StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

(Fic) Heart, Opened

Hiywan's Story has been nominated for another award. \o/  Best Gen Fic and Best Original Plot at the Cover to Cover Awards. Thanks to whoever nominated it! ♥

c2c Awards

And to celebrate, here's a short fic I recently wrote about Hiywan. You might be able to spot where my inspiration for the story came from; clue - it's from a song I've been listening to recently. The title probably gives it away if you recognise the source. :-)

Title: Heart, Opened
Characters: Hiywan, male OC.
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 1190

Hiywan gets involved with a talented artist...

Hiywan's Story

Heart, Opened

Nataye is a great painter. Oh, we've all tried it: picking up a half-burned stick from the fire or a handful of sticky white clay and using it to sketch shapes on a convenient cave wall, or piece of hide, or maybe the body of a convenient friend. In most cases, it's only out of politeness that we claim to recognise what the person's drawn.

But sometimes - just sometimes - someone can make the animal they've painted seem alive. Like it wants to jump out of the wall and run free. Nataye has that talent, and it's a rare and enviable gift.

Of course, painting pictures isn't only about enjoyment; it honours the spirits, and images can be used in powerful magic rituals. There are secret ways to make colours that don't fade, so the image is captured there for all time. To learn them, Nataye had to spend long hours with Grandmother Heran, as she taught him how to mix blood and water and fat and ash and plant sap and rock and clay and bonemeal and all sorts of other things together to make his paints.

I sat in on the lessons too - not because I have any artistic talent myself, because I really don't; but so that I'll be able to pass the same lessons on in turn once Grandmother isn't around any more. And so Nataye and I have become pretty good friends. He married Rohama when her last husband was killed hunting, joining our clan from the Silver Moon people; his own first wife had died in childbirth. He's quite a bit older than me, and because of his painting skill I have to say I rather hero-worship him. Fortunately (if also aggravatingly to my brand new adult dignity) he seems to find this cute rather than offputting.

So anyway, about a year after he joined the clan, Nataye was asked to make his first ritual painting. It was to help our hunting magic; a symbolic representation of a prey animal that would be used as the focus for the ceremony. He spent long hours painting it in secret, with only a torch and his tools. I used to worry about him not eating, so when we went out gathering in the mornings I'd keep on working while the other women sat around afterwards to rest and chat; and then I'd take the extra food into the cave for his meal. He was always very grateful, which made me happy: but he also didn't let me see what he was working on. He explained it would spoil the magic, and while I grumbled, I couldn't argue with that.

So it wasn't until the men gathered for the big hunting magic ritual that I got to see his painting, at the same time as everybody else. (Yes, as I've probably mentioned before, as a Guardian I get to participate in the men's ceremonies, or at least the ones related to hunting and death.) It was a wonderful painting, but also creepy and disturbing at the same time. He'd drawn a huge buffalo, but it was pierced with spears, lying dead on the ground, all red with blood. It took my breath away and made me all shivery inside.

Everyone else felt the same way, because they were all talking about it after the ceremony. A few people disapproved, and were even angry; but others said it was the best painting they'd ever seen. I was obviously in the second group, and hotly defended him against the critics. After a while, though, I saw that Nataye had slipped away. Rada said he'd muttered something about wanting to change some of the details of the background of the painting.

It was clear to me, though, that he'd just wanted to get away from the conversation. I sympathised, having often felt that way myself. I also decided to follow him, so I grabbed a torch and went back into the cave.

He was there, sure enough, and looked round in some annoyance when he saw someone approaching; but when he realised it was me he shrugged and gave me a lopsided grin.

"You've seen it now, no need to hide it from you."

"I think it's really great. The best painting in these caves!"

"Not really. I still need to..." His voice faded into a mumble as he turned back to the painting and started re-drawing a line. It looked fine to me already, but he was the artist. I perched myself on a rock behind him and let him work, staying as quiet as I could so as not to distract him, fascinated by what he was doing.

"Why did you paint a buffalo?"

My question came out of the blue, startling him so much that he jumped. I was sorry I'd broken my resolution to keep quiet, but my curiosity had got the better of me at last.

He didn't turn around, concentrating on the figure of a hunter he was sketching with soot in the background, but he answered me politely enough, if rather absently.

"It's my totem animal."

Oh. That made sense. But wait, no it didn't. Not when he painted it like that...

"Why did you paint it when it's dead?"

"It just felt right."

He carried on painting, and I felt annoyed at getting such a brief answer - but I was glad he wasn't looking at me because I didn't want him to know how I felt. But of course he knew anyway, because he's perceptive like that. So he sighed, and put down his brush.

"Life and death; they're two sides of the same leaf. We want the buffalo spirit to send us her daughters so we can eat, and we send them back to her. Like this," - he tapped the wall - "So in a sense, we're telling her what will happen. Fair warning, if you like. It just seems right."

My breath caught and I stared at him with my heart in my eyes. That was just so perfect, so clever, so insightful and yet so understanding! I wanted to reply in the same way, say something deep and intelligent, but to my horror all I blurted out was,

"Why did you choose the colour red?"

Stupid, stupid, stupid. The buffalo was dead and the red was its blood - wasn't it obvious? He was going to laugh at me, dismiss me like I was an ignorant child. But-- but he didn't. He smiled at me, and talked about how the red represented lifeforce, like the heat of a fire or the sun's warmth, and how killing a buffalo doesn't destroy its spirit but merely sends it out into the world, radiating out around it, to begin the cycle anew. Then he gave me that lopsided grin again and added, "Plus the red's there to be its blood as well. Obviously." And then he winked at me, and I burst out laughing, and he joined in, and then...

But I won't tell you what happened next. I think it's enough that you know what came before.

Author's Note:

YouTube link to Joss Whedon singing 'Heart, Broken'. Let's just say that I dispute Joss's argument that the desire to understand the process in an artist's head is a phenomenon of modern times - in fact, I think it's probably as old as the existence of art itself. Hence this story.

Also, 'Hiywan's Story' is set in Africa, not North America, so I changed 'bison' to 'buffalo'. :-)


Tags: buffy, doctor horrible, fic, hiywan's story
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