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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: Castles, Dungeons and Other Deadly Things
By Rachel Burkum
12/06/07


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It was dark. The rain pelted down like little needles pricking my skin. Lighting flashed across the sky, followed by an earth-shaking rumble of thunder.

The castle loomed before me like an ominous gargoyle, warning of attack. The lit torches in the high windows proved to do little in terms of offering a sense of warmth.

I pulled my jacket tighter around myself, despite the fact that I was already soaked to the bone. The moat that separated me from the fortress raged with water that threatened to overflow its banks.

A sudden noise caused me to step back as I realized the drawbridge was being lowered. It groaned and creaked as the chains complained against the heavy weight. The bridge landed with such force that it made me jump, and I stared across into the castle itself. Did I dare enter? What perils awaited me? Would I-

“Sarah! Are you coming? We’re going to be late!”

I allowed my eyes to roll to the ceiling and back down again. My fingers ceased their vigorous typing, and I studied the words I’d just written. The whole scene was exactly how I’d felt all week after Mom had announced we were going to a small group Bible study. I attended a nice class on Sunday mornings, and I interacted with the congregation while the sermon took place. Why must I negotiate the hazards of yet another group setting?

“Sarah!”

“Coming, coming!” I shut my laptop and slid off my bed to find my shoes.


The windshield wipers had to work extra hard to allow sufficient visibility. My dread was slowly becoming a reality. It was fifteen minutes before we were pulling into the driveway across town, and a bolt of lighting startled both Mom and me. I half expected to gaze upon a castle as I exited the car, but thankfully the two-story house retained its normal shape and size as we hurried up the sidewalk.

Waiting on the porch, I was glad to see that Mom had remembered to bring her famous brownie treats. At least if this evening brought on gargoyles and knights with swords, my sweet tooth would be satisfied.

“Well, hi!”

I forced a smile as Mrs. Vincent answered the door.

“Come in, come in,” she ushered. “We’ve just been setting up in the kitchen.”

The house was warm and dry – a stark contrast to the weather outside, and I could feel just a little bit of my apprehension beginning to melt. As I took off my jacket, I could hear the laughter coming from the other room, and my curiosity started to compete with my hesitance, making it hard to resist following my mother.

Entering the kitchen, I was welcomed by several other women, and even Katie was there, obliterating the fear of being the youngest person in attendance. This wasn’t too awful bad…a far cry from a dingy castle at least.



“Sarah, are you ready to go?”

I looked up from the table, unable to hide my surprise that the evening was already coming to a close. I’d been having such a great time talking and laughing that I hadn’t even noticed the time slipping by. The Bible lesson hadn’t been all that intense either, and I couldn’t remember a time that I’d enjoyed learning as much.

Waving farewell as I followed my mother to the car, I couldn’t help my smile. It might not have been easy to admit out loud, but I’d had fun tonight. The brownie treats hadn’t been the only thing that had saved me from a castle dungeon, and I was already looking forward to next week. Maybe…just maybe this small group thing wasn’t so bad after all.



I was just ready to go upstairs to bed, when my mother stopped me.

“Sarah?”

I stifled a yawn. “Hmm?”

“I was thinking that you and I could go to that ladies’ retreat in a couple of weeks. You know the one they’ve been talking about a church?”

My eyes widened as a vision flashed before my eyes. I saw a valley alive with a medieval army. Horses whinnied in anticipation, while the clanking of armor echoed through the hills. Smoke from campfires encircled the-

“What do you think?”

I brought Mom’s face back into focus. “Um…I think it sounds like quite an adventure.”


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This article has been read 664 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 12/07/07
What fun! I love the medieval tie-in throughout. I was totally engrossed in the castle story - and hated for it to end - until I got to the rest of the story :) Great last line too.
Gregory Kane12/08/07
Highly creative. I was slightly disappointed you couldn’t squeeze in a dragon or two! I would love to know how Sarah visualises the church notices…
Jan Ackerson 12/10/07
I love this girl's voice, and the whole piece is so creative! You moved your reader from Sarah's imagination and thoughts to reality seamlessly...excellent!

I'd only suggest that you look at the metaphor in the second sentence; rain-as-needles is a pretty common metaphor, and a piece this creative needs something a bit fresher than that.

Great title--you've got a real feel for the YA reader.
Patty Wysong12/10/07
I loved it!! I think I've been to that same castle a time or two (ok, more than that. *grin*) Great job comparing the two and using that as a contrast to the reality of a home group.
Temple Miller12/11/07
I loved how your imagination carried the story you were writing into the car and drive to the house. Mine also carries me away from reality!
I expected you to say that the time flew because you were lost in your story, but it was a nice surprise to read that you had enjoyed yourself in reality so much that you lost track of time. I loved your imagery... all of it!
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/11/07
I loved the justaposition of your mc's imaginary world with her real one. Very creative and well written