(Note: while this map is dated 1648, the general lay of the land outside of centeral Europe remained the same throughout the 30 Year's War. The Holy Roman Empire's borders changed monthly.)
The Kingdom of Sweden frowned as his beloved king continued his prayers, his large, powerful body stooped over by the weight of his grief and guilt. Gustav II Adolf was one of his greatest rulers, had done so much to make Sweden respected and feared. Part of what made his king so great was his religious piety and unshakable faith in the Protestant cause, that had lead Gustav to the Germanies to challenge the Catholic Powers.
But now Gustav’s piety was a weakness, his belief in his divine responsibility to protect bringing him guilt and shame. The king of Sweden had vowed to defend the city of Magdeburg, had promised to aid them when the General Tilly and his forces were at their gates. And he had failed to get there in time, to prevent the massacre that followed their surrender.
The greatest king Scandinavia had ever produced, the father of modern warfare, composer of hymns, leader of armies remained on his knees, praying for the souls he had promised to save and failed.
Words had never come easy to Sweden. In times like this they were even harder to find. He wished he could say something to bring peace to his king. Tell him that those German souls did not matter, tell him that war was always unkind to civilians, something to snap him out of it. But none of those things would bring any peace to Gustav’s soul.
Sweden approached his king silently, knelt down besides him and offered up his own prayers, less certain of the good it would do to any of the dead, but willing to try. For his king.
Much later, when his king had finally risen to resume his duties, Sweden searched out his own source of comfort. The army camped out on Brandenburg territory was 20 thousand strong and none too organised, but generally soldiers from the same territory stuck together. It was easy enough to find the Fin part of the Swedish army.
Compared to some of the armies they had faced the Swedes were a ragged filthy mob, with no uniform to speak of and cleanliness forgotten in favour of ferociousness. The Fins were no exception, many still dressed in their Eastern European styles of caps and furs. Sweden had to wait until he heard Finland’s sweet voice coming from a truly repulsive hooded coat before he was certain he had found his ward.
“Ruotsi.” Finland smiled happily as Sweden approached the fire he was cooking over. Around him his country men quietly left to find another fire, not comfortable around another Nation. Especially the Swedish one who ruled over them and their young Nation.
Finland did not appear to mind being abandoned as he offered Sweden a spoon of mush from the pot. Sweden sat down on a left behind rug and swallowed the mush politely, trying not to notice the taste. He had eaten worse. He gave Finland back the spoon and waved away the offer of more.
“I heard the king got bad news today.” Said Finland quietly, settling himself down with a bowl. “We could hear the furniture breaking from here.”
Sweden nodded his head, staring into the fire. “He blames himself… for Magdeburg.”
“But it was Pappenhein that lead the attack.” Pointed out Finland logically, “And Saxon’s prince that delayed the reinforcements.” He scowled into his bowl adorably. “And Bandenburg too.” Out of nowhere Finland whipped out a knife. “Give me one minute alone with him and I’ll end his indecision once and of all.” He stabbed into his pot violently, pulling it out with a piece of meat stabbed on the point. “He called me a savage to my face, thinks I can’t speak German.” He delicately nibbled on the meat. “He can’t speak a word of Swedish, let alone Suomi and I’m the savage?”
Sweden nodded again, letting Finland’s chatter wash over him. He had been against him coming with the Fin and Lapland forces to the German States, but was now glad he had the company. It looked to be a long and violent war his king was leading them into, and trips back home would be impossible. Finland was a balm to his tired heart in this blood soaked land.
He let his thoughts float back to Stockholm and the Baltic, his court and his young princess. A stray wish for a prince and a clear succession sprung to his mind but he pushed it back down. Gustav was healthy, there was time yet for him to have a son. First he would take a significant part of Germany for himself then finally challenge Denmark on equal footing. Once the insults of the Kalmar Union had been avenged, then Sweden would worry about an heir to his Empire.
“We will deal with them all.” Said Sweden firmly. One way or another Saxon and Brandenburg would be brought to heel and Tilly would be defeated. And then all of Germany would be his for the taking. And no one, not Denmark, not Poland or even Austria himself, would stop him.
Six months later on the field of Breitenfeld Sweden made good on his promise. Gustav Adolf himself led the cavalry charge himself, Sweden and the king’s exasperated bodyguard right behind him. Forever and always this battle would be Gustav Adolf, Lion of the North’s defining battle, defeating the undefeatable Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly. The road to central Europe lay open to Sweden and the Catholic League quailed.
Sweden spared a moment to come out of his daydreams of power and land and admire the figure of Finland, blood spattered and wielding his knife, chasing after retreating Catholic forces, screaming his people’s favourite war cry. Such a lovely sight.
Six months again past and King Gustav once more prepared to face down Tilly’s forces. The winter spent in Mainz, in sight of the Rhine had done nothing to cool the King’s ambition, even with strange rumours emerging from Thuringia and hysterical demands from the Princes of Saxon and Brandenburg that something be done about the usurpation of land by a group calling themselves ‘Americans’.
The rumours about this Grantville were varied and confusing. A town of warlocks and witches had appeared in a ring of fire, an act of God beyond their control. These ‘Americans’ had proceeded to chase off bandits and mercenaries, welcome all refugees and invite nearby cities to join their new ‘United States of Europe’. And they had revived the trading and merchant industry in Northern Germany, in the course of a winter. They claimed to have miraculous things to sell: fine metalwork, strange devices and toys made of a thing called plastic. And weapons, they had weapons that could turn the course of wars…
Yesterday King Gustav had met with representatives from Grantville, who claimed to be mere craftsmen and diplomats. Who offered munitions and money in exchange for an alliance.
Sweden stood with the delegation and watched his king with their new allies warily. Around him the rest of the Swedish army moved into position and Finland pouted at his side, sulking at the missed opportunity to scout ahead. These newcomers had made wild promises to his king yesterday. Now it was time to see how possible they were. Beowuld had his doubts about these ‘Americans’. A people claiming to come from the future, from the new world. He had been to Vinland himself and knew what the true people of ‘America’ looked like. It was all an obvious ploy, but to what end?
One of the American girls offered her strange gun to the King, who took it and looked through the telescope mounted on it. He seemed amazed at its clarity, his nearsightedness no longer a hindrance as he stared for long minutes at the battle lines being drawn before him. Then he got into an argument with the insolent girl and her claims of the gun’s range. No gun could shoot that far - five hundred yards – nor with any accuracy. The girl took back her gun, aimed it at Tilly’s army and…
The sound of the gun going off was nothing like Sweden had ever heard; the sight of Tilly’s officers being shot down, one by one, was like nothing he had ever dreamed of. Finland clutched at his coat, eyes wide and sulks forgotten. “Is it magic?”
The girl looked around at the sound of Finland’s unbroken voice. Her eyes widened at the sight of the two Nations, possibly the first time she had noticed either of them. Humans tended not to see any Nation but their own.
Her escort, a Scotsman employed with the Swedish army whispered to her, obviously explaining who they were. Then he seemed to argue with her, before hurrying after her as she approached the two.
“Oh wow.” The woman pointed a shaky finger at Finland” You, you’re-, oh wow.” Looked around, trying to see if anyone else understood what she seemed to be thinking. “You have to try my gun, now. I insist.”
Finland was much worse at understanding English than Sweden. Hesitantly he replied “No? I… with my knife,” said Finland cautiously, “Better fighting.”
“No no, you don’t understand.” The woman reached out to Finland’s shoulder, then looked at Sweden and took her hand back hurriedly. “You’re Finland. You have to know how to shot. Your country is world famous for marksmanship, the best there is. You guys fought off Russia for years.”
“Fight Russia?” Asked Finland, “All fight Russia, all win.”
“Yeah. But you… I” the woman huffed and threw up her hands. “Never mind. I’m just very honoured to meet you. Good-bye.”
“Good-bye,” Finland tugged at Sweden’s sleeve until he grunted his own salutations. Then she finally went away, Scotsman ushering her back to the rest of the delegates.
They stood in thoughtful silence for a while.
“She knew who I was.” Finland said finally in perfect Swedish, “She thought I was important enough to speak to.” He stopped for a moment, judging Sweden’s frowning face. “Why would she think I could speak English? Nobody believes I can speak German or French. Why English?”
Sweden did not like the turn the day had just taken. A few unpleasant thoughts about this alleged future had belatedly occurred to him and he suddenly did not want Finland anywhere near these strange people.
“If you hurry, you can join the bridge assault.”
“Really?” Without waiting for confirmation, Finland was already running towards the marsh and the group of Fins waiting the surge over the half built bridge and give Tilly an unpleasant shock.
Sweden watched him go with a frown, then turned back to the American group. Up until now he had not truly believed their wild claims of time travel, even with all the proof they had brought. But the girl’s words, about his Finland. He did not want to think about them or the feelings they evoked in him, at all. To know the future would be a great thing, but at what cost?
A day later, when Tilly was permanently defeated, in part due to the American’s engineers, and Southern Germany was open to his King, Sweden’s bad mood still remained.
Warning: some spoilers for 1632 were unavoidable.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was after the battle of Breitenfeld that the rest of Europe finally began to take Gustav seriously. Cardinal Richelieu, puppet master of France; declared Grantville Satan’s work, Thuringia damned to hell and Gustav in league with Jews and other devil worshipers. To this end, France would finally allow the Spanish Army to go through its borders to the Germanies and do the Lord’s bloody work in Eastern Germany.
Meanwhile the bulk of the Swedish army was stuck in Southern Germany, defending Nuremberg (there would NOT be another Massacre), circled by the Bohemian army and the incoming Bavarian forces. In the midst of all of this the Spanish army marched unchallenged for Grantville. The Americans had marvellous weapons and an impressive track record against invaders, but in the face of an army of Croats? They would need experienced soldiers to aid them. A small expedition was sent, lead by the Swedish madman: Captain Gars.
Sweden joined the rescue party, compelled to see with his own eyes where these time travellers came from. The situation was rapidly spiralling out of control, and he needed answers to questions he could not bring himself to ask. In the madcap rush to beat the Spanish army to Grantville, the small cavalry force failed to notice an additional party member, until they stopped to let the Lapplanders scout ahead, several days later.
Finland should have been back in Nurnberg, helping with the siege. Not half way to Grantville where the mysteries of the future was available to anyone who could understand English. Finland could not read at all, but his English had rapidly improved as he bullied the Scot cavalry into lessons.
Finland brushed some mud from his filthy face, avoiding Sweden’s furious glare.
“You.” Sweden was overcome with anger, almost unable to speak. He pointed back the way they had come. “Go back.”
“You want me to go back, by myself, though a war sewn land with 10 different armies running about?” exclaimed Finland, “The forest is crawling with Swabians! Do you know what Swabia does to hostages?”
“Then don’t get caught!” Sweden grabbed Finland by the scruff of his neck aiming to place him on his horse and send him on his way. Instead Finland hit him with his elbow, causing Sweden to react by hitting back with his other hand.
Finland looked up at him, eyes suddenly scared as his cheek began to redden. “You promised you’d never hit me. You swore to me when we left Denmark you’d never hurt me!” As Sweden let him go he scrambled back, afraid of another blow.
“Said I’d keep you safe.” growled Sweden, “’s all I promised you. Can’t promise you anything if you come with us.” His voice failed him for a second, but he pushed on. “Please Timo, go back.”
I can’t protect you, I understand nothing about these people, their weapons, their ways, go home and be safe. The things they have, the promises they made. There will be consequences and I… Even in his mind his feelings were foggy.
“Ruotsi.” Finland had stopped backing away, but he was still wary. “I’m a Nation too. And part of your territory. Everything you do affects me, just like everything I do affects you.” He stood up, still out of reach. “I have to know what these Americans are, what they know about me. Please.” He clenched his fists and took a deep breath. “Don’t you want me to grow up someday, be strong like you?”
A small vicious part of Sweden thought that that was a terrible idea, letting Finland become strong enough to leave him. He pushed that part of himself away and merely glared at his ward in silence.
“I hate to interrupt.” Said Captain Gurs loudly, as he reappeared with the returned scouts, “But if we don’t get moving there won’t be any Americans alive to ask anything.” He swung his horse around without waiting for a reply.
Sweden shot a warning finger at Finland. “Stay in my sight, don’t go anywhere without me.”
Finland huffed, but nodded as they both mounted their horses. Captain Gurs was a mad man; he would leave them both behind if he felt the need.
A furious ride across the Germanies on a rescue mission was not conducive to holding onto hard feelings. Forbidden to light fires, with limited sleep and constant alertness, the miserable conditions forced the Nations to make up and unite in mutual discomfort. Captain Gurs was a hard task master, fair but mad.
They stopped on the outskirts of Grantville, dismounting to get a close look at the strangely smooth road that lead into the town. It appeared to be made from small rocks and tar, the most perfect road Sweden had ever seen. Then gunshots where heard, coming from inside the strangely deserted town. Sweden swung back into his saddle drawing his saber as Finland whipped out his knife. They glanced at each other with grim smiles, before bellowing their respective war cries and spurring their mounts to follow after their already charging captain.
“Gott mit uns!” God is with us!
“Haakaa päälle!” Hack them down!
Four thousand Swedes, Lapps and Fins followed.
Later, when they had ridden to the rescue of the impressively barricaded town, when their Captain had led the charge against the Croats; an unseen sniper had aided them by shooting down row after row of soldiers in their path.
Later, when they forced their way into the school after the invaders, Finland got to watch the sniper in action. Julie Sims dispatched four men in the blink of an eye, before both racing towards the gymnasium where most of the students had been gathered.
Later, with his madman of a Captain being tended to by a Moorish doctor, Sweden got a chance to look around him at the crowd of untouched children, in the strange but safe school.
Leaving his injured but alive captain he got up and went in search of his ward.
He found Finland in a deserted classroom, staring at something on a wall. It was a large map with several different territories. Each territory was clearly marked, shaded in a different colour with a few labels each. It was oddly familiar to Sweden, though he did not know why.
Finland reached out a slim finger and placed it on one spot, a territory up at the top of the map, part of an overhanging section of land. “That’s me. I can’t read the writing, and I’ve never seen this chart before, but I know that’s me. Suomi.”
Berward squinted, moving closer to examine the territory. Next to it, across a small bay, but connected at the top, was a long, strip of land divided down the middle. The one on the right looked familiar to him. He put his own finger on the map, tracing a coastline he knew like he knew like the swing of his sword, the heft of an axe. His very bones knew that section of land was his.
Sweden’s eyes swept down to scan the rest of the map closely, now able to recognise the rest of the coastline on the map. That island at the very top corner of the map, had to be Norway’s little brother. England and France were still recognisable and he saw what looked like the Swiss Conferderation, still squatting defiantly between France and Austria.
He was so focused on the inland that he missed a vital point, until Finland exclaimed, “Look at the size of Denmark! That can’t be right Rutsi, can it?”
He stared at his brother’s birthplace, at the small peninsular of land just barely linked to Europe, with Holstein firmly separated into a much larger territory below. Was that the Germany the American’s referred to, the impossible unification made visible? Would Denmark truely shrink to such a size in the years to come, after so many years of dominating the North?
“I have to learn to read English.” Said Finland firmly, finger tracing his own land. “I have to learn what the Americans know about me, what’s going to happen to me in the future. Look at the size of Russia, he doesn’t end!”
Gently but firmly Sweden took Finland’s hand and pulled him away from the map, though he would have liked to have spent hours on it himself, trying to find answers to questions he could not form. “We will both learn to read English.” He agreed.
Finland looked up at him, eyes wide and worried. “They’re going to change everything aren’t they? That’s what you were so worried about. That the Americans will make everything we know, everything we believe, change.”
Sweden sighed and nodded. “It’s always bad, when change happens quickly.” He thought of his painful converting from pagan to Christianity, the joining and separating of the Kalmer Union. He looked down at his hand, still held Finland. But sometimes change was worth the risks.
It took a lot of arguing. This Mike Stearns, leader of Grantville, wanted impossible things. Separation of the church and state, commoners having the vote, taxation limited and all religions tolerated. Madness. Sheer folly.
And yet. Sweden sat at the back of the library while his representative agued furiously against it all, silent except when Finland showed him a particularly interesting picture from a book. Machines that flew through the air, bridges that staggered the mind, buildings that reached the sky, ships beyond his understanding. He looked up, caught the eye of his fuming diplomat and nodded. The man threw up his hands in disgust and went back to negotiating furiously.
In the aftermath of everything it was revealed that Julie Sims, best shooter in Grantville, was pregnant via her Scottish Fiancée. Piteous King Gustav immediately ordered a marriage, partly to avoid the sin of basterdy, but mostly as an excuse to bestow a title and Finnish land on the bride.
Finland had been giddy with joy, promising his new baroness that he’d carve a pair of skis just for her, if only she promised to go hunting with him and teach him how to shoot. Sweden had a horrible suspicion he would get no peace until Finland had an American rifle to call his own, even if the bullets were terribly limited in number.
He watched as Gustav accepted the groom’s startled thanks. His king: Gustav II Adolf, King of Sweden and the Baltic territories, newly crowned Emperor of the Confederated Principalities of Europe, who would not die on a battlefield as the history books claimed, but live to see a new Europe emerge from the devastation of war.
Sweden smiled and wondered when Denmark would receive his letter and the ‘photocopy’ of the‘European Union’ map. He was confident he would hear his brother’s screams of outrage from his new German capital.
My tumbler is also Jemsquash, if there are any confused Hetalia fans or insulted 1632 readers, contact me there.
Other things I'm thinking of writing about:
- Netherlands and Belgium plot madly to avoid getting invaded every fifty years.
- Holy Rome Empire turns up and makes a deal
- Prussia reads a history book, goes "fuck this" and changes his identity once more
- Revolutionary Venice threatens to break peoples kneecaps and Naples gets introduced to soccer and pizza (aka: where Romano is actually better off for once.)
- Anything else really, send me your thoughts and suggestions