Author's note ~ Boadicea & Suetonius' speeches are taken from a Roman historian - Tacitus - found in a book, so I can't be sure if they were actually said.
Brock slowed his horse as he approached his destination, putting a hand up to slow the men who rode behind him. He knew if he went racing in, they'd all likely be killed in their saddles. He pulled his large horse to a hasty stop as a man painted blue and green stepped onto the path and held up a hand. "I'm here to see Boadicea."
The man lifted his bow and cocked back an arrow, ready to shoot the stranger.
"My name is Brock Archer, and I have a pre-arranged meeting with her."
The man glanced over his shoulder to another man and jerked his head to the left, silently telling the man to go and check if the stranger's story was true. While he waited, the man kept his arrow trained on the blonde, eyes unwavering in case this was some sort of attack by the Romans.
Brock watched the messenger run back to the painted man guarding him and whisper something in this ear. The painted man slowly lowered his weapon and jerked his head back, indicating Brock was free to continue. Smirking arrogantly, Brock kicked his horse into moving onwards and waved on his men.
Entering the encampment, Brock saw it was much the same as it had been on his last visit, though he was sure there were a few more tents erected. Stopping his horse, he jumped down to the ground and tied the animal's reins to a horizontal beam. "You men stay out here. Do not do anything to upset Boadicea's people." He swiftly walked into Boadicea's command tent, his heart pounding as he wondered if she'd kill him for not bringing back the warriors. She had waited two moons for bad news. "Boadicea," he greeted the tall, striking woman. "I come with news of..."
"Take a seat, Brock," the redhead said in her usual harsh tone. "At least get comfortable and accept a drink before giving me bad news." She smiled as he looked at her in surprise. "Don't look so surprised. I had the coast watched and it was reported to me that your people returned home...alone." She sat back down behind her desk.
"My apologies, Boadicea," Brock said, sitting down opposite her. He took the mug her right-hand man offered him. "I tried to plead our case, but they weren't interested. They seem to think they have no reason to fight. The Romans have control of our land and we should just let it be."
Boadicea nodded her head once. "'Tis not their land, that's why. 'Tis not their people being taken as slaves, nor their people being raped and murdered. But..." she took a deep breath to calm herself. "I understand. If I was in their position, I doubt I would want to fight either. This battle certainly won't be easy, people will lose their lives."
"My tribe are their people!" Brock growled. "We have asked for help, they should readily give it!"
Boadicea sipped at her wine, her piercing glare levelled on Brock as she studied him. "You hate the Romans as much as I do. Never mind these...warriors. Their decision is duly noted and though I am disappointed, I have to carry on with my plan. Despite your...inability to come through on your promise to get them, I would like to ask you to join my army, Brock. What say you?"
Brock smiled and lifted his mug. "I say sign me up and lead the way."
Boadicea jumped to her feet and swiftly moved around her desk to tower over a still seated Brock. "Good. If there are any others in your father's tribe who would like to join our cause, get them down here by tomorrow, before the break of dawn."
"You're breaking camp?"
Boadicea turned and grabbed a rolled up scroll. Untying the twine that held it shut, she spread a map out across her desk and pointed down at one of the cities. "This is formerly the capital of the Trinovantes, at one time they were considered the most powerful tribe in our land, but now their territory has become a colonial for discharged Roman veterans."
Brock stood from his seat and looked down at the map. "Camulodunon. My father used to trade with them. Until..."
"Now called Camulodunum by the Romans. Anyway, the Romans who have settled there mistreat the locals; they drive people from their homes, they eject them from their farms, they call them slaves and captives, and to add insult to injury, they erected a temple to the former emperor, all at local expense, of course. That is our first target. The Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, is leading a campaign on the island of Anglesey."
"I cannot get home to my tribe and back again before the morn," Brock said, his brow creased in thought. "Those who travelled with me are all I can provide, but we will carry out whatever orders you give us, Boadicea."
"I'm glad to hear it." Boadicea looked to her right-hand man. "Kegan, show our newest fighters around the camp. Make sure they get a hot meal and assigned somewhere to sleep. Then call Edan and Fergus in here for a briefing."
The big man nodded and waved Brock out ahead of him.
"Brock," Boadicea called out. "You are welcome to join us, too."
* * * * *
Boadicea stood in her command tent, a map spread out on her desk, her most trusted fighters around her, along with Brock and Sedgwick. "The city is undefended," she said, looking around the group. "I've had word 'tis only garrisoned by roughly two hundred of the procurator's guard."
"Should be easy to take control then," Edan, a fiery red-haired man, said, smiling.
"We don't want to take control," Boadicea replied. "We have no use for it now, it serves no purpose. No, we're going to destroy it. If they want it, they'll have to rebuild it from ashes." She looked to Kegan. "How go the preparations?"
"Almost all the tents are down. We can move whenever you're ready, Boadicea."
The tall woman nodded. "Edan, I want you and some of the fighters to attack from this side," she pointed down at the map. "And Fergus," she looked at the man, slim and feeble looking, but a true warrior if she had ever met one. "You attack from here. I," she smiled, "shall be going straight through the middle. Bold and daring." She looked up at the men who surrounded her. "Pray for glory, for 'tis surely going to be a good day for battle."
* * * * *
Before the sun had even risen above the horizon, Boadicea and her large army made their way on foot and horseback towards Camulodunum. Her camp had been dismantled overnight, their field now deserted and showing no signs they had ever been there.
* * * * *
Boadicea's army descended on the poorly defended city and destroyed it methodically, burning homes and destroying shops, buildings and statues. They killed all those who could not escape. The battle was fierce and swift and they besieged the last defenders in the temple for two days before it too fell.
Quintus Petillius Cerialis, commander of the Legio IX Hispania, attempted to relieve the city, but his forces were completely annihilated. His infantry men were wiped out, and only the commander himself and some of his cavalry managed to escape with their lives.
Upon hearing of the heavy defeat, and the high number of men lost in the battle, the procurator, Catus Decianus, fled to Gaul. The Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, and a small portion of his army, hurried to Londinium, the rebels' next target. Concluding he didn't have the men to defend it, Boadicea outnumbering his army greatly, he decided to evacuate and abandon Londinium, and regroup elsewhere.
Boadicea and her army marched on from Camulodunum to Londinium, burning it to the ground and killing every inhabitant who couldn't get away. Then on to Verulamium, where they did the same, completely destroying all the Romans had built. The death toll was high, well up into the thousands. Boadicea didn't care who died or how many, as long as the outcome was in her favour.
While Boadicea's army destroyed Verulamium, Suetonius amassed a force including his own Legio XIV Gemina, parts of the XX Valeria Victrix, and any available auxiliaries, amounting to a total of ten thousand men.
The size of Boadicea's army was said to be almost a quarter of a million.
Knowing he was heavily outnumbered still, Suetonius chose his battleground carefully, knowing his decision would play a heavy part in the upcoming battle. He selected a narrow gorge with a forest behind him, opening out into a wide plain. The gorge would protect the Roman flanks from attack, whilst the forest would impede approach from the rear. This would prevent Boadicea from using her many numbers, for she couldn't bring them all into close combat, and the open plain in front made ambushes impossible. Suetonius placed his legionaries in close order, with lightly-armed auxiliaries on the flanks and cavalry on the wings.
Sure of her victory with her army outnumbering the enemy, Boadicea ordered their wagon train in a crescent at the large end of the field, from which point their families could watch what was sure to be an overwhelming victory. She faced her men and women, her face stern as she looked along the lines. "Nothing is safe from Roman pride and arrogance. They will deface the sacred and will deflower our virgins. Win the battle or perish, that is what I, a woman, will do," she said, wanting to motivate them further.
Suetonius, outnumbered and fearing the worst, stood before his men, knowing he needed to stir them up, needed them to believe the impossible was possible on this day. "Ignore the racket made by these savages. There are more women than men in their ranks. They are not soldiers, they're not even properly equipped. We've beaten them before and when they see our weapons and feel our spirit, they'll crack. Stick together. Throw javelins, then push forward; knock them down with your shields and finish them off with your swords. Forget about booty. Just win and you'll have the lot."
Boadicea led her army forward across the plain and into the narrowing field in a massive frontal attack. As they advanced, they were channelled into a tightly packed mass. Closing in on the Romans, their advance was staggered by a volley of Roman pila. Very few of the Britons had armour, and a second volley quickly followed. The Britons found themselves disorganised and in disarray.
Seeing the disarray and confusion, Suetonius ordered his legionaries and auxiliaries to push forward in a wedge formation. With superior discipline, the Romans were able to continue fighting as fiercely as ever. They had the advantage with their armour, weapons, and discipline, and as the cavalry, with their lances extended, entered the fray, the Britons tried to retreat, but found themselves blocked by the ring of wagons they had set out and they were massacred. Sensing victory, the Romans slaughtered not only the warriors, but also women, children and even pack animals, leaving nothing alive.
* * * * *
"Cornelius," Dagwood called out, entering the man's home.
"Please tell me there have been no more deaths?" Cornelius sighed, rubbing his forehead in frustration. "This...disease is driving me mad! No one can find a cure for it! The druids have no clue! And so many homes have now been burnt down, our settlement looks unlived in!"
"I wish it were that I came to talk to you about, Cornelius," Dagwood said sadly, knowing his news was going to break the man's heart.
"Take a seat, Dagwood, we are friends, are we not?"
Dagwood sat down heavily and rubbed his beard, trying to work out how to tell his friend his son had been killed in a pointless battle. "Cornelius, I have bad news about Brock..."
Cornelius swallowed hard, knowing what was coming. "He's dead...isn't he?"
Dagwood nodded and watched as Cornelius' jaw clenched shut. "Brock, Sedgwick, Farley Masoun, Iris and Cyric Short, Ultan, Sidney, and Brigidia Barlow, and Kornel Atwell were all killed in the massacre."
"They...they were massacred?" Cornelius asked in disbelief. "I heard Boadicea had a massive army of close to a million people."
"She did, but poor tactics and discipline played their part. The Romans were...superior."
Filled with sudden determination, Cornelius thrust a piece of parchment at Dagwood. "Take a note. Dear Dionis, I care not that you have no desire to fight the Romans. I, Cornelius Archer, uncle of your Queen, older brother of Aaronia, former Queen, demand your presence here on our isle. The Romans have killed my son Brock; my friend Sedgwick; Farley Masoun; Kornel Atwell; Iris and Cyric Short; Ultan, Sidney and Brigidia Barlow. They massacred them! And I want revenge! Justice for the lives they have taken!"
Dagwood scribbled furiously as he tried to keep up with Cornelius' rant, wondering if the women of Belleza would heed his plea.
A swift knock on the door interrupted Cornelius' flow and he glanced over to the doorway to see his baby sister hurry in. "Delicia, I'm in the middle of something."
"It can wait, you need to see this," the greying strawberry-blonde insisted. "It came via a bird." She held out the slip of paper for him to take.
Cornelius scanned the writing, recognising it as Dionis' penmanship. "By the Gods! Say it's not true!"
"What is it, Cornelius?" Dagwood asked, not liking the fact colour was draining from the man's face, nor that his eye was wide in disbelief.
"The sickness that has blighted our people has infected the women of Belleza," Cornelius mumbled.
"By the Gods!"
His one good eye turned to Delicia. "We are not to travel to Belleza until they send word the disease has passed. This...this came just now?"
Delicia nodded. "I read it and brought it straight to you."
Cornelius sat back in his chair, defeated and heartbroken. There would be no warriors coming to help him, there would be no going to the island; there would be plenty of death though, of that, he was sure. "Forget that message, Dagwood. We shall leave the lower land to the Romans. Inform our people of our losses and arrange a memorial service for this eve."
Dagwood nodded and set aside the parchment and quill he had been using. "And what of the women of Belleza?"
"Pray the Gods be with them," he murmured.
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