Monarchy Over the Danube: Or, an Alternate History Tale of Austria-Hungary through the Nations Themselves.
Somewhere outside Sarajevo. 17 January 1938.
Some could have said that it was too good to be true. For Austria, it seemed like only yesterday when Italy surrendered and deposed that fool of a dictator. By the time word came that a coup broke out in Prague and the Czechs were willingly voting to rejoin the Empire later that year, it seemed as though a lasting peace was getting close...even if Hungary got a bit overenthusiastic with her gains in Slovakia. Yet here we are, back in action, he sighed as he moved towards the men blockading a small cottage. Though if he were more exact, they were a couple miles deep behind enemy lines.
Of course, Roderich knew that their very presence here was classified. Indeed, he was the one who orchestrated this seemingly small but dangerous mission. Everyone, including Emperor-King Otto himself swore to deny this ever existed. And only his wife fighting alongside their forces in the frontlines would be in any position to save him if anything went wrong. Then again, he wouldn't want to be at the receiving end of Elizaveta's worried anger. Or let her be with me, especially with who's hiding there
. He chuckled silently even as he was careful to keep his uniform hidden beneath the long overcoat. Even with victory within reach, the war they were all in was in many ways pointless but also very personal. But one false move here would be most unpleasant. But this also has to be done.
"We have secured the perimeter, Herr Edelstein," his personal aide reported after giving a crisp salute. "I can't guarantee we'll be able to keep any enemies back indefinitely, but we will hold the line if need be."
"Danke, Captain." Glancing momentarily at the small group of officers and agents, all of whom disguised as local townsfolk, the aristocrat gave a very a stern yet sincere nod of approval. It was something he had mastered after centuries of discipline, not that it wholly deprived them of the hidden smile beneath the facade. Despite recognizing the dangers and secrets involved, there was a sense of pride knowing that they were all doing this in the service of their Nation. Still, he couldn't waste any more time. "Our task is nearly done. But do not open fire unless I say so. If all goes according to plan, it would not take long. I have no intention of letting anyone die here."
"Jawohl, mein Nation."
Returning the salute, Roderich turned towards the unassuming cottage. Briskly yet in stride he walked up to and opened the battered front door, his right hand discreetly grasping the Luger pistol hidden in the coat. His first view inside was of a dimly-lit dining room that looked as though it had only been used yesterday. There was also a stack of newspapers, its headlines printed in both of the local languages. Although he showed nothing of the sort, the faint sounds of artillery in the distance didn't help in calming his nerves. Or patience for that matter. Now where are you
But the moment the Nation closed the door, a flash suddenly appeared from the darkness, followed by a bullet hitting his leg. Considering the nature of his kind, it would take more than a mere gunshot to "kill" him, even temporarily. But feeling the surge of pain work its way up his body, he forced back the urge to scream. He could hear a cold laugh coming from the same spot. Or rather two of them, though one sounded much more tired than the other.
"It's been a long time, Herr Edelstein!" one of the voices shouted mockingly in a heavy Serbian accent. "I didn't think your puppeteers are so low as to send the likes of you here to finish the job!"
Cautiously he limped closer towards the sounds; only get a better view of two familiar-looking Nations at the far most end of the room, both wearing Yugoslavian uniforms. One was a dark-haired young man staring on blankly in pain, while what was clearly his brother stood up defiantly with a gun pointed towards the bespectacled aristocrat. It amazed him how they still seemed keen on fighting, even though much of their land had fallen so quickly since the war began just after Christmas. So quickly in fact that compared to Italy it was almost disturbing.
Keep it together. Clearing his throat, Austria kept his voice as blankly level as possible. "Your rulers' Little Entente ideas have brought this misfortune down on yourselves! We all know that there's little but blood to be had left in this war! Slovenia has willingly accepted the Empire with open arms. Croatia has likewise welcomed us the same. But I'm here to implore that you accept reason!"
"Like hell we'll surrender!" Serbia shot back. "I'm sure you did a great job in making the rest of Yugoslavia submit to your wonderful jackboots! Though I'm sure Franz Ferdinand would beg to differ
"Don't test my patience, Marko! You were fortunate the Great War was won in your favor. And I'm not in the mood to exact petty revenge!" Though if the aristocrat were honest, it took so much willpower not to simply bring out his pistol and aim it straight between the Serbian's eyes. I will gain nothing from it, he reminded silently to himself. "Please, think of the possibilities o-"
The enemy fired another shot, this time at Austria's left arm, making him wince visibly in pain. "You think I'll give up EVERYTHING I stand for just like that?!" he shouted. "I bet you will try to wipe us all out for our oh-so-sinful acts of defiance and fill this land with your perfect drones. I'm sure you and that whore have had this all in mind! It'd fit right in with Herr Hitler's plans! IS THAT IT?! COME ON!"
I've had enough! Quickly despite the wounds, Roderich rushed in as he struggled to disarm the other Nation. It took much effort trying to subdue him, but finally he was able to corner Serbia to a wall, the gun now tossed aside.
"Have you learned NOTHING?! We are NOT them!" he snapped before desperately trying to calm himself down. "Do not take me or my wife as fools! Neither are we here to destroy or take away anything from you! But we can all put an end to this madness. As partners and equals under the Empire." He could hear the sounds of war draw closer. "I can guarantee all of Yugoslavia's safety from these troubled times. Only if you accept my offer. This mistake doesn't have to cost more lives unless you want it! Please
"Listen to him brat
" Bosnia spoke, his voice frail but still firm weight. "Much as
it's hard to take in
Roderich's got a point. At least
he's not torturing us
" the Slavic Nation gasped in surprise, speechless for what seemed like an eternity before finally turning back to the patiently waiting aristocrat. A concerned though resigned smirk lined his face. "Well played. It'd take a bit of time to get back to my bosses in Beograd. But don't expect us to forgive you so easily. We all have a reputation to consider, da?"
Austria sighed in relief, though wincing as he stepped back. "Ja, likewise. I guess we all do."
It was a close call, he knew. The wounds he just received were already recovering. Yet with the storm clouds spreading across the world, this wouldn't be the last time he, Elizaveta or the rest of the growing Empire would have to face this kind of crisis. But if it means peace and glory
perhaps there's hope after all.
"Now, do I take that to be a yes or no?"