Daffodils and Courage
by Jannie Lund
Boudica thought about daffodils. – Spring’s proud messengers, these yellow slices of sunshine nodding in the breeze.
With each welt she received across her back and with each terrified scream from across the compound, courage gradually replaced pain, the kind of courage she had admired in her late husband, Prasutagus. If he had been here everything would have been different; no one daring to torture and rape the queen and her daughters.
Eventually the pain had come back, though the courage had never left her body. Oblivion had called out her name with the sweetest voice. The last thing she remembered was that the daffodils in her mind had multiplied and now covered the entire kingdom, free of blood and Roman soldiers.
Boudica recognized the whisper as being the whisper of her servant, Ida who knew how to lurk in the shadows, making herself invisible, thus escaping the Roman soldiers.
“My Queen,” whispered Ida again and Boudica opened her eyes, finding herself in a small tent that smelled stale. When she tried to move, pain stabbed her in the back.
“My Queen. With your permission I will bathe your wounds.”
Boudica nodded and Ida peeled away the ripped tunica. Boudica’s thoughts went to her daughters whose destiny she knew nothing about. Earlier she had heard their screams from across the compound, but now it was silent.
“Ida, my daughters… Can you tell me where they are?”
Ida stopped her movements. “The soldiers… They hurt them, my Queen. Over and over.”
Boudica closed her eyes, this time stabbed in the heart with pain.
Ida still did not move. “Why are the Romans here, my Queen? Why are they doing those terrible things? Torturing, hurting, raping, burning, stealing… What have Iceni done to them? Were we not their friends?”
Boudica laughed a humorless laugh that came out a strangled cry. “Rome wants no friends. Rome needs no friends. They want loyal subjects to use for their own entertainment. We are not Rome so we mean nothing to them.” She looked up at Ida and saw no understanding on the servant’s face. “When the king died he left his kingdom jointly to his daughters, as is the custom among Britons, and to Rome as was the agreement when the Iceni became an ally of Rome following Claudius’ conquest two decades ago. But Rome does not recognize daughters as heirs.”
“But my Queen, Rome cannot just take Iceni.”
“Rome is under the assumption that they can do anything,” answered Boudica.
Boudica was held captive by the occupying Roman legions for many days. Ida came and went, lurking in her shadows. One night when the elusive servant was combing her queen’s waist-long dark red hair, she told a whispered tale of what she had learned on her journeys outside.
“There is a Roman man of great power. They call him Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. He is a governor, they say, and he commands all the soldiers. He is campaigning on the island of Mona and it is said that the Druids cannot hold the refuge much longer.”
“I am captive, Ida,” Boudica said. “My army is scattered if not destroyed and my lands are occupied.”
“You have friends, my Queen.”
“I see no friends,” Boudica said bitterly. “King Prasutagus had friends, but his queen has none.”
“The queen has friends,” Ida persisted. “The Iceni’s neighbors, the Trinovantes.”
“Where are they then?” Boudica said, remembering that Ida was a Trinovante by birth.
“They cannot come, my Queen,” Ida whispered. “But they are planning to stand up to the Romans. They have many friends, my Queen, but no leader. They look to you for leadership.
“The Trinovante king says that there is only one who can lead the Britons to victory against Rome,” Ida whispered softer than before. “He says that my Queen’s name means ‘victory’.”
Boudica smiled for the first time since the Romans had taken over Iceni. “Boudica, Queen of Iceni, shall live up to her name,” she swore.
The planning of the revolt was slow as Ida was the only messenger between Boudica and the Trinovantes. In her solace Boudica planned the demise of her capturers – Rome would come to regret the day they entered Iceni.
The day came where a small army of Trinovantes came and freed the Iceni queen and her daughters. They were brought to Trinovante where the leaders of the revolt conspired for a day and a half before Boudica rose and declared that Rome was on the path towards death. She stood there between the many kings, tall and proud in her many-colored tunica with her dark red hair flowing down to her waist and a large golden necklace shining around her throat. She looked like Rome’s doom, it was said of her later when there were only tales to tell.
Calling upon the goddess of victory, Andraste, Boudica blessed the army that set out to destroy the cities of Camulodunum and Londinium. Next was Verulamiun and the number of killings by Boudica’s rebel army reached eighty thousand.
“We have no need for prisoners,” Boudica said. “Only slaughter by gibbet, fire or cross. Show no mercy as Rome has shown us no mercy.”
Rome regrouped and took a stand.
“I speak to you, not as a queen, but as a woman who has lost her freedom!” Boudica spoke to her army. “I will live or die and now you shall make your decision. Will you too live or die for your freedom?”
The fight was fierce. Boudica’s army fought with their hearts but the Romans were skilled in combat.
When Boudica saw where it was headed she sent away her daughters and said nothing to the Britons who fled from the battlefield.
“Win or die,” she swore to herself, watching the Romans come towards her. As she swallowed the poison she cried for Iceni and thought about daffodils. They nodded their sunkissed heads in the spring breeze, unaware of battles and wars. Boudica envied them.
I am still trying to find my niche in writing and have taken a few years off to expand my wings and see if I can fly. So far I have had several short stories published and am working on my second novel. Contact Jannie.