Came across this very vivid and captivating piece by Eric Alagan in his blog Written words never die. Check it up at

Written Words Never Die

[Earlier episode The Messenger]

Altan carefully selected a charcoal pencil from his calligraphy box, which was ornately embedded with jewels.

Batu and the small circle of chieftains went quiet.

Sensing their rapt attention, Altan made a show of crunching his features and frowned in great thought. He brought his pencil to the tiny piece of rough Chinese paper, laid flat and neat on the low table.

The men leaned in. Waited with unblinking eyes. Somewhere in the sprawling encampment outside, a dog barked and received a rebuke from its master. It whined and fell silent.

Their khan hesitated and the men expressed mild disappointment.

Altan studied the point of the charcoal with his undivided interest. From his calligraphy box, he produced a thin blade, no broader than the width of a child’s small finger, and proceeded to sharpen the charcoal.

His men looked at one another and nodded…

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