This is just going to be a short multi-chapter thing, say, 5-10 chapters focusing on Dmitri during and after the revolution. I'm warning you ahead of time, I'm a history nerd ESPECIALLY when it comes to Russia so um yes. Expect a lot of that.
A note: Petrograd is St. Petersburg. I wrote it in that different tongue because it works later in the story, you'll see.
Also, one last thing: Kudos to those who recognize the song lyrics I've used as a title and summary for the story. (Without Google, of course)
Red Blood, White Snow
Dmitri ran out into the golden hall, taking a generous bite of an apple he snatched out of the fruit bowl before it was taken out to the tables. The cook was preoccupied with some burned fish in the kitchen and the rascally servant boy took the opportunity to escape his duties to catch a glimpse of the Royal Family at the 300th anniversary of the Romanov bloodline. There were so many guests there that Dmitri guessed that half of Petrograd was there in the golden hall, all dancing together in perfect time with their partners and the pairs to their lefts and their rights. His eyes momentarily widened as he stared at the rich grandeur until he heard a small girl's giggle above the din of the music, footsteps, and conversing crowd. Wiping the juice of the apple off on the sleeve of the potato sack he wore, his dark eyes redirected themselves to find the source of the laughter.
Climbing up the carpeted stairs as fast as she could with her long blue traditional robes, the youngest daughter of the Czar made a beeline for the royal chairs. In her hand was a piece of paper decorated with black and red ink. Dmitri couldn't quite see what it was, but it looked like some sort of anthropomorphic pig riding a...something. Waiting for her in one of the smaller chairs was her grandmother, the Dowager mother of Czar Nicholas II.
Dmitri watched on from the sidelines, taking another bite from his apple. The youngest daughter, Anastasia, was an object on interest to him. Not only was she closest to his age (he was two years her senior) she had a fiery spirit that had, at one point, thrown his master straight into the river. Why? Presumably just because she wanted to. Either way he had some sort of a child-like crush on her, forbidden or not. Looking never harmed anyone, though. So Dmitri looked.
The little Duchess handed her drawing to her grandmother. Like a grandmother should (or so Dmitri always dreamed) she laughed with great mirth and pressed the drawing to her chest, showing a token of gratitude. In return, she reached into her handbag and pulled out an elaborately decorated gold and emerald box, round in shape and Baroque in nature. The girl gasped in delight as the grandmother held it in her delicate, wrinkled hands.
"For me?" The girl asked in wonder, "Is it a jewelry box?"
Dmitri leaned in to hear the conversation between them, he could even see the grandmother's lips open to respond. He crept just one step further.
"Dmitri!" A harsh voice called, causing every muscle in Dmitri's body to freeze as thoroughly as a Siberian winter, "You belong in the kitchen!"
Arms that were stronger that they should've been grabbed the weak kitchen boy from behind, lifting him into the air. He dropped his apple from the force that the cook grabbed him with, and while he was swung around he gazed longingly at the red fruit now lying as trash on the carpet. The lean forearms cut into his soft sides, squeezing his ribcage and making him struggle for breath. He cried in protest as the cook carried him back from the golden halls and the joyful waltz music to the panic and filthiness of the kitchen. There, in the spice pantry, the cook threw him upon the ground. Dmitri, disgruntled, gave a short yelp as his forehead skidded on the dusty floor. Even through the pantry walls they could still hear the festive waltz music, though it drowned out all the conversations between the nobles. Almost instantaneously the cook, his master, scolded him with his foul, raspy voice. Dmitri cowered against the floor, bowed over as if asking desperately for forgiveness. He peeked upwards to check to see if his master was unbuckling his belt to use as a whip. To his relief, the cook merely shouted at him this time. Though Dmitri knew that it was only because there was a grand party in the palace, he still felt a little more at ease, especially when the cook told him to gather certain spices for a poultry platter and left him in the pantry, slamming the door shut.
Standing up, Dmitri brushed the dust off of his filthy servant's clothes and wiped the dirt that had seeped into his forehead. Sticking his tongue out childishly at the door, he turned to the shelves stocked full of spices. Selecting quite a few, he began to sweep them into his thin arms, muttering incomprehensible unhappy thoughts under his breath. As he piled the glass jars on top of one another he found his feet clumsily sliding across the floor in a mock waltz, as close to the one-two-three of the music as he could get. Really, he wasn't good at it. It didn't matter though; in his mind he was a noble, no, a royal even as his socked feet swept the dust up in clouds from the floor.
Abruptly, without rhyme, reason, or warning, the joyous waltz music stopped, and so did Dmitri's feet.
His head turned to the pantry door, mouth open in confusion. Now he could hear the voices of the various maids and servants murmuring to each other worriedly. Even some of the noble voices he could hear—and he could tell the difference just from the way they spoke.
What had happened?
Aromatic smells from Hungarian paprika to far eastern mustard seed plumed into the pantry as Dmitri's curiosity got the better of him and he dropped the glass jars on the floor in his rush out the door. Using his small size to his advantage, he wove in and out between the still servants, keeping close to the wall to avoid attention. Snaking this way and that, he soon heard the voice of the Czar shouting into the silent hall, soon having a response from a man whose voice was even raspier than the cook's. Sliding close to the wall, Dmitri found himself in the golden hall again, appearing just behind the Dowager's chair, where the Romanov daughter Anastasia was still by her side.
"...by the unholy powers vested in me, I banish you with a curse!"
A collective gasp raised from the noble crowd in the golden hall. Or, it was the golden hall, but somehow each of the candles and electric lights had all faded out, leaving the hall in a bluish purple shadow. The Czar looked back to where his family was, his eyes resting on each of them as this raggedy man with a long spidery beard spoke maniacally, waving a green reliquary this way and that. Dmitri froze again as he swore the blue eyes of the Czar hit his brown ones. He expected a flash of anger from the ruler of Russia, but there was nothing but a faint fear in them, as if the Czar either didn't see him, or he regarded him as unworthy of his anger.
"You and your family will die within a fortnight! I will not rest until all the Romanov lives are destroyed!" the ragged man cried. From what Dmitri could see in the dark, he was dressed vaguely as a monk, a holy man, yet his every action seemed the opposite of holy. Some cries of despair raised from the nobles as the ragged man raised the green reliquary, which had begun to viciously glow. Before Dmitri's very eyes, a beam of sickly viridian shot from the reliquary to the great lamp hung from the ceiling. Screams and shouts rose as a chorus as the lamp fell crashing to the ground, shattering and creating a horrendous noise before lying limp on the ruined ballroom tile. Dmitri flinched back as the electricity in the lamp sparked in its final throes of life. When he lowered his arms from his face, the ragged man dressed as a monk was gone.
And that was it.
He stood there paralyzed along with the collective crowd. The Czar was the first to move, turning and climbing the red carpeted stairs up to his family. He whispered things lowly to his wife, and looked around, his eyes just on the edge of frantic. After a few minutes, people had begun to rid themselves of their petrification, and slowly began to shuffle this way and that, most of them in the direction of the exit.
"Fetch some water, boy,"
Dmitri blinked, and looked around in a confused daze.
"You, kitchen boy, fetch some water," The voice said again. Dmitri looked again, then nearly had his heart choke him when he found himself looking the Czar directly in the eye. Giving a soft croak, he nodded vehemently though there was no anger in the Czar's face. Knees shaking, Dmitri stumbled as he turned to run into the kitchen before waiting for his legs to work properly. Dodging the cook, he clambered onto the counter top and reached up to a cabinet, his sweaty hand floundering around until it clasped a gold rimmed ceramic cup. Nearly tumbling back down to the floor, he didn't hear the cook's demanding questions as he reached up on his tip-toes to reach the state-of-the-art running water faucet that was newly set in the palace. Filling it until it was spilling over the rim of the glass, Dmitri hugged the water to his chest as he hurried back out to the ruined golden hall. It was already half empty by the time he handed the water to the Czar, arms thrust out and face scrunched closed.
The Czar's big hands dwarfed Dmitri's as he took the cup from the kitchen boy's shaking fingers, giving the water to his daughters to share. Dmitri stepped back and looked out to the fallen lamp. A lump gathered in his knotted stomach as he realized that the mess would have to be cleaned up, and there was one answer as to who had to do the worst jobs in such tidying.
Dmitri failed to stifle a groan, which soon became a cry as the cook once again grabbed him in his arms, his belt already unbuckled and in hand for punishment. He struggled against his temperamental master in vain as he was taken to the meager servant's quarters to be whipped back into proper shape.
Nothing really happened after that. Dmitri was hungry and hurt after the punishment that he had to suffer from the failure of a 300th anniversary (forfeited one day's worth of food and a good whipping with the belt buckle) but the ragged man's vow didn't seem to do any harm. The palace seemed the same as always, if a little spooked. He didn't learn much from the gossip of the maids though, as all of it seemed too wild to be true. Even when he was helping to clean up the mess in the golden hall he didn't learn much other than what he believed to be the man in the ragged cloak's name. Rasputin, they called him, Grigori Rasputin. Once a holy man to the royals, apparently. Dmitri wrinkled his nose as he untangled copper wiring from the belly of the lamp, earning several cuts on his hand in the process. He didn't know how the royals ever once thought that Rasputin was a holy man—to him he definitely seemed way off the path of a holy monk. But, he supposed, the royals may not have been perfect.
A shard of stray glass sliced his palm open and he winced out loud, pulling his hand out quickly to examine the damage. Hmph. That's what he got for thinking of anything less than perfect of the royals, he supposed. Stupid kitchen boy. He squeezed his hand as blood began to seep out and stain his pale skin. Turning around in a circle, he craned his neck to look for his master, the head cook. When he found him he presented his bloodied hand, hoping for a scrap of cloth to cover the wound. The head cook merely waved him off with a dismissive sniff. Dmitri hid his frown by dropping his gaze so that his untamed bangs hid his face. Under normal circumstances Dmitri would have definitely received a makeshift bandage. The head cook had a heart, no matter how buried deep in Russian snow it was. He just supposed that with all the commotion and his constant trouble-making that his master just decided that it was an extension of his punishment. Dmitri sighed and returned to work, picking up the little loose pieces of the lamp.
It was mid-afternoon when the lamp was finally cleared out of the golden hall. The skid and burn marks left behind were mopped away by the maids, and Dmitri was allowed to rest in the servant's quarters for the rest of the day. On his pillow he found a good sized cloth, clean even, ripped into strips for bandages. Managing to give a small smile despite the sweat, dirt, and small cuts on his face. Wrapping his scabbing palm in the bandages, he flopped down on his paper-thin mattress and tried to dream of better things.
He wished the cook was a better father. Not that the cook was his father, no. The cook was simply the only family Dmitri had. No one knew where his real father was, and his mother died during childbirth. The more educated maids, the ones who were allowed to be seen by the royals, called him Macduff behind his back. Though Dmitri didn't understand what they were talking about, he guessed it had something to do with being torn out of his mother's stomach as an infant instead of going through the normal birth process like everyone else, whatever that was. Either way, that simple fact of how he came into life had him in a fit of silent ridicule amongst the servants, young or old.
Dmitri shifted on the cold mattress and gazed off into the mahogany walls. He wondered what his mother looked like, and whether or not she loved him or not. Probably not, since it was his birth that killed her. No, no, no, that's not right. Mothers always loved their children and that's what he wanted to think about. He closed his eyes.
Dark hair. Big brown eyes with small pupils, to see the color more. Pale skin, but not as pale as his. Wrapped in a warm coat that was blue on the outside and lined with black fur on the inside. A warm smile with small lips. Soft, rounded nose. Open arms. Yes. Sitting in front of a hot meal near an inviting fire wrapped in her coat with her arms around him.
Oh, and a voice like silk that willed him to sleep after the hearty meal he just ate.
Smiling, Dmitri passed into slumber.
The pounding of many panicked feet shook Dmitri out of slumber. He had learned by now to sleep through lots of things as it was hard enough to get sleep on a thread-bare mattress as it is, but for some reason the urgency of the air pulled him out of bed to stare in stupefaction at all the servants bustling to and fro.
"Riots in the streets!"
"Will they come here?"
"What do they want?"
"Has this Great War traveled to Petrograd?"
"Is the palace going to be stormed?"
"What are we to do?"
Dmitri felt his breath quicken with the fear in the air, like smoke from a fire settling in his lungs. Immediately he joined the panicked bulk of servants by running to and fro, what for, he did not know. His feet took him to the kitchen, where the orange of the setting sun blazed into the windows. Screams from somewhere within the palace shook him, and in the distance he heard the clanging of an iron gate being forced open. Climbing quickly onto a counter, he pressed his face against the cold glass window and peered through the snow to see a mob of people armed to the teeth storming the courtyard. Dmitri's breath caught in his throat, seeing the rage and hatred on the faces of the commoners in the mob even though they seemed so far away.
The kitchen boy was startled out of his skin and he turned his head around, raising an arm instinctively to protect himself. There, in the middle of the kitchen stood his master, the head cook, washed in an orange glow.
"You belong in the kitchen."
Fear struck Dmitri's face as he stared into his makeshift father's eyes, seeing the weariness in them. He pressed himself against the window, uncomfortable. Something wasn't right.
The two stared at each other for the longest time. After a while Dmitri began to tremble from the confusion and pain of simply waiting for something, anything to happen.
"M-Master?" He finally stuttered quietly. The head cook raised his hand, and in one incredibly long second Dmitri saw everything happen before him as the glint of the small pistol shone in the sunset. Dmitri choked twice, sputtered once, then cried out in protest as the head cook raised the pistol up to his bald forehead.
"W-Wait! No, please—!"
Dmitri closed his eyes and heard the gunshot, followed shortly after by the body of the cook, his former father, hitting the tiled floor with an inhuman thump. Warily opening one eye though it pained him to do so, he looked down past his bony knees to see a pool of blood coloring his bald head, decorated with white flakes. Gulping down horrid feelings, Dmitri shut his eyes against tears and willed himself never to look or think about the dead body again, or what the white flakes were, or how his bald head had a gruesome sheen in the light of the dying sun.
Rubbing his hurtfully dry eyes, he sank down from the counter and onto the floor. Not allowing himself to see anything, he felt his way around by memory, letting his feet take him back to the servant's quarters. Nobody was there anymore. No more feet were running around, they had either escaped or were in hiding elsewhere. Presumably escaped, with the peril that awaited them otherwise. Did he care? Not particularly. Not after what he had seen. He didn't feel anything, actually. It was strange. He supposed that he was supposed to feel more when his only father figure committed suicide in front of him, but he didn't. He just felt...empty.
Dmitri didn't know where to go. He wandered the sudden skeleton of a palace like a lost puppy. Through his wandering in the servant's quarters, he eventually wound up next to a great long hall full of windows. It was here that he heard the Czar's voice echo back to the thin walls.
Dmitri paused and put his ear to the wall. The hollowness from witnessing the head cook's suicide suddenly washed away as a sharp feeling of determination entered his veins as he concentrated hard on listening. Many footsteps, big and small, scurried across the windowed hall. Furrowing his brow, he leaned up against the wall, desperate. Perhaps he could slip in with the royals and escape with them, at least he'd have somebody then, someone to replace the head cook. He was just about to find his way to one of the many doors disguised in the walls when a particular voice caught his ear.
"My music box!"
Dmitri pushed his ear away from the wall, staring at the plain wood in disbelief. The Dowager's voice, following Anastasia's footsteps, disappeared back the way they came, calling for her. Dmitri followed them from the secret corridors. It was a straight beeline for Anastasia's playroom, where a model of the palace in Moscow was built as a dollhouse for her amusement. Dmitri opened the door to the playroom so it was only slightly ajar, poking half of his face out.
"Anastasia!" The Dowager exclaimed as the girl reached into the Moscow palace and retrieved the ornate box her grandmother had given her. A growling gunshot ripped through the air, causing Dmitri to jump and the Dowager to look around fearfully, as if she knew the bullets that were fired had torn into her son's chest, that they were suddenly trapped. Her ruby coat sweeping around her, the Dowager stood Anastasia up and herded her to the far door. Dmitri's heart leaped up, and he sprung from the hidden door. He could hear the trampling of many boots in the too-near distance. Grasping the coat of the Dowager, he pulled her back.
"Go this way, out the servant's quarters!" He directed. Without a second thought or any revulsion to his lesser form pushing them into the cramped door, the Dowager and her grand-daughter scrambled into the narrow corridors. A soft thud hit the floor as Dmitri pushed the royals in. The pounding of the boots grew louder, making Dmitri realize that his heart was racing faster and louder than horses. He was just about to close the secret door when the young face of the Romanov duchess appeared inches away from his, panic lacing her blue eyes.
Dmitri never noticed that she had blue eyes before. He always thought they were grey.
"My music box!" She said urgently. Dmitri, going against the rules the late cook had raised him by, pushed the duchess back with his unworthy hands, interrupting her.
The boots roared closer. Dmitri bit his lip as the old hand of the Dowager grasped the duchess's, and they faded into the corridor. One more flash of her blue eyes hit his, and Dmitri slammed the door shut, turning around. A flutter of what appeared to be a white bat was just outside the window, but he was probably imagining it. His heart was rivaling every fast-paced waltz he had ever heard, and he was breathing so hard he feared he would choke from lack of air, it wasn't impossible to see things.
The doors bent inwards from a livid slam. Dmitri's fingers stiffened to claws against the wall. One more crash splintered the doors as several burly, armed men poured into the room, faces snarling in inexplicable rage.
"Where are they, boy?" One demanded. Blue eyes still in his mind, Dmitri scrambled at a flower pot on a nearby end table. Grasping it, he hurled it at the man's face with as much force as his weak muscles could muster. He contorted his face into a snarl as well, an expression that lasted until the man brushed away the remnants of the flower pot and raised the butt of his rifle.
Stars and sunsets and dancing blue eyes sparked in Dmitri's vision as the rifle cracked down on his head, splitting his skull just above his left temple. The kitchen boy collapsed immediately with a soft grunt, his body landing on whatever it was that the duchess had initially come to this room for.
Stars and sunsets and dancing blue eyes.
Stars and sunsets and dancing blue eyes.
Stars and sunsets and dancing blue eyes.