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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)

TITLE: Too Great a Shame
By Kellie Henningsen
03/04/09
~1st Place


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Ming reached up shaking hands to tuck a stray piece of hair back into her elaborate headdress. Her most trusted servant had spent many hours on her look. It was to be her crowning glory this day.

“Oh my!” exclaimed Ming’s sister, Li, as she rushed into the room. “Your hair…it’s simply magnificent!” Li reached up to touch the flowered headdress that sat atop the velvety black hair of her sister.

“No! Don’t touch!” Ming snapped. “I’m sorry, Li. I’m just a bit on edge today I guess.”

“It’s understandable,” Li assured her. “Every woman is nervous on her wedding day. I’ll leave you alone as I should look after the servants and the food preparations anyway.”

Ming pondered the events of the day ahead wishing her nerves were just those of a hesitant bride. What had been asked of her was more than she could come to terms with. How would her father react when he found out? Her fiancée expected this of her, and she could not disappoint him – it would not be acceptable.

“It’s time!” Li said excitedly. “The music has started – they are waiting for you.”

Ming’s silk gown flowed down around her feet as she stood and walked gracefully toward the door. Taking in a huge breath of air to steady herself, she prepared for the ceremony ahead.

The crowd gasped as they watched Ming walk toward the front to stand beside her fiancée.

“Have you ever seen anything like it?” “It’s unbelievable!” “So large … and so exquisite!”

Murmurings could be heard throughout those present as they marveled at the bride’s headdress and overall beauty.

Ming’s heart was heavy the entire day. She could not look her father in the eyes which he mistook for sadness on her part. She was, after all, moving far away now as her new husband was a prince in Kohtan. Ming would not return home again. She was aware that she would no longer be welcome after they found out what she was about to do. Her actions would bring disgrace to her family name.

At long last, the ceremonies were over. Ming and Prince Aamir started out on their journey toward his homeland. It only took an hour before they reached the border of China. Guards stopped them to inspect their luggage before allowing passage. There was a long standing law in China. Anyone caught smuggling silkworms out of the country was to be killed. The secret of the silkworm had been China’s for over 3,000 years, and they had no intention of changing that.

Ming watched as the guards sorted through their luggage. They apologized to the princess for this formality but it simply could not be avoided. Ming nodded her understanding while anxiously adjusting her headdress to a more comfortable position.

Once across the border a fair distance, Aamir ordered his caravan to pull over. He had longed for this moment and simply could not wait any more. With desire in his eyes, Aamir turned to Ming.

“Ahhh my sweet Ming,” Aamir’s voice carried with it nervous excitement. “Our time has finally come!”

Carefully, as if handling a rare treasure, he reached his hands up to Ming’s hair. She sat perfectly still – every nerve tense. Would he approve? Had she done right? Slowly, Aamir pulled out the pins that held up the infrastructure on her head. Tendrils of coal black hair fell down around her slender shoulders. Her heart beat faster as she looked into his eyes for approval.

Aamir’s face broke into a broad smile as he brought his hands down from her hair. In his palm lay a small white egg along with some mulberry leaves. Carefully placing the items into the tin he had ready, he continued on his quest. More hair fell as Aamir meticulously worked at finding all of the silkworm eggs that had been carefully hidden in Ming’s headdress.

When the entire process was through, Ming leaned back in exhaustion. She had done it. She had thrown away a three thousand year secret. She could never face her father or her country again. The shame was too great.

Aamir looked at her with approval. Approval but not love. Ming sadly realized she had only begun to pay the price this marriage would require of her.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst03/05/09
Fascinating story & very well told! I didn't suspect the silkworm hiding place until almost the end. How sad for Ming tho'.
Laury Hubrich 03/08/09
This story is very intriguing. I'm ready to hear the rest but I know it will be sad. Excellent writing!
Sara Harricharan 03/11/09
Your title hints at the sadness of this story. I loved the details and everything and I was really hoping for Ming that things would be okay, but ending is so very sad! Great job.
Lyn Churchyard03/11/09
Oh my! You pulled me in and kept me there. Wonderfully written story.
Gerald Shuler 03/11/09
What a setup for a book... a character that, at first, appears easily manipulated, but, what about the future? You developed these characters very well. Is there more to come?
Peter Stone03/12/09
You certainly do belong in advanced - this is a great article. Plenty of clues about the headdress and the impending guilt/disagreeable thing she was about to do, and I worked out the reason for the large headdress just before you revealed it. Great job with the mystery and tension.
Norma-Anne Hough 03/12/09
Powerful and very sad story.
Well done, I hope you earn a place this week as you deserve it.
Norms
Joanne Sher 03/12/09
Congratulations. No wonder this placed first - the detail, emotion, and characterization is exquisite.
Marty Wellington 03/12/09
Congratulations! Intriguing story! Bravo!
Dennis Ricci03/12/09
Outstanding! Fabulous dramatic tension, the climax is beautifully portrayed. Congratulations on this winning effort!
Eliza Evans 03/12/09
Huge Congrats on your 1st place EC, Kellie! WOW!

This is a wonderfully creative entry! Really Great idea!

At the end I was asking .. Why did she do it? She didn't seem to love her fiancé and he didn't love her. (fiancé is for male and fiancée for female)

"she could not disappoint him – it would not be acceptable." did not seem like a strong enough reason.
It actually makes her seem weak and without much character -- willing to betray herself, her country and her family simply because ... she was asked to.
It may have been better if she was a scheming, conniving girl and totally into the plan with her husband-to-be.

Just my opinion.

Also, be careful not to give too many clues. When she anxiously adjusted her headdress at the border-- I knew -- so that was a bit of a let down.

I have a lot of nerve red inking a first place EC, don't I? LOL

Honestly,you did do a really great job and you are a terrific writer, as I have told you before. :)

Congrats again!
Gregory Kane03/12/09
I think it's wonderful that Eliza has the confidence to offer some constructive criticism on a piece that did so well. But then we're all learners, aren't we?
I must be dense because I actually missed the foreshadowing - it's been a long day, that's my excuse. And I especially liked the fact that there wasn't much romance in the tale - made it feel somehow more realistic and less like a fairy tale.
Beth LaBuff 03/12/09
Wow! What a story. This is so excellent, besides being creative. Congrats on top honors at FaithWriters!!
Diana Dart 03/12/09
Oooooohh, I loved it. Just the right amount of hinting, I suspected, but was still compelled to read every last word. The mystery of their relationship/arrangement will eat at me - could you continue?????
Connie Dixon03/12/09
Wow, you had me to the end. Great writing, sad story. I was disappointed in Ming, kind of left me empty. Congratulations!
Dee Yoder 03/12/09
Congratulations on your EC!
Tallylah Monroe03/12/09
You are a gifted writer.
I could really see this in my mind's eye as I was reading. Bravo!

However. I, too, felt the story falter a bit because of the lack of details concerning her motives and circumstance.