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Pagan's Crusade

Chapter One

A big man in brown, sitting behind a table. Big hands. Big chest. Short and broad. Head like a rock, face scarred like a battle axe. He looks up and sees–what's this? A street urchin? Whatever it is, it's trouble. Trouble advances cautiously.

"They said I should report to the Standard-Bearer."

The big man nods.

"You can call me sir," he says. (Voice like gravel rattling in a cast-iron pot.) He pulls out a quill pen. "Name?" he says.


"Pagan what?"

"Pagan Kidrouk."

"Pagan Kidrouk, sir."

(Hell in a handcart.)

"Pagan Kidrouk, sir."

Scratch, scratch. He writes very slowly.


"Sixteen. Sir."

"Born in?"


Rockhead looks up. The brain peeps out from behind the brawn.

"Don't worry, sir. It didn't happen in a stable."

Clunk. Another jest falls flat on the ground.

"Rule number one, Kidrouk. In the Order of the Temple you speak only when you're spoken to."

"Yes, sir."


"Yes, sir."

Rockhead smells rich and rare, like a well-matured piece of cheese. No baths for the Templars. Hot water is for girls and porridge and other soft, wet things. If a Templar wants a bath he can go and stand in the rain. That's what God put it there for.

"And where did you come from, Kidrouk?" (The unspoken question: out of a slop bucket?) Rockhead is highly suspicious. You can see what he's thinking. Just look at this runt! Smells like the Infidel, and looks like a Bedouin boy. Skin the color of braised almonds. Built like a horsewhip. Black hair. Black eyes. What in the name of God is this Order coming to? We'll be recruiting stray dogs next.

"I'm a local, sir. I served in the Jerusalem garrison."


"The night watch. I patrolled the northern beat. Between the Postern of Lazarus and the Postern of Saint Magdalene."

"You mean the Jewry quarter?"

"That's the one. Sir."

"And why did you leave?"

"Well, sir . . . it was the jokes."

Pause. Rockhead's brows roll together like gathering thunderclouds. But the storm doesn't break.

"It was the what?"

"It was the jokes, sir. In the guardroom. Not that I object to jokes as such. Some of my best friends are complete jokes. But I don't like leper jokes. Or dysentery jokes. Especially when I'm eating."

Rockhead puts his pen down. Game's over.

Pagan's Crusade
by by Catherine Jinks

  • Genres: Fiction
  • hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 076362019X
  • ISBN-13: 9780763620196