tinfoiltennis: A woman standing on a beach, holding a model ship and looking away from the viewer (✎ wtf is this shite)
✎ Fel's Creative Journal ([personal profile] tinfoiltennis) wrote2010-12-16 01:07 pm

✎ chapterfic - hetalia/ebz - it was not meant that we should voyage far [4/?]

Title: It was not meant that we should voyage far. [4/?]
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia/Echo Bazaar
Characters: Every nation ever at one point or another. This part: America, Prussia, England, Canada, Ireland, and Scotland.
Rating: PG-13 for this chapter on account of colourful language.
Summary: An Echo Bazaar crossover AU. Fallen London: once capital of the British Empire, now home of the Bazaar, a mile underground and a boat ride away from Hell itself. Deep. Dark. Expensive. Marvellous. Here you can find everything from immortality, to unnervingly good mushroom wine.

Or so the stories go.

But stories can rarely be trusted, and all the wildest stories in the world couldn’t have prepared Alfred and Matthew Jones for what they would find when they descended into the fallen city on a journey that would lead them right into the heart of a rebellion against the Masters of the Bazaar themselves…
Word Count: This part: 3920.
Notes: The continuation of the long haul that started as my NaNo project for this year. :'> The title is from an HP Lovecraft quote, “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
Warnings: General warnings: A crossover with a (very addictive) online game, a lot of speculation and elaboration on my part on the universe of that game, human!AU, the occasional bit of 1800s sensibilities, and later on in the fic, a lot of OCs. :’> This chapter: NaNo quality writing, bad accents, and some OCs.

✎ ✎ ✎

Alfred’s eyes were fixated on the knife that was only inches away from his face. He swallowed hard and breathed in carefully, knowing that one wrong move might end up being the end of him. Shit, how had he managed to get into this situation?

“Who the hell are you, anyway?” he asked through gritted teeth, hoping his voice wasn’t shaking too much. Maybe if he kept the guy talking for long enough, he wouldn’t end up getting stabbed by him…

“You seriously haven’t heard of me?” the albino asked with an almost genuine look of surprise on his face. “What, don’t tell me that you’re new down here or something.” Alfred hesitated; would answering yes be more or less likely to get him stabbed than lying and saying no? The other man clearly took something from his pause, though, as he started laughing again, the frightening sound echoing in the street around them.

“You really are, aren’t you? No wonder you look so scared!” He smirked down at Alfred, still keeping the long knife pointed at his face. “The name’s Gilbert Beilschmidt, kid, one of the best Knife And Candle players in the whole of the Fifth City. Basically?” His smirk widened into a grin, and the blade of the knife moved to hover over Alfred’s throat. “I’m awesome.

“So are you going to let me go yet, or what?” Alfred said with an edge to his voice, conscious all the while of the painful death that awaited him if he made any sort of wrong move. “I’m not even playing this – this stupid game of yours, so you can let me go!” He swallowed again; sure, he hadn’t been stabbed or had his throat cut yet, but how did he know he wasn’t just being toyed with? He’d never had to reason with a knife-wielding mass-murderer before; this sort of thing just wasn’t supposed to happen!

“Ja, I could.” Gilbert lifted the blade of his other knife to his mouth as if considering. “But you did slow me down tonight by being here, and anyway, where’s the fun in that?” He grinned down at Alfred wickedly.

“Oh, come on!” Alfred said in frustration, feeling the panic rise in his chest again. He couldn’t die like this, not after coming so far!

“What the bloody hell is going on here?”

Both men turned in surprise, red and blue eyes searching for the owner of the new voice. Gilbert frowned and straightened up slightly. “Tch. Figures,” he muttered in distaste. Alfred looked up at him warily, hardly daring to believe his luck; what figured?

“What the fuck are you doing here at this time of night, Brows?” Gilbert called, sounding irritated.

“I was running a few errands. Not that it’s any of your business,” the stranger said in a voice that could almost be described as prim. “What are you doing here, you Prussian bastard?”

Gilbert grinned and waved a knife as evidence. “Knife And Candle,” he smirked cheerily. “You know how it is.”

The stranger made a disgusted sound in the back of his throat. “I should have guessed.” There was a pause before he asked, sounding almost personally insulted, “Is that one of my sister’s knives?”

“She let me borrow them as long as I bring them back the way I found them,” Gilbert shrugged. His boot was still on Alfred’s chest, but Alfred couldn’t help the relief flooding through him; maybe he’d forgotten about him? Normally he would have been put out at being ignored, but almost being stabbed put things in perspective a little.

“I almost hope that you don’t. You’d deserve everything she could possibly throw at you,” the second voice said sourly, the heavy sound of the stranger’s boots stopping about two feet away from where Alfred and Gilbert were. Alfred glanced towards his unlikely rescuer; there wasn’t much he could make out of him other than some large, weathered boots, a dark woolen jumper under a long coat and a shapeless cap pulled firmly over blonde hair, but the one thing that jumped out at him was that Gilbert’s earlier nickname for the man had been more than apt; he was indeed possessed of some formidable dark eyebrows, ones that somehow seemed even more prominent with the scowl on his face.

The stranger glanced down at Alfred, those prominent eyebrows turning their scowl in his direction. “Funny,” he said to Gilbert, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “I would have thought someone who played Knife And Candle would have taken advantage of the two of us talking to at least disarm you by now.”

“You’re joking, right?” Gilbert smirked, pointing his knife in Alfred’s direction almost playfully. “This kid’s fresh meat down here, wouldn’t know what to do with a bunch of foxfire candles even if you took him and showed him step by step.”

The other man looked thunderstruck for a second before he snapped fiercely, scowling even more furiously than he had been moments ago. “If he’s new down here, then why haven’t you just let him get out of your hair already so you can carry on murdering the rest of your Knife And Candle nutters?! Bloody hell, I always knew you were low, but now you’re attacking innocent people, are you?”

“Jesus Christ, I wasn’t actually going to kill him! Relax, Brows, don’t get your knickers in a knot,” Gilbert cackled. “I was just playing with him a bit. Easiest way for the newcomers to learn, right?”

“That – you –” the blonde man spluttered, almost as if he was too angry to even get the words out. Before he could, Alfred got there first, forgetting completely about staying quiet.

“Hey, what do you mean you were just playing with me?” he demanded angrily. “If you’re not going to do anything to me, then just let me go already!” Gilbert smirked and pushed his boot hard off Alfred’s chest, winding him slightly. That done, he raised both hands, still holding the knives, and stepped backwards.

“There, I’m letting the newbie live. Happy now?”

“Much obliged,” the stranger said darkly. “Have fun murdering other people for candles.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, Brows, I will,” Gilbert grinned with a mock-salute. “Hey, tell your sister I’ll get her knives back to her sometime this week.”

“Tell her yourself, I’m not your bloody messenger boy!” Gilbert laughed once more, and then he was gone, leaving Alfred alone with the stranger in an alleyway full of bodies. Alfred let out a long sigh of relief, not quite able to believe how narrow of an escape he’d had. And with the relief came anger – that guy had really just been toying with him like that? After murdering all of those other guys? And what the hell was that about it all being a game? What sort of city had a game where people killed each other for fun?

The other man had his hands in the pockets of his long coat and seemed to be hesitating as he looked down impassively at Alfred, as if he wasn’t sure whether he should stick around or just leave the young American to it. Finally, it seemed, he settled on the former. “Are you alright?” he asked hesitantly.

Alfred considered this for a moment. He was shaken, tired, and a little bruised, and he didn’t think he’d sleep that night, but… he was alive, right? That had to count for something, didn’t it? In the end, he nodded, forcing a smile onto his face. “Yeah, I think so,” he replied, trying to sound cheerful. He pushed himself to his feet using the wall for support and locked eyes with his timely rescuer. He had to look down to do so; now that Alfred was on his feet again, he could tell that he was actually a couple of inches taller than the other guy. Close to, he could now see that under the impressive eyebrows, the man’s eyes were a startlingly bright shade of green. “Hey, I want to thank you,” he said. “Before you showed up, I was sure he was going to kill me.”

The man blinked in surprise, then shrugged. “There’s no need to thank me,” he grumbled. “Like the idiot wanker said, he wouldn’t have really done anything to you.” Now that the immediate threat of an unpleasant death at the hands of a knife-wielding madman had vanished, Alfred could make out something strange about the man’s accent; he couldn’t quite place where it was he came from. This stranger just kept getting more and more bizarre.

“Well…” Alfred foundered. “Sure,” he tried, “But after what he did to those guys…” he trailed off and swallowed, his eyes unwillingly straying to where the bodies of the white-haired man’s victims still lay. He shivered involuntarily. The other man’s eyes followed his, and the frown from before reappeared on his face.

“Ah.” He sighed heavily. “Yes, there is that. Honestly, I’m surprised you were stupid enough to come down this way, this area isn’t exactly safe.” It was Alfred’s turn to blink this time; was he being scolded by this stranger?

“I didn’t mean to come down here!” he protested. “I just got lost, that’s all.” The man rolled his eyes and muttered something that Alfred couldn’t quite catch, and Alfred frowned. He didn’t really want to get into an argument with the guy who’d helped him out, but it didn’t seem like he was the easiest person to get along with…

Well. Maybe he had been a little stupid. But how had he been supposed to know he’d been wandering into a sketchy area?

The man turned as if to leave, and Alfred stepped forward to grab his arm. “Hey, wait!”

“What?” the man demanded, an edge to his voice as he turned that scowl on Alfred once again. Alfred hesitated, but stood his ground.

“Shouldn’t we do something about them?” He didn’t want to say “about the bodies”. That somehow made the whole nightmarish ordeal so much more real. The man shrugged again and shook his head.

“The constables or one of the game’s umpires will be along to move them sooner or later, hopefully before they wake up,” he said briskly, a touch of irritation in his voice. “There’s really nothing for us to do here.”

“Wake up?” Alfred said in disbelief. “But he killed them!”

The stranger stared at him for a few seconds. “Good God, you really are new here, aren’t you?”

“So what if I am?” Alfred shot back, feeling annoyed; why was everyone treating him as though it was his fault for not knowing things?

“Look, I’m only going to explain this once, so make sure you’re listening,” the other man said impatiently. “People, for one reason or another, it doesn’t matter what, don’t stay dead here, or at least not very often. It just doesn’t happen that way.”

Alfred stared at him. “You’re kidding me,” he said eventually. “People don’t come back from the dead, that’s just some kind of sick joke!”

“Look you, I was born here!” the man snapped back. “And I’m telling you, like it or not that’s the way things work down here. If you have any sense in that thick head of yours, you’ll get that into your head quickly so that you can avoid the ones that like murdering people for fun.” Scowling again, he turned his back and started to stalk off again, muttering something about how he didn’t have time to be dealing with idiot newcomers if they weren’t going to listen to a word he said. Alfred frowned and started after him.

“Hey, wait up! You can’t just leave me here like this!”

“Watch me,” the man deadpanned without turning his back. Alfred kept following him, undeterred.

“You’ve got to at least lead me out of here! I mean, like you said, I don’t know anything about this place!”

“I don’t have time for dealing with idiots who are stupid enough to walk right into the worst parts of London without even the first clue of what goes on here,” he said testily.

“Well, then I’ll just follow you wherever you’re going!”

“No you bloody well won’t!”

“C’mon!” Alfred stopped short, throwing his arms up in frustration as he yelled after the guy’s retreating back. “You’ve got to at least get me directions or something, I’ve got to get back to my brother somehow!”

At that, there was a pause in the shorter man’s step. “You’ve got a brother?” he asked eventually, voice seemingly impassive. Alfred nodded.

“Yeah, my twin brother. … come to think of it, I’ve probably worried him a hell of a lot by just up and disappearing on him like that,” he said uncomfortably, the thought only just occurring to him. Guilt welled up inside him; poor Mattie must be giving himself heart attacks by now worrying about him, and that was Alfred’s fault… jeez, what a mess this had turned out to be.

Still, he thought, and he felt his spirits brighten a little as he did so, if he managed to get back to him and apologise, then he’d be able to make it up to him somehow, right? Sure, he wasn’t exactly sure how right now, but there had to be something he could think of. He was always thinking of good ideas, after all!

… of course, he reminded himself, drooping a little again, that all depended on whether or not he did manage to get back to Matthew after everything he’d gone through last night…

As these thoughts passed through his brain, he suddenly became aware of the fact that the man hadn’t said anything else to him yet; he was just stood there, watching Alfred as if considering. Well, at least he hadn’t just run off again…

“Oh, alright then,” he said suddenly, and Alfred almost jumped at the abruptness of it. “You can hardly be expected to get yourself out of this mess,” he continued tetchily, “so I suppose that someone has to play babysitter for a bit.”

“You’re gonna help after all?” Alfred asked, perking up immediately. “Alright! That’s –”

“Don’t get me wrong,” the man snapped, cutting him off. “This isn’t me doing you some kind of favour or anything like that. But if he’s your family, then –” He huffed, then turned and started walking briskly again. “I’m only taking you to somewhere where you can start looking for your brother and hopefully stay out of trouble. Try to keep up. If you end up losing me, I’m not waiting around for you.”

“What?” Alfred blinked at him, mouth agape, before springing into action and hurrying after him. “Right, okay, I got it!”

Jeez, he thought to himself, disgruntled, as he followed the man dipping and swerving out of the alleyways and through the dark streets, whichever way you looked at it, the people down here were nothing but insane.

✎ ✎ ✎

Matthew wasn’t sure how long it had been by now since he’d arrived at Brigid’s pub. Almost immediately after he’d shared his story and explained the situation to the redheaded woman, she had left with an air of determination about her to contact whoever it was that she knew. And then. about an hour or so after that, Brigid had returned and said that the word was out; all they could do now was wait.

Back on the surface, Matthew thought, the sun would have risen by now. It’d be the early morning, when people started opening up their shops ready for the days’ business… But down here, there was no sun. Just darkness, no matter what the time of day. No wonder that Antonio had mentioned that candles were worth their weight in gold down here…

Speaking of Antonio, he was currently asleep, head pillowed in his arms on the table in front of him. Matthew sighed; he wished that he could sleep right now. But somehow, he didn’t think that he could. He was just too worried about Alfred. He trusted Brigid to keep her word, but what could one barlady do in a city where people killed each other as a game, no matter how many people she knew? Matthew rested his forehead against the windowpane in front of him, closing his eyes in frustration. Damn that brother of his, why couldn’t he have just stayed put where he was for once?

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned wearily and saw Brigid, smiling at him.

“Ye ought’nt to be sleepin’ against that window, ye know.” Her tone was light, but her eyes were worried. Matthew shook his head.

“I don’t think I could sleep now,” he said truthfully. Brigid nodded somberly.

“Aye, I know. ‘Tis worried about your brother ye are, as I’d be if ‘twas any of me own that were in a mess like that. But ye have to be gettin’ some rest yeself sometime.”

“I will,” he replied. “Later, I promise.”

“And I’ll be holdin’ ye to that promise,” she smiled. He smiled back weakly, adjusting his glasses from where they’d gone askew.

“Hey… I hope you don’t mind me asking, but you said you had brothers, right?”

“Aye, I did,” she said, a note of pride in her voice. “Five of them. ‘Tis a colossal bunch o’idiots they can be at times, the lot of them, but ‘tis me brothers they are all the same.”

“Five?” Matthew’s eyes widened. “Wow, that really is a lot.”

“Suppose that it must sound that way, you only havin’ the one and all.” She tilted her head at him, arms folded as she thought. “Older or younger?”

“Ah… well, actually, we’re twins,” Matthew admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. “I mean, Alfred is the older of us both, but we’re almost completely identical.”

“Twins, ‘tis it?” Brigid repeated, sounding amused. “Now I can’t help wonderin’ if ‘tis fate, you and I meetin’ like this. ‘Tis a twin I am as well, although in my case, I’d be the older of me and me brother Douglas.”

“Really?” Matthew looked at her, a little surprised. “I’ve never met another twin before. But the town me and Alfred came from back in America was quite small, so I guess that’s not really that surprising.” He thought for a moment, wondering if it would be alright to ask his next question. Brigid seemed like a fairly open person, but he was never sure which lines not to cross with people. But then, she’d seemed quite willing to talk about her family, so…

“What is it that your brothers do, then? I mean, you run this pub… do you really do all this by yourself, or do they help you?”

“Aye, sometimes,” she replied. “’Tis mostly Llewellyn – that’s our oldest – who sticks around to help with the runnin’ of things most of the time. Me twin helps out as a bouncer of sorts when he can, keepin’ the nastier kinds of folk out, but he mostly makes a livin’ guardin’ the fancy socialites and nobles on the other side of the city, the ones as can afford it. Money’s good, so it helps when this place is strugglin’, at least. Arthur and Connor, they’d be the middle two, run a pretty little steamer by the name of the Elizabeth, shippin’ things back and forth over the Unterzee for people. And that just leaves wee Peter, and when he’s not livin’ here, he’s runnin’ wild with his friends on the streets. We all look out for him as best we can, the wee lad’s only twelve after all, but folk tend to grow up fast in this city.” As she finished, her face grew sad and pensive as she looked out into the darkness beyond the window, her eyes seeing something that wasn’t there. Matthew wasn’t sure what to say; had something about his question managed to trigger something that Brigid didn’t want to think about? But still, he had to say something to all of that…

“It sounds like you and you family have really managed to build something down here,” he offered. “That must have been pretty hard.”

Brigid seemed to shake herself out of whatever strange reverie she was in then, fixing Matthew with a bright, genuine smile. “’Tis a sweet one ye are, Matthew, and no mistake. Aye, ‘tis true ‘twas difficult at times. But we managed to scrape somethin’ together, and ‘tis enough for me, ‘tis.”

Matthew smiled back at her, but before either of them could say anything else, there was a loud scraping sound as the front door was unlocked, followed immediately by an even louder bang as it was thrown open, the latch almost broken off by the force of it. Matthew jumped; Brigid just rolled her eyes in annoyance and stalked towards the door, rounding on whoever it was that had just dared to enter her pub with such disrespect to the architecture.

“How many times do I have to be tellin’ ye, Douglas, stop makin’ that dent in the wall bigger every time ye feel like waltzin’ back in here!” she said fiercely. Matthew peered around the corner; standing just inside the doorway was a stocky man with unruly red hair, an impressive stubble, and eyes that matched Brigid’s. There was no doubting it; this could be no one other than Brigid’s twin. He grinned down at his sister.

“Sorry sis, but this was a wee bit of an urgent one,” he explained lazily. If his looks hadn’t given him away, Matthew thought to himself, the accent certainly did. It was almost exactly the same as hers. “I’ve got some wee confused rascal out here sayin’ some mysterious bloke got him out of some sort of bind and told him to come to ye before just buggerin’ off into thin air. Seemed like a newbie to me, so I thought I might as well –”

“Jeez, I know I’m a newbie here, already! You don’t have to keep pointing it out like everybody else!” came an irate voice from the doorway, cutting Brigid’s brother off. Matthew’s jaw dropped – he knew that voice better than he knew anyone else’s –!

“Alfred?” he gasped, rushing past Brigid to the door himself. “Al, is that you out there?”

Douglas blinked, raising two bushy eyebrows. “Bleedin’ heck, ye’ve got another one hidin’ away in here!” he exclaimed, but Matthew ignored him. That had definitely been Alfred’s voice, he was sure of it!

“Mattie! No way, you managed to make it here too?” In the next instant, Matthew found himself enveloped by a relieved and enthusiastic Alfred, who shoved Douglas aside unceremoniously as he grabbed his brother in a hug. “Man, Mattie, am I ever glad to see you!”

Matthew was speechless with relief; thank God, it really was him. It was Alfred, his brother, and he’d somehow managed to make it back safe and sound… that was so typically him, Matthew thought, having enough luck to make it through something like that without a scratch, making Matthew worry about him like that for hours for nothing, that idiot, when he was really totally fine! Oh, but he really should tell him off for that and give him a piece of his mind this time –

Matthew wrapped his arms around his brother and hugged him back tightly, swallowing hard to get past the hard round lump of feelings bottled up in his throat.

[identity profile] kupodesu.livejournal.com 2010-12-16 12:46 pm (UTC)(link)
Ok no lie, I pretty much SQUEALED when I saw this fic. I've been addicted to Echo Bazaar for a while now, and have always secretly hoped that a Hetalia crossover fic would be made with it. AND THEN, THIS FIC. You are my new love |D

That being said, I'm really, honestly interested by what you've got so far! Especially with what you've explored of the universe so far (and an interesting touch, having Arthur born in Fallen London), especially that thing in the summary about rebellion against the Masters. And Prussia being a pro at Knife-and-Candle -- figures. The characters are all sounding in-character in this AU, which is always always good. Seriously, REALLY excited to see more of this fic! 8Db

[identity profile] tinfoiltennis.livejournal.com 2010-12-17 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
Eeee, thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying it so far, and OMG someone else who's addicted to Echo Bazaar! That game is going to eat my soul at some point, I swear. :'D

Ha ha, the thing about the rebellion against the Masters will take a few more chapters to come together yet, but that's where things are heading. ^^ I'm glad everyone still seems in character though - that's mostly what I was worried about writing them in this sort of setting. Thanks again for the feedback!
dreamwriteremmy: Alexis Bledel, a brunette smiling sitting on a bench (Default)

[personal profile] dreamwriteremmy 2010-12-16 04:27 pm (UTC)(link)
seconding [livejournal.com profile] kupodesu. :D (I love EchoBazaar and Hetalia... such an addictive game ee.)

[identity profile] tinfoiltennis.livejournal.com 2010-12-17 01:56 am (UTC)(link)
EchoBazaar is almost sinfully addictive, I swear down. I'm glad you like it so far! ^^