The Making of She Prays for Victory

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers for the story “She Prays for Victory”. I recommend that you read the full story before proceeding.

We only have Roman sources to tell us about Boudica, and they disagree about the means and timing of her death, conveniently enough for me. They also disagree, or, at least, fail to explicitly agree, about the cause of the Iceni uprising. I opted to side more or less with Tacitus, who tells us that Boudica’s husband, a Celtic king with a Roman name, tried to prevent the seizure of his property after his death by leaving it jointly to his two daughters and to the Roman Emperor (Nero, at the time). This suggested the idea of Prasutagus, the deceased Iceni chieftain, favoring appeasement of and assimilation with the Roman invaders, to the resentment of his family.

Of Boudica the person we know very little, as one might expect. Cassius Dio describes her as having “tawny” hair, a detail I take to be an unfounded assumption based on her Celtic background and fiery reputation. On the other hand, the story of her practicing divination by releasing a hare from her garments rings familiar, although I have altered this substantially to match what I know of the Unnamed Heroine’s preferred method of consulting with the Otherworld. But we know nothing of her inner life or motivations beyond the conflicting accounts of what may have instigated the revolt of the Iceni. This left me free to cast her daughters (or, rather, step-daughters) in the pivotal role.

I hesitated to frame another story around the Unnamed Heroine’s care for an adopted child, since literature all too often relegates women to maternal or domestic roles and motivations, but neither Tacitus nor Dio mention any other specific ally or allies of Boudica. I also wanted to explore how her independent nature and violent tendencies would express themselves with grown children in her life—and children who had suffered trauma she was unable to prevent. (I passed over actually depicting the flogging of Boudica and the rape of her daughters; the aftermath of three survivors sitting around a table arguing about how to retaliate makes for much better drama.) Caught between standing against injustice, pacifying a vengeful daughter, and protecting one more in need of healing than of retribution, even someone of her long experience and canniness might easily lead her people into a doomed and savage war.

I did not want to spend too many words on the supernatural signs reported by Tacitus; one incident seemed sufficient, so I chose the one that could most plausibly have been executed by flesh and blood: the toppling of the statue of Victory. This serves the double-duty of foreshadowing the tragic conclusion of the story, since “Boudica” may have its roots in an old Celtic word meaning “victory.”

Disclaimer: I am only a writer, not a historian, even an amateur one. If any of my readers can tell that I have mangled the facts and wish to point me toward better research, I encourage you to contact me.