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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)

TITLE: The Crucible
By Maxx .


The walls of the shanty trembled anew, shaken by unearthly gusts. Geoff paced, circling. He clutched the pendant about his neck, eyes darting between his family and the open window. “It’s breathing...” Pitchers fell from their pegs, shattering into fragments on the dirt floor. “…coming closer.” He hastened to the ragged shutters and fastened them, blocking the vision of the beast that perched on the mountainside above.

Shadows consumed him.

“This isn’t real.” Dalliance huddled with their mother beneath the scarred table, face pale, fingers clutching at the dust. “Dragons belong in nightmares.”

Geoff spun about, sweat beading his temples. “And what do you think this is?” He wiped a palm across his frayed tunic. “It’s real enough. Father and the other men are about to find that out.” He clenched his teeth, the muscles on his jaw distending, and looked at his mother. “I’m sorry.” He grabbed his father’s cloak from the heap in the corner. “I can’t stand by and let them all die. I need to help.”

She reached, as if hoping to reverse time, trying to cuddle him once more on her lap. “No, son! Wait.” Her mouth opened and closed. “You’re only a boy. You can’t—” Her voice became lost in an echoing bellow that surrounded the house and caused the ground to quake. She screamed and covered her ears, laying with knees to her breast.

Dalliance began to cry.

Geoff’s chest pounded, the reverberating fierceness pressing the breath from his lungs. “What will you have me do? Stand by and let my own father be burned alive? Or eaten?” He combed his hand across tangled red locks.

“My baby, my baby.” His mother’s words were ardent behind a dirty shawl, accentuated by distressed eyes.

He knelt, brushing the wetness from her sunken cheeks. “You always said my visions meant something, my birthmark set me apart.” Drawing open the laces of his tunic, he revealed a purple spot resembling the risen sun. “What if I was sent here for this moment? To protect the village? My family?” He waved an arm toward the doorway and the mountainside. “To save Father?”

Dalliance touched his leg. “Are you sure you can? Have you seen it?”

He scowled in the deepening gloom. “You know the visions are never about me.”

“No. I can’t lose you.” His mother’s words were adrift in the blackness of cold resignation. “You’ll be killed.”

“Maybe.” He stared at the ground, the cracks in the compacted dirt. Amidst the earth and grime he saw the image of Dalliance, older, with children of her own, in a field of daffodils. She was praying. “Maybe.” He shifted, studying the fear clouding his sister’s countenance. Reassurance flickered the corners of his mouth. “But you won’t.”

The world about them thundered. Wind tore at the thatched roof in bursts matching the beat of massive wings. An eruption of flames filled the gaps in the shutters with orange and red. Familiar voices screamed in the alleyways, their terrified cries tainted with suffering as if hope had abandoned them during their moment of greatest need.

Geoff closed his eyes, brow furrowed, seeking direction and strength. “I can’t turn my back on them. Pitchforks against the beast from hell? I‘ve been called for more.” His mother‘s hands were gnarled and birdlike in his own. “I promise to be careful. I’ve got the talisman.”

Her movement was nearly imperceptible. She nodded, faint, trembling, as if the very motion was an epitaph to a life of promise cut short. She crumbled, toppling into a shuddering heap.

He stood. The cloak fit well about his shoulders. A dagger lay among the broken accoutrements, a birthday gift when he’d turned fifteen. Almost unused. He brushed it off and handed it to his sister. “You might need this.”

Dalliance hesitated, then grasped the hilt. “But what will you fight with?”

“The only thing I hold in abundance. Faith.” He backed from her, feet unwilling to turn away.

She blinked. “And courage.” A crystal tear fell past her quivering lips, moistening the ground below.

He yanked the door, letting in a surge of heat.

“Geoff?” Her tone was questioning, sodden, unsure. She placed tremulous fingers to her mouth then stretched her hand across their mother’s sobbing frame. “May angels guard you.”

“Trust in that.” The light about him seemed to shimmer. “Good will prevail. It must.” He winked and ran from the shelter into a flaming world.

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This article has been read 1162 times
Member Comments
Member Date
janet rubin02/27/06
Masterful writing! I could hear the beast's bellows and feel the fear. I'd read this novel in a heartbeat. Reminded me of a great Peretti novel and also the story of David and Goliath. Very good stuff.
Jessica Schmit02/28/06
This was written beautifully. (Sounds a little like a famous FW author!)Great job.
Kevin Kindrick02/28/06
I love it, I love it, I love it! But there's just one problem, the end! I feel left hanging (but maybe that was the point). At any rate, I would love to see what happens next? How does Geoff defeat the dragon? Please share with us the rest.

Thanks, and God bless,

David Ian03/02/06
Skillfully written to be sure; well described, the feel, the atmosphere, the tension, the whole package -- except for a disappointing ending. Certainly some of the rising action and description could have been sacrificed to deliver on what was well-promised; while we are assured Good will indeed triumph moral-wise, there is not sufficient within the foreshadowing to bring us a resolution within the story. All in all, however, very very good. Jazzed me.
Dara Sorensen03/02/06
Amazing! I absolutely love medieval/gothic stories! I could see the terrified mother and sister and feel the fear in the household. Truly captivating! I agree with everyone else; you must write the ending so we all know what happens! :-)
Jan Ackerson 03/02/06
Wonderful! I could visualize the scene perfectly, and I love the fact that you left us to determine the ending. An expert story-teller.
Pat Guy 03/03/06
Is this a midieval David and Goliath? Cool! Great useage of words to grab hold of the reader and not let go. Heavy, entertaining and truely Gothic. You did it!
Kenn Allan03/03/06
Love the premise; this could easily be expanded into a good one-act play. I can visualize the setting: A somewhat dismal shanty and an open window in which an orange glow/flashes become increasingly brighter. Light-colored costumes could set the characters apart from their gloomier surroundings. Where do I buy a ticket?
Cheryl Harrison03/03/06
So...does he defeat the dragon? Figure he does, but can't wait to hear "the rest of the story..." Good job.
Suzanne R03/04/06
If you haven't written 'the end' as part of an 'enter' entry, you're in BIG trouble.

Okay, okay, so I suppose that's a begrudged compliment. You've sucked us in and left us clamouring for more. Well done.
T. F. Chezum03/04/06
As always, your words transport my mind to a different world. The scenes, the emotions ... Very well done.
Jeffrey Snell03/05/06
Ditto to the above remarks; well done! Whether Geoff survives the battle or not is irrelevant; his faith wins him eternity. You create empathic ties deftly and with few words. Kudos!
Shari Armstrong 03/05/06
A wonderful adventure and I'd like to read the rest of it.
Edy T Johnson 03/05/06
"The walls of the shanty trembled anew, shaken by unearthly gusts." How about an epic poem? Your first sentence grabbed me (oh, what delicious rhythm!) and I had to relish the taste over and over. Reminds me a bit of The Highwayman, or The Raven! I had to read the whole thing, just because of your first sentence! I want to read the poem!
Rachel Rudd 03/06/06
Masterfully written...as always....I'm wondering...don't you have any books we can read? I so enjoy your short challenge entries. I'd love to read some of your books!
Amanda D'costa03/07/06
Good writing. I love it when a message is stressed on FAITH. Beautiful.
Beth Muehlhausen03/10/06
A masterpiece, as usual, with a good dose of relational angst.

Loved these lines:

"“The only thing I hold in abundance. Faith.” He backed from her, feet unwilling to turn away.

She blinked. “And courage.” A crystal tear fell past her quivering lips, moistening the ground below."

God's faithfulness will prevail! Now where are chapters 2 through 10?!?!

Jessica Schmit06/12/06
Incredible. Nice job Frank Per..I mean Maxx. I really liked this. The descriptions were vivid.. beautiful. I loved this sentance, "The cloak fit well about his shoulders." That sentance spoke volumes about how he was stepping into his destiny and it was time to battle. Incredible story. I think I could find a few stories in there. I would probably have to read it a few more times to grasp every metaphor and each different storyline you weaved in there. I really loved your characters. Very well written and well paced. Great work.