“Fresh tilapia caught this mornin’!” A woman covered from shoulder to feet in a leather apron yelled out. “Can no get any fresher!” she pitched. “Yer family will luv ya!”
Atticus kept walking, only giving a slight acknowledgement of her existence. He looked up past the market place, past the din of voices calling from other vendors, to the hills of Hispania – to peace. The Mediterranean sun began its descent down to the horizon as he picked up the pace.
This dock is too long, he thought as the seaside approached. He leapt from the wood to the grass to the right of the planks and almost ran down to the water. He dropped his duffels on the rocks, and stepped into the lapping waves, bending down to put his hands in the warm sudsy waves lapping the shore. He just stayed like that, squatted on his knees for some time.
He closed his eyes. He breathed a prayer of thanks to the God he called Father or “Abba” in the Chaldee language, meaning ‘daddy’.
“Abba, thank you for allowing me this day, free of pain, free of bloodshed, free of violence. Thank you for the breath in my lungs, the smell of the sea, for this place. Thank you for allowing me to see this moment.” He breathed in deeply again, taking in every bit of air around him, hearing every sound.
“Thank you for giving me life itself, and teaching me Your ways though I do not deserve it. I bless You Abba, in the Name of Your Strong Son, Yeshua, my Christ.”
He stood up and stretched. He noticed two young boys fishing off the pier.
“Any luck?” he yelled toward them.
The boys looked up from their adventure and one picked up a stick with three small fish pierced through at the gills, lifting it high in triumph.
“Hail the great fishermen!” Atticus smiled and lifting his right fist to his chest in a soldier’s salute. Even as he did it, he stopped smiling and realized the days of saluting had all but come to an end. That was likely the last time he would salute anybody. He dropped his hand to his side, turned and lofted his bags to his shoulder and made his way up to the main path from harbor to township.
He only paused to use a latrine. He did not want to waste too much time in the village, despite the markets and taverns. Later.
He kept pushing through the main street, recognizing the look of retired soldiers with ease. They all held themselves with dignity above the local men, their identities wrapped up in being a commander of many. They would still try to order anyone around who would submit to them. Atticus met the eyes of several with a nod but did not stop to talk. Even if he were to sleep under a tree tonight, he simply wanted to be up into the hills away from people. It did not take too long for Atticus to stride past the main part of the town and out the other end. He was making for the hilltops.
Two Roman Milles (a Mille is about 5,000 paces or pedes) outside Faventia, Atticus decided to stop at a tavern called the Bellator’s Reliqua (Warrior’s Rest), apparently, a favorite of the retired Legionnaires, as there were several in there.
The trek had been all up-hill so he was glad to see the little outpost and longed for a good pint of thirst-quenching mead and a bite to eat. The tavern was lit mostly by the sun through the wide-open windows as it was about the ninth hour of the day. He quickly surveyed his surroundings and chose a table in the rear by a hearth. All but one of the nine men sat in clusters, a mangy dog lay at the feet of the one, a mangy man himself not unlike his dog. Local. Atticus slid past a table of two drinkers with the customary nod and then to his spot where he plopped his sacks on the wooden table.
The table and chair had seen better days but he was happy to sit down and rest, to simply breathe, without threat of any pirata or stormy weather, or crafty ship’s crewmen, or dodgy women in a port of call.
He closed his eyes and respired out another prayer of thanks for the food and drink he may yet receive.
Atticus looked up to see a tough looking older brunette standing before him with a flask of something in her right hand, and a large butcher knife in the other.
He eyed the knife a little suspiciously. The woman blew a strand of hair from her face and said in an accent that Atticus did not recognize, “you want something? You eating?”
Atticus put both hands on the table and glanced to her left, “your weapon of choice?”
She blew the strand of hair again and forced a slight smile.
“What is cooking today?” Atticus asked.
“Chicken, fish, or a broth of either one,” she said. He assumed the accent was of Hispania.
“I have had enough fish in the last few weeks for a lifetime. A whole chicken would be most excellent… yes, and your local drink if you do not mind.”
“Wonderful,” she said with little enthusiasm, and turned, leaving him to savour such a sweet conversation, as she went into what he assumed was the kitchen, a place he did not want to see or even imagine for that matter.
The old dog, a short-haired wolf-hound from Germania, slowly lifted his body from its spot at his master’s feet, first the front end then the hind end, and limped his way over to Atticus, who bent toward the hound with outstretched hand.
“Hey boy, you have seen some hard days, ya?” Atticus scritched the spot between its ears and the dog leaned in, also tipping its nose to the table to see what food may come his way.
“Nothing yet boy.”
“Brutus,” the old man said from his table.
“Now there’s an interesting name,” Atticus replied, “depending on your politics,” he added.
“A great name,” said the man, thus revealing his politics. The man stood from his chair and backed out of it, making his way over to Atticus. He had an obvious limp, perhaps even a wooden leg, though he carried himself well enough.
To be continued… in a sense ~ working on the short novel when I can, hopefully to be complete by the end of summer. That’s the plan anyway. Does Atticus ever settle in Hispania? Is love in store for him? What is the Siege all about? Who is Cassius and what alarming message does he bring to Atticus? The scrolls of an eye witness to the last days of the Christ – whose writings are these? And how will they get out of Jerusalem before the fall of 70 AD – or will they?
All these questions and more will one day be answered! Thank you for your interest and encouragement along the way!