My new novel ‘Outcasts’ is published as an e-book on Amazon and Smashwords. It will be available from other outlets later this month. It is priced at $3.00, £1.93 and €2.20 or thereabouts.
The young man sprawled in the dirt, snatching at the spears which jabbed at him.
‘Get out, you filth,’ cried an old man from the edges of the baying crowd.
The spears prodded once more, driving the man to scurry away like a crab in the sand. He turned, crouching low, and his powerful arms knocked away the points in vain attempt to prevent them stabbing him.
Beyond the spearmen a crowd of citizens watched in fascinated dread.
‘This is shameful,’ said one man, his eyes wide in horror. ‘He should be honoured for what he did, not reviled in this way.’
‘You are right,’ said his companion, an aged Greek merchant. ‘But tell me Bernard, would you allow such as him to enter your inn?’
‘Get out you filth,’ cried the old man once again and this time his cry was taken up by others in the crowd, their tight throats yelping like street-dogs.
The young man staggered to his feet, shielded his aching eyes from the burning sun. He saw a young woman in the crowd bend to the ground. She straightened, weighed a heavy stone in her hand and threw it at him. Her aim was good and the stone smashed into his cheek, tearing at his lacerated skin.
This seemed to act as a signal. Dozens of stones flew from the hands of the onlookers, pelting him with vindictive fury. He did his best to shield his head from the missiles and staggered out of their reach.
‘He should be allowed to join the Order of Saint Lazarus,’ said the inn-keeper. ‘He was a soldier of the King.’
The old Greek shook his hand. ‘True. But he was not a knight. Even lepers, it appears, are ranked by birth and blood.’
The young man halted a short distance from the crowd and stared back towards them. One of the spearmen stepped from the ranks and approached him, flinging down a bundle of white linen clothing and a bell before hurrying back to his fellows.
‘Get away from us,’ cried the voices from the crowd. ‘Get away, you filth.’
‘I shall do so,’ the young man called. ‘I have no desire to live my life with you.’
He stooped to the bundle of clothes, and turning, limped off towards the desert.
The crowd hooted in derision.