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The Nail - Chapter 1

The rain was falling heavy that morning on the day when I

first met him. Rain did not fall very often and when it did it

was not usually this heavy. In fact it was the sudden loud

strike of thunder that had awakened me. I took the opportunity

to step out naked of my home onto the stone patio that I had

laid when I built my home, into the rain to bathe myself in it’s

rapid downfall, enjoying the coldness of it all over my body. I

smiled and thought quietly to myself while washing that this was

a benefit of being a hermit and living on the outskirts of

Jerusalem, had I remained in the city I would not be able to do


I finished my morning devotions and stepped back into the

dryness and warmth of my small mud brick home. It was a small

place, but comfortable. The land it occupied had been given to

me as part of my pension from the army. I had laid the floor

plan out to give me 3 rooms, a bedroom, bathing room and a

common area that contained my kitchen and living spaces. I had

been fortunate enough to build my home particularly the bathing

room around a well, which sat atop an underground stream, which

I was very thankful for. An engineer friend of mine, Lucanus

Flavius, with whom I had served with in the Tenth Legion setup a

small latrine system in the bathing room and in the kitchen a
basin which was constantly fed fresh water from the stream. I

was amazed that on days like today especially with the heavy

rain that it didn’t overflow, but Lucanus had planned for this

in his design and built a runoff drain towards the top of the

sink that accommodated for this. It was very good to have good

friends. I hurried into my bathing room and dried myself off

with a towel. It felt so good to take that rain bath and be

clean from head to foot. I laid my towel out over the edge of

my bathtub that I had bought in Caesarea, it had been quite

expensive but with the mustering out pay I received from the

army and the knowledge that I had saved a small fortune in my

years as Centurion Gaius Varrus of the Second Cohort of the

Tenth Legion, that I felt compelled to buy such a luxury. I

walked into my bedroom to dress myself comfortably. No need to

go out of doors today I thought for a moment, but, knowing there

was work I needed to do I sat down on the edge of my army cot to

get dressed by slipping on my tunic and trousers and tying up my

sandal boots that I had kept when I retired from the legions.

My father had been a blacksmith and he taught me the trade,

I worked with him and my brothers a couple of years before I

left home to join the legions when I was sixteen years old. I

knew that my brothers would soon have families of their own to

take care of and could not afford to keep me on at the smithy,

though they would have and never thought otherwise. But aside
from this, inside of me there was a yearning to see the world.

I suppose that was my biggest reason for leaving. After I

received my four months of recruit training and beatings, and

was posted to my first legion, I found the opportunity in my

first years of service to work with the smiths in the army and

learned many new techniques *****(elaborate more on smithing

skills of Publius)

I had built a smithy at my new home and had hoped to travel

to Jerusalem today in search of a new flume for the forge and

the raw materials that I needed to work. The rest of my

equipment I had gathered over the years and had left them in the

trust of another friend, Quintilius Aurealius, he had retired

five years before me and had been my primus pilus, the senior

centurion of the legion. He was a bear of a man, huge and broad

shouldered with sandy blonde hair and brown eyes. I had obeyed

his orders without question and proved my loyalty to him and

Rome more than once and we had grown to be fast friends. He was

now living and working in Jerusalem as a carpenter. He had

married a local Jewish girl, Esther, years ago upon first

reporting to duty with the Tenth. She was very attractive and

considerably younger than him, at least a decade or more.

Esther had tried on more than one occasion to chain me down with

one of her sisters but I always replied in a warm manner that if

the army wanted me to have a wife they would issue me one.
Quintilius had a huge workshop in the heart of Jerusalem and

refused to accept the rent I offered him for storing my tools

and equipment. Quintilius had helped me in building my home and

my shop, now with that was done I was set to start work and had

the hope of supplying the local garrison at Jerusalem with

armor, weapons, nails and tools. I knew the army standards well

from my days in service and believed in my heart that I could

make a superior product compared to that which the local smiths

in Jerusalem were making. My father had taught me well and I

had a love of blacksmithing that had been my driving force to

retire. I smiled to myself at the irony of leaving home and the

life of a smith to join the legions only to retire twenty years

later to work as a smith again.

After getting dressed, I walked into my kitchen and sat at

my table. My kitchen-living area was a special place to me; it

was modest and well kept. I had painted the walls a light red

in the kitchen area and painted those of the living area a light

green. I had bought the paint from the quartermaster of the

cohort the day I retired. I had two windows in this area, one

above the basin the other on the same wall as my door. I kept

some bread in a clay bowl on the table and next to it a jar of

honey. I removed the lid to the bread bowl and took out a

portion and picked up the honey jar and ate my usual breakfast

of bread and honey. I would wash this down with cold clear
water from my kitchen basin. Quintilius had built some cabinets

around the kitchen basin, in fact there was hardly a piece of

wood in the whole place that had not been touched by his hands

in some fashion or another. On the wall above the cabinet top

next to the basin was a hook where I kept ripe bananas when I

could get them, and below that on the cabinet top was a bronze

bowl of pears and mangoes. I had built a barn next to my shop

using the outer wall of the smithy as the inner wall of the barn

here was the residence of Britannicus my black horse, he to had

been a veteran of the legions and the principal horse of my

commander Tribune Vespacian, he gave the horse to me as a

retirement gift. He told me that he was retiring two of Rome’s

most trusted defenders that day, his horse and me. The truth

was that he had no heart to see the animal slaughtered now that

it was to old to carry him into battle anymore, which would

surely happened had he returned it to the stablemaster of the

cohort. This had amused me, but at the same time I was happy to

be so blessed. Britannicus shared space in the barn with a

dozen hens and one rooster, whom I had cooped up in the barn.

I had grown to love eating chicken over the years. My

mother had many recipes for cooking chicken and they were always

good. My mother’s meals left you stuffed but wanting more. I

had been trying to experiment with cooking chicken and found
that I loved it when baked with onions, garlic and peppers in a

pan next to the bread I was baking.

I replaced the lid on the jar of honey and sat it back down

next to the bread bowl on the table. And got up from the table

and walked to the front window to open the shutter and swing

open the iron gate of bars I had fastened to the window with two

hinges as added security. I leaned in on the windowsill,

resting my arms on the sill and my head on my arms and watched

the rain fall with a sigh. There was something nice about

working for yourself; I could work in the warmth and security of

my smithy at my leisure. I had built up several customers over

the past year since my retirement. I kept Quintilius supplied

with nails and tools and being a carpenter he needed nails on a

regular basis. Quintilius kept me supplied with any

woodworking that may arise, and his wife in turn kept me

supplied with various foods and clothing. Thinking about this

very thing I decided I needed to get out to the smithy and

hammer out a barrel of nails for Quintilius. I closed the

window back and grabbed my legionary cloak from the hook by the

door and threw it around my shoulders, opened the door and ran

out into the rain to my shop. Unlocked the large door of the

smithy and opened it up. It was a little cold inside the smithy

this morning but the place would warm up quickly enough once I

had the forge heated up to start melting ore.
I hanged up my cloak on a hook next to the entrance and

took my leather apron and gloves down and put them on to start

my workday. I looked over at the ore box on the floor by the

back wall to take count of the ore; I had enough left to finish

the nails for Quintilius but would need more to continue

working. I had a little cart that I would hook up to

Britannicus to make deliveries but it was to small to carry all

the ore I needed. For that I would often borrow Quintilius’s

large wagon to purchase and pick up the ore I needed from the

markets in Jerusalem and transport them back to the smithy. I

decided that when I finished this barrel of nails that I would

stop by Quintilius’s shop and ask him about the wagon. By mid-

day the rain had stopped and I had finished the nails and had

Britannicus hooked up to the cart and the barrel of nails tied

down on the cart bed ready for the trip to Quintilius’s shop.

The western roads into Jerusalem are often packed with

people and this is a journey I would not make with out my

swordbelt and gladius. Jerusalem was a large city, thousands

upon thousands lived here, I passed under one of the western

gates through a crowd of men who appeared to be in heated

debate, given the nature of the people here I assumed it was a

religious difference that had them shouting at one another. I

passed the booth of the Corealis, the tax collector, I used to

know the former tax collector Matthew but he had left to join a
religious sect, and a new man by the name of Herodutus had took

his place. I made my way to the heart of the city and finally

arrived at Quintilius’s shop. Quintilius’s shop was huge; it

had two giant doors in the front that he opened up every morning

signaling he was open for business. He had a giant loft above

the work area below. All of his tools and equipment were below

and stacks of lumber and rows of woodcraft filled the shop.

Next to his shop was his house it was as large as the shop with

two floors and rooms upstairs and down and a patio on the roof

where he and Esther and their children would sit of an evening

enjoying the stars and night air of the city. He had paid a lot

of money for this prime piece of real estate but he was by most

standards a wealthy man already. His shop was very successful

and he had retired from the legions with a huge pension.

As I pulled my cart up to his shop, I noticed two legionary

horses tied to the rail in front by the doors. I looked in and

saw Quintilius speaking with Marcus Falco, the quartermaster of

the Tenth Legion and *****(find out the titles of paymaster fm

Publius) and the chief carpenter, Lucius Varro. They saw me

pull in, Varro recognized me and a big smile came to his face,

he promptly left the other two men and approached me throwing

his huge bearlike arms around me “Gaius Varrus you old whoreson!

It’s good to see you. We were just talking about you.” He

released his grip around me and I looked at him and up at the
others with a smile “You were?” “What of, if I may ask?”

Quintilius motioned for me “Hail Gaius, come here and meet

Marcus, he is the new quartermaster of the Tenth.” Lucuis and I

walked to them and I shook Marcus’s hand in the roman fashion.

Marcus looked at me “Centurion Varrus, I’ve heard much about you

sir. It’s good to meet you at last.” “Likewise Marcus, please

call me Gaius.” I said with a smile. Quintilius mentioned that

they were interested in giving me a contract to supply the Tenth

Legion with nails and tools. I tried to stop the smile that was

growing on my face but couldn’t control it; with a huge teeth-

baring smile I replied, “I would be glad to fill a contract for

the legion.” “How many barrels and accessories are we talking

about?” Lucius replied, “I will need on average of two barrels

per month and I will give you a list each month of any tools we

need.” Marcus interrupted “Can you give me an idea of your

fee?” I thought for a minute, but before I could answer he

said, “We will pay the tax you owe by withholding that amount

from your payment.” Immediately I knew that I was going to add

ten percent to my price. “Sounds good.” “I’ll look over my

numbers and give you an exact amount tomorrow. If that’s okay?”

Marcus smiled “That’s fine Gaius, we will see the both of you

tomorrow.” With that Marcus and Lucius took their leave of

Quintilius and I and we watched them as they rode down the

crowded street on their way back to the Cohort Fort.