Boudica – By Zoe Donnelly

My short story about a warrior queen. What do you guys think?

**Note** This is only the first draft and no corrections of any kind have been made**

“I was whipped by the Romans when they tried to take our lands — and now I am fighting for my freedom. Think how many of us are fighting and why. We must win this battle or die. Let the men live as slaves if they want. I will not!”

— Boudicca’s last speech, as recorded by Dio Cassiu

The Past/State of Mind/Justification/Retribution – CE 62

Bouddica, the queen of the Iceni, inspected her army of 100,000 Albion Celts. She had already achieved overwhelming victories against the Roman invaders at Londinium, Camulodunum, and Verulamium. She still remembered the screams of the noble women as they were tortured to death in front of her at Londinium and the shrieks of Roman children as they saw the frighting painted adults create hell on earth in front of them. Worse, she could see the women’s torturous slaughter in her mind’s eye as clearly as day. It was by far the most foul deed of her campaign against the invaders. The grim orders were a necessary atrocity. Roman women whelp Roman children.Those children grow into Romans soldiers. Roman soldiers continue to murder and slaughter her people. It was no more complicated that.

She knew that once the battle was over and the blood-lust for Roman blood slacked –For the moment– she would retreat to her dwelling and once alone she would allow the pangs of guilt and grief to assault her mind. Perhaps she would even allow herself to cry until she was numb and could finally sleep. She didn’t sleep for long these days, she had nightmares of all that had transpired. She was forced to relive the horrors of her past and the savagery of her campaign. In her dreams she could smell the sickening smell of burnt flesh and blood. She could hear the screams. She could touch the scars on her wrists that branded her even in her dreams. Her dream-self would scream and tear at her hair and skin. She would release her agony and rage. Then relive them again. And again. She had decided to sleep no more than necessary to keep her wits and reflexes sharp. She had instructed one of her body guards outside of her tent to wake her after the fourth hour of her slumber.This wasn’t supposed to be her life, but the Gods had changed her world from benevolent queen of the Iceni to a demoness that gorged on the Roman blood and reveled in the slaughter of innocents. At least, that’s how she appeared. It was vital to her campaign that her dark deeds be exaggerated in order to shatter Roman moral and expel the invaders as a result. However she was far more sensitive than she pretended to be in front of her clan. It was all an act, a vital tool to being a successful ruler. She had to be strong so her people would remain so. For all her divinity she was also human and she felt so very tired.

The memories of what she had inflicted upon the women and children of Rome tortured her day and night.Though she kept her face impassive during the grim deeds she felt as she herself had irreparably killed part of herself as well. She remembered every beautiful, olive skinned face of the lithe Roman women and the tortured expressions of their slaughtered children that remained even in death. She would remember every single face, every hand that twitch their dead fingers. She knew these images would never fade from her mind. These deeds were now fused to her soul for all eternity, even after she is reborn she will still carry this curse within her breast. It was the cost of freedom and she willingly paid it.

At Londinium the Roman women were made examples of. Roman women were weak. Their self-imposed weakness disgusted her fellow Celts, and Boudica was no exception. The women did not know their worth, and as such were valued only slightly more than breeding cattle. Their psychological weakness was all the more reason to slaughter them. The Celts showed these subservient women the price of their frailty. With every impalement, with every breast sewn savagely to their mouths, Boudica watched with a stony gaze and mouth set in a grim line, but within her soul she writhed in agony and hatred. Her soldiers would think her weak if she was to show any quarter. “Its is because of your men that I must do this. This is your fault.” she told herself this and even once to one particularly innocent looking woman before she waved a dismissive hand in acquiescence to the child-faced woman’s fate. Her nearly violet eyes widened in fear and it was all Boudica could do to shut out her screams.The marauding Celts showed a capacity for barbarism that rivaled that of the invaders. A hypocrisy she was well aware of though outwardly she appeared to ignore the notion.

Boudica only had to remember the scars that stripped down her ivory back and think of her poor, sweet, divine daughters as one Roman after another lined up to violate their bodies. As they were tied to wooden frames on the ground Boudica had screamed in agony and fear and began fighting her chains with all the fury of a tormented mother. Her wrists had been scarred by her desperate struggles to get to her precious girls. It was futile, her bonds were too strong. The Roman procurator, Decianus Catus, was the first to get in line, as he was nobility. The Romans considered it Catus’ right to be the first in line to take their virginity.

She remembered the jeers as the whip came down upon her again and again. The Romans calling my beautiful daughters whores. The women staring in horror through the gauzy curtains, mouths agape. As rivulets of blood streamed down her back and pooled at her feet she shouted for her daughters to be strong. “YOU ARE ICENI!” The whip lashed out. She let out a half sobbed gasp at the sudden, intense pain but shouted to her children again. “AIFE! DUBH!” The lash came down again. “YOU ARE GODDESSES IN YOUR OWN RIGHT!” , “YOU ARE ICENI!” Again the whip ripped skin from her back. “DO NOT LET THESE BEASTS WEAKEN YOU!” As more and more flesh was torn from her body, she continued undeterred. “REMAIN STRONG! YOU ARE THE DAUGHTERS OF A QUEEN!” Down came the lash.“YOU ARE ICENI! YOU ARE ICENI! YOU ARE ICENI!” As Bouddica’s back was ripped to shreds those words became her mantra between each strike of the iron studded whip. The Roman who was meting out her punishment became frustrated when she wasn’t beaten into submission and yanked her head back by her long hair and delivered a fierce blow to her face breaking her nose and knocking loose several teeth. She gave a surprised cry and the crack of cartridge was audible to all near her. She remembered the alarm in her tormentor’s eyes as she starred up at him definitely with her furious dark eyes. As she spit out a globule of blood she roared “THE QUEEN OF THE ICENI NEVER SUBMITS” He was clearly unnerved but found his resolve quickly. The soldier shoved her head forward and continued to rip into her skin and muscle faster and faster as the soldiers continued to rape her innocent daughters. She began to fear for their lives. So many Roman men! The flogging wasn’t nearly as painful as watching her daughters be raped again and again and again.Amazingly, though they were only at the beginning of their adolescents they suppressed their screams; the only sound they made were grunts of pain as the Romans waited their turn to defile Iceni royalty.Though they had barely entered puberty her daughters were Celts first and children second. Even at so tender an age they refused to show weakness. Through the haze of her horror she felt a deep pride in the strength of her children. They were truly of divine heritage. Aife was only 12, Dubh 14.

Boudica forced her mind back to the present. Today was the battle that would determine the fate of her people. She would use her fury to burn away any other feeling in order to achieve her goal.

Boudica drove her chariot, with her daughters in front of her. It was only right that her girls be allowed to seek retribution with their own hands, even if they all perished in the end. Back and forth she drove in front of the strongest Celtic army Albion had ever seen. Her clever mind quickly prepared her battle speech in order to rally her troops. An army that she herself had created. Having a woman ruler with absolute power was a type of woman the Romans couldn’t understand.They also could not fathom the fact that a woman, even one as imposing as she, could encompass the mental capacity to wage a war — and do so successfully. That a woman could give the invincible Romans a run for their money was something that emasculated the soldiers and infuriated the Roman Emperor Nero.

Boudica was an unusually tall woman as she was 6’0 tall and as she stood proud in her chariot she appear to be a virtual giant. She towered over most men, especially the shorter, more compact men of Rome. The muscles of her arms were toned and scarred from combat and her long legs were strong and bulged with muscle. She had been trained in combat since the age of seven at one the many Celtic fighting colleges and had become a warrior in her own right. She had beaten men and women in sparring matches many times. Her men revered her as much as they feared her. Even the sexist Romans had to begrudgingly admit that this woman was one of the fiercest warriors they had ever fought against. The Romans considered it unusual for a woman such as she to exist at all.

In addition to her fighting prowess she had received an education befitting her rank as a divine goddess and future queen. She was one of the lucky few to receive her education at the hands of the exalted druids on the Isle of Mona.

Her calloused knuckles reddened as she tightly gripped her spear. As the chariot trundled over the emerald grass of the soon-to-be battlefield. These Romans quickly learned that a wronged Celtic woman possessed a fury that was unequal to that of any other woman in the known world. They simply did not fight to subdue or conquer, they went for complete and total decimation of their enemies. Her fury could be seen in the ashes of Londinium. In her mounting fury she remembered the decimation of the sacred groves and the wanton slaughter of the druids who had been her greatest mentors. It was sacrilege and the knowledge held by the druids who called that island home was lost forever. The Roman’s thought that by defiling their spirituality and educational studies they would bring the Albions to their knees. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

They were Celts, they were more familiar with warfare than most peoples. They glorified it. They reveled in it. They were a fierce people and both men and women were welcome on the battle field. As her chariot rattled back and forth she spied many women dotted among the ranks and ranks of men. Still, there must have been at least 10,000 women willing to give their lives for their children, their queen and the people of Albion. These women had removed their decorative broaches and stained their skin with swirling azure designs from dyes made from the woad plant. Many of the women fought with their breasts bare and their hair wild that hung in limp strands of varying lengths. Many of the women had learned something of combat and self defense but, regretfully many of them had never held a sword or a spear in their lives. They had picked up the weapons of their fallen husbands and sought retribution. The Roman army of 10,000 strong had assembled in tight ranks on the other side of the field. Tearing her glaring eyes from the enemy she turned her head back to her army. Finding her troops properly outfitted and battle-ready she began her battle speech.

“Iceni! Trinovantes! These invaders have taken our homes, killed our children and defiled our women!” At this there was angry shouting and cursing from many throats of the warriors. So many of them had lost wives, husbands and children to the Roman horde and her heart ached for them. “Suetonius has demanded our blood as sacrifice to their gods!” She continued. “If he wants blood we will give it to him, but not OURS! He will receive more blood than he bargained for. Her voice was tinged with anger and hatred and not a little pain. “The Romans will DROWN IN THEIR OWN BLOOD!” Her voice carried across the battlefield to Roman ears and they shifted nervously from one foot to the other. Only their general appeared to be unphased by Boudica’s rallying cry. They were reminded of the fearsome druidesses from the isle of Mona and how their fearsome screams and intimidating appearance and shamefully recalled how the legions had nearly balked at the thought of battling these furies and conjurers, but in the end they had rallied and slaughtered all the druids and acolytes –including several children of nobility– and burnt down the sacred oak groves. This was the final atrocity that could be allowed to happen. The druids were the Celt’s doctors, historians, artists and lawyers of their civilization. Briton society depended on their wisdom and now the knowledge of Mona was lost forever. Even after such a blow to the Celtics of Albion the Romans looked upon Boudica’s army and felt a creeping sense of dread that threatened to break ranks despite the threat of execution for desertion.

To be continued…

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