timing of the Coup is a problem. They Count Coup in three weeks, I must Stand now, so I can do this test this year."
Edward says, "And why the urgency on this matter, can't it wait?"
Gordie says, in a serious voice, "Clan Father, time passes, events occur; the hour of this fledgling's flight grows ever nearer. There's much I must do to ensure my wings are strong and my talons sharp before this falcon can attack our enemies. I don't have time to waste, because there aren't enough days and the number grows shorter each day."
Both adults suck in their breath in shock. Reference to being a falcon in this fashion is usually reserved for speaking of the King or a great military leader in action against clan enemies. They all know Gordon is being trained to be the Royal Protector and the supreme commander of the Guards when he finishes uni and has suitable experience. Now he's saying there isn't enough time for that to happen as planned.
Concerned, Edward asks, "You have The Sight, you've seen this?" Gordon's mother is shocked by the question, because only women have The Sight, the term used to cover the ability to see the future or sense people's lies.
In a quiet voice, Gordon says, "I've the Truth Sense and can sense the winds of history, but I can't see the future. Recently I spoke with the Great Mother of the Amiri, she has the Long Sight. She can sense my Truth skills and other skills, but can't see my future. She said I should consult the Great Mother of the Amira."
This information is stunning, never has a male had the Truth Sense, and he has other undisclosed senses. Of more concern is the Great Mother's inability to see his future, because this is supposed to be impossible for one with her level of The Sight. Sitting back, King Edward thinks. He sends for the Great Mother. A short time later she arrives in his office. He says, "Great Mother, is it true you can't see young Gordon's future? I thought this wasn't possible, that one with The Long Sight can see everyone's future!"
She replies, in a very serious tone, "Clan Father, I can't see his future yet, nor can anyone else, because he hasn't made the critical decisions yet, the ones that'll say what it will be. Gordon is one around whom the future can, and will, revolve." The other adults are stunned by this. "The Great Mother of the Amira has The Great Sight. She may be able to see what the main choices or chances are. I do know a great nexus rests here, now, in this room. An important decision about his future is about to be made, that's all."
Leaning back, King Edward says, "Tomorrow we see the Chief Elder and have you tested to Stand. You've my support. How say you, daughter, do you support your son in his request to Stand?"
Gordon's mother says, "Much as I hate to do so at this young age, I do support him."
The Great Mother looks up, and stares at Clan Father. She says, "That's the right decision for the country and the people. Still, I can't see his future, but I can now see a better future for our people, but our time is now limited." All in the room are shocked by the revelation, except Gordon. He feels the winds of history starting to pick up; they blow stronger while they lift him up and carry him forward, faster - much faster.
The next day Clan Father, Gordon, and his mother meet with Chief Elder Ebber of the Amiri, asking for Gordon to be accepted to Stand the Tests of Manhood at this time. They've discussed his young age and his late start in the training. They're starting the circle of discussion again. Growing weary of this, Gordon says, "Chief Elder, why not resolve this by simply having me take the tests I've missed! If I pass them then my training is already adequate, if not, you know what to teach me."
Sighing, the Chief Elder says, "I'd hoped to dissuade you from this because it's very difficult and strenuous. And the time for being a child is so short as it is." They leave his house to go to the training and testing area at the village's edge. He tells the Trainer of Men, the elder assigned to conduct the training, "Prepare all the Manhood Tests of Skill. Young Gordon wishes to Stand early and I need to learn what he already knows." Surprised, the Trainer of Men sets up the tests for the use of bow, knife, rifle, pistol, spear, fire making, rope making, and use of rope. Going to the test position Gordon goes through the preparation rituals and he places his bow, pistol, rifle, knife, and fire starter at hand. At the signal he raises the pistol and fires six rounds at targets, three stationary, three moving. Changing weapons he does the same with the rifle and bow. Next is throwing his knife and spear at the moving targets. Walking to the fire circle he's quick to start a fire. After checking the test materials he selects suitable materials and makes a short rope before using it to demonstrate various knots. Both elders examine the results of his work, and agree he's completed every test perfectly.
The Trainer of Men says, "That leaves the skill tests of courage and knife fighting."
Ebber says, "Those he passed long since. This is the one who stood the charge of four lions and killed them all. Three with the bow and one with his knife in its chest as it raked him. His courage isn't in doubt, nor his knife fighting skills." The Trainer of Men stares at the Chief Elder, Gordon, and back again. He's heard of the incident, but not who it was, nor that it was one so young. "So that leaves only the leadership test, the Coup, community, and the knowledge test with the Amur Elder."
The Trainer of Men says, "We're well on the way with the leadership training. The three teams of four are doing fairly well, overall. Some will pass and some will fail, this is already obvious."
Gordon says, "May I suggest you give me one person from each of the teams and I'll work with them. Say Dunar Chektar, Brad Maxwell, and Harry Lester. I'm sure we can work as a team and catch up."
The Trainer of Men is shocked by this suggestion, "You know, for any individual to pass the leadership test more than half of their team must also pass." Gordon nods. "Those three are the ones I expect to fail, because they're all slower thinkers and none can exercise authority over their team mates. That's why I've split them between the teams."
Smiling, Gordon says, "Give me these three and I'll teach them how to pass the leadership test. And, taking them away from the other teams will stop them from being angry about my starting late or disturbing their teams. This way they'll see it as you doing them a favour and will expect all four of us to fail. I expect Robert Chesway and Charl Chektar to fail, because they're too autocratic to be good leaders."
A grinning Chief Elder Ebber says, "Do as he suggests. If anyone can get Dunar and Harry through their leadership tests Gordie is the one. And this is their last chance to attempt the tests. Well, that leaves the Coup. No one's suggested a village to Count Coup on, do you have any in mind for your team?"
"Yes, the Amira village of Koten in three weeks. It's just over the mountains and easily reached. Being their main village with their Chief Elder it won't be easy and even simple Coups will have enough points for any successful harvests. Three weeks gives all of us a chance to scout it out without being obvious." Both elders nod and agree. Clan Father studies Gordie well, then grins with understanding. Gordie has some other legitimate reasons to visit that village over the coming weeks. And they won't realise he's scouting them for his Coup. He begins to wonder exactly how much thought and planning Gordie has put into his Standing at this time and the Coup operation.
As he predicted, Gordie's addition to the line-up causes concerns about team groups. He's also right in others being happy to see Brad, Dunar, and Harry removed from their teams. A few, like Robert and Charl, think the Trainer of Men is putting all his failures in one basket.
Dunar and Harry will be sixteen years old and too old to Stand before next year's classes. Dunar, Brad, and Harry are all slow thinkers and two grades behind their age group. The others have forgotten Gordie knows these boys very well, as he's been coaching them in their school work for over a year. He knows how to get them to remember and focus on what's needed. First he concentrates on preparing them to Count Coup, with some early training in cooperation and leadership.
The following weekend Gordie takes his team with him when he goes to see Shedra, the Great Mother of the Amira. He takes a very large bowl of his Aunt's chicken and vegetable soup recipe as a gift to the Great Mother from him and his clan. Entering the house she shares with her son (the Chief Elder) and his family Gordie delivers the soup. He asks to be excused for a few minutes to arrange someone to show his friends around. She gives approval, because it gives her time to organise to keep the soup warm. It also gives her a moment to make a small quality control test of the soup.
Outside he finds Stephan, an older friend from school. Hailing him he asks him to show the boys around the village so they can see how the Amira do some things the same as the Amiri and others different to the Amiri. Stephan recognises the boys and knows they're a bit simple. He promises to show them everything. He proceeds to do so, and gives them detailed explanations of everything. As instructed by Gordie, the boys hang on his every word and give everything very close attention while they ask many pertinent questions. They're here to learn about the different ways of doing things and to work out what they'll do to Count Coup, but they know not to mention this last item.
Returning to Shedra's house Gordie enters, asking, "Well, did it taste as good as usual."
Laughing, she replies, "And what makes you think I had some?" Smiling, he points at the still damp spoon on the sink. Picking up and washing the spoon, she says, "Yes, it does, young eagle eye."
He laughs, "Thank you, I did try to make it taste exactly like my Aunt's." Shedra turns and looks at him, hard; confirming he speaks the truth she gives a slow nod. Few boys cook and few cooks manage the level of being able to manage his Aunt's recipes, let alone that well or so young. This is one of her more difficult ones and she knows many adults who can't manage to cook it right. "Anyway, I've the eye of a falcon, not an eagle." She turns and studies him again. In the Amiri and Amira histories and legends falcons have a very special meaning, one doesn't equate themselves with such, not lightly or casually.
She leads him through to her office and he explains the purpose of his visit to see her. How the Great Mother of the Amiri has sent him to see what she can of his future and discuss his abilities. Shedra sits up straight when he tells of having the Truth Sense and feeling the winds of history. She takes his hand in hers, but can't see his future, either; this disturbs her. Standing up, she leads him from the house. They walk through the village to the house of the old women which is located in the centre of the village. Entering, they go to a large side room where her mother is resting in a large lounge chair near the fire. Of those alive her mother has the strongest power of The Sight, some say the strongest ever recorded.
When they approach her the older woman looks up at them. She smiles, and says, "So the young falcon is starting to spread his wings. Come closer so I can measure their span." All within hearing sit up at this, here is one so young, yet the Ancient One calls him a falcon. He must be destined for great things. Gordie stands beside her and she takes his hand. Her eyes go wide, and she says, "Still there are many paths and all have great danger. You can't save all, but will save more than others can. I see much sorrow. Will you not take the easy path?"
Smiling softly at her, he sighs, "I can't, I exist for the people, for all the people." Those close by hear this, and are stunned, because only the King or great leaders 'exist for the people.'
Giving him a slow nod, she says, "Yes, there's that in you, as is the granite and surety of these mountains. In time you'll overcome your enemies. Thank you for coming to me before my time's over. I've not all that long left and am glad to have lived to meet The Great Falcon. Your current plan is risky, but will succeed due to your good planning and audacity." Turning to her daughter, she says, "Yes, he has the Truth Sense, and much more; but that's for him to reveal, if he wishes. But he hasn't the proper Sight." Releasing his hand she goes back to her knitting. The women around her stare at Gordie, a male with the Truth Sense and the Ancient One calling him The Great Falcon. Is he the one of the legends? This is all too much for them, but they know not to gossip about it to others, although it'll fill many a day's talk inside the hut.
Turning, Shedra and Gordon leave her. While they walk through the village, Shedra says, "Well, that was interesting, and much more than I expected. But I gather you're not surprised."
Gordie smiles, "I feel the winds of history, I sense the truth. It but confirms what I suspected. This must be kept secret from all but those that need to know, for some time yet." She nods her agreement.
He escorts her back to her house and they chat for a long while. Eventually he takes his leave, promising to come back to collect the bowl in two weeks' time. She agrees to have it washed and ready for him. Leaving her he seeks out his friends. He finds them studying the Chief Elders prize stallions, very fine looking horses they are. Chief Elder Shumra stands nearby with obvious pride in the horses he's bred. So he should, with such fine animals. Asking if they've seen everything, Gordie is inundated with a babel from all three while they explain, in great detail, the many wonders they've seen today. He smiles and replies to each in turn. Chief Elder Shumra watches on with amusement and pleasure that one so young is helping those who need help. He's also noticed how Stephan's been showing them around, and he's very pleased with the boy.
Approaching the group, Shumra says, "Stephan, it's clear you've explained yourself and taught these boys well. Please tell the Trainer of Men you've earned your Community points."
Looking up with surprise, Stephan says, "That isn't why I've done this, Chief Elder, these are good boys in need of instruction and I was glad to help them."
Smiling, Shumra says, "I know, and I've watched you since they arrived. Because you did this for them, and not yourself, is why I've declared you as passing the test. Now go tell him." He watches Stephan walk off in a daze, "I think he saw the Community test as the one he'd fail, because he doesn't realise what he does naturally, and so well. Well, young Amiri, do any of you Stand this year." He looks at all the boys and the other three go shy, which is their nature.
Gordon speaks for them, "Brad stands for the first time this year, while Dunar and Harry must pass or never qualify, because this is their last chance. They've all told me how they've done well in all the tests so far, but are concerned about the Leadership test and Coup. Being slow thinkers these will prove the most challenging and are where Dunar and Harry have failed in the past. Part of the training is for them to visit other villages to learn how things are done differently and to scout out possible places to Count Coup. I help these friends to learn their studies at school, so I'm working with them to learn these things. Watch out, they may come back one night to steal your stallions away." The boys look at Gordie in shock.
Shumra laughs, "If these boys can manage to walk these great noisy brutes out in Coup, they'll have earned their pass. Even I have trouble with them, and the noise is great when people get too close to them."
The boys take their leave and head home in a van driven by one of Gordie's security team. On the way back they confirm the Chief Elder's horses will be the easiest target for them. They all handle horses well and can ride bareback. They start planning and mentally rehearsing how they'll do it in two weeks' time. For the next two weeks they concentrate on cooperation and leadership training. With some time riding bareback around the mountain forests near Koten. Much of this is done on one property close to the village, with the owner's approval and help. The owner is another Amira Elder who likes the idea of seeing some boys Count Coup on his old friend Shumra.
The Saturday two weeks later sees Gordie and the boys visiting Koten late in the day, just after dinner, while on their way back from Marley's Landing. They stop just long enough to pick up the bowl. They stop again at the farm where they plan to keep the horses after the Coup. Under supervision by the Trainer of Men Gordie and his team prepare to sneak into the village two kilometres away.
Just after midnight, wearing very dark grey clothes and keeping low, they sneak past the sentry warriors. This is more of a tradition than a necessity now, even if they do spot fires early. Reaching the horse yards Gordie leaves the others to carefully enter and get to know the horses while they earn their trust. Reaching Shumra's house he climbs the fence onto a shed roof and enters through a ceiling cavity vent, one in need of repair. He moves across the rafters to the manhole. After tying a rope to the rafters he removes the cover and goes down the rope into the hall. Entering the dining room he approaches the table to remove an antique bowl from its centre. He wraps it with care and puts it in his backpack. Placing a token in its place. Being very careful of the bowl he retraces his steps, replacing the cover and removing the rope. Before leaving the house he checks the bowl is well wrapped and secure. Arriving safely back at the horse yards he finds the others waiting for him. They've got their chosen horses out of the yards and are ready to lead them away. Nodding, Gordie moves towards the other side of the village to create a disturbance and draw the sentries there. Reaching the spot he wants he allows a watch dog to get his scent by moving upwind of him. He's quick to move away, and waits for the sentries to pass him when they investigate the barking dog. With the sentries gone he heads to the horse yards, and follows the path the others are taking to leave the village. He catches up with them at the village edge. Moving slowly and with great care they use all the cover they can until they reach the forest line. The boys all mount up and ride back to the farm where they'll be spending the night.
The next morning, at breakfast, the bowl causes concern in Shumra's household when they notice it's missing. The missing horses aren't noticed for another hour. Then it's the tokens hanging on the posts that are noticed and not the shortage of horses. Chief Elder Shumra isn't amused, while his mother and grandmother are laughing their heads off. So are many of the villagers. Chief Elder Shumra takes a party into the forest to find the horses. If he can find them before midday the Coup doesn't count. The boys mount up and ride off through the forest, well before he reaches the farm they're at.
For most of the morning Gordie is busy cooking his Aunt's special chicken and vegetable soup. Wrapping a bowl in aluminium foil to help keep it warm, he fills the bowl with hot soup and places a lid on the large bowl. His guard drives him to Koten.
Pulling up in front of the Chief Elder's house at 11:15 a.m. he gets out and greets Shumra's wife, Naden, telling her he has more soup for the Great Mother and her family. Entering the house he asks if he can leave the soup on a warming plate on the dining room table. Naden gives approval and places a warming plate on the table. She turns it on and Gordie places the bowl on the plate. He leaves the house to find Shedra, because she's out in the village.
About thirty minutes later he finds Shedra in the house of the old women. They're all laughing at the morning's events. Seeing him, both Shedra and her mother start laughing again. Shedra says, "Well, what brings you here so early, young Falcon?"