As I realize I forgot to bring my laptop charger with me to San Diego Comic-Con (come visit me at Booth 2000, by the way), I'm posting a story from the new book, BADASS: ULTIMATE DEATHMATCH. Incidentally, this woman also features in my new badass kickstarter campaign where we're trying to make a regular deck of playing cards featuring 52 great badasses from history.)
Boudicca is one of the few people in history to have a statue of themselves prominently displayed in a city they're famous for burning to the ground.
The story of how the fiery slaughter and wanton ruination of the city of London became so fondly remembered begins in the year 61 AD, when some painfully-uninteresting ruler of the Iceni tribe of northern Britannia had the audacity to die of old age and leave behind the most tragically-misunderstood will in the history of last wills and testaments. Without getting too much into the mind-numbing world of common law litigation, when this old codger kicked it, he left behind a poorly-spelled hand-written note in crayon and food coloring that granted control of his tribe to his wife (and co-ruler) – an iron-spined, well-respected Celtic warrior-babe known as Boudicca – but that also made the Roman Emperor a co-ruler of the land as well. Because the Iceni were a client-state of Rome, he figured he didn't really have much say in the matter in the first place, but with this terrible will he unwittingly gave Rome more power than it already had over his people, and probably gave his attorney an aneurysm in the process.
Well the Roman Emperor at this time was a guy named Nero. For those of you who don't have alarm bells going off in your head when you read that name, Nero is famous for being a complete bastard who assassinated his own mother, executed anyone who disagreed with him, "accidentally" burned Rome to the ground, and was so despised by his own people that he eventually cried himself to death in a hysterical fit of emo self-loathing. Needless to say, this wasn't the sort of self-righteous prick who saw some barbarian Queen as his socio-political equal, and he certainly wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to seize a prime strip of the Britannia countryside from the hands of some uncivilized sheep-sodomizers from BFE.
Within days of the chieftain's death, Nero's representative in Britannia, an even-more obnoxious human colostomy bag named Decianus Catus, showed up in Iceni lands with a few hundred Roman troops, promptly confiscated Boudicca's crown, stripped the tribe's noblemen of their land, and held pretty much every single person in the realm upside down by their ankles and shook them until the change fell out of their pockets. Nobles and royal family members were enslaved, regular peasants were force-conscripted into the Roman Army, Boudicca was publicly whipped for "insolence," and her daughters were viciously raped by Roman soldiers.
This, of course, only succeeded in making Boudicca angry. And you wouldn't like Boudicca when she's angry.
The new Queen of the Iceni – a hellraising gore-fanatic known as Boudicca – was a ferocious, skull-crushing force of nature capable of unleashing an epic fury-driven murder-rage so unbelievably foul that, according to legend, within days of Decianus Catus' incursion, the people living in nearby Roman cities actually started having wild visions of their impending apocalyptic doom. All across Britannia, horror-movie-grade eyewitness reports started rolling in of some seriously heavy shiz: The ocean waters were turning red with blood. Corpses were washing up on the beach, only to disappear when the authorities showed up. Torrents of blood were raining from the sky. Burning houses were allegedly flipped upside-down like parked cars after an EPL soccer riot. Totally jacked-up Four Horsemen / Plagues of Egypt stuff.
Even if these visions weren't just mass hysteria hallucinations brought on by reports of Boudicca's limitless desire to personally eat the faces off of every Roman in Britannia, they were pretty good descriptors of what happened next. Shaking with righteous anger, the warrior-queen pulled herself together, painted half of her body blue, received the blessing of the badass creepy Stonehenge Druids, called her countrymen together, and publicly told them, "Let us show them they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves… the gods will grant us the vengeance we deserve."
It was on. Big time.
Amped up on Red Bull and sporting raging killboners the Iceni men, women, and adolescents went totally Beast Mode and started charging across the countryside taking torches and chainsaws to every item larger than a matchbook. The flood of barbarian rage-flesh blitzed into the nearby city of Colchester, mercilessly wiped out the garrison (the same legionaries who had perpetrated the crimes against the Iceni), massacred the entire civilian population of the city, then waded through knee-deep rivers of gore to set fire to every structure they could find. A handful of quick-thinking Romans took refuge inside the one building in the city that wasn't capable of bursting into flames – the giant stone temple of the God-Emperor Claudius – but after the Britons were done destroying the town they simply kicked in the front doors, decapitated everyone inside, pulled the structure apart brick-by-brick, and then broke the bricks into dust and stuffed them down their pants.
And Boudicca was just getting started. This human mushroom cloud of a woman stood on the charred ashes of Colchester, amidst heaps of mutilated burning corpses, and delivered a pump-up speech inspiring her bloodlusting warriors to continue execrating their cruel vengeance on the world.
According to contemporary sources, the mighty war-queen cut an imposing figure – she was tall, strong, and fully-committed to the cause, with a harsh, commanding voice that demanded respect and obedience from anyone who heard her, kind of like a sexy Saruman. A fierce-to-death warrior in her own right, Boudicca also personally rode into battle on a badass giant war chariot, carrying a large scrotum-piercing spear and shanking the nuts off of all who crossed her.
Rome eventually got their junk together, figured out that Boudicca wasn't just going to "get over" the whole public-flogging, daughter-raping thing, and marched a full Legion of Rome's toughest warriors out to meet her on the field of battle. The veterans of Legio IX Hispania positioned themselves directly in the path of the Iceni warriors, formed battle lines, and prepared to meet the charge head-on.
The Ninth Legion was slaughtered almost to the last man, merely a speed bump for Boudicca's war chariots as they hauled ass across the ravaged countryside.
When the lightly-armed, under-manned Roman garrisons in Britannia heard that a full-strength Roman Legion just got its face rearranged by a horde of screaming dudes who painted themselves blue and came sprinting out of the woods chucking severed human heads like 90-mile-an-hour fastballs, they immediately tucked their balls away, dropped their pila, and made a mad dash for the nearest fallout shelter, giving Boudicca free reign to have her ultraviolent way with the people of Britain. She headed south, to present-day London, which at the time was already a decent-sized city bustling with industry and lucrative trade. She put the entire population to death, finger-painted amateur artwork in their blood and then immolated London with fires so obscenely hot that the entire city melted into a ten-inch-thick layer of scorched earth that can allegedly still be seen whenever London construction companies dig foundations for large buildings. After this they hit Verulamium, wiping that city off the map forever, then stabbed, burned, crucified and/or otherwise killed the entire human population as sacrifices to the gods. In just a few months of total war, the Warrior Queen of the Iceni had annihilated three major cities, refusing to spare a single town, village, estate, or farm in between. The death toll of her rampage is believed to be something like 70,000 people, a number that doesn't include the five thousand men of Ninth Legion who were now high-fiving Mars in the afterlife.
At this point, everybody realized that things were getting totally out of hand. Unfortunately, there was only one Roman Legion left in Britannia – a mere five thousand veteran warriors staring down a teeming, unruly horde of spine-snapping barbarians who had up to this point responded to all opposition by rolling decapitated heads like bowling balls into their formations and then face-kicking the survivors unconscious with spiked boots. The Legion commander, a grizzled-as-Eastwood hardass known as Suetonius Paulinus, knew he was the last hope for Roman Britain – if he were unable to stop Boudicca's death march the Iceni hordes would easily overrun the remaining cities on the island, execute the entire population in even crueler and more unusual ways, and throw the Empire out on its ass. Failure would not be an option.
A sample card from my kickstarter.
Seriously, please fund this thing.
You know you want this in your next Royal Flush.
So, in true badass Roman fashion, Suetonius Paulinus resolved to make a stand – to solve this way-out-of-control situation in an all-or-nothing deathmatch against impossible odds. And so, outnumbered ten-to-one by blue dudes with gigantic axes and spears, he drew up a battle line right in front of the Briton horde, hoping to take advantage of their newfound-overconfidence by forcing them to fight on a field of the Roman commander's choosing. Suetonius put his men at the top of a hill, flanked by super-steep inclines on either side with a dense forest covering his back – there would only be one direction from which Boudicca could attack, and the field was small enough that he could block the entire hill while still cycling fresh troops in and out of the fray. Suetonius was certain she wouldn't pass up the opportunity if it presented itself.
Boudicca didn't disappoint. Eager to end the war in one final blood-soaked deathstroke, the blood-drenched Queen marched her entire tribe straight into the valley after Suetonius' tiny yet dedicated force. The Iceni were so confident of their victory that they brought their baggage trains with them to the battlefield, loaded up with the soldiers' families so they could all witness the final destruction of the Roman Empire in Britain firsthand. 80,000 beefy barbarians rushed straight-on into a solid wall of Roman tower shields. When they got close enough, they threw human heads. The Romans threw javelins back.
The javelins were slightly more effective.
Disoriented by a whistling volley of polished javelins impaling their bravest warriors, the Iceni charge faltered somewhat, and, their tower shields raised and braced, the Roman lines somehow withstood the tremendous crush of Briton fury. Suetonius' disciplined veterans frantically stabbed out between their shields with their short swords in a shank-tastic frenzy of groin-stabs, cutting down the Britons while they struggled to swing their oversized weapons in such tight quarters. The Briton charge stalled, broke, and before long it was the Romans who were pushing their adversaries backwards – straight into the baggage train they'd brought along with them. Suetonius ordered a full-on charge, unleashed his cavalry, and chomped through them like a fat kid obliterating an oversized handful of cotton candy at the county fair as the Iceni desperately struggled to flee the field. Boudicca herself managed to fight her way out through the carnage, but when the smoke cleared she was left with only about a quarter of her once-mighty force. Seeing her triumphant army now horribly mutilated beyond recognition, she chugged some poisonous Jell-O shots and died. For her efforts in boldly defying Rome to her last breath and leading her people to glorious (if only temporary) victories against their hated enemies, Boudicca's people gave her queen a hero's burial, entombing her with a horde of royal gold that to this day has never been found. Nowadays there's an appropriately-epic statue of her standing near the Parliament buildings in London (you know, the city she burned to the ground), and she's also got about a half-dozen British Navy warships named after her.