The Chosen of the Gods
Princess Brigitte the daughter of Prasutagus was lost, well not really lost, all she had to do to find her home was to go east and she would find the Holdfast of her father Prasutagus the, king of the Iceni tribe. On the morrow, she would be accepted onto the Holdfast role, and her name carved onto the great tree of Caister Venta Hold!
Today she is lost in the holy woods seeking the special druid’s mushrooms that will make all this possible, Brigitte shivered, feeling a stab of fear grab at her heart. The familiar woodland this morning had seemed full of spring and renewal, the sweet smell of the fresh growth filling her nostrils with their promise of new beginnings were now strangely menacing. Now the high trees seemed to close in upon her, she was hot, flushed, and so very tired! Why this was when she could ride all day, perhaps the mushroom she had inadvertently swallowed could be affecting her mind. ‘Pull you together’, she chided herself for these continued flights of fancy she was having. Her memories certainly seem heightened and her mind seemed to have a will of its own, full of anything except those blasted mushrooms, Brigitte took herself in hand once again her thoughts in turmoil. ‘Look Brigitte, how can you expect to be a Hold mistress of the Spears of Caister or the Queen of the May, if you cannot find your way in the Caister woods?’ She had no right to rest or have the childlike feelings any longer, by the God’s, she had better to get on with today’s tasks and well before the evening cocks crow which would destroy the magic enchantments given to her by the Druid Dracus.
Where was Dracus, blast his eyes? He had promised to look after her in the woods. Why could she not concentrate on the mushrooms, it seemed to her that she had tramped all over the woods by now, it must be good past noon? She must have a rest or even better a sleep, why was she feeling so drowsy?’ Perhaps I will just stop a moment; Dracus will understand and will be watching over me, in his own spirit dream.
Brigitte was grateful to her mother that it was Dracus who was chosen to be her spirit guide for this Beltane festival, for all her remembered life the Bardi druid had been her friend and guide. for as long as she could remember teaching her a little of the Druic lore as he was allowed to reveal and passing on the tales of the Iceni nation.
As the Caister Bardi to King Prasutagus, he was the keeper of the songs and stories of the Iceni clans, and she had never tired of getting him to tell of the wonderful stories of the faerie land he knew so well. Tales of the great battles and history of her tribe, however, Dracus preferred to teach her boring things like how to manage the household or govern tribe; he even tried to teach her some basic Latin! She had tried to protest at that, she did not want to speak the filthy tongue of the hated Romans; Dracus insisted that it was extremely important for her to be able to speak with your enemy!
‘If you do not understand how they think and act, how else were you to learn your enemy’s faults and weaknesses princess?’
‘Why me then, I am only a third child of my father , I not chosen to be a leader like Rowena, she is the Heir, I cannot see my father seeking my help speaking to the enemy or ordering our warriors into a shield wall.’ Despite he protests her lessons had progressed, however even Dracus struggled with the Latin writing,
‘Brigitte, I fear my knowledge is not sufficient for this task, I will need the Syrian slave of Chief Astus to read them to me, you must remember Petros, and he caused all the fuss that year with the Roman Census. Petros can read and write in this tongue I may need to go back to Brettenham hold this winter, I must see if Chief Astus will let him look at this scroll, perhaps he will bring His slave to this years summer Beltane meeting!’
‘ A slave if you mean the Syrian horse master that was involved un the Tally, I believed that my mother had requested that he be given his freedom when he took the Iceni oath of Calendar and after such a service to the king. I spent quite some time with him and liked him a lot, he was a wonder with the chariot, and I know that mother found this Petros to be very special indeed!’
‘Yes indeed Brigitte , the very one, well perhaps he was, I hear that he is well treated now and has been given some lighter duties befitting a scholar like him. You cannot divert me from your lessons that way princess, do not look at me with those eyes of yours , you can nod your red hair and stamp your sweet little foot as much as you wish, however, you will learn something today! Look my dear Princess of the Iceni; I foresee a time will come when the Keltoi tribes may have a great need to be able to understand the words of our foes. With Rowena, getting married with her own holdfast and Fryer looked as if she will go to live with the Seeressess of Caer Gybi, this is why your mother feels that this duty may well fall to you Brigitte, Now do not try my patience, now. What is a Legio?’
Brigitte had tried to protest how hard she was finding the words, but the glint in her friend’s eye choked back any further protests, and she did try to learn what she could from him. She knew better than press him about the magic and mysteries of the Druid sect, but she loved to hear of the many battles and fierce warriors of the Gaelic nations, even if sometimes, the roman tales were included.
Now her name ribbon had been added to this years Maypole, her mother had recently explained that Dracus had made a special effort and request to be appointed as her tutor and spirit guide for the rituals and that he would soon be preparing her for the coming fertility rites and her duties as the appointed Queen of the May.
The druid had been strangely quiet when her mother had delivered her to the Maidens hold and fenced off area and huts that was called the Maidens Hold; this area was out of bounds to any male men or boys as it held the twenty-one virginal maidens that were to take place in this year’s fertility ceremony. When she had called back that evening, her mother was wearing her formal Hearth -mother Torc, one that marked, she was the Hold mistress and mother of the maiden present. Boudicca had placed a laurel wreath on her head, and Dracus had met them at the door of the Maiden hold.
‘I see you, Druid of Caer Gybi, Dracus-Yer- Afalon; I deliver this my child Brigitte into your care and place her under the protection of Creuylad and the great tree of life Calendar. May she be safe in this in-between time of the worlds of limbo? I leave her with you, both for her honour, and to declare she is a virgin worthy to be the Queen of the May! As such, she is also my Gift for the goddess Arianrhod, she is worthy, and a virginal sacrifice. Therefore, that she may be accepted for this honour, I give up all rights and claims as her birth mother, may she be reborn as a spirit of the Silver Wheel, in the stars of the firmament; with this slap, I strip her of her childhood and her name. As Queen of the May, she shall call the Iceni spirits to the Beltane festival, and I will call upon Arianrhod so that she will come from her far palace of the Goddess at Caer Arianhold in the great ship, Oar wheel.’
With his incantation, her mother stripped Brigitte her of her shift and clothes and took off the Laurel wreath with which she smacked her bear bottom, pushing her forward into the lodge and arms of the Druid. ‘With this smack mark, I withdraw the Smack of Life given to this child at its birth, I withdraw her birth name, and Brigitte is now no more! I will morn her passing, wearing this Wreath of Death; she is not to live again in the lands of the Iceni until she is reborn in the holy Grove of Caister. Her new name will be tested by the Gods, and if they allow, it will be added to the honour role of the Iceni tribes.’
Boudicca then placed another laurel leaf on her own head to denote that she was officially in ritual morning; this was so that none may approach her until she wore the white mistletoe sprig of life on her right arm. She would now withdraw to grieve in the solitude her own household.
Dracus had handed Brigitte the white robe of a virginal maiden with a sad look that said he mourned the passing of her childhood and perhaps their friendship. Taking her arm he placed a small wreath of mistletoe and laurel leaves on her wrist and pulled a small golden sickle from his belt, and cut her palm before she could withdraw it, he also cut her thumb and grasped it to his own bleeding hand, as he intoned.
‘So by our common blood are you bound to me and the Gods? Therefore, you are no longer in the land of the living or the dead, for you are in limbo until you receive the spirit of the high fruitful mother at the naming day. Until then none shall see you or speak to you except me, for I also must share your fate as your spirit guide in this spirit world of dreams, which is separate from the physical lands of the earthly plane’
You may not eat of drink the fruits of the earthly world, or try to remove the holy bracelets that hold you between worlds. For should you do this, you do so will risk your very soul being stolen by the evil lost souls we know as wood sprites, they who are forever seeking to snatch lost souls into the dark void that holds the Destroyer. I see I alarm you child, well enough of these dire warnings and ceremonies, we must proceed with your first duty, which is to harvest the fruits of the Gods and travel to the Holy woods of Caister; there you must collect more of these plants and fungus that will be used for the fertility ceremony. These magic mushrooms may only be collected by the Queen of the May.
As Brigitte felt the fingers of Sumas close, her drowsy eyelids her last thoughts were to ask ‘Why had he not done so then, why was she so drowsy and alone!’
Brigitte felt that Dracus was trying to reach her mind, ‘Brigitte try to Wake up, Wake up now! Brigitte you must try or you may never do ever again!’ She became aware that she was twisting the wristbands in her sleep, wakening with a start she realised to her horror that she had had fallen asleep again, how could she be so stupid after all Dracus had said about being careful? She silently thanked him for visiting her dreaming in this glade and bringing her thoughts back to the tasks, he had given her.
Where were the blessed mushrooms, without them, the ceremony, and the sacred drink could not take place? Just as she was about to give up in deep despair, when her mothers voice also echoed in her mind.
‘Brigitte my child I have heard you calling out in my own spirit dreams, before the shine of Arianrhod, I see your danger, remember the picnic last year, remember, remembers…
Brigitte offered her own prayer of thanks for her mother’s aid remembering the wonderful day last year when they had spent the whole day seeking wild flowers for the Samhain festival. Mother had mentioned that these plants and mushrooms were so very special on one of their woodland walks, and that they could sometimes grow beside the great oaks near on the western side of Caister hill. She looked up at the sun, perhaps only a short time to sunset, Blast their foul hearts, had she had been tricked by the wood sprites, and had gone completely in the wrong direction?
To the west then, after pushing deeper onwards into the dense woods, she saw the tops of the great oaks in the near distance, to her immense relief, she soon spotted a pink mushroom nestling in the crook of the tree root, and there another further on! The sweet smell of the fungi seemed to increase the light-headedness; she was still feeling, however, here was no sign of the wood sprites or their Queen. Would it be correct to pick the fungi without their permission, blast her carelessness, she had no choice but top risk their wrath, she tried to pick only enough for the ceremony but very few mushrooms were left?
“If you are listening, wood Spites of Caister, please vent your wrath on this silly girl and not our Beltane Festival, It is my fault that I swallowed your mushroom, see here where I have planted the sacred Acorn here in your fairy Ring, I do hope it is enough?”
Brigitte could not shake the feeling of the darkness closing in, and it seemed to draw her onwards and deeper into the oak woodland, her head giddy with the smell of the fresh picked fungi, especially that sweet and wonderful smell that permutated this grove!
A Grove, Brigitte realised to her horror that she was treading on some dried mistletoe, raising her head from her search as she realised in utter despair that she stood at the edge of the Great ring of Oaks. With a growing horror, she realised that these formed the Druids Henge ring of Cernunnos and the Caister holy Grove, before her stood the granite standing stone of Caister!
The nearest stood at least twice her height and glistened with a dark with a red substance whose origins she had no doubt was fresh blood, the nearest Druids stone alter was hung with garlands of mistletoe and deep dark laurel all woven to a crown. Red berry juice had been splattered the base of the stone and was smeared across a small altar stone laid at its base, no it was not berries it was blood. There were also the remains of a hare, its innards, intestines, which were placed in a golden bowl obviously, and they were to be or had been part of a recent Druic ritual.
Brigitte now new that despite all she had been told, she had strayed into the grove and tarried far too long on her quest as the sun began to set over the tree line, a cock crowed in the far distance, she had to flee this place and leave the sacred wood immediately! Ready to spring away back to the safety of the undergrowth, she heard someone else coming through the woodland, something or someone was pushing their way through the thickets behind her with a smashing of bracken and twigs that heralded an urgent passage forced through the undergrowth. Raising a silent prayer to her namesake the goddess Brigit, she gathered her courage and gripped the bone handled sacred knife from her basket.
‘ Please good Brigit, let it be an animal and not something unholy, I am truly sorry that I have trespassed on your sacred ground , please let it not be a Griffin, or worse an angry sprite or daemon!’ If a demon was coming to punish her for trespassing into the Henge it was making an awful noise, at last, she could now see the bushes being pushed carefully aside and the muffled dry crackle of snapping twigs, and some strong oaths!
” Blast these freaking briars and nettles and flaming, gorse, will it never end”, not a daemon or sprite then, it was a human voice and someone she thought she recognised, someone else who did not wish to be seen it seem, for a druid would use the Druids path! Frantic to find a hideout, much to her relief, the person now emerging at the edge of the clearing was her prospective brother to be, the Iceni chieftain, Esupa Astus! Brigitte felt her heart lift as her worst fears had gone unrealised, and as she was in the act of rising from beside the stone Brigitte remembered that she must not let him see her, for, as she was the dedicated Queen of the May. In addition, she must not contaminate her dedication at this time; anyhow, the magic bracelets would render her invisible to any except a druid. Brigitte froze once more as she made out the deep and angry voice of the High Druid, Damien of Caer Gybi himself! Knowing that he would consider it a great sin to despoil the magic of the grove with her virginal presence before her naming day on the morrow, she just managed to dive behind a large standing stone and burrow under a pile of foul smelling hides. The angry voice of Astus called out, his strong voice echoing around the stone circle.
“I see you Good Druid Damien –Hu-Ceriddion, I come by a secret way as summoned, alone and unarmed, however I tell you that I do not fear your Deep Magic. See that I have the Amulet of Arawen, I am under its protection, and your druid’s Deep Magic will not avail you against me this day.” It was obvious to Brigitte that he was not at all convinced that was to be the case. He was casting his eyes around at the many charms and portents that adorned the sacred Grove. Standing Beside the stones and in-between spaces stood a great circle of human skulls on driven spikes as both trophies and sacrifices of the many Iceni wars and victories. The firm voice of the Chief Druid Damien answered with a roar.
“How you dare to bring that Powerful Talisman to this Grove Of Cernunnos, Astus of Brettenham, you were told to come here as a supplicant to the God Cernunnos, now you defile his shrine and grove with this Talisman of the Dark Destroyer, one that serves the ghosts of the living dead. Such a charm may well allow the dead spirits in the underworld and the land of Emania to find this sacred grove! I fear that by doing so you may also have contaminated our rituals we have prepared this day, what do you mean by it who has told you to do such an evil thing, how by all I hold holy have you come by it. Do you realise what it is?””
“I do indeed Druid and I also intend to find out how to use it for our cause, I have been given it BT Annwn and been summoned to this place by Nemain of Caer Gybi herself, the Seeress it was, who he spoke to me in the night. So fear not, your gods will not be insulted Druid, know also that for I was also apprised that you must cast the auguries for my betrothal and future claims to the High Seat of the Iceni!
Tell me Damien now that I am distained to become High Chief of the Iceni as was also mentioned in the vision dream, by the power of this Amulet I order that you to do as the Gods demand this Beltane Eve and I will let you leave this holy place with your soul intact?”
Esupa cast his eyes around the Stonehenge and directly towards her hiding place and it seemed that he looked straight through her. Brigitte again thanked the gods the bracelets were still working but the sun was nearly gone, how much longer would she be safe in this terrible place. Brigitte was now even more terrified that they must discover her spying on their foul meeting.
“Be at rest Esupa Astus, Grandson of Saenu Astus, and Chief of the great tree of Brettenham, I mean you no harm; I know that you do indeed speak the true words of Nemain, for she has also spoken in my dreams. Be at rest and you may see that I have already read the omens for this union, I tell you that they are very good and speak of an illustrious and glorious Alliance and so much more than you ever dreamt of. A destiny, which will allow you to shake off the heavy chains of the Roman Empire from this land of all the Keltoi nations forever, come into the Shrine hut, and we will hold a moot to seal this path chosen by the great god Arawn.
My good friend, you should know also that I too have had many dreams, and seen much, be aware Esupa Astus, that I also know of your recent visit to the Roman tyrant Catus and your plans to place you on the High seat as the King of all the Keltoi nations!“
At this pronouncement, Esupa clutched at his empty belt searching for his missing knife, or any means to defend himself, he had none, his face an ashen mask as his darkest secret and alliance were spoken by the Druid, Moreover, someone that should be loyal to the existing high chief, King Prasutagus. He took up the Amulet and pointing his finger at the Druid it seemed that he was about to blest him into oblivion when the druid put his arms up in friendship.
“Be assured Esupa Astus, I will hold your secrets safe, all this was also foretold to me by Nemain, come forward, we talk of what must be done to ensure that all will be brought to become true, for with this Amulet to aid us none shall gainsay us now! We have must plan how to put your feet on the path to true Glory of all the Iceni. To do what we must bring about the defeat of the Roman invaders and do all that is necessary to bring you to the throne of all the Keltoi is a wonder that not even I could imagine.”
Brigitte was enthralled and horrified at this terrible news and the dark exchange; she had been frantically seeking a way to escape the certain death that she knew would be hers if the men should find her overhearing their treachery!
For foul treachery was what was planned here, was it not, it was her father that was the leader of the Iceni! By all she held holy did the High Druid, say about Rowena’s future husband would become the Chieftain or King of the tribe, let alone the King of all the tribes in the Land. What could it all mean, how were the gods going to allow this horrible betrayal of their own holy oaths given to her father?
Thank the gods the men had gone into the Shrine hut at last and this was placed at the other the edge of the Henge, and she was now out of their line of sight. Still half frozen with fear and cramp, somehow she forced her legs to obey her will as she managed to squirm her way out of the back of the pile of bearskins, to make her way back to the comparative safety of the forests.
Crawling on her stomach and raising to a crouch, as soon as she was out of sight of the hut Brigitte heaved a sigh of relief and started to run for deep cover, however, at the edge of the clearing she stopped in absolute horror, to remember the basket of mushrooms that sat at the base of the Great Stone, she must go back! Listening hard towards the hut, she though she heard raised voices, the men coming out of the hut! Esupa could only be glimpsed, his handsome face twisted, and red with rage ,as stormed towards her side of the grove, he could not fail to see her any moment now as the last rays of the sun reached the treetops she knew that her time had run out, nothing for it then. There was nothing for it she would have to abandon the mushrooms, and she dived back into cover once again, just squirming, behind the stone altar. She had to hear what was said, her fathers life might depend on it. Somehow, she screwed up what remained of her tattered courage peek above the stone, eventually Damien also came to the doorway of the hut and called to Esupa as he was leaving the Grove.
“Do not fear so Astus, we will successes and you will raise the War standard, I promise you, but I fear the King must die for he will never agree with you despite your Amulet. Until the wedding then, and when Herne the Hunter shall appear at the hunt shall you be called to fulfil your destiny Astus of Brettenham, Be sure of your aim is true, future King of the Iceni and hold your host in readiness!” Astus stormed off down the Druids path, ignoring all his previous caution, but still clutching the Amulet to his chest.
Brigitte waited anxiously for Damien to go back into the shrine hut; instead, he came across to the alter stone, took up another live hare, and slit its belly, taking the raw meat to his mouth eating the liver and intestines, the blood running down his chin and neck. The Druid then took a draught from a golden horn at his waist and placed it on the stone altar, throwing his hands skywards, he threw off his clothes and stark naked he cried out to the darkening sky.
“Hear me great Gods of the Iceni, I Damien do call upon the spirits of our ancestors and their holy Gods to attend this holy grove. Come forth this Eve of Beltane, come forth, and shine your moonbeams. I beseech you great Cernunnos, come forth and enter the mind of your servant to reveal the names of these virginal maidens and the sons of Hearne. I ask this in the name of those maidens whose first blood has flowed, and for the sons of Hearne whose seed of life is planted in their hearts and loins. I drink to honour them, and the gods of the Iceni. I offer you their blood as sacrifice and that of this living animal so that you may find these Iceni worthy of their true names.
“All Hail to the Goddess Arianrhod, at the next dawn shall they all dance for you around this great tree of life”
A deer jumped into the Grove and startled by his cry of fulfilling of the act of fertility, he shouted his joy of in release of its spirit into the either shouting a welcome to the very essence of the Gods.
“Hail Flidais, welcome to the Grove of Caister, which is also dedicated to your brother Cernunnos, welcome shape shifter; the Omens are great indeed when the Gods come in the flesh to witness the start of their great works.”
With this exhortation, Damien dropped to his knees and fell twitching and twisting enthralled in the grip of the Gods.
Brigitte felt her hands gripping the stone so tightly that she had drawn her own blood on the sharp stone, to mix with that of the blood dripping from the sacrifice, the stopper on the druids horn had released some of its contents and all were mixing in her own bloodstream which sent the powerful drugs pulsating through her small body. It was just too much for her senses to bear, as she also felt her consciences fading from her grip. Brigitte was still having weird flashes of euphoria from eating the mushroom. All these strange feelings and drugs were mingling in her mind and blood. The smoke from the offering fire began to fill her nostrils as she felt her limbs were afire with the desire to join with the Druids dance, his own motion now brought forth a throbbing through her loins.
She tried to rise to her feet but instead found herself floating above the holy grove, as her spirit was pulled from her body. Try as she could, she could not will herself back into her own body, knowing that she must fly from this terrible place and report all she had seen and heard to her father.
For now and despite all she could do, her spirit was caught in a vortex, which is drawn towards a fog bank that transformed from grey to deep red. Cold, she was so cold, not knowing if it was real or imagined she shivered at the cold dread that was now gripping her heart.
As her consciousness travelled onto this red haze and away from the Caister grove, to she knew not where, slowly the fog lifted to reveal a red river, in the water floated a stream of white corpses, an endless stream of dead floating past her eyes. Dead and wounded bodies in red cloaked pinned to the torn and twisted bodies they were Romans! Roman soldiers and their animals, horrible corpses ,their maimed bodies missing limbs or smashed twisted in death, their faces white with staring eyes and bodies bloated with from open wounds, mouths gaping in the silent screams of death. No, not all were Romans, to add to the horror of this vision she realised that some were Iceni! They were bodies were from her tribe, Reaus that looked like the body of her sweetheart Reaus, there was Brius, the Iceni champion and Rowena’s sweetheart, Chief Fabliaux. So many, Iceni warriors, some children, mostly young women of the tribe, so many, far too many, for here was all the future generations, terribly cut, and maimed floating to face down in this river of death! Why was she seeing this grisly river of death, what could it portend, what was going to happen to bring about the destruction of her tribe, why was she granted this terrible vision, how could the whole tribe be caught in this whirlpool of death?
Many of the floating corpses were roman legionnaires, many Romans, it seemed that there must be an army of Romans, Perhaps the entire world was dead, and so deathly quiet, no sounds of battle, and no cries of the wounded bodies, any wind, or birdsong, what bird would sing here, except Badb Catha! Slowly, as she gathered her fractured wits and could now make out some of her surroundings, she was at the edge of a wide river a small township stood burning in the distance.
Then the mists swirled off the river to see the banks, they were lined with two opposing armies, on the east bank were the massed ranks of the Keltoi and their holy druids and Seers, on the west, where the tattered remains of a defeated legionis of Rome! Looking again at the river banks, the frozen tableaux sprung into life gesticulating in victory or fear held fast in their silent world. Now standing in front of her was the form of a Druid his white robe and golden belt in one hand. In the other, he held a wizard druid wand, together with his gold sickle, which he raised to the sky to command the Keltoi to hear his words.
Trying to shout at the mighty throng but he and his words were invisible and lost to the Armies of Keltoi warriors. In addition, standing before the warriors was hordes of red-gowned Seeress and white robed Druids, their garments soiled and ripped by the ravages of battle. At that moment, the terrible sounds of war came crashing into her consciousness brining the War cries of the Iceni and their allies, all crying out in a victorious cacophony. ‘Boudiga,Boudiga’
Brigitte was transfixed by terror and fear at this terrible sight but something was holding her there, her gazes drawn to the incredible sight of a large tall woman dressed in the Red gown of a Seeress. Her eyes blazed with the fire of her religious fervour, and she held a sword, a sword she had taken from a ghostly arm rising from the waters, it was a magnificent magical sword, the very air crackled around it as the lightning fought to be released from it. The Seeress now held it aloft for all to see as she called forth the Deep Magic and the lightening flew across the water smiting the roman soldiers, a mighty wind whipped up the waters to spew and foam and the boats were overturned. Then the Seeress turned towards the retreating Roman legions that were scrambling to safety in the chaos on the opposite bank of this wide river. Some form of strange boats was burning and wrecked hulks littered the near foreshore, dead Romans and abandoned chariots and horses smashed and burning at the water edge, some floating downstream in mangled heaps. Soldiers were still being dispatched or fighting for their lives all expecting no quarter from the berserk women and the Keltoi warriors.
Some of the women were running through the ranks of the warriors like wild women all was in wild disorder, calling and praying to their gods, their whole appearance resembling than frantic rages of the Furies, their long hair loose and in their hands flaming torches.
Now the Seeressess and Nemain stood defiant and with their wode painted bear breasted bodies their war braids and dresses tucked into their long gartered leggings, they were chanting a name, there again, and then repeatedly, now the Druids took it up and all the throng began to call out for their victory over the Legions of Rome.
‘Boudiga- Boudiga, Andrasta- Victory, Victory, ANDRASTA- BOUDIGA, BOUDIGA… Until all the Keltoi were proclaiming a great victory and the War Goddess Andrasta, ‘Hail to Boudiga, who has brought us a great victory this day, ANDRASTA, ANDRASTA!’
In the smoke and swirling haze stood a grown up version of her self, standing at the side of the Chieftains and holy Chief Seeress was Nemain of Caer Gybi! Standing tall and wide-eyed both lost to the frenzy of battle another Seeress came forward to a prisoner who was pulled along by his hair , two of the warriors took his arms and pushed him to his knees, Brigitte saw that he was a senior Centurion. The Seeress pulled back his head and with a swipe and force of holy frenzy severed the head holding it aloft the warm blood falling across her hair and face. With a shout, she proclaimed in a thunderous voice echoing across the water.
“In the name of Boudiga I claim this victory, and for the Goddess Andrasta, whom this day we have called to our aid? We give thanks to BOUDIGA for this magnificent victory and over the hated Roman invaders. Andrasta has used the Deep Magic to allow her servant the Nemain to use the Talisman of Cerridwen and Excalibur to work the lightning has and fire, to use the magic to crush the enemies of her people!
See the burning and twisted boats that the Romans hoped to cross our Rivers. See how they lay in defeat, all smashed, and twisted by the storms and lightning she was wrought at our side. Andrasta our goddess of victory has brought the lightnings of the great God Belatucados himself and smitten our enemies a mighty blow, see how they crawl on their bellies before us, and fall down to praise Andrasta and Boudiga for granting the Keltoi this great and wondrous victory!
“See there Iceni, where Badb Catha and Macha even now feed on the eyes of our enemies, come to gather up this Roman dung, and we will celebrate this great day with further sacrifices in our holy places they came here to destroy. We will give their souls as sacrifices to Boudiga and thank Andrasta for a victory such as never seen against the might of Rome!”
Then Nemain turned to address the whole of the Iceni warriors intermingled with frenzied women as well as men and boys.
“Hear my words men of the Keltoi tribes, for I will tell you of another great Victory of the Keltoi over the might of Rome. I have been given this vision dream by Andrasta herself in which I have seen the despised gods and statues of Rome thrown down and smashed, their cities in flame and destroyed. Yes, even their great Cavitas at Cammulos will be burnt to ashes, their false gods will not avail them, and the Emperor himself will fall. I have seen the hated statue of Claudius toppled to the ground, well may our enemies quake before our warriors and the fury of BOUDIGA and the might of the Iceni when the Gods allow their Amulet of Arawen to burn and destroy their Legions! This I Have Seen And Foretell. Come we will depart from this place and let the Roman scum run back to their pitiful holes and the land far away. Today I have used the Deep Magic to bring about a mighty victory and a great sacrifice will be required as payment to the Goddess Andrasta as tribute for this. Boudiga and The Keeper of the Amulet of Arawean, the mighty Talisman of Power of Arawn will lead us to many more victorious battles until the Roman spoilers are driven into the sea.”
With that exhortation, it seemed to Brigitte that Nermain looked to the sky and spoke directly to the Gods and Brigitte realised her spirit.
“Hail to the Great Gods and holy ones, behold now the High Druid and your chosen one, I see you Dracus-Yer-Afalon, see that you were so wrong to oppose my vision dream! Listen and wonder at my words and share this victory, for what you see is a glimpse of the future granted to those chosen to bring it about. I see you Dracus, for your task are to keep safe the Child of Destiny and also the Deep Magic, to protect the very spirit of Gaia in Avalon and beyond!”
I see you, “Damien of Ceriddion, I see into your heart and your own destiny that I have been previously foretold to you! It is for you to use the Amulet of Arawean, brings about this holy war, and leads the tribes to victory. This is why we have all been given this vision and as once shown to Tadg himself! You Damien is charged to bring this child to my Holy Grove for training as a Seeress in the holy order , you are also charged to raise a War Band such as never been seen before. You must raise all the tribes to come to the aid of our brother Keltoi the Silures and Ordovices in the lands of all the Keltoi tribes. You must take the Amulet given to the Iceni and use it to see that the tribes unite against the foe and send aid and succour to this holy Island when the foe send all their Legions against us in this place. You now know that you must do this terrible thing or the Romans will seek to destroy all our holy Groves and erase the holy Druic religion from the face of this Mother earth and bring about the Death of our Deep Magic.
Such is your task Damien of Ceriddion, a great and wonderful destiny for you and the child of destiny Boudiga!
I see you Brigitte-Hu-Brigantia on this the Eve of your naming day, for so are you three all chosen to be an instrument of their will. Destinies that will rid these enemies from the holy Groves and all of the Tribal lands, to bring this to be you both must come to me at the holy grove or all your tribes will fall into the river of death before this Child’s next birthday. Brigantia-Hu-Boudiga will be her God given name, Hail Boudiga, a child no more, I Name her for the Goddess Andrasta herself!”
With these terrible pronouncements, a flock of the Badb Catha battle ravens flew upwards straight towards her, and she felt their talons gouge her body tearing at her skin and face leaving a scar in the form of a Torc on her right cheek, then the vision began to fade and the red mist returned. Brigitte could feel her spirit being pulled away from this terrible scene of carnage and horror with an overwhelming dizziness as her vision blurred her mind could no longer grasp the images forced before her eyes, as her fear and fright forced her spirit back to her body.
Brigitte awoke dripping in sweat with her blood oozing from a gouge on her cheek and shoulder. Brigitte gasped as the moon Goddess Lunasa came forth to bathe the glade in her steely silver cloak; the Druid Damien was naked once more as he lay twitching on the floor of the grove and showed little sign of any recovery. The Roe deer that Damien had greeted as an embodiment of Flidais had found her and was licking her face, and it seemed to her that he was looking straight at the basket of mushrooms , obviously about to eat them.
Recovering her wits Brigitte was determined to flee this terrible place, but she could not escape the awful memories of her nightmare dream, it was only a drug-induced dream after all! Then her hand had come away from her face spotted with her own blood, and she knew that she had to speak to Dracus at once, and then her father! Gathering up the basket was enough to frighten away the deer, and they both fled away from the Henge, night owl hooted to herald the full moon, which pointed its silvery beam along the Druids pathway and her quickest way back to the safety of the stronghold. This ghostly light was the last straw as the last of her courage failed her as she fled the woods not stopping until she had passed over the stream and water that would break the spells and dreadful portents; she felt the mind of Dracus calling for her in a frantic fear of their lives!
Therefore, it was that Chief Esupa Astus drove his chariot out of the woods and towards his encampment on the appositive side of the River to the summer camp of the Iceni. It had seemed that his plan to supplant Prasutagus had been doomed until he had been able to retrieve the Amulet from the shrine at Cembalos. Ever since then it seemed that he could excerpt his will on any he chose and even the Gods were on his side now if his dreams were to be beloved. Even when Queen Boudicca had flatly refused to allow his plans for the wedding nuptials. He had been shown the way to overcome their stupid belief that the Iceni should be forced to bend their heads to the Roman dogs. Well his hand had been forced and he had put in place the wishes of the Gods who spoke to him now. If they had forced him to take his own precautions to ensure that he was in a position to enforce his will on the High Chief and quite a surprise awaited them all at this years Beltane festival! With the Amulet of Arawen, he was invincible.
When the King and Queen had rejected his wedding plans, that would have given him the means to supplant the king, he had to revise the arrangements with his Roman allies. He had to send the Syrian slave and advisor Petros back to Camulodenum with an escort of two of his best warriors. Petros was a fluent Latin speaker, and he was to give them a coded message to tell them of this rejection and the change in their plan that was to allow him to grasp control of the Iceni throne!
He guessed that it was something the Procurator would not take very kindly, having to deal with this slave, however, he had no option to risk that Petros was to be trusted to act in his name. Well, the document he carried was to be revealed using the code they had devised. Veda the centurion was a different animal, greedy and treacherous, an extremely careful man and someone he would trust no further than he could spit!
Whilst he had no feelings for the Syrian bondsman , Petros was proving far too useful, for besides being something of a scholar, and interpreter he was also someone who had done a great deal of harm when his skills had been used for the Tax census demanded by Rome and presented by the false King. No Petros the Syrian slave knew far too much of the secret of the Iceni to be trusted out of his sight! However, that was what he had been forced to do now, to send him back to see the Roman Prefect with a secret message and mission to Camulodenum.
Well, as the Gods decide, the die is cast and the fates will rule, as they will. If the truth was told, The Syrian was proving far too independent, and he did not think that was not to be fully trusted after the trouble with the great Tally. Something he would not need for much longer thanked the Gods and his escort knew how to deal with him if he was to cause any trouble.
Now his own efforts must be put into getting his to get his future father in law to agree to go to the help of the Silures and Ordovices tribes in the rebellion against Rome. A war that was currently being waged by the Chief Caractacus in the fastness of Anglesey, as the Bethlehem lands bordered that of the Trinovantes tribe, he had close contact with them. The Trinovantes had to suffer the insult of their Cavitas and shrine being taken from them by the Roman invaders, and they had also suffered badly at the hands of the Romans and without the special protection afforded to the Iceni, they were having their groves despoiled and their warriors taken as slaves. Most of the Keltoi tribes in the east were now so desperate that they were ready to rise under his leadership. If he could only persuade the rest of the Iceni chieftains to join them at the Moot to be held after this years Beltane, now that Damien was to raise the War standard with the backing of the Druids of Caer Gybi, moreover, he was confident that nothing could hold him back now.
His own recent meeting with the roman Centurion Veda and their offer of support in turn for a few trifling bars of gold was a good step in the right direction, how easy it was to manipulate these greedy roman’s, they had no Honour. If the King would not see, right of their cause this time, well a revolt and the seizure of power by force will be his next weapon and all was ready for the deposing of his future father in law, now it seemed that the very gods were on his side. Then the combined armies thrusting from the east and an army of Druids and Seeressess that were assembled on the holy Isle, it would surely provide a great army that with the help of the God Wean and his Amulet of Power he would crush the hated Romans and drive them back into the sea. A thrust from the mountains of Anglesey would catch the roman legions on three fronts; they would have the protection of the Gods and would be invincible. All this had been explained to him by the Great Chief Druid Damien in the small hut.
Well, first things first, King Prasutagus must have an fatal accident; just keep your part of the bargain Druid he thought , his own plans were well in hand, and he already had a large force standing hidden! They had nearly come to blows when the druid had notified him that he must give up any plans for the marriage to Rowena for the wife and daughters of Prasutagus were to be put aside. The king’s daughters were to be his instrument in provoking the Iceni to go to war against the legions of Rome; however, Damien had refused to disclose how this was to be brought about. He was to ensure that the hunt was to take to the high chatelaine woods the morning after the spring fertility festival and before the wedding feast, and that he was not with the Prasutagus hunting party and to ensure that he was to have undisputable witnesses that the death of the chieftain was nothing to do with him.
He would then be free to state his claim the kingship as the grandson of the great Saena Astus, he was one who will unite all the Celtic tribes and lead them to a victory promised by the Gods themselves.
Brigitte-Hu Brigantia is also a child of Destiny in this timescape, someone who is life was to be so interwoven with the Talisman of Power.
Brigitte had returned from her quest to the Caister woods as quickly as Swallow would allow, hoping against hope, that the terrible nightmare in the Grove was indeed only that, a nightmare dream of the woodland sprites!
As soon as she had seen to her horse, she made the maiden lodge to find Dracus lying spread-eagled across the mud floor of the small room that separated his temporary quarters from the maidens is living in space. He was drooling at the mouth and his eyes were glazed and staring opaque eyes, he had been tearing at the small wound in his palm, a small empty phial lay beside him with a small dribble of a blood. A red liquid and one of the mushrooms were smouldering on a small stone slab above his head.
When Brigitte failed to revive him, she assumed she knew why he was in this state,
Dracus was to have been her spirit guide for the woodland quest and he may have been caught within her own nightmare and spirit dreams and to have and witnessed the terrible visions she had seen.
“Dracus, Dracus, please hear me;” she believed he gave a small moan, thank the Gods, he was alive, “Dracus, I have to see my father, he is in a great danger, Dracus, can you hear me, are you all right, please waking up, and it is my entire fault, please! Holy Brigit, what am I to do, Mother, perhaps she will help, she will know what to do?
That was not any good, mother has gone to the retreat to prepare for the summer rituals, Dracus, and how I need your guidance now! Father then, No not him, not yet, I cannot speak to him, he will not see me, whilst I am still under the Druids spell, I need Dracus to help me, she shook the prostrate druid.
”Dracus we must stop the Beltane ceremony, we must stop the betrothals, Dracus; I need you.” Desperate to find a way to wake the druid, Brigitte reached for the pitcher of water that also stood on the small stool; she emptied the contents over his head, he stirred at last, but did not arise or even try to speak to her, of course perhaps she was still held by the sacred bracelets. Was she still in the spirit world, trapped there the bracelets, she took them off and again tried to wake Dracus aging, she strongly believed he had definitely stirred this time , thank the Gods, he sat up with an jerk, his hair and robes sticking to his body?
“Brigitte, I mean our Queen, what you have done! Where have you been all this time?
“I cannot be the Queen now Dracus, you must help me, I must find my father, he is in terrible danger, I have seen so many terrible things, and I do not want to be a child of any stupid destiny”!
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE Brigitte, What about Prasutagus, you know you cannot see or speak to anyone in the living world, I told you to beware of the wood Sprites? You must tell me all, no, firstly fetch that pitcher, I must wash this wound, be very careful, do not spill, or drink any of the liquid.” He looked at the empty pitcher and his drenched body.
” It is a little too late for that I see, how we to make the sacred drink without the holy spring water, where are the mushrooms; you did get them, did you not? Tell me you did!”
“Yes I got them, but they do not matter now, I will not be your Queen of the May or anyone’s child of Destiny, Not now or ever, please do not look at me like that! Just listen will YOU!”
She told him of the terrible meeting with Damien and Esupa Astus, Dracus tried to inject further questions, but the anger and fright emanating from the whole of her being silenced him .His face grew whiter as the full horror of the, full details of her vision quest unfolded.
“I fear I must believe you Brigitte, and I may have had a similar tale earlier this dreadful day, you see , as fantastic as they may appear, I fear that I may have heard this earlier today from another source but refused to listen assuming it was a demon of my mind. Now it seems to be only to be true.
However, as to the terrible accusations that you do you say about the high Druid Damien, I cannot countenance them, is just to match child. I grant you Damien has been a little strange lately, he has long been trying to bring about another Great War battle against Rome, however, I do not believe that he would do anything so evil as to try to harm the King of the Iceni! He would never risk the Deep magic in this way; he would never drag the Druic sect and religion into Murder!
We stand for truth and enlightenment of the spirit of the Gaia, To accuse him of treason against a King, he would never let himself be drawn into such an evil thing, As for Esupa wishing to overthrow our king what nonsense, No, I cannot believe he would do such a thing. Why should he, he is going to be his son by marriage at the next Hu Gaddarn feast, why then should he want to take any part in such a thing as Murder and treason? No you have lost your mind and fallen under an evil wood sprite spell I am afraid, if you stayed in the woods after sundown, they could easily cast a spell by the evil spirits of the night to keep you in the woods to spoil the Beltane. Perhaps you were touched by a moonbeam in the Grove as you maintain, to be within the Henge without a druid there to protect you, you surly would have been in a crisis!
You could even have fallen into a sleep that may have lasted for a thousand summers, Brigitte; you did not fall asleep did you? He saw the answer written in her face.
“You stupid girl, how could you be so foolish, when I got back to the maidens hold, I feared that I may be too late to assist you? I tried to join with you, and I took a draught that should have allowed me to see with your eyes, all I could see was a white fog? It cleared from my spirit dream as soon as you passed across the stream of Cernunnos and I Knew then that you would return here safely. No, I believe that you must forget anything that you supposed you heard in the woodland, it did not happen!
What you describe is just the sort of trick a sprite would try, as fantastic as it sounds; it was meant to get you to destroy the forth coming rites.”
Brigitte was beginning to wish he were right, now that the memory was fading, could have been all a nightmare, “What about you, why you were in this state when I got back to the maiden hold, look at the blood on your Arm?
“I fell badly when I took the draught of the magic mushrooms, it is nothing, this blood is yours, it is dripping off your face my Queen, and you must have scratched yourself in the woods as well, and here let me clean it”.
“Blood, my blood well that proves I did not image anything, this wound is where the Raven of Badb Catha marked me for the Goddess Andrasta! Dracus, it was all true! IT WAS ALL SO HORRIBLY TRUE, I had hoped it was a dream, Dracus it was so awful you must aid me!”
His confidence visibly shaken, Dracus befuddled mind could not grasp the enormity of her tale of treachery and intrigue that Brigitte now unfolded to him. He gave a start at the mention of his own name as mentioned by the Seeress Nemain and a vision dream he had not had yet. How could he, a minor bard, get involved in such powerful events, who would believe him or the Syrian runaway bondsman?
His mentor the High Druid Barach, had told him that he had the blood of the Tuatha-De-Danann in his blood, The Tuatha are the early descendents of the Goddess Danu herself and all of her bloodline are considered to be especially blessed and fey. He had been given a vision dream in the lake of Cerridwen when he was chosen as a Druid. She had called him a Child of Destiny when had been touched by the Deep Magic for the first time, it had been foreseen by Barach that he was to be given some part to play in the fates of the Deep Magic however none had seen any sign up to the present moment.
Would he have the strength to stand up for Brigitte, or if he did who would believe them, Wait, had not the spirit mentioned something about a secret force hiding in the Westwood, he could send out a search party to find it? No it was still their word against a Great chief and his master Damien the Chief Druid in the land. They would have every right to have an escort at such a time. What evidence did they have to charge such a Major Chieftain as Esupa Astus of treachery, this was all just too much for him to grasp or reason with, he would have to wait and see what the morrow brought? Yes bring a fresh mind to their predicament but who could they speak to? The queen was incommunicado as where they were, should he find the King, no, not now he assumed, Prasutagus would not hesitate to have his head and that of the Syrian Petros, unless they could give proof of their claims, and properly Esupra’s head as well. That would also lead to a blood feud, which would mean war if he even believed any part of it. He would have to see what the High Queen mother Lady Brigetantae made of it all. In the morning, perhaps it would be only a bad spirit dream after all. He knew that he would have to find a way to placate the young Princess and prevent her going to the King with her fantastic tales.
“Princess, if you took off your armband in order to speak to your father what then, the Beltane festival would have been broken and could not take place, and we risk starting a war feud with no proof.” Brigitte was not to be so easily turned aside.
“No Dracus, it will not suffice, I want to see my mother, she will believe me, I am going to see mother now.” She tried to rise from the Bower bed but exhaustion and giddiness overcame her again.
“No, you are exhausted, get some rest we will speak again in the morrow, Look the Dawn is not far off, I am sure your mother will agree it was just an evil dream. Rest now I promise we will speak to her somehow. We both have a momentous day tomorrow and will have to see what destiny holds for us!”
Tomorrow, tomorrow was to have been her naming day, she did not want any stupid destiny!