A young Jew crossed the bridge and approached the gate to the city of Cologne. Ragged, wounded, more dead than alive, he collapsed before the two astonished gatekeepers.
They would have thrown him to the dogs, or better yet, left him to the ravaging Crusaders who were not far behind - thousands upon thousands of them.
But because they thought he might earn them a few coins reward, they dragged him to the home of the Parnas, the benefactor and head of the Jewish community.
Gershom for that was his name, had escaped from the nearby community of Mainz where the Crusaders had left a trail of Jewish death and destruction behind them.
He arrived in Cologne with a fearsome tale to tell. Yet despite the urgency of his warnings, the Parnas refused to believe or to act, not until it became clear that further delay would mean the destruction of the Jews of Cologne.
Brave and resourceful, Gershom endangered his life again and again as he helped his fellow Jews on a difficult and dangerous road to partial safety.
The Parnas is a fictional novel, based on careful historical detail.
Far removed from the Jewish life we know, its stark portrayal of the early Middle Ages is the story of bravery, belief and Jewish courage.