Tides of Sorrow

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4.0 - THE ALTAR

“Hast thou no shame?” Qayin asked his brother.

“Shame?” Havel pushed himself up off his knees and spun round to face his horrified brother. “Thouest speak to me of shame?” He pointed to the humble offering Qayin had carried up the hill as it now swept across the dry ground, stirred by the breeze. Qayin’s eyes watched the grain and sheaves blow across the stone plateau, the fruit, nothing more than a pulped mush. Shame indeed flooded him. It had not been his best, such was his haste to reach Havel. He had planned to return later with a more appropriate offering.

Havel strode boldly past, making his way to the path which led back to the village. Qayin’s eyes snapped to his brother once more. “Havel!” he’d pleaded. “Do not leave the altar in such flux nor enter the village like this, I implore you.”

“The offering remains. God hath ordained it. Thouest should stay thy emulation and bring forth a worthy offering such as mine.”

“That thee bring such infamy upon our kinsmen is unforgivable! Such ignominy shalt bring forth a terrible dearth, Havel, our crops and livestock shall be blighted. The people shall suffer.”

Havel faced his brother, a sneer tracing his lips. “Thou hath given thyself unction, brother! Who art thou to forgive me? Open thine eyes!”

“And see what, Havel?” Qayin challenged. His fists clenched and relaxed.

“Truth!” He turned once more to head down the hill.

Qayin ran after him. Grabbing his arm he pulled his brother round to face him. “Brother, thou hast blasphemed with such trespass.”

Havel pulled free. “Do not think yourself worthy to succour me of sin, Qayin, for no sin hath been committed. I offered only what God asked of me.” Eyes hard, he turned away a final time and made his way to the huts and tabernacles in the village below.

Qayin stood, his heart sinking at his brother’s words and deed.

The altar is defiled.

He spun around, startled. The voice was unknown to him, yet clear, concise. His eyes searched the jagged rocks and shrubbery. “Who is there?”

No answer.

Tentatively, he approached the blood-soaked slab and started trying to clear it.

Why?

He stopped and looked about again. On finding no-one, he continued with his task. He was mad with grief over Havel’s actions and that voice had to be in his head. “Why what?” He muttered.

A sacrifice of the innocent.

Qayin knew the sacrifice had been wrong. He was angry with Havel. His brother’s sin would bring forth execration upon their people. They were condemned.

You must right this wrong, Qayin! The voice boomed.

A tremor ran through the ground causing pebbles to dance on the dirt floor. A flash of light temporarily blinded Qayin. He raised his hands to shield him. Startled, he fell to his knees, repentant. I’m not mad, he reasoned.

His heart quickened as he then knew whose voice had spoken. “My God! Forgive me. I knew not it was Thyself who spoke. Guide me that I can wash away Havel’s sin.”

He waited. Only silence prevailed. ”Please. Guide me,” he pleaded. Nothing was forthcoming. Why did God torment him so? He had done no wrong.

Dejected and confused, Qayin continued trying to clean up the altar. He scraped the lamb’s innards, caul and fleece into the grain bag and then picking up handfuls of dry dirt, smeared the stone slab. Pressing down hard, he tried to rid the altar of any bloodstains but he only managed to dull the streaks of crimson. In the process, grit and sand had buried into his palms and under nails.

He stood, staring at it. The sun continued its ascent, the pure rays tainted by the blood on the stone slab. Qayin’s eyes flitted to the scattered grain, millet and sheaves of corn as it was buffeted by the soft winds.

Pitiful.

The criticism hit him hard. He’d known it was not worthy, but it had not been intended to ridicule the place of worship nor afford insult to God. It had been purely to convince his mother that it was indeed the reason he made haste to the altar. If he went empty handed she would have questioned him, delaying him even more. He could not reveal Havel’s treacherous intent; he had desperately hoped to prevent it.

Then he’d realised he had wronged her. His own mother! All she had wanted was for him to pray with her and he had spoken a falseness, a lie.

And alas, he was too late. He had failed God, failed his mother, his father, his village and yes... his brother too. Havel’s soul would be damned for his sacrilegious deed.

Blood is life.

Qayin froze. What was God trying to tell him? “Yes, and it should not be offered in sacrifice.”

Innocent blood.

“Yes. It was. But, I beseech you my Lord God, forgiveth my brother. He hath misunderstood the meaning of oblation.”

Make of thyself an ensample. Show him the way.

Once more, he dropped to his knees uncertain what it was God asked of him. “What would Thouest have me do?” He closed his eyes as if in prayer and lowered his head.

Thou will knowest when the time comes.

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