“I see you are well,” said Graswald. “And here I thought I could enjoy my last days as a bachelor in silence.”
“And miss the opportunity to nag till your ears bleed?” Aura walked forward and sat next to the seat of her father. “Never.”
“But are you okay?” Graswald asked.
“Wait…” Gerard's eyes switched back and forth between Aura and the spot where she had appeared. “Shouldn't you be in a coma? We didn't receive any reports about your recovery. If you are here, then the ‘you’ in the sickbay must be fake. And you just appeared out of thin air. No, you were here the entire time. Your Fylgja can manipulate what we see. You create illusions.”
“Impressive.” Aura clapped her hands, and her face lightened up in joy as she observed the detective work Gerard had performed. “I've always told you, Gerard, what others say about you, is exaggerated. Though, please keep it a secret. It's better if not too many know about my abilities.”
Gerard turned towards his fellow Captain and grinned like a child. He pointed at himself, bragging that he was a genius. Graswald facepalmed.
If she had to guess, Graswald hoped that the praise would not get into his head, for, as he said, space was limited. But Graswald had to admit that Gerard had reached a sound conclusion.
Graswald's expression changed. His eyes lost focus.
For her, it was easy to read the questions in his mind: But was it just that? Would the princess reveal her Fylgja just like that? When she kept it hidden for so long? That didn’t sound like Aurelia.
“Still, what exactly is going on?” Graswald asked. “Why did you tell us that the princess is well… No.” He shook his head. “Why do you keep it hidden from the other Captains? Do you not trust them?”
“It is as you said.” President Adler put his hand on her shoulder. “Alongside my daughter, you two, as well as Adam Saber, are the only ones we can currently trust.”
“How?” Gerard asked.
“Graswald was responsible for the organization of the peace ceremony. He put both Griffin and Skyfrost into key positions. We don’t know who the traitor is, but it cannot be both. Skyfrost clashed with Griffin’s family, and as a result, my daughter's safe. If you were a traitor, you would have made sure to fill all key positions for the event with traitors.”
Aura and Graswald nodded.
That conclusion made sense as well.
“And you, Captain Donnerschlag. When you destroyed the power plant, you also cut off their best escape route, which forced the attackers to take a detour.”
“Wait, so you managed to catch them?” Gerard scratched his head. “Then, why do you not know who the traitor is?”
“If you had listened during the meeting, you would know these were just mercenaries,” said Graswald. “The important ones still managed to slip through.”
“Regardless, had you been on their side, you wouldn't have destroyed the plant in the first place.”
It was a blessing that they were not the traitors. Otherwise, if the public had found out, there would be chaos. For the young, Donnerschlag was an idol. No boy under 14 hated him. Anything with his face on – from schoolbags to broccoli – sold out within a short time. His popularity among gay men over thirty was impressive as well. Graswald, by contrast, was the dream man of most girls – and some men – from twelve to forty. In the modern era, there was more to a Valkyrie than being ready for battle. The young generation had understood this. If Gerard and Graswald were traitors, the public would feel betrayed and stop trusting the Valkyries. It would be easy for enemies to use the chaos for an invasion.
“And what about Adam Saber?”
“He would be dead. His vow of absolute neutrality makes it impossible for him to side with or against any kingdom.” His gaze switched back to the President. “And what is the reason you told us about the princess' status? Proof, you trust us?”
“Donnerschlag. We want you to follow Skyfrost. Just keep an eye on them. They should trust you, and in case it turns out- “
“I know," said Gerard, his face firm as a stone.
“Graswald, you, on the other hand, shall investigate if the Griffin family is innocent or not. Furthermore, how they had managed to disappear.”
Graswald nodded. “Perhaps Ragna Griffin had activated her Fylgja, and it granted her invisibility. Like mother like daughter, they say. As for Drake, his Fylgja allows him to fly. Once he got to the southern roof, he could escape without issues.”
"Why didn't you mention that earlier?" Gerard asked.
"It's only a hypothesis. I want to be certain before I come to a conclusion."
“Do not take this lightly,” said the Allfather. “Soon, the thousand-year war will erupt from its chrysalis. Midgard or Vaix: Only one will remain, and the other drown in the blood of conflict. No matter how Ragna Griffin's journey will end, she will become the butterfly that unleashes the storm of war. Whether that girl realizes it or not, she will spark the events leading towards the beginning of the end.”
Aura gulped. Had she not used her Fylgja, one would see her tremble and catch a glimpse of the despair that had carved her face. The Allfather exited the room alongside the President, leaving the two Captains and her alone.
The three did not speak a word. Too heavy weighted the prophecy of the Allfather on them. He talked about the future as it was a certainty. Either he wanted to happen, which was ridiculous, or there was nothing he could do to prevent it. The possibility of war had never left the minds of the people. Yet, there was always hope that one could prevail. A hope the words of Allfather Albain had crushed. It may be a year from now or a hundred. But he had cast the dices.
“Do you want that back?” Graswald asked, trying to break free from the suffocating silence, and showed Gerard the book he had taken from him. “Honestly, I’m not sure what was more surprising. That you can read or that you read.”
“You tryin’ to diss me?” Gerard grinned and flexed the muscles of his tree-like arms.
Graswald’s eyes wandered towards the title of the book. “Beyond the dichotomy. Didn’t know you were interested in these topics. In that case, I can recommend this book. It provides a lot of insight.”
“The world is ever-changing.” Gerard raised his pointy finger and inflated his voice as if he recited a speech he once had heard or read. “What once was the norm is today a taboo. And what was once a taboo is today part of the norm. Going with the changing ideals of humanity is our duty. How else can we save a world we do not understand? Still…” Gerard’s voice returned to normal, and he let his head down. “This book is so complicated. I understand that two gender pronouns are not enough, but...”
“For you, it may look ridiculous," said Graswald. "But these pronouns help people. Imagine if the things you took as normal and granted are suddenly not applicable anymore. These people are confused about the world, about who they are, who they want to be. It may sound insignificant, but having at least something that helps you to identify yourself with, in our world, this small identity may be all some may have. In the end, you read this book because you want to understand and provide support, right?”
Gerard nodded. “By the way, sorry if I ever misgendered you.”
“Just because I’m fancy and pretty doesn’t mean I’m a woman,” Graswald grumbled.
Aura laughed and looked at Gerard. Her eyes shone in absolute brightness as if the sun had decided to illuminate her in its spotlight. “Thank you. And I meant what I said earlier about you.”
“Ehm…You are welcome.” Gerard bowed, grabbed his book, and left the room.
Graswald looked at her, his hand going through her hair. “Are you really okay?”
“Please stop asking that so often,” said Aura. “But yes. Gerard told me what I have to do. If I want to save the world, then I have to understand it better. What is going on right now? What is so important about Ragna? Who is pulling which strings behind the curtains?”
“That would be quite difficult since you have to remain hidden.”
Aura flinched. There was a slight in his tone. Even if he understood why they did the ruse, it had to sting that she did not trust her fiancée and had tricked him too. That was not the recipe for a shining marriage.
She shook her head. There were more pressing issues. “What do you think of Ragna?”
“You want to know if I believe she is innocent, right? I do. Someone is using her. But I’ve no idea who.”
Aura tapped with her foot. “I’ve heard you whispering. You mentioned Linde Sieg, is that correct?”
“I did.” Graswald showed no reaction. “But I can assure you that it’s nothing relevant.”
“Oh, really.” She leaned towards Graswald and started to smile. “Then I see no reason not tell me about Ragna’s mother.”
Beyond the dichotomy – A bestseller guide meant to help to think beyond the common heteronormative assumption of gender, sex and sexuality.