View Full Version : The First Man

July 3rd, 2013, 08:46 PM
(the first chapters of an unfinished project. I put this aside because anybody who read it was too confused by it, but none could ever offer critique on how to make it more understandable. Any suggestions?)

Chapter 1

At long last, he sighed, as he quietly arose in the Temple. He strode silently, thanks to so many years of practice, but anyone watching would have seen the obvious anticipation in his demeanor. The huge oak doors ponderously crept open, but Tristan had expected as much. With a deftly executed twirl, his white robe slid onto his shoulders, barely within the legal limit of five feet from the doors. Tris loved the Prejudice Prevention Precept, but sometimes in his haste he pushed the limit. In fact, daily he thanked the heavens for the 3P, for how else would One-Who-Shall-Be have won the love of a Healer girl-child, an imp who had stolen his heart?

And with the thought of Drusella, as always, Tristan’s heart skipped a beat.

Thinking back all those years, to the day when he had been ten and she seven, Tristan wondered how he would have ever survived if that fateful day had never happened. His father, a Parliamentarian who had been instrumental in the passage of the 3P, had taken inexplicably ill. For days, and then weeks, Tristan was responsible for the hearth’s maintenance as well as his father’s care. Day after day, Physicians and medical authorities had visited, prescribed, referred, and failed. Meanwhile, Tristan’s dreams of becoming a Planetary Defender grew progressively more dim as he missed day after day of drills, exercises and studies. After five years of absolute devotion, fate seemed to be denying the Commission that should be his in a mere three years. And if his father did not get well, it would be his legal obligation to replace his father in Parliament, since his father had not yet taken a Chosen to train.

In a moment of weakness, Tristan had run sobbing from the Villa into the Temple. And there he had run into her.

Drusella, he thought, and sighed almost audibly. Even at seven, she had been a glorious beauty with eyes the color of the lake on a Summer’s day, and hair the red-gold of the sun. Fighting with the Temple’s oak doors and carrying an armful of vials and jars, she had been trying to secure her new white robe at her waist, and was not watching her steps. And with tears blinding his eyes, Tristan hardly watched where he was going.


The sound of jars and vials hitting the floor had caught the attention of The-One-Who-Is who was Attending in the Temple. Tristan quietly apologized for interrupting the Attendance of The One, then to the girl for breaking her hold on her containers. Although as a Defender-elect he had been trained that The One was most important in all things, it pained him to have to make his apologies to the girl-child second. For even in those humiliating moments of the dual weaknesses of clumsiness and tears, he knew that Drusella had his heart, that he intended to make her his hearth-mate. And he knew she would feel it too, if she would only forget her humility and look him in the eye! But he had left his villa illegally, without his white robe, the “great equalizer” as his father called it, and was wearing only his blood-red Defender-elect coveralls. And so, she had formed her first opinion of him as untouchable, not as an equal, something his father had spent a lifetime trying to dispel.

As Tristan continued hurrying away from the Temple, he remembered the rest of that day. How he had been curious about her vials and jars as he had helped pick them up, and had broken yet another Tradition by asking her about them. She had innocently explained them to him, hesitantly at first, but with more vigor as she realized he was truly interested. And truly interested he was. What started as a mere curiosity to know what held her attention and respect so fully had eventually become a passion to himself as well: healing using plants and prayers. He had never even known such a thing existed! He had known prayers existed, certainly, for everyone in the Enclosure was taught the ritual prayers from birth. And he had heard the rumors that outside the Enclosure, plants grew wild, without control or planning, serving no ornamental purpose. But he had always believed that healing was a product to be dispensed, bought and paid for from the Physicians who had been Chosen into that path of knowledge, and trained in the secrets of creating pharmaceuticals. But here was this beautiful girl-child, already Chosen by a Healer in her fifth year before most children were Chosen, telling him that healing was a process that the body does on its own, whether pharmaceuticals were used or not. And she even was showing him some mysterious green leaves and explaining how they encouraged the body to heal itself better than the pharmaceuticals of the Physicians.

Since he could remember, all that had filled his life was Prejudice Prevention, and then Defender Training. Nothing else had ever mattered to him, perhaps because nothing else had ever been explained to him. All children were initially given the chance to Train for Planetary Defender. Those who showed no promise were quickly encouraged in other pursuits. The life of a Defender was what every child wanted, what every hearth-couple wanted for their children. All other Appointments in the Enclosure paled in comparison to Defender. Or so Tristan had thought. Since that day, his outlook, even his life, had changed in so many ways!

Drusella, after having spent a great deal of the afternoon explaining healing and some of the properties of wild plants, had fetched her Healer and had attended to Tristan’s father. They had chanted some prayers (the first Tristan had heard out of Temple Ritual) and then had made a tea using bark they said came from a wild tree found outside the Enclosure. (Tristan had never seen tea made with anything but tea bags before.) By the next morning, Tristan’s father had been cured. Not just better, but wholly cured. The only explanation Drusella and her Healer had offered was that Tristan’s father had many enemies, and some would do anything to see him destroyed, and that he ought to pay mind who he dined with outside the hearth in the future.

Upon his recovery, Tristan’s father had made haste in naming his Chosen, perhaps out of fear of a recurrence. That singular act had freed Tristan from so many of his Villa duties and, as the months passed, he began spending more and more of that extra time with Drusella. And, Tristan thought ironically, the very thing that had sent him to the Temple that day –the fear of losing his Defender Commission- was the thing he began to desire most. Just two years before his expected Commission into the Planetary Defender’s League, one year to the day of having met Drusella, Tristan announced his status as a free agent and his Intentions of seeking a robed Appointment. His hearth, in fact the entire Parliamentary Violet Villa which had supported him during his long Training for Defender, expressed shock and concern over a decision made at such an alarmingly late age. They weren’t as concerned about going from coveralls to robes, as the mental Robed Appointments were usually started at a later age than the physical Coverall Appointments. But he had trained as Defender for six years, which meant that he was four years behind most other Robe Transitioners. He was at a clear disadvantage, they warned. He would be lucky, they insisted, to be Chosen for Temple Maintenance, the most physical of the Robed Appointments. To trade a future of deep magenta for one of blue in an undetermined shade did not bother Tristan, for he had been taught Prejudice Prevention from birth. Besides, wearing the pale blue of Temple Initiate allowed Drusella to see him as an equal, though her dark yellow cloth was clearly darker than his.

Tristan had worn sky blue unadorned raiments for less than a month before he was once again Chosen. Although his Robes were not the striking dark magenta that his coveralls would have been, his apprenticeship was now the least common in the Enclosure. He had been Chosen for the secret and sacred path of One-Who-Shall-Be. No other Appointment was as revered as Planetary Defender, but The One-Who-Is was the spiritual equivalent, and so was a high attainment nonetheless. No other Appointments compared to the prestige of Defender or One-Who-Is. Not his father’s Violet Robes, not his mother’s Orange Athletic Entertainment coveralls, not even the robes of the Physicians’, which color they called Forest Green.

And so things had worked out well. Although Tristan had been called foolish for leaving his path as Defender-elect, fate had allowed him to be Chosen as One-Who-Will-Be, and now he loved his life, loved his work, and loved his Drusella. And now, today, on the sixteenth anniversary of his birth, he had entered the Temple as a member of the Violet Villa, part of his father’s hearth, and was now leaving as a member of the Indigo Villa, head of his own hearth. After all the necessary homage and sacrifices expected on this important day, he was finally Emancipated, legally free to make his own decisions without seeking council if he so chose. And with the daily thanks and prayers and dedications finally complete, he was now on the way to the Gold Villa, where he would announce his Intention of making Drusella his hearth-mate when she too came of age.

Chapter 2

Tristan had never been so happy. Drusella was his. Or, rather, she would be. Only a little more than a year left. It was the fifth month, the month of his birth. Hers was in the seventh month. She would come of age on the fifteenth anniversary of her birth, and that was in fourteen more months. She had seemed a bit overwhelmed that he had stated his Intentions so long before her own Emancipation, but he knew she would grow to love the idea as he did.

At last, he thought again, this time with a smile. Earlier this morning, the anticipation, nay the impatience, had made him feel frazzled. He had not given his prayers the honor they deserved, but he was justified, was he not? With such a beauty as Drusella waiting, what man would not have wanted the hours of prayers, dedications and homages required at Emancipation to end as quickly as possible? Between his Emancipation, his preparation for a Statement of Intention, and his daily rituals as One-Who-Shall-Be, his morning had been spent entirely in Temple with incense, bent on one knee, or in ritual dance. But he felt only joy now. Drusella was within his reach, and soon she would look him in the eye and realize the love that was there between them.


The Spring air was crisp, giving hints of a mild Summer to come. Drusella voiced concern that the wild plants outside the Enclosure might not be plentiful with such unusual weather. Tristan felt an oddly overpowering sense of foreboding. He shrugged it off, grinning at Drusella, and said, “Let us not worry of the future. Come, look at the stars, twinkling like your eyes!”

She looked off into the distance for a moment, then sighed ever so softly and looked into the sky, and Tristan thought sadly how he would love to tell her that his new robe, which he had donned for the first time a few hours earlier, was the deep dark blue of this moonless night. But he knew it would bother her deeply to once again be reminded of what he wore behind his Prejudice Prevention prescribed white robe. He was just formulating the right way to ask her which Villa, Gold or Indigo, she wanted to make their hearth in, when the alarms sounded.

Drusella dropped his hand and put both of hers over her hears. For once, she looked him directly in the eyes. Tristan saw fear and confusion there, mirroring his own. He wanted to grab her and run, to get as far away as possible, but all his years of defender training held him motionless.

It was all a myth! His mind screamed. All of the Enclosure had always joked about the “crazy old Defenders”, the few ancient men who truly believed their appointment was needed. They were such dreamers, the people joked, swearing that someday, the bells would sound, telling the whole world that one of the Ones had neglected their duties, had not given the proper homage. Even Tristan, as a Chosen Defender-elect, had scoffed at the notion that he would ever really be called to defensive duty. All the grueling plasma, laser and sonic training he had painfully but faithfully endured for six years had been merely an inconvenient justification for the pampered way of life of a Defender. Yet here were the bells, just as he had once been trained to respond to.

How long had they been watching, waiting, until One became complacent?

Before his unbelieving eyes, he saw what appeared to be stars moving. Carefully he looked around with just his eyes. He saw everyone, including people he knew to be Defenders, staring in shocked silence as well when the first lasers were sent forth from those advancing points of light.

Tristan was still fighting the urge to grab Drusella and run, but as he began to grasp the reality of this nightmare come to life he remembered the lasers would be trained on anything moving.

Realization of another danger sunk in. “Take off your White Robe!” he screamed at Drusella.

“What?!” she cried. “Tristan, what is happening?”

“Take this off!” he cried again, snatching his own White Robe and flinging it as far away from himself as possible. Before it hit the ground, a laser flash blinded him, and the robe disappeared. Now wearing only his midnight Blue Robes, he grabbed hold of Drusella’s White ones and did what he had imagined he would only do in the privacy of their own hearth. As he ripped the material from her lithe body, his heart sank.

“Gods above, Drusella, I forgot your Robe was Gold!” he yelled. “Stand perfectly still! Stay there, I will be back.”

The panic in her eyes frightened him. Should he also tear off the Gold Robes, exposing her bare skin to the sights of the crafts’ lasers? Or should he hope that she held still long enough for him to find a dark cloth to hide her under?

He prayed she would obey, told her not to move once again, and moved as quickly as he dared toward the nearest Villa.

He looked around as he crept. Everywhere there seemed to be dust. Ashes, blowing in some slight spring breeze like snow drifting in midwinter. And as he slid around a pile of it, trying not to breath in the acrid smell of it permeating his nostrils, he was horrified to realize there were bits of Magenta underneath it. He held his body still and took a better look around. Everywhere there were what appeared to be great pillars of salt, and as he watched they slowly eroded in the breeze. He watched as one lone Defender ran swiftly and silently toward the Arsenal Center. Time seemed to move in slow motion as the valiance of the Defender was sighted with a laser and turned to ash.

One by one, all movement was being destroyed.

Drusella saw it too. As their eyes met for only the second time in their lives, Tristan saw the fear completely envelop her.

“No…” he whispered, gently shaking his head. Then louder, “No Drusella!” But it was too late. Gold skirts lifted immodestly, Drusella broke into a full sprint toward him. Tristan’s heart stopped as seconds passed, his breath held as Drusella covered the distance between them. Fate seemed to be smiling on them. Just as he opened his arms and prepared to leap at her, the world exploded, then went black.

When the light began to creep back into his eyes, he realized he was flat on his back, staring at the stars. They were motionless, twinkling against the backdrop of the sky innocently. He waited, all seemed quiet.

“They are gone, Drusella. We made it my love.” He whispered, joy in his voice.

He listened to the silence.


He eased up, pain searing through his head and his breathing painfully shallow.

And there, five feet away, was a pile of ash and a small piece of bright gold cloth.

“No,” he whispered once more, feeling panic finally take him. “No!” The scream echoed off the Enclosure walls.

There was no answer but a sad, mournful wail that he finally realized was his own.

July 3rd, 2013, 09:41 PM
Hey Kehawin,

that's quite a bit for one to take in at one time. i didn't quite make it through chapter 2. maybe post them separately?
be honest, there's quite a few things i could comment on in a full critique, but again, there's just too much here. but i can give a few "generals" of why some readers may have had problems:

*One-Who-Shall-Be/The-One-Who-Is: i understand these are some sort of titles, and even can infer their connotations, but those tags alone can cause a reader to second glance when you use them in a sentence. Your call, but you may want to re-think them.

*massive amounts of info and and terms that a reader won't understand or recall later even if you explained them. i feel that's because they're just thrown out there (waaaaay too much, too soon), and have no active meaning to a reader yet. we barely know the mc. if this is a novel, quite a bit of that info can be mentioned and explained later when it has a more pertinent or active part in a scene. as it is now, its just a bunch of stuff getting in the way of the present scene which should mainly be about Tristan. we need to know and care about him first. as a first chapter, all that info and terms is deadly.

i think, with a lot of editing and elimination of unnecessary info dump, Chap 1 and 2 could be combined and still be shorter than either chapter alone but more effective.

i understand how difficult it is to create a world where things need explaining, but i think you should practice on some sort of balance between "need to know (right now)" and keeping your scene moving.

i hope that helped a little bit.

July 4th, 2013, 12:19 AM
Thanks, it does help.

Was my first attempt at world building, and has sat for over 10 years in the state it's in because I just don't know how to explain that world and then destroy it before the "story" even starts.

July 4th, 2013, 12:59 AM
i hope you don't get discouraged. just try using a more balanced ratio of info to story.
i too have a strange world created where i can't even call a "pillow" a pillow because there's no such thing.
and it's like that throughout the story. i simply can't use every day terms and just about any random
common object has to be explained. just sayin i completely understand.

August 6th, 2013, 03:13 PM
Lsahlm said it best. too much info to care for it. take his/her advice! I fell into this conundrum as well when writing my fantasy short. it sucked to hear and was worse when chopping it all down. but, it made the story better and the read flowed so much better, you just gotta try and tell the meat of your story and incorporate the world around it. in my opinion that is. anywho keep it up!

August 6th, 2013, 03:42 PM
imma "he". ;)

August 8th, 2013, 05:30 AM
Hello Kewhawin,

I didn't get all the way through, but I fully agree with Lsahlm in that you are throwing a lot at us. I think that you are telling us instead of showing us. What practice? What is the 3P (unless you explain later)? That is a key aspect of writing that I struggle with and should be done as much as possible. I think that if you start showing us, we will begin to understand. I like what you're doing with it though.

I hope this helps,