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Thread: Swords Made of Letters

  1. #1
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Swords Made of Letters

    Swords Made of Letters - A new project, something fresh, which happens to be a novel.

    It's a novel, which I will write bit by bit, a novel set in December 1938, just before the war. It starts with a Prologue set in Eastern Europe, but the main action will be in Western Europe - right on the borders, and right in that period just before the war. You will hopefully enjoy a window into that tumultuous period which I will try and evoke as richly and as accurately as possible. You will recognise some parts, such as the stories from Night Train and Clouds of Smoke, which are part of the novel.

    Please enjoy it, read it, share it and feedback as always is very much appreciated.

    Happy reading!



    Swords Made of Letters

    ---

    Prologue - Part I

    12:45 AM, 2nd of December 1938
    Athenee Palace Hotel
    Bucharest
    Romania



    They never listened to her.

    And she told them countless times. Time and time again she told the shift manager, but they never listened to her. The cheap detergent the hotel kept buying caused Helen's skin to crack whenever she had to wash the dishes and cutlery for the patrons who came to the English Bar. They never listened and her skin always looked more than her twenty eight years of age. And it was the same endless story tonight as well. The water gushed from the tap onto the white dishes inscribed with the AP initials of the hotel, breaking off the relative silence of the bar.

    Tucked in the corner of the lobby, the English bar was made as a retreat for the patrons of the hotel, and the ladies who would often wait for them. Cosy, with dim lights and somehow reeking of a combination of musk and heavy tobacco, the bar was heavily populated at all times. But tonight it was empty. The 1st of December always brought empty cosy bars - and rather houses full of people partying a national holiday. The holiday left Helen alone in the bar with four men huddled at a low table in the opposite corner of the room, chatting and laughing between hushed tones. They never raised their voice, they never raised their eyesight to her and they spoke as little as possible when she went to take their order. She found that odd but Helen had seen her fair share of oddities so she only delivered their order and went about her business.

    But even so, it was too quiet. It was as if the men were never there.

    She gave them a quick glance and returned to her duties, satisfied they were there and not causing any trouble. But the four men, all dressed in black uniforms with odd white patches on the side, were different than any other guests she had encountered. No other guest kept their silence, and neither of them would speak in hushed tones or laugh as quietly as possible. Helen's back arched slightly at the implications. She was warned about foreign elements within the country and perhaps they were some of those elements. Helen sighed. The water kept gushing from the tap until she slammed it shut and waited for the dishes to dry. As the sudden silence beckoned, a couple of words trailed off before the guests realised they were no longer covered by the sound of the water.

    Helen recognised the language.

    Three weeks before, a rather charming Englishman came up to her while she was at the bar and paid her a generous tip. The man specifically asked for her to report whenever she heard this language, and she was promised a hefty reward every time she would call him. Somewhere in her pocket she had his room number - the man after all was a legate at the embassy and lived often in the hotel - but she decided to listen to the conversation in order to get an even heftier reward. Helen picked up three glasses and opened the tap again, letting the water slide gently in the glasses as she pretended to clean them. Her ears were honed on their conversation, picking up bits and bobs from the words that she understood of that language. Despite her being a bartender, Helen spoke five languages, courtesy of a very ambitious mother. She finished her washing about two minutes later, gently easing the tap until she could hear and decipher some parts of phrases the men spoke between them. Helen had no more dishes or glasses, and there were no other patrons, so she glided gently out of the bar and left for the lobby to excuse herself from a potentially awkward situation.

    She returned to the bar four minutes later, only to find it empty.

    On the table the men left a considerable amount of money, including a hefty tip, despite them not knowing exactly the price of the food and drinks they ordered because Helen never even got them the check. She shrugged, counted the money and returned to the bar. She glanced around, looking from the place at the bar out into the lobby, but the men were not there either. SOmewhat confused, Helen smirked and counted the money. She kept what was hers and put everything into the books. Satisified, she closed the ledger and beckoned to the receptionist. It was the end of the shift and she wanted to go home. With the tip in her pocket and five minutes later her uniform exchanged for more confortable clothing, she bid goodbye to the coworker taking her place and exited the hotel.

    The night was cold and cloudy - it was December after all - forcing Helen to button her overcoat up to the last top button. With the silk scarf huddled around her neck, she turned left from the Athenee Palace hotel and reached for the side streets behind the imposing Atheneum. In her desire to reach her house she did not notice the three men casually resting against a black Mercedes limousine parked beside the hotel. Helen beckoned even faster, oblivious to the men eyeing her behind, hoping to reach her house before it started raining. As she turned into the street behind the conservatory, a hand gently slid between her and her torso, pinning her to a halt.


    "Good evening, Mrs. Helen."


    ----

    Keep a close eye on this thread, regular updates will come as the story develops and unfolds.

    Website coming soon!

    As always, feedback appreciated!
    Last edited by Basileos Leandros I; May 08, 2017 at 07:11 AM.
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  2. #2
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Part II of the Prologue.


    ---

    Firm, but gentle, the man drew up in front of her and gave her a rather disconcerting smile. His white teeth were bared, smiling almost ironically to her, his eyes a mixture of contempt and curiosity. Helen glanced at him, her hands trembling beneath her coat, unsure what to make of him. She realised he was one of the guests, but what did she do?

    "Good evening, Mrs. Helen," the man repeated. "I believe you and I are going for a walk."

    Helen stammered. "What... why... who are you?"

    "Oh I believe you will recognise me. The man from the bar earlier. I was with three friends, remember?" The man gave her a pout of his lips, putting her off guard. "Of course you do remember me darling. I was there just twenty minutes ago, you can't forget me even if you tried. Let's go for a walk darling, fresh air is good for the soul."

    Despite her initial resistance, there was no use for Helen to try and resist. The man grabbed her arm, violently this time, and dragged her behind him. There was no use for Helen to even try to resist. There was nobody on the street at this hour, and worse, she was about half his size. He dragged her all the way from behind the Atheneum to the car at the side of the hotel where the men from the bar were waiting inside. Without any words spoken, Helen found herself thrown inside the car, in the middle of backseat, surrounded by four men in black uniforms, buzz cuts and stern glances. All of them wore caps, concealing their facial features but only to an extent, enough for her to not discern who was which compared to the men that she saw earlier in the bar. Without any other words, her assailant tapped the driver on the shoulder and the black limousine sputtered forwards into the closest intersection in front of the hotel. The junction formed a three way connection between the main Victory Boulevard, the hotel and the Royal Palace just opposite of the hotel. Despite the junction being a frequented area, the driver didn't bother to look.

    Helen only remembered the crash.

    A grey limousine smashed into the front portion of their car, turning it sideways and releasing thousands of bits of mangled metal into the air. Violent impact as it was, the driver of the grey limousine saw the black limousine driven by Helen's assailants moments before the crash and slammed onto the brakes, easing up on the impact that could have had serious repercussions. As things stood, only the cars were damaged and everyone escaped rather unscathed. Helen smacked her head into the shoulder of her assailant during the impact, but apart from that, she was fine. The side passenger from her car was quite injured, bleeding profusely from his right arm. Her right side backseat colleague was unscathed and the driver seemed fine, along with her assailant. Helen expected the men to check on their injuries, but that did not happen. All three of them, minus the side passenger, exited the car and drew up to the destroyed grey limousine stopped only a couple of metres away from their own.

    In a matter of moments, Helen watched through the broken windshield as the simple conversation turned into a violent brawl.

    Angered by the lack of respect from the uniformed men and the clear arrogance, the four men from the limousine, dressed in grey matching suits and Panama hats, rose up from the wreck of the car and attacked the three men, quickly neutralising them. Not content with the job, one of them took out a Thompson submachinegun from the wreck of their car and pointed it at the black limousine. Before Helen realised what the barrel meant, a quick salvo of twenty bullets broke through the car, ripping the windshield to pieces. The bullets tore through the the seats, the dashboard, the steering wheel and even through the back window. Helen ducked as fast as she could, hitting her head in the process in the side of the door. Neither bullet hit her, as the barrel was aimed too high, but it was enough to cause her a shock beneath the backseat of that limousine. They found her two minutes later, breathing heavily.

    One of the men opened the back door, his gaze connected rather quickly with her own. Helen saw he had a moustache that resembled a Frenchman from the Jazz Age, and that was the only thing she discerned between him and that Panama hat he wore on top. He gave her his hand, which she reached out for, dragging her out of the car in a rather gentle manner.

    "Are you hurt?" he asked, giving Helen a quick scan.

    She shook her head. "No, no, nothing touched me."

    "Sorry about your friends."

    Helen chuckled. "They kidnapped me, they are not my friends."

    The man gave quick glances to his comrades. "Do you know who they are?"

    "No idea. Clients of my bar before."

    "Your bar?"

    "I work in the English Bar at the Athenee."

    "They were here before?"

    "Yes. Half an hour ago."

    To her credit, Helen could still stand on her own, which prompted the man to leave her to her own legs. Helen saw as the man clicked from his fingers twice and pointed to the knocked out assailants.

    "Check their uniforms, I hope we haven't beaten some of our own army guys."

    Helen watched as the man with the Thompson, almost identical to the man who plucked her out of the car, roamed around the men with his gun pointed towards them.

    "They don't look our men to me, boss," said the Thompson wielder.

    "Search them."

    The Thompson gunner nodded and gave one of the assailants a quick pat down, unearthing two documents of identification and a small notebook with weird symbols on it.

    "Anything?" asked the chief.

    "Something you should see." The Thompson gunner handed the documents and the notebook. "Recognise these?"

    Helen watched as the chief slightly recoiled, twitching his right hand in discomfort. "Let's leave. We have to see the boss." He turned to Helen. "And you are coming with us."

    It took them the better part of twenty minutes to find a car that would take them to the house of their mafia boss, but that was to be expected at 1 AM after a national holiday. The car took them through the side streets, as the moustached man ordered, streets which Helen did not recognise at all. They eventually arrived to a white coloured house, or beige, Helen did not manage to discern, a two storied villa in fact built in American Art Deco style with small round windows on the top floor and large open windows on the bottom floor. They got out from the car and entered the courtyard, which prompted the moustached man to turn to Helen.

    "All right, a quick rundown. We're at the house of Mita Zilieru' (Mita the Builder), he's an important mafia boss around these places. Just tell him what you know and what happened and be thankful you got saved, okay?"

    They did not wait for Helen's answer. Without other words, they entered the house. A superb chandelier illuminated the entrance hallway, marbled on the floor and with a spectacular round mahogany staircase running to the upper floor. The place was decked in expensive wood, giving it a rather distinct feel. Music rang out from both sides of the house and party goers casually danced in front of the guests, up the stairs, down the stairs, sideways... it was clear that a party was going on. Helen watched in awe, and bemusement, the whole spectacle. Her mood quickly sombered when she met the gaze of the chief who motioned her to go to the left of the hallway.

    They entered a large dining hall where about eight men and women dined and laughed but with what Helen presumed was Mita himself at the top of the table eating from a white bowl of soup. With his hair cut short, a rather piercing gaze and a quite sturdy build, dressed in a blue vest and blue pants, Mita looked the mafia boss part but his average height did not. He motioned them to come closer, which the moustached man did with reverence. He saluted Mita and presented him Helen. With the introductions done and dusted, the chief, or Mita's lieutenant, started to stammer. Mita gave him a curious glance.

    "All right, what happened?"

    Mita's lieutenant gave him the documents. "Four men in a black limousine simply came into our driving lane. We smashed into their car and then they wanted a fight so we gave it to them."

    Mita stopped eating from his soup. He gave an initial chuckle at the story but his party mood quickly soured as he glanced at the documents with weird symbols. He held up the little notebook that showed the symbols.

    "Are you guys maniacs? You beat down a couple of those fanatics? Are you insane? Do you have any idea in what kind of problems are we in now?"

    "Boss, look, we had no idea. I thought it was from Capistrano or some other guy."

    Mita rose up from the table gave his lieutenant a slap. "After all these years you still can't identify what those other guys wear? Why are you even my man if you can't distinguish purple from blue?" Mita shook his head. "Where did you leave them?"

    "In the middle of the road."

    "IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD?" Mita slammed a hand down the table. "If something happens in the next couple of days, I will hang you out to dry."

    "Boss, look, I tri..."

    Mita's lieutenant did not have time to finish. Loud crackles erupted from outside the house, crackles that turned into screeching sounds as bullets ripped the windows of the house and tore through the wooden decking on the bottom floor. The firefight lasted no more than ten seconds but that was enough to destroy at least the front part of the house, most of the windows and two crystal chandeliers. Shards of glass were littered all over the floor

    "Call Capistrano. And Colonel Tomescu from the police. We need help. I'm a mafia boss but I need the police now."


    ---

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  3. #3
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    A very dramatic opening to your story! I'll look forward to seeing what happens to Helen.

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    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Yes, this is an exciting start to your story! Like Caillagh, I'd like to find out what happens to Helen; Mita sounds like an interesting character, too.

  5. #5
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Thank you gentlemen.

    Part 3 and First Chapter coming soon!
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

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  6. #6
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Part III - Prologue.

    Last part of the prologue before the action starts.


    ***
    3:45 AM
    2nd of December, 1938
    Bucharest
    Romania



    "Stop here."

    At the end of the railroad tracks, the unfinished train station was just a block of empty cement surrounded by tall, old buildings that dubbed as ammo warehouses during the Great War and as storage places now. And just as the rest of their surroundings, the warehouses were empty, devoid of any stored items or any people for that matter. Light fog hovered around the tracks, the unfinished block of cement and the buildings around them. That, and probably the occasional smoke that wafted from the trains down the tracks and onto their headlights.

    Mita motioned to his driver to stop the limousine.

    There were three of them in the car, but they were backed up by four other cars behind them. Mita, his driver and poor Helen who had no choice but to join Mita in his car. He tried to make her at ease, cracking jokes and telling stories about the Great War and the fabulous period of ten-fifteen years ago, but to little avail. Helen barely cracked a smile, uptight and attentive, glancing sideways every other second to her surroundings. With a sweeping flick of his hand, Mita motioned for Helen to go to the front seat while he exited the car. The four cars behind his own formed almost an arrow, a formation of cars they didn't plan but looked good anyways to Mita's eyes. He smiled and patted himself. His chief lieutenant with the moustache exited from one of the cars and nodded.

    "Boss, Capistrano is coming now."

    "When does now mean now?" replied Mita, his eyebrow slightly arched and his hands in his pants.

    "Five minutes, at most."

    "He better."

    Three cars drove up to their formation less than a minute later, black limousines just as theirs. The colour was imperceptible but that mattered little to Mita. He just wanted to see Capistrano and his smug face. In a chorus of laughter, Capistrano exited from one of the cars and gently trotted over between the limousines owned by Mita. True to his colourful demeanour, Capistrano was dressed in a white suit but without a tie, something that Mita noticed. Before either of them spoke, Mita pointed to his neck.

    "No tie, Johnny?"

    Capistrano waved him off. "Spare me, Mita." He ran his fingers through his French moustache. "This better not be some stupid joke or a ploy from your part or else you will pay. What's all this about, waking me up from my sleep after the party? I partied with the camarilla close to the bosses."

    Mita only nodded. "Wait and see, Johnny. I've got Colonel Tomescu come up to us right now."

    "Wait wait wait. Hold up. You called Colonel Tomescu? For what?" Capistrano drew close to Mita. "Are you trying to frame me?"

    "I wish I was Johnny. Nothing would make me happier than see you in a jail cell for the rest of your life while I take your houses, your men and all of that gold you stashed in German banks. Something else is up, and it involves something I just mentioned."

    Capistrano frowned. "My gold?"

    "None related to you. I'll tell you when Tomescu comes."

    "Then?"

    "Wait."

    "I can't wait with Tomescu. He's the second in command of the Bucharest police. You better tell him something good or else we're both going to have issues you little builder."

    "I mean it, Mister Capistrano. Wait for Tomescu."

    "I brought my men here, just in case."

    "You'll need them. But not now."

    Twenty odd minutes they waited in the light fog, the smoke and the ocassional screech from the train leaving the main station of the city. Despite Mita's rather jovial mood, he was in no mood to crack jokes with Capistrano, his local mafia nemesis. They never met in public unless it was by accident, but Mita's request made Capistrano rather weary and all the more the tone of the messenger. Both of them came from different backgrounds - one being a lowly street urchin, the other being part of a rich merchant Italian family - but they both converged on the city at the eastern border of Europe to make it their own playground. Neither of them spoke during those twenty minutes, neither them, nor their men. They all waited, bouncing from one foot to another, for Colonel Tomescu. Some of the men had brought their Thompson guns but neither chief bothered with that.

    Colonel Tomescu came rather unassumingly.

    A simple police limousine, reserved for colonels and commisars, followed by an escort car, drew up to the seven limousines parked on the unfinished train station block. There were now nine cars with their headlights brightly illuminating the area, which should have raised some concern from the local police had they not been severely drunk from the parties that were still raging. As the main police limousine drew up, the driver and the two bodyguards exited the car to open the door to Colonel Tomescu. The colonel came out of the car, a tall, imposing figure dressed in the usual police uniform he wore daily. He gave a curt salute to the men and nodded almost imperceptibly to both Mita and Capistrano.

    "You took me from my party with the chiefs of the police. You, Mita, and I see you have John Capistrano with you. In all other circumstances I'd have you both arrested for life right now but I'm curiously intrigued by your encounter."

    Capistrano pointed to Tomescu. "Encounter?"

    "Yes, Johnny, my men had an unfortunate encounter with four men in the middle of the city," replied Mita.

    "What's so special about that encounter to warrant such a meeting, Mr. Michael?" countered Capistrano.

    Mita took out the little notebook from the pocket of his pants.

    "Domnilor." (Sirs)

    With economic movements, and a quick side glance to Capistrano, Colonel Tomescu took the notebook and opened it on the first page. The runic symbols were clear enough for him and for Capistrano to understand.

    "Where did you find this?"

    "My men did. In fact, they didn't find them. They were found. And they found a woman with them too."

    Tomescu looked askance. "A woman?"

    Mita nodded his head to the car. "She's inside my car."

    With a quick flick of his hand, Mita invited them all to the car. Mita, Colonel Tomescu and Capistrano entered the car together, with Mita in the middle, Tomescu to his right and Capistrano to his left. Helen turned from the front seat to face the three men. Colonel Tomescu was the only one who took his hat off, revealing a rather stern looking police chief, with a straight nose, piercing eyes and thin lips. He bowed curtly to Helen and invited her to speak.

    "Four men, Sirs. Four men. They spoke German. I speak a bit of that, which allowed me to understand a bit of what they were saying. Something about infiltrating over here and entering into the local market, something about finding more information and something about getting inside the mayor's cabinet. I do not know why they talked like that. They talked only in hushed tones, and whenever I looked at them they stopped talking and only stared at each other. When I took their order it was the exact same. I gave them no attention, they even paid me a generous tip, but when I left the hotel to go home they attacked me right behind the Atheneum and dragged me back to their car. No words back in the car either. And all it took was that crash for them to burst and react like this."

    Silence. There was only silence, an awkward silence which left Capistrano tugging at the lapels of his white jacket and Mita scratching his temple.

    "Well gentlemen," said Tomescu, adjusting his colonel's cap back on his head "it seems we have a war on our hands.

    Silence was all that followed.

    ---

    Feedback welcome!
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  7. #7
    Scottish King's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Great start. Looks like it will be quite the thriller. Why Romania if I may ask. Not that I don't like it I just find it an interesting choice of setting. I look forward to learning a bit more about Romania in this period .
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  8. #8
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Thank you for the appreciation, SK.

    It's set in Europe as a whole - only the Prologue starts in Romania, as the Athenee Palace in Bucharest was recognised as the most infamous spy den of that time. The British spies and the Gestapo lived under the same roof.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athene...lton_Bucharest
    Last edited by Basileos Leandros I; May 16, 2017 at 04:19 PM.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    You know, I think the action's started already! Kidnapping, a car crash, tense meetings between mafiosi... yeah, I'd say there's been some action.

    I'm looking forward to finding out whether any German infiltrations succeeded. (And what happens next in Romania, of course.)

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  10. #10
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Started indeed, but much more to come.

    Plus, for every chapter now and then, I will provide some more interesting and not as known historical aspects. (such as above, with the Athenee Palace)
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  11. #11
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Great prologue, the terse dialogue helps to build the tension and the sense that we are building up to action. Your prologue has a good balance between (on one hand) setting the scene and providing information, while (on the other hand) keeping secrets and mysteries, to keep your readers wanting to know more.

  12. #12
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter I - The Night Train

    You might already recognise this as the opening of Night Train, the short story - it is in fact that, because Night Train and Clouds of Smoke are parts of the novel, but with subtle differences and obviously continued.



    ---
    9th of December,1938
    Gare du Colmar, Alsace
    France
    6:35 PM



    Cold as it were
    Cold as it came
    The dashing of war
    Was nobody's gain



    It echoed inside his mind for years, those faint words. He heard stories of the Great War from everyone older than him, but given that he was a small child back then, he had no personal recollection of the war. Except for that poem. He heard it from a war veteran on the streets of Amiens in the north of France, injured and ignored, begging on the street where his uncles lived. Alexandre came up to him and gave him some money to which the veteran only gave a faint smile and the utterance of that poem he kept remembering. That was in 1920. He was five years old. All he could do was grow up and do his bit to avoid another one.

    Eighteen years have passed since then. And another war loomed.

    Horns blared in the distance, twice then, thrice even, shattering the utter silence that engulfed the little train station where he waited. The shrill of the train made his spine tingle, forcing him upright and making him forget for a fleeting moment the bitter cold that crept under his woolen overcoat, somehow inadequate against the galloping winter. It was a cold December evening, and he was all alone on a small train station platform on the border with Germany. France was tingling with worry, the newspapers were rolling out in record numbers, global diplomacy was failing and here he was on the border with a hostile country. He sighed. Small snowflakes gently fell on the train tracks in front of him, illuminated by a half-moon that made joyful light pockets around his leather boots. Everything else however was a dark, lifeless maze. Around him there were six lampposts, each one of them holding a small oil lamp, but only two of them were lit. But none of that mattered to him now. The train was coming.

    The horns blared again. The train was getting closer. His fingers dug deeper inside the side pocket of his overcoat and reached for a cigarette. He brought the cigarette to his mouth and fumbled about for an entire minute until the wind died down to allow him to light up the heavy Turkish blend. Flurries of snow wafted around the station with increasing intensity but even the cold mattered little by now. He was curious. And his curiosity would be quenched once that curious train would stop in the station.

    Moments later, he caught glimpse of the steel behemoth. In the darkness of that December evening, there was not much to distinguish from a nondescript black locomotive that chugged along on the railway lines. But the red stripes on the side of the locomotive were evident, causing him to frown a bit. Red stripes usually indicated trains that would stop in big cities, not local train stations. And Colmar was far from being a city. At most it was a local town, a border outpost. Despite his sudden worry, the train stopped in the station as planned, dropping off one single passenger who waved meekly as he approached.

    “Good evening, Alexandre.”

    The man from the train shook Alexandre's hand firmly. Dressed in a similar woolen overcoat, he wore a generic brown fedora on his head and twisted the collar of his overcoat upwards to protect himself from the rushing flurries that swept through the station. Somewhat shorter than his station guest, he bowed his head slightly, indicating Alexandre as his superior, even if on paper he was the one of higher rank. The Frenchman gave a curt nod.

    “I see you have changed trains, Klaus,” replied Alexandre.

    “Sort of. There was a murder on the train from Strasbourg to Colmar, so they sent over one of the trains that was supposed to take the Geneva – Paris route.”

    “A murder?”

    “Nothing related to our concerns. A triangle of love, as is rather the norm these days.”

    "Hah, a triangle of love. The gutter press loves those kinds of stories."

    "Indeed they do."

    “So you came with the red stripes?”

    Klaus nodded. “Quite. I got here in record time, I did not expect to arrive at 6:40.”

    Alexandre gave a quick glance to his white gold wristwatch. The sleek line of the bezel stood out in the darkness, the two thin hands showing fifteen minutes to 7. He slid his hand back into his pocket and nudged his fellow companion onwards. The two men walked away from the station in silence in the crackles of the snow crunching beneath their boots, echoing even louder in the almost complete silence of the small town. Colmar was a quiet place, with rows of timber-framed houses huddled around a small bridge over the river Lauch. Small pockets of lights indicated that most of the inhabitants were inside their houses with the snow rumbling through the streets. Most of the population had sympathies with the French republic, but there was more than just a vocal minority who would be more than happy to see the Nazi Party install the swastikas on the roof of the town hall. Alexandre knew that, Klaus as well, but neither of them spoke of this openly.

    They trodded through the beaten path from the station down to the centre of the village, whisking themselves to the snow-capped bridge over the Lauch.

    “It's been one month, Klaus.”

    Klaus nodded, more to himself rather than in acknowledgment.

    “One month since that ugly night.”

    Alexandre nodded. “That night, what was it you called it, Kristallnacht?” he said, accentuating the German word with a particular Parisian twist. Klaus smiled to himself but nodded in agreement. “Yes, that night. A shame, and a cause of worry.”

    “The outlook is grim, Monsieur Reythier, it's grim.” He glanced to his French companion, but the man only stared at him back. “But I suppose you already know that.”

    The Frenchman nodded. “Kristallnacht scared a number of locals away. Colmar is now turning into a ghost town, and it's not good for our cause. No matter how we put it, we cannot convince the locals to stay around these places unless they're committed to our cause or committed to their families.”

    “This place sits right on the border, I would expect them not to stay around.”

    “Some do.” Alexandre sighed. “Why have I been called here?”

    Klaus stopped. For a moment he stood silent, unsure on what to say. He fumbled his hands in the air, trying to force his words to come out, to express at least some semblance of a coherent idea, but nothing came out of it. He felt Alexandre's stare on him. Klaus sighed and pointed towards a row of houses, even if they were not what he wanted to convey.

    “We caught two Germans trying to infiltrate themselves around these places. They went right under our noses, and worse even, we caught them with a Frenchman who lived in the villages down the south of the Maginot line.”

    “That's all they've done?”

    Klaus shook his head. “The plan was rather well conceived. They posed as tourists from the Far East, even if they looked as every bit from here as possible, and tried to ask around about the Maginot line. One of the local farmers even took them to a deserted area of the line that we have not even bothered to repair or even take care of.”

    “Spies?”

    “More than that. Something is going on around these places, and I don't like it.”

    "More than spies?"

    "Not full fledged infiltrators, but close. At the very least they are doing terrain reconnaissance around these areas. Not a welcome idea to Paris, and definitely not to our military brass."

    Alexandre rolled his eyes. “And what am I supposed to do?”

    “Interrogate them, that is all.”

    Alexandre suddenly looked downwards. Interrogation was something he hated, but given that Klaus was his superior and his close friend, he could not say no. By now they reached the curiously deserted centre of the town. The narrow Lauch river ran right in its midst, but given that this was mid-December, the river was frozen solid. Alexandre glanced over the bridge, down the length of the Lauch, watching the snow fall down on the slanted roofs of the houses built about a century ago. Snow crunched and crackled underneath their leather boots as they walked in silence between the houses huddled around the riverbank. It was bitterly cold, the snow had picked up in intensity and even they struggled to utter any other word except for a prolonged sigh as they weathered through the streets.

    They snaked their way down the length of the riverbank in silence until they reached a small plaza. The junction connected four smaller side streets, but Klaus led Alexandre into a timber-framed two story house right on the edge of the riverbank. A small light above the door waned and flickered as the wind blew. Klaus twisted the handle and pushed the door aside, closing it behind them with the wind howling one last time in their ears. A small flight of stairs led them to the first floor, which was nothing more than a room adjoined by four separate doors in the dim light of another flickering light. Klaus pointed to the first door on the right.

    “After you, Alexandre.”

    The Frenchman raised an eyebrow for a moment but said nothing. He quickly twisted the door handle and entered the room, a rectangle shaped meeting area with two windows overlooking the plaza below and a large table with eight chairs occupying most of the space. In the back corner two wooden bookcases were filled with papers and binders full of documents, which Alexandre speculated those were the local police records.

    Two men stood at the table, both of them lazily puffing from their cigarettes, their eyes fixed on this tall newcomer and his more known companion. At first, they did not pay much attention to the newcomer but Klaus ordered them to stand up and salute in military fashion. The men rose from their seats and did so as they were ordered, receiving a curteous nod from Alexandre in return. The Frenchman threw his overcoat on the table and glanced around.

    “Where are they?”

    “Locked in the prison below, Monsieur,” replied one of the policemen.

    “Bring them. Let us have a personal chat with them.”

    The two policemen nodded in approval and left the room, leaving Alexandre Reythier, lieutenant of the French intelligence agencies, alone with Klaus. They spoke nothing before the policemen returned with two young adults, no more than twenty years old each, dirty and ragged, dressed in brown tattered clothes and reeking of body odour. The two policemen threw the prisoners onto the desk with alarming brutality, chaining them down to the small wooden chairs underneath. Not content with the chain, they pinned them down to the edge of the table and took out their pistols, sticking them against the prisoners' necks. Reythier said nothing, and neither did Klaus, since neither of them had any idea of how dangerous these two prisoners were.

    Reythier took up a chair and sat down, eyeing both of the blonde boys.

    “Apparently, both of you tried to gather information about the Maginot line. Can I ask why were you so curious about it?” asked Reythier in perfect German.

    Neither of the boys said anything. Their eyes were fixed on Reythier, but he only returned an elegant smile with the corner of his mouth. He turned his head to Klaus and nodded, to which the German-born Frenchman produced from his overcoat a small notebook. Alexandre took the notebook and opened it on the table, hunching closer to his prisoners.

    “Two weeks, that's all it took you. Two weeks in which you bought rifles, war grenades, stabbed two innocent farmers and proceeded to investigate the south part of the Maginot line. And on top of that...” Reythier paused, extracting two files from the back of the notebook. “You two are apparently part of the Nazi youth. Top recruits.”

    Reythier expected no reaction. He got none from them, except two dismissive shrugs and a roll of the eyes. Alexandre flipped the notebook around.

    “All of this gets you prison for life. Or, in the worst case, a quick hanging in the woods just down the river.”

    The remark hit a soft spot. One of the boys, a short-haired blonde with scratch marks all over his face, hissed towards Reythier.

    “Herr Hitler will save us.”

    Reythier laughed. “Your own superiors won't even know you're missing by the time the local judge orders your execution. So, in case you want to live, help us. I believe you can help us answer the question of what were you doing around the Maginot.”

    “We were doing nothing. We are tourists, nothing more!”

    Reythier sighed. He nodded off to one of the policemen, who saluted and left the room, leaving Klaus to attend to one of the prisoners. Alexandre closed he notebook, rose from the table and headed for the window behind him. The window's handles were black, rotten bits of wood, forcing him to twist the mechanism by itself, before the window finally budged from its position. Cold winter air swept inside the room with an almost destructive force. The unsecured papers on the shelves and on the table quickly flew through the room. It didn't bother Klaus, or Reythier for that matter, who lighted up another one of his Turkish cigarettes at the edge of the window. It was only a short puff before he heard the crackle of the gun echo in the Colmar silence.

    Before Reythier reacted, and before Klaus even understood what happened, the door swung wide open and stopped violently against the edge of the wall. A lone gunman, dressed in a beige overcoat, held up a large calibre revolver and barged inside the room. With quick movements he shot the last policeman square in the head, before he aimed for Klaus who ducked underneath the table. The gunman shot at Klaus but missed his target, shooting off the last bullets in the two prisoners who did not even turn their heads to face the gunman. In a rather late reply, Reythier took out his own pistol and fired two quick shots towards the gunman. The bullets hit the assailnt in the chest and the neck, severing the carotid artery, before he collapsed in a pool of blood by the edge of the door.

    The whole encounter lasted less than twenty seconds. And Alexandre quickly realised that the two policemen were now dead. And so was the assailant. But so were the two prisoners.

    Only Alexandre and Klaus survived.


    -----

    Feedback and comments welcome.
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  13. #13
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    It's... slightly strange reading that last chapter as part of something else! Almost a moment of déjà vu.

    It's still just as good as it was last time, though, and it's going to be interesting to see how all these pieces fit together.

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  14. #14
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Like Caillagh, I enjoyed reading this chapter as part of this story and look forward to seeing how the different pieces will connect.

  15. #15
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Thank you gentlemen.

    Chapter II coming soon!

    And SMoF is now on Wattpad as well, for those who like to read there - https://www.wattpad.com/story/110249...ade-of-letters
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  16. #16
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter II - Swords Made of Letters

    Please enjoy this next chapter of the series.



    ----
    9th of December, 1938
    Interrogation Room Nr. 2
    Colmar, Alsace
    6:50 PM



    There was nothing they could pursue.

    From the little window of the adjacent room, Alexandre watched as small snowflakes gently dropped from the white winter sky, drifting through the air until they latched on the cobbled streets that were teeming with snow. Those words came back to him, the words of that war poem, but between them the words of those two youngsters flashed inside his mind. Their declaration of allegiance, so open and so brazen, left Alexandre brooding. There was no remorse. And there was no remorse from their killer either in that room. It had been swift and calculated and somehow the assassin knew about the room. Alexandre and Klaus left the room intact, waiting until the local Colmar police would come. Klaus went outside by himself for some air but Reythier stood behind and waited by the window of this little chamber opposite of the interrogation room. Beneath his heavy overcoat the service pistol was in the pocket of his pants, easy to access should the need arise again. With two spies interested in the Maginot line, and a killer who killed them both, there was nothing else they had. They were blank.

    Just like the snowflakes gently drifting through the streets of Colmar.

    Alexandre turned round from the window and glanced around the little chamber. There was nothing in it, apart from a little desk with three chairs, two on one side and one on another. There were two other chairs in the back of the room but everything else was a simple yellowy wallpaper and the window he watched the snow from. He glided out of the room, down the small flight of stairs and reached for the door. He hesitated for a moment, keeping his hand in the middle of the air. With one quick movement he spun sideways and glanced back to the stairs and towards the two rooms. The room with the window led to a small backstreet. But the interrogation room had the window right into a major street of this little town. They had been noticed from outside. And someone knew that this building was used for police interrogation.

    Reythier smirked. He spun on his heels, back towards the door and exited into the gentle snowstorm of Colmar.

    Huddling inside his overcoat, with a small cloud of steam rising from his hands as he clutched two mugs of hot tea, Reythier watched as Klaus slowly approached him. He gave is mug-carrying friend a smile and pointed towards the building.

    "Go inside, I'll be back in fifteen minutes."

    Klaus frowned. "Where are you going in this storm? The constable is away, he won't be here for a while. He's been notified and he is coming to us as soon as he can."

    "Yes, I realised that. I'm going for some fresh air, keep the tea warm for me."

    Without a second glance, Reythier adjusted his hat and left Klaus to his tea, steam columns and a strong desire to enter the building to escape the cold. He turned left, going around the interrogation building and up a little hill that junctioned with another main street of Colmar in a T shaped intersection. From the top of this small hill Alexandre turned on his heels and glanced at the police building. He was right. It wasn't that hard to spot the building, and worse, the window was low enough for someone on the hill to look directly into it and glimpse some random figures. As the interrogation room had no curtains, something he just realised right now, Alexandre could only frown in disbelief. He did not even had to look at the other streets or even the buildings around it. The attacker could have easily seen what was going on within the room.

    Dismayed, Alexandre could only alternate between a nervous laugh and a clenched fist. His eyes drifted from the hill further upwards to the street that ended with a row of timber-framed houses on the top of it. In fact, most of the houses in Colmar were timber-framed and despite their similar shapes, they somehow managed to look different because of their exterior decoration. The interrogation building had no decoration except the timber-framing. But all the other houses near it had some sort of exterior decoration. Alexandre raised an eyebrow.

    He returned less than ten minutes later back into the room on the left, the chamber now invaded by the aromatic scent of green tea. Klaus glanced at him from the edge of the table, holding the mug tight in his hand to capture the warmth of the tea into his palms.

    "You said fifteen minutes."

    "Yes, well, that took much earlier than expected." Alexandre pointed to the little hill junction. "All it takes is to just look closely and maybe jump a bit."

    "What are you talking about?"

    "It took me less than five minutes to understand how it happened. The window of the interrogation room is so low that it can be seen from an angle on the little hill behind this building. You cannot see it if you're standing directly underneath it but from the junction it's clearly visible." Alexandre waved his finger. "And why are there no blinds for this thing? The attacker saw everything."

    "Are you sure?"

    "All it took for me was to walk up and turn around."

    "And you saw this how?"

    "I did not even have to try, Klaus. It was there for me to see. Look at it in a slanted angle, just twist your body sideways, and you will see at least a portion of the interrogation room."

    "Did you look from the other sides?"

    "There was no point. I saw everything from the hill. All he had to do was walk around and see us.

    Klaus sighed, his hands still clutched on the mug. "Was it on purpose?"

    Alexandre drew up to the table and raised the mug of warm tea.

    "I think we were set up on purpose."

    ----

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  17. #17
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Good writing, I like your description of the snows as well as the scent of green tea - descriptions which make me feel like I'm there.

    Alexandre's discovery sounds ominous!

  18. #18
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Thank you, Alwyn.

    Chapter 3 coming up!
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  19. #19
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter III - The White Club

    You will recognise this as the beginning of Clouds of Smoke, which was initially a short story. This weaves in into the novel, as you will see below and in the future.


    -----------
    9th of December 1938, 19:00
    The White Club
    Mayfair, London
    United Kingdom



    "Tea, Sir?"

    The waiter came up to their table with a fresh pot of mint tea, boiling inside a white china set decorated with blue motifs, a gentle refreshing smell swirling around their noses. The waiter presented the pot as if it was some sort of trophz, turning it slightly inwards to show the boiling concoction.

    "Yes, please. Pour some more in my cup but bring me a glass of Scottish whisky first. With ice. And make sure the ice reaches the top of the glass."

    The waiter nodded. "Certainly, Sir."

    "Thank you Williams."

    "I will be back in ten minutes, Sir."

    "Jolly. I want that whisky cold as it can get."

    The waiter bowed and walked away from the table.

    With mixed curiosity, Horace watched as the young waiter sauntered away, walking gently to the backrooms reserved for the staff, leaving him with Lord Beckett in a wafting smell of expensive tobacco, a slight fog caused by that particular blend of tobacco and a number of smartly dressed men relaxing in the red velvet chairs strewn across the smoking lounge. White Club was no stranger to these men - nor to Lord Beckett - and neither of them were strangers to each other. The ritzy club in Mayfair with its white stucco facade was built for men like Lord Beckett, rich, powerful and with a certain affinity for expensive tastes. Sitting on the other side of the round wooden table from Horace, Beckett, lazily puffing from his tobacco, joined the smoking lounge dressed in a dark three piece suit with his customary top hat, which he always left to the concierge rather than to the helpers manning the clients' clothing. His double chin peeked slightly over the edge of his collar, amplifying the gentle moustache he always kept in a rather French style. Bulging occasionally out of his shirt, Beckett was a man of fine tastes, always matching his dark olive eyes with the occasional green handkerchief.

    Horace gave Beckett a customary scan and noticed the absence of his wedding ring, something that struck him as odd. He never commented on what his benefactor was doing, but he couldn't dismiss the sense that marriage started to bother Beckett. And quite significantly.

    The waiter returned faster than in the mentioned time, bringing Beckett a crystal glass filled to the brim with five ice cubes, placed on the edges of the each other until the top cube touched the inside edge of the glass. Beckett gave Horace a curt smile, picked up the whisky from the waiter's hands and rose it towards his companion.

    "For your devoted service to my interests, Horace. And to your duty as a man of the services to the country."

    Horace nodded slightly. "Duly noted, Sir."

    Beckett sipped the cold, smoked whisky with gusto. He smiled to Horace, a wry smile, his eyes slightly narrowed and the wrinkles turned at the edges.

    "Any news for me?"

    Horace looked at Beckett, straight into his eyes. "Grave news, Sir."

    Beckett's eyes widened. "Something happened to her?"

    "Her, Sir?"

    "Yes, Mathilda!"

    Horace smirked. "No, Sir, not her."

    Beckett dropped the whisky glass on the table. "Spare me of anything else, Horace. Tell me about her!" Beckett pointed his finger. "You're following her, as I've told you, I hope."

    "Sir..." hesitated Horace. "She is not of our concern."

    "Yes she is!" countered Beckett.

    "Sir, I beg to differ. Please, pardon my insolence but she is not out concern right now. Your mistress is second in importance to the news."

    Beckett waved him off. "Horace, I am not hearing you."

    "Sir, not her."

    "I don't hear, Horace," replied Beckett, slapping Horace's knee to draw his attention. "Listen to me. Anything else can wait. Tell me about her."

    "Sir, we have grave reports of foreign spies acting on our territory."

    "I don't care, Horace."

    Horace groaned. "Sir, please."

    "Horace I do not care! I don't care! Tell me about Mathilda!"

    Horace drew to Beckett's face. "Sir, the spies..."

    "One more word Horace and I will have you stripped of your rank." Beckett reached for his whisky glass. "In fact," said Beckett between sips "get out of here and go watch over her. I want to know what she is doing. Anything else can wait."

    "Sir."

    "Horace, now."

    "I refuse, Sir."

    Beckett placed down his whiskey glass, his eyebrows slightly raised. "You... refuse, Horace?"

    "Sir, I do. She is of no importance right now."

    "Horace, please do spare me next time of your opinions. Only her counts." Beckett adjusted his jacket, visibly irritated. "Now, if you still want to earn that money you need for your family, you do my bidding. What's your take?"

    Horace smirked and looked sideways, realising he had no other choice. With one curt nod, and with his eyes fixed on Beckett, he rose from the velvet chair and exited the smoke filled room for gentlemen. From the walnut doors of the smoking room on the first floor he raced down a flight of marble stairs, saluted the concierge with a nod and exited into the cold Mayfair evening.

    And as he had expected, he was not alone outside the famous White Club.

    Three steps resounded from a black Cadillac parked just outside the ritzy club, revealing a burly man dressed in a grey three piece suit and a hat to match. The burly man drew up to him, took off his hat as a sign of respect and shook Horace's hand.

    "What did Beckett say?" asked Ryan, Horace's subordinate at the intelligence services. A joyful Irishman, Ryan O'Hara was the local strongman, assigned to do Horace's duties whenever he could not. And the more particular ones too.

    "Ryan, if I lie to you right now, what would you do?"

    Ryan laughed. "Alright then. So I guess he said nothing."

    Horace turned to his Irishman and looked him straight in the eyes. "He said nothing, but I will. I'm sick of this and I want to resolve it now. I'm going to have a chat with that woman and I'll find a way to get rid of her nicely."

    "Rid of her?"

    "Nothing will happen to her, I just don't want to see her any more."

    "And if she tells Beckett?" Horace stood silent, raising his eyebrow slightly. "All right, in that case, all good to go."

    "Get your men here. I will have a talk with her but I want you guys to be ready."

    "For?"

    "For anything that happens."

    Ryan shrugged his shoulders. "Really Horace? Anything can happen. The war can start in five minutes and I can view this as something of a foreshadowing of yours. Mathilda can shoot you in the leg and then you tell me you expected this. Or maybe Beckett wants to find himself another mistress, who knows!"

    Horace smirked, looking around the empty street. "Get your boys ready, and stay inside. Tell the concierge you are waiting for an important call."

    "And you are off to?"

    "To Mathilda. Just by the Court Road my friend."

    Ryan placed a hand on Horace. "What exactly are you doing?"

    "Having a chat."

    "Armed with 2 pistols? That's what you call a chat?"

    Horace tilted his head sideways. "Smart man. Observing fine details now I see."

    "I work in intelligence. My duty is to protect you, Horace."

    Horace balked. "You have fifteen men waiting for your orders."

    Ryan laughed. "You give the orders, not me."

    "Good. Then we have a plan. You stay inside and wait for my call. If all goes well, no need for you and the men. If not, you're going to have to rescue me off a building on Court Road that is literally full of foreign agents spying for different countries."

    Ryan shook his head. "And why shouldn't we come with you?"

    Horace loaded his engraved .45 Colt, hiding it underneath his suit jacket. "I'd rather deal with this alone. And I don't want Beckett anywhere else than this place."

    "Why?"

    "Don't ask questions, Ryan."

    "Beckett and staying here." Ryan paused. "If I didn't know you better, I would say you're planning to throw Beckett under the bus to the intelligence teams."

    Horace smiled. "You know Ryan, sometimes you're not that bad."

    Ryan grinned, taking out a cheap cigar from his back pocket. "This is Beckett's, but it's those cheap ones he gives as gifts. Still good." Ryan lighted the cigar, puffed from it with gusto and then smiled. "Not a bad one."

    "Keep an eye on him. I'll be back in one hour."

    "I'll be smoking these cheap things here."

    "Throw them away," said Horace, walking towards his car.

    ----

    Feedback welcome.

    Last edited by Basileos Leandros I; June 12, 2017 at 04:08 PM.
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  20. #20
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    More "almost déjà vu"!

    Like Alwyn, I liked Chapter II's descriptions. Chapter III, because it's familiar, is harder to comment on as part of the larger story. It's nice to see some old friends again, though, of course!

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