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(Fic) Heart, Opened

28th July 2010 (19:43)

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'. :-)



Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 28th July 2010 19:21 (UTC)

Liked, mulled over, and agreed. :)

Now, about those deleted scenes from The Odyssey...?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2010 00:27 (UTC)

Thanks. :-)

I'm not sure what the Watchers' Council of Great Britain Sumeria was doing in those days, although I do suspect Penthesilea of being a Slayer. I also think that if Joss wrote the Odyssey, Penelope would be the star.

Posted by: brutti_ma_buoni (brutti_ma_buoni)
Posted at: 28th July 2010 20:11 (UTC)

Hmm, you write a tantalising ending. Ritual, magic or something more personal? The logic of the painter's thoughts is very nice, and Nataye's character is sketched just enough to support Hiywan's hero-worship. Neat! (And no, I still haven't seen Dr Horrible, so am not completely up to commenting on nuances. *g*)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2010 00:38 (UTC)


I was trying to make Nataye's explanation of the painting's deeper meaning sound thoughtful enough, but in Hiywan's eyes - and she's the narrator here - it's all incredibly deep and intellectual and sophisticated, because of course she's got a huge crush on the guy and thinks everything he does is wonderful. It was fun writing that part. :-)

Ritual, magic or something more personal?

In my own mind it was the last of those, but I don't want to intrude on Hiywan's privacy in a PG fic. :-)

BTW, the song isn't from Doctor Horrible as such, it's from Commentary! The Musical.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2010 10:12 (UTC)

Thanks! I do sometimes wonder if the stories should count as Buffyverse at all, given how tenuous the link sometimes is. Though technically this story could be considered Doctor Horribleverse insead! :-)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th August 2010 13:20 (UTC)

Better late than never, I enjoyed this latest installment in the Hiywan story.

Is it open-ended how far you plan to take her story? Will we see any tales of Hiywan the Slayer? (Which actually sounds like a good title for a pulp story...)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th August 2010 18:00 (UTC)


I assume you've seen 'I Am Destruction'? That's a tale of Hiywan the Slayer. (Well, the Shadowmen refuse to use the name 'Hiywan' and call her Sineya instead, in a deliberate attempt to depersonalise and control her.)

I've actually sketched out her entire life story; I know exactly when, where and how she dies, for instance. (Clue: she's carrying the Scythe when she dies.) I'm rather more hazy on the precise stages to get there from here. After it took me over a year to finish Book One of Hiywan's Story, I'm also wary of starting long multi-chapter epics; it's more fun doing a series of one-offs that gradually come together to create a picture. But certainly some day I envisage writing her whole life story.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th August 2010 18:16 (UTC)

I assume you've seen 'I Am Destruction'?

Oh yeah... with the cave full of vamps. I actually read that before "Hiywan's Story."

I was never clear on the whole "Sineya" thing. In the spell Willow calls her "daughter of Sineya," and the meaning of that word (the First Slayer's literal mother? Some group or concept that she is a product of?) was never clear to me.

It's interesting that you place the Scythe so far back in time. I'm interested to find out what you think it is, who created it and why. (But you might want to wait until after season 8 to avoid being jossed. :-)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 5th August 2010 19:08 (UTC)

Willow's words are actually, "We enjoin that we may inhabit the vessel, the hand - daughter of Sineya, first of the ones." It's Buffy who's the Vessel and the Hand, and I interpret the rest as calling Buffy the daughter of Sineya who is the First of the Ones. In other words, Buffy as the current Chosen One is symbolically the daughter of the First Slayer. Sineya is the First Slayer's name.

I chose the name Hiywan before I knew all that - Hiywan is the name of the first woman in the Ethiopian version of the Creation story, the equivalent of Eve. After discovering that fandom generally accepts that Sineya was the First Slayer's name, I came up with the idea that the Shadowmen gave that name to her in place of her birth name - in Hiywan's Story continuity, 'sineya' means 'first one'. It's a designation more than a name.

We already know lots about the Scythe's history, unless Joss actually changes the continuity he's already established. ;-) From 'End of Days':

"We forged this centuries ago, halfway around the world. Forged there, it was put to use right here...to kill the last pure demon that walked upon the Earth. The rest were already driven under. And then there were men here, and then there were monks. And then there was a town, and now there was you. And the Scythe remained hidden."

And yes, the Guardians who forged the Scythe are the same organisation that I've made Hiywan a member of. Further details of the connection may be revealed later. ;-) Though there's also this interesting snippet from 'The Harvest':

"The books tell the last demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed their blood. He was a human form possessed, infected by the demon's soul. He bit another, and another, and so they walk the Earth."

So - the last demon to "leave this reality" was the one who created vampires; and the last pure demon to "walk upon the Earth" was killed with the Scythe in what would eventually become Sunnydale. An interesting combination.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 5th August 2010 19:16 (UTC)

Season 8 seems to be leading toward a much bigger reveal regarding the Scythe. (Or "sith," as the actress in the motion comics hilariously pronounces it.)

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