Scapegoat

By: Anne Boleyn

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 4th Mar 2022

“You smell like a leper’s dick.” said the queen. Anne was never a morning person, but London’s March fog was at its worst just after dawn, vaporous tendrils wringing out what remained of her pleasantness. The grass crunched beneath her black carriage boots, hidden by a voluminous plum dress a handmaiden helped her into just a half-hour before. The coffee steaming from her cup was scalding hot and delightfully bitter. She debated throwing it on her husband, Henry Tudor, Eighth of His Name, Defender of the Faith, Lump of Utter Shit. The dryness in her throat stayed the queen’s hand and so, she sipped and glared.

 

The king’s pantaloons betrayed a moistness, thigh level and crotchward. Were it not for the coloration, Henry would’ve appeared to have pissed himself. But the green and red ichor soaking the fabric bore the distinct odour of rot. Anne found herself hoping that the lance which pierced her husband was coated in some exotic poison, perhaps something Eastern and untreatable with English medicine. “It’s a jousting wound, hag,” said Henry. “Pardon me for having some appreciation for physical activity.”

 

That amused the queen, and so she tittered in a way she knew he found most annoying. “Oh, I have a great deal of appreciation for physical activity. Perhaps you should consult an anatomist regarding the female form, instead of deciding ‘here there be monsters’ on all the parts you don’t understand.”

 

“I understand them fine,” said Henry, attempting to mask his royal sulking. “A great many of them, in fact.”

 

Anne let out another titter and she saw the rage burn in his eyes. “They’re no different than your jousting mates, you halfwit. You poke them with your little lance and they make whatever sound they think you expect.”

 

“Baa!” said the goat. It had grazed contentedly during their argument, but now saw fit to interrupt. The beast stared at them with dull expectation, one eye on the queen and one on the king.

 

“Quite the specimen,” Anne said miserably, taking another drink of coffee. “So this is the beast you’ll be blaming for all your indiscretions.”

 

The king let out a phlegmy groan. “It’s an ancient custom. We put all our misdeeds, all our bad feelings, all our bullshit onto this goat.” He motioned to the beast, which looked between them stupidly, tongue lolling limply from its mouth, before its eyes  began to drift in opposite directions. “Then we chase it off and it takes all our failings with it.”

 

“Stupid,” Anne said, looking to her husband, to the goat and back to her husband, still unsure of which one of them she was addressing. Her cup-free hand squeezed into a fist, the knuckle of her index finger resting beneath her bottom lip in consideration. “But tempting. If this doesn’t work, we’re only out one goat. What do we do?”

 

“Think of something you’ve done wrong,” Henry explained. “A failure, an embarrassment, an actual hand-to-God sin. And blame the goat. Like this.” The king approached the goat, which seemed unable to decide if it would like to continue grazing, looking from grass to sky, on and on. “You’re… a bit of a glutton, goat.”

 

“A bit?” Anne asked. The goat looked back with guiltless obliviousness. “Nothing you want to throw in their about chambermaids?” The king shrugged, but his face went as red as his beard. “Fine,” Anne spat. “Goat, you really shouldn’t have fucked that druid. Or that cobbler. Or that myriad of stableboys, who despite their disadvantages seem to have a greater knowledge of erogenous zones than their king.”

 

Henry squinted. “What the fuck is an erogenous zone?”

 

♕♛♕♛♕♛♕♛

 

Anne’s growing awareness of New York City did little to mitigate the alienness of the concrete jungle she awoke in some months ago, but even in an age of skyships and portal phones the queen could find comfort in the consistency of commerce, evolving through the centuries and yet ever unchanging. To barter was one of humanity’s oldest and greatest impulses. Anne scratched her economic itch throughout the blocks and boroughs of Manhattan, unearthing shoppes and showrooms that a person with more modern sensibilities might overlook. Following her failure in the strange land of Dizz Knee, she sought an item common in nature, plentiful in every part of the world except for the Unsleeping City.

 

Her gutterbirds scouted well, their coos echoing avian mysteries shared among their diseased brethren. The thing Anne sought was not far off from the Great Green Park, hidden in an alley beneath brick and grime. The shopkeeper shunned haggling, writing his price down earlier that day so that a pigeon could carry it back to the queen. She found the terms agreeable and so arrived at dusk, the payment in tow.

 

The twenty gallons of milk did quite a bit of clanking as Anne carted them over, but the arming sword strapped to her back was enough to dissuade any dairy bandits. The one-hundred pigeons were quieter, as their necks had already been snapped before they were piled into a burlap sack. It was a sad bit of business for the queen, a high price demanded of her, but she committed the atrocity with disconnected silence. From the windows and rafters of her loft, the surviving pigeons watched her, their black eyes full of judgment. But the queen would not be discouraged. To overcome failure, one must not abide weakness of any sort. Even in the face of pigeocide.

 

The shopkeeper counted every bird, his filthy hands shuffling through them like feathered cards. He gave her a nod when he reached the hundredth, then disappeared into the darkness of his shop. A gentle clopping followed his return and he held a bit of rope, which he passed off to the queen. She gave it a tug and her purchase arrived, a black-coated billy that looked every bit as dullwitted as the one she and Henry chased off centuries earlier. It greeted the queen with an echoing “Baa!”

 

“Prepare yourself, goat,” Anne said. “You’re in for quite the scaping.”

 

♕♛♕♛♕♛♕♛

 

The Great Green Park would serve as an appropriate place to begin the scaping. Before she chased it from Manhattanshire with all her failings in tow, Anne felt an obligation to let the beast graze. With a mere point to her sword, Anne was able to cut down any potential objections from parkgoers, and so the queen decided to sit and let the goat eat its fill. “Used to be, a goat-blood pentagram was enough to summon this or that demon,” Anne explained, running her hands over the blade as it teetered on her lap. “But given my entanglement with this Goatraven, demons would only serve to further complicate matters. Delightful as it would be to see him dragged off to hell, worry not. You have my word that I’m not going to slaughter you.”

 

The goat looked at her, eyes full of accusation. Anne felt wounded. “I admit it. To build a princess army and conquer the Kingdom of Dizz Knee, that was perhaps my greatest folly. Magic is terribly unpredictable, what was I to expect in a land full of it? Of course, it’s not fair that I drag you into this, to bear the burden of my failures. But life can be terribly unfair, goat.” She tugged at her collar, giving her neck scar a quick scratch.

 

“Baa?” said the goat, eyes bereft of understanding.

 

“There is solace in simplicity,” Anne said. “Unfortunately, I’ve always been too unsimple for my own good. Yet here I am, talking to a goat I’m about to blame all my failures on, instead of doing the disgustingly modern thing and…” The queen sighed. “Correcting them.”

 

Uninterested, the goat went back to crunching on grass.

 

“Well,” Anne decided. “With no more than a vacant expression, you’ve left me utterly disgusted with myself. This is the sort of capricious nonsense Eight was ever so fond of. Avoiding responsibility for his own faults as if it were the plague. I’m not quite up on the science, but I believe your plague is different than our plague. Still, an appropriate saying.”

 

Anne seized the handle of the sword and jabbed the blade into the ground, using it to leverage her way back to a standing position. The goat looked back at her, and she raised the sword to its throat. “Could still do that pentagram, but I have no desire for further bloodshed. Not until I get my claws into Goatraven.” The blade passed under the rope around the goat’s neck. With a tug, Anne sliced the sword through the rope and watched it tumble to the grass. She gave the goat a head pat and he responded with a manic twitch.

 

“Be free, goat. Go forth with no sins but your own. I shall do likewise.”

 

♕♛♕♛♕♛♕♛

 

Taxidermied nightmares of horned ravens and black-winged goats flanked the camera on all sides, posed at odd and unnatural angles, bodies contorted in frozen fits of chimera madness. A voiced echoed, familiar but electronically enhanced for a touch of the dramatique.

 

Goatraven.”

 

It was growl both bestial and infernal, but a cough removed the audio effect. Eyes opened, catching the light on the other end of the stuffed monstrosities. 

 

“You have cost me a queendom, Goatraven. Not the sort of thing I can abide, and though your enthusiasm for waxing your wick has won you no shortage of enemies, it shall be I who clips your wings, breads them, fries them and smothers them in garlic parmesan. If you’re quite so precious to Atara the Greek, then she shall have to retrieve yourself from Tartarus itself when I’m done with you.”

 

The lights rose, making the chimeras cast blaphemous shadows on the wall. The queen herself was illuminated, seated on the floor, legs crossed beneath the expansive skirt of a plum gown. A plate of wings sat before her, some eaten down to the bone, others still covered in room temperature meat. The queen took a meated one, but used it for gesticulation instead of munching.

 

“Whatever unholy coupling of beast and demon and human sired you, Goatraven, I am unintimidated and steadfast in my desire to bury a sword in your guts. Even keep you alive with science and sorcery, sewing all manner of lesser creatures onto you, some whole and some in pieces. Until you’re the sort of anatomical nightmare that has no place in the world of light, forever doomed to ride through the darkest night in the company of other unspeakables. But…”

 

The queen bit into the wing, pearl-tinted teeth rending meat from bone.

 

“Any tortures will, of course, have to wait until after I’ve subdued you between the ropes and dragged your body off to its final torments. Fair warning, I have considered bringing a sword. While I’m well aware such weapons are unsanctioned under normal circumstances, I suspect that any referee will be too crazed with fear to stop me. And given our physical dissimilarities, I consider it not cheating, but something more akin to enhancing fairness. You, Goatraven, are responsible for instilling within me the desire to stab you. Thus, any reasonable person can see that you are will be at fault for your own stabbing. Under simpler circumstances, I would stick your head on a spike, but I can hardly have Atara the Greek skulking about my collection of spiked heads trying to discern which is yours after the pigeons have made a feast of its more distinguishing features, all so she can tongue its dead mouth and paw at a torso that is no longer attached.”

 

Her current wing relieved of its meat, Anne snapped the bone in two, leaving a jagged shard. She examined it.

 

“My great failure rests upon your shoulders, Goatraven. Will you bear the burden like mighty Atlas or will your hollow bones shatter beneath its weight? Whatever may come, I shall rend goat from raven until only a man stands before me.”

 

Wings fluttered behind her, coos echoing from the dark.

 

“And whatever’s left over… Well, that’s for the birds.”

 

The fluttering continued, a legion of black eyes flying at the camera on dirty grey wings. The queen’s eyes lingered a moment, and then were gone, to the final sound of another bone snapping.