Content Warning: Brutal violence
With that, she came back to herself. Her feet gripped the ground, and her eyes ceased to drift, and she heard, as the scream died within her throat, only the wind in the trees overhead.
Blinking, she looked about her once more. The shadowy figures still stood at the edges of the grove, but they no longer held any terror or fascination for her. Turning back in the direction from which she had come, she darted out of the sacred grove, and none barred her way or called out to her.
She spun as the javelin thudded into her shoulder, and fell to her knees, then looked back at her forces, fierce and unrelenting even while defeat closed in upon them. The walls of the gorge rose up to the right and the left, and their own supply wagons had cut off their retreat. Before them, the Romans pushed forward, their foremost rank no smaller than her own in that narrow place. Hemmed in on every side, they fell four at a time, while their enemies turned aside their desperate blows in precise, mechanical unison. Cursing her absence, in which the chiefs of the various families had formulated the foolhardy frontal attack, she yanked the javelin from her flesh and cast it to the ground, then rose once more, looking for Lavena.
Mave had already fallen, pierced by many arrows and cut down at last, despite her ferocity, by a sword-thrust to the belly. She knew Mave had died in agony, her life ebbing away onto the rocks in an ever-decreasing stream, but she had at least died in silence, never crying out except in defiance. Lavena must not fare the same, and when she finally spotted her, only thirty paces away to the left and behind, she turned at once and ran toward her daughter.
Lavena had climbed a little way up the side of the gorge and was hacking her way through the advancing Roman forces with a sword retrieved from one of her fallen kinsmen, her arrows long spent. Shrieking out some unheard battle cry drowned by the din of weapon on weapon and the screams of the dying, Lavena was fighting with an abandon and tenacity she would not have expected of her, but she knew her daughter’s sword-skill would not keep her alive much longer. At least she would see this one of all her people survive this slaughter, to live and die in the world after the way of other women. If only she could reach her, she could shield her with her body and bear her away from the battle, to safety in some other land, if this land would no longer hold them or shelter them.
She had come within ten paces of Lavena when the woman raised her sword above her head, and in that moment of vulnerability, a Roman soldier swung his own blade across her path, slashing at her ribs. Lavena fell, the battle-cry dying on her lips, and as she crashed to her knees the Roman drove his sword point-first into her chest, rending her heart through. The light died in Lavena’s eyes as the blade was withdrawn, and she never even cried out as she fell onto her face.