tinfoiltennis: A woman standing on a beach, holding a model ship and looking away from the viewer (✎ straight to his arms I'll go sailing)
✎ Fel's Creative Journal ([personal profile] tinfoiltennis) wrote2011-01-11 09:57 pm

✎ chapterfic - hetalia/ebz - it was not meant that we should voyage far [6/?]

Title: It was not meant that we should voyage far. [6/?]
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia/Echo Bazaar
Characters: Every nation ever at one point or another. This part: Ireland, America, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, 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: 4298.
Notes: BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER, I should note that the Australia I write is a female OC belonging to a friend of mine, who made her up before we had any idea there was a canon one. I’ve grown too attached to writing her to really give her up, so if you have problems with a non-canon Aussie, feel free to stop reading here, I don’t mind. ^^; A-anyway! As always, 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.” Also, good grief, the Isles Siblings actually vaguely get on in this AU. Madness, I tell you.
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 non-canon Australia.

✎ ✎ ✎


Matthew and Alfred. What ‘tis there that can be said about those two lads? Back when I first met the two of them, I would never have told you that them coming down here would be the first sign of something big happening in our lives. And strictly speaking, t’wasn’t really. That dubious honour goes more to what me brother Arthur ended up doing not long after those two boys wound up inside me pub one night. Although looking back on it all as I can now, maybe ‘tisn’t so surprising that he did what he did, considering all that was involved in it.

Me family, that being me five brothers and I, we’ve always been self-reliant. Had to be, really; after Arthur was born, our mam never was quite the same. She never was lucky in love, our mam, and then dealing with everything that comes with having to live in this city after the Fall stole her away, little by little, so slowly that we didn’t even notice it at first; we were too young, didn’t understand enough. Llewellyn, Douglas and I raised the three wee ones ourselves, we did, by which I mean Llewellyn gave out the advice, Douglas gave out the hard-learned lessons, and I acted as surrogate mother to them all when our own mam started slipping away from us. Even now ‘tis unsure I am of whether I did such a good job, but they’re good lads at heart, the three of them, so I suppose ‘tis something, especially in this city.

But ‘tis a little off-track I’m getting now. When the two of them, me beag amháin and me Ailill both, landed in our lives that night, I thought them nice enough, I did. Alfred seemed a little rash and Matthew a wee bit timid, but they were good lads, I thought. And as it turned out, they are good lads, some of the best I’ve known. Maybe ‘tis something about being from the surface, that they’re not so desensitised as all that. ‘Tis probably that which lead Alfred particularly to get involved with that group of Gilbert’s, ‘tis, the one that after the stunt Arthur pulled would end up dragging us all into the disaster that was going to follow. Should have seen it coming, aye, I know I should have. But the day that really started it all – the day that those two lads were left stranded here – it seemed ordinary enough. Maybe if Arthur hadn’t had that shipping job to do that day, things would have ended up different…


✎ ✎ ✎


The constabulary had arrived on the scene about ten minutes after the explosion, an array of men in blue uniforms and heavy helmets spreading out over the scene to look for evidence, question the witnesses and calm the members of the crowd who were still panicking, or who had fainted and required smelling salts to revive them. Alfred and Matthew had been taken aside and questioned by a tall, imposing blonde constable with steely blue eyes and a deep, stern voice, who after taking down their story, their names, and their current residence in the city, had promptly sent them away so that the police could continue to secure the scene and try to uncover more of the evidence. Brigid had been surprised to see them walk back into the Horse And Harp not two hours after they had left. After she had taken one look at their faces, though, she had wordlessly brought them back into the kitchen, leaving her older brother Llewellyn, who had turned out to be a mild, friendly man with stronger Welsh in his accent than any of his siblings, to look after the bar. She had sat the two of them down at the rough wooden table, placed two hot sweet mugs of tea in front of them (“For the shock,” she had explained), and then sat across from them with a grim expression.

“Alright, what ‘tis it that’s happened?” she asked. “The two of ye are pale as death, ye are.”

“The airship exploded,” Alfred explained. “Just before we were about to get on it.” Brigid’s eyebrows flew into her flyaway hair, her eyes widening in shock.

“Exploded? How in God’s name did that happen?”

“There was a fire on the balloon fabric,” said Alfred. “It must have spread to where the gas was kept, and then…” He gestured helplessly. Matthew said nothing, staring down into his tea with a frown.

“Shite,” Brigid cursed. “Deliberate, or an accident?”

Alfred shrugged. “Who knows?” he said, a little bitterly. “When we got chased away by the police they were only just starting to investigate.”

“Prob’ly won’t be havin’ much luck catchin’ whoever t’was if t’was deliberate arson,” she sniffed, folding her arms. “Oftentimes down here the police need to bring in private investigators just to be trackin’ down whoever committed the crime. And then ‘tis so much corruption about that both an honest and a capable constable is a rare thing. ‘Tis a bloody –”

Alfred and Matthew never found out what sort of a bloody thing it was, because at that moment there was a great shuffling sound from the other side of the kitchen door before it flew open with a bang and two people walked in hurriedly.

“Can’t stop long, Brigid, we have a job to run so we’re just picking up a few odds and – ah.” The two people standing in the kitchen now were undoubtedly two more of Brigid’s brothers; although taller than their sister, they were still on the short side for fully-grown men, and they both had the startlingly green eyes and thick eyebrows that seemed to be a trait among the siblings. The left-hand brother seemed younger than the others and more like Brigid and Douglas in looks, with flame-red hair and freckles. But it was the other brother, the one who had been speaking, that caught Alfred’s attention.

“You!” he exclaimed, quite forgetting about his conversation with Brigid. The man on the right had fine blonde hair, anachronistically dark eyebrows to go with them, and a slightly nonplussed expression at finding two extra people at the kitchen table. It was without a doubt the same man who had stumbled upon Alfred in the alleyway the other night. “You’re that guy from the other night!”

The man’s face went from confusion to surprise to annoyance in the space of about two seconds. “Oh God, it’s you,” he groaned. “I thought I’d got rid of you.”

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Alfred demanded. Brigid rolled her eyes fondly.

“Alfred, Matthew, meet me brothers Arthur and Conchobhar, better known to most as Connor. Arthur and Conchobhar, Matthew and his brother Alfred. Alfred, I believe you and Arthur have already met,” she added, a touch dryly.

“Yes, we have,” Arthur said, still looking a little put out at finding Alfred sitting in his kitchen. “You found your brother in the end then, did you?”

“Yeah,” Alfred nodded, trying for a smile and also trying not to feel too hurt by Arthur’s attitude. “Turns out he was already here looking for me, actually, so it all worked out in the end.” He didn’t mention that he and Matthew were now stuck down there; somehow, he had a feeling that Arthur probably wouldn’t be all that interested even if he did.

Arthur gave a short nod in response, putting both hands into his pockets. “Yes, well… good. By the way, Brigid,” he added suddenly, turning back to his sister, “you might be interested to know that it was your boy-toy who was the one that almost turned Alfred into a human pin-cushion the other night. He said to tell you he’ll return your knives some time next week.”

Brigid scowled. “He's not me boy-toy, and aye he'd better be cleanin' them properly this time! Found blood under the seam from the handle to th'blade after th'last time he borrowed them.”

Arthur and Connor exchanged a smirk at these words, but Alfred could only fix on one thing from the current exchange. “Wait, wait, what?!” he exclaimed. “Are you saying that that guy from the other night is your –”

“Me lover?” Brigid said coolly, ignoring the long-suffering, nauseated looks on both of her brothers’ faces, the quiet splutter from Matthew’s direction, and the way that the faces of both of the twins were fast turning a bright red. “Aye, he would be at that. I’m sorry for him, tends to get a little carried away, he does.”

Alfred stared at her, completely lost for words both at her frankness and at the situation itself. He was still trying to figure out how someone as welcoming and hospitable as Brigid could possibly stand the company of someone like the madman from the other night. “Carried away?”

“A wee bit, aye,” she nodded. “’Tis part and parcel of bein’ part of that game for so long, I’m guessin’. Anyone can attack anyone, so ‘tis better to be on the offensive.”

“As you can see, my sister likes to downplay the situation slightly,” Arthur deadpanned in response to both of the boys’ shocked faces. A brief smirk crossed Connor’s face at that before he stepped forward, clearly bored with the current conversation, and dove towards a door at the other end of the kitchen that must presumably have lead towards the pantry.

“Are we done talkin’ about our sister’s boyfriend yet?” he said, pulling a face at even the thought of it. “C’mon, Arthur, we’re goin’ to end up runnin’ late and you know what Zhi’s like with his timin’.”

“I know, I know,” Arthur sighed, following his brother’s suit. “And quite rightly too. If we’re even a few minutes off schedule there’ll be people after us to pay for it.”

“Oh aye? And what sort of job is it that ye’re runnin’ today, Arthur?” Brigid asked with her eyebrows raised.

“Nothing big,” Arthur called back from the pantry, a note of irritation in his voice, “so there’s no need to ask like that. Just a routine exchange of glim for jade in the colonies, it should be simple enough.”

“Nothin’ on the side, then?” Brigid said shrewdly. Connor popped his head out of the door, a small but full knapsack in hand, and grinned.

“Ah sis, you know that if we told you we’d have to kill you.” Brigid grinned back at him, a devilish gleam in her eye.

“Aye, thought as much, I did,” she smirked, and Arthur walked out of the pantry with another knapsack and rolled his eyes at her before offering a wry smirk of his own.

“Belt up, Brigid,” he told her, hefting the bag in his hands. “Right, we’re off, we should be back within the week, all being well.”

“The two of ye stay safe, alright?” she said, putting her hands on Connor’s shoulders as she passed. Connor rolled his eyes and shrugged her off.

“You worry too much, Brigid,” he said testily. A small teasing smile appeared on her face.

“Aye, maybe so, but ‘tis a wee bit forgetful ye are that Arthur’s the captain on that ship.”

“Oi!”

“I’m only teasin’ ye, me brother,” she laughed at Arthur’s scowling face. “But do try to be keepin’ them all out of trouble, aye?”

“You don’t have to tell me how to run my own ship,” he said irritably, almost petulantly. “Come on, Connor, let’s go.” He slung his knapsack over his back and headed for the door.

Connor smirked at his sister conspiratorially. “Don’t worry, Brigid, I’ll keep Arthur in line.”

“I heard that!” came a shout from the door.

“Aye, be makin’ sure that ye do. And the two of ye send Terra and the rest me love, alright?”

“Will do,” Connor replied, following his brother to the door. “Now I really better run, or we really will catch hell.” With that, he ran out of the room, banging the door shut behind him.

✎ ✎ ✎


When Arthur and Connor reached the docks near the mouth of the Stolen River where their ship was moored, sure enough Zhi was sitting waiting for them there on one of the moorings, checking his watch with only the slightest frown on his face.

“Ah, there you are,” he said, glancing up at the sound of their footsteps and snapping his watch shut. “I was beginning to worry.”

“Well, we’re here now, so you don’t have to,” Arthur replied briskly as he passed him, striding onto the deck of the small ship. “Where are the others?”

“Right here, Captain!” came a voice from above. Arthur glanced up to see Terra, the young ship’s mechanic, sat up above the wheel, grinning as she waved at them with a mouthful of apple. “We were startin’ to think ya’d never come back, mate!”

“Well, we have, so you can get down from there and start looking busy,” Arthur called up at her, rolling his eyes. Honestly, this was what he got for having a crew member that used to be part of one of the city’s infamous urchin-gangs. “Where’s Emma?”

“Down below checkin’ the supplies,” Terra told him, jumping down from her perch and brushing her blonde hair out of her eyes. Arthur nodded approvingly.

“Well at least one of my crew can be trusted to keep themselves busy,” he said dryly, earning himself an indignant look from the blonde girl.

“Oi, I do what I’m told, don’t I?” she pouted. “C’mon, Arthur, I even got the engine all rigged up an’ ready to go ages before I had to, bloody oath I did!”

“If you did it without so much talking back, it’d be even better,” Arthur smirked. “And that’s Captain when we’re on duty, Terra,” he added as he grabbed Connor’s knapsack off him and headed in the direction of the stairs below deck. “Make sure you lot are ready to cast off in five minutes, I hear the people we’re dealing with this time are ridiculously fussy about timing.”

“Yes, Captain,” Zhi nodded. In lieu of a reply of their own,Terra and Connor flashed mock-salutes and pulled faces at Arthur’s back.

The space below deck was as dim as always, with only a few carefully-placed lamps hanging from the ceiling to give light to the narrow corridors and cramped rooms. As they were only a small crew of five people, the Elizabeth wasn’t the largest or most luxurious of ships – they were traders and occasional smugglers after all, not sight-seers – but she was sturdy and functional, and that was good enough for Arthur. That wasn’t to say that he didn’t occasionally wonder what it would be like on a real ship, one on the seas of the surface that had to contend with storms and the wind blowing up a gale behind them; there was precious little wind on the Unterzee, after all, which was why all the ships on its surface were powered by steam. But those flights of curiosity were only ever fleeting. After all, wind or no wind, and underground or not, the Elizabeth was his ship, which was what mattered in the end.

He found Emma in the storage room, going through and counting the boxes that they had piled up in every available bit of floor space.

“All present and accounted for?” he asked by way of greeting. She turned and grinned at him, tying her red headscarf tighter at the back of her head.

“Yep, that is all the glim accounted for, Captain,” she confirmed in her strong Belgian accent. “And we should have more than enough food to last us for the entire trip as well.”

“Well, you can add more to that,” he told her, tossing the full knapsacks at her. She caught them and opened one, looking inside with interest. “With the compliments of my sister,” he explained at her questioning look. She smiled at that, closing the bag with a satisfied look.

“You mean that you and Connor have been raiding her pantry again, right?”

“Well, it’s not as if she complains when we do,” he said defensively. Emma laughed as she began to stow away the two bags safely.

“I’m just teasing you, Arthur,” she smiled, clearly amused. Arthur rolled his eyes at her stooped back.

“You and all the rest of Fallen London, apparently,” he frowned, folding his arms. “What about the rest of our stock?”

Emma looked round at him, a sly grin on her face. “Safe and sound,” she replied, tapping part of the wall with her hand. The metal echoed hollowly under her palm, and a tiny smirk appeared on Arthur’s face.

“Well, just as long as it stays that way,” he told her, and she nodded, straightening up and brushing her hands off in a way that signaled a job well done. That was the other thing about his ship; the one or two carefully concealed hidden compartments made smuggling things under the noses of the Bazaar much easier than it was fair for it to be. The Gracious Widow’s people themselves, with all their expertise in smuggling contraband into the city, couldn’t ask for any better. Indeed, they’d even asked for Arthur and his crew’s collaboration on jobs in the past.

“If you’re finished down here, why don’t you join the rest of the crew up top?” he asked her, leaning against the narrow doorframe. “We’ll probably be casting off soon, assuming those blasted dock authorities let us go on schedule this time.” He scowled at the thought. Bloody hell, he hated dealing with those overpaid paper-pushers.

“Captain, when have they ever let us go on schedule?” Emma put her hands on her hips, a knowing smile on her face. “There’s always something that they’re not happy with.”

“Exactly,” Arthur agreed darkly. “Don’t be too long, alright?”

“I won’t, Captain,” Emma said with the barest roll of her eyes. “You just concentrate on getting us underway and leave the things down here to me.”

When Arthur climbed back onto the deck, he was greeted with the sight of Zhi and Connor arguing furiously with a very drab, very boring, very official-looking man with a sleek top hat and a monocle. Or rather, Connor was arguing furiously and Zhi was trying to keep the conversation civil, which probably wasn’t going to last much longer when one of his eyebrows was twitching like that. Ah, Arthur thought with some distaste, dockside officials. Of course it figured that they’d come and poke their noses in right at the last minute, the bloody tossers.

“If you don’t mind, I don’t have time to waste arguing with zailors,” the well-dressed official was saying irately. “I’d like to speak to your captain if I may. Where is he?”

“As a matter of fact, he’s right here,” Arthur replied, striding over to the little knot of people and folding his arms. “Well, out with it then, what’s the problem this time?”

“Um,” the official said rather ineloquently, blinking owlishly from behind his monocle. He looked rather taken aback at the very idea of a zee-captain being so articulate. “As a matter of fact, it’s not a problem as such. Nothing to worry about, merely a trifle, really.”

“Yes, but what is it,” Arthur repeated, putting more emphasis into the words this time. He may have sounded a little impatient, but then, that may have been because he was, and he hardly had enough love for the bureaucracy of the Bazaar to spare some manners for them.

“Ah well – it’s simply that some delegates from the Brass Embassy wish to leave the docks immediately on business of their own, so all other ships are being held back from leaving until theirs has cleared a safe enough distance from the harbour. I’m sure you’ll understand,” the official told him ingratiatingly.

The Brass Embassy. The representatives of Hell in Fallen London, which naturally made the whole lot of them devils, from the highest-ranking ambassador right down to the lowest clerk. And the majority were in Fallen London for only one thing: the soul trade. London was close enough to Hell – just a mere boat-ride, some said, although of course no one had actually been fool enough to try and prove that saying – that it was all too easy for Hell to buy or cheat souls out of people. It was even easier when the Bazaar and its Masters, as in all other things, licensed the trade for their own profit. And of course, the demonic men and women had enough Nevercold Brass Silver and other Hellish delights to barter with that they could keep the authorities wrapped around their little fingers. Arthur supposed that it was the sort of situation that may have seemed laughable on the surface, but down here, where it had been proved that souls did indeed have a physical form and that selling them was a very real, very tangible and very profitable possibility, it was hardly a laughing matter.

Arthur held no love for the Brass Embassy and its business. Not one jot.

To his right, Connor snorted. “Bollocks,” he said disbelievingly. “I didn’t see anythin’ about any ships from the Brass Embassy leavin’ or arrivin’ today.” Ah, good old Connor, thinking to check who had gone through the tiresome process of notifying the dockside officials and excisemen of their comings and goings. Not that that would stop the more corrupt officials shifting things about for anyone that could pay.

“The schedule is, as I’m sure you understand, completely flexible,” the official said stiffly.

“Oh yeah?” Terra called, and everyone present jumped and looked up at her, having been quite unaware of how she had been watching the proceedings from her usual perch above the main deck. “An’ how much’d they hafta bribe ya for it?” Before the official could even open his mouth to reply, there was a soft, demure cough from behind him.

“Excuse me? What appears to be the problem?” Almost as one, the group turned, or craned their necks, to see a well-dressed, quiet woman standing on land, a little way away from the ship. No; on closer inspection, she wasn’t a woman at all, but a deviless, her orange eyes glinting like embers in her face and her black hair elegantly coiled and kept in a net on her head. A representative of whatever crew it was that had bribed the insipid official, then, probably to come and see what was taking him so long. Wonderful. At her appearance, the aforementioned official’s face became rather pale. Arthur bet that it would only be moments before he broke out in a nervous sweat to go with it.

“Ah, milady – there’s no problem as such, just a misunderstanding – you know how these zailors can be,” he began, wringing his hands and bowing apologetically. The sight was sickening. She tilted her head, surveying the scene before her with her fire-like eyes.

“Well then, if there’s no problem,” she said in a voice that could almost have been considered sweet, “then why all of the commotion? Our captain was beginning to worry so.” So saying, she turned from the groveling official to Arthur himself and dropped a small curtsey. “I’m sorry if we have caused you an inconvenience, sir,” she said prettily. “But our business is rather urgent. I’m sure that as a captain, you would understand, wouldn’t you?” she asked, locking eyes with him. Ruthless, empty eyes.

“I would,” he replied stiffly, throwing a glance at Connor and Terra to warn them both not to try anything stupid. The last thing any of them needed was to cause trouble with the Brass Embassy, no matter how satisfying it may be at first. Ultimately that way just lead to grief for everyone involved. Devils were not well-known for their kindness, after all, especially to those that wronged them.

The deviless smiled at him mirthlessly. “Then you understand why we need everyone here to wait for just a while. I’m sorry about this bumbling fool here. He is rather bad at explaining things, and it simply won’t do if it will hold everyone up further like this.” At that, all of the colour really did drain from the official’s face, leaving him whiter than a sheet.

“A thousand apologies, madam!” he cried, making his way hastily down the gangplank of Arthur’s ship. Arthur was gratified to note that the man had indeed begun to break out in a cold sweat. The deviless smiled coldly at him and inclined her head at the crew before she turned soundlessly and walked away, the hapless official still following along and muttering apologies behind her. Arthur frowned after them. Good lord, but he hated having to deal with devils.

“We’re going to run late because of this, you know,” Zhi murmured quietly at Arthur’s side as they watched the odd pair walk away. Arthur sighed shortly and readjusted his coat.

“I know, but it can’t be helped,” he said in a low tone. “I’m not in the mood to start picking fights with Hell today. We’ll just have to make double time once we actually get out at zee.”

“I have to admit, Captain, I’m curious to see what would happen if you ever did find yourself in the mood to start picking fights with them,” Zhi told him as they both turned back to the ship, the smallest of amused smiles gracing his face.

“I can tell you one thing, and that’s that it wouldn’t be anything good,” Arthur replied, his mind flashing back to the empty, calculating smile of the quiet deviless from before. “Anything to do with the Brass Embassy rarely is.”

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