Welcome to chapter 10 of, Promise Me Wild Roses! I'd like to thank my lovely, forever lovely translators - MalinChan, yotzie, Ruusu, kooliobutterflyhahaha, Sine-k, Another Mad Swiss, Lillens, DianeLeBlanc99, and Sarai Onyx Vainamoinen. Thank you so very much! I do not own Hetalia but I do own this story! Please enjoy this chapter and review, it makes my heart all flutter!
Natasha ran breathless into the stable, her feet patched with mud and bruises from the marshy saw grass, the cuts on the arches of her feet twanging in pain as she slid over the yellowed straw of the building.
With breath still stuttering from her lungs, she slammed her limbs against one of the royal stalls, the impact causing her to wince, but not by much. With fingers heaving her body up to look over the wooden divider, her eyes widened and then waned, anger bubbling hot against her face as if pokers had been brought to her eyes.
Tino's fat and lazy pony stared back at her with a doe browned gaze, lips stained green with alfalfa that stuck out between his yellowed teeth.
His coat was gleamed a thick silver as the dappled spots on his rump shone snow white. His mane had been cleaned of brambles and tangles and sweat no longer drenched his neck nor flanks. All evidence of the animals strenuous ride was erased.
Natasha growled despite herself, looking at the pony with a steely stare that only made him flick his ears back and forth and turn himself away from her, his hindquarters her only view now. Even the Finns pony was mocking her!
She huffed with annoyance at the beast, finding quite miserably that the Finn and Swede's horses were already groomed and cared for. Lips all smacking hay into their mouths and cheeks as they snorted with ease. Where was the Prince and his Vassal to be found now?!
Feeling defeated that she was beaten all the way here even though she took special care to bound her feet through short cuts over willow shrubs and creeks brimmed with snow water, she leaned against the wooden pole of the stable, content to sulk. The beam of the heavy tree trunk kept her standing somewhat tall and proud when inside she wished to crumble to the floor, ungracefully accepting her defeat.
"They out ran me, so quickly…" She mumbled sorely, wiping her face of sweat with her palms that were red with heat and pain. Small slivers of splinters were evident against her paled skin that was rough from always washing and cleaning her siblings clothes with the greasy lye soap. She bit her lip in barely contained rage.
"Who outran you?" Peeped a smiling reply that had Natasha' head turning and her lips curing into a sweetened smile. Ivan showed himself behind one of the Kings carriage horses who stood a bit wobbly on his legs, Natasha catching the strain he was placing on his left back foot, the hock stunted some.
Ivan patted the beast lovingly under the animals eyes, humming with delight at the horses well behaved temperament. Though the horse was supposedly destined to go to slaughter, after Ivan administered some brewed yarrow to the horses leg to discourage swelling, the horse was slowly clamoring back to health. Though the creature would be lamed for several days from the bruising hit that a tree branch took to his leg, Ivan was confident that with his care, the animal would be settled back into his old routine. Ivan did so hate when the horses were put to death due to misfortune. Mauno could be inexplicably cruel in those cases.
"Prince Tino and Berwald is what ails me…" She scathed softly, not being able to hide her anger even from her brother whom she wished to not injure with her words if she could help it.
Ivan furrowed his brow at his sisters dreadful face, wiping his hands clean with a rag before he hung it to dry along a hitching post. Leading the brilliant coated horse by a crude makeshift halter, he tucked the animal tenderly inside a free stall. Turning back to his sister, he greeted her frown with a smile.
"Yes, they came in just not too long ago - why are you so distraught?"
Natasha lowered her gaze then before she dared to look at her brothers expectant face - for she had a heavy blow to deliver and she would be lying if she did not take pleasure in gifting it.
"I have great news brother, news that means the world to me!" She admitted, crushing her skirts in her hands as she fidgeted like a small girl in swaddles.
"Oh? Then let us hear this news, da?" Ivan asked, a soft smile on his face for his baby sister, happy that she had found something to make her smile. Natasha needed more reasons to grin and giggle.
"Prince Tino is an adulterer to his future bride to be." She hummed with satisfaction and finality, watching her brothers eyes widen and his breath stutter in his throat.
"What?"He hissed, not believing what he was hearing. Of all the lies to be told to his ears? And from his younger sister no less!
"Berwald and Tino, they are planning to be engaged - to elope!" She squealed, her hands clasping together in front of her with joy. Oh she was quite certain this was one of the greatest and best moments of her life!
Ivan, the pure shock on his face never melting, grabbed his sister by the shoulders and gently squeezed with urgency. His sister fidgeted only slightly in his hold, not liking his reaction to her grand news at all. His fingers hurt her some and she whined in frightened pain.
"How do you know this, Natasha?! If you are lying, then this is a cruel joke! Lives could be at stake for this kind of slander!" He warned with desperation, Natasha shrugging out of her brothers grip, smile wavering only some.
"My tongue is not false! My words are true! They were by the meadow when I heard everything - declarations of love, embracing - brother, they kissed each other!" Her face then became hued in red at her own girlish embarrassment of accounting for what she had saw not but a few hours before. My how in love they looked, like two turtle doves swooning over each other in peaking delight.
Ivan's face turned a flushed kind of pink before he drew breath once again into his lungs and squared his chest, pulling at his tunic collar in nervousness. His grip on his linen shirt did not lesson much as he held on for dear life as if he wished to choke himself to death right then and there.
"Natasha, I believe you." Ivan started to say, causing his sister to hum with unfettered delight.
"But," Ivan held his sisters hands gently by the slimness of her wrists, "You mustn't tell anyone about this, about what you saw and what you heard." He pleaded. His sisters face became crestfallen as her brows furrowed in puzzlement at his words that spoke of great sorrow.
"But brother, this is a chance at revenge - of righting and mending a broken heart! Are you not feeling angry and betrayed by the Finn? By the Prince who had stolen your affection long ago? The one you pine after is in love with another!" She huffed, glaring at her brother through her snow white lashes, watching the color in his face slowly draining.
Ivan shut his eyes tight and tensed his jaw, breathing in and out through his nose. He smelled swamp mud, sweat, and manure - that and the tingeing coppery scent of sadness. He reopened his eyes to stare sternly at his younger sister who he loved dearly, but knew would cause him great trouble if she could, as in the wrong she terribly was.
"Natasha, we do not speak of this again - we never utter a word about my likeness for the Prince or his likeness for the Swede." His voice took on the tone of grave warning, his eyes staring his little sisters down till she flickered her gaze away from him. She was only but a child anyway - one could not expect her to remain strong when Ivan plastered his stern look upon his face.
"But brother!" Natasha whined. She was about to insist upon him hearing her words and explanations but he shook his head forcibly and sighed with a clipped tut of breath.
"Natasha, I knew long ago that I would never be able to hold Tino's hand in marriage, and yes, that thought has crushed over me like an oceans wave." He kept his eyes sharp on his sisters then, his pretty perfect teeth baring out the next words with contained anger.
"Yet no matter how much hurt I feel, I will not be the one to send my friend Berwald to the gallows and Prince Tino to a faraway land to wed a woman he does not love. I will not have them torn apart because of my bitterness." He let go of his stunned sister, smoothing his hand over his hair in a nervous gesture. It did nothing to soften the blow of his words.
Natasha snarled at him, red in the face.
"You still love him?!" She barked out, causing the horses to swish their tails and kick at the wood of their stalls.
Ivan nodded softly, eyes somber and childlike again in the face of his sister whom always had a temper as hot as a wildfire. One that could not be contained by anyone, even by him.
"If I shall get no help from you, then I shall remedy the situation myself!" She lashed out at him, turning on her heels to throw the stable doors back in a great clatter, How dare her brother refuse her when she was only trying to help him! How dare he!
As her hands clutched the latch of the door, she paused, hearing the horses tossing their heads before her in fright at her sudden outburst.
"Natasha," Ivan called out for her softly, in his voice that sounded so much like a merry sparrow. Only now it was muddled with something sadder, something tarnished and not at all bright.
"Whatever you are scheming - please, don't." He begged with pleading violet eyes that Natasha had come to love since she was a little girl tugging at his smooth pleasing hair as she was cradled to his lap.
Natasha could only smile wickedly now.
"Dear Brother, I do not scheme - I entreat myself to victory." She hummed with sinister delight. Then out the doors she disappeared, making great haste to the back entrance of the grand hall where she would place her plan in motion.
She would succeed even if it killed her.
"It is not fair!" Tino shouted with rage as he slammed his fist against the heavily decorated door of his bedroom, resulting in his breath stuttering in his lungs as he began to dwell into another coughing fit.
Katyusha instantly came to his side, worrying about him like a hen all a flutter as she rapped softly at his back and urged him to drain a cup of rose wine - his personal bed chambers having their own little cedar chest filled with three bottles - all made out of expensive glass shipped from Norway.
With soothing words and a voice as soft as Chinese silk, the Ukrainian woman had coaxed Tino to sit himself down on a stool where he rested his weary body.
After the Finn had drunk his fill of the sweetened wine that left an aftertaste of tartness, he stilled himself upon his seat, cushioned with artic fox fur - silver and white from the season it was killed in.
"My dear baby boy, do not cry - do not fuss." Katyusha cooed to the Finn as she combed her fingers through his soft hair. He calmed some at the touch, yet his eyes were still red rimmed and his breath was still soured from his coughing fit. Only the thin line of his lips remained bitter and coarse.
"But it is not fair! He has no respect for me, no kind words, no love! Nothing!" He mourned, his voice a wisp, the candles flicker emitting more of a noise than he. He felt weightless and even more pained for it, as if he no longer had the will to sit up straight let alone go about his tormented days.
Katyusha made a quiet noise of lament before she helped to unbutton the top of the Finn's tunic. Carefully her fingers mended the thread and relaxed the ties so the Prince would find it easier to breathe, lest his troubles over suffocate him.
Tino's own fingers came to his neck to complete the rest of the ties while the Ukrainian herself set out a wash bin for him to clean his face of rage and blood.
"If I had the courage, I would leave this instant - on a strong horse with laurels of wild roses, my arms wrapped around him - we could leave, I know we could."
Katyusha's face burned a crisp red from the Prince's words, her hands soothing over his throat to take the tunic from the Finnish mans hands. After tucking the soiled one into a wicker basket to be tended to later, she graced him with a fresh and crisp white one that smelled bitterly of lye soap.
"You father would be furious - his only son running away with the stable hand, and a Swede no less." She mumbled softly, a soft huff in her voice that Tino honed in on. It was well known that Katyusha hated his father almost as much as he.
"I care not what my father thinks - the Gods have sanctified my meeting with Berwald those long years ago. Since I was a child I wished to be joined and wed with only him. It would be an insult to the Gods and the spirits of the woods if I did not wed him!"
Katyusha clucked her tongue softly at the boy that she knew since he was a baby, that she had helped nurse and bring into this world. My, what a horrible world he had been reared in, yet such a fine man he had grown up to be. Of course a beautiful rose must grow it's thorns to live in harsh soil…
"Then why not join your lover on a midnight ride - travel all the way down south - take a boat to far off lands, Turkey, Denmark, Hungary."came an amused voice from the door, Elizabeta's eyes happy with mirth as she gazed upon the Prince of Finland.
Tino spooked, eyes widening as he fixed his gaze to the opened door.
He swallowed deep in his throat, scared that his plans, so secretive that only a select few knew, would be ruined by perchance of ears.
"Oh, do not sour your face at me boy!" She laughed, walking into the room and softly shutting the door behind her. "I will not tell, fettered my tongue is." She swiped her olive skinned fingers over her lips in a mocking gesture of secrecy.
Tino smiled graciously back at his old wet-nurse, the Hungarian woman hastily hugging the Finn to her chest as she kissed the crown of his head.
"But a choice of love you must make..." She muttered against his hair as she pulled back, her eyes serious.
Tino looked down at his hands in his lap, sickly things, sallow things. No courage in his body to complete such a task, a task he had been dreaming about, planning about, for so very long.
"And if Herr Oxenstierna has won your heart, from me and your home you must depart." She squeezed his shoulders lovingly as the Finn nodded, his eyes set with determination.
"Tonight you must go with your lover, or at least in early morn. For your father will soon be pestering you with more marriage proposals in the next few days, stubborn he is." Elizabeta spoke, grabbing at a lovely velvet red sack, stuffing into it a few days worth of clothes as Katyusha, happy at the turn of events beyond belief, began to wept for joy, mumbling about a wedding, a romantic ending for lovers.
Onward they filled the knapsack full, bustled with three bottles of wine and a small cloth bag tied with candied roses for the trip should Tino need something stronger if his coughing acted up vehemently.
However, silently on the other side of the door stood Natasha, busying herself with tying her boots about her wrapped feet, leaning against the door and hearing ever wee bit that the busy handmaidens and the Prince went on about.
She smiled happily at her wickedly good luck.
"Oh - I have found love in the color of Jade eyes and the smile of a boar!" Tino giggled as he tied his knapsack closed with a bit of twine, the bag set under his bed to be hidden until the time was right and perfect - deep into the darkness of early morn when even the guards would be drowsy with sleep.
Yet no one heard the soft squeak of the door as it was turned open, the shy and pale face of Natasha peeking through, that is, until the often loud girl spoke.
"Am I interrupting?" She mumbled, knowing all too well what they were discussing.
Tino whirled his head around him with a start, eyes fixed wide upon Kaytusha's sister before the Ukrainian woman fretted and pulled her sister in by her arms, setting her on the small three legged stool nearest the Finns bedding chest.
"Oh my dear baby sister, what secrets you have just heard…" She worried her lip, gazing down at Natasha who only furrowed her brow in a guise - a curled smile set behind her lips that only she could see.
"Of the Prince and his moment to elope?" She whisperer quite sweetly, quite convincingly.
Tino swallowed harshly, getting ready to expel his childhood friend from his room with haste - yet Natasha turned quietly to him and smiled wonderfully, brightly.
She bundled her hands in her skirts and bowed low to the floor so that the tips of her nappy yet shiny hair dotted the floor silvery blonde.
Then, upon raising her head, she grinned just like an innocent young girl should.
"Why, my Prince, my future King - I am delighted! True love comes only once in a lifetime - and to think you have found yours so soon! Why, I am truly happy for you and I wish you well in your endeavors."
With those words that could melt even the most fear stricken of hearts, Tino's worried glance softened over, his parted lips melted into a smile son sincere it nearly made Natasha gag.
With one fell swoop, the Finn clutched at Natasha boldly, hugging her to him.
"Oh I am so relieved and so happy to find a friend in you Natasha, and at such a crucial point!" He hummed into her shoulders, Natasha resisting the urge to bolt and retch all upon the floor with twisted disgust.
"I will do anything for you, my Prince! You only need to tell me what, and I shall take up the task with honor." She mused, watching the Finn pull back and threaten to burst with mirth. It should not delight her so that his pain caused her contentedness, but she felt nothing else could wrack her with happiness.
"Such a friend you are - well, then I shall tell you! I am after the hand of Herr Oxenstierna!" He declared with courage, Natasha doing her best to feign surprise.
"Oh my! A match made by the Gods I am sure. Now, what is it I can do for you?" She asked, smoothing her skirt about her waist and clasping her hands at her lap. A pedestal of goodwill.
Tino pressed his lips together in thought before he joined Katyusha on the foot of the bed, the Ukrainian picking at her fingers lightly as she smiled at her young charge. Such a fine and helpful girl Natasha had become, thought the Ukrainian. A fine girl indeed.
"Well…" The Finn started to murmur before there was a knock at the door and, with very little warning, Queen led herself into the room, a tired smile deepening on her face. In an instant, as if touched by fire, Katyusha retreated from the bed to the corner of the room as was permitted of a servant of her rank.
Lady Jaana thought nothing of the odd behavior, musing at her servants wiles.
"Tino - here are the lovely bouquet of roses I have promised - though I see I have come at a rather hectic time…" The Queen gazed chastising upon the many faces in the Princes room before she smiled softly, and easement coming over her features. It was almost fond.
"It is so nice of you to check on Tino's well being, I only hope that he has not thrown a tremendous fit…" The Queen laughed only half-heartedly before she set the big vase of flowers on the dresser. The milky white vase stained the dresser with water, the flowers perfuming the room most sweetly.
"Mother, are those the flowers Berwald picked?" Tino hummed, rising to sniff the darkened petals of the wiry roses, heavy with blossom and hip.
"Yes my dear - quite good with the roses that boy is!" She confessed with exasperation, petting her son fondly on the hair. Tino, not wishing to foul the mood, allowed his mothers hands to caress him lovingly, though a child at his mothers skirts he protested to never being.
"Hmmm, yes, he is, isn't he." Tino murmured, his fingers coming to caress a dew drop caught in the lip of a particularly stunning yellowed rose.
"Now, Tino - I had wished to talk about your marriage arrangements, I do not wish to pressure you, but with your fathers temper…"
"There is no need mother, I have chosen. One of the Gualish twins will do." The Finnish Prince painfully murmured before picking out a white and red splayed flower - Berwald knowing quiet well that they were one of his favorites. My how he loved that man.
"Oh? What happened to the jade eyed dog faced dog?" His mother asked, brushing the hair out of her sons face, her words almost cooing - not mocking, but not too supportive none the less.
"I have received a vision from the Gods - in which I have seen my true love near the thorns of a wild rose bush. My true love had hair of spun copper and eyes of green. Therefore one of the Gualish sisters with red hair and green eyes shall do." Tino lied softly, stoking the petal of the rose between the fingers till the flesh of the flower cracked and wilted. He let it fall to the floor absently.
"Well this is quite wonderful my son - I shall have a daughter and many grandchildren." She exclaimed softly before kissing Tino upon the brow. Her lips were cool and cast into a slight frown, as if she knew Tino was suffering from an ailment of the heart.
"As long as you are happy my dear boy." She murmured softly as she pulled away.
Tino nodded, hating the fact that he was lying to his mother, the only member of his kin that he ever loved unfettered.
"However, since you have had such a vision from the Gods, I warn you to keep your virtue from harm. Let nothing stray you from your true love." The Queen spoke lovingly before her eyes strayed to the women in the room, teasing warning in her gaze.
"As a Queen should, all my maidens I warn to keep their honor from harm."She huffed with a teasing smile before, at long last, she held her skirts about her and exited the room with dignity and grace, unawares of the plot that had been hatched underneath her nose.
As the doors closed with his mothers departure, Tino sighed and sunk into the furs of his bed, petals at his lips as he drunk in the heady scent of roses, his next move of his plan stunted in his throat.
Feeling the closeness of their deeds almost revealed, Elizabeta sighed, displeased with her Princes lying, but not having the very heart to cause more trouble for the heart-stricken Royal.
"What will you do now?" Katyusha whispered meekly, her voice seeming to echo in the chilled room.
Tino closed his eyes lightly before wailing abruptly, like a horrid rooster greeting the sun at dawn.
"Oh had I a trusty friend and true - to carry word to Herr Oxenstierna now!"He moaned. He felt the urge and the itch to leap up from his feet and un away more than ever! His new life awaited him outside the heavy oaken doors of the palace, and yet grieving and cowardly he sat in the throes of his bed, unable to move a stitch. His new life it seemed, was snuffed out before it even began.
However…Then falsest maid was quick to speak.
"I am the messenger you seek."
Holy Hell this chapter took forever to freaking write. I wouldn't be surprised if you people hated me yet. Well, at least it's here now! Please Review and I'll try to make the next installment a quick one! I love you, lovelies!
Usually, if a phrase is italicized in this fic, it means it's a lyric from the song on which this fic is based~!