"Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, both past and present." from David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas

Boadicea


Her husband Prasutagus is dead. She envies him for a life long lived, and mourns little. The dawn is coming and the financiers have called in their loans. She has seen the signatures, even Seneca the Younger has made order of her husband's great debts. Soon she will have nothing because she has never trusted Rome. Her husband bent to ensure their independence. All for nothing.

In the candlelight she holds the parchments that tell her husband's last will and order to preserve his linage. She kisses the paper, made of milk and egg. It is rough and smells of oils. Outside the narrow window the woods are bruised: deep purples and deeper blues. Her husband's last will tells of the land he left for his daughters.

She remembers the powerful gallop of her mare across the clearings and meadows called Norfolk in later centuries. The mare's muscle moved strong between her thighs, and the white streaks of sweat tufted the mare's coarse fur and mane. She remembers the smell of cowpie and yew. This was before she was queen of the Iceni tribe and before Tacticus wrote of her harsh voice and piercing glare.

Prasutagus took her on this land and made her ripe. She birthed each of his daughters. Her reward was her life. She will fight for all this: the land, her daughters, the memory of her husband, much later, written and told in Annals.

Armored, thick prickled words will form sharp on her tongue. Revolution, rally, rites. She will wear a robe of red, a gown of shimmering silver and white. She will fit a shinning galea on her head, so polished it showed reflection. Her daughters will clutch in their sheer gowns at her side, clasp at her strong arms. Men will cower at her feet, near her muddied hem. 'For Iceni!' she will cry.

But for now she must be shaped and molded, made new and born from vile spite and black hearts.

The soldiers flood her rooms, they take her husband's last will and they ignore it. They spit, upturn the wares of the castle, steal and make sport of the servants. They take her best brooch from her dyed robes, once gifted by a neighboring lord. She hates on them, does what she can.

They find each of her daughters on the road towards Londinium, sharing one old mare, following the orders her mother hissed: escape, go quick, now, don't look back.

Soon she must keep the fabric of her gown twisted around each shoulder, pressed tight against her waist to keep them from falling. She glimpses her daughters near the stables, beaten, the colours of brown and black staining their skin, their nightgowns.

Then she is flogged, weak arms hoisted above her head. Strung up as her sallow skin splits in long strips across her back. With each catch of the whip she catches her hot breath. She bites her tongue, grunts, she is determined not to scream. But she breaks. She is human. She screams. Her rich hair, of reds and browns, streams down each shoulder and covers her firm breasts, presses against her navel slick with sweat, pools near her waist.

Soon she thinks she can hear her daughters crying for her in the dawnlight. Their shrill voices weave from the castle and she imagines their nails digging into stone walls, their beaten bodies reaching for her. She wants to tell them not to fight. She is a shamed queen who has lost the ability to turn her head. The dawn mist wraps as a shroud wraps.

Her daughters are raped. The soldiers bend them across their father's tables, split their legs wide. Iceni falls with them, it takes to its knees. The nobles are undone, kept as slaves. She understands: Rome thinks men shape women, own them, make them great. A woman's life is not her own.

Boadicea keeps her hate nested deep in her gut. Men are wrong. Pain shapes. Her husband Prasutagus is dead.


This is for the September Writing Challenge Contest at the Review Game forum. If you have time, please read the entries and vote for your favorite.