The arrow hit her. A dull impact. Then a fire spreading in and on her whole backside. Mab's knees gave in and she broke down. She barely could breathe. The whole world was spinning around her. Although she already clutched her hands into the sandy earth she wondered why it seemed like an unreachable distance to her. Irritation and pain crossed her mind. Then she finally collapsed fading thankfully into unconsciousness.
The men came out of the trees. Plumbatae and arrows had been thrown not only at Mab. The Pictish warriors around her lay dead or badly wounded in their blood. They had belonged to a tribe from the north. The last few months they had tried to invade on the old northern frontiers. Even now that Rome had deserted its province the small kingdoms, reigned by warlords, tried to keep their power and independence. Most of them had also converted to Christianity. Not all of them of course, like Vortigern. But the men of Aurelianus had. He was the brother of Uther the Pendragon. Even though he was the younger one of the two, he seemed far more experienced and battle-scarred. His dark hair framed a weather-beaten face. He had sharp features and was of strong stature. Uther may have been the older one and the heir apparent, but it was Aurelianus who fought his battles to success. And after their defeat of Vortigern, they had tried to clean their territories from any pagan tribes. So it had only been a matter of time when it first came to a confrontation between the Scoti, Picti and the Brythons. These struggles now kept on for quite a time.
Aurelianus kicked one of the warriors to the side. His face was painted in the usual blue patterns. He had his sword still in a tight grip, his face frozen in the mask of death. Blood was still dripping from his gaping wound where the arrow stuck in his chest. Arelianus' eyes moved from one corpse to another. "Where the devil, do all these barbarians still come from?" he muttered. He wished his brother would care more for this. But since the disaster of Cornwall, when Uther had tried to conquer Gorlois' castle and wife, his brother had more and more turned into a madman. Selfish and corrupted he now dwelt in his main hall at Cair-Guent – later known as Winchester. And it was his task now to secure the borders for the sake of their country and for the sake of god.
"Their camp must be very close, Sire!", one of his man said. Aurelianus nodded. In the moment he turned to leave the massacre behind, he saw her - a woman among the warriors. That was nothing unusual, for there were always some of them who were great fighters for their tribes. But this one was strange, for the woman looked nothing like the men around her. She probably belonged to a different tribe. Maybe they had tried to form an alliance against them. So they had to hurry. They had to find the camp before the other tribe would send more troops. He bent over her taking a closer look. She twitched her fingers for a short moment. She was still alive. That was nothing Aurelianus was pleased with. He could finish her of now, or he could make prisoners. "She is just another heathen, Sire", the general said. "Shall we capture some barbarians today?", he asked knowing his Sire would consider it, once they had found the Pictish camp. Aurelianus thought a moment about it. Of course they could catch quite a few this time, selling them to Roman traders in Gaul. This would bring them some income for the emptying treasure chambers of the king. But a wounded hostage? Perhaps she wouldn't even survive to make a good price on the slavery marked. But nevertheless he had never seen a barbarian woman as beautiful as this before. Maybe he could sell her to some of the new Frankish aristocrats in Gaul; they would pay a fair price for a beauty like this. He decided to give it a try. And on his signal the men took her onto the carriage.
Many other heathens were slain and some of them were caught this day by Aurelianus' troops. Some women, some young boys and children bound in chains were brought to Cair-Ebrauc by their carriage. They had killed the men and captured the rest. It had been a good day, Aurelianus decided. He sent healers to those of the wounded prisoners, letting them tend the more serious injuries. Dead prisoners were bad slaves to sell. In a few days he would load them all onto a ship with destination Gaul.