Thought I'd nominate this fantastic TL for a Turtledove ;)
If someone could second it, that would be great! :)

- BNC
And I would third it if I could :)

Oh my goodness, lads. Thank you so much. I'm humbled and honoured that something I wrote could even be considered for that. Everyone's support has been absolutely indispensable in writing this- I could not have done it without you!

On that note, here's something very different from what I usually write. It's not an 'update' as such; more a vignette which will tie in with chapter 40, when that comes along. Enjoy!

-Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth
 
Revanche
Revanche

No, you silly old bag. Don’t, for the love of le bon Dieu, come to my counter. Go to any of the other clerks, just not mine!

“Ah, good day madame. Comment allez-vous et qui est-ce je fais pour vous?”

Frau- not madame, always frau- Gertzer wrinkled her nose at Lucien Chanaris. “Are you free, young man? Pull your tie up.” When he’d first met Frau Gertzer, Lucien had pretended to be unable to understand her accented French, but the tongue-lashing he’d received had convinced him it was more trouble than it was worth. He gave the silk tie an obligatory tug. “What will it be then, mada…”

“Frau!” Frau Gertzer spoke like an offended schoolteacher reprimanding her pupil. “My name, young man, is Frau Gertzer! Not ‘madame’! You want to show a bit more respect, you do. Need I remind you who my husband is?”

“Of course not”- you silly old bag- “Frau Gertzer. How could I forget the good Oberleutnant Gertzer?” Lucien remembered a time without the German officer and his wife- happier, simpler days. “Now then, as you can see, we are very busy today, so perhaps I could assist you before moving onto one of the others?”

“Silly Frösche. They can wait their bloody turn. Anyhow… now where did I put the damn thing?” Frau Gertzer dug about in her handbag, murmuring in German. The clock ticked away. “There’s the thing.” She sat a cream envelope addressed to Munich on the desk. “Get me a postage stamp and get this sent off at once! It’s essential, young man, absolutely essential. If my

sister can’t get this, I can’t fathom how she will find the money to meet all the expenses in running Munich’s second-largest bingo club. Just think what that would do to her reputation, eh? Have I told you about the troubles dear old Helga faces?”

Lucien sighed to himself. Could he avert what was coming? “I believe you have, Frau Gertzer. She’s-”

Frau Gertzer slapped the counter. “Look here, young Frenchman, don’t just stand there talking. When a lady needs something, she must have it done immediately, not at the convenience of a young man such as yourself! By God, I thought the French had a reputation for manners; if so, you are a poor, a very poor specimen indeed. It goes a long way towards explaining why you lot lost the…”

“Quite.” Lucien slammed a postage stamp on the envelope, trying not to look at the Kaiser’s printed face. “That will be ten pfennigs. Next!”

A pimpled young man stepped forward. “International mail”, he said in much better French, “for my petite-ami in Paris.”

Lucien looked to Reims Cathedral for salvation for a very secular reason: when the bells chimed five it was time to go home. He wasted no time bolting into the street.

Occupied Reims was a dreary city. The Hohenzollern flag flew over the town hall while German soldiers complained that wine, women, and jokes at the locals’ expense were wearing thin. One-legged veterans begged on the street corner. That could have been you, mate. The idea of Julie left alone with no one curdled his stomach. Lucien’s arm chose that moment to act up, and he rubbed it forcefully. Had the German shot a little to the left…. What if, what if, what if? Where will that get you, my friend? The answer lay unconscious on the curb, an empty bottle by his feet. Lucien crossed himself and turned the corner.

Lucien arrived home just as the sun was slipping below the chimneys. The same kids were playing on the sidewalk, the same old women were gossiping on their garden fences, and the same Germans were marching back and forth, bayonets fixed. He bowed his head to the soldiers and stepped inside house number twelve. Just like always, he took off his boots first, then his coat, then his bowler; Julie had had that carpet laid down in 1913 and since the maker was dead, there would be no replacing it now. She would kill him if he dirtied it. “It’s me, love!”

Silence.

“It’s me, love! Back from the post office.” Lucien frowned. Was she asleep? She does like to nap when she’s ill. He dashed into their upstairs bedroom, only to find it empty. “Julie? Where are you? Julie?” He went into the kitchen, but something far worse than tantalising smells and oven warmth greeted him.

The place had been turned upside down; cupboards were torn open and a window was smashed. A body lay on the table, the blood dripping from it mingling with tap water on the floor.

“No!” Lucien pulled his wife’s lifeless body off the table and cradled her. “Julie. Julie.” What else was there to say? She would never talk to him again, never open her eyes again. The gaping wound in her stomach would never close. Lucien could no more save the person he loved than he could stop the tears dripping onto her. He murmured his wife’s name over and over like a mantra, as though it was a magic spell which might bring her back. Time faded away, his head spinning round and round.

“Who?” A better question came to mind. “Why?” Who would have wanted to do this? Lucien set his wife’s body on the table and covered her with a blanket before washing the blood off his hands. The larder had been emptied and the family photographs lay crumpled on the floor, their gold frames nicked. Lucien gently unfolded one. He stood in his best suit, in the same black tie he was wearing now, his arm around Julie’s waist. She looked like a queen in her white dress, a rose in her black hair. Did she know what was coming? Did she know that ten and a half years after that photograph was taken she would be dead? Did the priest know that in ten and a half years her life would be over and that he wouldn’t be able to offer her last rites? “Doctor.” He laughed bitterly. What good would that do? She was dead, wasn’t she, and there was no remedy for that in anybody’s pouch. Nevertheless, it was what one did, and so Lucien left, taking extra care to lock the door.

The walk lasted an eternity in which all Lucien heard was the crunching of gravel under his boots and the thud of his footsteps and his heavy heart. He rapped on the doctor’s door.

“Aah, Monsieur Chanaris, good day, good day.” The apple-cheeked doctor was smoking a cigarette. “What can I do for you, then? How is your lady wife?”



* * *



“Well, my friend, I am truly sorry. Truly.” The doctor gripped Lucien’s hand. “I will be at the funeral, you can bet on that.” He frowned. “Here. When they tell you how much it will cost to fix all of this”- he gestured to the broken plates and pipes- “do let me know. I will see what I can do to help, hein?” Both men sighed. “You must go to the occupation authorities, Monsieur Chanaris. If there is any justice to be found-”

“Is there any justice to be found? Forgive me, but I have a hard time believing the boches will give a Frenchman any justice. If I am lucky, they will wait until I have left before they mock me!”

“You may be right, Monsieur Chanaris. No, I will go further: I believe you are right. But what can one do? The closest thing the people of northern France have to justice is submitting to the occupiers and praying that they are magnanimous.”

“Some justice. And what good will it do Julie?” Lucien raised his hand. “No, I am sorry. I ought not to have lost my temper with you. Very well, I shall do as you suggest. Thank you… for everything.”
The doctor handed over Julie’s death certificate. “Any time, Monsieur Chanaris.”



* * *

Hallo Sergeant.” A German private who couldn’t have been over nineteen escorted Lucien to the desk, where a beefy man with three stripes on his uniform was cracking his knuckles. The two men said something in German, the only bit of which Lucien caught being ‘someone who speaks French.’ The sergeant nodded and disappeared into a back room, and Lucien’s heart sank when he saw who he came out with.

“Lucien Chanaris!” Oberleutnant Gertzer bared his crooked teeth. “The one I have heard so much about!” Gertzer and the young private jabbered in German. “So, Monsieur. Your wife has suffered, eh, an unpleasantry?” An unpleasantry. That’s one way to put it. An unpleasantry. If your wife were murdered for no good reason, would it be an unpleasantry? If your loved one was killed, would you describe it as “unpleasant?” Would Frau Gertzer’s death be unpleasant? In other circumstances, Lucien might have smiled.

“Now then, Monsieur Chanaris, a military inspector will accompany you to your home and find, what is the word, evidence. And in the event we discover something of interest, we will of course inform you.” Two muscle-bound Germans followed Lucien home, bayonets at the ready.

* * *

The village priest buried Julie shortly before midnight; Lucien was the only one present. He did not sleep that night but knelt at the grave in yesterday’s suit till dawn, showing his papers to passers-by as needed. He whispered his wife’s name a thousand times that night, his soul crying in pain that he hadn’t prevented this. It was a cold night for Lucien Chanaris.

When Lucien arrived at the post office at six AM, the only thing emptier than his belly was his soul. The day crawled by on hands and knees, but he was grateful for the distraction. No sooner had grief, inadequacy, or pain come up than a customer arrived and he had an excuse to stamp them out- literally. Thank God Frau Gertzer didn’t appear!

The kitchen was still flooded when Lucien got home and he had to spend the evening fixing the pipes as best he could. After that, he wolfed a tin of soup before heading to the cemetery. Julie didn’t have a proper grave- just a small wooden cross with ‘J.C.’ on it. How long before that, too, was taken away? How long before someone ‘unpleasantly’ kicked this bit of wood over, leaving no one to remember the woman he loved?

“How long?” Crows cawed and raindrops plunged. Lucien wept. “How long, Julie, till this is taken from us?”

“Lucien Chanaris?” Two German soldiers stood behind him. “Papers.” He shoved the documents at them. “Need I remind you that you are violating curfew?”

“Need I remind you-” No. Telling the boches where to head in would only make things worse. “My apologies, meine Herren. It will not happen again.” It will not happen again. God forbid I should be with the woman I love as best I can. God forbid I put a toe out of line. Need I remind you I am a human being? “What can I do for you?”

“Come with us quickly before it gets dark.” One of the Germans stepped closer and whispered in his ear in rusty French: “We think we know who is responsible and why.”

Never before had one of the German conquerors made Lucien Chanaris feel life was worth living. There was, he decided, a first time for everything.

“Ach, Monsieur Chanaris.” Oberleutant Gertzer sipped coffee. “Would you care for one?” Lucien accepted gratefully- not much chance he’d get to sleep tonight. It was cold and bitter. “The fact of the matter is, a brief review of records and a handful of interrogations have revealed to us exactly who is responsible for the death of your wife.”

Lucien’s eyebrows shot up. “Who? Who is it that… that could do something like that?” His fists clenched and his heart hammered. What would it be like, putting a name to the man who’d ruined his life? Oberleutnant Gertzer flipped through some paperwork as the clock ticked, every stroke bringing them closer to midnight.

“One of my men, whose name I am not at liberty to disclose, broke into your house two days prior. Why, I could not tell you- perhaps he wished to take something. A picture frame, money, jewelry… or something else.” Gertzer’s eyes lit up and a fresh wave of anger washed over Lucien. How dare the oberleutnant even think about… that happening to his wife? “Anyhow, my good man, I have accosted the, ah, suspects. You may rest assured they have been most suitably punished.”

“How?” Lucien wanted to kill, tear, yell, scream, shred, murder, anything. Anything to hurt the man who had killed his wife, anything to show the man who’d ruined him- whose name he still did not know!- what pain felt like. He had not wanted to kill during the war but he did now. It was the animal, not the man, in him who asked: “What did you do to him?”

“Transfer to another unit.”

Lucien blinked. “Excusez-moi? The man… the man who murdered my wife… he has been transferred?” Lucien spat out the word like a vile curse. “After what he has done, you think a transfer is appropriate?” The doctor’s words- “the closest thing the people of northern France have to justice is submitting to the occupiers and praying that they are magnanimous” rang in his ears.

“Well, I debated it and think a transfer best for all concerned. On the one hand, if word gets out amongst you people that one of my men murdered your Sylvie-”

“Julie.” Lucien turned his wife’s name into a dagger and thrust it at the enemy. “Her name was Julie.” Was. Not ‘is.’ Was. She ‘is’ nothing anymore.

Gertzer shrugged. “As you say, Julie. As I have said, if word gets out that this individual was the one responsible for taking her life, it might prompt someone to do something foolish.” The oberleutnant raised his eyebrows by a fraction of an inch. “You know how many hostages we kill every time one of our men is murdered. It would be such a shame if more innocent Frenchmen had to die because of this, ah, unpleasantry.”

“Unpleasantry!” Lucien leapt from his chair. “An unpleasantry? My wife, the woman I cared about”- sobs choked him- “is dead and gone, and you refuse to do anything. You refuse to acknowledge my pain. You can change this, you can let justice be done, but no. My Julie’s death is just an unpleasantry. Tell me, sir, if…” He took a deep breath. If he asked whether Frau Gertzer’s death would be an ‘unpleasantry’, the oberleutnant would make his life ‘unpleasant’. “Tell me if you have a soul, if you know what pain is like.”

Gertzer shrugged again. “Off you go, my friend. Come on.”



* * *



“I mustn’t. I mustn’t.” Why not? What have you to lose? Your family? Lucien Chanaris took his hand off the closet door. His bedroom hadn’t been raided, and so he knew it was there. Did he want to do it that badly? He sighed and shook his head. Life went on; it was late, and he needed sleep. Two weeks had gone by and he’d barely got a wink, but he had to try. Lucien took off his shirt and got into bed; the empty pillow called him a coward. Did you love her, Lucien? Did you really love her?

That was when he knew.

Lucien eagerly retrieved his kit from the war. Had the Germans found out he still had his, he would have been in a world of trouble. Lucien got to work, and three hours later, at two AM clutched the finished explosive as fondly as the child he could now never have.



* * *



Frau Gertzer walked into the post office. How unpleasant. Lucien Chanaris laughed for the first time in weeks, though it was a stifled laugh devoid of mirth. He stared at the ageing woman like a predator in the bushes. “What can I do for you, Frau Gertzer?”

“Get this sent to my sister! It is absolutely essential that this arrive as soon as possible, young man. Do you hear me? Well? Have you any idea of the importance of this package?”

Oh yes. Oh yes, I do- more than you could ever dream of. “I could not tell you, Frau. What’s so special about it?” The package contained a very fine chess set Oberleutnant Gertzer had purchased and which she wanted to send to her sister as a birthday present. If it didn’t arrive within days, her sister and family would become the laughingstock of their hometown. “Do not worry, Frau Gertzer. It will arrive as soon as your mail service can get it there.” The Army, not the civilian postal service, managed occupied Northern France’s mail deliveries, and getting things across the border took time.

“Well, I should hope so! I tell you, the amount of money spent on this was outlandish, exorbitant! Of course, anything for the ones you love, but it is still costing my husband a pretty pfennig. Really, she’ll love it; it’s to die for! Which reminds me, how’s your Sylvie?” Her sparkling eyes and laughing mouth told the truth. In lieu of snapping her neck then and there, Lucien murmured that she was fine and concentrated on the plan. It would end well, it would. It had to!

The rest of the day crawled by on hands and knees. Twenty minutes before closing time, he snuck out behind the back and retrieved the concealed device, which he’d stuck inside a cardboard box. Plenty of people saw him, Germans included. What was unusual about a post office worker bringing in a cardboard box? Reims Cathedral clanged five and everyone began closing down. Lucien went about his tasks a little slower and was still cleaning his counter when the last man filed out. Now was his chance. He grabbed the box meant for Frau Gertzer’s sister and stuck the improvised explosive in with the chess set, before resealing the package and walking out of the post office, his conscience panging not a bit. This was for Julie. Lucien didn’t care to know what would come next. Would he be arrested? Would he be killed? Would someone do to him what he’d just done to Frau Gertzer’s sister, namelessly murdering him from afar just as someone had done to Julie? Round and round and round it spun.

“It will all be unpleasant”, Lucien Chanaris said. He laughed at the German flag flying from a lamppost.


Comments?
 
Military occupation of foreign population is never beautiful. Even in a context of a "just" war like OTL WW2, the US occupational authorities still have a policy of deny food aid to civillian populations
 
Even if the official order of an occupation is to be fair and lighthanded, which it rarely is, when you involve many people in a position of power over a group they were just at war against there will be abuses of various kinds. Then others close ranks around those which gets people motivated to resist, because if obeying and keeping their heads down doesn't protect them what they have to lose. Which prompts retaliation by the occupying forces meaning the backlash works up more people to fight in a vicious cycle of violence begets violence.
 
Quick question where does the permanent german border lay because if along the meuse the I do believe that is pushing to far for the Germans however along with skullships suggestion of Arrondissement Briey, if going for maximum annexation then along the Moselle River would be perfect in my mind and it effectively turn alsace-lorraine into a Dorrito which i personally find hilarious. This is already the plan then perfect sorry for not picking it up
 
As someone who's used to reading fanfiction, i find that there are moments where i already have a good grasp as to what's happening, yet the internal monologue still feels the need to tell me anyway.
 
Thought I'd nominate this fantastic TL for a Turtledove ;)
If someone could second it, that would be great! :)

- BNC
Seconded. Sorry for the absence.
 
Dear readers,
I have a very, very good excuse for not updating much lately. The fourth impeachment in the history of the United States of America has been distracting me. We're looking at an update on France and Belgium on Sunday at the very latest. Sorry for the delay.
-Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

I'm such a bloody flake, aren't I?
 
Dear readers,
I have a very, very good excuse for not updating much lately. The fourth impeachment in the history of the United States of America has been distracting me. We're looking at an update on France and Belgium on Sunday at the very latest. Sorry for the delay.
-Kaiser Wilhelm the Tenth

I'm such a bloody flake, aren't I?
Hope we will see something inspired by it ITTL. Regardless, take your time, friend.
 
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Glad to see Place in the Sun has already been nominated/seconded (like a dozen times lol) in its Best Timeline main category for this year's Turtledove Awards!

But remember! There are other specific categories, which you can find here too:
https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...-awards-introduction-and-rules-thread.504525/

So I was thinking, Best Character... Who is your favorite one, in this timeline? Mine would be Emperor Karl I, of the United Empire of the Danube: his reign was cut short, but even then quite impactful.
 
Glad to see Place in the Sun has already been nominated/seconded (like a dozen times lol) in its Best Timeline main category for this year's Turtledove Awards!

But remember! There are other specific categories, which you can find here too:
https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...-awards-introduction-and-rules-thread.504525/

So I was thinking, Best Character... Who is your favorite one, in this timeline? Mine would be Emperor Karl I, of the United Empire of the Danube: his reign was cut short, but even then quite impactful.
Well, thanks! You've all been very generous in voting for this TL, especially considering how slow things have been of late...

My personal favourite would have to be Karl of Danubia, probably followed by the fictitious Lucien Chanaris. CEH is up there too, by virtue of his, well, not being Wilson.
 
Well, thanks! You've all been very generous in voting for this TL, especially considering how slow things have been of late...

My personal favourite would have to be Karl of Danubia, probably followed by the fictitious Lucien Chanaris. CEH is up there too, by virtue of his, well, not being Wilson.
My favorite is Kaiser Wilhelm II for being the quintessential Kaiser Wilhelm II... ordering railroads built in the middle of the desert, dressing in Navy Uniforms to intimidate the Reichstag, badmouthing the British to get back at his late "Uncle Bertie" and hereby causing a diplomatic row... ah, what a time to be alive.

There has to be a modern American sitcom about the life of Wilhelm II in the running somewhere XD
 
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