Posting the first chapter re-write.

Chapter 1:

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

It was cold and still.

Frost decorated the graveyard glistening under the watchful eye of the winter moon. A heavy mist eddied around the headstones pooling at the feet of angels bowed in prayer. Its shroud, like a colourless sea, lapped at the heavy oak door of the church searching its broad girth for a breach. Inside voices sang to the echo of an organ while the leaded windows illuminated the stark stonework.

It was cold and still.

The moon blinked in the studded sky as her pale gaze fell on the five silhouettes filling the space between the headstones. Like the winged sentinels they stood, not watching over the dead but observing the living. Moments passed as they listened to the lilt of the carol trickling from the stone building, spellbound by its pull on long forgotten heart strings. A Christmas remembered. A Christmas lost.

It was cold and still.

A flame tore into the darkness as one of the figures lit a crumpled Woodbine cupping his hands out of habit. The lick of light offered a glimpse of the polished buttons on his collar and the lack of flesh on his hands. He inhaled the bite of nicotine to the limit of his lungs relishing the taste while the others looked on. He took the cigarette from between his teeth and passed it to the next man who received it readily without a word. They moved forward as a unit weaving between the static stone flowers, their measured gait squashing the gravel when they reached the path.

The silence was broken; the frozen night waited.

They stopped before the porch, the church windows casting a muted glow over the group revealing nothing more than their dark serge uniform. One of the band stepped into the shadow of the arch and adjusted his peaked cap before freeing the latch of the heavy door. The mist sighed and followed in the footsteps of the figures as they entered, one of them surrendering the smouldering cigarette to dwindle in the darkness.

The cast-iron handle proclaimed their arrival shattering the rise of choral harmony. The choir took a collective breath and looked toward the intruders as if they were expecting the angels bringing news of great joy. Instead death stole into the nave and crept on the path of the forgotten and the lost.

The choir master, a genial man in his late sixties, rolled his eyes with a sigh and turned to admonish those who had interrupted the rehearsal. His worn leather footsteps echoed on the flagstones matching those of the advancing group.

The scent of the candles and spruce, that decorated the church, was lost as a foul air swept along the nave making him shudder and stop. One of the men stepped forward to join him, his poise military and challenging. Behind him the singers’ low whispers carried no comfort.

Aeddan gave a nervous smile and rubbed his grey beard out of habit. “Look here lads…” He never got to finish as the air rushed from his lungs.

He looked down on the calloused hand that tightly gripped the handle of the bayonet. The panicked cries of the choir seemed distant as he watched the leisurely drip of his own blood splash the consecrated ground. Time lingered as death’s shadow circled  and for a moment nothing registered; the pain, the certainly of his demise, the concerned shouts of the choir. He dropped to his knees, using one hand to grasp the arm of his attacker, the other went instinctively to the hilt of the weapon. He looked up into the face of his assailant hoping to find some clarity, some reason but all he found was empty eyes and a face ravaged by death.

Chapter 2


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