It's December already? But I'm not ready to post! I have no real pairing to drag in readers, just wishful moments and hints! I did my best but it wasn't good enough!
Wow, that was a lot of exclamations marks. Clearly my writing has deteriorated over the interval.
neutral /’nju:tr(ǝ)l/ -adj. 1 not supporting either of two opposing sides, impartial. 2 belonging to a neutral State etc. (neutral ships). 3 indistinct, vague, indeterminate. 4 (of a gear) in which the engine is disconnected from the driven parts. 5 (of colours) not strong or positive; grey or beige. 6 Chem. neither acid nor alkaline. 7 Electr. neither positive nor negative. 8 Biol. sexually undeveloped; asexual. □ neutrality /-‘trælɪtɪ/ n. [Latin neutralis of neuter gender]
stance /sts:ns, stæns/ n. 1 standpoint; attitude 2 attitude or position of the body, esp. when deliberately adopted 3 a ledge or foothold on which a belay can be secured [Italian/French stanza standing place]
22 March 1798, Zurich
It is the way of territories when first conquered to act rashly. Ancient cultures had been known to spit and curse at their cocky overlords, centuries younger than them but claiming to be better. Newly formed nations would take to their heels and hide in their no longer safe wilderness, not knowing much yet but knowing instinctively that they were on the wrong side of colonization.
But the Helvetic Republic, who last week had been the Swiss Confederation, did not spit and curse at France, though it was tempting. Nor did she take supplies and hid in the nearest forest. She was of Europe and knew how to act dignified in the face of invaders.
“It’s alright, mon trognon.” Cooed the French Republic through the bedroom door as Helvetica continued her slow packing. “I know about you and your anxiety attacks; I know you didn't knock me into the lake on purpose.” Helvetica ignored her unwanted intruder and considered the last item in her sparse cupboard. The dress was as suitable as she could find for her sensibilities, plain and decent with plenty of space to put important things like knifes and papers and her bible when she wore it to church. The only time she ever wore it, really.
She closed the cupboard, dress still on its hanger within. She was, no matter what France and her ungrateful people might say, under occupation and she would dress in nothing but her uniform unless forced.
She paused at a small mirror, which until recently was only used to see around corners during surprise invasions. Her cropped hair was unkept but out of her face, her cheeks pale and wane but a few brisk slaps disguised that. Her eyes were, as ever, hard and determined with none of her people’s fear and joy and confusion leaking through to their green depths.
Helvetica opened the door, ignored France’s hand that tried to take her bag and continued to the kitchen. There was little food in the larder still edible as Helvetica had not been home in months. She had been too busy, rushing from crises to crises as the French invaded and her troops resisted and her people reacted.
Even before France’s army arrived on her borders, the Swiss Confederation had been busy. Her people had been at odds with each other long before France’s revolution had occurred. Revolts were nothing new to the Swiss Confederation. She had been enduring political and social unrest for years. But the revolution had escalated everything, invigorating the radicals, terrifying the conservatives and giving their Nation a literal splitting headache.
Vreni would, to the end of her days, maintain that if France had not stuck his nose into her business, then matters would have eventually settled. Valais, Porrentry, St Gallen and all the other would-be republics would have calmed down and been more open to negation with the feudal cantons. A compromise could have been reached. And sometimes she even believed herself when she said it.
But France had become involved, and her people, confused and disorientated, had been caught out. There had been resistance to the invasion, yes, but not nearly as much as she should have been capable of, not nearly enough to win. Her Diet had crumbled, calls to arms ignored and Bern had been surrounded. They had surrendered. For now, the forest cantons whispered in her ear, drowning out the celebrating pro-revolutionists and the ache of annexed territory. We have given way for now, whispered the Catholics, the nobles and the traditionalists.
The Helvetic Republic had been formed by foreign powers and its constitution fitted unnaturally on her skin. There was room for her to maneuver and one day, to maybe break free. For now she would endure occupation, gracelessly.
“If you have nothing else to take we shall leave now,” France interrupted her thoughts loudly. It had taken considerable effort to ignore him in the first place, his presence even more overwhelming and oppressive than usual. His uniform of pristine white and blue offended her decent green uniform, as did is cloying perfume of power and wine. At least his quick dip in the lake had washed away his ridiculous hat.
Helvetica glanced as the open door of her home and the waiting carriage. Suddenly the nerves she had been suppressing resurfaced. “I think I should remain here.” She said suddenly dropping her bag to the floor. “There’s still a lot to sort out here, documents to go over, tribu- taxes to organize.” She did not stutter. She did not.
France let out a long, deep sigh, as if he had any right to be put out. “You really need to grow up, Vreni.” he said as he picked up her bag. “Timid little Nations that can’t leave their own territory without crying never get anywhere in life or love.”
I don’t want to go anywhere. Said the part of Vreni that was just her. I don’t want to leave my land and my people for anything. Nothing but necessity has ever made me leave and never willingly. All the love I’ve ever gotten was from my people, I shouldn’t need any more than that.
“Now be sensible,” France said, giving her a reassuring smile. “There’s no reason for you to feel homesick in Paris. So many of your people have signed up to join the army, you’ll never be completely alone. And we’re taking those lovely horses of yours and the bears from Bern. It’ll feel like you never left home!”
Vreni looked at the republic in disgust, sure he was mocking her. The thought of her shy Einsiedler horses taken from their quiet fields, Bern without its namesake and her boys dying once again in another country’s name killed her nerves in a blinding fit of anger that overran any other emotion she held.
She let out one soft, incoherent curse at a still smiling France, snatched her bag from his lose grip and stormed off to the carriage. She ignored the waiting footman, stomped up the stair and flung herself into the corner. Her bag she placed next to her, in case France had any thoughts on sitting next to her.
“Vreni, dear, I need the keys to lock up your lovely home.”
She pulled her set of large iron keys from her belt and flung them out of the carriage. From the exclamation of pain she heard, they had made contact with France’s head. Good. It was not as if France would have let her keep them in any case. Occupied Nations don’t need their own homes when their overlords have spare rooms to rent.
Helvetica sat and seethed as France locked up her neat little cottage, spoke reassuringly to his driver and footman and entered the carriage as well. He prudently sat on the opposite end of the compartment, away from her glare.
The carriage started to move, and Helvetica clutched the side and kept her glare up. She did not look out at the view, of her home slowly getting smaller as they left it behind. Soon they would leave Zurich, the mountains and her entire land behind, for Paris. She suppressed a shudder. She had not been in Paris since 1790 and she was sure the smell had not improved.
“You are very ungrateful, you must realize.” Said France finally, “I could have made an example of you in front of the town officials. I could have brought together the entire leadership of the republic, just to watch you leave in my arms.”
“But you didn't have the time.” Said Helvetica blandly. “The Egyptian invasion leaves in less than a month.” She was fast losing her hold on her rage, and her emotions beneath it were not ones she would ever choose to share with France. Distraction was her only option.
“Expedition.” Corrected France. “It’s not an invasion. Our aim is merely to fortify and study Egypt while establishing relationships with other countries.” His masculine face was at odds with the innocent boyish look he tried to assume.
“And should England have a problem with it.” Helvetica egged him on.
“Well.” An evil smirk, much more suited for his face, appeared. “We’ll just have to deal with him, won’t we?”
“Myself and Napoleon, of course.” Francis drifted off, thoughts on his beloved leader occupying his mind fully. It was always so with the truly great, drawing their Nation’s attention and devotion wholly, for better or worse. Helvetica held her silence and did her best not to long for Nikolas, or any of her past greats, who could have stopped her turmoil before France had had a chance to invade. It was with the bittersweet image of them uniting her people and leading them back to sanity and neutrality that she fell asleep, months of strain taking their toll.
France did not wake her or move her into a more comfortable position. He knew from experience that it was best she were unconscious when they left her lands. She always cried when the mountains moved out of sight.
Time past and miles were devoured. Horses, drivers and footmen were exchanged for fresh ones. The carriage and its occupants did not stop for long. The French Republic wanted to be home as soon as possible and the Helvetic Republic slept on, preferring her dreams to reality.
Her dream centered around a sunny meadow, a full stomach and a happy companion that clumsily put flowers into her braids, while she lye on her back and simply existed. No turmoil lay at the back of her mind, no arguments, no headache. Her people were born and live and die in ordered measures, Ostarrîchi’s people were near but too far for any competition over food or space to occur. Tranquility reigned.
Sighing Ostarrîchi gave up on the flowers and untied her braids, carefully running his hands through her long hair. It felt nice, her eastern neighbor was good at small delicate tasks, though essential tasks, such as hunting and carving eluded him.
Ostarrîchi looked down at her, smile tugging at his sweet face. Their eyes echo the colours around them, fresh grass green under deep blue. And she felt so content with the world that she sat up and turned back to face him, offering her open arms in a rare gesture of affection.
Ostarrîchi knew better to question such an opportunity and happily snuggled against her, his small body fitting neatly against her slightly bigger frame. She kissed his soft cheek and smelt stone and wax and ink: very dry scents for such a young territory, she thought fondly, closing her eyes.
Everything changes in a sickeningly slow lurch, and then the Swiss Confederation was being held in the tight embrace of the duchy of Austria, her old farming clothes staining his Habsburg finery. “Please, just stay with me Vreni.” He whispered into her hair, now cropped and short. “We’ll talk to our leaders, come to some agreement, work out a compromise, just stay by my side!”
(At the back of her mind, a voice nagged her that this was not how the past had happened. When Roderich said those words, they were younger, he begging her to go with him to his new capital. He had never held her like this, tenderly, protectively.)
No one has ever protected me. She thinks bitterly to herself. Not without a price.
“You do not need me.” She told him harshly, pulling away from his face. “I have certainly never needed you.”
“Really?” And then there’s a soft mouth on her own, warm and wet and Verndi did nothing to stop it. She rested passively in his arms and let him do as he wanted. He tasted of wine and roses and blood…
Helvertica opened her eyes to find France bent over her, gently trying to coax her tongue to respond to his. Sleep and dreams flashed away instantly.
Vreni remained limp in his embrace, not reacting with the French impulse to pull him closer and enthusiastically respond, or with the German impulse to bring her knee up firmly to reject of his advances. Neutral action seemed best, as always. She did however, indulge in the Italian impulse to scream curses and gibber a bit, in the safety of her mind.
Eventually Francis pulled back, clicking his skilled tongue in disappointment. “So cold mon trognon?” he asked, brushing unruly hair from her forehead to behind her reddening ear.
“I do not engage in…” Vreni’s voice dripped with scorn… “familiarities with my overlords.” She sat up into a less compromising position and ran a quick hand from face to chest and belt and knife. Francis believed in free love, freely offered and freely given. He had always respected a person’s decision to decline his offers, as long as they were clearly rejected with absolutely no room for misinterpretation. But being a conquering Empire, and France was fast becoming one no matter what republic styling he gave himself, changed how a Nation viewed things.
Francis moved back into his seat and Vreni’s shaky hand told her all her buttons were still done and her knife still rested in her knotted belt. Francis still held some standards, it seemed.
He gave her a sunny smile, unaware of her discomfort. “It’ll be so nice to have Swiss regiments in the army again. Your people are so stout when it comes to war.”
Vreni was too on edge to give a sharp retort on what had happened to the last Swiss Guards that served France, massacred while defending his king. She merely sat in silence and stewed in silence as France chatted gaily on, about his new home she would live in (for now her people whispered), the wonderful new benefits of centralized government she would enjoy (for now her people whispered) and the lovely new dress styles that would suit her perfectly (not ever she told herself).
And that was how the French Republic and Helvetic Republic entered Paris.
1. Saint Nikolaus of Flüe was a hermit who in the 14th Century mediated between rural cantons and cities that wanted to join the Confederation, averting civil war.
2. mon trognon: literally my apple core, similar to my cutie pie.
3. From what I understand from the vast amount of contradicting information I’ve read, the Swiss Confederation was already a hot bed of riots and insurrections before the French Revolution even started. The industrial revolution and enlightenment meant people were making more money and thinking deep thoughts, but the political system remained conservative and feudalist.
When the French Revolution was successful, everything was kicked into overdrive and many cantons had (relatively) bloodless revolutions of their own. While France skimmed around the edges annexing the odd outlying territory and biding it’s time.
And then Vaud asked for France’s help in gaining independence from Bern. By the time the French army got there Vaud had already been declared a republic… But France went ahead and invaded Bern anyway, took over the centuries old confederation and turned it into a shiny new Republic. The Swiss were too disjointed to put up a proper fight. Some were actually happy about the charges, some did not think much would change and some were expecting help form a certain neighboring Empire… Austria that was your cue…
I reserve the right to change that dream sequence to something more relevent at any time...