lunes, 6 de febrero de 2017

WHEN OUR WARM SEASON IS OVER: AUS-HUN SHORT STORY

WHEN OUR WARM SEASON IS OVER

When our warm season is over,
with the first lilywhite snow,
I will be there to comfort you,
sweet and good, thus, feel no woe.
Hungarian folk song (first stanza)
Translated by Sandra Dermark

A Hetalia Tragic Romance -- based upon the famous ballad.

Historical period: late eighteenth century, wars following French Revolution
Pairings: AusXHun (my OTP), AusxMarie-Antoinette (friendly)
Warning: This story contains violence, but no steamy erotic content.


I.

She lays her auburn head on his strong shoulder, dripping crystal tears on the steel epaulet of his breastplate and on the left sleeve of his lilywhite coat.
He runs his fine fingers, covered in white gloves, through her auburn locks, and, taking up the pink peony he had picked from the shrubbery, he tucks it behind her right ear as he softly whispers her name in.
A shrill fanfare call reaches their ears once more, curling the blades of grass, the leaves, and the petals, stirring her long auburn locks and his short dark hair. Yet the deepest stir is in their hearts.
"This evening, our regiment goes forth, and I must leave as well, when twilight descends."
The sun is beginning to set beyond the palace garden. The evening sky is crimson as blood. The fanfare sounds once more. His overcoat is now looking orange or red, the colour of fire, in the evening twilight. He raises her head, dries up her tears with her silk handkerchief: the white one with cherry-red and mint-green floral motifs.
She looks into his eyes, violet as gentians and deep as glacier lakes. How many wars had he got to fight ever since he came of age? This is by no means the first time they part in such troubled times. Surely, Roderich will return to her side, like he always has done. Surely, surely. She might be seen as tough in spite of her elegant figure, yet, every time he leaves the estate, she must burst into tears, sobbing into the cold, hard steel that shields his throbbing heart, as if she were still a child.
Why, then? Does his departure make her... weak? She could stand on her own, like the warrior she had been from her childhood, until he had met her and made her his bride, and later his spouse. When he raised his bow and played for Elizaveta, her heart, already swayed by his words, was thoroughly captured.
Now she feels her sorrows choke in her throat, as if she had swallowed strychnine. And her rosy face is ablaze, as if on fire.
What if this is the last war?
An uneasy feeling troubles both of them. What if this is their last conflict? What if they are parted forever?
Another fanfare call sounds nearer. The sword is in his scabbard, the breastplate shields his vitals, there is ostensibly nothing to worry about.
Maybe he'll return to play the violin or the spinet and embrace her, and share her deepest feelings. Yet something inside him (and inside her) makes a warning flash through both their minds. As he dries up her tears and reaches her the handkerchief, there is just one more thing to whisper:
"Kiss me just once more, Elizaveta, Liebchen. Who knows whither we are heading?"
She puts her rosy lips to his and dries up her last tears, as he clasps his strong arms around her waist. For one second, their hearts, on fire, skip a beat.
She offers him the handkerchief, he at first denies it, saying a warrior should shed no tears, but then, seeing the mournful look in her emerald green eyes, he ties it into his cravat.
Looking back at Elizaveta, he walks through a vast garden full of flowers and fountains, at twilight. To lead his men, who are waiting for him across the gate.
She watches him walk away (for he will surely get on his horse as soon as he has reached the rest of the army) as the light in the day sky fades away and turns from the crimson of blood to the purple of tainted veins. Then, she takes up her spare handkerchief and dries up a crystal stream of tears into it.


II.

The orange flames flicker in the firelight, as the kindling crackles and sparks are sent through the cold midnight air, perchance as premonition of the gunshots that will be fired the next day. The whole regiment has laid down to rest on the eve of the engagement, but one single heart throbs restlessly under a white coat and an equally white shirt.
"Strange bedfellows, indeed," he thinks. "For ages, I had seen Prussia as the wicked enemy. Now, we've become allies against our will." Roderich casts a glance upon the silver-haired warrior in dark blue, who lies half-prostrate by his side. Then, a thought strikes his consciousness like lightning: "Elizaveta!"
Steeling himself, he shakes his dark-haired head. Why did he remember her? It is the eve of battle, and there are more important things to worry about.
"Ironies of life... the enemy of yore is my reluctant ally, and why? I thought, for every peace treaty and every offer, that Francis Bonnefoy would be satisfied. Still I had to win their trust by giving away a princess of mine... and how did those cursed frog-eaters repay the favour? Turning against her and executing her? Such an outrage shall never be forgiven! This is the reason why we have become enemies. Not for land or power, but for Marie Antoinette. For Marie Elizaveta." The blond and blue-eyed archduchess has, in his troubled mind's eye, transformed into an elegant maiden with mint-green eyes and flowing auburn locks. "Elizaveta?" Roderich draws steel and spends a moment cleaning the sharp blade of his rapier. Yet he cannot concentrate: the sound of her sobs and that folk tune combined with the call of duty, those crystal tears that fell on his unsullied white sleeve, that kiss with her lips like embers, which might as well be the last one...
"Beilschmidt! Please bring me an envelope, stationery, and my steel quill. And, as soon as I am ready, could you please send the letter to her?"
Ludwig salutes Roderich and quickly says "Jawohl!", sauntering into headquarters and returning with the items which his commanding officer and liege lord asked for. Then, both of them return together into the pavilion with the Habsburg flags.
Still dressed in his uniform, Roderich Edelstein sits before his nightstand table, looking at the blank sheet of paper that lies on it. The same unsullied white as his uniform. Ready to be written on, though in black ink instead of scarlet blood.
"Elizaveta. She is waiting for me. I see her even shed tears, in the canopy bed that both of us share. Now that I am gone, our bed is even larger to her, and she feels alone."
He sees her, a lovely maiden sitting on the edge of their canopy bed, just like he is sitting on the edge of his camp bed, feeling insecure and stirred, also staying awake. Crystal drops leaving her emerald orbs, falling on a handkerchief like his. She's sobbing, or humming, one of the tunes he composed for her.
And his head suddenly begins to throb. As if his heart had risen up to his mind, usurping the throne of reason, filling him up with reveries right before the engagement. For a while, Roderich decides to think of the war instead. Of that lingering enmity with Francis, of the grant of Lorraine, of the promise he made when he sent Marie Antoinette in exchange for an alliance in times of war, of the last farewell at the border to Marie... Elizaveta?"
Desperate, Roderich Edelstein thrusts his throbbing head onto his fine hands. "Elizaveta!" There she is again, so lovely, her elegant profile, her kindly face and the flower in her hair. Quickly, he takes up the steel pen, which dances on the blank sheet as quickly and gracefully as his hands do when he is playing any instrument. And his elegant calligraphy, quietly and calmly, ties beautiful letters together into words of comfort:
"Liebe Elizaveta!" Then, a few soothing verses of love and of comfort, reassuring her that he will soon embrace and kiss her once more, like after every war. In the end, "Dein herzlieber Roderich."
"I see that you are ready", Ludwig Beilschmidt says as he sees his liege lord puts the folded sheet in the envelope. "Thus, I will saddle my steed right now and bring the letter to her. Auf Wiedersehen!"
Elizaveta Héderváry is sitting, indeed, on the edge of her canopy bed, dressed in her night shift. She is humming some mournful tune as a few blazing teardrops trickle down her cheeks. The bed she once shared is now twice as vast, and cold as the deepest circle of hell.
"There he is, shouldering the violin instead of drawing the sword..." That enchanting song was one she had often heard as a child, when she was a lonely warrior... no, one that Roderich had composed for her. And, for a while, she thought that he was by her side, an attractive young man, tall and slender, now dressed in the suit of a courtier, without any scabbard by his side or breastplate on his heart, raising his bow to play that tune. Would he ever return and keep her warm, cozy, reassured?
A knock on the door startles her. Quickly, she rushes down the staircase, her auburn locks fluttering in her wake. She saunters through the hall, the walls of which are covered with rose-coloured satin with pretty flowers embroidered. Now she has reached the lock and turns it around...
There is Ludwig, blond and stern as always, with a letter from the front. She takes the envelope carefully and wishes him and Roderich good luck, and to send her husband her regards, ere she shuts and locks the door once more.
Once in her bedroom, she softly opens the envelope and begins to read by candle-light. Her worries are soon laid to rest, as she softly hums the enchanting song and reads the warning of next day's engagement, the promise of returning, the confession of what he is feeling, that Roderich has written. There is beauty and music even in his writings.
Putting out the lights in the candlestick, before going to sleep, she clasps the letter to her chest. In this manner, she will, after all, sleep in peace with Roderich tonight.


III.

Awakened by a ray of sunlight that has just fallen on her fair face, Elizaveta pushes the bed-curtains aside and looks at the letter that she has spent the night with. In her dream, she was waltzing with Roderich in a vast ballroom, both of them dressed in their best attire and wishing that there would be no more wars. They were quite pleased with one another, as usual, and spoke very kindly to each other, their bright eyes fixed on those of one another. And the waltz that played in that elegant ballroom was... the one that he had dedicated to her. The mournful yet enchanting song he called "Für Elizaveta," which has been on her mind from last day's twilight.
Yet, being a dream, it had to fade away and give way to reality.
After having broken her fast on a baker's dozen of palacsinta on her own (and wondered about her spouse for a while, about having no one to share her delicious breakfast with at all), she thinks of taking a walk on her own about the castle and gardens, yet, somehow, the whole estate reminds her of Roderich Edelstein. And thus, we find Elizaveta once more in her room, sitting by her dressing table with a maid by her side, a quill in her hand and a blank sheet before her...
"Ildikó, could you please send my regards to everyone at the front and give His Lordship my letter this evening?" The maidservant nods in approval.
After all, Her Ladyship has got the whole day to write, and there are hours to wait until twilight. Yet everything she can do feels tiresome today, and the only sounds that are on her mind are those of gunshots and clashing steel, of wounded and dying warriors screaming in agony. And perchance someone dear can be reckoned among those that have been struck.
Taking up and opening the violin case, she thinks of Roderich as she raises the bow. To banish all the worries that come with having a loved one at war, she decides to play the beautiful melody he once taught her and gave her, without his strong arms to guide hers. The hand that once waved a sword can now also raise a bow, and that now on her own... but why does she feel so different from before, so fragile, so vulnerable?
Elizaveta shakes her head, thinks of her ballroom dream, and plays "Für Elizaveta" as skilfully as her spouse could have done.
Meanwhile, on the frontline, Roderich draws steel with his eyes fixed on the French host before him. Usually a careful general, he had avoided exposure to such a degree, yet Gilbert's insinuations and the thought of Marie Antoinette had changed his mind for him to decide for the frontline.
No bright steel shields any officer's vital points: the breastplates, too heavy and that still can be pierced by gunfire, lie discarded in the allies' pavilion.
Among both the enemy and the allies, gunshots ring through the summer air, and bullets whistle among the bright uniforms and glittering bayonets.
One of these bullets comes whizzing, fast as lightning, straight towards Roderich's chest.
He cannot dodge the shot.
A blazing ray, like lightning, burns through his stainless white coat, and then through his equally stainless white shirt, before searing the skin on his left breast, right below the nipple.
Then, it gets in, through his left pectoral muscle and in between his ribs, and even deeper inside.
All within a second, the blinking of an eye, an instant.
Feeling an intense, painful fire blaze and expand inside his chest, Roderich Edelstein winces and clutches his left breast, as he reels and everything turns clouded before his tearful eyes.
His weakened hand drops the rapier that it held.
Then, as he falls on the lea among his followers, he sees the whole battlefield fade into darkness.
A liquid flows inside his lungs and courses up his trachea, forcing the Austrian to cough in response. The taste of this liquid is strange yet familiar, like salted steel.
It's his own blood, Roderich realizes. And his chest also feels tight, as if tied up with a corset, making it hard to breathe.
As his consciousness fades and his life is endangered, he can only think of breathing and of her.
"Elizaveta..."
Meanwhile, in her once shared bedroom, Elizaveta gently plays the violin to drive away the worries that still try in vain to haunt her, while thinking of Roderich's fine yet strong hands laid on her shoulders. For it's the same sweet and mournful song that her husband dedicated to her.
Suddenly, she hears what appears to be a gunshot. Startled, she plays a note wrong, then the bow falls to the ground.
Elizaveta Héderváry turns strangely pale and shudders. Picking up the bow and putting both it and the violin back into the case, she sits down on her dressing table, with her steel pen in her hand and a sheet of stainless white paper before her.
Steeling herself, she begins to write the letter, though she feels, deep inside her, that something has happened to her partner. Could it actually be true?
Yet she conjures up thoughts of hope to soothe herself, and soon, the greeting is written, with the finest calligraphy she can think of: "Liebster Roderich!"
She might as well have written in her own language, but he has always found it difficult and preferred his own German.
Then, suddenly, she feels ill at ease again. For which reason?
For once, she will leave both the letter and the violin, and the spinet, and everything that will conjure up any fond memories of Roderich Edelstein.
And she will practice fencing instead, like in the childhood she once spent as a warrior.
Taking up his spare sword, a cavalry saber, she strikes forwards into the air, then upwards, then downwards, then to the sides. When was the last time she had ever fenced?
Now she feels strong again, brave, confident, able to take on any enemy that tries to wrest her life, and her only loved one, from her.
Though she is completely unaware of the fate that has befallen her spouse on the war front.


IV.

Next to headquarters, within the fortified encampment, the vast frontline hospital can be seen. In modest beds with blood-stained sheets, injured officers are being tended to.
Roderich Edelstein, still unconscious, is brought in with utmost care. Fine blue veins, as if painted with enamel and the finest brush, line his strangely pale face, and his whole form is covered in a cold sweat. A foam half scarlet, half pink steals through his parted lips, and his shut eyelids, shaded by dark shadows, do not even flicker for an instant. The wounded warrior's breathing is shallow and painful, rattling, increasing in difficulty more for each instant.
Though he is young and strong, Herr Edelstein is fighting for his life against all odds. Anyway, hardships has he endured and enemies has he confronted for as long as he can remember, yet this may be (or may be not?) the final stand against an enemy that is for once his equal. The Thirty Years, the previous French wars... had already battered his internal defenses, now beginning to waver seriously.
A crackle like that of flames and an ominous muffled gurgle. Through bandage and skin and flesh and ribs, these sounds overshadow the wounded warrior's difficult breathing and his erratic heartbeat. The rolled-up left-wing propaganda posters that rained down from an enemy montgolfière the eve of the engagement amplify this soundtrack of lethal struggle far better than a simple ear-to-bandage approach, Ludwig Beilschmidt thinks to himself. The shimmering thin blade he used to probe Roderich's chest wound when the latter's men shuttled him in was also proofed against blood poisoning with kindling of such pamphlets to feed the flame (indeed, these sans-culottes' words are quite inflammable)... and still, bringing any poisons that may have stuck to the blade into that shattered seat of life would surely be a mercy killing, with all that hot lead and gunpowder and cloth ashes that plunged into His Grace's chest right next to the left nipple. Not to mention what the gunshot has wrought within; the hazelnut-sized grapeshot bullet could not be drawn out; hopefully the wounded officer would survive, as he had seen and heard from more experienced surgeons. Still, the result of that struggle was left to chance as usual; a deeply unconscious Roderich did not even wince the slightest as the blade was plunged into his chest; remaining so bereft of expression that one could not say clearly without he was alive... To soothe his sufferings or to strengthen his spirits? Would he live or...? The little hope that was left for the dying man's recovery was a flower in the storm, a candle flame in the pouring rain. Tossing, writhing, ablaze with fever yet pale and cold as ice, thirsty for liquid and for air, gaping constantly and coughing up that rose-red foam now and again, the wounded commander would not surrender his most prized treasures --his life, his spirit-- that easily.
The fair-haired, stern surgeon uncorked a steel flask and put it to his unconscious commanding officer's lips. As he watched Roderich's throat rise and fall in waves and felt the flask lighter and lighter the more it was drained of liquor, these soothing sensations cast aside, for a while, the worries that his commanding officer's wavering vital signs brought to the two of them. The faint flutter of lilywhite eyelids, after the sleeper had finished his drink, surprised the realistic and dutiful blond healer by his side. Thus Roderich's glazed amethyst orbs, glittering with the unhealthy blaze of fever, looked left and right as Ludwig steeled himself at this sudden awakening. A piercing violet stare skipped erratically all over the improvised room until it rested on the startled surgeon's own icy blue eyes. There was something sinister in that furious, feverish look; and thus he spoke in a broken voice, gasping for air every now and then, and interrupted by a cough every now and then as that rose-red foam gushed from his lips, staining the bedsheets, the bandages on his chest, the uniform coat of Ludwig Beilschmidt, as he feverishly and anxiously gasped:
"E...liza...veta! Let... me... at least... write... to her!!"
At this point, a blood-stained index finger on those lips tries to cut the flow of words that in his case can literally kill. "Speak not, Your Lordship," a voice that wants to be soothing but can only be cold replies. "Speak not, less you want the strain you put on your lungs to make those your last words."
 As he drowned the strong drink, a true draught of liquid fire, he was torn from lovely fever-dreams into the shock of reality, an at first unfamiliar place, another man whom he at first took for a stranger in Elizaveta's stead. In his unquiet dream, he was stark naked, drowning in surging rapids of blood he had shed --Swedish, French, Prussian blood--, constantly panting or gasping for air, stabbed in the sides by invisible blades, and struggling to surface out of the Phlegethon of his own wars past... but she was standing on the bank, reaching out, throwing a rope for a lifeline that escaped, that writhed out of his grasp every time it plunged; yet Elizaveta, bold as she always had been, though her arms weakened and the rope felt heavier each time, never ceased to cast the lifeline, hoping to catch at least the heart of the one she loved... then, the rising waves and rains of the storm, and, as his veiled eyes were still fixed on Elizaveta's own peridot orbs, down his throat went a long draught of the scarlet liquid, searing his throat and spreading throughout the bloodstream like liquid fire; then, the painful awakening, the shock of reality, half-veiled by a fever mist, yet still clear enough. It felt as if the gunshot had struck his left breast again; the breath he drew in brought a more stabbing pain than any of those he had felt during his fever dreams.
"E...liza...veta!" More rose-red foam surges from his lips. "Where's my... uniform!?" After that command, a violent coughing fit makes him reel and sink back into the pillow. "I will... never... die in... bed!"
"Speak not," the surgeon reiterates, "and move not. You should sleep more and recover..."
But Roderich has already lapsed back into the same deep rêveries that he was just roused from against his will. The same struggling breathing, the same tossing and writhing; like a snake trampled underfoot. The same strangely pale visage, shaded by ominous crescents under the shut eyes.
Casting a lightning look at the febrile Edelstein, Ludwig has turned his back to tend to other wounded officers that have just been brought in at the bloody twilight; there are limbs to sever, sprained feet to bandage... the sunset is blazing like the wildfire in which the enemy rebels wreathe châteaux and convents, and the dying sun is a glowing drop of hope and blood descending into a barren horizon, where French rankers and those of the kingdoms are earthed together, friends and strangers all pell-mell, in vast mass graves; officers receive each the privilege of a bed of their own for the afterlife and a modest cross or another memorial to mark their resting places. Putting the flask to his lips and draining it before refilling the little steel container, he feels the warmth of schnaps cleanse his vitals and his spirit in the same way that fire cleanses his implements.
From her balcony window, far away, Elizaveta watches the same sunset, the dusk sunlight gilding the crown of her auburn hair. It's a lonely and mournful mood she is in, dressed in her soft white nightgown on whose puffy-sleeve shoulders her unruly locks fall. She doesn't feel like going to bed... a shudder runs down her spine and then back up again, but it's not the cold in the air. It's the feeling that something has happened to Roderich; that something is happening to the one she loves.
Half a year before, way before the war, one evening right there, they heard the sound of dancing. A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her uniformed lover.
"How wonderful the stars are," he said to her, "and how wonderful is the power of love!"
In response, the usually lively and cheerful maiden stuttered and choked on her own words; clinging to his slender waist, she chortled and shed tears of joy. Something cold and fresh slipped onto her left ring finger; her sparkling eyes, and the rest of that flustered face, was buried in his unsullied white uniform. Now she knew that she could cast aside those childhood fears of commitment and that he had won her heart the way it should have been. To think of that; her life had been like that of a fairytale character. She opens the empty notebook she has illustrated and handwritten herself:
A KIRÁLYFIRÓL ÉS A KIRÁLYKISASSZONYRÓL
"Ebben a birodalomban, élt egy királykisasszony; igen nagyon okos teremtés..."
In the kingdom in the heart of the continent there lives a princess. She's really, really clever and has read newspapers from all around the world, and forgotten all about them too, though she is so clever. Not too long ago she was sitting on her throne and began to sing a song that began with the words: "Why should I not be married?"
So then she said "Why not indeed?" She became determined to find and marry a man who knew what to say when spoken to, and speak well. She wanted someone who could do more than just look grand, for that is apparently tiresome to someone who grew up surrounded by such people.
They sent out notices immediately into all the newspapers to different countries. It had a border of hearts and the initials of the princess. They alerted the people that any young man who was handsome could visit the castle and speak to the princess no matter what his background was. The one who could woo the princess best with the way he spoke would be chosen as her husband.
So many people came! It was very chaotic the first two days or so... And no one did very well. Once they got inside the castle they seemed to become tongue-tied. It was like they had lost all sense and wit the moment they entered the castle. And as soon as they found themselves in the throne room all they could do was repeat the last word the princess had said and could not recover their speech until they left the palace. She got very weary hearing her own words repeated back to her.
The line was very long and went from the town-gate to the palace. They were offered nothing inside the palace, not even a glass of water. Some of them had bought bread but refused to share it.
On the third day came a young man who was supposed to be very attractive but dressed in very poor clothes and carried a strange case.
He went through the gates, but when he saw all the finery he wasn't embarrassed at all. The young man wasn't self-conscious and seemed very confident in himself, not seeming to notice anything amiss with his appearance in his surroundings.
He must be bold for he walked right up to the princess herself, and just about all the court was present. It was supposed to be very crowded. But he paid them no mind. He only had eyes for the princess.
She is very lovely and quite kind. Anyway, the man spoke as beautifully... He was a bit awkward but was apparently very polite and agreeable and said he had not come to woo the princess, but to hear her wisdom. They were quite pleased with one another. And then he spoke to her in another special way... They said that at that the princess's heart was completely won over.
The palace was quite beautiful even from the outside. Through a large garden... The lights in the palace were being put out one by one. ...to the back door, which stood open. 
The first hall was truly spectacular. The walls were covered with rose-coloured satin with pretty flowers embroidered into the material. This was to be the first of many and each hall was more majestic than the last.
Then, the door to Princess Elizaveta's room. One could hear music... faint and very beautiful. It was such a sweet sound it made anyone's heart ache. 
The ceiling was very high up and made of the most costly coloured crystal one could find. A gauzy material hung around the center of the room. It was sheer enough to reveal two silhouettes behind it. One was the elegant profile of a lady, surely the princess. The other was a man's figure, tall and slender. It had a cowlick. He seemed to be the one playing that enchanting song on an instrument.
The music abruptly stopped and the two figures turned. The princess stood and pushed back the curtains. She was very lovely with a kindly face. Her eyes alighted with curiosity rather than fear or anger. 
The second silhouette stepped from behind the curtain. He was an attractive man...
The prince turned to his gracious bride. "Shall we?"
Princess Elizaveta nodded. "Yes, Roderich dear, that is perfectly alright with me."
As she lay down Prince Roderich raised his instrument and began to play a beautiful melody. This was the "second way of speaking," for when Roderich raised his bow and played for Princess Elizaveta her heart, already swayed by his words, was thoroughly captured.
The prince and princess, who spoke very kindly. The prince and princess wished to give more but...
...the sight of a coach made of pure gold, the coat-of-arms of the prince and princess like a dazzling star upon it. There was even a coachman, footman, and outriders, all of whom had a small gold crown. The royal couple helped into the coach, giving warm wishes of luck and words of encouragement.
"Farewell, farewell, may you find what you are searching for," cried the party.
Prince Roderich began to play his violin, a somewhat melancholy tune.
As Elizaveta finishes her story, she hears in her mind's ear the tune that she knows her fiancé, the prince in the fairytale of her life, is playing.
...any news she might have on the prince and princess whom had been so kind.
"I did hear that they have gone off to foreign countries, though I do not know for what reason," Katyusha told.
... (at this point, the tune repeats itself again)
They met with the prince and princess and discovered their purpose for going to foreign lands, (at this point, the tune repeats itself again)... But all of those are different stories for another time.
As she closes the little storybook, darkness has fallen over the palace grounds. Drawing the curtains and swaddling herself in a cocoon of silk and satin, Elizaveta hums the tune to herself as a lullaby, whispering the lyrics:

When our warm season is over,
with the first lilywhite snow,
I will be there to comfort you,
sweet and good, thus, feel no woe.

In the young maid's quiet chamber,
come has the time for farewell;
out there, they hear loudly cheering,
though she thinks it won't end well.

"You hear the fanfare of duty?
You hear the tune to their song?
They're crying: 'Forwards! To glory!'
They're crying: 'Forwards, go on!?'"

"Dry up your tears on my shoulder,
this evening may be the last;
regiment's called to the frontline,
once more my lot I will cast."

"With the descent of a red sun
thus goes our regiment forth;
kiss me one last time, my sweetling,
who knows when we'll meet once more?"

That autumn night, by the campfire...

At this point, right after ending this verse, Elizaveta lets the curtains fall over the emerald windows of her world as her eyes gently close into a dreamland in which her bedclothes are not so cold or vast... and she sees Roderich in another bed, far from home, tossing and writhing under bloodstained sheets, coughing up frothy blood every now and then. By his bedside sits Ludwig in a surgeon's uniform, slumped into a chair and obviously plunged into a drunken stupor.
"This cannot be true!" she says within the dream, not realising what her exclamation of despair has wrought upon her convalescent fiancé.


V.

Was she just calling to him? Like a strike of lightning, her louder voice causes Roderich's dream self to finally, with one last kick, finally raise his bloody, dark head above the surging Phlegethon of enemy blood, waking the sleeper up with another intense stab in the left ribs, just above the heart, startling him back into reality just like before: the candle-lit field hospital, a broad-shouldered blond man he recognizes slumped into a chair, fast asleep and reeking of schnaps; Roderich knows quite well what Ludwig's weaknesses are, even though his mind is still clouded --though half-clouded compared to the intoxicated surgeon's--. Making a strenuous effort to stand up... to take his left leg, and then the right, out of the bedclothes... to stagger, reeling, past the drunken sentinels and onto the moonlit lea, the tall grass reaching up to his faltering knees, every step and every breath racking his chest deep into the heart, as well as every raspy and cough-broken call for Elizaveta that only the hoot of the church tower owl and the croak of frogs in the pond rise in counterpoint to. Reeling and weakened more and more for each and every step, the lilywhite and naked officer wanders aimlessly around the deserted glen, unconsciously seeking the way back into the castle, to the ballroom or the bedchamber, to her side... Suddenly, feeling already exhausted, he sinks, curled up, into the reeds around the frog pond, a rill of rosy foam stealing through his parted lips with another broken whisper of Elizaveta's name. Has life been vanquished within his bosom at the end of the day? Since breathing has become so painful and hard, his heart is throbbing feverishly, like all the hoofbeats of a cavalry charge, and the silver cord is peeling off little by little.
The maiden's dream, in the meantime, does not come; she was startled by the thought of her lover struggling for a wavering hope to live. Now she sleeps in darkness with her eyes shut, trying to lull herself to sleep with the song, now sinister, ominous, that plays over and over in her head, in her heart, like an endless carousel. Always ending in tragedy before the soothing, reassuring first verse closes the circle. Only then do the dreams come: a blade in her hand, plunging into her own left side, then everything gradually fades to black as the whole bedchamber is spluttered with crimson and she hears her own voice sing in a sinister, mournful tone:

In the young maid's quiet chamber,
she put her life to an end;
piercing her heart with a dagger,
she joined her officer friend.

Then the first stanza will open once more for the umpteenth time: "When our warm season is over..." The end of the song lends an ironic tinge of fatality to its opening. The vicious circle keeps her constantly half-asleep and half-awake. Dreams will not come, and yet she must break free from this maze that keeps on going around in circles. Something has happened to her Roderich, surely, and something has to be done by her! In her mind's ear, she suddenly hears an incessant throbbing, like a cavalry charge; a feverish heart, a wavering spark of life. No, she will not lie in bed while her beloved is hanging on to a silken thread that may snap when they least expect it... Unwrapping her satin chrysalis and hastily pushing the bed-curtains to left and right, she dons her riding-coat on top of her nightgown and opens the balcony door, letting cold air stream in as she rushes out on the balcony and leaps into the fluffy shrubbery below, gracefully and deftly landing on her feet with her arms in a cross. Only a few scratches on her feet, nothing compared to his plight, has she received; 'tis obvious that it takes far more to stop Elizaveta Hédérváry. Climbing up the garden gate and sauntering down again, she runs bare-footed under the cloudy sky, lit up by a half-moon --since the thick clouds have banished all the stars--, past villages, past lonely inns, without even stopping. Constantly hearing her own throbbing heartbeat entwining with his, wavering, betraying an unconsciousness so deep that no dreams colour the darkness within.
Then, finally, she finds the lifeless form by the frog-pond; pale, cold, gaunt, his dark hair messy and his shut eyes framed in deep shadowy crescents; blood on his cold parted lips and no warm breeze stealing through them to kiss her auburn locks and silky skin... She buries her head in his bandaged, blood-stained chest, and she hears a faint pitter-patter, that turns every now and then into a frantic cavalry charge and then dwindles back into the pitter-patter of rain on a windowpane.
The heart of Roderich Edelstein.
A faint spark of warmth weathering the storm.
Cradling his lifeless form, she carefully wades out of the pond. A gurgling, crackling sound from his chest. A hacking cough, a surge of frothy blood sprayed on both of them and on the dewy grass in the dawning mist.
His breathing: shallow, painful, but still there. Fluttering eyelids, glossy gentian orbs looking left and right, reassured by the first morning sun's glimpse of the loving bride in reality ere they close once again.
The tragedy, fortunately, has not come true.
She watches him lie in their canopy bed, his chest still bandaged, though now he looks far healthier and his breathing is more regular and steadier, like his heartbeat. The carriage brought him and Elizaveta in from the inn closest to the frog pond the day before, and he had always slept peacefully with his head on her strong thighs. The tune is now an instrumental hummed by her, without the painful lyrics: the maiden has not ended her own life; she and her bridegroom are finally one, and they hope that so it will be for decades to come.





19 comentarios:

  1. This is my very first Aus-Hun story!!!
    It's based upon a Hungarian folk song, "Ha majd a nyarunknak vége", but with a twist ending (eleventh-hour happy ending) and references to the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. And to the Legend of the Volcanoes (a jealous general tells a princess betrothed to his rival that he was killed in battle, she kills herself and so does the hero).
    The conflict mentioned is the "War of All on France" in the late eighteenth century (due to the Revolution). Good reason for Roderich to get all heated up in the next scene. Though at first the story appears a bit like GoT with firearms and personifications.
    A little ship-tease between Gilbert and Elizaveta is also there (since he plays the wicked "third party").
    Each section will focus on a different part of the poem

    I. leave-taking
    II. campfire
    III. injury
    IV. convalescence
    V. feedback
    VI. funeral and mourning
    VII. reunion

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. This is my fave Hungarian folk song.
      Second comes: "Once there was a young lieutenant" (Volt egyszer egy hadnagyocska), on a lieutenant who becomes handless and how the career-ending injury makes the lieutenant a drunken bastard. Lends itself exceedingly well to Jaime Lannister, and there's a bunny for a Jaimienne story with this song.

      Orpheus and Eurydice / Legend of the Volcanoes: OK. But I will give this story a happy ending right at the funeral.

      Eliminar
    2. Then third on my list of Hungarian folk songs comes "At Anna Füredi's ball" (A Füredi Anna-bálon): on a middle-class village maiden who married the local lordling and is now trapped in a gilded cage. Id est: A Cinderella story (minus her abusive family) that becomes a Persephone story.
      Would do great as an Aus/Hun story (in fact, lending itself perfectly to my Hetalia OTP, given Elizaveta's free spirit nature and the chains of her marriage), and also great with Sansa and Joff or Petyr.

      Eliminar
    3. All right, it's now come to an end, and better late than never! Though I was thrown a li'l bit off-kelter, made changes in the ending to make it seem more reasonable, but still kept the final happy ever after. Even though Gilbo lost his chance to be the really bad guy, we got some sweet AUS/HUN fluff set to that fairytale...

      Eliminar
    4. I mean, folk song. But still singable lyrics reworked into the story-- no false message or Elizaveta in breeches, but still a heartwarming story (this time with more elements of Savitri and Satyavan) <3

      Eliminar
    5. The Baratheon Tale of Three Brothers will hopefully be next for an update; we'll see Renly's star-crossed romance and untimely demise, for instance!

      Eliminar
  2. So here is a new chapter!
    Love the juxtaposition of both treads, the internal monologue, Elizaveta's feelings for Roderich and vice versa.
    And Marie Antoinette... when Marie Antoinette becomes Elizaveta... Pretty much sets up the tone. The enmity makes one think of how much Oberyn wants to avenge his dead little sis...

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. The inspiration came actually from Antoinette's execution, then I thought Roderich would have a dead-little-sis complex like Oberyn vowing that the Lannisters shall pay for what they did to Elia...

      Eliminar
  3. A new OC, Ildiko, appears...
    How Elizaveta's personality has changed from self-reliant warrior to vulnerable lover!
    Still, no despair! This is a retelling with a happy ending!

    ResponderEliminar
  4. Among both the enemy and the allies, gunshots ring through the summer air, and bullets whistle among the bright uniforms and glittering bayonets.
    One of these bullets comes whizzing, fast as lightning, straight towards Roderich's chest.
    He cannot dodge the shot.
    A blazing ray, like lightning, burns through his stainless white coat, and then through his equally stainless white shirt, before searing the skin on his left breast, right below the nipple.
    Then, it gets in, through his left pectoral muscle and in between his ribs, and even deeper inside.
    All within a second, the blinking of an eye, an instant.
    Feeling an intense, painful fire blaze and expand inside his chest, Roderich Edelstein winces and clutches his left breast, as he reels and everything turns clouded before his tearful eyes.
    His weakened hand drops the rapier that it held.
    Then, as he falls on the lea among his followers, he sees the whole battlefield fade into darkness.
    A liquid flows inside his lungs and courses up his trachea, forcing the Austrian to cough in response. The taste of this liquid is strange yet familiar, like salted steel.
    It's his own blood, Roderich realizes. And his chest also feels tight, as if tied up like a corset, making it hard to breathe.
    As his consciousness fades and his life is endangered, he can only think of breathing and of her.
    "Elizaveta..."

    Yay! The gunshot, finally! And it's so well-described! <3 how she has this intuition of him falling...
    Loved also seeing some of Elizaveta's badass side in the ending of this chapter.

    Hope Ludwig is the surgeon and Gilbert is the captain, like in the AMV!

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. Among both the enemy and the allies, gunshots ring through the summer air, and bullets whistle among the bright uniforms and glittering bayonets.
      One of these bullets comes whizzing, fast as lightning, straight towards Roderich's chest.
      He cannot dodge the shot.
      A blazing ray, like lightning, burns through his stainless white coat, and then through his equally stainless white shirt, before searing the skin on his left breast, right below the nipple.
      Then, it gets in, through his left pectoral muscle and in between his ribs, and even deeper inside.
      All within a second, the blinking of an eye, an instant.
      Feeling an intense, painful fire blaze and expand inside his chest, Roderich Edelstein winces and clutches his left breast, as he reels and everything turns clouded before his tearful eyes.
      His weakened hand drops the rapier that it held.
      Then, as he falls on the lea among his followers, he sees the whole battlefield fade into darkness.
      A liquid flows inside his lungs and courses up his trachea, forcing the Austrian to cough in response. The taste of this liquid is strange yet familiar, like salted steel.
      It's his own blood, Roderich realizes. And his chest also feels tight, as if tied up with a corset, making it hard to breathe.
      As his consciousness fades and his life is endangered, he can only think of breathing and of her.
      "Elizaveta..."

      This. Description. Priceless.
      Shows how much you ship Aus-Hun and how much you know what a gunshot in such a vital region feels like.

      Eliminar
    2. Indeed, I thought of that as the cast.

      "Hope Ludwig is the surgeon and Gilbert is the captain, like in the AMV!"

      They will be, no worries, and Gilbert is also the villain of this story, an Iago-like fellow who will help get Roderich way too drunk, so he is so deeply unconscious he is left for dead... then write that reply to Elizaveta... (Evil laugh from Prussia!!!) She will nearly thrust a bayonet through her own heart, but overcome her despair and head for the front on horseback, wearing breeches and a ponytail!!!

      Eliminar
  5. There are also more bunnies, mostly Westeros AUs:
    Arya Matchgirl (working title): an orphaned Arya sells matches on the streets of KL in late autumn, she can't come home to the orphanage empty-handed or Lord Tywin's men will beat her. However, she is seriously overlooked at the marketplace. She is incurably ill with a fever, rests in a street corner. Visions of her parents, of Jon Snow, of Sansa whom she misses in spite of being so annoying. These are but fever dreams that grow more and more surreal, until the Stranger appears to take Arya to his heaven.
    Arya's body is thrown into the Blackwater and caught, at twilight the same day, by the captain of a Braavosi ship. There is also a red priest on board, he resurrects Arya and she awakens devoid of feelings. The old Arya has died, as they set sail for Braavos. Expect Arya and the captain to exchange "Valar dohaeris"/"Valar morghulis" or vice versa.

    Moonrise by Sunset: a Jaimienne version of the Duke of Norroway/East Sun West Moon/The Bluebird, with Snow Queen elements, in an alternate, 30YW-era Westeros. The titles will be old-fashioned such as the first:

    CHAPTER I: In which we are introduced to a camp follower and her three daughters.

    Catelyn is the mother of Brienne, Sansa, and Arya, an officer's widow turned camp follower. They are desperate, even resorting to robbery, to feed after Ned, Robb, and Renly (here, Brienne's fiancé) were killed in the war. Her three daughters, from youngest to eldest, visit the strange crone who lives in a croft on frog legs in the swampy woods (Maggy becomes Baba Magga of sorts). Maggy shows them their destinies (like in the Duke of Norroway): Arya's is a young master smith journeying to find a place to settle his own forge (Gendry), Sansa's is a sharply-dressed older gentleman who happens to be married to his wealthy aunt and live in the neutral Vale (Petyr/LF, whom else?), but Brienne is a little bit disappointed when her destiny is revealed to be a filthy tramp in rags. Slowly, she warms up to him. But what if they ever were parted?
    The Kettleblack brothers (Sers Not Appearing in the Series) appear as Jaime's lieutenants, Stannis Baratheon as the enemy leader (the Old One in Duke of Norroway), Cersei as the false heroine and villainess (whom else?), while both Qyburn and Tyrion will play key parts in both the drugging and the awakening of Jaime Lannister.

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. Princess who came from an Egg/Brienne Baratheon AU (working titles): Brienne is born from an ice egg, that looks a bit like a blue dragon egg, which is hatched by Cassana Baratheon (don't ask!) and grows up with her three sons, becoming extremely close to Renly (killed by Stannis's dementor during the siege of Storm's End, doomed by canon). So this opens as a Renlienne fic until Storm's End falls and Brienne, wounded and desperate, flees the fortress, living in exile with the widowed Lady Catelyn of Riverrun and her two daughters. Then, Storm's End falls once more, and to the Lannister host. Furthermore, Lord Jaime, now ruler of the Westerlands after his father's demise, holds a fête to celebrate the capture of the Stormlands...
      So there's a Jaimienne and a Renlienne arc...
      Penrose fulfils a similar part to that of the stepmother in the pre-war arc of the fairytale, though he is strict to the core rather than evil.
      Stannis is the invading usurper, Catelyn the foster mother, Sansa and Arya the stepsisters.
      And Jaime is the prince charming looking for a bride...

      Cinderienne: A bunny I have had for a year. Brienne is orphaned and acts as a "manservant" for the Tyrells and their in-law Renly, the only one who cares for her. Then Renly goes to war and dies, leaving her consternated and at the mercy of her employers.
      When Lord Tywin hosts a ball at Casterly Rock to find partners for his twin children, Brienne is left behind at Highgarden... Enter Catelyn, a "good fairy mother" who will give Brienne the finest suit ever worn by a gentleman courtier, spurs of Valyrian steel and all, if the latter frees her daughters from Lord Lannister's clutches...
      Cue Jaimienne romance, a loyalty crisis, a great escape, and a spur left as the only memento of that evening of passion. A spur which sends Ser Jaime, accompanied by his imp of a brother, on a cross-Westeros quest for its owner...

      Eliminar
    2. The Arya Matchgirl story is now published on this blog. Its title is "Not Today!" Recommended because of being another master Westeros/Andersen fusion, and having a twist happy ending unlike the original tale.

      Eliminar
  6. This story is breaking out of hiatus.
    First, I have to do the GPPC reviews for this week's and next week's episodes, My Fair Warrior (with the frigging constraints), watch Charles V on TVE1... then I will defrost this story. And also do a little more of the fifth tale of Septa Poppine (there will be a new tale per month, now!)

    ResponderEliminar
    Respuestas
    1. So I have been so busy there has been so little time for fiction... but now I'm breaking out of this routine. Still Item One on my list is the review of GPPC episode 31. It will take one or two hours a day this weekend plus Friday.

      Eliminar
  7. eToro is the most recommended forex broker for rookie and pro traders.

    ResponderEliminar