Monarchy Over the Danube: Or, an Alternate History Tale of Austria-Hungary through the Nations Themselves.
Hofburg Palace, Vienna. 19 May 1936.
As Austria calmly sifted through the papers, he couldn't help but notice just how collected and seemingly soft-spoken the Kaiser was even as most of the ministers made their farewells, soon leaving only themselves and a select group of people answerable only to their liege. If anything, it almost seemed like a nostalgic illusion, only to remind himself that it was neither Franz Josef nor Karl sitting in the middle of the conference room but Otto. If only they can see you now, the bespectacled aristocrat thought approvingly.
Glancing for a moment at his wife, the Nation allowed himself a very faint sigh of relief. You can feel it too, right Elizaveta? In only a handful of months, he knew, change had already begun spreading across the restored Empire. The documents on his hands spoke of the various reforms being implemented. Some were improved versions of old plans, others still more radical than anyone would expect and all done for the good of their peoples. But while much was for the better, he still couldn't ignore some of the shadier sides of that small success. Both the fascists and socialists had made attempts to stir up trouble. New weapons were being designed. All while the Nazis continued their pitiful Anschluss scheme. He could sense everything stated and left unsaid in the fine print. And as much as he was once more becoming stronger, the anxiety remained.
"Roderich?" he heard Hungary ask, eyes raised in concern. "Is something wrong? You know you could tell me about it, dear."
"It's nothing to be concerned much about. I just
still find it strange being in this position again."
"Don't worry." She winked coyly in an attempt to shrug whatever worries aside as she held his hand. "We've all been here before. Maybe this time will be different!"
Austria smirked. "It has to be."
They chuckled silently before Otto cleared his throat. "My apologies," he respectfully began. "But it appears we find ourselves in an impasse on what course of action to take. Some among us, have suggested bringing Czechoslovakia back into the fold. While their factories are a indeed valuable asset to our cause, it is my sincerest hope that we can win back their hearts just as my ancestors had done long ago. However
"Danke, Mein Kaiser," the Foreign Minister nodded. "It is true that our diplomats and agents are working to win their favor, we are in no position to reintegrate them right away. Their leaders in Prague along with the rest of the Little Entente will react to any moves towards them. Also, as far as the world is concerned, we pose no threat to anyone, not even our rivals. Aside from Bulgaria, almost no one recognizes us. The last thing we need is to attract their attention."
Austria cringed slightly. It still bothered both of them, knowing that their marriage, let alone the Empire weren't even being taken seriously. At least the Entente isn't breathing down our throats. But it wasn't long before his attention turned to Prime Minister Horthy.
"Let them complain," he scoffed in barely contained excitement. "But as others here have suggested, there is opportunity to be found in reclaiming Yugoslavia! I've been told that the Croatians and Slovenians are willing to aid us should the need arise. Think, gentlemen! We would have access to the sea again. The taint of Sarajevo would be undone, once and for all!" The former regent glanced at Elizaveta. "And we shall also reclaim your honor, Hölgy Héderváry."
The commotion that followed echoed throughout the room as Austria, and no doubt Hungary, tried to make sense of it all. From the news headlines, he knew that war was fast becoming something unavoidable. And deep down, he
no they all wanted revenge. Retribution for their downfall. But even then, the Nation had learned long ago to tread carefully in such matters.
Then, the noise died down as the monarch finally stood up. "Silence, please! It appears that our Chief of Staff is willing to offer a compromise to our predicament. Whenever you're ready, General."
"Thank you, sir. Now you may have all heard about the issue with South Tirol and Veneto recently
" With military precision, Gusztáv Hennyey turned towards the map strewn on the long table while he summed up the points brought up. But Roderich's attention was focused on the man's pointer as it glided down the borders of Europe and the Alps until finally landing in the one place he couldn't have expected.
"...and this," the officer finished. "Is our target. And I trust our brave soldiers will be able to see the Colosseum soon. If all goes according to plan, my liege."
that's can't be
He knew it made strategic sense. Mussolini and the run-down country that fascist ruled over would stop at nothing to get on Germany's good graces and thus would pose a threat to the Empire's survival should they ever join forces. If the man were taken down, it would not only prevent all that from happening and depose a rotten ideology. But it would also catch their would-be-enemy by surprise, regaining all the lands lost there. Even if it means fighting Feli again.
"Be careful what you say next, Roderich. Or I swear
"I understand perfectly dear," he whispered. "But it seems we have little to work on in this one, sadly."
Austria could see the mix of horror, shock and anticipation in Hungary's face at that prospect. Even if their war was sincerely done for both Italy and their own sake, let alone as a means to exact revenge, there were few other choices. Whatever would happen here may mean a triumphant return to the world. Or the Great War all over again
"So, Herr Edelstein?" He heard the Emperor ask at last. "What say you?"