[Thoughts of an Iceni gladiator, awaiting the opening of the arena portcullis:]
[Memories of rebellion (Carnage at
[Iceni Messenger:] Hearken! The Ninth Legion has been put to the sword! The
war-Chief of Queen Boudicca: Onwards
to Camulodunum... wet your swords!
Redden the earth with Roman blood!
I remember the carnage at Camulodunum...
clash of Celtic sword against Roman gladius,
The pride in the eyes of our war-queen
As we hacked down the Imperial Eagle,
severed heads of centurions gaping atop our spears.
[Bloodshed and Battle: 61 AD (C.E.)]
They had gone too far, these
invaders from the east, with their imperial eagle
which they dared to drive into our sacred soil... pompously claiming our
their own. They who marched across the world expanding their empire
all for the greater glory of their succession of debauched
upon their ivory thrones in the heart of sweltering Rome. Aye, they had gone
too far... After their brutal
annexation of our sovereign Iceni lands and the
vile rape of our Queen Boudicca's royal daughters, the Romans had the sown
fields of carnage and they would reap a grim harvest of slaughter, without
doubt! They had enraged the Red Queen, and by the
gods, they would pay!
We certainly taught the arrogant invading dogs a lesson, at any rate. The
omens and portents spoke of vast
bloodshed and great carnage, and after our
slaughterous victories at Camulodunum (the Temple of Claudius burned
Londinium and Verulanium, the cursed Romans finally dared to
meet us honourably upon the field of war at Mandeussedum. They sent
thousand legionaires, their armour gleaming like gold in the sun... but it
would still yield to our swords and spears, no
matter how it sparkled.
The Roman scoundrel, Governor Suetonius Paullinus, battle-scarred from his
campaigns against the Druids, was
able to choose the ground upon which to make
his stand, and so it was that he selected as the battlefield a narrow valley,
by a flat plain, with dense woodland at its rear. Aye... Mandeussedum,
"the place of the chariots"... I remember it vividly.
Governor's army looked unnerved as wee took the field. I'll never forget
that, iron Roman fortitude or not! We were one hundred
infantry and cavalry, both men and women warriors, as is our Celtic custom, in
the ranks together, all annointed
with woad, all roaring oaths and vows to our
ancient gods, who were surely grimly watching the epic confrontation from
thrones and vast halls. Our war-chariots thundered up and down the
Roman front, the charioteers screaming abuse at the grim
decurions and centurions, and hurling spears and other missiles which
clattered against the Imperial shield wall. And
not one Roman javelin or pilum
was hurled in response, not one arrow was loosed in retaliation. They were
disciplined, I'll give
them that. We were swelled by our victories, empowered
by our noble cause, enraged with the battle frenzy; thirsting to take as
Roman heads as our bright blades could sever!
And yet we were perhaps somewhat overconfident that day...
In the aftermath of our defeat at Mandeussedum, I was captured by Romans with
a veiled intent... (though three of
them died at my hands in the attempt!)
Nero was growing bored with the gladiators, slaves and lion-fodder at his
great Circus, and
so had requested Suetonius Paullinus to provide the citizens
of Rome with new entertainment... The Emperor had heard much of the
and fighting spirit of these barbaric Britons who had brought such woe to his
far-famed legions; these painted, pagan
tribesmen who had resisted the
Empire's iron fist where the glorious phalanxes of the East had not.
"Agents of the Imperium...
hearken to my words", Nero had demanded. "Bring to
Rome some of these tribesman for the Games. Let us pit them against our
ravenous beasts and our greatest gladitorial champions."
And so I was taken in fetters aboard a Roman trireme, the blood of
legionaires still crusted upon my thews, I was taken far from the fens of my
beloved homeland, to tread the sun baked sand of
the Circus Maximus... to
fight for my life in the Imperial Arena.
[Arrival at the Circus Maximus:]
The Circus Maximus was
certainly a splendid sight, I'll admit. A vast
colosseum with great stone columns and tiers, huge ornate arches and mighty
of grey marble. Countless people filled the seats surrounding the
sandy floor of the Arena... and in his opulent royal enclosure,
gleaming guards and grovelling lackeys, sat the great Emperor himself...
[Emperor Nero:] Fight, barbarian outlander!
Please us, and mayhap Mars will
smile on thee this day!
[Iceni warrior:] Bah! I do not hail to your Roman gods, and you are not
emperor! By Cernunnos, the blood of my enemies shall stain the sand of this
cursed arena red this day!
They unleashed the lions first. Hunger maddened beasts, goaded into a frenzy
by the cruel point of many a pilum...
And yet my own hunger, the hunger for
revenge, was greater, and my honed steel was sharper than bestial fang and
claw. And so they
ranged their finest warriors against me. Three more iron
gates around the arena yawned open, and they strode from the colosseum
amidst a cacophony of cheering from the assembled Roman spectators, urged on
and showered with martial adulation from the
massed arena crowd, who howled
their bloodlust without cessation.
I studied my opponents... there were two trained gladiators,
champions I was
told, who had never met defeat in the Games... and then there was another like
me, a captured warrior forced to
fight for his life. This one was a towering
reaver from the Northlands with a bright yellow beard, hefting a crude axe
with a single
iron head. I lifted my iron bladed Celtic shortsword with its
bronze hilt (the same sword which, mere days before, had been slaked
Roman blood... and its blade would soon be red once more with the blood of my
captors, by all the gods!) and nodded to the
reaver. An understanding passed
between us... we knew we were here simply as sword-fodder, and we knew we
would both fight these
Roman dogs to the death!
The first gladiator moved towards me; he was a giant of a man, standing nearly
seven feet tall and clad in
dark leather and bronze armour from head to toe.
His full-face visored helmet was set with ornate metal fittings and encrusted
jewels of various hues, and a vast black horse hair plume rose from the
metal crown. Strapped on to his forearms were two black
vambraces, to each of
which had been secured twelwe inch serrated blades, and they gleamed brightly
in the hot afternoon sunlight.
He began to circle me slowly, his eyes hidden
beneath his great helmet. To his left, I saw the second gladiator begin to
the Northman. The yellow-bearded axeman's opponent was a huge
steel-helmeted Nubian, wielding a wickedly pointed trident and carrying
embossed iron buckler with a great spike jutting from its polished centre.
Far above, upon his great dias, the Emperor gave the
signal for the combat to
begin, and with the battle-lust engulfing me, with the red mist swirling
before my eyes, I vowed to my
northern gods that I would show these leering
Romans the fighting spirit and battle prowess of my people... I would leave
littered with the bloody corpses of my opponents...
I would cast off the imperial fetters and return to the fens! Aye, I
escape, and make all Romans fear my name, and compel Nero to rue the day
Julius Caesar had first ordered his legions across
the grim grey sea to my
ancient island... BLOOD FOR BOUDICCA... CARNAGE FOR CERNUNNOS!!
To be continued...