3 Chapter 2
Today, I celebrated my second birthday. I felt that my consciousness was becoming clearer recently. I was also given a name, Friedrich or Frederick. I am indeed quite satisfied with it, as one of the fathers of Germany was called by the same name.
So much has happened during the past years. I only started to speak a few months ago. Fortunately for me, the language spoken in this land...or at least in my new family, is French. Like most of the citizens from the Canadian province of Quebec, French has always been my first language. Of course, it is still awkward to some degree, since I am used to speaking English and German at home. My parents were impressed that I could speak so fluently at such a young age. Personally, though, I was disappointed at my voice since it was difficult to speak clearly and the words that came out are far from satisfying.
For this second birthday, my parents have invited neighbors and friends at home for the very first time. Now that I think about it, I have never left our bedroom nor even seen anyone else than my parents in the last two years. Somehow, my parents forbid it and I was not curious enough to go out or find out why. Some might think that I must have been bored to stay in one room for two years without going out, but as an ex-workaholic, it was only some much needed time to relax and not do anything. One day when I was one, Father brought a stack of books to read before going to sleep. Through my blurry consciousness, I read the French title of one of them: "Guerres et conflits du Xème siècle," which meant "Wars and Conflicts during the Tenth Century."
In the evening, I would secretly ask my mother to read me passages from Wars and Conflicts and ask her to explain to me what they meant. That is how I found out that despite being a woman in a pseudo-medieval age, she was fairly well-versed in military affairs. I even suspected that she has already been on many battlefields before settling down in this house. Thus, before even knowing where I was living, I started learning about historical wars and politics.
I also learned that we were currently living in the eleventh century. The past two hundred years was mainly marked by bloody wars waged between former allies as well as external enemies. Three hundred years ago, the land was fertile and society was well established. Everywhere you go, people were kind and hospitality was a core value of every citizen no matter their nationalities. However, tensions soon broke out between the three wealthiest nations of the era: the Empire of Aquileia, the Grand Kingdom of Greater Pretoria, and the Azur Principate. Meager territorial disputes and tensions soon grew into full-fledged warfare between the three nations and their allies. Maps were drastically changed every year, as none was willing to give up the fight. Armament technology was greatly stimulated, reaching the pinnacle of technological progress, while the rest fell behind. The soldiers in the Later Wars used percussion rifles and pistols, but they were still far behind in terms of hygiene and public infrastructure. The war has lasted more than 300 years. The supernations collapsed one by one, divided into many smaller countries that have started to fight for domination, some to unite the former nations, some for personal ambitions and some for revenge. People had to be wary at any moment, even in their own houses. It was only two years ago that the wars in the Eastern region where I live have finally ended after three centuries. The peace process can be attributed to the current ruler of my country, König Lars Elektrovich von Lacrimosa. This great King came from a modest baron family and rose to the rank of Grand Marshal in only five years after his graduation from the military academy. Soon after, he profited from a coup d'état against the former disorganized King and became the Lord of the realm in the power struggle that ensued. After expanding his country and spreading a revolutionary and efficient administration, he forced all leaders to the negotiating table and drafted and adopted the Eastern Kingdom Peace Treaty of the year 1018.
In my country of Lacrimosa, there are two major ethnicities: the Landsvolk and the Azurians. The former that represents more than 80% of the demography speak German and live mostly east of the town I currently live in. The latter 20% was composed of many different ethnicities and around half of this number belongs to my community: the Azurians. Another linguistic quirk in this world, or at least in Lacrimosa, lies in the distinction between two classes of the aristocracy, which calls itself the "Elegantsiya". This social group is divided into two classes: the Patrician and the New Nobility. The former adopts pseudo-Russian surnames, such as the royal family's Elektrovich or Elektrovna. On the other hand, the New Nobles all have the German particle "von" in their names. In really rare cases, families would have two surnames, for instance, Lacrimosa's royal family, which is the House of Elektrov-Lacrimosa. The king's surnames are Elektrovich von Lacrimosa. Curiously enough, my family name is even more peculiar, as it has three names from three linguistic backgrounds. In fact, my full name is Frederick Montpensier von Ostfalen-d'Este. Since it is very long, my parents agreed on only using "Ostfalen" when we introduce ourselves. Although very faint, I did notice a barely perceptible threatening look in my mother's eye when she told me that. From that, I can infer that there are graver implications with my long name. Of course, right now is not the time to inquire.
According to my mother, the Kingdom I live in is called the Königreich of Lacrimosa, which is governed by a King, König Lars, and his wife, Regina Elizaveta. The former is a decorated general, a highly efficient administrator, and a brilliant diplomat. The latter isn't bad neither since she was known a genius strategist. Her advisory skills encompass not only military strategies but also all matters of statesmanship. It is said that she was a foreigner who attended the Royal War Academy, the Kriegschule, as an international student and that is also where she first met King Lars. It seems that she, as a commoner from another country, was admitted upon recognition of her magnificent intellect and skills when assisting the Royal Army in the West. The two currently enjoy a passionate relationship after many years of war side by side and have bore twins, His Highness Prince Reinhard E. von Lacrimosa and Princess Ekaterina Elektrovna Edelweiss von Lacrimosa. The title "Edelweiss" is meant for the first princess, an equivalent title to that of an archduchess in my world. Throughout history, however, many male royals have also received this title, which essentially strips them of their inheritance right to the throne. This is particularly weird since the royal couple has been known to be open-minded and also very rational, which in theory should have them designate the heir based on ability and personality and not by gender alone. Designating an heir without such considerations (since the prince is still too young to demonstrate true competency) when the king is only 30 and in perfectly good health gives me an unsettling feeling. Ominous, even. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss such a subject with my parents, as I would draw suspicion for having deep political thoughts as a two years old baby.
For now, why not enjoy life as it is? Every day is so sweet and pleasant. Doing nothing but resting and having a beautiful mother read me books all day is a luxurious life for me, who had to desperately study after I failed my organic chemistry class and enrolled in law school. After school, things got even more hectic, as I suffered strongly from a pathological inferiority complex for having failed courses in pre-university. Compared to that time, this lifestyle I currently have is the best of all. It would be nice if this could last forever.
During my birthday celebration, not many people were invited. Only a close group of my parents' friends came to visit. They were mostly some dandy young men and elegant young women who had my parents' age, around the early 20s. All of them sat straight and looked regal and very confident. A strange aura emanated from them, making me feel like I did not want to make them my enemies. One of them, a so-called "Lady Betty", brought along her baby girl who's only a year older than me. Her name was Erika. She had platinum blond hair and gray-blue eyes, like dark thunderous clouds. It was at first very awkward between us, considering our great difference in mental age. Somehow, I managed to coerce her into going for a walk and getting some sweets from the kitchen. It was the first time that I left the living quarters in the mansion and I never knew that the house was actually that big. That can be said even AFTER considering the influence of my low height on my perception. We were utterly lost. I had a bad sense of orientation in my previous world and I had hoped not to have the same problem now that I had superior brainpower. Alas! Will it ever disappear? Will I be known in the future as " Frederick the "Directionally-challenged"? Or "Frederick who can't even find his way through his own house"? At this thought, I shuddered. I don't want to end up like this...
Finally, I started crying really loud under Erika's curious and amused gaze and as expected, Lady "Betty" and my mother stormed out of the living room to look for us. Fortunately, they did not blame me for getting lost and even commended my "gallantry", since I was always holding Erika's hand so she did not get separated from me. I have a bad feeling that Erika will always remember how I cried like this. How embarrassing! I better make it up to her. Somehow.
That was my first meeting with the woman who will change my life and my world in less than twenty years.
A fateful meeting.