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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Inner Strength (04/20/06)

TITLE: Consuming Fire
By Maxx .


Rennock’s hands pulled at their bindings, muscles constricted from lack of oxygen. The cord about his throat cinched tighter, collapsing his trachea in a slow deliberate motion. He wrestled the reflexive panic of his body and focused beyond, to a distant light transcending the thickening darkness.

You fought the good fight. You finished the course. You kept the faith.

His head snapped, stung by the sweeping arc of a steel rod against his cheek. Electric pain shredded the haze that had cocooned his mind. The light died. He gagged, fighting a guttural, retching nausea.

“I’ll break you.” An invader appeared before him, face contorted, teeth bared. “Tell me where your remnant friends are hiding!”

Rennock glared, twisting a bloodied grin.

“Insolence!” The assailant’s voice became shrill, like a cat aflame. “I could kill you!”

“And he’d let you, without uttering a word.” The staccato sound of feminine steps echoed above the torture. A woman in uniform approached. “You fool.” She pushed the soldier away. “Leave us.”

Rennock straightened, air returning to his lungs in a labored wheeze. He grimaced, a swollen eye distorting his vision, as he strained to match the face and familiar voice. The figure, petite, but wielding a commander’s authority strong enough to send grizzled warriors scurrying, moved into view.

Her breath caught. From behind loose strands of blonde hair, green eyes softened. “I’m— they’ve no idea who you are.” Her jaw stiffened. “This man,” she spoke with the firmness, “is the hero of Sarschelles.” She reached for a pitcher, filling a glass. “Former commander of the Emperor’s Elite Guard.”

Rennock stared through the windows toward his crippled world. An appalling, familiar sight. There was a time he’d caused worse. Much worse. Following orders. But that was before.

She knelt by him, holding the water to his mouth.

He turned away. Her nearness felt tempting, forbidden; her perfume a reminder of sins long forgiven. The fluid glistened in her hand. He squinted, avoiding the memories, dried blood tearing at his lashes. “Mira—” His speech was scarcely more than a battered whisper. “It isn’t water that sustains me.”

Plumes of smoke, like savage scars, rose from the city below. Occupying soldiers clad in black fatigues moved into disheveled buildings, weapons raised. A woman ran, screaming. Gunfire erupted, penetrating and lethal. She collapsed.

Mira flinched. “Senseless.” She leaned toward Rennock. “Say one word and the remnant would surrender.” Her fingers traced his shoulder. “Work with me to end this. You and I, we’d rule together.” She stroked his hair, touching his face. “You used to want me.”

Rennock closed his eyes. Heat surged through him, dark visions of a life gone by. “I love you.” He forced a swallow, hard and sore. “But the Spirit’s called me to a different path.”

She rose, stumbling as if shoved. “Different?” Soldiers lingered afar, watching. Her chin lifted even as moisture rimmed her eyes. “You have to help. Or—” Needles pierced her voice. “You take the throne. Serve the emperor in my name.”

“I don’t mean to hurt you.” He shifted his stare toward the destruction. “But there is more to us than this.” He pressed forward. “I serve the one true ruler.”

A trembling lip belied her façade. She faced the windows and the scars that tore the horizon. Her body shuddered beneath the pleated fabric of the imperial uniform. “Who?”

“Jehovah-Sabaoth. The Consuming Fire. Let me show Him to you.”

Mira splayed her fingers, pressing against the deepening sky. “There’s no hope for you.”

“Hope is all I have.”

“Don’t you see? You’ll be dead and the remnant will be found anyway.” She spun about, gesturing to the crumbled structures. “I can have this city flattened in three days.”

“In three days it will be rebuilt. Mira, let me tell you of true strength.”

She vacillated between the devastation and Rennock. Her mouth opened, cheeks flushed. For a moment she seemed unsure, at the cusp of revelation. Then, nothing. “I wash my hands of you.” She turned away.

He was seized, thrown to the casement, the city a conflagration below. The garrote twisted, intense, immediate. He dropped to his knees.

The edges of his vision faded and the cottony rhythm of waves engulfed him. The light returned, glowing on the tops of distant mountains, building into an inferno. His gaze widened. Through the flames, an army advanced.

The forces of heaven.

He smiled as his eyes dimmed.

The ground trembled at the sound of a trumpet blast.

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This article has been read 1480 times
Member Comments
Member Date
janet rubin04/27/06
Very well-written. I didn't feel like I totally understood what was going on, but maybe it was just too deep for someone like me:) Cool descriptions.
dub W04/27/06
Magnificent handling of this subject, a compelling read, the detailed descriptions heightened the empathy toward the characters. An essay in time - expand the scene and you have a gripping novel (or is it?).
Debbie OConnor04/28/06
A great end times story. I loved it. Wonderful description, I could see it all taking place. Thanks!
Jessica Schmit04/28/06
Amazing! The true testimony of inner strength. You nailed this piece! The only critism I have is I felt that your date of year should've been established towards the beginning of the story. I was confused as to when it was taking place and because that part was fuzzy, I was unable to envision this story completely. I only say this because you're a master (for obvious reasons). This is incredibly written. You can speak volumes in two words. I envy you. Incredible. Your writing skill is an example to all.
Melanie Kerr 04/28/06
Excellent! You really built up the scene, made us feel the indecision that the woman faced and the inner strength of Rennock. Well written and compelling.
Purity Snowe04/28/06
Oh, wow. I really like this one. It's, it's, it's absolutely everything. I'll nevermake Masters if this is the standard. Stunning scene, great conflict, wonderful characters, and I cried at the end. But I'm not sure if I cried by being sad and Rennock's death or the sight of the Angel army! Do you give private lessons?
Suzanne R04/29/06
I know exactly who wrote this. It screams your name through the writing style, which is quite brilliant, and the symbolism throughout it, which is incredible.

What can I say? 'Well done' seems too minimal. Perhaps I'll just say that you've left me speechless.
Jean Elizabeth 04/30/06
Masterfully done - pun intended. This is incredible. I felt like I was right there. This story drew me in immediately and the tension and conflict was riveting. Great story!
Marilyn Schnepp 04/30/06
There's so much violence on TV that I finally decided to have my cable cut off - so now I relax and read a good uplifting story from one of the Masters at FW. Thank you for sharing this one.
Alexandra Wilkin04/30/06
You pulled me in from the first word: the descriptions brought the scene vividly to life in my mind and I really hope that this is going to be the basis for... a novel perhaps? I'd buy it! God bless.
Jan Ackerson 05/01/06
Amazing what you were able to pack into so few words...two fully developed characters, and a whole end-times scenario, with a conclusion that really packs a punch. Wowie kazowie!
Pat Guy 05/01/06
At first I thought this guy was in a position of being hung. Reading the first paragraph again I realized the cord around his neck and hands were the same. (I had to find something on this awesome, gripping tale!)

Great everything.
Pat Guy 05/01/06
Oh, and ... tag - you're it. Tear it up - if you can. ;)

There IS one place no one has mentioned yet. But then, maybe it's okay.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz05/01/06
Excellent everything. Your characters were so real. The story draws you in. Great job.
Lynda Lee Schab 05/02/06
You never fail to deliver!Spectacular, vivid writing, as always. This one had it all - action, suspense...read like an End Times Thriller. It's like Jerry Jenkins meets Tom Clancy. A piece truly deserving of the Masters level.
Amy Michelle Wiley 05/03/06
This is great! It's like a futuristic retelling of Saul...almost. Well done!
T. F. Chezum05/03/06
Excellent story. Descriptive, well written. I cannot add to what everyone else has said.
Jesus Puppy 05/04/06
In a word my brother... Awesome...
darlene hight05/04/06
You set a high bar friend :)
James Clem 05/04/06
Maxx - I recognized your entry after reading only 2 lines! "The cord about his throat..." You are the Piranha swimming in the Masters fishbowl. (I mean that with total respect, your writing style is just so distinctive among this group.)
Cristy Zinn05/29/06
So are you going to write a novel or what? Let me know when you do - I'll join the line to buy it!
Jessica Schmit06/21/06

This one stunk. Seriously, it was horrible. The characters. the plot, the setting. There was nothing 'good' about this piece. defiantely your worst yet...LOL. Did I have you going?! Yeah right, as if the Maxx could write anything sub par. This is truly magnificent. I want to hear your version of all the symbolism that you weaved in here. I found quite a few referances to violence, scars and pain. Which is perfect considering the topic. Like I wrote before, I did fin it difficult to place (time). Honestly, I'm still not sure if it's suppossed to be way in the past, future or present. I heard one comment about it being an end times thriller (my condolences! LOL), but I was still thinking that rennock was a follower of Jesus...?I don't know. I'm sure I could piece some more information together if I read it once more. But can I cheat and have you tell me?! Great work. This was written beautifully. Seriosuly, besides the whole time period thing (which I'm positive is just me) I would say this is one of your better written stories. Great work Maxx!