tinfoiltennis: A woman standing on a beach, holding a model ship and looking away from the viewer (✎ sir yes sir 8T)
✎ Fel's Creative Journal ([personal profile] tinfoiltennis) wrote2011-01-06 10:29 am

✎ chapterfic - hetalia/ebz - it was not meant that we should voyage far [5/?]

Title: It was not meant that we should voyage far. [5/?]
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia/Echo Bazaar
Characters: Every nation ever at one point or another. This part: Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Scotland, America, Canada, and a few random extras.
Rating: PG-13 for this chapter.
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: 3205.
Notes: I’m back, guys! Sorry for the huge gap between updates and for not announcing it, but I’ve been on holiday with my family for the past couple of weeks for the holiday season and didn’t have time to put a notice up. Hopefully a new chapter will make up somewhat for it! Anyway, this is once again the continuation of the long haul that started as my NaNo project for last 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, some OCs, and a big boom.

✎ ✎ ✎

Antonio had been woken up, Luís had been fetched from where he had been strumming his guitar and humming to himself in a quiet corner of the pub, and Brigid had them all sat around the table with another steaming teapot between them and a plate full of food in front of each of them before she let any of them even think about talking about the events of the past night. It was only after Alfred and Matthew had both cleared their plates completely that Brigid leaned forward and started speaking.

“So, ye’d be the famous Alfred, then,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “’Tis a fair spot of trouble ye’ve been causin’ for your poor brother and no mistake, ‘tis.”

Alfred shifted slightly in his seat, a sheepish smile on his face. “Yeah, I know…” he sighed. “’m sorry about that, Mattie.”

“We were worried too, you know!” Antonio exclaimed, waving a fork around animatedly. “What happened to you after you wandered off? We thought you might have got lost somewhere.”

“Well, I did,” Alfred replied. “I wandered around for ages just getting more and more lost until I didn’t have any clue where I was anymore. Then when I was in this… dark alley somewhere, I’m not sure where, this bunch of guys suddenly appeared and this one guy jumped down from the roof and started just… cutting them all apart.” He swallowed, his voice becoming oddly subdued for Alfred. His hands clenched into loose fists on the table in front of him. “The guy said afterwards that is was some sort of game or something,” he said, disgusted. “Something about candles, and –”

“Knife And Candle?” Douglas interrupted suddenly, looking skeptical; with the exception of Brigid, the others around the table just looked stunned or simply horrified. “Laddie, if ye’d run into a round of that, ye wouldnae have survived to be sittin’ here with us now!”

“I was just getting to that part!” Alfred pouted. “I mean, I thought I was a gonner for sure, but this other guy with the hugest eyebrows I’ve ever seen,” he raised his hands to his own eyebrows to make his point, “suddenly showed up, had some sort of chat with the one with the knives, and after that the first guy left saying that he’d just been playing with me anyway!”

“Why would he do that?” Matthew asked, hands cupped around his mug of tea. Alfred shrugged, looking incredibly put out by the notion.

“Some Knife And Candle players can have some odd senses of humour,” Luis explained with a small, wry smile. Alfred snorted in disbelief.

“So some kind soul came along and saved ye, then,” Brigid summarised for him. “What next?”

“Next? Well, the guy turned to leave but eventually he said he’d lead me somewhere where I could look for Mattie. He was pretty damn rude about it, though. We got out into a street and then he just said ‘my sister’s pub is that way, if you ask for her help she should put you on the right track’ and then ran off.” Alfred sighed shortly. “Man, but he was weird. And then after that I ran into him,” he pointed at Douglas, who gave him a mock-salute in return, “and he took me here anyway, and well… here we are, I guess.”

“I’m just amazed that you didn’t get hurt…” Matthew murmured. Alfred nodded, looking oddly serious.

“Yeah, I did think it was a close one for a bit back there, last night,” he said softly. Then, the next moment, he raised his head and grinned at his brother, flashing him the thumbs up. “Still, I guess I was lucky, right?”

Matthew sighed. Well, at least he was still the same old Alfred. To Matthew’s left, Brigid was looking thoughtful.

“Hang on… he said his sister’s pub, aye?” Alfred looked at her and nodded, puzzled.

“Yeah… Hey, wait!” he gasped as something fell into place. “You mean that the guy who helped me out last night was your brother, Miss Brigid?”

“Just Brigid, Alfred,” she reminded him. “And aye, I’d say so. Doubt there’s many people in London with quite the same eyebrows as us. ‘Tis a bit of a family trait, after all,” she said, indicating her own rather thick eyebrows to illustrate her point.

“Was prob’ly wee Arthur,” Douglas shrugged, chasing his bacon rind around his plate. “Bad-tempered and rude rules out Llewellyn or either of the other neaps.” He paused for a moment. “Well, maybe Connor not so much, but he’s civil to anyone who isn’t family.”

Luís hummed thoughtfully, an amused smile on his face. “Arthur, was it? Remind me to thank him next time I see him.”

“Wow,” Alfred said, still looking surprised. “Looks like I really owe your family a lot.”

“Consider it an IOU,” Brigid replied as she began clearing plates and cups. “’Tisn’t a member of this family who wouldn’t help out a soul that really needed it, we weren’t raised that way. Ye can start payin’ us back by gettin’ out from under me feet while I open up for the day, though,” she added, nudging Alfred in the shoulder playfully. “Aye, ye as well, Matthew. I’ve got two rooms free upstairs ye can stay in for now, and ‘tis a good long rest the both of ye need after all that excitement last night.”

“Are you sure that’s okay?” Matthew asked anxiously. “We’ve already caused you enough trouble, I wouldn’t want to –”

“I’m not askin’ ye, I’m tellin’ ye,” she said firmly, expertly balancing an armful of crockery. “Get some rest. We can talk about payment when ye leave. And the two of ye –” she motioned at Antonio and Luís “– can be fetchin’ their bags from the Singin’ Mandrake.”

“Yes, General Kirkland,” Luís deadpanned, before he swiftly ducked to dodge the dishtowel that was thrown in his direction.

✎ ✎ ✎

Alfred was woken a few hours later by a soft yet sharp knocking at his door. Pawing around blearily on the simple bedside dresser for his glasses, he sat up and called out. “Yeah, who is it?”

“It’s just Matthew,” came the reply.

“Mattie? Jeez, why’d you have to wake me up so early…” he grumbled, yawning widely as he slipped his glasses on.

“It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, Alfred,” Matthew replied wearily, his replies muffled slightly by the door in the way. “Besides, I need to talk to you. Can you let me in?”

“What? Oh… yeah, sure thing.” Alfred got up, unbolted the door, and stood back to let his brother enter the room. Matthew waited for Alfred to close the door before speaking, looking a little nervous, but determined. Alfred wondered why that combination worried him so much.

“What’s up, Mattie?” he asked wonderingly, sitting back down on the edge of the bed. Matthew took a deep breath before speaking.

“It’s about last night,” he started. Alfred sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“I know I was an idiot,” he said. “And I really am sorry about it.” Matthew shook his head, still looking hesitant.

“That’s not what I was going to say,” he replied. “Well,” he amended, speaking rapidly as if he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get the words out, “you were an idiot and you worried me sick and I’m still annoyed with you about that and you should really learn to be more careful, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about.” He shifted awkwardly, then sat down on the edge of the bed next to his brother. Alfred, meanwhile, blinked in the wake of this breathless outburst.

“Ooookay,” he said slowly. “Then what did you want to say?”

Matthew locked eyes with him, his gaze steady. “Al, I want out,” he said finally. “I think we should leave. I mean – we’ve seen the city now, right? But all of this stuff about people killing each other for fun – it’s dangerous down here, Al. And we were really lucky last night. If we hadn’t run into Antonio and Luís earlier on, or if Brigid’s brother hadn’t found you after you wandered off, I don’t know what might have happened.” He bit his lip after this pronouncement – a long one, for him – and fell silent. Alfred frowned.

“I dunno, Mattie…” he started finally. “I really don’t want to leave. That thing about the Forgotten Quarter yesterday really interested me, and I don’t want to go home and say I left an adventure like that behind –” He looked up to find Matthew glaring at him.

“Al, you almost died last night!”

“Wait, wait, I’m not done yet!” Alfred exclaimed, hastily backtracking. “I was gonna say that I really don’t want to leave, and it’s gonna kill me leaving all of this stuff down here… but maybe just this once you’re right, Mattie.”

Now it was Matthew’s turn to blink. “I’m what?”

Alfred laughed. “You’re right. Getting killed while discovering something awesome or rescuing someone on an adventure is something I could have probably dealt with,” or at least, he hoped that he could have dealt with it, “but this whole thing with people murdering each other over a game?” He frowned and shook his head. “It’s sick, and part of me wants to stop it, but maybe I just can’t.” He looked up and grinned weakly. “Maybe this once, I should listen to your worrying all the time, right? To be honest, I really don’t want to die yet.”

Matthew stared at him. “Alright,” he said eventually, an awe-struck note in his voice, “Who are you and what have you done with my brother.”

“Hey, I’m serious!” Alfred pouted, wounded. He gave his brother a playful shove on the arm, and Matthew grinned.

“I believe you, Al,” he said with a small laugh. “I just didn’t think convincing you would be this easy.”

“I’m not completely stupid, Mattie, jeez.”

“Yeah, I know,” he smiled. “Brigid said that the only public dirigible back up to the surface goes tomorrow morning. We’ll get on it, right?”

Alfred paused for a moment to bid his dreams of a proper adventure in London goodbye. “Right,” he agreed.

✎ ✎ ✎

Early the next morning, or whatever it was that passed for morning in the Neath, the two brothers were wandering back through the city towards the docking area once again, bags in hand and bellies full of another surprisingly good breakfast from Brigid. Matthew had asked her where she managed to get all the ingredients from when some of them had to have come from the surface; she’d just smiled in a secretive sort of way and said that she had her sources. After a cheery farewell from their new friends, the two had set off and were now weaving their way through the streets. Matthew had this time had the foresight to obtain a map sometime the day before, so at least now they had no chance of getting lost.

“Man,” Alfred sighed, kicking at a pebble despondently as they entered the crowded docking area once again, “What a drag this turned out to be.”

“It could have been worse,” Matthew said, trying to sound sympathetic. Really, he was just glad to be getting out of the city before anything truly terrible started happening. He hadn’t let on to Alfred, but the fiasco of the night before had shaken him up a lot more than he wanted to admit. He adjusted the straps on his bag, which in addition to the things he’d brought with him now contained some small souvenirs of their brief time in the city; some small horsehead amulets that they’d got from a street vendor who claimed that they were relics of the Fourth City, the one that had stood in this spot before London had. Alfred’s eyes had got that far-away, longing look again when he’d heard that, the one that yearned for adventure and discovery, excitement in the unknown. And really, Matthew couldn’t say that he was completely uninterested, but one of them had to be the responsible one. After all, what would their mother and father say if they never returned from their misadventures in the world below?

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Alfred sighed again, still pouting. “I just wanted to take more of a story back, you know?”

Matthew looked at his brother pointedly. “Almost getting stabbed isn’t enough of a story?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. “Really, Al?”

“… okay, you’ve got a point,” Alfred conceded. “But even so, that’s not a proper story,” he grumbled.

“I know, Al. There’s still England up above there,” Matthew replied, trying to cheer his brother up and coax him out of his disappointment. “Maybe we can go traveling around there and find something worth bringing back, right?”

Alfred smiled at him, clearly perking up at the suggestion. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right! Why shouldn’t we be able to find something just as awesome up there, right?”

“That’s what I’m saying, Al.” Matthew squinted up ahead at the middle-sized dirigible almost directly in front of them, a few feet away. “That’s our ride, isn’t it?”

“Yep, I’d say so,” Alfred agreed. He turned to Matthew and grinned. “Well, are we getting out of here or what?”

Matthew nodded, rolling his eyes fondly. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

As it turned out, they never would be getting out of the city that day. At the very moment that the two brothers took a step towards the airship that would bear them out of there, there was a sudden sharp scream from another member of the bustling crowd.

“Look! The airship! Lord save us, the ship’s on fire!”

Matthew and Alfred’s heads snapped up, along with the heads of several hundred other people as seemingly the entire docks stopped to look at the dirigible. Sure enough, to the growing horror of the crowd, there was the bright tell-tale sign of yellow flames hungrily licking at the bottom of the balloon fabric, a growing plume of smoke billowing from the burning material. The twins stared in horror for a moment.

“Shouldn’t that be fireproofed or something?” Matthew asked, watching in growing horror, his feet rooted to the ground. Alfred shook his head numbly.

“Heatproofed, yeah, but only on the inside, and it can wear off – it’s nowhere near good enough to stop a proper fire –” and with those words, without any further warning, Alfred was moving, running towards the dirigible itself. Matthew hastily ran after him as the rest of the crowd descended into panic, running this way and that, most in a hasty attempt to get as far away from the burning aircraft as possible.

“Alfred, what are you doing?” Matthew cried as he hefted his bag and ran after his brother, struggling to keep up. Alfred glanced over his shoulder before he ran off again.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” he demanded. “There might be people on that thing, someone needs to help!”

Matthew caught his brother’s arm, gripping tightly despite being jostled by people running in the other direction. He was determined not to lose his brother again. “What if you get stuck in there trying to help?” he said, uncharacteristically fiercely.

“Who else is gonna help?” Alfred asked him amidst the cries of other people calling for water to douse the flames before they spread any further. Matthew didn’t reply, and the next instant Alfred was off again, jerking his arm out of Matthew’s grip before he knew what was happening.

“Alfred! Damn it,” he cursed softly, and tore after his brother again. He was almost level with him when a big, burly man with a busy beard caught them both, one on each side, and frowned down at them urgently.

“Lads, you need to get away from here now,” he told them. “It isn’t safe!”

“But you need people to help!” protested Alfred, struggling. “That thing is gonna burn down with people inside it if no one does –”

“Burn?” the man said incredulously. “Lad, it’s not going to get as far as burning down. Sooner or later with the direction those flames are heading in, they’re going to hit the –”

“Gas,” Alfred finished for him in horror, his face freezing in sudden realization. “That ship is partially powered by gas. It’s gonna explode!”

“What?” Matthew gasped in disbelief. The burly man nodded.

“Yes it’s going to explode, which is why you two need to get as far away as you can before it does! There’s enough young people die already without you two adding yourselves to the list trying to be martyrs.”

“But –”

“No buts!” the man growled, thrusting them both backwards with enough force that the two of them staggered and almost fell. “Now get going, you’ve only got minutes!”

For a few seconds, Alfred stood looking back at the burning aircraft, whose top half was now almost completely wreathed in flame, looking completely torn. Then Matthew grabbed his arm and dragged him away, towards the fleeing, screaming crowds.

“I’m sorry, Al,” he panted as they ran, feeling a pang in his own heart that they couldn’t stop to help. “I can’t let you kill yourself doing something stupid like that…”

They were right into the thick of the crowd when there was a sudden loud bang from behind them, like a thunderclap magnified, and the two of them ducked as the crowd screamed, hoping against hope that they were far away enough not to be hit by any debris or other flying parts – there was a giant heatwave against their backs, and Matthew’s hand clung tighter to Alfred’s arm, his heart pounding –

And then it was over just as suddenly as it had happened. A stunned, eerie silence descended as people looked back in the direction of the docks and the aircraft. Wreckage lay everywhere, flames still licking at the edges of some of it. Smoke rose in great clouds from the largest part of the ship still left standing, lying on its side at an angle. Matthew thought he caught sight of some bodies lying among the bits of twisted metal, charred wood and ripped fabric. Bile rose in his throat and he turned away, not wanting to see any more. At his side, Alfred was breathing heavily, his fists clenched and shaking in frustration.

“No…” he breathed, voice shaking too in anger. “This shouldn’t have happened…”

“Alfred?” Matthew asked timidly, his own voice trembling. Alfred looked down at his feet in disgust.

“I hate being useless, Mattie,” he said in a low voice, his teeth clenched. “God damn it…”

Around them, members of the crowd were weeping, or holding each other fearfully, or asking loudly where the police were in these times, or who could have been responsible for the fire. In the midst of his shock, one thing occurred to Matthew then, one more terrible, awful thing; that had been the last dirigible that could have taken them out of the city.

Now they were stuck down there.

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