About the passage of the Gauls into Italy we have received the following account. Whilst Tarquinius Priscus was king of Rome, the supreme power amongst the Celts, who formed a third part of the whole of Gaul, was in the hands of the Bituriges; they used to furnish the king for the whole Celtic race.
Ambigatus was king at that time, a man eminent for his own personal courage and prosperity as much as for those of his dominions. During his sway the harvests were so abundant and the population increased so rapidly in Gaul that the government of such vast numbers seemed almost impossible.
He was now an old man, and anxious to relieve his realm from the burden of over-population. With this view he signified his intention of sending his sister's sons Bellovesus and Segovesus, both enterprising young men, to settle in whatever locality the gods should by augury assign to them.
They were to invite as many as wished to accompany them, sufficient to prevent any nation from repelling their approach. When the auspices were taken, the Hercynian forest was assigned to Segovesus; to Bellovesus the gods gave the far pleasanter way into Italy.
He invited the surplus population of six tribes —the Bituriges, the Averni, the Senones, the Aedui, the Ambarri, the Carnutes, and the Aulerci.
Starting with an enormous force of horse and foot, he came to the Tricastini. Beyond stretched the barrier of the Alps, and I am not at all surprised that they appeared insurmountable, for they had never yet been surmounted by any route, as far at least as unbroken memory reaches, unless you choose to believe the fables about Hercules.
Whilst the mountain heights kept the Gauls fenced in as it were there, and they were looking everywhere to see by what path they could cross the peaks which reached to heaven and so enter a new world, they were also prevented from advancing by a sense of religious obligation, for news came that some strangers in quest of territory were being attacked by the Salyi.
These were Massilians who had sailed from Phocaea. The Gauls, looking upon this as an omen of their own fortunes, went to their assistance and enabled them to fortify the spot where they had first landed, without any interference from the Salyi.
After crossing the Alps by the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro, they defeated the Tuscans in battle not far from the Ticinus, and when they learnt that the country in which they had settled belonged to the Insubres, a name also borne by a canton of the Haedui, they accepted the omen of the place and built a city which they called Mediolanum.
This might be a long quote, but that's all written history told us about Bellovese. Jean-Philippe Jaworski, the author of Le Sentiment du Fer took this piece and wove a wonderful set of books named "Les Rois du Monde" (Kings of the World) around Bellovese's story.
As often in this blog, those books haven't yet been translated from French to English, but I am trying to write about fantasy works in languages other than English.
When he is a young boy, Bellovese and Segovese his brother befriend a fallen druid and he teaches them the ways of the forest and the gods who live there. This druid is looking for a beautiful woman on a huge horse, he says she's his wife and he asks for the boys' help tracking her.
This divinity is Epona and it is a cavalry deity in the Roman Army where, at some points, many cavalry auxiliaries were Gauls. Jaworksi admits to also have borrowed from Epona's later incarnation, Rhiannon to build his story.
The boy succeeds in meeting Epona, she laughs at the old druid pretention, she can't even remember him, she has had so many husbands (you humans age so quickly), she makes an agreement with Bellovese before riding on (I can't remember the agreement, I am reading on, looking forward for its consequences to be revealed).
The first band of warriors around the adult Bellovese is composed of Drucco, a dangerous and pervert man, Labrios a cowardly but resourceful ex-bard, and Mapillos an ugly giant, quiet and patient, a horse whisperer. None of them are balanced, but their strengths complement and their weaknesses are covered for by their partners.
Labrios is the son of a blacksmith, but was lazy and his father apprenticed him to a bard. Things worked out well until a warrior seduced a girl Labrios was courting. The not-yet bard sung a satirical song about the warrior but got beaten. The druids judged him guilty as he used his not yet earned magical knowledge to attack for a selfish goal. The druids forbade him to ever sing again.
Drucco takes pleasure in killing and is never afraid of a fight. Bellovese fears him because he also knows out to reveal the dark side of those who fight with him.
Mapillos, is an ugly giant. Ugliness is a curse in the gallic world, the gods must have had a good reason not to grant you physical beauty. Mapillos has always been bullied. In one of his recurring dream, he is beautiful and respected and Bellovese comes up a lot. He decides to litterally follow his dream and put himself in the service of our hero. His talent with animals — "I simply love them and they love me in return" — overcomes Bellovese initial reticence and he becomes the driver of his chariot.
We're in "warrior ethos" territory. The king is surrounded by heroes and feasts are endless drinking and provocation. The best piece of meat is reserved to the greatest hero and that title may be contested on the spot.
You present your right side if you're respectful, your shield side if defiant. You give your name and the name of your father, is their honour in taking you down? You keep the heads of the heroes you defeated in oiled boxes. You feast sitting with their heads under your knees. Your name, the name of your father, the name of all the heroes you defeated.
The gods seem to have allied with the Celts. The old people vanished. The Celts are preoccupying the gods, as their hunger for iron makes them cut down trees and dig the hills, the iron turns into ever more axe heads and trees are falling.
The forest god sometimes enlists the help of a lost child to plant more trees. When the task is done, the child is the last seed the god places into the earth, with a big stone on top of him.
So far, my favourite passage is the one where Bellovese presents his first born, a daughter named Uxela, to the fireplace at the center of the house, asking for protection against the winter, the raven, and the sickness.