This is a sample from my novel ‘Outcasts.’
The western walls of Jerusalem were most open to attack and they were thick beyond compare. The Saracens had found to their cost that they would take any amount of battering.
After a few days Saladin had given up his attempt to smash the western wall and moved his siege engines to the east, close to the Mount of Olives. Few in Jerusalem had expected attack from this difficult terrain. In fact the Saracens had only been able to deploy half of their mangonels. But it stretched the defences more thinly than ever and Balian and Jerome spent all their time hurrying from wall to wall to check on their repair.
Thankfully the walls were proving strong enough. So were the new-made knights. The morale in the city seemed to grow each day rather than diminish.
‘Perhaps there will be no cause for mockery after all,’ Jerome said.
Balian laughed. ‘You are ever the optimist, old friend.’
John rubbed the tiredness from his eyes. He had lost count of how long the siege had gone on. He was so exhausted he might well have been fighting for ten years without respite.
He sat by the eastern wall counting to himself.
‘What are you doing?’ Simon asked.
‘I’m trying to count how many days we’ve been fighting.’
‘Six,’ Simon answered authoritatively. ‘Or maybe seven.’
‘It’s nine days,’ Bernard said. ‘Or at least that’s what Agnes told me this morning.’
John’s heart leapt. Agnes’ image filled his mind. He saw her smile upon him as she had never done in life.
He blinked his eyes to clear away the image and saw Simon looking at him with a knowing grin upon his face.
‘Still dreaming of the lovely Agnes?’ he said.
John glanced in the direction of Bernard. He had heard nothing.
‘Stop your filthy insinuations,’ John said. ‘Agnes is a married woman.’
‘And you are a man. As am I.’
Simon picked some bread from his teeth. ‘She is a rare beauty and I’m not afraid to say that she visits my dreams too.’
John seized him by the arm.
‘We are guests in her house. And we are friends of her husband. Now, of all times, you should not be thinking such thoughts.’
Simon shook his head. ‘Now of all times I should be thinking them. Any one of us could be dead in a moment. And mark my words, if Bernard gets an arrow in his heart I shall follow you in line to comfort Agnes.’
John lashed out at his cousin, slapping him across the mouth.
Simon wiped his mouth and nodded. ‘I see you’ve got it bad, dear cousin. And am I to play the part of the priest who you savaged for a woman?’ He got up and strode away.
John bowed his head in shame. At that moment a Saracen arrow would have been a welcome relief.
Bernard crouched down beside his friend, Oliver the little Frenchman from Provence.
‘What was all that about?’ Oliver asked.
‘Your two English friends. The big fair-haired one has just slapped the dark one.’
Bernard turned and looked over to where the cousins had been sitting.
John was alone; there was no sign of Simon.
‘John has a temper,’ Bernard said with a shrug. ‘I have seen it myself. I wish he would learn to master it.’
‘I don’t think he will,’ said a figure lying on the other side of Oliver. ‘I have seen such men. They can never tame the beast within.’
‘You should know, Jurgen,’ Oliver said. ‘You can be a beast as well.’
‘Only when I’m drunk.’
Oliver smiled. ‘Then that is all the time.’ He turned to Bernard. ‘Jurgen’s from Saxony. Everyone is drunk there; all of the time. The weather is so bitter they have to drink to fortify themselves.’
‘Here they come again,’ John called running in a crouch towards them.
The four men listened as the air hummed with the sound of the mangonels being released.
After three days of bombardment they had finally got accustomed to the noise. They were little concerned by the heavy thuds as the rocks crashed upon the walls.
‘I think these walls must be just as strong as the western ones,’ Jurgen said, reaching for a flask of ale.
The others nodded in agreement. Bernard opened a packet of food which Agnes had prepared for him earlier. He was famished and rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
A loud deep rumble sounded below their feet. The four men looked at each other.
This last sound was very different; not a heavy thud but a sharp crack. They threw themselves to the ground.
They were only just in time. The sound was the noise of the final piece of foundation being mined from deep below.
With the roar of a summer tempest the wall above the blast shuddered and slid into the space that opened up beneath. Slabs of masonry fell back to earth followed by dust as dense as a desert sand storm.
John threw himself to one side just in time. A jagged piece of stonework smashed into the ground beside him. It would have sliced his head from his neck.
In front of them a huge cloud of dust momentarily concealed the horrifying sight from their eyes. It cleared and they saw the huge breach in the wall. They saw rank upon rank of Saracen warriors. A horn sounded and they poured into the city.
Within the hour Balian rode out of Jerusalem to negotiate surrender.
This sample is from my novel ‘Outcasts’ which tells what happens to the commoners who were made knights by Balian of Ibelin during Saladin’s siege of Jerusalem. After the fall of the city they and their families were scattered to the desert winds.
‘Outcasts’ is available on for your Kindle, i-Pad, Nook, Kobo reader or on your computer from all good outlets. It’s a bargain at $3.00, £2.00 or €1.80