[personal profile] kanadka posting in [community profile] nordipalooza
Title: Deadweight Tonnage
Author: [personal profile] kanadka (tumblr, ao3)
Prompt: Iceland, Denmark - Mourning - Medieval or 1800s
Other characters: Norway; England gets mentions and is the general antagonist but is otherwise Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Fic
Rating: M, because Iceland disposes of a body.
Content notes: Didn't write it with the accents this time. Hopefully the dialogue is worded such that it's not hard to superimpose them, should you choose! Also, I took this prompt very liberally. There's a death, but not a lot of mourning happens. Light mentions of gore (there's a body)
Summary: Iceland knows there's no way Denmark will let England have those ships, unless he's unavoidably detained.


It's mid-August, 1807, and Iceland looks out at the Copenhagen harbour, where the ship he's sailed in on is docked. "Can't help but notice we're pretty understaffed," he says warily.

"Don't you worry about it!" says Denmark, looking pompous in his dress uniform with its shiny brass buttons and its snazzy gold-braid epaulettes, deep blue jacket with red cuffs. Iceland feels underdressed in his sailing slops and plain wadmal coat. "I've definitely got things completely under control!"

That's exactly what Norway said he'd say. How Iceland hates it when Norway's right. It happens a lot. "Still would've been better if we had a few more people manning these ships. We're pretty sparse, crew-wise."

"Look," says Denmark, "kiddo. You know how to sail, right?"

"Uh. Sure," says Iceland stiffly. Well. He's been on a boat before.

"Then you do the sailing, and leave the planning to me!"

Iceland rolls his eyes. "You put the army at the southern border, didn't you." Also what Norway said he'd do.

Denmark grins. "Can't trust Schleswig nor Holstein! Holstein's more German than I'd like."

"Think Prussia will try and take him? That seems to be what he does."

"Nah," says Denmark. "Prussia's not gonna do squat. Laying low after Jena and Auerstedt. Think it hurt his pride. And also his army. But mostly his pride. Now, France, on the other hand! France might do something." Denmark sobers. The French foreign affairs minister's vessel passed Iceland on the way in. Words were had, it seems, and judging by the long faces, not nice ones. "And that's why I'm neutral. 'Cause France scares me shitless."

"And England doesn't?"

"England scares me shitless-er!"

"That's not a word," grumbles Iceland under his breath. But louder, he says, "You said you had a favour to ask of me."

"Right! Right. Listen," begins Denmark. "This whole thing isn't looking too well. We are between a rock and a hard place right now and that's a bad place for ships to be! So I gotta sail them out. If you catch my drift."

Iceland doesn't. "Sail them... to England?"

Denmark scowls. "No, dummy! England is the hard place."

And France is the rock? "So -" Iceland is slowly putting this together, but to his credit it's not because he's slow, it's because it's genuinely hard to follow and Denmark is being obtuse. "So you don't want me to sail the ships to England." Even though England's forces are the only ones who might conceivably stand a chance against France's. "And you don't want them to go to France, so where do you want them to go?"

"Neither!" says Denmark crossly. It's clear his meeting with England's Jackson fellow went about as well with his meeting with France's Talleyrand. "Look. We're not supposed to trade with England these days. 'Cause France said so, and he said that if we didn't trade with England, we could stay neutral. But England's been sending me stuff all summer - stuff like people - don't think I don't know he's been spying, I see him in the Kattegat, watching me - because he wants to prove how France has been after me. Even though I'm neutral. And France definitely hasn't been after me! 'Cause I'm neutral!"

Denmark sure is saying that a lot. "That's not what Prussia's been saying," replies Iceland. "He said France and Russia have ideas to get Portugal -"

Denmark claps a hand over Iceland's mouth. "Shhhhhhut up! Hahahah!" he says in a tight voice that drains to a whisper. "Stop talking so loud the birds can hear you."

Iceland's reply is muffled. When Denmark finally relinquishes him he repeats, "This is why England scares you so bad, isn't it. 'Cause of his spies? You should've just promised him your fleet!"

"It's my fleet!" Denmark whines, and jabs a finger into his chest for emphasis. The medals pinned there clink together. "They're my ships! My navy's one of the best in the world!"

It was, before Sweden started kicking Denmark's ass a lot. A hundred and fifty years later, Sweden's got a sizeable navy too, and the Dutch, and the English, and the Spanish, and the Portuguese, and - and Denmark's good, but just not the powerhouse he used to be. Alas, he hasn't received that particular despatch. "Look, you just can't let England have my ships," Denmark explains. "And it's not just because France will really kill me if he gets them. England already got some six years ago! And he didn't even ask this time, he demanded! I don't like being demanded!" Iceland, who is often demanded things by Denmark, scowls. "It's not polite. I don't like to give people things when they aren't polite."

"I still think -"

"What I'm trying to say is, if he gets the better of us anyway, then burn the boats!"

"You're so melodramatic!" says Iceland.

But Denmark's serious. "Promise me, okay?"

"Alright," says Iceland at last, "I promise. I'll even burn your dumb boats. England won't touch a timber."

But he doesn't like the afterthought, which is that if England doesn't get those ships, France certainly will. And France won't ask politely, either.

--

But then the end of the month comes, and by the time it's the first of September, everything seems to have changed. Denmark has evacuated many of the civilians out of Copenhagen. On the first of September, Norway arrives from the Kattegat.

"Saw England on my way here," reports Norway. He picks lint idly off his canvas jacket. It looks like it used to be a sail.

Denmark's eyes narrow. "And? What was he doing?"

"He's in K√łge now. You should listen to him, says he's got some demands -"

"Some demands! I've got some demands of my own," Denmark growls, "like how he thinks that frigate I was sailing you was fair game for pickings!"

Norway makes that strange facial expression that tells Iceland he's mildly pleased at this news. "You were sailing me a frigate?" he asks.

"Well, I tried! England intercepted it and took it for his own!"

"You did declare war on him," Iceland adds.

"This was before that! It's completely different!"

Iceland doubts it's all that different. But maybe it'll factor into something when Denmark has to sue for peace after he gets his ass handed to him, which is going to happen any day now. "Uh-huh," says Norway, equally dubious. "Look, we know he's been working with Sweden -"

"Sweden doesn't give a damn about Napoleon or France," says Denmark. "He just wants to get one over me!"

"It's not about you, for once!?" says Iceland.

But Denmark isn't listening. "Demands my ships - works with my Sweden - oooh, I'll give England something to chew on! He'll assault my capital - I'll attack him back! Norway - you hold the fort!" And Denmark storms off in the direction of Holmen, where the Royal Navy waits.

Norway sighs. "Hold the fort, he says," he mutters. Iceland is about to volunteer to run after Denmark - because someone's got to look after that crazy fool - when Norway says, "Well, I got shit to do. You go keep an eye on him."

"H-hey -! I have shit to do too!" he protests.

Norway glares. "Just do it," he says, and then adds, "I've a feeling you'll be safer there." He stalks off before Iceland can say another word.

So Iceland trudges to the harbour and boards before Denmark sails out into the Sound.

--

The weather is poor, a cold drizzle and nasty wind, and their chances become poorer when they start trading shells. England has some sort of rocket missile that sets one of their frigates on fire in a flash.

After that, it all happens very, very quickly. Day becomes night. The weather worsens. Iceland is told to tie the jib and this he does, but something in how he tied it - or perhaps it's the growing storm - loosens it. Denmark said it was okay but he said so in that tone of voice that makes Iceland feel like he's done something and the reproach unsettles him. So Iceland came out too - perhaps Denmark might like the help, and it's his fault Denmark's out here on this slippery wet deck anyway because Iceland didn't rig the storm jib right - and Denmark, alarmed that Iceland was outside at all, reversed, panicked, got clumsy, something, and one thing leads to another, and and and -

- and when the storm has cleared, Denmark is dead on the deck at dawn.

In the thin light of the morning, Iceland recognises immediately one very important fact: it will take Denmark a few days to come back from this one. What flew off the bowsprit has brained him thoroughly. There's matter all over the deck. His face is a positive wreck.

Someone's going to have to clean all this up, thinks Iceland sadly. That someone is probably him.

There's a bang behind him. Iceland whirls around and finds one of the steersmen, popping up from below, the door flat on the deck where he's flung it wide open. The steersman notices the dead body behind Iceland immediately and his eyes narrow. "It wasn't me!" shouts Iceland. "I didn't do it!"

"'Course you didn't, you don't have the ability to," says the steersman sourly. He peers at Denmark from between Iceland's legs but doesn't seem to recognise him. It helps that he's wearing his sailing clothes and also missing half a face. "Well, that's another for the seas, then. You'd best get that poor soul overboard before he starts to swell in the day's heat. When you're done, we'll need you in steering." He moves to descend back below.

"I - what? We can't just - bring him back?"

"They're not firing on us nearly as much as they are on the capital. Capital's been under attack all night. Just got word. We haven't time, we have to get back, as there's practically no one to put out the fires. And do you think we'll have time to deal with him then?" He sees Iceland's crestfallen face and misunderstands. "Come now," the steersman says gently. "Your kind's no stranger to death, surely? A few others lost their lives last night. We all know what kind of dangers there are when we step aboard. What's done is done. Lay him to rest here."

"How'd they get word?"

"A gunboat came upon us yesterday, telling us to return. Speaking of, your brother wants a word."

Norway's here?! Iceland can feel the blood drain from his face. He's supposed to be in Kastellet!

Shit. Shit shit shit, Norway's here - Norway's gonna be pissed when he sees Denmark's out of commission for another three days at least. And there isn't anything Norway can do to speed that up.

Iceland goes immediately to see Norway. As for Denmark... well, he isn't going anywhere for now.

"Where's that Danish fool when you need him," says Norway, by way of greeting.

"Uh, he's ... around," says Iceland. "He's just. Uh. Got his mind on other things at the moment." Like the deck by the forecastle.

"Hmph," says Norway. "So he's left us with all the work, as usual."

"To go back, right?" guesses Iceland. "And put out the fires?"

"The only way those fires are getting put out is if we give England these ships," says Norway. "He won't stop gunning otherwise. He's got cannons and guns and rockets trained on the city from all angles. He's not engaging the ships. It's no use."

"But Denmark said -"

"I don't give a damn! If England doesn't quit it now, there won't be anything for Denmark to come back to, anyway. So what's it matter what he said?"

Iceland worries his lip in his anxiety. Norway told him once, England was like him. Doesn't have trolls, but something like it. And he's got guns, he's got boats, he's got armaments aplenty and he's training them all on Denmark and when he's done with Denmark, where will he go next? England needs something against France and he's all alone now! He'll want more! He'll want more everything!

But Denmark will be so mad if Iceland gives those ships over! Unless...

Unless he's late.

How late?

Really, really late.

That's it!

"I gotta go take care of something," says Iceland at last. "We lost a few last night - with the - uh, dead guys and all and - you know how it is. Dangerous, here."

Norway shrugs, so Iceland excuses himself from the scene.

--

When he returns to Denmark's body, hastily hidden by the fallen jib sail, there's a seagull standing by. If birds could lick their chops the way animals can, this one would. "Shoo," says Iceland, and the bird flits away, only to perch near. Worse than vultures, he thinks.

Denmark sure will be hopping mad, but he won't be back for some time, thinks Iceland as he gets to sewing. Now, three days isn't enough to stop this lunacy of England's, so they need to buy more time. And to buy more time, they need to get Denmark off the scene for longer.

He knots the shroud he's made out of the jib sail and tightens it up. It looks something like a sack. Well, Iceland's never been good with needles. It doesn't need to be fancy! It just needs to go over his body.

Then he hustles Denmark into it. This takes over half an hour, because Denmark's heavy. Iceland reflects as he pushes and grunts and lifts that it would have been wiser to have rolled Denmark onto the flat sheet, and sewn it up around him. One last tug and a shove of Denmark's limp weight and it's on as far as it'll go, enveloping his body like a bag.

The bag is not long enough. Denmark's shiny black boots poke out of the top. Iceland calls it a day and pulls the drawstring taut, knotting it around Denmark's ankles.

There's no way around this. The taking of the ships would be a lot harder if Denmark were around. He'd make a big stink about it and drag them through yet another war! From the sounds of it, Copenhagen can't withstand much more bombardment.

It takes two tries to hoist Denmark up, boot-first, up the sides of the ship. The first time Iceland does it, Denmark slides back down leaving a smear of blood where it's leaking through the top of the shroud and flops on the deck. Iceland grimaces. That was probably Denmark's face skidding along the wood. He should've found a rug to wrap him up first, it'd mean less cleaning for him to do. But then he probably couldn't lift him. Denmark alone is heavy enough.

The second time Iceland lifts the toes of Denmark's boots over the sides of the gunwales, hooking him there by their weight. He grabs the other end of the shroud where Denmark's shoulders are - damp and wet, ew - and levers the weight up. Then he pulls up with the mightiest swing he can, to flip it over the side.

Not successful. He's not strong enough! The body swings back down and with a nasty sick splat, Denmark's face meets the deck. The blood spatters everywhere, including on the seagull, which takes a wary step back.

Why couldn't he talk to trolls too? Bet trolls could lift a fat ass Dane, thinks Iceland grimly.

He picks him up again by the shoulders, lifts him til he's level, and then tries to push him off the sides with his hands on Denmark's shoulders. He gets to the waist before a fold in the shroud - probably Denmark's clothing - catches on something, and no amount of his shoving makes it move.

Oh, that's it! He puts his foot on Denmark's head and kicks it off the gunwale - there's a giant ripping sound as the body skids forward - and then collapses back on his ass.

He's so busy panting and fighting for breath that he realises he never actually heard the splash. What if it caught on a window?! Iceland rushes to the side and peers over. There, in the dim daylight of the crack of morning he sees the body-shaped lump bobbing among the waves. A piece of the shroud has torn off, floating in the breeze on a stray nail on the outside of the gunwale.

Well. It's over with now. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here," mutters Iceland, panting and gasping, "something something, and uh. Rest in piece, may his soul find his way, to, to the shore. Eventually. Not too soon. Don't hurry. Eternal rest, God bless, Amen." He hastily genuflects.

It's a little like the usual prayer that he's heard sailors say about their fallen comrades. Iceland should probably have said it before he hauled Denmark off the side of the ship - but better late than never, right?

Finally the seagull takes off in the direction of the water, gliding to where the body has landed in the sea. "That's disgusting," says Iceland, and turns his head. The bird flies out of his sight but he's convinced he knows where it's headed eventually. Maybe so much the better that it does, it might take Denmark yet longer.

Although... he glances back.

It's a little disconcerting how Denmark's body doesn't sink, but rather continues to bob among the waves.

It's probably fine. Iceland calls it a day and leaves for the quarter-deck. Judging by the speed and the wind, their ship will be some distance away in no time and they'll leave Denmark behind in the waves. It will probably take him about a month to swim to shore and find his way home.

By which time, England will have all of Denmark's fine ships, the fires of Copenhagen will be put out, and Iceland will be back home and not coming back for Christmas this year.

--

So Iceland sets in for a day's sail back to Copenhagen, hoping that when they get there, there's something left of it.

The view from the water is grim. The smoke billows for miles into the air. Even now the air is thick and sooty, and they're still a half-day's sail away. From what he can glean through the mire, many of the buildings are blackened and crumbling, and many others - like the churches - are still aflame.

That seagull is following them, he's convinced of it. Iceland is reminded of Denmark telling him the birds can hear him and gets annoyed. But when he waves his arms to try and spook it away, it always comes back. He asked to borrow a pistol and was moderately successful until the captain from whom he borrowed it realised he was aiming at the bird.

"You can't shoot it down!" said the captain, scandalised. "They say fallen maritimers return in seabirds' bodies!"

Great. So the dead are not only below the ship but also constantly in the air around it. That would be like Denmark, thinks Iceland. He hands the captain his pistol back and when the captain leaves, he snaps sternly to the bird, "I'm still giving your ships away."

The bird says nothing, because it's a bird and not in fact Denmark. Honestly.

But something catches his eye. Iceland peers past the seagull and spots this something, floating in the water - a clump of beige-white material, stained with brown-red cowspots. It seems the bird is not the only thing that has followed them. Great. At this rate Denmark will catch up to them.

"Can't this dumb boat go any faster?" he asks Norway after dinner.

"We get there when we get there, by the favour of the sea and the wind," replies Norway, noncommittally. He's distracting himself by gluing together a little figurine of a dog out of fish bones he picked from their dinner. "Why do you ask?"

"Just want to get things over with, that's all," Iceland mutters.

"Don't see why you're in a hurry," Norway adds. "If Denmark doesn't show up on another of his ships, it's you who'll have to explain to England what to take."

Denmark never said anything about that. "I have to talk to England?"

"You sure do," says Norway. He drops his tweezers in favour of a paintbrush with a little lacquer.

"Why me? Why can't you do it?" Iceland clears his throat, suddenly uncomfortable. "I mean. Um. You've got talents and stuff, and England will probably listen to you more, and you're higher up, surely if Denmark isn't around, it's Norway? Because it's Denmark-Norway, right?"

"But you're the one who sailed out with him," explains Norway placidly, "and you're the one who saw him last, and England'll want to know where Denmark's gone, since it's so important that you won't even tell me, but perhaps you'll tell England, after all he's got talents, and -"

"Denmark died because there was a thing with the wind and a storm came up and I didn't tie a jib down tight enough and it flew off and hit him in the face and then when he tried a piece off the bowsprit sprung up and swung around and a big iron hook beaned him in the skull and now he's missing his brains and also he's dead and I buried him at sea but he's still hanging on in the water behind us!" Iceland blurts.

Norway smiles. "See? Was that so hard to tell the truth?"

"You knew?!" Iceland explodes. It's Norway's damn magic, isn't it. "Your trolls told you!" he accuses. "They always tattle!"

"I knew that Denmark was missing his brains, sure, 'cause that happens daily," Norway replies. "Knew about the jib, because we're missing one, and I had to do up a second out of a spare topsail. Knew about the death, because there's blood all over your uniform, which is why you haven't been wearing it. Knew about the bowsprit, because I found a tooth and it isn't yours - or anybody else's who's still on the ship. It wasn't my trolls at all, just simple deduction."

Iceland folds his arms over his chest. "I hate you," he says.

"Think you hate it more when I'm right," Norway says. "Now, then. What'd you say you did after he passed, and after you panicked?"

"I didn't panic," Iceland retorts. "I very calmly used the jib to give him a burial at sea. Made a proper shroud and everything."

"I see," says Norway. "And did you weight the body down?"

"Denmark was heavy enough on his own," Iceland says.

"And did you dress him in his land clothes, or was he still in shirt and slops?"

"Forgot about that," mutters Iceland.

"And did you sew the last stitch of the shroud through his nose?"

"Ew! No, that's gross."

"It's tradition," says Norway. "Next time you want to do something like this, maybe tell me first."

"I can do these things on my own!" says Iceland.

"The dead Danish buoy we're keelhauling out there tells me you can't," Norway replies flatly.

Iceland pouts. "But will you fix it with England?" So Iceland doesn't have to?

"Denmark won't like it," says Norway. "I'll fix what I can, and what isn't fixable is England's fault anyhow." He huffs. "Take our ships, will he, now."

--

Notes:
This is not an explanation of what happened at the Second Battle of Copenhagen so much as it is a thing that happened around the same time, exploiting the Battle as setting. It is therefore by no means consistent with respect to how history is treated in Hetalia, or complete with respect to all the information that is available on the Napoleonic Wars (actually a little scary how much), but I tried to do my best and keep it <10k!

Napoleon by this point has installed the Continental system which means a trade embargo between France and his allies and the lands he's taken over, and Britain. Britain's response to this is to launch a major naval attack on Napoleon's coalition and he starts with Denmark-Norway, who is essentially the weak link after their defeat to the British in 1801. (Still, their navy is sizeable and by 'Denmark-Norway' I mean Denmark, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Schleswig-Holstein, and a few other territories.) Denmark-Norway was supposedly neutral, but there were heavy rumours that escalated from January to July of 1807 that they sided with France and Russia. Rather than fight ship to ship, Britain bombards Copenhagen. Thereafter it guarantees the use of the Sound for British merchants (the only way through to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea). The Dano-Norwegian navy was surrendered to Britain. A consequence of this is that Denmark-Norway joins the fray on the side of France.

More details:
- Prussia suffered truly humiliating defeat to France at Jena-Auerstedt in 1806. Prussia doesn't really have a navy, only an army, and despite their army's stellar reputation, they're still using techniques honed during Frederick the Great's time 50 years prior. Prussia was the only really big thing separating Denmark and France. After Prussia's defeat, Denmark stations the majority of the army on its southern borders at Holstein, expecting attack from France and trying to maintain the illusion that Denmark-Norway can actually enforce its neutrality (spoilers: it can't).
- Talleyrand is the French foreign minister, Francis Jackson is an Englishman sent by the English Foreign Secretary. Both have the aim to persuade Denmark to give up neutrality for their respective sides; both are unsuccessful.
- On 12 August, Britain captures a Danish boat sailing to Norway and takes her into English service. Only on 15 August was war declared.
- Since much of the intelligence (incl. "the secret intelligence" piece of 21/22 July) which suggests Napoleon and Alexander I of Russia are forming a maritime league with Denmark and Portugal against Britain is from Tilsit, it's for this reason that Prussia reports it to England in this fic, but it wasn't clear to me during research whether it was intelligence from English espionage work or a German resistor. Could have been both, could have been something else. In fact, this excellent article suggests that the famous 'secret intelligence' piece was from a Russian aide-de-camp stationed in Tilsit.
- Though much of the civilian population of Copenhagen was evacuated, not all were, and many died.
- Though he was told by the Danish Prince Regent to burn the ships should they be in danger of being captured, Ernst Peymann (military commander of the Danish defence against the bombardment) did not do this, and the reason why is still unknown.