Hello and Welcome! Here for your entertainment-Dala Horse chapter five! I'd like to thank my lovely translators, MalinChan, yotzie, Ruusu, kooliobutterflyhahaha, Sine-k, Another Mad Swiss, Lillens, DianeLeBlanc99, and Sarai Onyx Vainamoinen. Thank you very much guys! I do not own Hetalia nor it's characters-though I do own this story! I suggest listening to "Antiokia" by Garmarna for this story.
Breakfast went by smoothly, with only a few pricks of pain to echo through Berwald's body. The cushions at his back however, did wonders for his aching bones and his arm, however immobile, was at rest at his sides, the stitching only bothering him some when he moved the wrong way.
And the food did just right for the Swede's stomach - leaving him full and satisfied, his mouth for once not tasting like Slippery Elm Gruel - awful stuff wasn't even pleasant laced with honey.
But soon the pleasant conversation of past families - Tino announcing quiet fondly that he had a cousin in Norway who had escaped the tyranny of the war and was instead running a sheep farm - came to an end.
"I should hate to ruin this easy mood, but I must ask. How is the war going so far? Are we winning, are we losing? Or is it a statement?" Tino's voice, laughter quickly leaving his face, asked. His hands flickered over to Berwald's empty plate to collect it and place it to soak in a watering pale.
Berwald cleared his throat in his fist, wishing very much that the conversation hadn't delved into this - but it seemed no helping it. They were in the middle of a war, he was a mercenary, and he did have troubles and stories to tell.
"Well," The Swede began with soft breath, "As ya' know Sister Sweden has under her control Karelia, Ingria an' Estonia - which, against Russia's better judgment, is blocking advancements from th' Slavic's west." Berwald took a sip of some offered coffee - the shortage running so low on goods that earlier Tino had ground dandelion root into the grounds for fear of the supply running short.
"Aye, I know Russia and Poland-Saxony are stopped short in their attack, but that the Danes are remedying that situation quiet well." Tino murmured, absently wiping some grease from Peter's mouth with a washcloth, the child grumbling and trying to twist away from his Pappa's dotting.
"The Danes are fueled by the hatred of their king, as they rightfully should. We have land that's not ours…" Berwald shrugged, relaxing his wounded arm on the table for a bit, his neck killing him from where the linen cloth weighed heavy on his skin.
"That may be so, but it doesn't give them the excuse to attack our home! I fear for my life every night those muskets go off - they will be coming soon, they will find my cottage!" Tino shook his head, trying to keep his voice under control in the presence of his child.
"Well, if it makes ya' feel any better, th' Swede's will be retaliatin' against Denmark's attacks here in Holstein-Gottorp. We've got aide from an' Anglo-Dutch fleet as well as our own navy, an' we're gonna' take real good care of Zealand too. Threatenin' Copenhagen's our only way ta' force th' Danes out a' th' war, though." Berwald spoke while helping Tino clear the table of the saucer of watered down milk and the platter of left over horse meat that had cooled at it's place.
Tino hummed softly, taking in everything that Berwald said. By what he was being told, Tino could very well now envision an end to this war - or at least an end to the Danish muskets firing over his heads. He didn't feel the least bit guilty in thinking that he didn't care the outcome of the war, of the safety of Sweden - just as long as Holstein-Gottorp was safe. That was all that mattered to him in the world.
"Enough talk about the war now, it's far too horrible a subject." Tino huffed, wiping his hands as clean as they would get on his trousers.
Berwald nodded, liking very much he prospect of changing the subject.
"Well, then, why don't we go out and get the rest of the horse meat before it's lost to us by the afternoon sun!" Tino exclaimed, picking Peter up from his chair to set him on his feet at the ground.
The child beamed up at his Pappa, wanting to help more than ever if it meant he got to eat heartily everyday from now on.
"What can I do, Pappa?" Peter asked, a gap in his teeth showing from where he smiled.
Tino grinned down at the child and patted his head lovingly, contentedly.
"I've got a special job for you, I do!" Tino exclaimed, making his way to the skeletal shelves that were covered in dust - almost all of them barren.
Once his fingers, nimble and thin, reached outward to pluck a yellowed paper from it's place, the page looking to have been ripped clean from a book.
A few inked lines showed nicely scrawled handwriting, and even the scattered pictures of what looked to Berwald to be plants of all shapes and sizes - fat leaves and skinny leaves - some with petals, some without.
Tino bent to eyelevel of the little British child, his eyes kind as he handed him the fainted page that smelled musty and none too clean.
"While Berwald and I are collecting the meat, I want you to, mind you staying near my eye-sight, collect the herbs that I've marked with a drop of red dye. I am running quite low on them." Tino relayed his instructions to the little boy, who, with determined eyes, nodded and saluted Tino like a footman would to his Lord. It made Tino smirk and laugh, his palm covering his giggles.
Then, with the speed that would put a jack-rabbit to shame, Peter ran up to a few pegs of wood on the white-washed wall and yanked down a little leather sachet stained with what looked like a few years worth of dirt.
"That's my good boy." Tino mused as he ran his own hands over the rough rope handle of a wooden bucket, a cloth of brown laid nice and neatly at it's bottom to keep the meat as clean as possible.
Berwald too was armed with two buckets much like Tino's own, and his own knife for cutting at the slabs of horse flesh.
The Swede was a bit taken aback that the Finn would even present him with such a sharp instrument, but Tino only smiled and told him that he believed Berwald to be a good Christian man, and knew that the Swede would do nothing to harm him.
Berwald, flattered beyond belief, only nodded his head dumbly and followed the Finn and his son outside the small stale cottage and into the breezy outside, the smell of gun smoke and death barely reaching their nostrils.
Once their feet found the slightly trampled path of meadowsweet and saw grass, Tino began to whistle a tune through his lips, his hands swinging the pales at his fingers with ease, knife tucked nice and easy at his belt.
Peter too, began to feel an upheaval of spirits overtake him, and he soon found a dragonfly to occupy his fancy, the child running around in circles to catch the crafty thing.
Yet all too soon Berwald and Tino's noses caught the scent of old blood, and Tino, noticing the aspens shapes much clearer now that it was daylight, shooed Peter on his way to collect the herbs that he needed to be replenished.
Yarrow, Blessed Thistle, Nettle, and Cowslip were on the list, and Tino only hope the young lad would stop in his delights at play just long enough to at least fill his sachet with some of each specimen.
After the child was occupied to root through grass with a fallen pines bough, Tino and Berwald set to work at navigating themselves through the copse of trees, the aspens shimmering like jewels as the wind blew through them, the sound noisy but pleasant.
Then, they attested the damages.
The flies, had, unfortunately gotten there before they did.
Already Berwald could see the whole lot buzzing and whirling around the dead animals face, coating her eyes and nostrils - the place where Tino had ct at her sides even worse - they would not be able to cut any more from that side of the mare, lest they wanted to infect themselves with something and make themselves sick.
Tino was madder than anything, cursing his own stupidity at cutting away before they had taken proper care to take the whole lot of meat in once coarse.
"I had thought the early morning chill would keep the meat… I'm afraid I was wrong." Tino mumbled sullenly, taking out his carving knife, inspecting other areas to cut.
"'S not a complete loss. Once we get 'er shaved an' light, we'll turn 'er over. Get th' other side of 'er." Berwald tried to console the Finn who was already bent down near the corpse, collar of his shirt pulled up over his nose to shield away from the stench of sun-stoked meat.
"Yes, I suppose you're right." His voice was muffled as he spoke, but Berwald heard it none the less, bending down next to the beasts neck.
A whole froth of flies scattered from where they moved their arms, where they sliced with their knives, where they breathed in the sad sad stench of death.
But, Tino thought in his head as he cut at the horses stomach, letting the unusable organs slop to the ground - collecting the rest with hands stained red with chilled blood, It was better than nothing. If the horse had to have died from her suffering, he realized, at least her death was not in vain.
After hours of cutting, quartering, piling red meat high into buckets too small, and taking back and forth trips to the small smoke house, the two men deemed their exploits done.
The unusable meat, which wasn't much, was thrown away from the corpse to be picked at later by wild dogs and vultures who Tino assured Berwald, were just as hungry and deserving of food as they were.
Berwald exclaimed with a sigh in his throat as he nursed his now aching arm that was now acting up, that they had enough meat to last a whole clan of soldiers. To which Tino frowned teasingly and retorted with only having enough to feed a lame Swede, a scrawny Finn and a freckled Englishman.
Berwald laughed and nodded his head, wiping his blood stained hands on the grass in front of him, the flies now following him and the Finn as they took the last of their harvest home.
Peter soon joined them, knowing not to ask where the food that was set at the table came from, and instead decided to jabber on and on about the robins nest he had found - emptied, but still enthralling never the same - and, with fumbling fingers, he showed his Pappa' a sachet filled with ripe herbs. He got everyone on the list and then some.
"You did a fine job Peter, a fine job." Tino smiled at his child, Peter all but beaming back at his father with pride.
Then, with the both of them reeking from high heaven with a stench so awful, Berwald and Tino walked back to the cottage with contentment if not a bit sadden silence. The back of their minds reminding them that they were leaving the last of the horse to smolder in the meadows grounds - Berwald promising to one day take the horses bones and bury her nice and proper - not like a soldiers horses funeral, but as a friend.
Once back in the cool safely of the stone mason walls that kept the house cold in the summer and warm in the winter, Tino began to slowly take each pale of usable meat and place them in the washing bowl, cleaning them softly with careful fingers before placing them in another bucket to await their turn on the drying rack.
Peter, who had soon grown bored with salting the strips of meat, began to roll his feet on the only rug on the dirt floored room, his hands fumbling with his colorless toy blocks.
Berwald too was shooed out of the kitchen by Tino, who exclaimed he would be more trouble than help with his lame arm.
It took skill to coat the meat, to steam, smoke or boil it, and Tino didn't want to loose an ounce of it because some lame Swede couldn't follow directions.
So, Berwald, having been guiltily pushed away from the pales of cooling meat, sat himself down on a stool besides Peter, watching the child place wooden block upon block together to make a fort.
"Nice lookin' Hall." Berwald complimented the child, who nodded with agreement, though his brow soon furrowed.
"It's missin' something' though." The child spoke, his fingers playing with the forked twigs he had collected over the years that he used as soldiers.
Berwald frowned too, noticing that the amassed cascading of blocks was indeed missing something.
The building looked alright, impenetrable - for stick enemy soldiers that was - and the men who guarded the structure looked sound enough, if not a bit simple.
Then, it hit Berwald.
Horses. They were missing horses.
Sitting himself up creakily and achingly, Berwald stumbled to the Finn with a smile on his lips.
"Tino, can I borrow one of your knives? A Dull one'll do." The Swede asked excitingly, entreating the Finn to laughing confusion as he hands him a small knife, newly cleaned from it's place at the wash basin.
"Thank ya'." He nods to him with a grin before he sat himself down again, gesturing Peter to give him one of his spare blocks.
The child, with just the hinting of skepticism on his face, huffed and gave in, placing a knobby looking cube in Berwald's hands.
Tino, looking from his place at stirring the beginnings of a cauldron of soup, only smiled as he watched the Swede, engrossed with his work, begin to shave and carve at the barren block.
"What are you doing, fettered Swede?" Tino chuckled as his fingers dropped some fresh Nettle into the stew, the greens sting soon would dissolve into a harmless tasty additive to the stock.
"Never you mind, tricky Finn." Berwald grinned, his head still bowed low to his work. His knife had already began to uncover two tiny little points from the wood, the edge of the instrument sweeping against the soft pine of the wood.
Peter, his rump on the woolen rug, could only stare at the Swede's work with amazement with glassy eyes.
After a few long minutes, the odd and slightly mangled shape of a head breached away from it's imprisonment from the wood.
After five more minutes, the head was accompanied by the stout sloping of a neck, the wood swirling around the animals head - soft and pale looking.
Then, ten minutes had to show of the animals belly, Peter finally shouting with joy as the legs too were uncovered, then the shapely shortness of a tale, and finally the little creature was done.
Excited beyond belief, Peter grabbed at the toy that Berwald held out to him, running the grainy surface with his fingers, smelling the hint of sharpness from the wood.
"What is it?" Peter exclaimed, running the pads of his fingers over the curved little snout of the thing, his lips erupting into giggles.
Berwald paused in his laughter as he watched the young boy delighted with his new present, Tino even coming to take a look at the object.
"It's…It's ah' horse…" Berwald spoke, setting the now done knife on the table nearest to him.
Tino mused at his child who was now holding the horse high in the air, bending his wrist back and forth to make the animal move with his hand.
"It's might pretty. God could not have made a more beautiful thing." Tino smiled down at the Swede whose own lips gave back a gentle curve of his lips.
"And a work so fine as this, deserves payment!" Tino laughed, handing Berwald a wooden bow filled with warmed soup, wild mushrooms and nettle swirling with the horse meat broth.
Berwald thanked him sweetly, before blowing on the mixture to cool it down, his spoon ready to dive into the heavenly smelling soup.
"And what will you name such a pretty creature, Peter?" Tino asked as he sat on an abandoned stool, wiping his hands with a cloth absently.
Peter grinned, his smile showing fierce as his gaze looked onward to the small little horse.
"Her name with be Dala. Dala horse." The child smiled with glee, nestling the toy horse to his neck with love.
The horse never looked so lovely nuzzled to the child's cheeks.
So, was this chapter better than the last one? I hope so! Please Review, my lovelies!