Tides of Sorrow

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The sun was just cresting the hill when Qayin spied Havel making his way to the altar. Dread engulfed him. God would not look favourably upon his brother if he spilt blood as an offering. He had to stop him.

He left Havel’s hut, starting towards the hill.

“Qayin!” His mother’s voice called to him. He turned to see her emerging from her doorway. The goat hides fell back into place with a muffled slap as she stepped out on the dry dirt. “Why art thou so hurried?” she asked. Her face, serene, full of love, smiled as only a mother could smile.

Torn between chasing after Havel or affording his mother the love and respect she deserved, Qayin cast his eyes to the grain store. “I work, mother. I shalt offer God mine harvest,” he replied, irked that he could not confess what worried him.

Eve reached her son and laid a gentle hand upon his arm. “God shalt understand if thou art a little late. Pray with me.”

Qayin’s eyebrows pinched, he could not look at her. She could not know what Havel intended to do, it would grieve her so. He pulled away from her. “It is but first light mother. Go, rest some more and we shalt pray later once we hath presented out offering before God.”

He did not glance back. He gathered some sheaves, fruits and grains into a large sack. Heaving it around his back, he placed the broad strap securely over one shoulder. Side-winding his way out the door, he then made straight for the small hill; hoping, praying he was still in time.

The path was well-worn, small rocks and pebbles scattered haphazardly amid dusty earth and sparse dry grasses. As he climbed, the dull grey ground turned ochre, the sun-rays spreading, bringing richness and warmth to the new day.

Qayin’s eyes squinted against the brightness as he glanced down at the cluster of huts and small holdings. The livestock in the folds was bleeting and lowing, their song rising with the sun.One or two people stirred, preparing to go about their daily tasks. Others also had gifts to offer God, but they would travel up later.

Hitching the sack, he continued the climb, feet slipping now and again on the shale underfoot. It was a slow, steady incline and one which was best done early. Havel and he had always been among the first to reach the altar in years gone by. It used to be a race between them when they were younger. The race today, however, was very different.

The path eventually levelled out to a small plateau sheltered on one side by a wall of jagged rocks and scattered chastetree, cactus and mesquite in between. In its centre, a stone slab, resting on two low uprights.

Havel was knelt in front of the altar, his back to Qayin. His torso shook, denoting he was not idle. A dark trail pooled and trickled over the edge of the stone slab.

The sack fell from Qayin’s shoulder, its contents spilling on the hard, dry earth - fruits bursting, grains scattering. “What hast thou done?” he gasped.

Havel turned. His hands were bloody, as was his woollen shift, soaked and clinging to his chest. In his hand he held the offending knife - its smooth flint blade, crimson. The lamb, with fleece torn back, lay wet and glistening, meat half carved, entrails slopping to the ground.

“Verily I say unto thee, this is desecration!” Qayin said.

Havel shrugged, spreading his arms; a gesture of repudiation. “Thou knowest not of what thy speak, brother.”

Qayin stepped closer, his eyes raking over the altar and the sacrifice. “He shalt mete murrain upon your stock. His wrath will descend upon us all.”

“Nay, I tell thee He shalt not,” Havel replied. He turned back to the bloodied lamb, gesturing with knife. “Blood is the life, Qayin. The meat, sustenance. The fleece provideth shelter and clothing. How can thou not see the purity of mine offering?” His eyes fell to the scattered, ruined contents of Qayin’s grain sack. A hint of mockery laced his voice. “’Tis not I who will offend the Lord God Almighty. It is thee.”

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