To Cinders and Ash
Disclaimer: The characters from BTVS and The Tudors belong to their respective owners not I. The following story is for entertainment purposes only. No profit is being made on the following.
As the horse drawn carriage drew closer to Kimbolton Castle Lady Ann Wakefield knew something was terribly off. Forgoing all sense of propriety she shot out of the carriage like the hounds of hell itself were nipping at her heels. Ann’s hurried stride broke into an all out run towards the heavy double doors ahead. The brunette knocked and banged for what seemed an eternity until the doors finally cracked open to reveal the distraught countenance of Lady Elizabeth Darrell.
“No.” Ann breathed in denial but Elizabeth’s crumbling expression was all the confirmation she needed. “I hadn’t been away very long. I thought there would be more time.”
For a brief moment no other words were uttered by the two women. Elizabeth pulled Ann indoors and enveloped her rigid form into a tender hug. Ann’s deep brown eyes peered beyond Elizabeth to the stairwell leading to her mistress’s chambers. A lump formed in her throat. She was too late. She failed.
“When did the queen pass?” Ann asked her voice dull and muted. She sounded nothing like her usual exuberant self.
The elder of the two took a deep steadying breath and led Ann to a seat at the table.
“Early this morn,” Elizabeth replied as they sat. “Queen Katherine was in great pain in body and heart; the Lord in His great wisdom saw fit to bring His child home.” Elizabeth touched her finger tips to her forehead, her sternum, and to each shoulder in the name of the Holy Trinity. Ann followed suit muttering an Amen under her breath.
The ladies fell into silence for a time each dwelling upon their own thoughts until Ann broke the quiet.
“I’m sorry for not being here. I should have returned earlier. Perhaps I should not have left in the first place.”
Elizabeth covered Ann’s hand with her own and shook her head in gentle reproach. “Nay, ‘tis no fault of yours Lady Ann. Do not forget that. You’ve been a godsend. I hardly know what I would have done without you.”
Ann looked down at her lap.
“I could have done more.” The younger woman stubbornly insisted. “I always forget how little time people have.”
“Now you listen to me you stubborn girl. I know that you do not like to hear this, but there is only so much that is in fact humanly possible. You have gone above and beyond your duty in service to our lady. Be content in that and leave the rest to God.”
The brunette fidgeted under Elizabeth’s solemn gaze but wisely, for once, held her peace. Lady Ann Wakefield was a curious one to be sure. She was a right spritely girl blessed with the sort of comely features lords at court would surely fall all over themselves for. Ann came from a well respected family and possessed a clever sharp tongue that spoke of an indulgent father and an education above the kind usually granted to noble women. She was an impish one to be sure, but would have no trouble garnering a most advantageous match.
Lady Elizabeth could certainly relate. She too chose to forgo court life in the age of Anne Boleyn in favor attending England’s forsaken Queen. Katherine of Aragon was kind hearted righteous woman. The prospect of leaving her to grovel at the feet of King Henry’s mistress left a sour taste in Elizabeth’s mouth. She could not do it.
Ann jumped to her feet and began to pace. After serving together these past few weeks Elizabeth had only just begun to understand the rhythm of Ann’s peculiar ways, but this display of agitation was simple to discern. It was easier to rail in fury than to drown in grief.
“‘Tis is not fair, Lady Elizabeth.” The girl said turning devastated eyes to the other woman. “Queen Katherine dies of a miserable illness, denied the comfort and aid of her only daughter, while King Henry and that whore tear apart this country and reap the rewards of their treachery. There is no justice in the world.”
“For all that is holy be still your foolish tongue! What you so recklessly profess is treasonous upon pain of death.” Elizabeth hissed out as she looked about the room and then marched to the corridors to ensure there had been no one near to hear those dangerous words. Turning back to Ann who appeared no less mutinous she said, “This is God’s will. It is not our place to question His plan.”
Something flickered across young Ann’s face at the mention of God but it was gone so fast Elizabeth was sure she had imagined it.
Casting her eyes down Ann relented.
“I apologize for my rash words. They were…inappropriate I think. I grieve for the Queen and nothing I say comes out as I would wish them to.”
Elizabeth nodded and gifted her assistant with a sad smile.
“Yes, if there is one thing that stands out about you, Lady Ann, above all others it is your proclivity towards spouting aloud anything that enters your mind. You are plain spoken to a fault, but I think Queen Katherine liked that most about you. After all the intrigue, double dealings, and politics candid speech from her lady in waiting was a breath a fresh air. I still say you must learn to temper that impetuous tongue of yours, but for the solace you provided the Queen I thank you.”
“I did naught but my duty, Lady, and it was a pittance compared to your service.” Ann said. Elizabeth and Ann sat for a time in contemplative silence until Ann, noting the hour, rose to fetch their supper.
“Tell me of the Queen when she was happy.” Ann asked as she poured the older woman another goblet of wine and Elizabeth, rosy cheeked and loose lipped, complied spilling forth tale after tale of a gentler time for Katherine and her Henry.
“They were so happy once upon a time,” Ann murmured wistfully.
“That they were.” Elizabeth agreed.
“But no more.” Ann concluded.
“Nay, no more.”
Ann shook those loose brown curls of hers in dismay as though she could barely comprehend the events of the last few days let alone the last few years. “Katherine of Aragon was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. She was the Queen of England, Lady Elizabeth.”
“Yes?” The blonde queried unsure of the direction of Ann’s thoughts.
“In the end Katherine’s years of devotion and sacrifice meant nothing. She became just another woman cast aside by the whims of a fickle disloyal man. If this is done to the Queen of England what hope is there for the rest of us?”
The question burned and Elizabeth did not know how to respond. This was not the sort of topic introduced into polite company. She looked up to find Ann’s brown eyes burning into her own.
The younger woman held up the wine bottle and asked, “More wine?”
Elizabeth accepted and imbibed a healthy amount of the tart refreshment while Ann continued on in that vein. The more Ann spoke the more sense she made as she damned the King and his mistress by the content of her words and their actions.
“They will probably dance and merry make upon receiving news of the Queen’s death. King Henry may as well have sent Queen Katherine to the block for all he drove her to an early grave.” Ann sighed. “Does it not anger you?”
“It does.” The blonde quietly admitted. “I’m pained to see Princess Mary declared a bastard and lose her birth right; I am sickened to see fellow Catholics persecuted for our continued belief in the true faith, and most of all I am angered to see a great queen brought low by the machinations of common harlot and her duplicitous family.”
“I hear tell of Anne Boleyn being a witch who casted her nefarious designs upon our king. What think you?”
“A witch?” Elizabeth snorted incredulously and than looked sheepishly down at her goblet thinking perhaps it better to refrain from more wine. “Hardly, I believe it far simpler than witchcraft. The king tired of a wife who could not bear a healthy male heir and sought to replace her through the ugliest means possible. I have never understood it all really.”
“To what do you refer?”
Elizabeth turned to face her companion fully.
“Why was the king so sure Queen Katherine was at fault? Perhaps he was the reason she was never able to beget a son. Perhaps ‘Queen Anne’ will fail in her duty on those very same grounds. King Henry would not be so gracious in the face of such failure I am sure. I wish I could see that!” Elizabeth laughed.
The warm expression on Ann’s face turned to stone as a smirk crept to the corners of the younger woman’s lips. A sudden chill ran up Elizabeth’s spine. In the blink of an eye spritely young Ann was no more. In her place stood a demon hideous and terrifying to behold.
“Done.” It ominously intoned.
A/N: I hope it was clear enough but if you didn’t get it: Anya/Anyanka was Ann Wakefield.