Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the world, and all our woe
Since these drabbles tie into some other things I've written about the origins of the Slayer line, I thought it would be interesting to provide some Author's Notes and a commentary on the thought processes behind their creation.
My main aim was to draw a parallel between the origin story of the Slayer mythology and the legend of Eve, the apple and the Fall of Man. The story crystallised around my mental image of a girl sneaking out of her family's encampment early one morning and spying the three Shadowmen passing by; being forbidden by her father to go after them, but disobeying him; then getting caught and forced to take part in their ritual to create the Slayer.
Of course, the standard version of the story in Genesis isn't particularly empowering: Eve is a silly woman meddling with things she was told not to touch, giving way to temptation and dragging her partner down with her in her fall from grace. To fit the ethos of the Buffyverse, I wanted to subvert that message; depicting my protagonist's curiosity, willfullness and openness to new things as positive qualities. Before there was a Slayer, vampires and demons ruled the night and humans could only cower in dread; Hiywan's involuntary sacrifice in becoming the First Slayer changed the world. She took the fear out of the darkness.
Of course, the story doesn't have a happy ending for her; indeed, as I wrote it it's a classical tragedy. Her own hubris in disobeying her father and trying to steal the strangers' magical secret leads directly to her own downfall. Hiywan's mistake was acting alone, without the help and support of her family and friends. Over the countless millennia to follow she would lose everything: her humanity, her memory, her feelings and emotions, even her name, as her personality merged with that of the demonic force energising the Slayer line.
Even so, I'd like to think that even as the Slayer Spirit stripped Hiywan of her personal identity, her soul also infused it with just a little touch of humanity; and each subsequent Slayer who lived and died did the same, until the power behind the Slayer line was no longer merely a demon, but something new. A force for good. A force that would, eventiually, be able to inspire and empower Buffy and Willow to change the world...
Anyway, here are the drabbles, reposted from open_on_sunday, and below you'll find my commentary.
Of Man’s first disobedience
Hiywan is always the daring one. She creeps out of the shelter before daybreak, while her clan still huddle there in fear. And so she sees the three strangers passing by.
And that is a fearful thing, for no normal man walks abroad at night. Hiywan starts to call out, to ask why they are unafraid; but her father pulls her back inside, forbidding her to make a sound. Strangers are trouble. New things are dangerous. Best to hide.
Hiywan feigns agreement. The strangers’ footprints are clear in the dust, and soon her father will need her to fetch water…
And the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
The lake shimmers like silver fire. A family of long-necks stoops to drink, spreading their forelegs wide. Hiywan’s throat burns, but she can’t join them. The three men she’s been tracking all morning have stopped. She smells smoke. Clearly these are mighty sorcerers, to command fire at will.
She slowly circles around, keeping the wind in her face. The brightness of the lake should hide her approach. As she gets closer she sees one of them holding a wooden box, carefully as a suckling babe, and she knows now that this is their power.
And that it will be hers.
Brought Death into the world
She screams, lashing her feet as hard as she can, but the hands are merciless. Brutal strength bears her to the ground. Something heavy and cold and smooth as bone is clamped around her legs.
One of the sorcerers holds up the box she’d almost managed to take. “Foolish child. Do you even know what this is?”
“We should kill her.”
“Yet she showed skill and cunning far greater than any other. Perhaps…?”
The sorcerer with the box nods. He smiles at her, but his eyes are ice.
“It seems, girl, you will learn what is in here after all...”
Of Man's first disobedience
Or in this case, woman's. I'm envisaging Hiywan as being a year or two past puberty - 14 or 15 - which would make her an adult woman by ancient standards.
When I wrote the first draft of this story, I actually called the protagonist 'Eve'. However, I knew that was too clichéd, and did some research into alternatives.
(Trivia: my Google search history currently contains the following: "Giles taking off his glasses; evil; darkhorse; Eve cognates; paradise lost; 1688 bill of rights; mst3k; clan of the cave bear". I'll let you all work out what motivated those searches...).
The Hebrew version of Eve, Chavvah, had unfortunate connotations for a British audience, so I avoided that... but the list of cognates also included Hiywan, which I simply liked the sound of... plus, the language it was in - Ge'ze - was an East African language, so seemed appropriate for the First Slayer. (Even though if you want to get technical about it, she lived many thousands of years before the first Ge'ze speaker was born...) Hiywan means 'source of life', which is especially ironic for the girl who would become the First Slayer.
She creeps out of the shelter before daybreak, while her clan still huddle there in fear.
With no Slayer, vampires rule the night. However, they're unable to enter even a primitive lean-to shelter, if it's home to a group of humans.
Obviously, these are the Shadow Men from 'Get It Done'.
to ask why
Curiosity, the (so-called) sin of Woman... and the main reason we're not still wearing skins and living in caves. Hiywan was ahead of her time.
I did toy with the idea that Hiywan's clan would be unaware of the concept of fatherhood, in the sense that they hadn't drawn the connection between sex and babies being born almost a year later. One theory claims that it wasn't until humans domesticated animals and were able to observe their breeding cycles at close quarters that this became general knowledge. However, explaining all this in a 100-word drabble wasn't really practical... and anyway, it suits the theme for Hiywan to defy patriarchal authority. ("But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.")
and the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
The forbidden fruit, in this case, is (she thinks) magical knowledge that will keep her clan safe from vampires. She's right...
the lake shimmers like silver fire
This is meant to conjure a vivid image of the African plains and the hot tropical sun. I was also searching for a metaphor that would be meaningful to a Stone Age tribe, but had to settle on 'silver' as the colour, not a direct reference to the metal. Incidentally, this story is set in the days when the Sahara Desert was fertile grassland.
Clearly these are mighty sorcerers
They are, of course, but Hiywan's reaching a correct conclusion through incorrect means.
to command fire at will.
Hiywan's clan know about fire, but see it as a precious gift from the Sky God (in the form of lightning which sets trees on fire). They carry a glowing firestick around with them, carefully tended and never allowed to go out until the sacred flame is ready to be passed to a new firestick. They don't know how to light new fires at will.
the brightness of the lake should hide her approach
Assuming she's sensible enough to keep low and not be silhouetted against it, of course; otherwise this is the equivalent of a fighter pilot attacking out of the sun. The idea is to show Hiywan's great skill and cunning as a hunter - likewise with her instinctively making sure she is downwind of her prey.
As seen in 'Get It Done', the sorcerors have trapped the Slayer Spirit inside it. Hiywan, though, just assumes that it contains some powerful magical fetish that will strengthen her clan. She's even right, in a way.
it will be hers
Can you say "dramatic irony"? :)
Brought Death into the world
Death, the Slayer, same diff. (Pace Buffy)
Something heavy and cold and smooth as bone
Hiywan doesn't have the first clue what a metal chain is. I'm not sure how the sorcerors got it - either they're from a much more advanced civilisation far away, or they acquired it through magic, or captured/traded it from demons (who presumably already have metalworking).
she'd almost managed to take
Exactly how is left to the reader's imagination here; but my assumption is that having got close enough to see the box, she waits until the sorcerors are asleep before sneaking into their camp. However, a warding spell wakes them and she has to fight. Which she does with surprising skill, but is outnumbered and eventually dragged down.
far greater than any other
The sorcerors are searching for a girl worthy of becoming the mortal host for the Slayer Spirit - the implication is that they've been searching for a long time, and travelled far from home before finding one.
he smiles at her, but his eyes are ice
Courtesy costs nothing, even when you're about to turn a teenage girl into the vessel for an ancient demonic force of death and destruction...