60 AD Ch. 02byVlinder_Fawn©
Jonas Aemilianus Julius was worried. He had sent out a small patrol to investigate rumours of a group of wild women attacking supply routes and they had not returned. Summoning his lead Centurion, Julian Nerva Latinus he asked him if there had been any news. "Sir, there was a terrible storm last night and I expect they took shelter. They should be back soon."
Jonas had a bad feeling about this. The new Governor Marcus Trebellius Maximus had trusted him with the job of capturing these women and it had to go well. Not being a Roman Citizen by birth he had fought hard and paid well to be accepted yet he always knew that he would be viewed with suspicion by those he was placed in command of. Born in region of Mount Malmasin (modern day Bilbao) he had a rugged look enhanced by his short cropped dark hair, the long scar on his right cheek and dark blue, almost black eyes. "I'll give it until the next watch then we will go looking for them. Romans shouldn't be afraid of thunder. It's our enemies who should fear Thor."
Julian saluted and returned to his duties while Jonas set about writing his report. He remembered how he had always had the ambition to lead an army, experience victory, and then be part of a triumphal return to Rome. He knew he had to set up an effective supply route but while this band of women were launching attacks it was going to be impossible. The fact that it was women made it even more embarrassing for the Romans and he knew he had to succeed.
By the middle of the day there had still been no sign of the patrol so Jonas summoned Julian again. "Take twenty men and search the valley, find out what's happened and report back. Maybe they have captured the women and are having an orgy or they might be under attack and seeking refuge in a cave". Julian clicked his heels and saluted.
Riding on horseback, Julian was accompanied by his foot soldiers as they entered the valley. The ground was wet and muddy with large brown puddles everywhere. The ground level was honeycombed with caves and every one had to be searched. Suddenly, a young soldier came running towards him. "Sir, I've found them. Or ... what's left of them."
Julian followed the young man into the cave where lay the corpses of six Roman soldiers. Their weapons had been stolen and there was a sign they had been outnumbered.
As he was coming out of the cave Julian was aware of a whooshing sound and a thud. Turning, he saw the young man fall to the ground, his brains spilling from his skull that had been smashed by a large stone hurled from a sling. More stones followed and four more of his men fell before Julian could give the order to form the turtle. Shields were held aloft and the men held their position as their attackers were forced into hand to hand fighting.
Utta was one of the first to reach ground level and she engaged a soldier in a sword fight. With a single thrust she managed to slit open the right side of his throat as his warm blood spurted out covering both of them. Turning, she saw Vala being attacked by two soldiers. Swooping down, she sounded a war cry yodel as she killed the first, and then the second.
Meanwhile, Denua was busy dislodging rocks with three other girls in an attempt to block the soldier's means of escape. One by one, they came tumbling down, making retreat difficult..
Vala managed to shout to Utta "Call them to retreat, get to safety." Seeing Utta hesitate, she shouted louder, "DO IT, DO IT NOW! GO!" As she yelled another soldier advanced on her, sword in hand, intent on killing the women's leader. Before he could get to her, Utta threw her dagger straight into his back causing blood to explode forth as the soldier screamed his death shout. "RETREAT!" Utta shouted, "RETREAT!"
With those words, she made her way to Vala to help her to her feet. Both started running up the hill while four other women gave them cover with spears, daring the Romans to come after them.
Julian echoed the command of his enemy by calling on his surviving soldiers to also pull back and not pursue the fight. On the ground lay the bodies of nine Roman soldiers and two rebel women. He tried to observe the direction the women were taking but he and his men had to take shelter because four women were standing midway up the hill launching sling shots which claimed the life of yet another soldier and badly wounded two more.
Returning to the camp Julian reported the death of the scouting party to Jonas who was even more determined to exact revenge. Just when he thought things could get no worse another report came to his ears that made him wish he had never left the home of his youth.
A messenger came into the cohort and told of the massacre of over five hundred men on the road to Noviomagvs Regnorvm (modern day Chichester).
"Sir" the Centurion messenger looked white with fear "Something very strange has happened. An entire army killed and yet it appears the blood had been completely drained from every one of them. It ... it ..." The man's voice trailed off.
"That's all I needed. Next They'll be saying the blood suckers are fighting for the Britons. Only the gods know what the Governor will say if he gets to hear about it."
For the next year the women attacked the Roman Legions as they made their way from Dubris to Verulamium while strange stories of mysterious deaths continued to circulate. On one fateful day as a small group of soldiers was crossing the River Meduwaen (modern day River Medway) the women attacked and forced them into an old deserted citadel.
There while the sling throwers were keeping resistance at bay the twelve surviving soldiers were picked off one by one. In one hand to hand battle Vala was disarmed by her opponent who thrust his sword into her left side under her rib cage puncturing her lung. Fatally wounded she cried out and crumpled to the ground.
Utta swooped in from horseback removing the soldiers head and gathering her leader in her arms taking her back to the safety of a cave.
Back in the cave it became clear that Vala was dying. The women gathered around her as she addressed them. "The gods have decreed I should be called to my ancestors but in their wisdom they have already sent my replacement". Turning towards Utta she asked solemnly, "Will you lead these women?"
With tearful eyes Utta, now nineteen years old, nodded while Vala continued. "Then my warriors, meet your new leader. Obey her as you would obey me
As the sound of their voices died away Utta instructed that the women keep watch with their dying leader until she entered the realm of the afterlife.
As dawn broke Utta was awoken by a disturbance and thought at first that the Romans were attacking. Instead, she saw Denua trying to wake a young warrior, Lufu, who seemed to be in a trance. There was no sign of Vala. "What's happening?" Utta demanded "Where's Vala?"
"Ask her" said Denua in an annoyed tone. "If you can get any sense out of her." She looked at Lufu, a dark skinned beauty, who seemed to be drunk with wine. "She's talking gibberish."
Utta squatted down next to the young woman and asked, "Are you drunk?"
Lufu shook her head.
"Did you fall asleep?"
Again the young girl's head shook.
"Then what happened? She didn't just get up and walk away!"
"That's exactly what she did do." Lufu's face glowed with sincerity. "I saw it ... I saw ... I saw ... him."
"Who?" Utta demanded, "The Roman leader? A soldier?"
"No!" Lufu said slowly, "It was ... was ... I don't know but I felt safe as he looked deep into my eyes and through them into my soul. He drew me into sleep into deep slumber." Looking round, she held Utta's gaze. "He ... he took her. The gods must have sent him to heal our leader."
Denua interrupted, "Maybe ... maybe the gods sent him to help her. Maybe she will come back to us."
"Don't be stupid. There are no gods! The Romans have discovered our hiding place and have taken Vala." Retorted Utta.
But Vala was never found, it was as though she had never even existed. Utta assumed the leadership of the band of women and for months they disrupted the supply channels of the Roman Army.
And to the women it seemed the beasts of the hills were fighting the Romans with them. On several occasions Utta and her band found small groups of soldiers dead on the ground with looks of horror frozen in their faces. The amazing thing was that there was no sign of blood being shed. It was as though whatever attacked them had drained the life fluid from their victims while keeping the flesh intact.