tinfoiltennis: A woman standing on a beach, holding a model ship and looking away from the viewer (✎ I'm the bloody Queen mate!)
✎ Fel's Creative Journal ([personal profile] tinfoiltennis) wrote2011-02-11 09:50 am

✎ chapterfic - hetalia/ebz - it was not meant that we should voyage far [12/?]

Title: It was not meant that we should voyage far. [12/?]
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia/Echo Bazaar
Characters: Every nation ever at one point or another. This part: America, Spain, Prussia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, a few 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: 3790
Notes: 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 and the last of my buffer, sob.

✎ ✎ ✎

While Matthew was in a Spite mansion sharing tea and talking business with the young mistress of the sometimes-criminal Wang dynasty, that afternoon found Alfred once again traipsing around the dark and dirty city. The difference between this afternoon and the similarly dank and dreary days that had preceded it was that this time, he wasn’t going forth on his quest for work alone. He had bumped into Antonio in the morning after the owner of an antiques store near Veilgarden had all but run Alfred out of his shop for almost breaking what was apparently a very ancient and extremely expensive (or overpriced) vase. In actual fact, Antonio had stumbled upon the shopkeeper in question throwing abuse and dead rats in Alfred’s direction, and after taking a moment to laugh had been thoughtful enough to intervene and steer Alfred away from the unhappy proprietor. After that, Antonio had seemingly appointed himself as Alfred’s advisor come tagalong for the afternoon, which essentially meant that he and Alfred had spent most of their time walking between shops merrily coming up with ever more imaginative insults for the people that turned Alfred down. Which, as on every day before this one, had happened to be everyone that they’d tried so far.

It was some time late on in the afternoon – or so Alfred guessed, since he still hadn’t managed to get head nor tail of how to keep track of what time of the day it was without the sun to keep him right – that Alfred finally decided he was fed up. He’d tried what felt like every shop, business or other place to work in the entire city over the last few days, covered what must have been thousands of miles from all the walking around, and he was starving. On this last thought, his stomach growled loudly as if in agreement.

“Man, I’m tired of this,” he said in frustration after he and Antonio left what must have been something like the fifty billionth shop that day. “I just keep looking and looking and not finding anything!”

“Well, sometimes these things take time,” Antonio reasoned, trying to look on the bright side of things.

“I know they do,” Alfred sighed, “but you’d think after how hard I’ve been looking I’d have found something by now, right?”

“I guess it depends on how many vases you almost smashed in all the other shops,” Antonio said with a sheepish grin and a chuckle.

“Hey! That only happened that one time you showed up, okay?” Alfred told him defensively, feeling a little hurt. “You’ve just got really bad timing, that’s all.”

“I thought it was good timing,” Antonio said, completely candidly. “I helped you get away from the dead rats he was throwing at you, didn’t I?” Alfred shuddered.

“Don’t remind me.” He sighed. “Maybe I should call it a day. I’m really beat and everyone’s starting to close up anyway.” Antonio made a sympathetic face.

“It’s not a complete loss,” he said. “You could always run odd jobs for people until you find something more permanent, right? Everyone in the city does something like that at one time or another, it’s fine. Or maybe –” The Spanish man suddenly stopped both mid-sentence and mid-step, so suddenly that Alfred almost collided with him.

“Whoa! What’d you stop for –?”

“I just thought of something!” Antonio declared rather excitedly, turning to face Alfred with a huge grin on his face. “There’s a friend of mine who runs a shop near Ladybones Road and he’s always looking for help! We could go there right now and ask if he’ll take you on!”

“Seriously?” Alfred gaped, hardly able to believe his luck after what seemed like the endless search of the past few days. Then he remembered that Antonio had been walking with him for what had been hours by now and hadn’t mentioned this one bit up to now. “Hey, why didn’t you just say that earlier?”

Bueno…” Antonio scratched the side of his head sheepishly. “I’d forgotten about it up until now. Sorry.”

“Geez, you could have remembered a little earlier,” Alfred griped, before shaking his head and forgetting about his funk. Maybe he had taken ages to remember – and maybe Alfred’s stomach was growling more and more every moment because of it – but at least he’d come up with something, and that was progress! “Don’t worry about it, though! Take me there now and we’ll call it quits for your bad memory,” he teased.

“Sure! It’s just this way…”

As it turned out, they hadn’t been very far from the shop at all, and it only took a few minutes of walking before they came into a quiet street, with only a few stragglers lingering to talk or to lock up their shops and goods. Antonio stopped outside of one of the few shops that was still open for business, candles still burning at the windows.

“This is it,” he told Alfred with a definitive nod. “He sells second-hand things mostly, weapons and clocks and other things that he’s fixed or cleaned up a little. People bring their old things here all the time.” He peered in at the window for a moment before moving to open the door. “Shall we go?”

“Lead the way,” Alfred grinned, following the other man inside as a tinny bell chimed over their heads when the door opened.

“Hello?” Antonio called out as they walked in. There was no answer. “Is anyone here?” As Alfred stepped inside the shop, he couldn’t help being immediately curious about everything in it. It was like stepping into an Aladdin’s Cave of mechanical treasures, weaponry, and other odds and ends like old pocket watches or ornaments with secret compartments that only opened when you twisted one of the arms just so. The walls were arrayed with all manner of things both sharp and explosive, ceremonial but still very functional swords bolted securely to their places between sets of knives and miniature pearl-handled revolvers. Meanwhile, shelves were stacked full of various machines and other mechanical devices that Alfred could only begin to guess the use of. The place was like a budding engineer’s paradise, and it was all Alfred could do to metaphorically sit on his hands and not touch everything in sight to see how it worked. He didn’t want a repeat of the rat and vase incident, after all.

“Hmm.” Antonio was looking quite perturbed as he ventured further into the shop clearly quite confused at finding no one behind the counter to greet them both. “I suppose he must be down below in the basement,” he concluded, almost to himself it seemed. “Hang on, I’ll go and get him, he won’t have gone too far.” He headed towards the back of the shop, behind the counter, and paused as something occurred to him. “Oh, by the way, don’t touch anything,” he said, almost as if he’d been reading Alfred’s thoughts. “He doesn’t really like it when people touch the things without someone around to watch them, and the last time someone did it…” There was a small, nervous laugh. “Well, it got a little bit messy. I’ll be back in about five minutes, okay?” And before Alfred could ask how exactly things had gotten messy, he’d vanished, the sound of his footsteps disappearing below Alfred’s feet.

Alfred let out a breath shortly. He cleaned his glasses on the bottom of his shirt before putting them back on a little skewed. He put his hands in his pockets to stop them being tempted to wander and pick up all of the realty interesting merchandise. He spent about three minutes trying to decipher the strange-looking symbols on the side of one of the metal boxes in the corner before he got bored with not understanding what they were trying to say and gave up. He scuffed his shoes on the wooden floor and spent another five minutes cooking up ever more ghoulish scenarios for how the incident with the owner of the shop had ended up so messy. Finally, after looking at the large and slightly dangerous-looking grandfather clock propped up against the far wall, he decided that he might as well follow Antonio down the stairs and see where he’d got to. It had been much longer than five minutes, after all. Maybe the owner that hated having his merchandise touched had gone crazy and turned on his friend, and Alfred would arrive just in the nick of time to save him.

… Sure, it might not be all that likely, but it was a nice thought. And anyway, he was learning fast not to put anything past this city.

The worn stone steps leading down into the basement were surprisingly well lit as he descended them, with lanterns hanging from the ceiling above his head. There was more space down here than he’d thought, he realised as he reached the bottom; enough for several rooms and not just the storeroom that he’d been expecting to find. He guessed that made sense, though; after all, they had to have somewhere to fix all the junk that must get brought in to this place.

“Antonio?” he called down the short corridor. “Hey, are you gonna stay down here all night or something?” There was no answer. Alfred was just wondering which of the doors leading off the hallway he should look in first when he caught the sound of voices from the very end of the hall. That had to be a good place to start looking!

Alfred’s first thought as he drew closer to the open door at the end of the corridor was that, whatever it was in that room, it was very bright. In fact, it was a good deal brighter in there than upstairs in the shop itself. What could they be doing down here that needed more light than the people upstairs working? The people who ran this place didn’t live underground, did they?

… well, more underground than they already were, he thought a moment later. Everyone was underground already in this city.

That was his thought process as he approached the bright room in front of him. His thought process as he entered the room itself with his mouth open either to apologise for walking in or to say something particularly impressive and heroic – depending on the situation he found in there, of course – could however, be summed up in one word.


The four people grouped around the scrubbed wooden table inside started at that outburst, looking up at the door with expressions ranging from alarm to surprised irritation. Three of them were people that Alfred had never seen before; but the fourth, the one that Alfred was looking directly at from his vantage point in the doorway, was someone that he remembered very well.

Gilbert Beilschmidt, white hair, red eyes, vaguely psychotic expression and all, stared right back at Alfred, grinned, and said “Ja, me. Long time no see, kinder.”

“You’re the guy who tried to knife me!” Alfred couldn’t believe it. What was the guy who had almost knifed him in a dark alleyway little more than a week ago doing here, in the basement of a second-hand junk shop, poring over bits of paper with three strangers? More to the point, did Antonio know about all of this?

“Who let this idiot in here, che?” asked an irritated-looking woman to Gilbert’s right, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes. “You said no one could get in here, idiot! What if the police decided to come and investigate for fun, huh?”

“Relax, gorgeous,” Gilbert said casually, straightening up and walking around the table to meet Alfred at the door, still grinning cockily. “This idiot’s the one Antonio left upstairs. Besides, it’s not as if we looked like we were doing anything suspicious from the door.”

“Hey, watch who you’re calling an idiot!” Alfred protested, quite forgetting about the fact that Gilbert could quite happily murder in cold blood for a moment. He soon remembered, however, and asked, “What are you doing down here anyway? Antonio said he was going to get the owner of this place –”

“Ja, that would be me,” Gilbert smirked, his grin flashing wider to show each and every one of his teeth. He seemed to be enjoying Alfred’s growing horror with every new revelation. “And about the stabbing thing, kid, it was nothing personal. Besides, once I found out you didn’t even know what the game of Knife And Candle was I wasn’t gonna stab you anyway, it’s against the rules.” His grin became, if possible, even more terrifying. “Not that I care about playing against the rules usually, but I don’t want the Masters paying any attention to me until I want them to. I was just playing with you.”

“Playing with me?! That was playing?!” Alfred was, if possible, even more incredulous than before. What the hell did this guy think he was playing at? People should be able to walk around the streets at night without fear of running into the criminally insane people that made you think they were going to knife you for fun! It just – it just wasn’t right.

It was about that moment that another very important fact occurred to Alfred, one that made his jaw drop and his mind shudder to a stuttering halt. “Hey, wait – you’re the one that runs this place?”

“Hey, Antonio, your idiot’s escaped from upstairs!” the other woman at the table shouted before things could escalate any further. “You’d better come and collect him before he does any damage!” Alfred was about to open his mouth to object to being called an idiot again – seriously, why did everyone he came across in this city seem to like insulting him when they first met him? – but at that moment there was the sound of footsteps from the next room and Antonio appeared breathlessly from another doorway, his arms full of more papers.

“What? What is it?” he asked, looking between the table’s occupants in confusion. It wasn’t until his eyes travelled first to Gilbert, and then to Alfred, that he mouthed a silent “oh” in understanding.

Still recovering from the shock – geez, did everyone in Fallen London have their own personal mass murderer as a friend or something more like that? – Alfred turned on Antonio. “This is your friend? The guy that was almost gonna knife me the other night?”

“Oh, so you’ve already met— wait, knifed you?” Antonio turned with wide eyes to Gilbert, who merely shrugged as if to say ‘Jesus Christ, what the hell are you making all this fuss about?’

“I wasn’t really gonna knife him, Toni. If they don’t play the game, I don’t stick my knives in them. Calm down already, you’re as bad as the kinder over there.”

“You were waving your knives in my face, what the heck was I supposed to think?”

“Are you going to go on about that all day or something? Tch.” Gilbert rolled his eyes in boredom. “Move on, kid. Lesson one in this city is that shit like that happens every day, you either learn to deal with it or you do something about it.”

“This is all very nice, che,” the first woman interjected, drawing the attention of her two companions, “But what the hell is he doing down here in the first place?”

“I was looking for him!” Alfred protested, pointing a finger at Antonio. “He’s the one that brought me here so I could ask for a job!”

“I told you to wait upstairs while I went to find him, too!”

“You were gone for more than fifteen minutes!” Alfred said, looking around the room. Gilbert was looking distinctly bored with the current conversation; the two women at the table were looking equally as fed up, while their companion, a dark-haired man, was watching the American and the Spaniard hurl words at each other like he was watching a tennis match. Suddenly something occurred to Alfred; what were they all doing down here, gathered around a table huddled over some pieces of paper? And what did Antonio have to do with it? His eyes flicked to the tabletop as he tried to see what they were all looking at without being too obvious about it. He must have failed in that, as the bad-tempered woman’s eyes narrowed and she pointedly moved to cover the papers with her arms. Well, that just proved it; they were definitely hiding something down here!

“What are you all doing down here anyway?” he asked, deciding to do what he did best and be as blunt as possible about everything. “That sure doesn’t look like stock work to me.”

There was a decidedly awkward pause before the irritable woman said, her lips thin, “That’s none of your business.”

“Actually, I don’t know,” Gilbert said thoughtfully. There was a long, dead silence while everyone else present turned to look at the albino as if he’d gone mad…er.

“What,” said the grumpy woman flatly, staring at Gilbert like he’d grown an extra head. “You can’t be serious, che.”

“Sure I can,” Gilbert fired back, while the others carried on staring at him. Alfred was once again feeling incredibly lost in this whole conversation. “He’s as good as anyone else, right? Besides, we could use him.”

“Use him for what? Target practice?” said the woman snippily.


“That was a little cruel, Arianna…”

“No one asked for your opinion, Antonio!”

“You lot be quiet already! I wasn’t done yet.” Gilbert turned back to Alfred, a smirk on his face. “Well, kinder? Fancy hearing me out on an offer, or are you too chicken?”

“Depends on the offer,” Alfred retorted, folding his arms suspiciously. “Creeping around down here in secret doing… whatever it is you guys are doing, doesn’t exactly give me a whole lot of confidence in you, you know.”

“Creeping’s a bit of a harsh word,” the man at the table started before the woman to his right put a hand over his mouth warningly. He got the anvil-sized hint and shut up.

Gilbert was still smirking lazily at him. “Sure it doesn’t. You might change your mind once you’ve heard me out, though.”

Alfred stared at him. Then he decided, what the hell. He might as well throw caution to the winds and hear the guy out at least. He drew out a chair at the table and threw himself down in it exasperatedly. “Okay, fine. I’m listening.”

Gilbert’s smirk widened. “Let me ask you something,” he said. “You don’t like the way things are run down here, do you?”

“What kind of question is that? Of course I don’t, any sane person wouldn’t!” Alfred may have put just a little more emphasis on sane than the rest of the words in that sentence, just to make a point. The two women at the table both scowled at him in unison.

“A good question, since you asked,” Gilbert drawled, unconcerned by Alfred’s attack on his sanity. “You came here for a job, ja?”

“Sure. Where are you going with this?”

“Offering you one, kinder, so shut up and hear me out, because I’m only going to say this once.” Gilbert’s eyes gleamed dangerously in the basement’s candlelight. “Here’s the deal; I give you a job upstairs in the shop, and as well as that…” he paused seemingly for dramatic effect, looking directly at Alfred. “You help us out with our little project down here.”

“Which is what?” Alfred asked suspiciously.

“Revolution,” answered Gilbert promptly. “Eventually, anyway. Should be right up your street since you’re an American, right?” he added with a smirk. Alfred stared blankly at him.


“Put it into simple terms for him, Gilbert, I’m not sure if his brain can handle it,” said Arianna snippily. Alfred glared at her.

“I’m getting there,” Gilbert said in a bored tone, not even looking at her. “Point is, you don’t like how things run here. Neither do we. Since we both have the same opinion, how about you join in and help out with us changing things?” He smirked. “’Course, now that I’ve told you that, if you say no, I’ll probably have to kill you, which’d be a shame.” His voice indicated that it wouldn’t actually be that much of a shame.

“Let me get this straight,” said Alfred slowly, deciding to ignore the threat. “You guys are planning some sort of revolution, and you want me to join in?”

“Pretty much. We’re not the only revolutionary group in London, just the smartest.” Gilbert grinned. “We’re playing for higher stakes than the rest of them, and we don’t just throw around words and blow up the odd statue like the rest of them. You want in?”

“What is it you actually want?”

“Rid of the Masters, of course. There’s a reason they call London stolen you know, kinder.”

Alfred thought about it. It was true, he didn’t like the way things were run down here. Not one bit. He’d decided he didn’t like Gilbert – heck, he didn’t trust him even nearly as far as he could throw him, but the smirking albino had hit it on the head. Alfred didn’t like the way things were, no matter how many people tried to tell him that was how it was, and if he had a chance to maybe, just maybe change things for the better, and if a revolution was the only way to do it… hey, stuck down here, where you could get casually murdered if you took a wrong turning, what else did he have to lose? He might as well at least try to change things if he was going to be living down here for a while. If Mattie was going to be living down here for a while, too. It was the sort of thing any hero - any decent person – would do. And he was being offered a job along with it.

Sure, it might be dangerous. But even just living down here seemed to be dangerous, and Alfred was fed up with just doing nothing.

“Alright, fine,” he said decisively, before he could think too much about how reckless it was to join a group headed by a guy who’d been waving a knife in his face only a week or so before. “I’ll do it. But I want to know exactly what I’ll be doing, and more about why we’re doing all of this anyway, okay? Tell me everything you know.”

Gilbert grinned, and his smile was like a knife. “Sure.”