Kajyl-- Thank you very much for the suggested reading.
Lord-of-Fools-- I realize that there is a sort of vagueness surrounding the events of the Prologue, but why it happened is meant to be made clearer as the story progresses.
Luthien and Tari-- Your comments are greatly appreciated.
Clodhopper--Thank you for the constructive criticism. In my attempts to find some sort of writing style, my writing does tend to be awkward in places (even after I've read and re-read this particular selection for about a year now).
Chapter I-- The Arrival of Abel
Cain was a slender boy, with dark hair and narrow, glaring eyes. He was handsomer than his father—though there was no other man or boy to compare him to. Adam was a large man, sculpted in all of earth's roughness, like any first of masterpieces. In truth, Cain bore the sullenness of his mother, Eve, though not her meekness. His being the firstborn of my mother and father meant that he was not rebuked in his frequent mischief. Good Abel was the product of my father's wisdom, but Eve would never even slap any of her children.
My older brother was often rough with me when we played together by the river. He would pull at my hair and throw stones at me until I wept. I returned his hurts with bitter words and childish insults that made him laugh at me. But when the sun went down, and it was time for us to return home, he would take my hand and tell me stories—stories often too crude for my ears but I giggled at them anyway. I think Cain was the first storyteller, but it was I who learned to weave my words together, even inventing some of my own, so that they told stories that poured like water into one's ear.
The sky was dark the day of Abel's birth. The clouds were low with the threat of early rain and a chill had cut through my garments. I could hear the water rushing between the stones at the riverbank, coaxed into restlessness by the wind. My mother cried out and stumbled against the wall of our cavern. She pointed to a reed basket on the ground and motioned for me to retrieve it.
I remembered when my mother took me down to the river to gather up the reeds that grew at the river's edge. We pulled them up or cut the stalks with a flint blade. I cut my hand with it and Eve hastily dipped my hand into the murky water, surprising me with a sympathetic frown. We then laid the reeds out on the pebbles, in straight lines, underneath the hot sun.
When we returned home, my mother took the thinnest of the reeds and began to twist and arrange them upon her lap. I watched from her feet as a basket took form beneath her calloused hands. When she was finished, she lined the inside with a fresh fur and set the basket aside.
When my mother had begun to feel the pains in her belly, Cain was showing me how to draw on the walls with pieces of charcoal he had collected from an old fire. He had gone from the cave with blackened hands to find my father, who had started to plough the field, and I abandoned my art to help my mother.
Abel was born at the dawn of the next day, just when the rain had begun to fall.
Abel's incessant crying made me invisible. Though my mother was quick to send me to mind my little brother, I had become invisible. "Abel" was all I ever heard from her lips, and I preferred her silence. My father, though he took great pride in his newest son, escaped to the field to be with the bellowing oxen and the squawking crows rather than stay at our cavern with the echo of a baby's cry in his ears.
Only Cain really saw me—even when Abel's arrival deemed him too old for play and he declined with a scowl whenever I would plead for a game. Even my pretty tears could not coax a boyish grin from him.
But Cain did not become so cold with me. When my mother had fallen asleep with Abel's basket in her lap, Cain snatched up my hand and took me down to the river. The rain had ceased to a drizzle and then it stopped so that the river became smooth again. I thrust my hand immediately into the water to splash my brother, giggling gleefully for I had not had the opportunity to tease him in so long. But Cain twisted my hand upwards and hissed my mischief to a halt. I cried out and stuck out my lower lip in a pout.
"Wait, Chavvah!" he ordered fiercely. I shook my head stubbornly, wishing to slap him for thwarting my fun. But his face bore a solemness I did not recognize and I relaxed my lips and suppressed my childish grudge to listen.
The water had calmed—the wind had stopped breathing—and Cain lowered his hand in front of him so that it hovered over the river's surface.
I was bemused, wanting to turn back but not wishing to run back to my mother. Cain, who hardly knew how to be gentle, gathered my curls at the back of my neck and pushed my head over the water.
"What are you doing?" I whined, prying his fingers from my hair and pouting all over again.
Suddenly Cain became as silent as Eve, his lips pursed the way they did when he was worried. He pointed to the water before us, whispering that I should not breath so heavily or I might cause the water to ripple.
"Look," he said quietly, holding my head with both his hands now.
I stared into the water. My nose almost touched the surface and Cain was holding my hair back. He had brought me to an area of water so clean that I could see the tiny shadows of fish darting smoothly beneath the surface.
"Do you see it?" he asked almost excitedly.
I had never seen a surface so smooth before, so transparent, so baffling. In all my years of play, I had not taken the time to be patient. I had never let the river calm around me. Even Cain was in awe at the things he saw.
"Is that me?" I breathed, reaching out to touch the dirtied face that appeared before me, the features quavering a little as the river slowly submitted again to the wind. Cain slapped my hand away.
"No!" he cried desperately, staring still at his own reflection—and mine. He stuck out his tongue and I wrinkled my nose. The faces we had only caught brief glimpses of before were suddenly very real. A stranger's face beside my brother's own, each face not so unlike the other. We shared the same eyes, the same mouth. But while Cain's features were straighter, sharper, mine were smoother—and fragile, like I could break. I looked like my mother.
I was not invisible anymore. I had a face, and I invented curses for the wind as it distorted my reflection to swirls and ripples, and for the rain because it cried dents upon it.
Cain was content now that he had shared his discovery and he took me home again to where my mother presented me with the reed basket, merely frowning at me for disappearing—and I was secretly glad she had noticed my absence.
From then on, I noticed when Adam nodded his approval at me when I had returned from the river with skins of water, and when Eve showed a bit of a smile when I hummed the songs of the wind to my baby brother. I noticed when Cain looked at me—even when I had also outgrown our days of play. But I knew he had always seen me.
Author's note-- I'm really excited to be working on this again! I hope people will continue to lend me their opinions. Thank you to those who reviewed. I'm especially interested to know what you think of the characters. And a little fun fact—Abel's name also means 'breath' (apparently derived from the Hebrew name, 'Hevel').