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13 November 2006 @ 12:55 pm
Fic - Walpurgisnacht  
Title:  Walpurgisnacht
Author: aemilia_rose  [info]thepinksparkle   Beta: [info]yixsh
Spoilers?: No.
Rating: K+/PG
Warnings: Possible supernatural elements.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Additional Notes: I would like to extend a thank you to my amazing beta and friend yixshwho not only gave extremely helpful criticism for this story, but also urged me to get out and join FMA communities.  To see more of my work, please visit my newly-created fanfiction journal: thepinksparkle

Also posted on  </a></a>fullservicefma
Constructive criticism is highly valued.  <3


It wasn’t the coldest night Alphonse had ever experienced.

Not that he could “experience” cold anymore, to the fullest extent of the word, but he could be aware of it by observing his surroundings. Certainly, right now he did not see scrolling patterns of ice crystallizing on the metal surface of his body as he had many times before - nights in the northern city of Brocken did not have that kind of frigid, breathless cold. Rather, it was a different kind of cold, the kind that moaned with sluggish winds and turned the darkening sky the color of slate. Summer had long since passed, making way for the approach of winter. The trees were black, stark, and bare, their branches as crooked and knobbed as an aged man’s gnarled hands.

Alphonse sat quietly on the stone steps of an abandoned building. This area of town was mostly uninhabited. Old structures loomed over the street, their empty, broken windows gaping like eyes. It was quiet… almost eerie.

The silence was broken by the swelling of a gust of wind that sent flocks of leaves skittering across the ground, and Alphonse buried the sliver of unease that rose up inside him. He was thirteen now – far too old to be scared of being alone at night.

Of course, he would not deny that when he was a child, he was always the fearful one. Alphonse fondly remembered a time when he and his brother had decided to investigate the old house by the river – or rather, his brother had decided. Edward had snuck out (Alphonse in tow) and barged right through the door, noisily challenging any ghosts and spirits to take him on. Al, on the other hand, had clung to the door, barely peeking around the corner, ready to bolt the instant something jumped out of the shadows.

Don’t worry, there aren’t any ghosts, Al,”young Ed had tried to reassure him. “They can’t exist. It’s just a bunch of unscientific nonsense.” Still, it had taken a lot of effort on the older brother’s part to pry Al’s fingers from the doorframe. The only reason Al had gone in the first place was because of the unwavering belief that his big brother would do whatever he could to protect him. Edward always protected him.

Which was exactly why Alphonse was here now, sitting on the steps of an old building and counting off the hours, instead of at Edward’s side.

The mission shouldn’t take very long, let’s just hurry up and get it over with. I’ll go ahead over to the council hall. You wait here Al, until I get back.”

Why, Brother? Why can’t I come with you?”

Mustang warned me that the people here don’t… well, I mean to say that they might get the wrong impression if...” Edward had stopped here to fumble with his words, but Alphonse knew what he meant – the people were touchy and wouldn’t take too kindly too seeing a person arrive in full assault armor. “So just sit tight for now, I’ll be back soon!”

Alphonse couldn’t help but wonder if Mustang had chosen Edward for this mission out of a cruel humorous spite, or perhaps even to try and teach him some manners the hard way. Having known Edward all his life, Al was painfully aware that his brother was quite incapable of controlling his inadvertent flaunting of power. That being said, Al was practically itching to go make sure Ed hadn’t gotten himself into any trouble that was too serious.


Alphonse looked up in surprise. A small, blonde girl stood in front of him, her bright eyes and pink dress contrasting sharply with the drab gray of the surrounding area. The wind tugged at the hem of her skirt, but she did not seem to be affected by the cold. She walked up and tapped his knee.

“Wow,” she breathed, laying her hand flat against the cold metal. “It’s real! That’s awesome!”

Alphonse might have been a bit unnerved by her interest in his armor, but she was only a child, and the wonderment lighting up her expression made him melt inside the same as when he found an adorable, little kitten.

She looked straight at him, eyes sparkling with excitement. “I never thought that I’d see… anyways, my name is Bianca. What’s your name, Mister?”

“Alphonse Elric,” he replied, and then looked at the girl more closely. “But you can call me Al.” She couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old, and yet there was no sign of a family or caretaker anywhere in the street. Apart from himself and girl, it was deserted. “Where are your parents, Bianca?”

She grinned, exposing a charming gap between her two front teeth. “At the temple. They’re too busy giving prayers to the saints. But I wanted to come see Widow Street while I had the chance. Mom and Daddy don’t like when I play here, but I think it’s exciting. You know, Jakob Koepplin says this place is haunted!”

Well, Al thought, amused, if Jakob Koepplin said so, then it had tobe true. Had this child no fear at all that she would go searching for danger and call it a fun pastime?

“You shouldn’t have run off like that, you know,” Al told her sternly, though seeing the various scabs on her scrawny knees and elbows made him think that this wasn’t the first time she’d gone in search of ‘adventure.’ “It’s not safe to be walking around alone at night.”

He face twisted into a pout. “You were out here alone.”

“Yes, but you’re still very young, Bianca.”

“How old are you, Mister Al?”

Al hesitated. “Thirteen.”

“Really? That’s all?” She blinked. “But… you’re so big!”

She jumped back as Al stood up suddenly, extending his huge gloved hand to her and taking her hand gently in his. “Come on, Bianca. Let’s go find your parents.”

“Awwww, but I’m not done exploring yet!” she whined, tugging on his hand as she rocked forward and backwards on the balls of her feet. Al sighed, refusing to look into those big, brown, earnest puppy eyes.

“I told you, it’s not safe for you.”

Suddenly, an idea seemed to strike her. Her mouth dropped open into a wide, beaming smile. “Hey! You’re big and strong, Mister Al! Why don’t you come with me? You can protect me from all the bogeys so it won’t not be safe anymore!”

“I don’t think that’s such a good – ”

Plllleeeeeeaaaaassse?” She whined in a desperate appeal, popping her lower lip out with a pleading expression glowing on her countenance.

“Well…” Al briefly wondered how unfair it was that a little girl could completely bend him to her will. And then he wondered why he even bothered to wonder anymore. “I suppose we could make a deal. I’ll come with you for a little while, but then you have to promise to go find your parents. Okay?”


As soon as the words left her mouth and Bianca was frantically tugging on his arm, pulling him along. “Come on Mister Al! Let’s go!”

Al stumbled along after her as she skipped down the stone sidewalks. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll see!” She sing-songed without turning around, but Al could see the sides of her pudgy cheeks lift up in a smile.

The night was impossibly quiet. Even Bianca’s light, pattering footsteps seemed loud; Al’s cumbersome gait was a raucous clatter that could have woken the whole neighborhood, had it been occupied. It was getting later, the night being swallowed in ever darkening black curtains. It seemed darker than it was because of the gauzy haze of clouds that veiled the stars, but they were thin enough to let a sickly, yellow semblance of the moon’s light shine through.

Eventually, they reached the point where Widow Street intersected another larger road. This area of town was far cleaner and less run-down, but strangely enough, it was just as empty. Evidence in the form of flowerpots and welcome mats by doors showed it to be recently inhabited, but there was nobody to be seen now.

Alphonse looked down at Bianca, who was still holding tight to his hand (which forced him to bend over at a slightly ungainly angle), but who also led him gaily onwards as if there was nothing at all unusual or scary. “Where is everyone?”

“At the temple, like my Mom and Daddy,” she answered promptly, but seemed a bit put off that he didn’t already know that, and offered no further explanation.

Suddenly, Bianca turned a sharp right, walking right up to a small gray house. It stood cold and silent and dark, but she was not perturbed. Mounting the two front steps, she fished under the bristly welcome mat and pulled out a key.

Al followed her tentatively. “Is this your house?”

“Of course, silly,” she giggled as she inserted the key and turned it. “Wait out here for a minute! I’ll be back soon!” She tugged open the heavy door and disappeared behind it.

And thus Alphonse was told to wait in solitude for the second time in a single night.

He was alone just long enough to start rethinking this absurd adventure with a girl years younger than himself (what if Ed came back early and couldn’t find him?) when Bianca peeked her blonde head out and smiled at him. When she ambled outside, tucking the key back under the mat and shutting the door, Al noticed that she had a small bag with her.

“What do you have there?” he asked curiously.

“Some biscuits and honey rolls for later,” she supplied, dismounting the steps and reaching out to take his gauntlet again. “Come on, we have to hurry!”

An uncomfortable feeling coiled inside of Al as he saw Bianca swing that bag of food carelessly as she walked. He thought about telling her not to worry about bringing the food, that he wasn’t hungry, that she didn’t need to…

But no, he thought resignedly, watching her skipping cheerily ahead of him, I suppose I can humor her this one time. She’s only a kid.

Though Alphonse asked her where she was planning on going again, Bianca told him that it was a surprise and she that had no intentions of spoiling it for him. However, it soon became clear that wherever it was she was leading him, it was not near the heart of the city. And as she took him farther from the nicer neighborhoods, through a labyrinth of thin, winding streets that petered out as the buildings became farther and farther apart, Alphonse began to wonder if their destination was inside Brocken at all. He was struck by the worrisome mental picture of his brother returning to an empty street corner…

At some point along the trek, Alphonse had been unpleasantly surprised by a cat, of all things. The feline had pitch back fur that allowed it to blend within the darkness like a shadow until the pair stumbled upon it and frightened it. This creature was not like the little furry kittens that he usually rescued (or collected by the millions, as his brother would complain), but rather, it was a fierce, mean-spirited thing that had coiled up and hissed, black hair standing stiffly on edge like razors across its arched back.

In the past, Al had always scoffed at the stories that said black cats were wicked evil things, had always been convinced that any kitty was an adorable, cuddly companion. He was thinking about revising his opinion.

He must have taken a few involuntary steps away from the creature, because Bianca laughed teasingly at him. “Don’t be afraid, Mister Al. It’s only a little kitten.”

Don’t worry, Al, it’s only a spider.

It’s only a thunderstorm, go back to sleep.

Al, it’s just your sweater under the bed. It’s not a monster.

It’s just a little more difficult than all the alchemy we’ve done in the past. Don’t be afraid Al, we’ll get it right and then –

It was curious how society painted young children as the most fearful, but that they were sometimes, in some ways, braver than most adults he knew. Perhaps they had not yet been jaded through hurt and disappointment… or maybe they were just too naïve and innocent to understand what they needed to fear.

Either way, as Alphonse watched the little girl march bravely on ahead with that unbridled, reckless confidence of youth, he couldn’t help but be reminded of a certain other young person who emanated the same sort of confidence. It made him feel both a sense of affection and pity, and the duality of those feelings puzzled him.

Of course, who was Alphonse to muse on the thoughts and nature of little children? He was little more than a child himself.

“We’re almost there,” Bianca said suddenly, breaking off Al’s train of thought. He looked around to take note of their surroundings.

They had long since passed the outskirts of town and were now scaling a gradual ascent of one of the many hills that encircled the city. The slope, though not steep, was difficult enough for Bianca’s short, skinny legs and before long, her breaths turned to pants and she pressed the palms of her hands into her knees with each step. Briefly, Al considered scooping her up and carrying her on his shoulders, but for some reason he hesitated. He got the impression that Bianca would not appreciate the help, and would rather brave the distance on her own two feet.

The brown, dead grass crunched under their feet as they reached the summit. The ground leveled out before them, and the abrupt cessation of climbing gave Al a momentary feeling of weightlessness, which was a very strange feeling for him indeed. He was unused to such sensations; even though weight was one of the few things he was able to the judge since he was in the armor, this light feeling was not something familiar to his heavy metal frame. If Al hadn’t known any better, he would have said he felt lightheaded. But surely that was impossible.

“We’re here,” said Bianca, excitement welling in her voice like the bubbling of a spring.

The hilltop was roughly circular, the edges falling off into a thick, smoky darkness that made it seem like an island in the middle of the night, save for the faint twinkling lights of the city off to the side. It was silent aside from the occasional breathy whine of wind.

“What – ” Al was about to ask what was so special about this location, when he spied what lay on the ground in the dead center of the hilltop.

It was a circle.

Not a transmutation circle, he had to remind himself in spite of the fact that every round shape reminded him of such. It was a ring of stones encompassing a small concave pit in the middle. Al walked over and knelt beside the strange formation to get a better look. The stones were smooth on the inward curve and stained with chalky black splotches. When he placed a hand inside the pit, little puffs of ash floated heavily into the air like dust blown off an ancient tome.

“Do they have bonfires here?”

Bianca nodded. “To keep the witches away. The old women tell stories about how the witches come once a year, so we light special fires to scare them off. Isn’t that cool?”

Alphonse shook his head in disbelief. “And you actually believe those stories?”

“I do, but not everyone does,” her face visibly fell, eyes opening wider in disappointment. “You don’t believe them either?”

“Sorry Bianca, but there’s just no basis for myths like that. Witches don’t exist, the same way monsters and ghosts don’t exist. They are just fantastical creatures.”

Bianca’s face hardened with resolve. She pranced over to the circle and sat down in front it, tucking her legs under the fold of her pink skirt. Looking back at him, she patted the ground beside her. “Come wait with me, Mister Al. When the witches come, you’ll see that they’re real.”

Alphonse complied, though he suddenly felt wary. “I thought you said they only came once a year? And the bonfires are lit then?” Why should he feel this tingling of uneasiness? It shouldn’t matter. The witches weren’t real, of course.

“Well,” she tilted her head, “The bonfires should be lit. But the town elders decided to think as you do, Mister Al. So they didn’t light the fires this year.”

The pieces were coming together. “And the day the witches come…” Al spoke tentatively, “…is today, isn’t it?”

A grin broke out over Bianca’s face. “Yep!”

About an hour or so later, Alphonse finally felt the grips of fear begin to release their hold on him. He would have liked to boast that he was not afraid at all at any point that night, but the truth was that he had been jumping at every little cricket chirp. To make matters worse, Bianca did not exhibit the slightest trepidation at all. She embarked on a long string of disjointed stories and ramblings, which Alphonse only half listened to. However, to his absolute horror, he discovered that he was drawing comfort from her presence and the gentle hum of her babbling voice. Who was supposed to be protecting who here?

He could hear his brother now…

Al, you’re such a scaredy cat.

And he shouldn’t be afraid, because witches didn’t exist. He knew they didn’t exist, because his brother had told him so when he was seven years old. Ed had explained the rationale behind their inability to exist, and it had all made perfect sense back then in the daylight with a stubborn Edward there to make it true if it wasn’t already.

But that rationale fell to pieces out here in the pitch dark with his brother nowhere in sight. Alphonse was supposed to be the strong one now, but despite his fearsome appearance, he suddenly found he had less courage than the six year old girl who sat fearlessly beside him, who had wandered on from the witch stories and was now spinning tales of adventurous expeditions to the river to capture frogs.

After all he’d seen, one would think he would have more guts than this.

“Did you ever play pirates and commanders when you were little, Mister Al?”

“Huh?” Al jerked out of his reverie to meet a pair of earnest eyes looking him square in the face. “What?”

Bianca tossed her head and put her little hands on her hips. “I said, did you ever play pirates and commanders when you were little?”

“Oh,” Al took a moment to recompose himself. “No, I don’t think so. At least not by that name. My brother and I did play a lot of those types of games when we were children.”

Something about that last sentence made him feel inexplicably sad. It wasn’t the first time he had felt such a sense of loss when describing himself and his brother as adults. He and Ed both knew they no longer held any claims to childhood… but that didn’t mean they weren’t still young. What made them think they needed to abandon everything that was glorious in youth?

She looked at him imploringly. “You get along with your brother?”

“Yes,” Al answered without hesitation. “He is the only family I have left.” A slim hand set down on his gauntlet, and to his surprise he saw Bianca’s face melt into sympathy. The lighthearted mood she had created before was evaporating into the night, and suddenly the shadows seemed to loom in closer as if trying to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“I cared for my big sister a lot too.” Bianca said quietly. “She and I used to play pirates and commanders all the time.” The note of grief in her voice caught Al’s attention.

Then her use of past tense hit him.


Suddenly he found the bag of dinner rolls thrust into his lap. Before he could react, Bianca was standing in front of him, head bowed, hands clenched into fists and trembling.

“Please, Mister Al,” she whimpered. “I know it’s not a lot, but can you make one little prayer? For me?”

Al’s head was spinning. “What?”

Bianca lifted her head. “Just one little prayer?” There were tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.

This was all happening too fast for Al to begin to comprehend any of it. “I don’t understand…” he said helplessly. “A prayer?”

“That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Why else would a stranger come into town dressed so wierd? You’ve come in honor of the holiday, to give prayers to the dead and help them cross over to the other side. I know you usually get better gifts than what I have… but please, Mister Al! Please be kind! Just one little prayer.”

By this time she was weeping violently, shoulders wracked with tremors every time a sob ripped through her body. Al had the sudden impulse to reach out and console her, to hold her close and offer comfort, but he forced himself to resist. The armor would be anything but comforting.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, something had gotten mixed up. Alphonse gradually realized that Bianca had been leading up to this moment the entire evening. This was the entire reason she’d attached herself to him and dragged him all over creation. She had her goal, and the rest of it had all just been an elaborate act. Something inside him shattered at the idea of such a young girl being so manipulative.

But, thinking of all she said her big sister meant to her, he could hardly blame her.

He gathered his courage to speak.

“Bianca,” he began softly, “I know that this means a lot to you, and if I could help, I would,” Al paused, heartbroken, as he saw her flinching at his words. It absolutely tore at him to rip this girl’s happiness to shreds. “I’m sorry but… but I’m not here to do what you ask.”

“But…” she hiccupped through the tears, “If you’re not here to give prayers…”

“I’m here with my brother,” he explained, “He was sent here by his commanding officer.”

“It’s not fair!” She wailed, furiously wiping at her streaming eyes. “You can still be with your brother! You don’t know what it’s like...”

“I’m really sorry – ”

“No! You don’t understand,” she burst out, besetting him with a fierce gaze that made up with sincerity what it lacked in animosity. “You don’t know how I’m hurting. Couldn’t you just try to make a prayer?”

“I don’t think I – ”

“Haven’t you ever wished you could make death a safer journey for someone?”

Al’s next reply choked him before he could utter it.

Make death a safer journey?

They’d wanted more than that – they’d wanted to cheat death, make it something they could conquer. But instead, it had conquered them. All they’d received for their efforts was pain… and the knowledge of their miserable failure. They weren’t strong enough to save her. And then they kept trying to heap the blame and guilt on themselves instead of facing reality. Somehow, it was easier that way.

But he could never forget waking up in this cold, hollow body, seeing his brother moaning and shivering, lying in pools of blood – so much blood! And her… not her… that thing they created… a being not aware of the life that drained out of it with every convulsed, wheezed breath… an amorphous mass of bone and rotting tissue, atrophied limbs flailing and twitching, digestive fluids bubbling out from exposed entrails to devour their own gruesome malformed body…

Make death a safer journey?

No… not at all.

Bianca’s tears, though quieter, were still coming in wet streams down her cheeks. Sometime in the past several minutes, the moon had been overshadowed by a cloud, making it much harder to see. Through the veil of murky gloom, the little girl’s face was thin, pale, and far, far too sad.

“Bianca…” Al tried again, “If I could help your sister, I would.”

She blinked slowly. “My sister?”

He lowered his head . “Yes, I know you want her to have a safe journey. I’m sorry I can’t help you with that.”

After a brief pause, she let out a bitter laugh. “Stop being silly! My sister isn’t the one who needs the prayers!”

He froze. “But…”


The voice came from behind him, loud and sudden in the chill quiet. Startled, Al jumped to his feet and spun around to meet whatever it was that had snuck up on him, be it witch or otherwise… and how did it know his name?

But there wasn’t a witch anywhere in sight. There was only Edward, stepping up onto the crest of the hilltop with his suitcase slung over his shoulder and the cold night mists licking at the hem of his jacket.

“Brother! It’s you!”

“Of course it’s me! What are you doing up here?” Ed demanded, his burning eyes not quite concealing the concern that brewed beneath. “I thought I told you to stay put.”

“I’m sorry, Brother.”

Ed sighed. “You ready to go then?”

“Okay, but let me take Bianca home first.” Al turned to fetch Bianca’s hand once again so they could be on their way…

But she was nowhere to be seen.

Al felt fear rise up inside of him. Where had she gone? She wasn’t in trouble, was she? “Bianca!?” He scanned the area quickly, searching for any sign of the little girl, but any clue he might have seen was lost to the smoky obscurity of darkness.

“Bianca?” Ed asked. “Who’s Bianca?”

“She’s the little girl I was sitting with a few seconds ago. She was wandering alone all by herself, and I need to take her back to her parents… but now she’s run off! Bianca!?”


He looked down to see Ed eyeing him worriedly. “What’s wrong, Brother?”

“Don’t be stupid, Al. You were alone when I got here.”

“But that’s impossible! She was right here!” Al’s outburst trailed off. She had just been here. She couldn’t have gotten far… she must have just decided to go back to her parents on her own. That was it. Al floundered to provide rationale to the situation. Or maybe she was frightened of Ed for some reason and ran off when he showed up. That would explain why he didn’t see her

“Al? You okay?” Ed’s eyebrows were drawn together in concern

Either way, it didn’t matter. She was probably halfway back to her home by now.

After a long pause, Al nodded hesitantly. “Yeah. I think so.”

But why would she be afraid of Ed when she was so fearless of everything else?

“Okay, let’s get going,” Edward said, spinning on his heel, “I don’t want to stay in this town any longer than we have to. It gives me the creeps.” He took off down the hill, muttering something about ‘religious nutjobs.’

Al watched his brother walk away, cutting a bright silhouette in the darkness surrounding him, his red jacket snapping in the brisk wind. Ed’s entire stance radiated confidence and security, and Al found himself latching onto it much as he always had. Not because it made sense, necessarily, but because he knew his brother would take care of him. Always.

The night didn’t seem so scary anymore.

Something nagged at the corner of Al’s mind, something that demanded he pay attention and think things through. But he paid it no mind. He had an inkling of what it was… but it was impossible, surely. It had to be impossible, and there was no sense in worrying himself over possibilities and superstitions.

Even so, he couldn't help but momentarily lift his gaze to the sky to offer a small, silent prayer.

“Al? Are you coming?”

Bianca will be fine.

Al got up and followed his brother down the hill, silently drawing strength from Ed’s steady footsteps and the way he carried himself with the strong, invincibility of youth as if nothing in the world could hurt him. He pushed aside the wonderings that would have filled his heart with misgivings and panic. He and his brother didn’t need to worry about those sorts of things right now.

After all, we are still just children.

At least for a little while longer.

Historical notes and disclaimer: All the information presented here has been gathered from amateur research. I apologize if my facts are wrong.

The holiday presented in this story is a conglomeration of aspects from several real world holidays. No single cultural holiday is the center of the fic. Rather, it is more an odd mixture of all of them together in order to form a believable, but new holiday for use in the FMA universe.

Many of the practices presented in this fic are reminiscent of the November 2nd Catholic holiday of Allerseelen, or All Souls’ Day, where the people attend feasts and church services and attempt - through prayer - to help certain departed souls become liberated from Purgatory. Catholics celebrate the entire period between October 30 and November 8 as Seleenwoche or Alls Souls' Week.

The name of the town in presented in the story (Brocken) is actually the name of a location in Germany near the Harz mountain region that often plays the role of being associated with witches and demons in legends. The tradition of lighting fires (“Maifeuer,” or “May Fires”) to ward away witches was common on the German May 1st holiday of the Witches’ Sabbath: Walpurgisnacht.

The purpose Bianca thought Al had in Brocken is similar to the European custom of “souling,” in which wandering beggars, in return for food, would offer prayers to help the deceased reach heaven. However, the actual custom did not involve dressing up or costumes – that aspect is purely an invention of modern Halloween.

yixshyixsh on November 14th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC)
Imagine my surprise when I log on and see that you posted in a comm! X333 I'm so proud of you.

Anyway, love this story, forever and ever. But you know that. X3
~isproud~ YYaaaayyyYAYyayay! ~runs off to glow with pride elsewhere~
PS - Alchemic Kitty Farm! :D!!!
aemilia_roseaemilia_rose on November 15th, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
Alchemic Kitty Farm! XD

You silly, silly goose! Just reading this response makes me smile. :-P
Chloe-girl: Ishida innocencegrass_angel on November 14th, 2006 10:01 am (UTC)
Oooohh interesting AND pretty.
aemilia_roseaemilia_rose on November 15th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D