This is an extract from a long cycle of poems I wrote years and years ago as a teen. I haven't edited it at all, it's straight from my scribbly notebook! It's not fantastic but I thought I'd share it anyway.

The poems are set in Victorian Poland after the 1863 revolt against Russian rule. The storyline is that of a former nobleman, now exiled in Siberia, who witnessed his whole family killed and is now haunted by the memories and with longing for them (grim, I know). The poems are written as a dialogue between him and his departed wife. This is from her perspective as a spirit in the afterlife watching his pain.

I stand here watching you 

as through a window,

face to face, divided by

the glass of all existence. I press

my senseless hands to your reflection ,

my vacant eyes are free to reap their fill.

Break through, the door is barred to me—

yet in the sun and spirit here and shimmer

I can distinguish your lost form 

within that ghastly chaos 

that engulfs you.

 

Black winter, wasteland, bitter smoke—

Your side, the glass is blurred 

with blood and longing. 

No—for I can turn my soul, 

shed of perception,

and in rapt radiance penetrate 

those scars and smears 

that once had been my own.

I call to you, but you are deaf to angels.

I stretch my hands to you again, 

I kiss the glass—

Would that my heaving breast, hot touch

might thaw for you a way...


This is an excerpt from a novella which as of yet is untitled, so I shall call it 'Boudica' as it is about her life.

They had barely passed through the gates of the fort when they ran into a rider leaving. In the twilight, Boudica thought he looked like a noble—at least compared to his two thralls behind him. He drew his horse up short to keep from colliding.

“Forgive me, my lady—you must be Queen Boudica? I heard you’d ridden out to join your husband,” he said. “Can you tell me how far ahead he is by now?”

“Oh, two or three villages northeast,” she reckoned. “Are you seeking him? He’ll be in Venta for at least a week.”

The man flashed a wide smile. He was young, not much older than herself, and the sincerity and directness in his voice and manner captivated her. She could see now the braids and curls in his long, dark hair, and the fineness of his jeweled fibula.

“I thank the gods I met you here,” he laughed. “You’ve saved me much wasted danger tonight; I would have tried to catch up. But I suppose my message will keep.”

“Come inside,” Boudica offered abruptly. “You must have quarters for tonight, you and your slaves. I have yet to feed my own company here.” She watched his wild, swarthy face a moment. He had not trimmed his beard in at least three days. She would send one of her maids to find some soap and scissors for him.

“Will I not be imposing? I can still reach an inn before darkfall,” he protested politely.

“I’m eager for some news,” Boudica assured him. He swung down from his horse and offered to help her to her feet. He seemed to take her belly in stride. Or perhaps he had already noticed. Either way, he kept her hand and knelt promptly before her.

“Eporedorix, son of Orgetorix, at your service,” he announced.

Eporedorix—the name struck her ear like music. She had never met anyone by that name before. Flattered, she coaxed him up again. She ordered Vasal and Orlaithe to check on the kitchens and bring some water for the guests.

 

It was all Boudica could do to keep from staring as she poured his wine and watched him eat. He was so lovely, and the sight of his full red lips and clear skin, his free, white smile and dancing eyes made her tingle. His genial voice smoothed down every nerve. She found herself worrying in the back of her head that she might look too haggard after her foolish escapade, or that the child rendered her too ugly in his fresh, foreign view. So Boudica sat listening to his talk with half an ear, unsure with every regulated glance whether that glance was one too many.

At last, she dismissed the household that the two of them might be able to discuss Eporedorix’s errand privately. Eporedorix watched as the last of the slaves trailed out of the hall.

“Truly, your court is beyond compare in all this kingdom,” he said. “And I should know, for I was raised close to Saemu—, my father being his lead commander.” His eyes grew somber.

Boudica watched him swirl the dregs round his wine cup for a moment. Then snagging it from him gently, she poured in more drink. She sat back, biting her lip as he took a few grateful gulps.

“Were you part of the rebellion yourself?” she ventured, running her hand along the edge of the table. Eporedorix nodded with a gusty sigh.

“Yes, so I was. My father was burned with his lord and Aesu— and Anted. Ostorius spared me as I humbled myself and took an oath of allegiance. But I had to watch the executions to prove it,” he finished. He turned his face aside. An icy chill stabbed through Boudica’s spine. Burned alive—

“I’m very sorry,” she whispered. For a moment, neither said anything. Then, rubbing his nose, Eporedorix took up:

“Now there are murmurings among those who remain of Saemu—’s nobles. They dislike that Prasutagus has negotiated so freely with the Romans without considering their vote—about the road, I mean. It will cut straight through our region.”

“And you?” Boudica asked, eyeing him. Eporedorix ran a hand over the back of his head.

“I’ve been one of the king’s councilmen ever since he was installed,” he declared, leaning back. “It’s their way of keeping an eye on my dealings.”

Their eyes met. Boudica could almost feel the heat growing between them. She looked down at the table, flushing.

“I don’t recall seeing you here before,” she said as casually as she could. Eporedorix laughed.

“No, for the king has not held such a council since his wedding. I would never have forgotten seeing you,” he added low. He slid his hand across the table indirectly. Boudica tried to swallow her trembling heart back into place. So he felt the same!

“So, you had come to inform my husband before he left,” she concluded. “He had hoped to make some headway with the nobles at this meeting. Some Roman engineers will be attending, with their plans. But I suppose the kettle is already seething.”

“Not enough to boil over, but enough that it might if he does not reconsider how he takes action with the road at just this moment. I think he may need to negotiate more directly with Saemu—’s old nobles at the meeting.”

“I often forget how divided the tribe is still,” remarked Boudica. Suddenly, the weight of her husband’s position fell on her. To have to pander so tirelessly for respect itself—

She patted the place to her right in invitation. Eporedorix bowed his head and joined her. They sat in silence, watching the fire.

“So you will ride tomorrow at dawn, then?” she said, trying to keep her voice level.

“Unless you forbid it,” he teased. “No, I must try and reach Prasutagus as fast as I can. I was supposed to follow him anyway, but I need now to overtake him.”

Boudica nodded. “I hope you find my hospitality to your taste.”

“The meal was excellent, and the company better, my lady,” he assured her, rising. She pulled herself to her feet after him and leaned against the table. He watched her but made no effort to convince her otherwise.

“Eporedorix,” she said. He stepped a little nearer. “My lord, I have many handmaids. You and your men may sleep freely with any who are willing.”

He gazed into her face, his eyes soft and glowing. “I will bear that in mind, lady.”

Without thinking, she reached out and placed a hand on his breast. She traced her finger along the rich green plaid of his tunic. Eporedorix laid an arm around her bloated waist.

“I’m glad I had to refrain from the council, or I should have missed you,” she whispered. The baby started tumbling around then, roused by her heartbeat, and he laughed softly.

“I forgot to give you my good wishes,” he said. “I’ll be sure to tell your husband I saw you well. When do you expect the child?”

At those words, all Boudica’s fears and apprehensions rushed to the surface. She threw her eyes to the ground, overwhelmed.

“Any day now,” she replied, trying to steady her wavering voice.

“The Mothers watch over you,” said the young man. Then, without warning, he embraced her. Normally, she would have tensed and resented the way it put her on the spot. But here, now, she melted into him. For a few eternal moments, he simply held her. Then, pulling away slightly, he sought out her mouth and kissed her. She clutched his head.

“I must bid you goodnight,” he confessed at last, leaning his brow against hers and breathing hard. Her heart twinged sharply. “But you will sleep well, I trust?”

“How can I not?” she whispered. She flushed like a rosehip. He smiled again and gripped her hand, then headed for the door. Boudica called out to him hastily. “Wait, let me summon a servant to show you to bed.”

“Do you need me, lady?”

Both nobles whirled around to find a rag-tag slave girl in the side door behind them. The girl glanced innocently from one flustered face to the other. Boudica could almost see the suspicion building under the girl’s stoic mien and she bristled.

“Yes—yes, you might show my lord to some comfortable lodgings. In the guest house,” she added curtly as the girl slipped past. Eporedorix nodded at her reassuringly as he headed out. Boudica fell back against the table, a hand on her stomach. It was all she could do not to cry.

At last, the bondmaid returned. “Would you like some help upstairs, mistress?” she asked. Boudica nodded, not trusting herself to speak. By now, the maid’s poise was struggling. She looked her mistress over keenly.

“He is quite a dashing young lord,” she commented, half teasing. Boudica glared at her. The slave broke down laughing. “No, it’s nothing to punish yourself over—one night’s dalliance. Honestly, lady. It was good for you. I see some color in your cheeks now.”

Boudica’s hand flew to her burning face. She did feel alive, and bewitching, not big and worn and clumsy...


Eporedorix is a fictional character introduced to showcase the polyamorous streak in early Celtic societies, as well as represent one of the three rival factions within Iceni tribal politics. He was one of my most favorite extra characters to create—and name!