Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.

Bad language ~ The odd word here and there.

Love/sex ~ Loving relationships between women all over the island. Sex between consenting women. If this offends you...have a sneak peek, you might enjoy it.

Sickness & death ~ There are some deaths in this story, if that's not for you, I understand completely and hope you enjoy reading something else.

Author's note ~ This story briefly involves Boudicea. If you're interested in learning more about Boadicea/Boudica, lookout for Boudica Britannia, or Boudica: The British revolt against the Romans.

I recommend you read Island of Belleza 1 & 2 if you haven't already.

Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk

Special thanks ~ To my beta reader. Thank you for all your hard work, I really appreciate it.

Copyright © June 2009

**Special acknowledgement** ~ Happy birthday, mate :-)


Island of Belleza: For better, for worse


Cam Taylor




S he stared at him with a piercing glare, not trusting him, not liking him; not yet. "What are you doing here? What do you want with me?" she asked, her voice harsh.

"I heard about you and had to come," Brock replied calmly, eyes burning with hate. "You wish to destroy the Romans...so do I. Every last one of them." He watched the woman stand and walk around her desk. She was tall and had long red hair down to her hips; she was wearing a multi-coloured tunic and a thick cloak over it, fastened by a distinctive brooch. She was as impressive as he had heard her to be.

"What have you heard of me?" she asked, moving around him, eyeing him up. "Who told you?"

Brock had expected her to be cautious, had expected to be doubted. He swallowed and turned to meet her hard eyes. "You are Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe. Your husband Prasutagus left his kingdom jointly to your daughters and the Roman Emperor in his will, but when he died they ignored his will. They took possession without permission, or rather, annexed the kingdom as if they conquered it, and you..." The dark blonde-haired man paused, wondering if he should continue.

Boadicea smiled, a tight lipped smile that looked harsh and menacing. "Continue."

Brock realised her usual voice was naturally harsh as she spoke in the same tone she had used before. "You were flogged and your daughters...raped. Now, you seek vengeance."

Boadicea finished circling the man who was the same height as herself and walked back around her desk to take her seat. She studied him in silence, trying to work out if he were genuine. "Remind me of your name."

"Brock Archer, youngest son of Cornelius Archer, a fierce warrior and nobleman." He saw the flash of recognition in her eyes. "You have heard of him?"

"I have," she nodded. "I have heard many strange things. Perhaps you can fill me in?" She looked to her right-hand man, Kegan, standing silent and still at the side of the dimly lit tent and nodded her head. The man stepped forward, bringing with him a finely carved, dark wood chair. "Sit and tell me of your father," Boadicea directed at Brock.

Brock sat down, knowing he was putting himself at risk by doing so. He could be attacked from behind and easily taken out before he could rise again, but he had to take the chance, he wanted desperately to join forces with Boadicea to free their land from Roman control. "What do you wish to know?"

She leaned forward, elbows resting on her desk, fingers together forming a steeple, as she glared at him. "His father was Eros, was it not?"

"That's right."

"He...married a girl not of these lands," Boadicea continued, piercing eyes unwavering. "'Tis said she came from a distant island...ruled by women."

He knew he couldn't give up any information, not yet, she didn't trust him and he couldn't trust her. "What does this have to do with my father?" he asked instead.

The Queen of the Iceni tribe smiled, a real smile this time. "When the Romans first tried to invade Britannia, there is a rumour they were held at bay by not only Cornelius' men and women fighters, but...warriors as well. These warriors used fighting techniques not known in these parts; they were fierce and unafraid of everything, doing daring acts with no thought to their demise. If these...rumours have any truth to them...we could use women like that."

"The rumours are truth, the warriors are the best I have had the honour to fight alongside. But they left," he growled. "On orders from...their leader. She feared the Romans and had her warriors retreat and told my father to leave his land and head north, which he did. He had no choice though," he said quickly, not wanting the red-haired woman to think his father a coward. "He was injured in the battle and lost an eye."

"So...you cannot get these warriors back to help our cause? They are cowards who ran suddenly, fearing death."

"I didn't say I couldn't get them back. I would just need...time, Boadicea. Time to meet with their leader and tell her of our cause, time to convince her we need the warriors for a good reason. I need two and half moons to do this. How soon are you planning to attack?"

Boadicea sat back in her chair, weighing up the pros and cons of all Brock had said, knowing her people really could use the warriors on their side. "You have your time, Brock, son of Cornelius. As soon as you get back, I want you here to tell me their answer."

Realising he was being dismissed, Brock stood and walked forward, sensing Kegan tensing as he did so. He offered the impressive woman his arm in a warrior's shake. "Thank you. See you in two and half moons' time." Releasing her arm, the big-built man turned on his heel and left the tent, hurrying to his horse.


* * * * *

Darin lay writhing on his bed, his body in the throes of fever. Over the weeks, he had slowly been getting worse, the sickness he had not easing, no matter what medicine cures his wife gave him. He moaned as his chest ached, making him lift a hand to his breast, fingers curling as he prayed for the pain to go. It wouldn't. He knew it wouldn't.

"Husband?" Opal called out, worried eyes on her beloved. "The pain is worse?" She watched as he started coughing, a great wracking cough that she was sure would never end. He had been getting steadily worse as days turned into weeks and weeks into moons. He had lost so much weight, she feared he was going to waste away.

"Water," Darin gasped, as the cough stopped. A brief respite, he knew.

Opal swallowed down her fear as she spotted droplets of blood on her husband's lips. Reaching into her pocket for a hanky, she dabbed the spots away, then turned to get him a mug of water. "I shall call for the medicine man, husband. You don't seem to be getting better."

Darin choked on the water he was drinking as he started to cough again. He turned pained eyes on his wife, silently begging her to take the pain away. They had known each other all their lives, their two families having been neighbours back in the old village. As they had grown up, their fathers had arranged for them to be wed and they had been together ever since. Opal was a good woman, a good wife, who he loved dearly and would do anything for. He heard stories of men who despised their wives and slept with other women behind their backs and couldn't understand it. He heard stories of women who nagged constantly and women who were cold and frigid. He always thanked the Gods for his wife.

As his coughing eased, he reached out for Opal's hand, wanting her close, wanting her next to him. If this was to be the end of him, he wanted his Opal to be the last thing

he saw.

* * * * *

Leland Archer watched his lover's chest in worry. Colt's fever seemed to be getting worse. The light blonde-haired man stood from the edge of the bed they shared and walked out of the bedroom, green eyes settling on the druid priest seated at a small wooden table in the main room. "Colt is getting worse," he said in a tight voice. "I don't understand it." He walked over to the table and took a seat opposite Royce, watching the man crushing herbs in a small bowl. "What sickness is this?" he asked. "I have never seen, nor heard anything like it."

Brown eyes settled on Leland's face, seeing the worry etched there. Perhaps this is a punishment from the God Nodens for such...sinful behaviour? "It started with a loss of appetite and the night sweats?" he asked.

Leland nodded. "Yes. We weren't too worried at first, we thought it was just...a simple sickness that goes around now and then. But now...now he has developed a cough that keeps getting worse, no matter how many cups of warmed ground-ivy I give him."

The wise man nodded, absorbing the symptoms Leland had mentioned and thinking over which herbs and spells could possibly help. "Has anyone else complained of this? Or is Colt the only person sick?"

"I think Colt is the only one, I can't be sure. I've been busy taking care of him and business for my father, too busy to notice if others are sick. Why? Do you know what this is?"

"No," Royce shook his head. "But if others had it I would be worried. It could just be the winter sickness," he suggested. "It comes and affects many with a cough, sneezing, night chills, night sweats, then goes after a week or two." He stopped crushing the herbs in the bowl. "Here," he said, sliding the bowl over to Leland. "The next time he awakens, heat this and give it to him to drink."

"This is it? This is the cure?" Leland snapped, fear making his tone rise. "I just keep giving him herbs and plants to drink?"

Royce stood up, ready to leave. "You could try lemon balm, for a change of flavour. Go and pray to the God Noden, offer a token of some sort, something precious to Colt perhaps. Other than that, keep him isolated from everyone else and it should pass." Reaching into his pocket, the elderly man pulled out a charm bracelet. "Tie this around his left wrist."

Leland walked the older man to the front door and shook his hand as Royce stood outside in the afternoon sun. "Thank you for coming out to see Colt. I'll send word if he gets worse."

"Try praying, Leland. The Gods are listening. Whether they answer is a different matter though." The wise man waved and wandered away, leaving Leland shaking his head at the man. "Damn healer doesn't care one bit!" he growled in anger, knowing the man disliked him for who he lived with and loved. Rubbing his face and feeling the scratch of two-day old whiskers on his face, Leland decided to get out of the house, knowing Colt was sleeping peacefully for the time being. The oldest son of Cornelius decided to find out if anyone else was sick.

The former villagers from the south of Britannia had fled their homes and farm land and moved north to Pictland, after Cornelius took the advice of his great niece's consort, Dionis. The Romans had invaded Britannia and proved to be fierce opposition, but after a brief but deadly battle, the fighters from Britannia and the warriors of Belleza had gained the upper hand and over-run the Romans, forcing them to retreat. But the great force that wanted world domination returned with even more men, and Queen Athena and Dionis decided against the warriors returning to Britannia to help fend them off. Dionis had concluded that a war would be futile and a waste of life and refused to send her women to their deaths pointlessly. Cornelius was advised to move from his land and save the lives of his people, which he heeded. Many of the villagers had been furious with the decision, the warriors were their allies and were supposed to come to their aid, as they were expected to go to theirs.

Dionis had been proven right though. The Romans had stopped at nothing to gain control of Britannia, killing many before getting what they wanted. Many of the villagers now lived peaceful lives in the land called Pictland, also known as Pictavia, by the natives, or Caledonia by the Romans. Their enemy hadn't yet ventured north. After conquering the south of Britannia, the Romans had spent their time creating something they called towns; places which were full of finely built buildings and temples to their Gods. The villagers lived in fear of the day the Romans did venture north though, not sure what would become of them then. Other villagers joined forces with other tribes against the Romans, planning and plotting on how to take them down and get back their land.

Walking through his new home, Leland couldn't help but smile as he looked around. They had done well since moving north; new homes had been quickly erected, farm land had been set out, and the barren land had disappeared, to be replaced with a thriving community. Things were going well. Well, they were until Colt got sick. Green eyes turned up to the heavens. Please, I cannot lose him, he is my life. Seeing Bentley, one of the villagers, Leland pasted on a smile and waved in greeting to the man. "Hello, Bentley. How are you today?"

The man, dressed in simple clothes, looked at his leader's eldest son. "As well as can be, Leland. Heard Colt was sick and you had that old wise man round?"

"That's right. He couldn't say what it is, gave me some more herbs and a charm. Do you know of anyone else being sick?"

Bentley frowned in thought. "One or two, though they say 'tis the winter sickness."

Leland frowned. "'Tis the beginning of summer," he said, more to himself than to Bentley. "Is all well with you?"

The man nodded. "Counting down the days until we leave for Belleza."

Leland nodded, knowing many were eagerly awaiting the day they would set sail. "Do you know where my father is?"

"In a meeting with your brother Brock. I must get on, Leland. Wish Colt well for me."

Leland waved the man off, troubled thoughts filling his head. In a meeting with Brock? A meeting about what?


* * * * *

"Don't you see, father!" Brock said louder than was necessary. "We can get our revenge!"

Cornelius sighed heavily as his son started pacing backwards and forwards. "I have no need for revenge, son. We fought, valiantly I might add, but then they came back with more legions, more weapons, more determination. They rule Britannia now. Let it be."

"Let it be!" Brock shouted. "Let it be! Father, they forced us into leaving our homes and farm land. They had no right, they have no right to ruling us! Boadicea says..."

Cornelius frowned. "Boadicea? What has she to do with this?"

"I went to see her," Brock replied. "I told her I wish to join her in her fight against the Romans. She hates them as much as I, and I believe we will get the revenge we seek."

The balding, grey-haired leader of the former south Britannia tribe studied his son carefully, thinking over all he had heard of the strange woman called Boadicea. "She just...accepted you? Just agreed that you could help with her plight?"

"Yes," Brock nodded. "Especially once I told her you were my father. She has heard of you, father," he said excitedly, like a boy again. "And of your father, Eros. She heard of what we did against the Romans. She said her tribe could use us and the warriors..."

"The warriors?" Cornelius interrupted. "You dared to mention them to her?" He stood, looking down at his son with an angry blue eye. "How dare you! How dare you compromise their existence!"

"She already knew of them, father. She had heard the rumours."

"And you confirmed them!" Cornelius raged, fists clenching.

"When we return to Belleza for Raleigh's birthday, I plan to talk to Dionis and Rayna. I plan to tell them of Boadicea and her plans to take down the Romans. They are our people, father. The warriors are our allies and will surely join the fight," Brock said defiantly.

Cornelius sat back down heavily in his seat and shook his head. "You are a fool, Brock. Dionis will see no reason to send them; I see no reason she should send them. We are not under attack, we live a peaceful life here, the Romans are satisfied with the land down south and have not bothered us. You, on the other hand, are seeking to go down there to attack them."

"'Tis our land they are enjoying!" Brock argued, not understanding why his father, the great Cornelius, was so against his plan. "You will see, father. I will tell Rayna and she will convince Dionis. Rayna hates the Romans as much as Boadicea and me." He turned and stormed out of Cornelius' home.

Cornelius sighed and wondered why the man was so filled with anger. They had been lucky, Brock especially, to escape with their lives. He couldn't understand why his son would wish to engage in another war with such a powerful force. I hope that Rayna has matured enough to see sense, and hopefully Dionis can talk Brock out of this silly notion. A knock on his wooden door drew him from his troubled thoughts. "Come." He watched the door open to reveal Dagwood, one of his few remaining best fighters. He smiled at the scruffy-looking man. "Dagwood, what can I do for you?"

"Darin is sick, Cornelius. He has some...strange sickness." Dagwood shook his head, trying to dispel the images of what he had seen from his head. "His wife says it has progressed from what she thought was a simple winter's cold to a fever and constant cough that brings blood with it."

"Blood?" Cornelius repeated in shock.

Dagwood nodded. "Last night...Darin...he coughed up blood, a lot of it. I saw...Opal called me in and I...saw the state of the room. Cornelius, there was blood everywhere, on the bed, on him, on the floor. 'Tis like...he is coughing himself to death."

The grey-haired leader frowned, fear flowing through him the more he listened to Dagwood. "We...uhm...we shall have to isolate them. Cut them off from everyone else so it doesn't spread."

"There is a problem, Cornelius," Dagwood said sadly.

"What problem? It has spread already? The damn fool coughed over some poor other soul and gave it to them?"

"Opal. When I was there she...had a cough. Not a bad one mind, but, considering how Darin is..."

Cornelius growled in dismay, knowing what he had to order and hating it. "We shall have to order them to stay in the house until they get better or..." he trailed off, not willing to finish the sentence.

Dagwood nodded. "I shall...tell her."

"Call for the Celtic priests, see if there is anything they can do," Cornelius said as an after thought.

With slumped shoulders, Dagwood turned and left the simple wooden home.

Cornelius rubbed his forehead in frustration. "What strange sickness is this?" he asked aloud. "Coughing blood! Who ever heard of such a thing?" Reaching out for his mug of wine, he took a mouthful and revelled in the slow burn as it went down. "This is all I need so close to returning to Belleza! What more can go wrong?" A knock on his closed door made him sigh loudly. "I had to ask!" he muttered. "Come."

Leland pushed open the door and stepped into his father's home. "Hello, father."

"My son. Is all well? I heard you had called for the wise man."

Leland walked across the room to where his father sat and took a seat opposite him. "Colt is sick and getting worse. I...fear 'tis bad, father, very bad."

"What did the wise man say?" Cornelius asked, frowning.

"Not a lot. Told me to try praying, like I haven't been doing that already."

Cornelius remembered the day he had found out his oldest son was a lover of men. He had stood in shock as Leland introduced him to a strapping young man he called his lover, blinking again and again as he tried to make sense of the words. His son was a homosexual, a lover of men; his son would never have sons of his own to take over ruling the people; his son would be ridiculed and would have to live looking over his shoulder. He had been heartbroken. But then, after spending time in their company, he had come to realise that despite the fact they were two men, they adored each other completely. They loved and cherished each other, would do anything for the other, and over time he had come to accept Colt as another son.

"I asked Bentley if any others have been sick and he told me that there are one or two," Leland said. "Should...should I be worried, father?"

Cornelius sighed heavily, knowing what he was about to tell his son wasn't good. "I think so, Leland. Dagwood was in here just before you. He...he informed me Darin has a strange coughing disease that brings up blood." Cornelius stood and started pacing. "It looks like he's coughing himself to death," he continued, avoiding his son's eyes. "Blood everywhere according to Dagwood. And Opal...Opal must be isolated as she has a cough as well."

"Father...wha-...by the Gods! What sickness is this? I have never heard of such a thing!"

"Neither have I," Cornelius replied, rubbing his forehead in frustration. "You know I think of Colt as a son, he has been good for you all these years, but...has he shown signs of..."

"No!" Leland barked, jumping to his feet. "There is no sign of blood, nor will there be!" He looked at Cornelius in apology. "I...I'm sorry, father, I didn't mean to yell at you."

Smiling, Cornelius walked across to his son and placed a caring hand on his shoulder. "I know, son. I know you are just worried, as am I."

"What are you going to do if this spreads, father? We have a trip to Belleza fast approaching."

"I know, I'm not sure." Cornelius turned and moved back to his seat. "Perhaps 'tis not as bad as we fear, I shall have to see before making a decision."



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