Book 1 of the Gladiatrix Trilogy
Available in paperback.
An Iceni girl, reared in Roman Londinium, gets deeply involved with Queen Boudicca's revolt against the Romans; with hilarious, tragic and terrifying consequences, for herself and the world.
Sometimes you can only choose between bad and worse.
‘What do you see, lady?’ Cram dared to whisper. This was the turn of the year, when the gates of the otherworld opened briefly between the worlds of living and dead. This one night the spirits of their ancestors could re-cross the bridge of swords to walk the land again until cock-crow, and speak through flame or darkness, blood and omens to those sensitive to them.
The druid’s face and hands were crimsoned by the roaring fire, and smeared blood. Clutching her golden-belled branch, she stared blankly into the flames. ‘The ravens and wolves will feed well…’ She started, and came to herself. ‘You were going to Mona this spring, to train as a bard, Cram? No. Stay by your father.’ She gestured to stop his protest. ‘No. When the fighting is over, you will be welcome, if -’
‘If?’ Again her mind had to return from afar. ‘Ah. If you still wish to come. For now, play your harp, make songs, learn what you can from your old bard.’ She waved him away.
‘It’s not that that she was going to say,’ he muttered to Victoria.
‘M’hm. I think she meant, if they drive the Romans back from Mona.’
He glared at her. ‘They? You mean we?’
‘Yes, of course!’ But he had turned away from her. He limped over to where Mac Clanna and his friends were strutting and posing to draw attention.
She huffed angrily, but he had a point. Whose side was she on, deep down? It should be her Iceni family, her tribe; shouldn’t it? But did she want her family and friends in Londinium killed? Life was difficult.
If…? If the druids won? She felt her hair prickle.
Con Veile was staring at her. Uneasy at the intense gaze, Victoria turned aside.
The druid murmured, ‘Your niece, that tall, sturdy girl with fox-red hair?’
Aliss smiled. ‘Reared among Romans, but Iceni by blood and heart. We think to have her tattooed this winter, and adopt her at Beltane.’
‘No.’ The druid sighed. ‘That is not her fate. Arvenic, the gods tell me to lay this geas on you and your kin. Guard your niece, Boudicca. Guard her well. She is important to you. To all of us.’
Arvenic in his turn stared at her. ‘Important? For good or ill, lady? Guard her? Is it guard ourselves from her that you mean, or guard her from her enemies?’
The druid shook her head, bothered by her visions. ‘Oh, she wishes you no harm. But she may bring it on you. Or she may do you great good… Keep her safe, I mean. You will need her, in the end. Or your son will.’
‘Cram?’ Arvenic frowned. ‘What can she do for him?’
‘If I knew, I would tell you. The flames show only what the gods wish, not what I would see.’ Shivering, she let Aliss lead her indoors and lend her a clean gown. But at the feast, when traditionally everyone ate and drank to bursting point, she ate little, and sat silent instead of joining the dancing lines circling the oak trees.