Things You Can't Prevent

Frida grimaced seeing a name she didn’t expect on the list of new army recruits.

Grus Kranich.

“Don’t tell me...”

Elster Pickart was a given: becoming a knight had always been her lifelong dream. But Grus, who had lost her family in the war and miraculously survived... loved by everyone, not lacking in friends or pastimes...

Frida couldn’t stop herself from thinking of her and Ioras. The script was different, but she suspected Grus shared the same feelings that also brought her to the battlefield: longing, fear, and, most of all, love. All three terrible feelings to be led by to war.

She’d wanted to be a Royal Guard, when she was younger. Then Ioras came along and their relationship soon became a long distance one: Ioras stationed on the border as a soldier patrolling the Psichelite mines, while Frida waited for her back in Altenwolk, where the wildest thing endangering the crown were the drunkards at the tavern complaining about taxes. But, as war broke out, Frida couldn’t leave Ioras alone. When they came to the Royal Guards, picking candidates to join the front, she’d been the first to volunteer.

As the war had been going for 10 years now, Grus and Elster had no choice but to fight in Minor Astraea a war Frida desperately hoped they’d both steer away from. But Elster was too naive, too hopeful to let go of her childish dream. As for Grus...

She called her to her office, at the palace. She rarely set foot there, lately, as she was too busy leading her troops to death – either theirs, or their enemies. She chose to focus on the girl sitting in front of her now, instead of the usual ghosts.

“Hello, Captain Finken. Is everything alright? I know my application came in late, but...”

Frida rubbed her forehead, trying to find the right words.

“Your application is fine. Or rather, it’s... been sent correctly. What I want to hear from you is why.”


“Yes. Why, Grus? You’ve got plenty of options after school. Plenty of people who would gladly take you in for mentorship. You never liked fighting, so why this?”

“With all due respect, Captain, that’s a personal matter and it shouldn’t be relevant.”

“It’s because of Elster, isn’t it?”

Grus flinched and moved her eyes away from Frida’s, blushing lightly.

“Look, I know you... let’s say, care about her, but she...”

Frida noticed Grus getting redder and redder, fidgeting with her hands under the table.

“...You finally confessed?”

Grus answered in a choked voice: “...She did...”

Now, that was a surprise. She had suspected they’d start dating eventually, – they’d been practically glued together since they were children, and both had eyes for each other they never, ever had for anyone else – but for Elster to take the first step...

Frida let out a giggle that made Grus blush a deeper shade of red.

“Please, Captain... I think I’ve been embarrassed enough...”

The captain let out a cough and recollected herself. There were more pressing matters at hand.

“I highly advise against joining the front because of love. I thought you were smarter than that, Grus.”

“I...! I’m perfectly aware of what I’m doing!”

“Oh, really? This isn’t a stroll in the mountains, Grus! You’re both going to kill people. You should know better than anyone how terrible war is!”

“It’s because I know that I can’t let her go alone!”

Grus had sat up, eyes slightly wet but unfaltering. She reminded Frida of herself, when she was so sure that she could single-handedly protect Ioras from anything that came her way. But she was wrong.

“If... if I think about her going alone...” Grus continued, “You know El as much as I do, she’d get herself killed.”

“Elster is a fine swordswoman. Proper training will only make her better.”

“The army doesn’t need sword masters, it needs soldiers who won’t get crushed by the weight of their ideals. I... I need to be by her side, Captain. If I don’t... if I don’t...”

Grus desperately tried to hold her tears back. Frida had thought she was clueless, chasing her doubts and fears as she did many years before, but Grus was painfully aware. Still, she was so focused on Elster’s fate she didn’t consider hers at all.

She put a gentle hand on Grus’s shoulder, hoping to calm her sobs.

“Sorry, Grus. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“...This is nothing, Captain. Don’t let it bother you.”

They really were a pair of selfless, stupid kids, those two.

“I can’t stop you from joining the army. And I understand your point of view. Heavens, it’s especially because I understand that I called you here.”

Grus nodded, tears now rolling down her cheeks but eyes always set on Frida’s.

“Just promise me one thing. If war does break Elster... please take her home with you. And if you can’t keep up either...”

“I will. I must.”

“You just promise me. If you can’t keep up either, please come to me. I’ve seen you grow up, you’re like family to me. I love you, as I love all the kids at the orphanage. I’ve had enough of losing my family to war.”

Grus paused, then nodded slowly.

“Is that all, Captain?”

“Yes, but...”

She got up from her chair, then moved closer to Grus and handed her a handkerchief. She waited for Grus to blow her nose and wipe away her tears.

Then she hugged her close, gently caressing her hair.

“ might want to get out after calming down, first.”

Grus nodded again, face buried in the older woman’s shoulder. She could bask in her embrace for a little while, still.