Chapter One

Rural England is beautiful, not that he would ever admit it out loud. For he was the personification of France and he took pride in his own vast country of mountains, vineyards and sophistication. Still, this strange backwater island on the edge of Europe had its merits. Extensive, fertile ploughed fields stretched for miles along dusty tracks, intermingled with ancient woodland and spotted with villages and towns. Fens, valleys and hills were laced with rivers and streams, all managed and tamed by the inventive population. The natural and the manmade formed an elegant equilibrium across this rich land in a timeless, never ending cycle of seasons.

It was as though the people never changed, yet France knew this to be quite a different story. England itself was a new concept, formed recently from the merging of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia. This fair land had seen much bloodshed, strife and toil from ancient days to now and France had no doubts such a pleasant place would see much more in the future. It made his "big brother" protective urges kick in at the thought. Perhaps one day he would take this land and protect it from harm through his own strength.

These urges to protect were far from dissipated as he gazed down at the infant boy he was walking with. The boy toddled slowly along the worn, dusty, woodland path; his infant feet clumsy and uncoordinated from his young age. He walked ahead of France, forging his own path ahead, often with meandering detours from the trail to feed his unquenchable curiosity of the world around him. Leaves and twigs; trees and butterflies; shrubs and birds - all were examined in wonder and joy by the tiny blonde boy with the bright, beaming smile. France could not help but feel affectionate and protective over his companion, wishing for him to remain innocent and unafraid for eternity.

Unfortunately, it seemed fate had a different path for the youngster, who France had discovered was the personification of the newly formed England. Ever since he had first heard word that England had become a united country, he knew a personification would appear. It was just hard to judge where the personification would be and how long they would last. Some would come in strength and glory and fade swiftly as boundaries and territories were divided and realigned; others would come and stay for an eternity of men to form the great nations of the world. The personifications of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were lucky to have lasted as long as they did before they faded to be replaced by the youngster before him. France barely rated the chances of this infant foundling England surviving; what with the Norse threats from across the sea and the Celtic threats on his borders. Still, perhaps a united England would stand strong and tall and face off the threats that may bring its downfall and the land personified by the small boy would last through the ages. Who knows what fate has in store?

They had only met recently. France had been travelling north with his entourage towards the heartland of the old Kingdom of Northumbria for diplomatic reasons. He had sensed the presence of another personification so had left his company to make camp nearby. Soon he had discovered the small boy, wandering aimlessly in a field of cattle, alone and unafraid. France had approached the child cautiously, not wishing to frighten him. The child caught sight of him and looked thoughtful for a moment, his thumb stuck in his mouth. He had thick eyebrows, wide green eyes and a mop of unruly blonde hair. Dressed in nothing but a dirt stained tunic, he looked quite the disheveled sight - at least in comparison to the well maintained apparel of France.

Smiling slightly, he offered a quiet greeting in broken Old English, "Greetings, friend! What are you doing out here? It is far from civilisation."

The child tilted its small head, sucking on its thumb before eventually pointing to himself and saying one word, "Engwand!" He then shoved his thumb back in his mouth and blinked owlishly at France.

The older smiled. How could he not? Little England could not be more sweet if he tried. After a moments thought he pointed to his own chest and responded with a simple, "France!" He grinned as the child beamed a radiant smile up to him, gazing adoringly at him without a care in the world. He reached into a small pouch at his waist and pulled out a small loaf of bread which he broke in half, offering half to the infant. The child gazed at it hesitantly before taking it and eating it hungrily; France consuming his own share simultaneously. When they finished, France held out his hand and England shyly took it and the two went back to his camp.

The boy had stuck with his elder all the way up north and for the duration of his business. They then broke away from the entourage of servants and important folk who had been accompanying France and the two disappeared to explore this green and fertile land. The young pair had traversed many wild places until they reached their current path. Throughout their travels, the two had mostly enjoyed a companionable silence - England could manage few words on his infant tongue and France was content with the peace and quiet of the countryside.

France pondered where they were. He knew they were slowly meandering their way south by the position of the sun, but he was unaware of their exact location in relation to the major towns of England. A short while back he had suggested following a different path out of the woodland and into open farmland, but the child was quite determined to go in this direction. What harm could it do? It was his country after all, perhaps he could sense something interesting ahead.

All personifications had the ability to connect to their land through multiple channels. They could sense the hurts, wants and moods of their people and would often act according to those wants - if the people wanted to go to battle then so be it. Nations could also sense the landscape itself, how it changed and fluctuated over time, how people used it and nature edited it through the centuries. They were intimately linked with the land and its people, personifying both in personality, action and appearance. It was perfectly possible that the little infant could sense something important up ahead. Although France suspected that the main motive was probably innocent curiosity and perhaps a hint of stubbornness for the youngster to get his own way.

Suddenly, England halted, gazing up at a spot above his head with a curious expression. The little one took a step back, smiling somewhat and reaching up a hand into the air. Curious, France approached slowly, looking carefully to try and see what the child saw. He quirked a brow, assuming the youngster to be playing an unusually childish game - uncharacteristic for him but not too surprising considering his young age. France felt smug. He was still a young nation himself in reality, despite being reasonably mature. It was a pleasant novelty to be the older brother as it were and France enjoyed the feeling of being mature. He was four hundred years old and childish enough for their kin, but he felt as old as the hills themselves compared to the innocent display of playfulness before him.

His smug self righteousness dissipated in an instant as the little one suddenly let out a small cry and ran charging off into the woods. France just caught a glimpse of the youngster looking around wildly before he disappeared from sight. Cautiously, the elder stepped forward, peering around hesitantly to try and spot the little one. The foliage seems broken in places but the child seems to have thrown caution to the wind. France peers around the corner where he last saw England, but the child has barely left a trace. He cannot be gone. Are these woods even safe? Were their norsemen in these parts ready to enslave the little child?

France felt sick.

"England?"

No response.

"England? Where are you? Come back!"

Silence resonates.

"ENGLAND?!"

The child is gone...

A/N: This story is set in approximately the middle to end of the ninth century following a unified Anglo-Saxon England, but prior to Dane settlement in the Kingdom of Jorvik. Viking raids would have been common by this point in English history. The French tribes were first unified in the middle of the fifth century AD. England would have consisted of a lot of farm land and much of its woodland would have been felled by this point in history, however it was before the Norman rules of forest law and land ownership so the woodland that was there would have mostly been fairly natural.

I have tried to keep relatively accurate to the time period and suitably vague about exact dates but please let me know if there are any glaring historical errors and I shall correct these.

Updates shall be soon. Thanks for reading.

I do not own Hetalia.