Content Warning: Brutal violence
Her heart standing still, and at the same time pounding to burst from her chest, she swept up behind the Roman and felled him with a single blow that sheared away the base of his helmet and cleft his head from his shoulders. As his body fell away, she crashed to her knees beside her husband’s daughter and turned her body over. Lavena’s eyes stared up at her, bright and green and unseeing, and she allowed herself two long beats of the heart to memorize their color before closing them softly with her fingertips. Then she laid Lavena back down on the ground, stood up, turned, and bellowed out to what remained of the Iceni tribe:
“Victory or death, you Britons!”
For answer, twenty more javelins at the least flew toward her. Three of them pierced her chest, and one her hip, and she fell backward across Lavena’s body.
When the battle had ended, and all the Romans had cleared the gorge, taking their dead and wounded with them, she struggled up from beneath the bodies of the other Iceni who had fallen over her and examined her own battered frame. She had come back to consciousness not long after one of the Romans had pulled the javelins from her ribs, and she had lain half-dead throughout the remainder of the morning, while they slowly worked their way forward, advancing toward Verulamium, where she had gathered from the fragments of speech she overheard that they hoped to find some of the citizens yet alive. With a dismal ambivalence, she shook her head, knowing the disappointment they would suffer.
The wounds left by the javelins had nearly healed, but she had taken many wounds earlier in the battle, and she could remember no time when she had borne this many scars. They would fade after a time, but she would carry the bodily reminders of this disaster for many years. Meanwhile, soreness wracked her every limb, and she felt nearly dizzy with thirst. When she tried to rise, the world spun around her, and she fell back to the ground, lying down on the hillside again and letting oblivion overtake her.
When she woke once more, she felt stronger, although still thirsty. Rising, she found that she could stand and walk, so she went at once in search of water and found it a little way farther up the gorge, trickling down from the top of the rightmost hill. When she had satisfied her thirst, at least for the moment, she returned to where she had fallen and knelt by Lavena’s body.
Lavena’s skin still glowed warm in the sunlight, and her face, untouched by any wound, was serene and wholesome even in death. After running the backs of her fingers twice over her daughter’s cheek, she hoisted Lavena’s body over her shoulder and carried it farther into the gorge, until she reached the midpoint between the two ends. No other corpses lay there, for she had passed beyond where the Romans had taken their stand. There she laid the body lengthwise on the ground, and thence she returned to search for Mave. She found her face-down beneath three other bodies, and when she turned her over she sighed aloud, relieved to see that Mave’s eyes had already closed in death. Nonetheless, her face and body bore many wounds, so that she little resembled the bold and ruthless warrior who had incited her people to take back their land. Now she was just a bloody and battered corpse, although when she at last lay next to her sister the likeness of their kinship brought some of the humanity and personality back into her face.