Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2537
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

If you want a little ambiance for your reading enjoyment, I have been listening to this while writing: https://youtu.be/_WAi6b-Jeg4


Chapter 30

Arrival in Metz

 

Levi had to admit, he had not really been paying attention to their travels. The sun rose and morning birds woke up. Scenery of farms and fields blurred into one another as the hours dragged on in weariness. Lunch rolled by, and when Levi felt his stomach churn in hunger, he ignored it.

He was needed twice more to translate, once to a farmer who had a flock of sheep in the way, another time was a town where the map made things unclear, and the company almost got lost in the twisting streets. Levi asks for directions to a bridge they needed to cross. The man he spoke to glared at Levi, probably thinking he was a traitor to his country. Maybe he was. He had agreed to help Nazis, after all.

He was tired. So, so tired. However, when he leaned against Eren, he felt not the worn-in clothes of a traveler, but the stiff uniform of a Nazi. It made him jolt up, realizing that he could not act the way he had yesterday. How would it look to the rest of the Germans to see an officer with a Jew resting on his back?

They reached the town of Malling and came across a bridge spanning the Moselle River. German soldiers guarded the bridge. Eren saluted the men, who snapped to attention at seeing an officer. A barrier was lifted for them, and they were allowed to cross. Then they rode on, following the river to Kœnigsmacker, which was also heavily fortified against the approaching Allies, ready to hold the line. There, they turned south for the last leg to Metz.

Somehow, at some point after their turn south, Levi fell asleep. He had no idea when, or even how. When he woke up to the sound of a roaring cheer, he was not on a horse, and not leaning against Eren. He was being jostled along in a truck. He sat up and looked around. The sun was high in the sky. He was covered in the same blanket Eren had given to him off his own bed in the old village.

Armin's head popped up from his radio. "Ah, Sie sind wach. Uh, nos … arriver ... arrivons?" he tried out in wary French, only to slip into more comfortable German, "Wir haben es nach Metz geschafft." Ah, you're awake. Uh, we … to arrive … are arriving? We've made it to Metz.

Levi merely nodded, grasping that they had arrived at their destination. The fortress city of Metz was in front of them, and he watched as they approached a castle bridge. Across the crenelated walls fluttered Nazi flags. Atop the two towers, long scarlet banners bearing the swastika hung like streaks of blood dripping down the walls.

Inside those defensive walls were four garrisons of German soldiers. Already, he saw military barracks to the left and right of the castle bridge. Realizing what this meant for a Jew like him, Levi slid back down to the floor of the truck and carefully pulled a blanket over him.

Armin pouted in sympathy and faced front. He whispered over to Jean, "You know, getting him out is going to be a logistical nightmare. I knew Metz was defended, but I did not realize it had a defensive wall around the whole place. He can't exactly walk through the gates of that castle."

"That's why I told Jäger I'd help him. My aunt lives here. I've been to the city before with my family. I don't know how much has changed, but I at least know he's an idiot if he thinks he can do this on his own."

Armin glanced around, seeing where all the members of the platoon were. "Do you think the others will help?"

"No," Jean said immediately. "The fewer people who know about Eren's sympathies, the better. If this really turns bad, you and I wouldn't crack under a Gestapo investigation. The others would."

"Even Connie?"

Jean glanced over, but Connie was busy singing Horst-Wessel-Lied with the others. "He has family, younger siblings, a reason to make it back home. He'd crack, if only to spare his mother grief. Thomas has almost no pain tolerance; threaten to break his fingers, and he'd give in instantly. Franz … well…"

"He hates Jews," Armin whispered. "Vehemently!"

"The rest are all the same. Thomas is like me: he doesn't mind them but wouldn't risk his life for one."

"Then why did you offer to help?"

"Because it's Eren Jäger." Jean's gaze narrowed. "I wouldn't do it for that little pipsqueak, but I'd do it for Eren. The platoon needs him. Germany needs him. I don't like that he's planning to do this, I think it's suicidal, but I refuse to let that be the reason we lose such a good officer."

Armin chuckled and playfully punched Jean's arm. "I didn't think you liked Eren that much."

"Shut up!" Jean shouted.

"You always speak so formally to him."

"Because I respect him as my superior officer. You're the only one who gets away with calling him du instead of Sie."

"Connie does."

"Connie talks informally to everyone who doesn't beat respect into him."

Connie shouted over, "Was hast du gesagt?" What did you say?

Jean snapped at him, "I said, I'm going to beat some respect into you if you don't start referring to me as Herr Unteroffizier Kirschtein."

Connie gave him a rude hand gesture and merely laughed.

They came up to the stone castle bridge now, and Jean looked on with personal pride, as if he was coming home.

"Deutsches Tor," he said. "Appropriate that they named such a strong defense after Germany."

"I think it's because it's on the road to Strausbourg. They probably had to defend against Germans a lot."

Levi peeked out as their truck entered a stone corridor. Inside were arches and doors with iron grates, looking like they led to either a dungeon or a deadly trap full of knights and archers. The two towers loomed ahead of him now, and they passed through a barbican that had probably held out armies in shining armor for centuries. They were still in the archway with the iron grate that could drop and block them out, when suddenly he heard a church bell tolling, echoing in the stone castle. Levi jolted back down, but it was merely chiming out the hour.

Then they emerged into the city, and visions of chivalry were left behind for cafés, bars, and apartments. He saw a bustling, modern community, civilians still going about their daily lives, but with thousands of soldiers in Nazi uniforms meandering around. They turned down narrow streets where soldiers had to ride two-by-two. They passed by the church and through bustling roads that meandered every which way.

"This place is like a maze," Armin said in wonder. "Are we sure we're going the right way?"

Jean huffed. "If Lieutenant Jäger can't even read a map, he doesn't deserve to lead. Hey, I think this is about where my aunt lives."

They went past more shops, more housing, more churches. The more Levi saw of Metz, the more he cursed in his mind.

There were Germans everywhere.

They reached an esplanade, and the soldiers felt a rush of excitement at the wide open space and many women walking around. Beyond that was a fort, an arsenal, and more barracks. Four story brick buildings rose along the avenue, block after block after block, with soldiers out front, doing exercises and horsing around.

The company turned into one of the gated entrances, and as Levi peeked up ahead, he saw the captain and lieutenants speaking to someone at the gate. His eyes focused on Eren, up on his horse, wearing that stiff uniform, his teal eyes hard and cold. A shiver ran down Levi's arms, realizing the stark difference between the man who had cuddled him through the night and the Nazi officer in charge of a platoon of German soldiers.

As they continued forward, Levi again slipped down and pulled a blanket over him. He doubted their trucks would be searched, but he did not want to chance being caught. Already, he had no idea how he could possibly escape this. He sure hoped Eren had a plan.

They drove up to a block of barracks, and Eren trotted over to Jean and Armin.

"This is the place. Let's unload the truck."

"Jawohl," Jean said, and cut the engine.

Eren glanced into the truck. "Did he run away?"

"No," Armin replied, and he yanked back Levi's blanket.

Eren gazed down, seeing the momentary panic on Levi's face, followed instantly by anger and determination. He looked like a man who would single-handedly take on a whole garrison of Nazis … and probably win.

Eren kept his face cold as he shouted at Levi in German. "Raus aus dem Truck und hilf uns das Zeug tragen, Judensau! Du bist für nichts anderes gut." Get out of the truck and help us carry this stuff, Jewish pig! You are not good for anything else.

Franz laughed. "Ja, quetsch alles, was wir können, aus aus dem Schwein raus, bis wir es schlachten können." Yes, squeeze everything we can out of the pig, until we can slaughter it.

Then Eren said quieter to Levi in English, "Are you up to lifting? I figured the best way to convince them to keep you around is to put you to work."

"Conscripted again?" Levi asked wryly.

"An insurance for your survival."

Levi knew he was right, even if he hated the fact that Eren had to go this far to protect him. "I can do whatever is needed."

Eren nodded, then sharply declared, "Du wirst mir gehorchen, du Judenscheiße." You will obey me, you Jewshit.

Levi got right to work unloading their supplies, although Armin did his best to help. The others also had plenty of energy, still under the empowering effects of the Pervitin, and they helped with boxes while Eren talked to the man in charge of the barracks to make sure their rooms were ready.

Now, Levi saw the whole platoon, not just the few who stayed in the house Eren had slept in. There were men he only casually saw around the village, now saluting Eren and helping to unload.

Levi carried a crate into the brick building, past a massive Nazi flag, and into a hallway. Every man there was in uniform, and they all glared at him. Levi tried to keep his eyes down, but with his black hair, he was obviously not what these men considered a true, super human.

He went into a room, following Franz. He glanced around at the bunk beds and drab blankets folded on top, ready for the soldiers. He set the crate down, but suddenly he was pushed. Levi stumbled back, and while his instinct was to reach for his knife, he fought that reaction. This was not the place to resort to violence. He saw that it was Franz, and he had a smug look.

"Wenn du es vermasselt, schlitze ich dir die Kehle auf wie ein Schwein, du Scheißjude." If you screw up, I'll slit your throat like a pig, you fucking Jew.

Levi held still, not sure what sort of threat he was saying, not that it mattered. Just then, Jean walked into the room.

"Kefka," he barked. "Hören Sie auf zu spielen und machen Sie sich wieder an die Arbeit." Stop playing and get back to work.

Franz stepped back, but his eyes kept glaring. "Jawohl, Herr Unteroffizier."

Levi stayed still as Franz pulled back. Then his eyes shot over to Jean, who was glaring but seemed to be sympathetic. After all, Levi was just trying to obey orders.

"Forster!" Jean shouted out. He walked up to a slender man with auburn hair and spoke to him, giving him orders. The man saluted and turned to Levi. Jean silently waved Levi forward. Hesitantly, the Jew approached.

"Du. Geh mit ihm." You. Go with him.

The man gave Levi a small smile and waved for him to follow. Levi obeyed, not wanting to cause problems. Eren had said that Jean was in on the plan to help him to escape, so he had to put his trust in him for the moment.

The soldier glanced back. "Du bist der berühmte Jude." You're the famous Jew. "Ich heiße Floch Forster." He hummed and thought back through language lessons he learned long ago. "Je m'appelle Floch." My name is Floch.

Levi nodded to let him know he understood. "Levi."

He gave another tiny, awkward smile and continued on. Levi was led back outside, where Eren was waiting. Floch snapped into a salute, arm out stiffly, at seeing his lieutenant.

"Heil Hitler!"

"Danke, Forster."

Eren gave the soldier an order that sent the young man hurrying to the driver's side of the truck. Then Eren looked over at Levi.

"Officers sleep in their own place. You and Floch will help me to unload my things."

"Your own place?" Levi asked sharply.

There was a slight twinkle in his eyes. "A nearby hotel. I get a private room. It's small, and it's on the top floor so you'll have many stairs to climb."

A private room! That made hiding a lot easier.

Levi climbed into the back of the truck while Eren sat in the passenger seat. Floch started up the truck, drove them back through the massive barracks, out onto the street, and continued down the road. A few blocks away from the barracks was a hotel with Nazi flags and soldiers posted out front. Floch came to a stop, and Eren stepped out, snapping to attention as a captain walked by. Although this was a place just for the officers, as a lieutenant, Eren was the lowest of the ranks.

Floch and Levi got to work. Eren did not have much, just his clothes, weapons, medical kit, and spare ammunition. Levi took a few duffel bags and hauled them up a staircase. They went up to the fourth floor, through a hallway, and Eren pulled out a key to open his room.

It was small inside: a bathroom, a bed, a dresser, and a desk with a chair and some writing utensils. The ceiling was high, and Levi noticed a door that probably opened up to an attic. He heard Floch speaking, looking eager to help Eren, offering to bring him food or a drink while his lieutenant rested from the journey. Levi rolled his eyes at the fawning recruit and turned aside, trying to find a place to set down his bags.

Eren finally sent Floch on a mission to find him some beer, anything to get the man to go away. Far too eager, Floch bolted out, and Eren finally sighed. He turned around to look at Levi.

"Your own place," Levi muttered. "Not bad."

"I'm lucky." He walked over to the section of ceiling. He pulled the chair over, stood on top, and with a sharp punch he got the attic door to move up. He pushed the creaking trap door up, peaked inside, and then jumped off the chair.

"Go check it out. If I can hide you up there, that will make this easier."

"And what will you tell the others?"

Eren shrugged. "That I shot you."

Levi scoffed, shook his head, but used the chair. He was too short to reach the ceiling and scowled. Curse his height!

"Wait," Eren said, seeing that Levi was going to try jumping to reach it.

He rushed over, grabbed Levi around the waist, and lifted him. Levi momentarily lost his balance, shocked by Eren's suddenness, yet he was lifted effortlessly to the opening. He grabbed the edges and pulled himself up.

The attic was massive, spanning the whole length of the hotel. He tried to stand, and while his smaller stature allowed him to rise, even then he was hunched over before his head hit the rafters.

"Judging by the dust, no one has been up here in months, if not years." He walked around, testing the floor and how much it creaked. "It's beyond disgusting," he grumbled, seeing his shoes leaving prints in the thick coating of gray dust. "It's too dark to see much."

A hand shot up through the hole, and Eren held up a torch. "Don't be too long, but see if you could stay up there safely."

Levi took the torch, clicked it on, and swung the beam of light around. There were crates and boxes, old furniture long forgotten, covered in sheets which had gathered dust. As he guessed, the attic stretched for the whole length of the hotel. There were tiny windows on each end that let in minimal light, but at least it was better than pitch blackness.

"It'll work," he decided.

"Good. Now get down before Floch comes back."

Levi returned, sat down by the opening, and was about to jump when once again hands wrapped around him. Eren pulled him down, easing him through his arms, until Levi's feet landed on the rug. Their bodies were right up against each other, and Eren looked down at him with a tender, grateful smile.

"I can hide you until we find a way for you to get out of the city."

Levi nodded, and a lump felt like it was growing in the back of his throat. He had begun to fear that there was no escape and no place even for him to hide for the night. Now, he had a whole attic all to himself.

Eren's arms rubbing up and down his waist. He was still looking deeply at Levi, his eyes intense, his youthful cheeks blushing.

Levi scoffed, "What sort of perverted thoughts are you imagining now, takhshet?"

Eren chuckled but did not let go. "I'm imagining having you to myself for once."

"You're in the middle of a hotel full of Nazi officers. Don't forget that!"

"Trust me, I won't, but still…" He caressed Levi's cheek. "At least for a few days, until I find an escape route … you can be here, with me."

Levi's eyes narrowed. "Don't try anything funny, like how you were on the road."

Eren laughed awkwardly. "No, and I really am sorry about all that. I admit, it's not fully out of my system. I look at you … and there are thoughts in my head. Thoughts I shouldn't be having."

Levi's lips pursed hard. Damn him, but he was curious! "What sort of thoughts?"

Eren licked his lips and gazed down. "Kissing you. Holding your hand. Watching you wake up in the morning. Maybe having a breakfast together"

Levi scoffed and averted his eyes as his cheeks felt feverish. "You're an innocent little boy—"

"Touching you," Eren cut in, his grip on Levi's waist tightening. "Watching you bathe, not in a river, but in my own bathtub, and washing your back. Washing all of you. Holding you, just like this," he whispered, clutching him close, "wet and naked, feeling you right up against my body and seeing how you react."

Levi began to pull back with a wary glare. Eren suddenly let him go and pulled away, laughing with a flustered face.

"See, I told you. Thoughts I shouldn't be having."

"You really shouldn't!" Levi snapped, still giving him a cautious, side-eyed glare.

"Was that going too far? I'm sorry."

"You've never courted a person, have you?"

Eren looked confused. "Courted?"

"You know, being with someone, going out together?"

"Ah. Um, no," Eren confessed. "A man like me can't exactly be with another man and go out."

"I guess that's true," Levi muttered. "Well, there are things you don't do when you're only courting."

"Why do the English call it courting?"

"I don't know!" Levi snapped. "Anyway, for one, you don't move too fast."

"Move?" Eren asked, looking down at his hands and wondering if his body was too quick.

Levi rolled his eyes. "I mean like … like going from holding hands and kissing to … to what you're suggesting."

Eren still looked confused. "Do you mean bathing together and sleeping together?"

"Yes!" he shouted, but immediately brought his voice back down. "That's inappropriate." Levi saw that the word confused Eren, and he held back a sigh of annoyance. "That's asking for too much too soon."

"But we've slept in the same bed many times, and I've seen you bathing for months."

Levi opened his mouth to argue, but the brat had a point. "Well, it's still … it's not …" He growled and snapped, "It's how you're saying it, what you're implying."

Eren pouted. "I don't understand."

"Because you're an idiot!" Levi shook his head and walked over to the window, glancing down at the street far below. "I just hope you calm down once those damn drugs are out of your system."

Eren scowled, still not sure what he did wrong, but then a tiny smile crept onto his face. "Does this mean you see us as courting?"

Levi spun back around, mouth open to scream a protest, when there was a knock on the door and Floch calling in. Looking smug at catching Levi in a subtle confession, Eren turned and walked over to the door. Levi turned back to the window so the soldier did not see the flush in his cheeks.

"Espèce d'idiot," he cursed under his breath. Damn idiot. Still, he wondered why he had brought up courting and what was appropriate for a new couple. It couldn't be that he saw Eren as his boyfriend. No way!

Meanwhile, Eren let Floch into the room. The young soldier had a bright smile as he brought in a stein.

"A beer for you, Herr Leutnant," he said, carefully passing over the drink.

"Thank you, Forster," Eren said, gladly taking a deep drink.

Floch glanced into the room at Levi. "What are you going to do with him?"

Eren glanced back, seeing Levi standing by the window. "I haven't figured it out."

"You could keep him as a servant. I mean, I've been assigned to be your adjutant, but I can't always be by your side. You could have him sleep on the floor and attend you at any time."

Eren glanced carefully at Floch. "I could. What would you suggest?"

"Me?" he said, looking stunned.

"Well, you're going to be my adjutant. I should honor your insight. What do you recommend?"

"I don't know, sir. Personally, I don't know why you kept a Jew around at all. I'd probably just shoot him, but Kirschtein said something about him being well-trained. He almost sounds like your pet, a loyal dog. If I had a pet with me, I wouldn't want to simply take him out and shoot him, even if having a dog wasn't allowed. Not that I think you should hide him or let him go, but maybe you could get a special permission…"

Just then, Floch saw the attic door still open. As his eyes turned up, Eren followed the gaze and cursed silently. Shit! He had hoped to keep the idea of hiding Levi in the attic to himself.

"That's brilliant, sir!"

He jolted, surprised by the enthusiasm. "What?"

"Well, you wouldn't want a Jew sleeping in the same room as you, but sleeping in the attic like a rat? That's smart. Besides, it's not like he can just escape. This is Metz!"

"Well, I did promise to shoot him," Eren said to ground them both in the harsh reality. Besides, Levi would vanish one day, and Floch could not be allowed to suspect anything.

"Sure, but in the meantime, he's useful, right? At least until you settle in. After that, if he really is your pet, just make it quick. My father once had to shoot a horse. He really liked that horse, so he made it painless. Rifle, right to the back of the skull," he said, pointing to where he should aim.

"That's a good suggestion," Eren muttered. He took long, quenching gulps of the beer. "You know what? I want to see how the men are settling in. Let's ride back."

"You take such good care of us, Herr Leutnant," Floch said, his doe eyes dripping with adoration.

Eren turned to the Jew. "Levi," he called out, getting him to turn around. Eren nodded to the hole in the ceiling and told him in English, "Hide in the attic for now. I'll bring you some food."

He nodded silently, climbed onto the chair, and again realized just how short he was, unable to reach the ceiling. He tried to jump, but the chair wobbled, and he only barely managed a tiny hop, not enough to reach the attic opening.

"Aww, he really is like a little rabbit," Floch said, grinning in amusement. "Should I help him up?"

"Maybe offer him a hand," Eren said, knowing he could not be seen lifting Levi like he did before.

Floch hurried over, put one foot on the chair, and patted his knee. “You can step on my leg to get up. Sir, do you think he’s smart enough to understand? Does he need to be told in English or French?”

“Of course, he’s too stupid to learn German.” Calmly, he told Levi in English, “ Soldat Forster is offering to help you up into the attic. Step on his leg.”

“I guess I don’t mind stepping on a Nazi pig,” he muttered, and he used Floch’s thigh as a boost, enough to raise him up to grab the ledge of the attic door. Floch even steadied Levi’s torso as he firmly gripped the ledge and pulled himself up into the attic.

Très bien!” Floch cheered, waving up at Levi in the darkness of the attic. “He’s surprisingly strong, to pull himself up like that.”

"He worked hard around the village," Eren said, nodding to Levi as the Jew closed the squeaky attic door. "I guess even a Jew can build up some muscles." He pulled on his cap while Floch dusted off his trousers where Levi had stepped on him. "I'm surprised you're willing to help a Jew."

"Oh, I hate Jews," Floch asserted right away, as if eager to not give the wrong impression. "I think the world would be better and safer without those subhuman devils. Still, maybe because I grew up on a farm, I can see how you could become attached to an animal. I had a pet rat. I even named him Hänsel. You know, like Hänsel and Gretel. I still hate rats, I know they need to be exterminated for the safety of us humans, but Hänsel was different. He was a pet. It's the same for you, right? I heard that you helped to shoot all the Jews, so obviously, you know they're a blight on humanity, but keeping one around as a pet? I get that."

"I guess you could say, he's my Hänsel." They left the room and walked down the hotel corridor. "What happened to Hänsel?"

"My sister befriended one of the feral barn cats and brought it into the house. Hänsel got loose one day, the cat found him, and it brought Hänsel's tail back as a trophy of its hunt. I was so mad, but in the end, he was just a rat."

Eren's brow tightened at the grim tale. "Right … just a rat."

They drove back to the barracks, although it was close enough where Eren could have just walked. Still, Floch was eager to settle into his new role as the lieutenant's adjutant, assisting him with anything he may need, and Eren had to realize that being an officer put him above the regular enlisted and conscripted soldiers. He had spent the whole war fighting alongside them and sleeping in the same quarters. Only in Paris had he been given special treatment like this: a hotel just for officers, and an attendant to fetch anything he needed. Even then, he had spent most of his time in Paris drinking and touring around with his men, not staying with only the officers.

They drove up and saw some of the platoon standing around outside the barracks, talking and goofing around.

"I'm telling you," said Thomas, "those Americans will never survive the winter. I knew someone who went to Texas. The people there had never seen snow before in their lives. He said it was hot enough to fry an egg on the street."

Franz teased him, "Pretty sure you tried that with breakfast a few weeks ago."

Armin schooled, "The northern parts of their country get very cold. It would make sense if they train their soldiers where it is cold to get them used to the coming winter."

Jean caught sight up Eren and jolted up. "Lieutenant!"

Armin burst into a smile. "Eren! How are you?"

Jean snapped, "Be more respectful! We're in Metz now. We can't just…"

"Oh, stop," Eren laughed, climbing out of the car. "At ease, Kirschtein. You're a good soldier, but I'm here to relax. Who's up for drinks?"

The platoon cheered, and they piled into the truck, barely managing to cram everyone in. They drove to a bar, singing songs the whole way there. Eren smiled around at his men.

This was the best part of being in the military. The camaraderie, the close bond between men who had survived hell together, and could now drink and sing and be that much more thankful to be alive.

If only the whole war could be like this.

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DEAR ADULT-FANFICTION READERS! These notes mention images that this website does not allow to be posted. If you're curious and want to see maps, streetviews, black and white photos going back to 1906, and fun images I found online that enhance the reality of this story, AO3 and Wattpad allow images. On AO3 I am "Rhov" and on Wattpad I am "WildRhov." On with the sidenotes!

 

Malling – This is such a small thing, but as I set up the route the Germans could take using Google Maps, they would cross the Moselle in Malling. I wanted to make sure there really was a bridge there back in 1944, and I came across stories of battles in Malling to take the bridgehead. Okay, cool, there was something there, but what did it look like? That led me to find this amazing picture. The Lorraine Bridge crossing over the Moselle in Pont de Malling, taken in 1906. I cannot express how much I love bridges (I live in a city nicknamed “Bridgetown” for our 22 bridges) so finding this 114-year-old photo was awesome. I really wanted to share it.

Metz – Finally, we get into the real substance of Act Two, Metz. We're going to be in this city for a while. If you want to refer to a map and follow along where they're going around the city, there is an amazing city planning map made by the U.S. Army in 1943 with locations of civilian zones and military installations. When you zoom in, this has a LOT of detail. I heavily relied upon this map. Shout-out to McMaster University and their extensive digital archive of maps.

http://www.coulthart.com/134/maps/ams-metz-city-plan-1943.jpg

Deutsches Tor / Portes des Allemands / German Gate – I mentioned the German Gate briefly a few chapters ago, after Jean said that he has family who grew up in this area and an aunt who lives in Metz. Oddly enough, the English Wikipedia has next to nothing about the "German Gate," the French Wikipedia has a little bit more about "Porte des Allemands," but the German Wikipedia has a huge article about "Deutsches Tor."

The original castle bridge was built in 1230 to cross the Seille River. It controls the road from Mainz to Metz, as well as makes a direct connection between Metz and Strasbourg, Germany (which was a big reason why the Allies needed to control Metz in WWII; they needed that road). Unlike what either Jean or Armin believe, it was not named because it was strong, nor because it faced the direction of Germany. In the 1200s, the German Knights of the Teutonic Order had built a hospital in Metz, L'hôpital des Allemands, the street that ran by the hospital was thus called Rue des Allemands, so the gate this street ran into was called Portes des Allemands. Blame the Teutonic Order.

In World War II, the German Gate took heavy damage. The bridge connecting to the gate was destroyed. Two of the northern towers, Tour des Esprits (Ghost Tower) and Tour des Barbiers et Tour des Chandeliers de Cire (Bath and Candle Maker Tower) were struck by Allied artillery.

One of the funniest features of the German Gate is the Tour Dex caponier, a defensive outcropping that was added in 1530 to defend against the invention of the rifle. On the front center of the caponier is a bas-relief carving of a man bent over with his pants down, showing his bare ass and drooping testicles to any would-be invaders, with his head between his legs, grabbing his butt cheeks and spreading them to show his gaping anus. Yep … he's giving a 16th century "Goatse." (Never let history teachers convince you that our ancestors did not have a raunchy sense of humor.)

The BarracksUsing that 1943 U.S. Army city map and Google Streetview, I found the old Nazi barracks and was able to stitch together this panorama.

These brick barracks go on for many blocks. This was where the Nazi soldiers would have slept, hung out, exercised in the morning, and where they took their meals when not dining out in the city. Today, this is the Collège Mixte Barbot and DIRISI, a communications and information systems organization of the French Armed Forces. As chance would have it, the college I went to was also set up in converted barracks from WWII. You could tell which buildings were the old Air Force barracks and which were modern, and since the English Department was housed in the barracks, that’s where I spent most of my time. It was kinda cool, historically-speaking.

Interestingly, after I screenshots off Google, I realized you can see some military personnel out. It really hammers in that this place is STILL used by men in uniform. However, as I was trying to upload these into Imgur to share them online (images on AO3 and Wattpad), the site kept refusing. For a few seconds, I seriously thought maybe these were FORBIDDEN IMAGES and the French military was going to come after me, haha! (Actually, they were having server issues.) I mean, I already assume that I'm likely on an FBI list from all the "questionably legal research" I've done to make my writing more believable, so why not the French too? (Hello, Mr. FBI Agent man! Bonjour!)

Officer's Hotels – I don’t know which hotels in Metz were used by the German officers, so I’m keeping this purposely vague, which allows me to design this hotel any way I want! (Keeping things historically accurate is exhausting.) This is another historical mistake I made in my rough draft that is causing me to rewrite much of Act 2, and so may slow down my updates. Originally, Eren stayed with his platoon, and many of the personality traits I built up in Act 1 really come into play as Eren hides Levi. In reality, German officers rarely stayed with the enlisted. They had their own quarters and kept a firm separation between OFFICER and ENLISTED. In occupied cities, they were put up in hotels or vacated houses, and they ate at restaurants rather than mess halls. So a lot of the conversations Eren has in the upcoming chapters and many of the troubles he and Levi face cannot be with the platoon. That means we are going to see even more new characters from Attack on Titan in the upcoming chapters, which should be fun.



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