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.

Chapter 9

Rake the Coals Hotter


They were again in the freezing cellar, and Annie Leonhart looked nothing like the proud young woman she had been the first day. She shivered from a cold bath where she had been nearly drowned over and over again. Eren had half hoped she would just swallow the water and put an end to this. At times, it appeared like she tried. Then she would be yanked up and hit until the water vomited back out.

She shook now, starved, beaten ruthlessly, her blond hair still wet. Eren knew this girl went through worse—probably far worse—outside of the official interrogations with Levi present. There were cuts on her he never saw happen, she was now missing three fingernails although Eren only witnessed the removal of one, and she had hollow eyes as some of the surrounding men laughed crudely.

"Who was your contact here?" Kitz asked yet again, the same questions over and over.

Annie shook from the chill, her lips blue as she stared ahead blankly.

"Jäger, tell the girl that she will not be killed. There is a camp outside of Paris. Drancy."

Even though he was speaking in German, that name made Annie look up in terror.

"It is under the direct control of the Gestapo." Kitz leaned in close to her pale blue eyes. "If you are afraid of me, the men there are worse. Far worse! If they don't simply rape and execute you, you will be sent to a different camp, one for troublemakers like you. Auschwitz, maybe? Ravensbrück if you are lucky. You will likely die, but it will not be quick. It will be slow, excruciating, and humiliating. You will not even be recognizable as a human before your skin rots off your body and you are tossed out for birds to feast on what little remains of your flesh."

Annie dropped her head and gazed down with massive eyes.

Kitz smiled to see the broken soul. "Translate it, and make sure she knows what I'm saying."

Eren took a slow breath, then said the entire thing to Levi. The Jew looked down at the girl with pity, but he told her the words. Then he added in a little extra since he knew the Germans would have no clue what he was saying.

Levi looked at her with imploring eyes. "Vous avez bien fait, chère petite." You have done well, dear girl. "Your friends escaped a long time ago. Even if you confess, these pigs can do nothing. If you speak now, you will not be betraying them. I will tell your family you were brave and honorable to the end."

She looked up at him, and her eyes showed she had enough.

"Sasha," she said softly. "If you escape, find the woman by that name and the surname Braus. Do not say those two names together. Do not tell them that name."

"I won't," Levi promised. "I think I met her some days ago. I honestly forgot about the encounter since I was feverish, but she gave me that name and said to tell you … Chanson d'automne. She said you would know what that means."

"Yes." She smiled in relief. "They got the news, then. I'm glad. She was my destination here, her and Historia. They can get you and your people out of this country. Now please, let me die with true honor as a daughter of France."

"You don't need to."

She shook her head in anguish. "Do you really think they'll let me live? If I speak everything I know, I'll be shot. If I do not speak, I'll be deported to one of those German camps where no one returns. I'm dead either way, but if I don't speak, this Nazi pig doesn't get the satisfaction of breaking me."

"Sasha said they were going to get you out."

"How long ago did you meet her?"

"About a week ago. Just hold out a little longer."

Kitz bellowed, "Worüber reden die da?" What are they talking about?

Eren sighed in frustration at his impatience. "Ich weiß es nicht. Ich muss warten." I don't know. I need to wait.

"A week?" Annie muttered. "If Sasha hasn't acted yet, they must be planning to free me while I'm being sent out. I just need to get deported so they can break me free." She looked over at Kitz and spat at him. The captain took a step back in disgust. "Tell him I bet the dog his mother fucked to produce a creature as ugly as him wasn't even willing to stick its dick into a diseased whore like her."

Levi chuckled at the creative vulgarity. "I doubt this German translator will say all that to his commander."

Her pale eyes flicked to Eren. "He's a good man. He's helping you, isn't he?"

"He tries. I'm still alive thanks to him."

"You were injured last time. I saw how furious he was at his captain, although he hid it well. I hope he can help you to escape."

Levi smirked privately. "I'm not planning on waiting for his help. If I have to slit his throat, I will."

"I think he would rather help you. You're lucky."

Kitz barked, "Hör auf zu plappern. Ihr beide braucht zu lange. Was sagen sie?" Stop yapping. You two are taking too long. What are they saying?

Eren shouted back, "Ich hab dir schon gesagt, ich weiß nicht." I've already told you, I don't know.

Annie lamented, "A shame this kind soldier won't translate it all. I want that German swine to know I think he's hideously ugly."

"Hässlich. I know at least that word."

Annie grinned ferally up at Kitz. "Du … bist … hässlich."

He slapped her hard across the face, and her jaw hung oddly. She struggled not to cry, but she looked up to Levi. "Tell them I'm ready for death. They'll give up and deport me. Just make sure you never mention that woman's name. And survive this! Until our people can get you out, keep doing what you have to do to survive."

He nodded, seeing the strength of this teenage girl. Then he looked over to Eren.

"That took a while," Eren said irritably.

"She's given up."

Eren's mouth dropped, and he looked down at Annie in protest.

"I tried to convince her to confess. I couldn't. She's ready for death. Her words were: I'm dead either way, but if I don't speak, this Nazi pig does not get the satisfaction of breaking me."

"Annie," Eren said, but he knew he could not protest too much. All eyes were on him and Levi now, even hers. However, in her eyes he saw pity. Why would she pity him when she was the one about to be sent away and tortured in unspeakable ways?

"She also says to tell your captain that she thinks his mother is a whore who raped a dog in order to create such an ugly son of a bitch."

Eren could hardly help it. He burst into laughter. By Annie's smile, he realized she really did want him to say that. "Does she honestly think I can tell my captain that?"

"No," Levi admitted, "but the fact that you're laughing means you agree with us."

He coughed as he struggled to hold back the smile. Still, the audacity of this young woman astounded him. "Tell her I hope she is sent to Ravensbrück. It's an all-female camp. She may actually survive there." Then Eren looked over to the captain and began to tell him everything, leaving out the part about his mother.

Levi turned back to Annie. "He says he hopes you survive in Ravensbrück."

"Then they'll deport me. Good. Sasha can pay me back for that time I saved her life in Reims." She looked over to Eren again as he was arguing with the captain. "He's a good man. Cute too. Make sure he doesn't get killed for his sympathies. They're dangerous in this war."

"I've already warned him about that. You try to stay alive as well."

She smiled placidly. "Don't worry about me. I know how to surv-…"

A blast deafened them all for a few seconds, and Levi watched in shock as the girl's head seemed to explode in a mix of red and chunky pink.

"Herr Hauptmann!" Eren cried out in horror.

Kitz lowered his gun. "The railroads were bombed. We can't just throw her onto a train and send her all the way to Paris, and do you know how much fuel we would waste to drive her in a truck? It's better spent filling a German tank, not giving some terrorist a joyride through the countryside. Plus, there are still Resistance scum around. She could escape. At least now we don't even need to feed her. Have the Jews clean up the mess and bury her. Or eat her, if they're still complaining about not having enough food. I don't care anymore. Damn partisans! Well, it was fun while it lasted." He holstered his gun and stomped to the exit. "You're finally acting like a true German officer, Lieutenant Jäger. Don't ruin your future with the weakness of pity."

Eren stayed quiet until all the soldiers filed out of the cellar. Once the sound of their boots faded away, he snarled under his breath, "Scheißkerl!"

The curse snapped Levi out of his daze. He saw the murderous hate in the young man's eyes.

"Eren," he said quietly.

He jolted at hearing Levi using his first name.

"You need to watch that temper of yours and where your loyalties lie. She warned that as well. Those were her last words, to tell you to beware of your sympathies since they're a danger in this war."

Eren looked down at Annie's slumped body and the puddle of blood slowly spreading under the chair. "Her last words were that?"

"She's right too. You're not a mere pawn in this game, but you're certainly not a knight. They could dispose of you as easily as they disposed of her."

Eren kept gazing at the young girl. "I'm an officer. They wouldn't dare."

"Of course they would, especially if they think you're sympathizing with the enemy."

"France is not our enemy!" Eren shouted in vehement protest.

Levi cocked his head at the young man. "And what of the Resistance? What of Jews? Are we your enemies? Because trust me, takhshet … you are mine!"

Eren's mouth dropped in astonishment, but Levi stormed out of the cellar, stomping up the staircase. Eren was left staring into nothingness. Levi's words were a hot brand searing his heart, yet a part of his brain echoed a quote:

"Staatsbürger kann nur sein, wer Volksgenosse ist. Volksgenosse kann nur sein, wer deutschen Blutes ist. Kein Jude kann daher Volksgenosse sein." Only a citizen can be a citizen. Only people who are of German blood can be a comrade. No Jew can therefore be a comrade.

Hitler had said those words, and Eren had been brought up believing Hitler was the greatest man in the world, Germany's savior, their prophet! He had to be right … had to be! Jews were the greatest threat in the world, the natural enemy of humans. It would be repugnant for an Aryan to befriend a filthy Jew.

Eren sighed as he looked down at Annie's body. Maybe three or four years younger than him … a teenager. So young!

"Was I your enemy?" he asked her. "I suppose I was. You're a terrorist. You want to see the downfall of Germany."

He reached forward and touched the golden hair. Although oily from neglect and damp from the icy baths, it was very soft.

"We were on the wrong side of fate. In another lifetime, we could have been friends. Same with that guy. He's nothing but trouble, but I still feel like, if we had been born in another century, we could have been close. This twentieth century has been nothing but war and disease, since before I was born. It's like the whole world just wants to slaughter one another. I guess your country was like that last century, with your revolution. And America was like that the century before. Next century, who knows what countries will be shooting each other. Maybe all of them will have guns pointed at one another. Maybe it never changes. Only the dead see the end of war, and the living do what we must in order to survive a little longer." He let out a sigh and stroked her cheek slowly getting cold. "I'm sorry."

"Warum entschuldigen Sie sich?" Why are you apologizing?

Eren jolted and saw Jean slumped at the doorway, glaring with his arms folded.

"I don't speak English," he admitted casually, "but I know a few words. Why apologize to someone who wants to kill Germans and drive us out of France?"

"Maybe because this is France and not Germany," Eren answered, and he looked down at the dead girl again. "Maybe we don't belong here."

Jean marched in and went right up to Eren. "With all due respect, Herr Leutnant…"

He slapped Eren so hard across the face, the crack echoed through the chilly cellar. Eren's jaw was knocked to the side, and he stayed turned in surprise. None of his soldiers had ever dared to slap him. In fact, that may have been the first face slap in his life.

Jean's eyes were hard, but his jaw trembled with the rage he bottled down. "If you ever speak like that again, I will report you for treason. My cousin died conquering France. A lot of good Germans died. France is ours by right of combat. Yet we were lenient, maybe too much so. We even let them keep their own government. We could have just called everything from the Rhine to the Atlantic Germany and be done with the idea of armistices. They took advantage of our kindness. This woman," he shouted, pointing down to the slumped body, "took advantage of the kindness of Germany."

Eren shook his head. "She was a child—"

"She was an enemy, Jäger! She was too stubborn to accept that we won. Just as she lost her life, soon France itself will lose its autonomy. First we'll destroy England, then we'll force the Vichy cowards in the south to surrender or die. The Führer will not show mercy a second time." Jean leaned up into his face. "Don't you ever sympathize with the enemy again." His voice lowered. "Please, Eren," he said more informally, and his eyes saddened. "Please don't put me into that situation. I would hate to be known as the man who turned in his commanding officer. You are our leader. You got us through battles, through Anzio. We rely on you! We can't have you be weak."

Eren stood there, taking those words of criticism. A part of him knew he deserved it. He really had felt sorry for Annie's youth, and he pitied Levi's situation. Levi had been the first to warn him, then Kitz, even Annie had expressed her worries about him, and now his right-hand man was warning him. Mercy would only weaken him.

Another part of him knew that Annie should have been sent to a camp, where she would be kept as a prisoner. Maybe a quick death was more merciful, but in a camp she would have had at least a chance of surviving.

And Levi…

He knew what he had been taught all of his life, but that did not change the fact that he wanted Levi to get away from this madness. They were so close to the Belgian border. If he could let him escape without facing execution for himself … but that was crazy and, as Jean pointed out, treasonous.

"You're right, and I apologize," Eren said softly. He turned away from the dead girl. "This war is changing me, Jean. It used to be so simple."

He patted Eren on the back. "War is never simple; you were just a simpleton."

Eren glared at him, and Jean laughed at the scowl on his face. Slowly, Eren cracked a smile.

"See, this is how it should be," Eren sighed. "The two of us joking together, like when we were in Paris. Come on! I need to get away from this," he said, looking down at the bloody mess. "And I need a strong drink."

"Oh, Connie found beer! We'll drink and sing some of the old songs."

They left together, and Eren saw Levi standing at the top of the cellar stairs. He almost forgot about the little Jewish man.

"Ah, I need to lock him up."

"You should give him a few beatings first," Jean suggested, glaring at the man.

"He translated well for us, and the wounds from the whipping I gave him are still raw. I'd rather he be useful than dead. Get the beer, and invite Reiner's new platoon. We'll celebrate together."

Jean smiled and slapped him on the back again. "Do you remember the lyrics to Mein Regiment, mein Heimatland? I expect you to sing it solo. Especially the line, My name is Anne Marie."

"You're an ass, Jean," he laughed. "But let's sing that one. Let's sing all the songs we used to."

"Songs of home! Das Vaterland, Deutschland!" The Fatherland, Germany.

Eren agreed heartily, "Es lebe Deutschland!" Long live Germany! He turned and motioned Levi to follow him. They walked together to the stairs that led to the castle dungeons. Down there, alone, Levi finally spoke.

"What will be done with Annie's body?"

Eren was not exactly sure. It was up to him, and the captain had only said to get rid of it. "The other Jews will be ordered to remove her and clean up."

"Bury her, please."

Eren looked over in surprise.

"She deserves that much. Plus a body lying out in the sun will smell and spread disease. Give her a burial."

"If the other Jews are willing to dig a grave, I will allow it."

"Tell them it was my request."

"All right. I'll try to tell them, if they understand me."

Levi looked slightly appeased by the promise. "She fought for French land. She deserves to be buried in French soil."

"That's an odd thing to say," Eren noted.

"Is it really that odd?" asked Levi. "Would you not like to know that your body will be sent back to Germany for a proper burial? Or maybe you'd like a grave here in France with a nice view of the countryside? That can be arranged."

Eren suddenly slammed Levi against some iron bars and held him pinned to the prison cell. "Are you threatening me?" he seethed.

Levi flinched and slowly opened his eyes. "I'm questioning how loyal you are to your country. I'm questioning if you'll show the same respect for loyalty toward someone else."

"She was a terrorist—"

"She was a child!" Levi shouted back.

Eren grabbed a handful of black hair and dragged Levi the rest of the way to the cell. He unlocked the door and threw the Jew inside. The iron door slammed shut, and he locked it.

"She was a member of the Resistance, a political enemy."

"Am I your enemy?" Levi challenged.

Eren hesitated on answering.

"This is what I mean!" Levi screamed. "You should have answered with an instant Yes. You are a German soldier. Act like one! Or else you will be shot in the head just like her."

"Why do you care?" sneered Eren.

For a moment, Levi looked stunned by the question, the same one that stumped him last time they argued. Why did he care? He had said it was because he saw a lot of his former self in Eren, but why would that even matter? He was a Nazi! Levi stared at Eren, and the young soldier felt his heart skip at the depth of those fierce eyes.

Why does this Jew want me to act cold and heartless? To live? Why does he care?

"If it were not for you, I would be dead," Levi said softly. "I need you to stay alive. Even if it means I will suffer, at least I will live. I hate relying on a Nazi, but I'm not stupid. I know you are my only means of surviving long enough."

"Long enough for what?" Eren asked coldly.

Levi smirked. "The first goal of a prisoner is to escape. As I said, I'm not stupid; don't think I won't bolt if I see an opening. I've tried before, and I promise you, I will try again."

Eren pulled out his gun and aimed between the prison bars. "Then maybe I should shoot you now. We don't need you to translate anymore." Levi just stared straight into his eyes. Eren watched, slowly feeling disconcerted by the steady gaze. "You never flinch," he noted.

"When you've seen what I have, a little boy pointing a gun at you with no intent to kill is not exactly scary."

Eren stowed his gun away. "What have you seen? You mentioned you were a soldier long ago, and you were captured by Germans before."

"My wife was murdered right in front of my eyes, her pregnant belly sliced open, and then they slit the throat of my unborn child."

Eren froze and felt his skin chill. Levi had mentioned that he was married, and that his wife died, but not how, and nothing about a child. The emotional impact that must have had on Levi had never truly struck Eren before. I did now.

"That's…" It was horrific. Just imagining it was gruesome. "Was she killed because she was a Jew?"

"No," he said softly. "She was a Christian."

* * *

"Petra! No! She's not Jewish. I swear, she's not Jewish!"

"Levi. It's okay. Be strong. Live, no matter the price. I love you—"


* * *

He jolted out of the memory. "They killed her because she was pregnant. They said the baby would have been Jewish. They didn't understand. For Jews, heritage is passed on by the mother. If the mother is Jewish, the baby is Jewish; if the mother is a Gentile, the baby is not Jewish, even if the father is. That baby … would not have been Jewish. Not by our customs. Still, they killed her, shot her right in front of me. Then they sliced open her belly, yanked out the baby within, showed me what would have been my son, and slit his throat before he could take his first breath."

"Mein Gott," Eren whispered in horror as a prickly chill ran up his arms.

"They killed all the older women, small children, and anyone not suited for hard labor. Then on that day, to me and all the men, they made sure none of us would ever have children again."

Eren's eyes widened. "They…" He could hardly help but glance down at Levi's trousers.

"Obviously, it's still there," he said gruffly. "It was … surgical. Minor, but damning, and hurt like hell. No anesthesia, of course. They sited to us a German law."

"I know of it," he whispered. Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses. Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring. In short, compulsory sterilization.

"Petra was my rock, my strength. She could have left me, moved back in with her parents, been safe, but no. Not her. She stayed by my side as we hid from Germans. We were on the run for two years, and she kept our hopes up. She even broke me out of an internment camp once. When she discovered that she was pregnant, I begged her to go back to her parents, but she was so stubborn. She said that war is not forever, and our child would grow up in a world of peace. She kept assuring me … it would be okay, it was only temporary, this evil that had invaded our land would go away." His eyes flashed up in rage at Eren. "She would say, 'Evil cannot thrive on French soil.' Yet here we are, two years after her death, and you German pigs have not withered away and died."

Eren could say nothing against him. Of course Levi would hate Nazis after experiencing something that brutal.

"I lost my wife, my baby, and lost my ability to ever have children. I almost didn't want to escape that time. How could I go on alone? What was the use of living on without her … without my wife?" he whispered in anguish. "What purpose is life without love, and what purpose is love if not to raise a family?"

"Love comes in all forms and happens for many reasons. Not all of those result in children." Eren's eyes dropped sadly. "To never have children … I've said it before: you and I are alike."

"You're sterile?" Levi asked in confusion.

Eren laughed. "Who knows? But I know, I will never have children of my own."

"You don't know that. You may survive this war, find a girl, settle down."

"No," he whispered. "That fate is not for me. I do hope for love one day, though," he whispered, and he hesitated before looking up to Levi. "If wanting you to survive, if caring about you, if seeing people as human as opposed to countries or religions, if that is a weakness … no one ever said I was strong. My men believe I'm courageous, a chosen warrior destined to win battles." He shook his head sadly. "I'm just a boy doing the best I can in this crazy world, trying to stay alive, hoping there's something better at the end of this nightmare."

"Then be safe," Levi urged. "Just as I had to watch that girl being tortured, a girl who is a fellow Frenchman, so you may have to watch horrible things and do absolutely nothing." Levi stepped up to the prison bars and glared through. "If you ever see me getting beaten again, either whipped or clubbed or even tortured by the Gestapo, do nothing. If you fight against this madness, you'll be killed, and so would I." He reached through the bars and placed a hand on Eren's arm. "Let's both try to get out of this, but let's not drag one another down."

Eren looked down at the hand. It was the first time Levi had willingly touched him. Slowly, he placed his hand over the Jew's and felt the warmth of his skin. They were not that much different after all.

He suddenly swatted Levi's hand away and pushed him back. Levi stared in shock, but Eren smiled.

"Then don't touch me, filthy Jewish swine," he said with a mocking, playful smile.

Levi's eternally grim face finally cracked the smallest smirk. "Go fuck a dog, takhshet."

Eren laughed as he turned and left the dungeon.

Levi sat back on his cot, wincing slightly from the pain that he still felt from time to time in his ass, and muttered to himself, "That boy … I hope he survives."

* * *

Eren used hand gestures and broken bits of French to explain what the Jews needed to do. When they were brought down to the cellar and saw the dead girl, his chaotic orders made sense. Two men pulled Annie out of the cellar and found a sheet to wrap her in while others got to work cleaning up the blood-stained floor.

Eren followed the Jews carrying the dead body. They went out of the town and toward the woods to where the ground had been disturbed with other graves for the dead who had been found after the bombing of the town. Eren had provided two shovels for them, and two of the large men began to dig while they others recited something solemn. It sounded like a prayer for the dead.

They lowered her, bloody sheet and all, into a grave barely deep enough to cover her. Eren walked up to the grave. While waiting for the pit to be dug, he had idly picked a few wildflowers from the surrounding field. He looked down at the wrapped body.

"Erde zu Erde, Asche zu Asche, Staub zu Staub." Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Then he tossed the flowers into the grave and watched them scatter on the body.

One of the men came up to Eren and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Merci," he whispered.

Eren just nodded in silent reply. As they shoveled the dirt over the body, the men began to sing.

Jeune fille sans voix, toi qui a tu tes peines,
Tu n'as jamais pleuré, pas même quand des larmes,
Telles des rivières, ont sillonné tes joues.
Jeune fille sans voix, te voici désormais
Et pour toujours réduite au silence éternel.


Young girl without a voice, you who has hushed up your sorrows,
You have never cried, not even when tears,
Such rivers, have cut furrows over your cheeks.
Young girl without a voice, you are now
And for ever reduced to eternal silence.

Eren did not understand the song. Still, the words were melancholy, and he knew they were singing it to a fellow Frenchman. He watched as the body slowly vanished away with the clods of dirt. Eren was not very religious, but he still crossed himself.

"Ruhe in Frieden." Rest in peace.

He waited until the grave was filled in. One had gathered a few stones from around the field and placed them over the dirt. He had enough stones to spell out her initials. A.L. Annie Leonhart.

Eren turned and walked away, sensing more than watching the Jews following him. They returned the shovels to a supply barn, and Eren left the Jews after that to go about with their normal chores.

As he walked through the village streets, Levi's words echoed in his mind.

She fought for French land. She deserves to be buried in French soil.

So many deaths in this war! It was a miracle that all of Europe was not turned into a massive cemetery.

My wife was murdered right in front of my eyes, her pregnant belly sliced open, and then they slit the throat of my unborn child.

A different voice suddenly screamed in his memories.

Not my son! He is Aryan. Hannes! Please, don't let them take Eren. He at least is Aryan.

Eren paused and held onto a wall as the world went dizzy. The screams of his mother haunted him some days, but never as strongly as now.

"Mutti," he whispered, seeing her face in those final horrifying moments.

He shook his head angrily, banishing the past. His shoulders straightened, he tugged on his uniform cap, and Eren continued on his way, marching through the town mingled with German troops and French villagers.

He hated being around civilians. They were at war. Soldiers should focus on the enemy.

He almost bumped into a blond girl. She pulled back, hugging a basket of bread to her chest. "Ah! Excusez-moi." She looked up at Eren and grinned amiable. "Entschuldigung, Herr Soldat!" Excuse me, mister soldier!

His eyes widened. "Moment mal, Fräulein." Hold up, miss. Eren swung his arm out before she could slip past him and vanish into the crowd. He whispered in astonishment, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" Do you speak German?

She looked alarmed. "Ah! Um … Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch." I know some German.

A tremble went through Eren. If the Germans found out there was someone who spoke French and German without the need to communicate through English, Levi's usefulness vanished.

"Lassen Sie es niemanden wissen." Do not let anyone know.

The small lady looked terrified by his harsh face. "Pourquoi…? Warum?" Why?

Eren pulled back, seeing that he was scaring her. "Sie brauchen einen Übersetzer um die Mitglieder des Französischen Widerstand zu verhören. Sie könnten Sie verletzen, um Siezum Kooperieren zu bringen. Verstehen Sie mich?" They need a translator to interrogate members of the French Resistance. They might hurt you to get you to cooperate. Do you understand me?

By her shaking, the young lady did understand him, and such a threat visibly terrified her.

"Tuen Sie so, als ob Sie kein Deutsch können. Sprechen Sie es niemals. Antworten Sie nie jemanden, der es spricht." Act like you cannot speak German. Never speak it. Never answer someone speaking it.

She kept her mouth closed.

"Sag mir, was ist dein Name?" Tell me, what is your name?

She began to open her mouth, but quickly slammed it shut.

"Sehr gut! Très bien!" Eren praised her in both German and French. She had quickly realized that his question was a trick. So he asked one of the few French sentences he knew: "Quel est votre nom?" What is your name?

"Krista," she answered, blushing under his teal eyes.

"Faites attention, Krista." Be careful, Krista.

"Merci," she whispered. "Ah! Quel est votre nom?"

"Mon nom est Leutnant Jäger." My name is Lieutenant Jäger.

She tried the German name on her lips. "Jäger?"

He smiled, feeling strangely at ease although he was running out of French words he knew. "Appelez-moi Eren." Call me Eren.

"Eren Jäger," she said, and he saw her committing his name to memory. She suddenly handed him a bread roll. "Tenez, c'est pour vous, mangez-le." Here, it's for you, eat it.

Not fully understanding, he asked in German, "Essen?" Eat?

She nodded, not resorting to speaking German, just as he warned her.

"Merci, Krista," he thanked, and Eren went on his way.

He bit into the bread and found it was fresh. Likely, she had just picked it up from the town's bakery. Eren was amazed that the people of this town were returning home and resuming their lives so swiftly despite the overwhelming German presence. Despite the shadows of war, life had to go on.

By the time he finished the roll, Eren was at the house they had commandeered. Even before he opened the door, he heard the music ringing out through the streets.

Im Wald, im grünen Walde,
Da steht ein Försterhaus,
Im Wald, im grünen Walde,
Da steht ein Försterhaus,
Da schauet jeden Morgen,
So frisch und frei von Sorgen,
Des Försters Töchterlein heraus,
Des Försters Töchterlein heraus,
Ta-ra-la-la, ta-ra-la-la,
Ta-ra-la-la, ta-ra-la-la,
Des Försters Töchterlein ganz frisch heraus,
Ta-ra-la-la, ta-ra-la-la,
Ta-ra-la-la, ta-ra-la-la,
Des Försters Töchterlein heraus.

Eren let out a sigh. A party, and after the sort of day he just had! The last thing he wanted was to celebrate, but he had to put on a mask, to pretend like the death of some terrorist did not upset him, to pretend he was a perfectly normal German soldier. He had worn this mask his entire adult life. He knew the drill.

He entered and saw that the party had already started, including his entire platoon, even the grunts, along with Reiner's newly formed platoon and a few officers who happened to hear about it. Of course, no one would tell an officer to leave, even if they were just there for the beer and singing.

Lore, Lore, Lore, Lore,
Schön sind die Mädchen
Von siebzehn, achtzehn Jahr.
Lore, Lore, Lore, Lore,
Schöne Mädchen gibt es überall;
Und kommt der Frühling in das Tal,
Grüß mir die Lore noch einmal, ade, ade, ade.
Und kommt der Frühling in das Tal,
Grüß mir die Lore noch einmal, ade, ade, ade.

As the song ended, they cheered and clinked their steins together.

"The lieutenant's here!" Connie yelled, his face already flushed. At his shout, hands grabbed Eren and yanked him toward the center. "We have to sing something good for him. Mein Regiment, mein Heimatland."

Jean laughed boisterously. "I told Eren he has to sing it solo."

Eren chuckled as he accepted a stein of beer from someone. "Fahr zur Hölle." Go to hell. "I'll sing it if someone else sings with me."

Franz pouted. "I don't know this one."

"How can you not know it?" shouted Thomas.

"I'm not from Germany, remember?" Franz said with a shrug. "I'm Czech."

"We're all Germans tonight," Eren declared, and he raised his stein. He began to sing a German war song. "Mein Regiment, mein Heimatland…" My regiment, my homeland.

Armin joined in. "Meine Mutter habe ich nicht gekannt." My mother I did not know.

Connie joined in with harmony. "Mein Vater starb schon früh im Feld, früh im Feld…" My father died early in the field, early in the field.

Reiner gave a rare grin as he sang too. "Ich steh' allein auf dieser Welt." I stand alone in this world.

Bertholdt sang boldly, "Mein Vater starb schon früh im Feld, früh im Feld…"

Then Jean chimed in along with Eren, the two singing side by side, "Ich steh' allein auf dieser Welt."

All the Germans in the room knew the chorus line, and they sang raucously, arms around shoulders, mugs of beer and bottles of wine swaying to the rowdy tune.

"Mein Nam' ist Annemarie,
Ein jeder kennt mich schon,
Ich bin ja die Tochter

Vom Hitlerbattalion!
Mein Nam' ist Annemarie,
Ein jeder kennt mich schon,
Ich bin ja die Tochter
Vom Hitlerbattalion!


My name is Anne Marie,
Everyone knows me already,
I am the daughter
From Hitler's battalion!

They sang all the verses, danced through the chorus, and ended with laughter.

"The new one! The new one!" Armin cheered. "That song from the movie, Quax der Bruchpilot I think it was called. I saw it back in Berlin. Heimat deine Sterne. That song makes me want to cry."

Eren laughed. "I don't have the voice for that one. Reiner?"

He meant to call out the stern blond as a joke, but Reiner stood and began to sing the sweeping ballad in a sonorous tenor that awed them all.

Heimat, deine Sterne,
Sie strahlen mir auch am fernen Ort.
Was sie sagen, deute ich ja so gerne
als der Liebe zärtliches Losungswort.
Schöne Abendstunde,
der Himmel ist wie ein Diamant.
Tausend Sterne stehen in weiter Runde,
von der Liebsten freundlich mir zugesandt.
In der Ferne träum' ich vom Heimatland.


Homeland, thy stars,
they also shine for me at a distant place.
What they say, I gladly interpret
as the love's tender password.
Beautiful evening hour,
the sky is like a diamond.
Thousands of stars are in a wide circle,
sent from my sweetheart in love.
In the distance I'm dreaming of the homeland.

"Dear God, he can sing!" Jean said in amazement.

"Quite well," Connie agreed with a dropped jaw.

Bertholdt looked almost enamored. "Teach me that song," he cried out.

Reiner sat down, but he had a slight blush to his cheeks he could not blame solely on the beer.

So they passed the night singing and drinking, talking of home, the women they left behind, and falling asleep to dreams of peace with no clue that the worst of this war was still ahead of them.

# # #

# #


The French funeral song was a collaboration between Rhov Anion, Marie Camille, and Chris Jestin-Thoraval.

The German songs are actual folk songs popular among German troops in WWII.

Im Wald, im grünen Walde (“In the Forest, in the Green Forest”) – The video for this one keeps getting taken down from YouTube, I have replaced it three times already, so it might not be working whenever you read this chapter. The song comes from around the First World War. It is about the daughter of a forester named Lore. The refrain “Girls of seventeen or eighteen are beautiful. There are beautiful girls everywhere” was sung by soldiers in the German Empire and was part of a reservist song. However, the lyrics were sung to John Browns Body, an anti-slavery song from the American Civil War. Americans today know that same tune as The Battle Hymn of the Republic. (“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord...”) – https://youtu.be/z8BOo-DFo60

Mein Regiment, mein Heimatland (“My Regiment, My Homeland”) – The normal chorus has the lines “Ich bin ja die Tochter / Vom ganzen Battalion” but during Hitler’s reign the final line was changed to “Vom Hitlerbattalion,” because of course everything was about Hitler back then. – https://youtu.be/ltZClBo96jg

Heimat, deine Sterne (“Homeland, Your Stars”) This song is still a popular ballad today. Homeland, Your Stars was written by Erich Knauf and Werner Bochmann for the comedy film Quax, der Bruchpilot (“Quax the Crash Pilot”) in 1941. – https://youtu.be/Dlu3teDwLXk


I published a new novel, the second book in my medieval fantasy series. More information on my website. - http://shadowstrider.net

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