Title: Be Careful What You Wish For
Summary: With four words, Anne Boleyn changes History. Very slight crossover with 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to 'Tudors' or 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', and am not responsible for the creation of any of the characters that appeared on either show. All I own is the idea for this story, and the story itself.
Author's Note: I've decided to post this in the main Tudors section rather than in the crossover section because the crossover element consists of two characters who will play a minor role in the story.
16th May 1536
They were building the scaffold outside.
Three of the four women employed by Master Kingston, the Constable of the Tower, to tend to the needs of this special prisoner were visibly unnerved by the sounds of sawing and hammering below them, sounds that even the glazed windows could not muffle. They performed their duties in a distracted manner, nervous fingers turning to thumbs every time they heard a particularly loud clatter of a falling plank of wood or an oath from one of the men working diligently below, glancing anxiously back at their temporary mistress, as though they hoped that she would not be able to hear the din below. In contrast, the fourth woman went about her work calmly and efficiently, observing the other maidservants with a keen eye and occasionally glancing back at the woman sitting in the chair by the fireside.
Even if they had not known that they were tending a woman who, just a couple of weeks ago, had been the highest lady in England, even if the dark grey gown she wore had not been made of silk, carefully tailored and beautifully embroidered, while her few pieces of jewellery were of the finest quality, it would have been apparent at a glance that she was a lady.
Under the circumstances, nobody could blame her if she chose to spend her last days weeping and wailing, spewing venom against those who had brought her to this place and calling on God to strike them down for all they had done to her, but instead she was calm, almost disconcertingly so, reading silently from her book of devotions and occasionally fingering the jewelled cross she wore around her neck. If she ever flinched at any of the noises coming from outside her window, she did it so imperceptibly that none of them ever saw it.
The guise of a maid was one that the fourth woman had adopted more than once as part of her work, and one that she was bound to adopt often in the future, when ladies of rank and wealth required her services, but while many of them often treated their servants with careless contempt, this lady had been unfailingly courteous and considerate towards her attendants, quietly apologizing for the fact that they too were to be confined in this place with her when they were first presented to her but otherwise behaving as though nothing was amiss, treating them as she would have treated the ladies-in-waiting who had once attended her, in happier days.
Considering some of the things that they had heard of the lady, the first three women were pleasantly surprised by how easy she was to work for but the fourth had suspected that this would prove to be the case – and even if she hadn't, she would still have seized this opportunity to take this position, to be able to make this lady one of her clients.
Despite her relative youth, the Queen of England, once simply Lady Anne Boleyn, had been labelled with many contradictory names and once she was dead, the list would only grow longer.
People would argue over whether she had truly loved the King or if she was simply a calculating opportunist who aimed too high and paid the price, whether she was forced by her family to entice the King or whether she herself decided her actions independently, whether she should have yielded and become the King's mistress when the opportunity was first presented to her or if she was right to refuse to yield until she was promised marriage and the Queen's crown, whether she was a victim or a villain, a sinner or a saint for centuries to come, when there was nothing left of the lady but bones beneath the floor of the chapel within the precincts of the Tower of London.
Perhaps they would never reach a conclusion about her. Once she was dead, her name would not be spoken at court except in whispers, as it was the last thing that her husband was likely to want to hear. The more time that passed, the more facts that would be lost and the more myths and legends would be born, the more labels that would obscure the truth of her story.
For the fourth woman, however, only one label truly mattered.
Anyanka, patron saint of scorned women, had sought out women who had been betrayed by the men they loved for over six and a half centuries, offering them an opportunity to avenge themselves against the men who had hurt them, however they wished. She offered her services to any woman who stood in need of them, rich and poor alike, and had granted countless wishes since she was called, but this was the first time that she had had a Queen as one of her clients.
When King Henry had set aside his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, she had cherished a hope that she would be able to seek her out and give her the chance to make him pay for everything he was doing to her and their daughter but Katherine had never called out to her, would never have wished to avail of the opportunity for vengeance against those who had harmed her. With Anne, the call was faint but it was loud enough for Anyanka to be able to hear her, which meant that there was a chance that she might be ready to accept the opportunity when it was offered to her.
If she did, then Anyanka would be the envy of other vengeance demons, able to pin another face on their wall of fame, for clients of repute, a thought she found far from displeasing.
As a rule, the women attending Queen Anne in her captivity were kept locked up with her, unable to come and go as they pleased since the door was to be kept bolted.
It was an unnecessary precaution, in Anyanka's opinion.
Even if Anne was able to escape the room in which she had been held for the past two weeks, aside from during her trial, she would have been apprehended and returned to captivity before she reached the end of the corridor and, despite the popularity and effectiveness of such guises in stories for children, she would have been recognized instantly even if she donned the drab gown, white apron and cap of one of her maids and sought to escape in disguise.
The other three women chafed at their confinement and, as a result, duties like fetching hot water and clean linen, and taking away Anne's clothes to be laundered were especially popular, as it meant that they were allowed a brief respite from the close confinement of the chamber.
Etiquette, together with the demand that the prisoner be constantly monitored, meant that at least one attendant had to remain with Anne at all times but there were no arguments when Anyanka volunteered to remain with her, allowing the other three the chance to seize upon other duties that would bring them outside the chamber, at least for a short while. They had also been very eager to go along with her suggestion that, after their errands, they should eat their dinner in the refectory supplied for the use of the guards and other employees of the Tower.
For her purposes, it was best that she and Anne be alone together for as long as possible.
"Is there anything I can bring you, Your Majesty?" She asked with a deferential curtsey, trying to appear humble and awed in the Queen's presence, as the other women did, so as not to arouse suspicion that there might be something different about her but, at the same time, she wanted to appear friendly and sympathetic enough so that the other woman would be prepared to be open with her.
"No, thank you." Anne shook her head. The sunlight caught something shining around Anyanka's neck and making it gleam brightly, catching the eye. "That's a beautiful necklace." She remarked absently.
"It belonged to my grandmother, madam – a simple thing, of course." Anyanka said hastily, stuffing the necklace into the bodice of her gown before Anne could catch sight of the emerald that gleamed at its centre, knowing that there was no way that she would not notice that the jewel was too fine to belong to a simple serving woman; even if it had been bequeathed to her by a former mistress of hers, or if she had stolen it, one would expect that she would sell it rather than retaining it, as it would bring her a handsome sum. "Are you certain that I cannot get you something, some food perhaps?" She coaxed.
Anne barely touched any of the meals that were served to her, despite Master Kingston's assurances that if she had any complaints about the quality of the food, he would see to it that she was brought whatever she fancied, and his offers to send her the finest cuts from his own table if she wished. It was a wonder that she had not passed out from lack of food.
"No, thank you." Anne repeated her refusal and then, catching the disappointed look on Anyanka's face, she softened slightly, sensing her need to be able to do something, if not the reason for it. She put it down to pity, a serving woman's need to be able to find a way to make her more comfortable, knowing how short a time she had left. All of her maids walked on eggshells around her, behaving as though they were attending somebody's deathbed rather than waiting on a prisoner in the Tower. For somebody young and healthy, like Anne, it was particularly unsettling to be treated the way somebody dying of old age or a chronic illness would be treated but at least they were kind and considerate. Not many others were. "But perhaps some wine."
"Of course, madam." Anyanka said at once, hiding her victorious smile.
What could be better? She often found that a cup of wine could be of enormous benefit when it came to loosening the tongue and making her clients more... creative when it came to their wishes. She bustled about her task before Anne could change her mind and she missed this opportunity, filling the silver carafe from one of the earthenware containers in the cupboard and then, feeling the chill in the air, she held a poker in the heart of the fire for a few minutes, until the tip was red hot, before plunging it into the flagon to heat the wine. Once the wine was warm enough but not too hot, she filled one of the glass goblets and passed it to Anne.
"Thank you." Anne accepted the wine with a small smile, indicating for Anyanka to take a seat opposite her. "Please pour one for yourself," she invited. "It's cold in here, even with the fire."
As Queen, it was unthinkable for her to invite a servant to sit with her while they shared a carafe of wine but even though the title of Queen was still technically hers, she was also a condemned prisoner, worse off than the woman sitting in front of her. Tomorrow, once her maids had packed away her things and cleaned her chamber, they would be recompensed for their services and free to leave the confines of the Tower a few shillings wealthier for their stay. By that time, Anne would be dead, her ashes scattered to the four winds if she was burned to death or her remains hastily interred in an unmarked grave in the chapel if she was to be beheaded.
"Thank you, madam." Filling a second goblet, Anyanka sat down in the chair in front of her, sipping at her own wine and waiting for Anne to take some of hers, instinctively knowing that if she hoped to get this woman to speak to her, her best bet would to be to say as little as possible and to wait for Anne to speak when she was ready to.
"You know, when I was a girl I served at the court of Margaret of Austria." Anne said after a few minutes of silence, looking into the burning embers glowing at the heart of the fire rather than meeting Anyanka's eyes, smiling absently at the memory of a happier, simpler time. "Oh, it was a wonderful time, pageants and dances... so many dances." She tore her gaze away from the fire to look at Anyanka, looking more animated than any of her attendants had seen her since she was first brought to the Tower. "I once appeared as the Queen of the Amazons, with a naked sword in my hand and a crimson headdress with a great plume!"
Her sister Mary had been green with envy, as had all of the other girls, when the plum part of the Queen was given to Anne. With hindsight, Anne could see that the pageant in question, one staged especially to showcase the talent of the children of the Archduchess' court, was the secondary entertainment of the night and that she, the youngest and smallest of the girls given into the charge of the formidable Archduchess for her education, had been chosen for the part of Queen as much for comic effect as for the fact that she was the best dancer but at the time, it had been the greatest thrill of her short life. It was only a couple of months later that her father contacted the Archduchess, asking that his daughters be released from her service to go to France.
Anne cried when she learned that she would have to leave.
Anyanka smiled at the reminiscing, almost ready to make a remark of her own but seeing from Anne's face that she had more to say, she held her tongue.
"But Margaret was wise too. She said to us: 'Trust in those who offer you service and in the end, my maidens, you will find yourselves in the ranks of those who have been deceived.'"
"Wise words." Anyanka said quietly, injecting just the right note of sympathy in her voice to let the other woman know that she saw the meaning behind her words.
"Very wise." Anne agreed, returning her gaze to the fire, contemplating it and wondering if she might be forced to face the flames tomorrow, if she was to be the Queen of England who fulfilled the prophecy that one of their number would be burned or if Henry, out of whatever shred of compassion or mercy he possessed, out of whatever lingering affection he had for her or even out of fear that he would be badly thought of if he allowed his wife and the mother of his child to be burned at the stake, would grant her the final kindness of a quick death by decapitation.
"It's so cruel!" Anyanka burst forth, her indignant outburst – only half feigned – getting Anne's attention and pulling her from her reverie. "After everything, for him to treat you like this!"
"The King is only doing what he thinks he must." Anne said, the steadiness of her voice belying the turmoil of her emotions. She honestly did not know which would be preferable; that Henry was convinced that she had truly betrayed him and that her conviction resulted from her enemies' lies poisoning his mind against her rather than from his own wish to destroy her, but that he would always think such evil of her or if it would be better if he knew that she was innocent, knew that she had never betrayed him and never even wanted to but that he was still willing to allow her to be condemned to death, for a crime he knew she had not committed, in order to free himself to marry that wretched Seymour wench! "He thinks that he must have a son in order to keep this country safe, and he believes that he will not get one from me." She added quietly, thinking that if she had not lost her son earlier in the year, it could all have been so different.
Their son would have made Henry see that she was his heart's true love, and Mistress Seymour would have been banished back to Wolf Hall in short order, never to set foot at court again.
"He has nobody but himself to blame for that – everybody knows why you lost your son," Anyanka assured the other woman. "And we know that it was not your fault. It was all the King and that Seymour woman." Anne did not answer and, for a moment, Anyanka feared that she had pushed her too far, too fast and that she would withdraw from the conversation, unwilling to say another word but there was an angry glint in Anne's eyes that told her that there was still a chance. "I just hate to think that, after what he's doing to you, he's probably going to get exactly what he wants. Don't you just wish..." She trailed off, hoping that Anne would pick up on the train of thought and finish her sentence by expressing a wish for a suitable punishment for her faithless, ruthless husband but she did not. "If the King was my husband, I'd wish that he was never able to lie with another woman again, not without his member erupting in boils and him being struck by every foul pox known to man." She prompted hopefully.
She thought that that sounded like a very fitting punishment for Henry of England, and she was ready and willing to inflict it on him if Anne gave her the word.
Anne merely shrugged. "It doesn't matter now."
She had less than a day left to live.
If Henry wanted to marry Jane once she was dead, she couldn't stop him and after tomorrow, it would not affect her in any way.
Much as she would have preferred it if Elizabeth remained her father's heir, she knew her husband well enough to know that he would get his male heir somehow. If Jane Seymour failed – and she doubted that Henry would give her more than a year, perhaps two to try before he grew bored of her pallid face and insipid sweetness and wanted a more intelligent, passionate companion – then he would quickly find some pretext for ridding himself of her so that he could try with a fourth wife, if he did not decide that it would be simpler to concoct some charge or another to send Jane to the scaffold in her turn, casting himself as her victim and telling himself that he had been betrayed once more, and that he had every right to rid himself of she who betrayed him.
Now that he had learned his power, learned that he could send his wife, an anointed Queen, to the scaffold when she no longer pleased him, why would he ever again choose to put himself through the difficulty of seeking an annulment when there was a much quicker way for him to free himself?
If no wife could give him a son, she wouldn't be surprised if, the next time Henry got a bastard son on one of his mistresses – or the next time one of his mistresses bore a son, and was able to convince Henry that he was the one who fathered the boy – he would do whatever it took to make that boy his heir, even if he had to write a new law to achieve his aim.
How would Mary feel if, instead of losing the place of heir presumptive to Elizabeth, she had to stand by and watch her father's bastard son by a common slut feted as England's next ruler?
"Of course it matters!" Anyanka snapped at her before covering her impatience with a hasty show of deference before Anne could get really angry with her and demand that she leave her alone, unwilling to converse with her any further. "Forgive me, Your Majesty."
"There's nothing to forgive." After everything that had happened over the past weeks, weeks during which nobody had dared to speak for her, it was comforting to know that somebody sympathized with her and was indignant on her behalf. It was likely that this maidservant, who had been in her service for a mere fortnight, would be more willing to speak for her than any of the courtiers, including those who owed much of their advancement to her.
Anyanka was silent for a few more minutes before she tentatively broached the subject again. "After everything, don't you wish that you could make him pay for what he's doing to you?"
Anne shrugged again, looking into the fire.
Anyanka suppressed a sigh, thinking, and not for the first time, that her job would be so much easier if she could just lay all her cards out on the tables for her clients from the beginning, explaining to them that she had the power to grant their wishes, allowing them to take their revenge on those who had wronged them and helping them to come up with the best possible punishment but that would never be allowed. Some of them were so uncreative when it came to their wishes that she would have loved to be able to give them some tips.
D'Hoffryn was of the belief that the most effective wishes came from those who had no idea what the effect of their words would be, believing that if people knew that their wishes were going to come true, they would temper their anger and that, in all probability, at least some of them would feel guilty later, when their wishes came true. The last thing they wanted was to have repentant women coming to them with blubbering pleas for their wishes to be reversed and the man they ill-wished spared the agony he was enduring, as they could not bear the sight of his suffering.
The cost of reversing a wish was far too high for them to take that chance.
Anyanka had not been a vengeance demon for six and a half centuries for nothing, however.
She had learned to read potential clients and to gauge the likelihood of them availing of the opportunity she presented them with and she suspected that even if she had told Anne exactly why she was here and exactly what she was offering, explaining her power in detail and making it clear to her that she could avenge herself on her faithless husband however she pleased, no matter how vindictive she wanted to be, no matter how harsh a punishment she chose to inflict on him for the way he wronged her, the other woman would have declined to wish on Henry the punishment he richly deserved. Despite everything that had happened, despite everything that he had done to her, she still loved him and she would not want to see him hurt.
However, that did not mean that there was nothing that Anyanka could do for her...
"That Mistress Seymour!" She spat the woman's name as though it left a foul taste in her mouth, aware that, in cases like these, her clients were often angrier with the woman who had attracted their man's attention than they were with the man himself. It made no difference to her which of them Anne wished to avenge herself on. "She truly is the wickedest of hussies to try to sink her claws into the King, putting on such a mask of virtue – and worse still, she kept up the pretence, even when she saw what the cost would be. I suppose the price is an easy one to pay if you are not the one paying it." She remarked, smiling inwardly when she saw Anne's involuntary nod and the way her lips and brow twisted in a scowl at the mention of the woman's name.
She was about to prompt her with the magic words again when Anne took them out of her mouth.
Outside, there was a clatter and an exclaimed oath as one of the workmen dropped one of the planks he was carrying. Anne shuddered at the sound, wondering if it had been a deliberate cruelty on the parts of her captors to arrange for the erection of the scaffold on which the blood of four innocent men, and perhaps her own blood, was to spilled just below her lodgings, to rob her of any peace she might have been able to find in her prison. Her voice was whisper-soft when she uttered her next words, unaware of how eagerly Anyanka was waiting to hear them.