Summary: I love the Extra History Youtube channel, particularly their series on Otto von Bismarck and the Punic Wars. And so I've decided to retell the life of Tanya von Degurechaff from A Young Woman's Political Record by jacobk , as narrated by the folks at Extra History.
Updates will be whenever I have time between my commissions and my other fics. The plan is to (at least) catch up with Political Record, and then go beyond depending on my inspiration.
Tanya's official birthday is 24th September 1913.
Disclaimer: I do not own Youjo Senki
Tanya von Degurechaff - The Child Soldier - Extra History #1
The year is 1921. On a cold November day on the outskirts of Berun, an eight year old girl walks into an Imperial Army recruiting office. She is a small girl, thin with malnutrition, with messy blond hair and ice cold blue eyes heavy with intellect and maturity far beyond her years. She slaps down a certificate testifying that she has been tested and proven to have an extremely powerful magical talent. And then she demands that she be allowed to join the army and defend the Fatherland. This is the start of one of the most powerful and controversial figures in history. This is Tanya von Degurechaff.
Extra History intro plays.
Hello everybody, and welcome to Extra History! I'm Dan, that's James, and this is Allison! A lot of our members voted for this, so here we have it - Tanya von Degurechaff, or the Silver Chancellor as she came to be known later in life.
Her story starts younger than most. She was abandoned as an infant to a church orphanage on the outskirts of Berun. In spite of enormous effort over the years, her parents have never been identified. Her mother never gave her name when she dropped her off, and the only thing she would say was about her father was that he was a soldier who had died in service. Even the last name provided by her mother, "Degurechaff", doesn't show up on any citizen rolls. There are many, many theories about this that we're not going to get into, or we'd be here all day.
Even during her earliest years, the nuns raising her would note her quiet and serious nature. She was also a gifted singer, her precocious intellect allowing her to rapidly memorize lines that would make her a mainstay of the choir.
She might have continued in that orphanage for years to come, but then something changed. The Imperial government had instituted mandatory testing for magic potential, and so a testing team stopped by the orphanage. Little Tanya Degurechaff tested, and she tested high.
Now, before we get into how an eight year old ended up joining the army, we need to spend a minute talking about mages. Prior to the 20th century, mages were a rarity on the battlefield. The power to rewrite reality with your mind might sound amazing, but the truth is there were very few mages that could go one on one with a trained soldier, and that was before the advent of firearms. All that changed with the invention of the first computation orb in 1896.
All of a sudden, magic went from the realm of superstition and miracle, to the realm of science. It could be studied and quantified. Most importantly, the training time for a mage went from decades to just a couple of years. Enter the aerial mage, the name given to those mages powerful enough to fly using a computation orb.
Now, let's be clear. The aircraft of the time could fly faster and higher than aerial mages. Tanks were better armored. Artillery could hit harder and at longer range. But the aerial mage could do everything. Even if they didn't do it as well as specialized weapons, their sheer versatility and mobility meant they could be used anywhere. And instead of needing expensive fuel and maintenance, they just needed food and water to keep going.
Every country capable of making computation orbs were frantically scrambling to get as many aerial mages as they could. And along the way, some bright spark realized - 'Hey, mages can just use magic to make themselves stronger. So, we don't need mages to be fully grown to be useful in a fight.' As a result, when in 1912 the Imperial government set the minimum age of enlistment to 18, they specifically excluded aerial mages from the list.
So, when that winter day in 1921 Tanya showed up at the recruitment office, the officer in charge didn't have a choice. He did his best to talk her out of it, but she was adamant, and the law was the law. On the 3rd of November 1921, Tanya Degurechaff became the youngest ever recruit of the Imperial Army.
All things considered, she did surprisingly well. During her training period, she showed herself a genuine child prodigy. She easily kept up with her adult companions, at least intellectually. She even sat for, and passed, the Officer Training Course. The Imperial Army at the time used an unusual two-step process for training officers. Junior officers - 2nd and 1st Lieutenants - only needed to pass a short three-month program. Only if they wanted higher rank would they need to attend the Imperial War College in Berun.
Tanya passed every test put to her, and so in June of 1923, she was deployed on a training mission to Norden. Once this deployment was over, she would not just the youngest soldier, but the youngest officer in Imperial history.
Then, came that fateful day. The start of the First World War. The root causes for the war were many. Chief among them, the Empire was a new and expanding power in Europe, and the more traditional European powers like Albion and the Francois didn't want to see them expand any further. Conflict was inevitable. But the start of the conflict was almost comical. The Legadonian Alliance had laid claim to Norden - that bit at the south of the country, right across the water from modern Germania. The Empire also claimed the same bit of territory. As a result, the maps of both countries showed that territory as belonging to them. On June 18, 1923, a regiment of Legadonian infantry crossed into what their maps said was their territory, intending to carry out a routine patrol. Unfortunately for them, a week ago the Empire had moved an entire brigade of artillery to watch the very route they were using.
Tanya Degurechaff was the artillery spotter that day, and she did her job well. The barrage was devastating, the Legadonian infantry broken and scattered. However, the infantry was not entirely unsupported. The Legadonians had included a company of aerial mages in the patrol. Now, these mages went to work. The artillery was only three minutes away by air, and the nearest Imperial air defenses were still mobilizing. As the Legadonian mages advanced on the Imperial artillery, they spotted what they thought was a target of opportunity. A lone artillery observer, far from support. It would be the last mistake many of them would make.
Tanya was outnumbered 12 to 1. She could have retreated, but if she did the artillery would be wide open to a raid. Instead, she chose to attack, tossing aside her radio and flying straight into the teeth of the enemy. The aerial battle lasted only a few minutes. At the end of it, Tanya had been knocked out of the sky, alive but heavily injured. But of the twelve Legadonian mages, only eight would make it back home, and two of them would never fight again. The artillery was saved, and Tanya Degurechaff became not just the Empire's youngest officer, but the youngest recipient of the Silver Wings Assault Badge, the Empire's highest award for courage.
As Tanya recovered from her injuries, the war swung into high gear. The Empire had been itching for years to take a crack at their neighbors, and the Norden incursion gave them a cause. They launched an invasion and rapidly pushed back the Legadonian forces. Unfortunately for them, just as soon as they committed to the attack, the Francois Republic declared war as well. Imperial forces had to scramble to protect their industrial heartland from the Francois assault. The Legadonian invasion bogged down as supplies and troops were diverted to the newly developing Rhine Front. By September of 1923, the Empire was locked into a two-front war.
During this time, Tanya had left the hospital, and had been assigned as a test pilot for a team developing new computation orbs. It was here that she would unite with an intrinsic part of her legend - the Elenium Type 95 computation orb.
The Type 95 was the single most powerful computation orb of the 20th century. To this day there is no adequate explanation for how the Type 95 works. The device's own creator, Dr. Adelaide von Schugel, became convinced it was a divine miracle and stopped trying to replicate it. What is known is that Tanya was the only person who could use it without killing themselves. Like, seriously, three test pilots died testing that thing before Tanya came along. Yet in Tanya's hands it proved a devastating weapon.
There are many theories as to why that is, but the one that I feel makes the most sense is that controlling the Type 95 puts enormous stress on the user's brain, and only someone as young as Tanya had a brain flexible enough to handle it. Certainly, there is some evidence of the stress it caused - Tanya herself reported occasional memory lapses after using it, and the people around her would notice erratic behavior and violent mood swings accompanying the use of the device.
But, whatever the pitfalls of the Type 95, there was no doubt it was an enormously powerful weapon, and it was now in the hands of one of the most talented mages in the Empire, who also happened to be a genuine child prodigy.
Shortly after taming the Type 95, Tanya and her brand new orb were assigned to the Rhine front. At that time it was the single most bloody and brutal conflict zone of the entire war. It was there that the legend of Tanya Degurechaff was forged.
Yet, it was not the legend her superiors might have wished. When she was awarded the Silver Wings Assault Badge, Imperial propaganda named her the Argent Silver, a shining new hope leading the next generation of the Empire. And to be fair, Argent Silver is the name most of Germania still calls her to this day.
But on the Rhine front, in that boiling cauldron of mud and blood, Tanya gained a new name, one given to her by her enemies, and one that eventually spread to the whole world.
Join us next time, as we see how this one child would help shape the first great war of the 20th century, how she would go from a warrior to a leader of men, and how her actions would make her one of the most hated figures of the First World War. Join us to witness the birth of the Devil of the Rhine.