Once upon a time, in the borderlands, a boy was found, with eyes blue like the sky and hair yellow like the grain the people ate. He was a bright child, though wordless, and learned to speak the village's language. And then he was a bright child, talkative, wanting to learn everything he could about it all. How to plant things, how to hunt things, how to do the womanly arts, and—most of all—how to tell stories. The village liked him, for he was no trouble and the luck was good that year, but when he failed to grow or change in a year, they became troubled.

One of the villagers had married a woman from another village, and she thought her brother knew something about this: he was fetched and told a tale—it was true, he swore it—of a man who also did not age, who was the same from one year to the next, living with the tribes to the south. Was it possible to fetch him? Was the boy his son? The brother was sure the man was a god, or possibly otherwise blessed—the boy probably was, too.

So they accepted it.

One day, the water froze in the ocean, and snow covered the ground. The villagers set their mouths and prepared for a hard winter—although it could have been worse. All their luck had been good that fall.

The boy would go to the seashore and sit with his knees drawn, and sigh at the ice. The village grew worried, none more so than the childless woman and man who had adopted him for their own, dressed him and slept with him between. Presuming he had never seen ice so vast before, his mother tried to comfort him, but the boy was distracted.

One day, he set off across it. By the time his father realized, he was gone.

He walked for a day and a night. It snowed. It creaked and cracked. Nothing changed. It was windy and seemed like the end of the world. And there in the middle he met the other boy, huddled over a few sticks that would not light. The boy had hair yellow like grain and eyes green like the ocean.

From then on, the elder called himself Merki, meaning borderlands, and the younger was Saiwi, meaning sea. Merki carried him home on his back, teaching him words the whole time, for Saiwi could not speak, either. They became brothers, Saiwi quieter, ponderous, tempering the elder's energy, asking questions Merki overlooked, but generally allowing him to be spoken for.

And winter passed.

Both boys grew taller, and were then taught weapons and how to hunt, chasing one another through the village with yells and battlecries. The village had more luck than even the year before, and the ageless boys were given the credit: surely they were godchildren; what fortune. Only half joking, they wondered if next winter, the boys would find another brother and bring him home, tripling their luck, but Merki and Saiwi spent their winter quietly, trapping and listening to stories. Merki became good at creating and telling them, too, and was still treated with special pride in the village; he was theirs. His brother, too—yes—but—well, he was a nice boy. But he lacked his elder brother's charisma. And sometimes it seemed that Saiwi knew so, too, for he would sit and watch rather than attempt to join in, his brow furrowed and unreadable.

And a hundred years passed.

The boys did not age, but all others in the village did, and gave birth to new children, and died, and the children did the same. It was now the largest village anyone had heard of, as well as the strongest. The Jutes gave trouble sometimes, as did the Fyn, but Merki was unstoppable in battle. Saiwi as well, but he'd grown reluctant, and one day found him sitting and looking at the sea.

When he brother came to convince him to return, it was time to eat, he did not respond, only sighed.

There was a fight. Saiwi wanted a life of his own, a village of his own, a place that was his and not Merki's. But his brother did not understand. They had everything they wanted here, they were fortunate and lucky. And besides, godchildren like themselves were rare, who knew if Merki'd ever meet another. But Saiwi persisted, staring at the sea, and when it next froze over, a few years later, he went east across it. And Merki, when he realized his brother was gone, gave chase. But after a day and a night of walking north, not realizing it was the wrong direction, he still hadn't found him. Fine!, he thought; he'd walk until he did.

The ice creaked and cracked, and turned into mountains. He walked a tunnel of rock and ice, hearing the shrieking of wind and animals. He tightened his heart and kept walking, thinking he had reached the very end of the world, the road to the sky, where the gods lived. But that was fine, they could tell him where his brother had gone. When the path of ice ended, he climbed through the snow, in the land at the end of the world, where there was no sun, only odd bands in the sky.

And the boy did not find his brother, but a boy with gold hair like grain, and eyes blue like mountains, who greeted him in the wind with: "You are not welcome here."

And that is how Merki met Nórr, and how the three godchild kings came to meet. They live to this day, and you may see them yourself if you visit their homes.


Faroes is not listening.

Denmark likes kids. He does. Seriously. They're easier to understand, kind of, but girls? Sure, she's cute as hell in her dresses and—bow things, but she's different from Ice, who is at least old enough to know to listen, and Greenland, who is barely noticed anyway. He never really asked to have to raise Nor's territories by himself anyway. He keeps half hoping that Sweden will realize how much it sucks and send him back.

Threats are made to get her to bed, then bribes, then he throws a book at her, careful to miss. But she knows he wanted to miss, and that doesn't work either. Jeez, just go to fucking bed, he tells her; physical extrusion is still hard for him; Copenhagen is still rebuilding. I'll tell you a bedtime story. Lately he's been getting into that Andersen's stories, but she rolls her eyes and does that thing—where she looks just like Norway; he hates that. Really.

"Tell me something cooler."

Whatever, whatever. Okay. Fine.

Once upon a time.

But he can't think of anything. Thinking of Nor, who always seemed to get the territories listening, thinking of Sweden, the bastard, he sits at the edge of her bed and the first thing out of his mouth is, "Once upon a time, there was a king named Ypper, who had three sons. And they were born in the middle of the world, but went three ways." He hasn't thought of this story in years—centuries—and it brings to his mind the smell of fur and woodsmoke and being cold. The gods have sent you boys—He breathes. "The youngest went north, the middle went east, the oldest—and strongest—went south. And they became kings of their lands, and their names were Dan, Nori, and Østen, and they ruled the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes."

"That's not even a story!" Faroes objects.

"It totally is! Dan lived here, in Copenhagen—well, maybe Roskilde. A Roman Emperor attacked him, and Dan drove him away. After that, the Jutes, Fyn, and Scania accepted him as their king! He got married and had a kid, and that's why I'm named after him!"

Faroes considers, finds this more satisfying—or more to think about—and allows herself to be tucked into bed, the candle snuffed out.


footnotes.

Okay. So. First thing's first. Etymology. Denmark probably means something like "flat borderlands," the Den being "flat" or "cave", the Mark being march or merki in Ye Olde Language, meaning woodland or borderland. Sweden means... "people of the Swedes," and no one is quite sure where "Sue/Svea/Sve/Sví" comes from, even though they all agree those thing mean the same thing. One of the theories is it's something like "ocean/lake people." Another is something like "kin." I went with the one that matched. :| Also, Norway means "path to the north." Easy.

The little story about Dan, Nori, and Østed is real. Kind of. King Dan is sometimes cited as the one who founded/created the Dani people, and that the Danes are named after him for that. And his brothers formed the Norwegians and Swedes. There's no actual proof the guy/s existed, but the Roman Emperor Dan is said to have fought is none other than Julius Caesar Augustus. It's a cute story that matches pretty well with Hetalia.

The last part takes place in the 1820s or 1830s, lol. The territories named are all part of modern day Denmark, except for Scania, which traditionally was until Sweden took it during the Northern Wars. Apparently there's a fair amount of Scanians who want to go back to Danish rule...technically speaking, the first part of the story probably ought to have taken place in Scania, but oh well.

This was originally a prompt from a friend, asking for Denmark before he knew he was a country. There's a lot of rambling I could do on this subject, but since the idea of a nation is very modern (18th century), and the idea of a country or kingdom is even more recent than you'd think, I figure that little baby Denmark—immortal, secluded—probably would have thought he was some kind of god. After all, his people were polytheistic.