The Land of the Trinovantes
Britannia 40 AD
Boudicca was ten years old when she learned of her fate. A trading party from the Kingdom of the Iceni, a great tribe on the east coast of Britannia had come to the lands of the Trinovantes and spent a week in the compound of her father, himself a king in his own right.
A great feasting took place on the last night. Gifts were exchanged and trading treaties agreed between the two peoples before the real business of the visit was discussed. Finally agreement was made and the men of both tribes moved their attention to the flasks of wine and skins of ale that lay in abundance around the giant roundhouse that held the Trinovantian council. Soon, considered words of wisdom and guarded calculations of worth were replaced with tales of masculine debauchery and bravery in battle. A trait shared by all Britannic tribesmen.
Boudicca knew that something special was happening that night but had no idea what it could be. Such things were not for the ears of children, even daughters of kings. The sounds of revelry lasted deep into the the night and the racket of drinking men meant she lay awake for hours, staring into the darkness of the roundhouse she shared with her mother and two sisters. Finally she left the warmth of the reindeer furs and walked over to the dying fire in the centre of the hut, poking the embers to stir the lazy flames from their fiery slumber. A movement behind her made her jump but she smiled when her mother sat alongside her and wrapped her own blanket around them both.
‘Noisy lot aren’t they?’ said her mother quietly.
‘Are they going in the morning?’ asked Boudicca.
‘They are,’ said her mother.
‘What did they want?’ asked Boudicca.
Her mother hesitated and looked down before turning to look at her.
‘Boudicca,’ she said, ‘we live in hard times. Messengers ride between tribes telling of a threat from a faraway land.’
‘The Romans,’ said Boudicca.
‘Yes,’ said her mother. ‘Even as we speak they gather their forces across the sea and it is said they will assault our shores before next the snow falls.’
‘But I have heard father say that Caratacus will lead an army against them and drive them into the sea.’
‘And he will, I’m sure,’ said her mother, ‘but there is always the chance he will fail so we have to make sure our own people’s interests are looked after.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Boudicca.
‘Your father is a great King, Boudicca but we are one tribe amongst many. It is his duty to forge alliances with other tribes.’
‘Like the Iceni?’ asked Boudicca.
‘Exactly,’ said her mother. ‘Have you seen the tall man who leads them?’
‘Well he is called Prasatagus and he is their king. He has come here to seek our swords in an alliance against the Romans, should the need ever come.’
‘Then that is good,’ said Boudicca.
‘It is,’ agreed her mother, ‘but there is a price to be paid and it is only fair that you know the cost.’
Boudicca waited silently, dreading the words that she guessed would be coming.
‘Boudicca…’ started her mother
‘It’s me isn’t it?’ said Boudicca before her mother could continue.
Her mother looked down as if in shame.
‘I’m sorry, my darling,’ she said, ‘but we need a blood bond and he has asked that you become his bride.’
‘When?’ asked Boudicca.
‘Not yet,’ said her mother, tucking a lock of Boudicca’s long red hair back behind her daughter’s ear, ‘but there has been agreement you will not be promised to another. When you have fifteen years, you will be taken to the lands of the Iceni to become his queen.’
Boudicca stared into the flames, absorbing the news. She didn’t know much about the ways of the grown-ups but knew it was an important path that lay before her.
‘Are you all right, sweetheart?’ asked her mother gently.
Boudicca nodded in silence.
‘There is no need to be frightened,’ said her mother.
‘I’m not afraid, mother,’ said Boudicca, ‘only worried that I make you and father proud.’
‘Oh, Boudicca,’ sighed her mother, pulling her closer into her embrace, you already do, every minute of every day and who knows, one day the whole of Britannia will be proud of you too.’
Boudicca snuggled in closer and both mother and daughter stared into the comforting flames, not realising that within a generation, Boudicca’s name would unite a kingdom and send fear into the very souls of an Empire half a world away.