Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia, nor do I own the legend of St George or anything to do with it.
Summary: This story is about a young man named Arthur, a pond, and a mysterious soldier no one remembers the name of.
Author's Notes: Written for Sweethearts Week Day 2 –legends and fairytales. I chose the legend of St George because 1. I imagine it's rarely done in Hetalia and 2. I have connections to St George (I lived in England, and I've been to Barcelona and Greece, all of which he is a patron saint). He's also mentioned in Shakespeare's Richard III and King Lear.
PLEASE read important AN at the bottom!
This story is about a young man named Arthur, a pond, and a mysterious stranger no one remembers the name of, whom everyone calls George.
Once upon a time, in the center of a sprawling city called Lasia, in a country so ancient no one can remember the name, there was a pond. The pond, which was really quite large enough to be called a lake, used to be a gathering place for the townspeople, and the people in the surrounding countryside. It used to be teeming with life –a place for women to wash clothes and for farmers to wash their harvest, a place for children to play in the hot summers, a place for merchants to sell their wares. All manner of plant and animal life could be observed from its banks. The pond attracted people from all over the known world. Yes, it had been a wonderful resource, and the townspeople of Lasia were very proud to play host to such a lovely sight.
Even though the pond had once been the jewel of Lasia as recent as ten years ago, now it could only be called a pock on the land; a symbol of all the misery and pain that had befallen the people of Lasia in the last decade –especially for the ruler of Lasia, King Selinus.
Everyone would agree that King Selinus was a good king and a good man. He was fortunate to have four wonderful sons whom he taught the meaning of equality and fairness by the example of his rule. The three eldest sons were a rowdy bunch and Selinus could be heard saying that they reminded him of a younger version of himself. Even Arthur sometimes joined in on their trouble-making.
It was the fall after Arthur turned nine that things began to change. A plague began to ravage the outer counties, and Selinus' people began to die. The king's children –Alasdair, Rhys, Padraig, and Arthur –had heard about the plague, but it seemed so distant, and the king's advisor, Francis, often waved off any questions Arthur might have had. Eventually the boys forgot about the plague and continued on with their lives.
When Arthur was twelve, he heard from Alasdair –who, incidentally, Arthur had discovered sneaking out of the castle to have a naughty affair with one of the stable boys –that the reason people stayed away from the pond was because there was supposedly some kind of angry creature living in its depths. According to Alasdair, who was only talking to Arthur about this because of what Arthur had discovered, the creature was the cause of the plague that was spreading rampant throughout the town and the countryside.
When Arthur had asked his father about whether that was true, King Selinus had just brushed him off; strangely enough, Arthur had never seen that stable boy again after that, and Alasdair quit talking to him for almost a month, spending the time he usually spent rabble-rousing with his brothers in his room, sulking.
The year Arthur turned thirteen was the year he accidentally discovered why farmers had been complaining of their sheep going missing. He was hiding in the advising room's closet from Padraig, whose dessert he had eaten earlier in revenge for Padraig pulling his seat from under him when he was trying to sit, when he heard footsteps and the creak of an opening and closing door. In walked his father and his father's favorite advisor, Francis, and they were talking about the missing sheep.
Arthur ended up staying in the closet for over half an hour out of fear of being caught overhearing something he wasn't supposed to, waiting until well after the two adults left to exist the tiny, cramped space. The young prince all but fell out of the closet, limping as quickly as he could to his bedchambers, where he laid awake the entire night replaying the conversation in his head; the king not only knew about the farmers' missing sheep, he was the one who was taking them.
"But sir, the farmers are growing suspicious," Francis was saying. "And besides, we have been feeding it one sheep a week for the last twelve weeks, and hardly anything has changed. Only the outer counties have seen slight improvement!"
"Then we are obviously not sacrificing enough sheep to keep it happy."
"Sir, the farmers –"
"I don't care. Tell the farmers that their sheep are being taken for royal purposes. Pay them. Do whatever you have to do to keep them from prying. If sacrificing sheep to that monster is working even in the slightest in the outer counties, it could work here, too."
Not only were sheep going missing, which was having a bad enough impact on the town's economy, but they were being used as sacrifices to some kind of monster that was living in the pond.
'So,' Arthur mused as he pulled his bedclothes up to his chin, 'the stable boy had been right after all. And my own father lied to me.'
Thirteen was also the year that Arthur learned the meaning of self-dependency.
The following fourteen months saw an increase in the number of sheep sacrificed to the pond creature, from one sheep per week to two per day. The number of people diagnosed with the plague leveled off, and the people of Lasia was ready to rejoice the dissolution of the black shadow that had hung over their city and countryside for the last six years.
And then everything started to happen very quickly. Rhys fell ill. The royal doctors did everything they could to keep the plague contained, but within five days it had spread to Padraig, and within another three to Alasdair. Arthur was kept well away from the wing of the castle in which his brothers resided, and a few days after Alasdair became ill Arthur's bedchamber was moved across the castle. Even after he was moved, Arthur thought that he could hear his brothers' wheezing breaths, their wet coughs, their tired and feverish moans.
Padraig was the first to die, followed quickly by Rhys and, much to King Selinus' despair, his eldest, Alasdair. Where once there were four princes, now there was only one –one lonely, sad prince who didn't even get to say goodbye to his brothers.
The day after that, the king enacted a lottery. The names of all the children in the land under the age of eighteen were put in the lottery, and when Francis drew a name once a month, that child was sought out by the king's knights and brought back to the banks of the pond to be sacrificed to the demon-monster within.
Arthur didn't like this new development, didn't like this new king that appeared after the deaths of three of his sons, so he spent most of his time in the royal library, learning a crash course in how to one day be a king and avoiding everyone as much as he possibly could except for Francis, who somehow wormed his way into Arthur's heart and became the boy's only friend.
The days became weeks, which changed to months, and eventually grew to years, and the townspeople, who had been outraged at the enacting of the lottery, grew to accept the sacrifice of their children as a normal way of life, and even an honor. Yes, what a great honor it was to sacrifice your child to the pond monster for the good of Lasia.
Then, just before Arthur turned eighteen, Francis drew his name out of the lottery. King Selinus tried to cover it up by offering the townspeople all his gold to look the other way, unwilling to lose the only son he had left –and Lasia's only remaining heir –to the pond. He had hoped that Arthur's reclusiveness in the past few years would have dulled the townspeople's memories of the young prince, but unfortunately for Arthur, that was not the case. When it became clear that the king, who had been all too happy to sacrifice other peoples' children, was reluctant to sacrifice his own, the townspeople became very angry, and the king was forced to act.
To put a stop to the brewing revolts, he announced that Arthur was to be taken to the banks of the pond and sacrificed in ten days' time. Surprisingly, even to himself, Arthur was taking the news very well; it was Francis who was panicking about it. He felt guilty for being the one to draw Arthur's name in the first place, and no amount of soothing Arthur attempted could make the king's advisor feel any better. Francis spent those ten days trying to convince himself and Arthur that somehow everything would be okay, and sending letters to all corners of the known world asking for help from anyone who would listen. The king spent those ten days treating Arthur as though he was already dead and gone, locked himself in his room and wallowed in his kingly misery.
On the dawn of the tenth day, Arthur quelled his nerves, dressed in his finest clothing, kissed Francis on the cheek, and walked himself out to the pond with his head held high to greet his death.
Or that's what he tried to do, but just as he was steeling himself for his impending and dignified march into the pond, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He let out a very unmanly shriek and whirled around to find his vision filled with brown, snorting, hairy horse. He shrieked again and fell back on his ass, where he was finally able to take in the whole picture; yes, it was a horse, but on the horse's back was a man with wheat-blond hair, blue eyes, and a concerned frown marring what must have been a beautiful smile.
"Whoa, hey, you okay? Sorry, didn't mean to scare ya, dude!" The man said, sliding off his horse less than gracefully. The man offered his hand but Arthur batted it away, annoyed. "Uh, yeah. My name's Alfred, and this here is Hero. I'm, um, not from around here, ya know, so maybe you could help me out?"
"No," Arthur said, turning his back on the handsome stranger to face the pond, squinting at the rippling surface.
"Oh, um…okay. You're kind of a rude fella, aren't ya."
Arthur turned around the stare at the stranger. He might have been handsome, but he was obviously a bumbling idiot. The man withered a bit under the prince's hard stare and tried to stammer out an explanation.
"I-I just need to find this dude. I think his name is Francis or something like that. He sent me a letter asking for help and I don't even know who this guy is but he sounded like he really needed it and I just happened to be passing through here on the way to this place called Britannia, which is where my company is right now and where I would be already if I hadn't gotten lost, but I heard it's hell up there because all the native people are going around killing the Roman soldiers, and the emperor had to build this wall to keep everyone safe but not even that's working, and –"
"Would you just shut up, I'm trying to die here!" Arthur screeched, flapping his arms ungracefully.
The stranger's eyes grew huge and he stuttered, "Y-you –?"
"Yes! So just leave me to die in peace already!"
Alfred turned to his horse and patted its neck. "You hear that, buddy? We get to be heroes!"
"Good lord, are you deaf? I just want you to leave!"
"No can do, mister! By the way, you still haven't given me your name and that's kind of rude, don't ya think? Anyway, I'm the hero, and I always save damsels in distress!"
"My name is Arthur, and as you can bloody well see, I am no damsel," Arthur growled.
"Well, Arthur," Alfred murmured as he crowded into Arthur's personal space. The goofy smile was gone, replaced by a serious glint in his eyes as he lifted a hand to stroke his thumb over the prince's flushed cheek. "I can see that you're no damsel. Doesn't mean I don't want to save you."
Arthur's eyes fluttered closed and he felt the stranger's breath on his face.
'What the hell,' Arthur thought as he brought a hand up to fist in the stranger's rumpled and dirty clothing. He was about to die. Letting a stranger kiss him wasn't going to hurt anything.
Their lips were a hair's breadth from connecting when the pond exploded and a white, gleaming body erupted from its depths.
'A dragon,' Arthur thought dazedly. 'A real bloody dragon.'
Alfred shoved Arthur behind him and before the prince could blink, there was the shing of Alfred drawing his sword and within seconds the dragon lay dead at their feet. Arthur stared at its body, and all he could think about was how the creature was quite beautiful with its white and iridescent scales winking in the pale winter sunlight. Then he transferred his stare to Alfred, who was flicking the dragon blood off his sword and sheathing it.
The man turned his gaze to the prince and beamed, obviously seeking praise.
"Well," Arthur drawled, "that was certainly anti-climactic."
Alfred continued to beam at him, undeterred by the prince's mockery. Arthur sighed and shook his head, and silence fell over them as they each mulled over what to do next.
"Artie, what are you going to do now?"
"It's 'Arthur,' and I don't know. The king has already resigned himself to my death, so there's no point in going back," the prince said, shrugging nonchalantly when Alfred captured his hand and squeezed it in sympathy. "Oh, don't do that, he's been wallowing in his own misery since my brothers died, it's almost like I haven't existed in his eyes for the past five years."
"Want to come with me?" Alfred blurted.
"Alfred, I don't even know you."
"My favorite color is green, if that helps."
Arthur couldn't help it, he laughed –something he hadn't done for years. "Okay."
"And that's the story of a boy named Arthur, a pond, and the mysterious stranger no one remembers the name of but everyone calls George."
"Wait, why did you call him Alfred then, if he's known as George?"
"Yeah, and what happened next? After Prince Arthur left Lasia, I mean."
The old King Peter of Lasia chewed on his fingernail thoughtfully as his audience waited with bated breath for him to conclude his version of the legend of Saint George.
"Well," Peter said, "the rumor goes that Francis, the king's advisor and Arthur's friend, received several letters until the day he died, and those letters were all unsigned and had no return address; however, supposedly some of the content was stuff that only Arthur should have known about, things that they'd done, inside jokes, that sort of stuff. And the letters always mentioned another man named Alfred. But no records show that a soldier named Alfred ever existed in the Roman army.
"And as for what happened next…no one knows for sure. All we know is that there was a mysterious person that the Iceni called Siors, a hero who supposedly deserted the Roman army to fight for the unjust treatment of the natives of Britannia. Siors just happens to be a native name that translates to George in our language. In the end, Arthur and Alfred supposedly fell in love and lived long lives full of adventure!"
"How do you know all this?" one of the younger boys asked.
"My father, Tino, was a young stable boy under the reign of King Selinus at the time of Prince Arthur's disappearance. After losing all of his heirs in just three years, the king went mad and his advisors, under the urging of Francis, appointed my father as regent due to his relationship as Selinus' nephew. Obviously since my father married Berwald instead of a woman, I was adopted. But as some of you know, Tino was a great storyteller, and he passed on the story of Prince Arthur's life to me.
"He always said it was important to keep talking about the past, to make sure we learn from it. So the lesson to take away from the legend of Saint George is that we must always hold out hope for our futures. Fear and doubt may get the better of us sometimes, but we are capable of conquering those fears and doubts, and once we do, nothing can hold us back."
AN: This chapter is a bit stuffier than my normal writing (only by a miniscule amount XD) because it's meant to sound like someone is telling a once-upon-a-time story. Also, this is the main story of Siors –but there will be a companion piece posted next week!
The Timeline: 102AD –Arthur and Alfred born around this time (Alfred's a bit younger). 113AD –Berwald and Tino born around this time (Tino's a bit younger). 120AD –main part of Ascalon takes place. 133AD –Tino and Berwald become regent rulers in place of the now insane king. 143AD –Peter born, adopted by Berwald and Tino a few years later. 200AD –last part of Ascalon takes place.
The random details: Alfred is a 17 year old Roman soldier of the legendary 9th Legion. He got lost on the way to Britannia with his legion. Just after the legion arrived in Britannia it was wiped off the face of the earth (but Alfred isn't aware until the second installment of this fic). The reason Peter refers to Alfred as Alfred is because his parents were close to the source of the legend. Most other people refer to Alfred as George because that's how the legend has been muddled over the years.
The legend: There are several versions of the legend of St George, and I combined bits of them to make my own story. The most common version of the legend is this: in the city of Lasia (which was fictional) or in the Libyan city of Silene, there is a pond in which a plague-causing dragon lives. The townspeople have to feed it sheep to keep it happy, but the sheep don't work so they end up creating a lottery and sacrificing children instead. The king's daughter is chosen and he tries to bribe the citizens with gold and silver, but in the end they make him follow through. The princess meets a wandering Roman soldier named George at the pond, the two converse, and the while they are talking the dragon pops out of the water and George slays it. Then they drag the dragon back to the town and frighten its citizens into converting to Christianity XD
The names: Ascalon –St George's sword (and incidentally the name of Churchill's personal plane during WWII). Siors –Welsh name for George, which means earthworker. Alasdair –Scotland. Rhys –Wales. Padraig –N. Ireland.
The history: The Romans invaded Britannia in 43AD, and Hadrian's Wall was built around 122AD by Emperor Hadrian. The 9th Legion disappeared right around the time Hadrian's Wall was built; supposedly it was attacked by Iceni Queen Boudica.
TG © February 2012