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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

TITLE: The Battle
By Rachel Phelps
10/07/09


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“Ain’t you scared, Reverend?”

Timothy had to smile at the awed tone in the boy’s voice. Yes, he was a boy, despite his white-knuckled grip on the rifle in his hand and the blue uniform that hung limply on his lanky frame.

“No, Rob, I ain’t.” Timothy slowed his strides as Rob attempted to speak again.

“But you didn’t sign up to go fight Injuns, didja? I mean, you bein’ a preacher an’ all.” Rob’s freckled-washed face tinged crimson as he wrestled with the words. “I just figured you’d stay in the fort.

A memory, unbidden, sprang into Timothy’s mind. A room spattered with blood, the heavy death-stench in his mouth, the moans from the dying family – his family. His jaw flexed beneath his beard.

“I’m a chaplain, which means I have to care for the men of this fort. Where are they most likely to need me? Inside these walls or on the battlefield?”

“I get your meanin’.” Rob nodded sagely, eliciting another smile from his fort pastor. “I reckon it takes a heap o’ guts for a man of the cloth to head out into a fight with savages.”

The reply rushed to his lips by habit, but Timothy choked a little on the words. “They’re people, too, Rob. People with souls to be saved.”

“Beggin’ your pardon, Reverend,” Rob apologized quickly, face flushing darker than before. “I gotta’ get to my column. I’ll be watchin’ for you, just so’s nothin’ happens to ya’.”

“Thank you, I’ll be praying for you.”

Timothy smiled with genuine warmth as the boy loped across the parade ground to join his comrades. Hot bile flamed up his throat as he shouldered his own weapon. He had not been required to go into combat since his assignment to the frontier fort, and the time away from the battlefield had not lessened his distaste for it. This particular battle, though… his heart was pounding with the struggle to keep the anger at bay. The years of study and prayer had succeeded only in burying it and the hate that coursed through him when he thought of the brutal way his parents and older brother had been slain. All because of some drunks who decided to take the Indian problem out of the hands of the government. His was not the only family destroyed by the aftermath.

The piercing call of the bugle reminded him that he had been standing stock-still since Rob left him. He hastened toward his column, trying to ignore the snatches of memories still teasing at his straining nerves. He had fought back against the renegade who stole his baby sister. There was a livid scar just covered by the hair on his left temple and his sideburn, showing where the brave had so easily cast him against the sharp edge of the fireplace. Rose’s scream was his last memory of the scene before the blood dripping down his forehead had sent him into oblivion.

Dear Lord, have mercy on us this day. Protect these soldiers and give them success in battle.

The prayer felt like sacrilege as his took his place in the column. He knew better than to pretend with God, but he was trying. Wasn’t his present obedience worth just as much as the forgiveness he could not give? He had accepted this post knowing what it would likely cost him.

Rob turned in his place several rows up and sought his eyes, his face deathly pale against the carrot hue of his hair. Timothy did his best to smile encouragingly as the bile flamed red-hot within. The boy wasn’t much older than he had been that day…

A shrill war cry broke into the colonel’s instructions. The men immediately fell into battle stance. Their enemies had anticipated them.

Timothy brought his weapon to the ready, watching as the gates were thrown open to meet the foe. His heart wrenched as his finger froze on the trigger, waiting for the signal. He could not kill in anger. He could not erase the anger coursing through him. The struggle tensed every muscle in his body. The well of red-hot fury opened even further. The mandate from his heart terrified him.

Forgive.


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This article has been read 641 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 10/08/09
Excellent! You really captured his conflict, and his willing spirit. Very well done.
Joy Perrino10/09/09
Wow--this really caught and kept my attention. Great job with the dialogue and also the conflict and flashbacks. Nicely done!
Sherrie Coronas10/09/09
What a well written piece! There was so much to like about it with great dialog, detail and emotion.
Allen Stark10/11/09
Nice pace. Great dialogue. I liked it that the statement was made regarding a shepherd-type (chalpin) needs to be out where the need is greatest, not behind walls.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/12/09
Oooo, stellar entry all 'round. Great job.
Mona Purvis10/13/09
What a slice of life piece this is. Your dialogue and characters are so believable. In this story of battle you give us a glimpse of the war within the two characters and you do it with economy.
Excellent. Love the dual meaning of the title as well.

Mona
Pamela Kliewer10/13/09
Excellent.
Virgil Youngblood 10/13/09
Good writing with believable tension.
Melanie Kerr 10/14/09
The last couple of lines were very powerful, as was the whole story.
Aaron Morrow10/14/09
Great work! You did a super job of tying me in knots as you increased the inner conflict throughout. Excellent dialogue to set the atmosphere. Very well written.
Genia Gilbert10/15/09
Congratulations! Placing 3rd place in Advanced with all those entries is really an accomplishment. Great writing.
Brenda Shipman10/15/09
Congratulations, Rachel! You did a great job with this story, and we are ALL very proud of you. Looking forward to reading your "black" story next week. :)
Charla Diehl 10/21/09
Excellent portrayal of your MC's physical, emotional and spiritual battles. Congrats.