(If I do it wrong, please correct me.)
I've had no idea where to put this - the location could be seen as either Prussia, Germany or Poland at the time. So, I went with the cultural aspect and here you go. BTW, I might be taking some historical liberties with the plot, but that's because I'm still not an encyclopaedia .
---introduction to how the period of time was affecting this place - begins---
The year was 1877. Late spring. (Russia already in war with Turkey.) A chilly morning, but a bit closer to the noon than to the dawn.
The era of coal and steel was making its mark on the word. New medicine was prolonging people's lives. La Belle Epoque was coming into being.
Although there had been a Bundesrag and a Reichstag, much more power was lying in the Prussian king's hands, still. The Prussian king and German emperor in one had chosen Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, to rule over Germany. Herr Bismarck was the one to elect all the Ministers there. He was also the one to introduce the Kulturkampf in 1872, in order to integrate the new country.
As the Polish saying goes, Vatican woke up with its hand in a potty (meaning: didn't noticed getting itself into a serious mess) - the Catholic Church used to urge the Poles to listen to their new kings/tsars/emperors to stay in favours of the ruling powers, but since 1872 (while the Russian tsar started actively favouring the Eastern Church anyway) the German chancellor fought the Catholic Church over the influence on the German citizens' minds, especially in the Staaten like Bavaria.
The Iron Chancellor had chosen to introduce German-language education and administration in all of his new country. It would all go well, if not for a fact that there was a place where the Germans were a minority. Until the 2nd Reich's creation, the Great Duchy of Posen/Poznañ existed since 1848 (the rights to have a separate mixed Polish-German-Jewish administration were granted there to appease a civil unrest in the area) as a vassal of Prussia. In the city called Posen (Polish: Poznañ), at that time, the percent of population that during the census admitted to speaking mostly Polish when in home was about 60%. The Poles took Bismarck's stance of Kulturkampf as a Prussian action against them. (Not without merit - apparently, Bismarck once said that he "can sympathize with the Poles, but it's either us or them.") As the era of Romanticism had just passed and dying for The Case sounded less appealing than living for it, the Poles were looking for loops within the system.
A small loop they had found was the fact that now the Catholic Church was interested in cooperation, for a change. The major loop they had found was the government's allowing stance on the economical and cultural self-organisation of people. The amount of Polish cooperative organizations that continued and blossomed back then (the Central Economical Society, farming co-ops, banks, the Society of Folk Reading, singing societies, Soko³y - the "Falcon" educational co-op, and more - the Poles back then tended to hope for and see a chance for their Motherland's well-being in everything, and some Pole even made an ironic comment on it: "impact of an elephant on the Polish problem") led Prussians/Germans to briefly believe that there was some underground country led by priest Adamowski (I don't know why him). Of course there wasn't - so nothing could be proved.
It surprisingly defied a German stereotype of a Polish person - saying Polonische Wirdschaft, literally "Polish administration," means chaos and corruption in German language (well, it applied in the Russian partition, but that's because the huge loop there was in corrupting the Russian civil servants.)
The map of Posen/Pozañ closest to the period that I could get is here: http://amzpbig.com/maps/3567_alt1929_Posen_Nord_1916.jpg (the map is taken from this site: http://mapy.amzp.pl/tk25_list.cgi?show=all;sort=g ). It should still be good, as there was little change there in between when it comes to the architecture, and it's still described in German. The old City Centre is exactly in the middle of those dark buildings. When you go up the river (Ger. Warthe, Pl. Warta), you'll see Schilling. Behind it, all around Winiary hills, there was a Prussian military complex, a citadel. It wasn't a part of the city, yet it was rather close. It was built there so the Prussian military wouldn't have to go far in case of another Polish problem which typically centred around Posen/Poznañ in the Prussian partition.
Apart of Upper Silesia (were the Poles were mainly of the working class and peasants) which exported coal on the rest of Germany and had some ironworks, the region produced food, sugar and beer in large amounts, exporting those goods in large quantities on the rest of Germany - as the taxation of the goods coming from abroad was too high to allow the out-of-Germany businesses being any competition. The region also produces vodka in large quantities, but it wasn't exported so much.
---note for the future of the internal relationships that was to came into being in a relatively short time---
In a few years, the local Germans were going to move to larger cities more in the west, leaving the Poles behind in this rural region. The Iron Chancellor was worried by the raising percent of Poles there, so in 1885 he introduced rugi pruskie, deportation of the people without Prussian citizenship. In 1886 he created the Colonisation Commission - it was supposed to buy out the land from the Polish owners, yet the owners didn't want to sell it. In 1904 there was a new law introduced that made building new buildings by the Poles illegal (there was a famous case of a Polish peasant Drzyma³a who had erected a caravan instead). In 1908 there was an expropriation act for the Polish land owners... which never came into being, because the Germans (!) harshly objected.
Around that time, the Poles were saying that the Germans would be the most dangerous enemy of all.
---end of the note---
As a lot was reconstructed, the outlay and looks would be rather similar in 1875 and now.
There is a rough map of the Old City Centre: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2014/049...jka-d770whz.jpg
The caption goes like this (I put the links here purely for the pictures, so I guess it doesn't matter that the articles are in Polish):
M - Mars Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Marsa_w_Poznaniu );
Pr - Prosepine (the one kidnapped by Pluto) Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Prozerpiny_w_Poznaniu );
A - Apollo Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Apolla_w_Poznaniu );
N - Neptune Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Neptuna_w_Poznaniu );
p - pillory (put out of use in 1948) ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pr%C4%99gierz_w_Poznaniu );
B - city well, the sculpture wasn't put there until 1915, so no photo.
yellow - the city scales ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waga_miejska_w_Poznaniu );
dark red - city hall ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratusz_w_Poznaniu );
(There is an old atypical cuckoo clock on the city hall's turret ( http://www.poznan.pl/mim/turystyka/picture...27865,show2.jpg ) - two goats come out and bump their horns together. The tourists, especially children, like watching it.)
deep pink - at the time, it was either a city guard or police station, I'm not sure which ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odwach_w_Poznaniu , http://www.poznan.pl/mim/turystyka/picture...,2293,show2.jpg );
violet/purple - little shops ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domki_budnicze_w_Poznaniu ).
If you go here: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stary_Rynek_w...2a_architektura and scroll up only a little bit, you'll see the Centre from the perspective of Apollo Fountain corner (upper photo) and from the perspective of the pillory (the lower photo).
The places used for a market day would typically (I've got no sources on Poznañ in particular that say more than it being a very old tradition that the city markets happen in the Old City Centre) be mostly the arcades of the shops, the arcades of the buildings around the Centre, tents in the middle of the area creating some smaller alleys, the closest streets around might had also been in use (we can use nowday's outlay if there's a need: http://www.poznan.pl/mim/turystyka/picture...,2023,show2.jpg - the theatre was already there, BTW - it was supposed to introduce some German-language art there, but due to lack of funds it allowed the Poles to play Polish shows there).
Food, spices, farming equipment, living stock (especially poultry), clothing, maybe jewellery or blankets, various metal junk would probably be there on the stalls. The shopkeepers taking shifts on the stalls, probably, because the amount of cooperation was huge. Nothing illegal in sight, because the police/guards were nearby, but one could speak to the tradesmen and women about getting it: there had to be a reason why Bismarck would later say that "with enough money one could even get a Russian tank from the Poles, no questions asked."
Over half of the people on the market would probably be Polish, in their customary (by that time) black (national mourning for the lost freedom) maybe with little white or blue elements. Families, groups, rather expressive people, though not touching each other, much. Some Jews, but not many of them. Some Germans, more than the Jews. Besides the trade, people keeping mostly with their own ethnic groups, speaking in the languages they were comfortable with.
The Victorian clothing typical for Europe was popular there, too. (E.g. something like http://boardingpasstraveltips.files.wordpr...ack-dresses.jpg or http://www.angelpig.net/victorian/fashion/...fashion_men.jpg .) Little differences in style showing the social classes of people. Little differences in shades of colour (especially black could be fading, or be with a green tint or yellowish one) showing how wealthy who was.
---the end of the maybe-too-lengthy introduction---the beginning of an interlude---
The year was 1877. Late spring. A chilly morning, but a bit closer to the noon than to the dawn. City market was a noisy place, especially in the days like this one - the days when the villagers were coming to sell and buy, too.
Feliks was feeling a little bit sick and a little hot under the collar (the additional layer of bandage over that infected cut didn't help him with that, much), but that was to be expected. It was a long time since he was really all right, so he got used to it. At least that's what he thought.
"Excuse me, ma'am, do you, like, know where I can, like, find Mrs Kowiecka? It's kinda important," he asked a middle-aged woman who was looking at the wooden stools. Though nervousness was influencing his speech patterns as much as ever, thankfully his voice didn't do that pitching thingy this time. He was getting better at it, he guessed.
She straightened to look at him and a spark of recognition lit in her eyes.
"It's you! Oh my God, it you!," she said, excited.
"Uh," said Feliks. He had no idea who she was, beside the fact of her being one of his. And a townswoman, judging by her clothing.
"You haven't changed at all, dear," she cooed, touching his cheek, lightly. Feliks raised his eyebrows with a crooked smile. Hey, it wasn't like he expected to be flirted with like that. "Forgive me, I just had to check if you weren't a ghost," she explained. "You still look like you had milk under your nose," (very young,) "but you would be what, twenty six by now? Holy Mother, it's a miracle! I thought you would die in two years at most, with that hacking cough you had, and look - here you are, alive!"
Feliks didn't know what to do with all that sudden attention from a person he couldn't really remember. Nervous, eyes slightly gazed with fever, and trying hard to prevent the cough now that she reminded him that he was still supposed to have it, he just stood and fidgeted there, not really able to put his focus on anything but the woman.
"Oh, don't gape at me like a fish, dear. You were asking me something?," she prompted.
Feliks didn't need to be told twice.
"Did-you-see-Mrs-Kowiecka, madam?," he asked, the words blending into one. Thankfully, the woman did understand.
"Yes, yes. She was looking for some spare parts for those broken ploughs, poor dear. Probably still is, so if you hurry... Poor dear, really, her husband had probably frozen somewhere in Siberia. To be a widow at such a young age... And with children and house to take care of... Well, it's not only her."
"Like, madam?" Feliks really hated to stop the woman, but Mrs Kowiecka could ran off at any given moment.
"Where Mrs Kowiecka would be? Like, which direction?"
"See that blue tent over there, near the Apollo Fountain?"
"She should be there. She has some linen roses on her hat."
"Tha..." Suppressed cough finally interrupted him for a short moment, thenkfully no blood this time, as a long years after crushing of the last uprising had already passed. "Thank you, madam. I'll, like, be going," he rasped.
Indeed, when Feliks got near the blueish tent, there was a woman in a dress with a heavy skirt typical for nobility, hat decorated with some black roses on her head. She was negotiating the price with the shopkeeper. Two children were by her, a young teenage daughter and about 3-years-old boy. Mr Kowiecki never mentioned the boy, but going by the age, the son could be born after he was gone to Siberia. And for nothing really important at that, at least for nothing that a bribe wouldn't get him out of, just a bit of smuggling. It was the poor guy's first time, so he didn't even know that bribing would work, instead of getting him in even deeper sh*t like it would if he tried to bribe a Prussian guard instead.
"Mrs Kowiecka? Maria Kowiecka? I have a letter for you," called Feliks tentatively.
She nodded with wide eyes and took en envelope improvised out of Russian newspaper from his hands - no telegraph line between Warsaw and Poznañ as long as the foreigners rule. After a brief inspection, she hid it in her skirts, as there was no sender signed.
"it's from your husband," said Feliks with a sudden courage and her eyes went wide. "He made this, too."
Feliks put his hand in a pocket, and when he got it out after nearly half a minute - there was something else there. A few of other people started crowding around them, eager to see, too, making Feliks uncomfortable.
"Oh," she chocked upon inspecting a little straw ring with a little straw eagle on Feliks' finger. Her daughter squealed in joy. Son, too young to understand, just held his mother's skirts tighter. "I thought Ada¶ would be dead by now, you know," Mrs Kowiecka said, teary eyed. "He even didn't have a winter jacked on him, that day."
The picture illustrating the scene ;P.)
"Someone, like, someone helped him. Not me," he corrected, question clear in her face. "Some Russian. C'mon, take it," Feliks said on impulse, loosening his fingers. "It's not like we need more weapons now, when we have no chance of winning. Should, like, just stick to economy and culture for a few years. Should work, too. It's not like we need guns and stuff for that, right? And you'd have something to, like, remember Adam by, before he comes back, right?"
The woman didn't seem to even notice a squeak that entered Feliks' voice, but the guy near them did, and pulled a face, making Feliks go all self-concious about it.
Or would he?
The boy slowed to a walk as he considered this possibility, frosty blue eyes still sweeping anxiously over the throngs of people going about their everyday lives on the streets. Like the other towns and cities they had visited before it, Posen was supposed to be just a quick stop, an overnight stay at most. He and Prussia were on a mission to see how well the Germanization efforts were going in some of their more culturally diverse and remote territories, to spread a message of goodwill to those who were taking to it readily, deal with troublemakers accordingly, and keep a sharp eye out for the warning signs of any imminent uprisings with the aim of quelling them before they happened.
What was probably a pretty routine affair for Gilbert was an exciting, fun-filled learning experience for Ludwig, who had never seen all of the land which comprised his land-body and immensely enjoyed all the travel. To ride through the wild, beautiful countryside on horseback; to constantly see and experience new things and face new challenges; to be fawned upon as a child of noble blood by his and Prussia’s people whenever they stayed overnight in a town and to set up camp under the stars whenever they didn’t…it was true freedom. Gilbert had already taught him the most important outdoor survival skills, and through a combination of keen observation and pointed questions he was able to learn from the older nation even when he wasn’t in a teaching mood. In the same fashion he had learned a great deal about the people they encountered: who should and shouldn’t be trusted, the kinds of things adults liked to speak about, which foods and drinks were to be avoided even when offered at a bargain…the list went on and on.
Best of all were the combat lessons. Ludwig couldn’t get enough of them. Fighting was in his blood, and if he hoped to be as powerful and legendary a knight as his father was someday he knew he had to train and practice constantly, a matter which he took very seriously. Whenever Gilbert wasn’t available for lessons or sparring he practiced his swordplay, moves, and technique on trees or whatever was available. He had yet to actually fight a full-grown man one-on-one, let alone another nation — he’d tried to assist Gilbert a few times, only to be swatted aside and serve as witness to some truly epic ass-kickings — but the need could arise any day now, and he needed to be ready.
Approaching the very patch of cobblestone where he had last seen Gilbert standing, Ludwig stopped and had another look around. Though he didn’t like it, he wasn’t afraid to be on his own in an unfamiliar city — he was a nation after all, and anyone who tried to grab or subdue him would quickly learn that he was much stronger than he looked — but the thought that Gilbert might have permanently abandoned him for reasons he could only guess at filled him with dread.
I haven’t done anything wrong though, he reasoned, watching a pair of children close to his apparent age laugh and speak excitedly to each other in Polish, Not wrong enough to make him leave me. He was upset earlier, but that was because not enough people were speaking German in this city. It didn’t have anything to do with me.
He played their last interaction over in his head again, sifting his memory for subtle clues in Gilbert’s tone, facial expression, and body language. They had been on their way to the City Hall building to speak to the mayor about the disheartening lack of German-speaking Poles when they had come upon a magician performing tricks in front of a crowd. Ludwig had wanted to stay and watch while he finished off his mid-morning snack — a tasty treat made of sweet bread with spices and an equally-as-delicious glaze — and Gilbert hadn’t objected. For a minute or two the older nation had stood and watched with him, then he had excused himself to go speak with a man that had been standing in this spot. If he had been at all angry or displeased with him he had done an excellent job of hiding it. From the way he’d spoken Ludwig had assumed the visit would take only a few minutes. He’d been rather surprised when, maybe twenty minutes later, the show had ended and his father was nowhere to be seen, gone like a thief in the night.
Naturally, after first confirming that Battlecry, his and Gilbert’s white stallion, was missing from the stable they’d left him in, the first place he had checked had been City Hall, just in case he had gone ahead without him.
No such luck. None of the people he’d spoken with on that side of the city had even seen him go by.
Maybe something important came up and he had to leave without me, but he’ll be back as soon as he can. Either that or… or this is a test and I’m supposed to find him. Gilbert hadn’t told him he was going to test his tracking skills, but perhaps that was the whole point. In the real world bad things often happened in the blink of an eye with no warning whatsoever. Maybe Gilbert wanted to see how he’d react to sudden separation, how he would fare when forced to fend for himself.
Either way, Ludwig decided in a moment of calm finality, it was too early to panic. He’d only been gone for just over an hour.
Somewhat reassured by that sound logic, he continued his walk down the street, still searching, but at a more leisurely pace. If Gilbert meant for him to find him, then there was much to be gained by slowing down and taking time to search every place for clues. Until sunset, at least, he’d stay out in plain sight as much as possible so that he himself would be easy to find.
The city did have its charm, he had to admit. Lots of interesting architecture and statues, and so many interesting things for sale in the tents, some of the likes which he had never seen before. Here and there adults selling their wares would try to catch his attention, calling out to him in German or Polish and/or flashing the thing they hoped to sell in such a way that it was sure to be noticed. At the very first moment Ludwig wondered why, as he was a child who looked ten years old, maybe eleven or twelve at most because of his height ( in reality, eleven years had passed since his “birth”, though it was pure coincidence that he happened to look around this age right now ), but then he quickly realized that it wasn’t his age that was making the sellers single him out, but his nice clothing, which he often caught them staring at. Though there was nothing overly formal about his white shirt and tan trousers, they were obviously very new, and made of expensive materials. His coat, likewise, had that barely-worn look, and was such a deep shade of blue it almost looked black, its white trim setting it off nicely. Even without his more impressively-clad father around it was obvious he came from a family with money.
Curiosity prompted Ludwig to examine some of their goods and wares, but he never stayed at one tent too long and always kept a vigilant eye out for Gilbert.
By and by another half hour or so slipped by in this fashion, and that’s when it happened. Ludwig had just exited a tent selling exotic herbs, spices, and wood-crafts when the oldest and ugliest woman he had ever seen appeared seemingly out of nowhere right in front of him. Her back was hunched mightily, and the skin on her face sagged, but what stopped Ludwig’s heart were her eyes — one was totally missing, the space it had occupied a twisted mass of scar-tissue, and the other might have looked normal if the area which was supposed to be white wasn’t bloodred instead.
Ludwig froze as though he’d been paralyzed, breath hitching in his throat, eyebrows leaping towards his forehead, mouth hanging open a little in silent horror.
The old woman grinned, revealing a handful of gnarly, yellowed teeth. “My, what a cute little boy you are!” she rasped in perfect German, her voice gravelly and deeply unsettling “And your eyes! Such a pretty blue!” A light breeze flared up right then, stirring the wispy gray-white hair which clung to her scalp.
A hag! The realization of what he was dealing with blew Ludwig cold with fear. He’d heard all about hags back in a pub he and Gilbert had stayed at one night. They were a special type of witch that preyed on children — little boys, mostly, especially if they were German, and double especially if they had blue eyes. These they captured by making skin-to-skin contact, usually touching a finger to the victim’s hand or face: the man telling the story had made it perfectly clear that even the slightest such touch from a hag was enough to put the child completely under her thrall. Once she had the child in this zombie-like trance where he would do anything she said without thought, the hag would then lead him home, drink his soul by sucking it out through his eyes, killing him, and dismember and cook up his body for her food. Hags’ magic was so powerful that anyone over the age of thirteen saw them as beautiful young women and heard their voices as being soft and melodic. Only those under thirteen saw them for what they truly were. They could shape shift into all manner of animals — cats, bats, spiders, and crows, mostly — and their magic was strong enough to conjure storms and put lasting curses on even the most valiant of hearts. They could only be killed with fire.
Germany didn’t know if a hag’s touch would affect a nation spirit child the same way it would a human child, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to stick around to find out. “Stay away from me, hag!” he tried to hiss, the expression on his face and the slight waver in his voice ruining the effect in much the same way that a baby kitten’s tiny size and unopened eyes ruined the effect of its hiss, "You’re not getting my soul!”
He turned and ran before the hag had time to touch him or utter the first word of a curse, a curse which would only work if he heard it. Where to hide?! Frantic, his eyes swept the area as his mind scrambled to remember everything he’d heard about hags…
There! A bunch of Poles all gathered around staring at each other! Their nearly pure-black attire identified them as such. At this speed Ludwig would reach them within seconds. He didn’t know how hags felt about Poles — he knew only that they preferred the souls and meat of Germans — but he was sure the man who had warned him had said they hated large groups and avoided them because the presence of so many souls in one place weakened their power.
Never daring to look back, Ludwig kept running, feet flying, not stopping until he was right in the middle of the gathering.
A hush fell at once over the assembly. Ludwig felt several sets of eyes on him; nearby a small child whimpered and clung tightly to his mother’s dress.
Panting a little, his heart thundering in his ears, Ludwig finally turned around and looked back the way he’d come, trying to spot the hag through the gaps between the bodies, see if she’d given chase.
Two people — a girl and an older man — asked him something in Polish, but Ludwig didn’t know a word of the strange language and could only imagine that they had probably asked either who he was, what he was doing, or what was wrong. “I don’t understand.” he said softly in German, his voice almost shaking.
At that moment he felt something, something strange and vaguely familiar, a sense of kindredness, a special tingling in his soul which he hadn’t felt in over a year…
He looked up at the closest person to him, a young man still in his teens with straw-blonde hair and startling green eyes. Though he had felt it only a few times in his life, the young nation understood what this fleeting, tingling, special feeling meant.
“You,” he said switching to the only other language he knew, one of the two he had been born with, “I know what you are.” There was just a smidge of awe in his voice — it had been a while since he had met an unfamiliar nation.
Whew! Long post is long. My first posts of the thread usually are. XD I wanted a good, solid lead-in.
As I mentioned in the Cbox Germany still thinks of Prussia as his father — it isn’t until WWI when he’s around 16ish or so in appearance age that he starts thinking of him more as a brother. I tried to be as vague as I could when writing about Prussia, but I had to assume a few things since Ludwig was raised by Gilbert and wouldn’t normally be found wandering around all by himself in a strange city at this age.
The “hag” is not really a witch at all, just a poor old German woman ( yes, one of Ludwig’s own people ) dealt a really bad lot in life and currently suffering from a cold and a bloodshot eye. :’( Though she’s very friendly and actually has a heart of gold, people tend to shun and mistreat her because of her looks. She has a younger brother who adores her and helps her out, though, and he has a pretty important position in the city, so she’s getting by….for now.
The guy at the pub was just messing with Ludwig and cobbled together different scary ghost/monster stories he’d read or heard and added his own twists just to scare the kid for his own amusement. Prussia — whether drunk or not — probably thought it was funny and went along with it…he does seem like the type. XD Back in the 1800s, as you know, people in general were way more superstitious, and Ludwig is a child still learning about the world around him. He knows magic is real because of the connection he has to his people and his land, and thus takes the existence of witches as fact ( and he’s not really wrong — in Hetalia canon England is a warlock/magician/sorcerer ).
Also, in my headcanon, ( and the site’s canon too, I think ) nation spirits can all “sense” others of their kind to varying degrees, an ability which is strongest in the first few years of their lives and gradually fades over time.