A note from Selkie

Regularly schedule chapter. Last catch-up chapter in like, 12 hours.


Or think of this as a catch-up chapter, and today's catch-up later. Whatever floats your boat.

After some time passed – Artemis finally managed to talk me into playing knucklebones with her, but her stat advantage made it frankly unfair – I got a polite “knocking” on my shield. I lowered the shield, and the rest of the team hurried in.

“Shield up.” Julius ordered, and I quickly complied, wrapping the entirety of the interior of the Argo in [Veil].

“You know, I could get used to this. Never have to worry about eavesdroppers again.” Julius remarked.

“Do we get a lot of those?”

“Usually harmless. Kids that want to listen in on the big bad Rangers.” Arthur said. “Also, Origen’s written soundproofing inscriptions all over the place, which work well enough for the purpose.”

“Right. Here’s the situation. There are a number of healers working in the town, and they form a bit of an enclave, so to speak. They’re not all working together, exactly, but they meet up frequently enough, about once a week. There’s another meeting tomorrow, and they’re eager to meet you Elaine. We’re going to hold still for now, until you get a better idea of what we’re looking at, what we need to find. Elaine, that’ll be on you. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong, of sending us in the wrong direction.”

“For evenings, we’re all staying in the Argo, doors barred. It’s getting ugly out there, and I wouldn’t put it past this town to break into a riot – disease, starvation, and the pressure of the 3rd breathing down their neck, knowing they’re close to all being exterminated, does not make for a reasonable population. On the downside, we’re clearly Army, in the middle of town, accessible, and with a wagon full of food. On the upside, Elaine’s going to be buying us a ton of goodwill, and we’ll be making it clear that we’re in the same boat as all of them. Artemis also has intimidating firepower should it come to that.”

I imagined Artemis with the Argo’s mana reserves vs an angry mob. I didn’t see Artemis winning – but I didn’t see most of the mob survive either. Waves of sharp cobblestone as buckshot into an unarmored crowd? Yikes.

“Time for new standing orders while we’re in town. Kallisto. You’re going to be celibate.”

“You can’t –“ Kallisto started to protest.

“I absolutely can. We’re basically in a warzone. Arthur. One mug an evening. Bardic activities to daytime only.”

Arthur saluted.

“Artemis. I think this goes without saying, but no baths. I don’t even think they’re functioning.”

Artemis muttered darkly to herself, then glanced at me with a gleam in her eye. I could guess what she was thinking. Sea water + earthen tub + healy bug’s flames. I looked at her, and shook my head. I wasn’t going to have a drop of spare mana. Or a single spare second.

“Origen. Self-tattoos only. This will be a great victory, worthy of that space between your shoulders you’ve been saving. Delay friend, it’ll be worth it.”

Origen slowly nodded his assent.

“Elaine. Feel free to try and heal anyone you come across. Everyone else – feel free to stop Elaine forcefully. The last thing we need is for people to think we’re torturing the local friendly healer, which is what it looks and sounds like when Elaine loses an [Oath] level. Elaine, any problems with that?”

I thought about it, then shook my head. “It should work.”

“Good. Every evening when we’re back here, I want you to heal everyone, just in case. I don’t want the plague to take anyone out. I also doubt anyone will have free time to do as they please.”

I chimed in. “It’ll also be easier to heal everyone daily. It’d take, for example, one mana to heal you early on, but like 90-100 mana to heal you later. I don’t have the exact numbers – I’ve done no work on this so far – but that’s the idea. No matter how we look at it, constant, low-level prevention is easier than trying to handle it later.”

“As for moving around,” Julius continued. “We’re going to be broadly moving in two groups. One’s the Healing group. The other’s the investigation or extermination group. Elaine anchors Healing, I’ll anchor Investigation. We need a big signal in each group, which mean Arthur and Artemis. For obvious reasons, I’m sticking Artemis in Healing, which means Arthur’s with me. Origen, you have some extra healing utility, so you’re with Healing. Maximus, Kallisto, you’re with Investigations, because you’re good at it, and if there’s a problem, it’s more likely to be with Investigations than anything else. We’re going to wait and see what the healers have to say about the plague before we start digging into possible causes tomorrow – I honestly don’t know where to start with this sort of thing, so we might as well consult the experts first. Questions?”

“Food.” Kallisto asked. “We just came off a long leg, and while we ate a lot of game and foraged a bunch, we’re not exactly in tip-top shape.”

Julius nodded.

“I’ll make sure to stock up what and when I can. If it’s obvious we’re hoarding food, or buying food and not eating it, we’ll be a target again. Artemis, hold off on practicing. Elaine, hold off on fire practice. Naturally, if someone’s coming at you, blow them to pieces. Heal people that need it. Any other questions?” Julius asked.

There was a pause as we looked around, a slow shake of the head from Origen. Another shake, and we were all shaking our heads.

“Right. Well, we’re all here for the evening, and since we can’t roam the streets, and there’s no watch to be had – who’s turn is it for a story from Elaine?” Julius asked.

Arthur raised his hand with a grin, and everyone groaned as they knew what was coming. The Iliad.

I didn’t even bother asking. I sighed, then put on my best “singing face”, and went to town.

Rage! Sing Goddess, Achilles’ rage,…..”

We woke up the next morning, and I promptly wrapped myself and Artemis in a little bubble of [Veil]. We did our morning routine, then waited. We were moving the Argo to our new base of operation, near all of the other healers, at the grand temple of the town.

I went over what I wanted to say one more time. I’d practiced this. I’d rehearsed it. I was ready.

Clever that, having all of the healers in one spot. Made for an easy place to find healing, and healers could support each other. It was also easier for what remained of the guard to stand watch, be vigilant. This plague only ended in one of three ways – it burned itself out, the healers stamped it out, or the 3rd legion burned it out. By killing everyone and everything here. Nobody wanted that, and everyone who traveled here knew the risks. The people who lived in the town, the victims of the plague though - they never had a chance to evaluate the risks.

Getting inside was tricky, but the Rangers pulled it off, somehow getting me into the temple where the other healers were meeting without [Oath] causing problems. There was only one person to heal, someone sick and lying down in the alley. A quick touch, a quick [Phases of the Moon], a ton of mana, and I was all set.

I hesitated at the doorway. Not because I was about to meet a dozen other powerful healers. Not because I was worried about them judging me, or dismissing me, or not wanting to hear what I had to say. Not because I was concerned about the inevitable dismissals and sexism.

No, the doorway was on fire. Specifically, a sheet of well-contained black flames filled the doorway, replacing it as a door.

“I know that’s Pyronox.” I said, eyeing it uneasily. “I’m just having a hard time talking myself into walking through it.” Memories of the last burning building I’d been in flashed through my mind, remembering how terribly scarred I’d been from it. Heck, if I hadn’t gotten [Detailed Restoration] then, who knows what my fate would be right now. Much worse, in all likelihood.

Normal flames would be better than this Pyronox. I could seize them, control them, make them bend to my will. Pyronox, for all it acted like flames, wasn't fire, wasn't something I could manipulate with my [Fire Manipulation].

Artemis rolled her eyes, then picked me up, slung me over a shoulder, and started to walk me through the door.

“Wait! Wait! I’ll walk!” I said, not wanting my grand entrance to be slung over someone’s shoulder. Artemis put me down, and I walked through quickly, not wanting to give her another chance to throw me through.

The Pyronox tickled, and was pleasantly warm. Not at all like I’d feared.

The rest of the Ranger squad followed through, as we looked at the large room we were in.

It had clearly been one of the important rooms in the temple – and very well could still be one of the important rooms, just lent out for our meeting – filled with mostly men, wandering around, chatting in small groups.

We were all dressed to the nines. Full armor, minus the helmet, but capes – a brilliant red, untouched, unstained by the dirt and muck of the road, designed to impress and do not much else, they were horribly impractical – and our badges, prominently displayed.

A minor susurration went through the crowd – the Army wasn’t particularly well-liked, and at first glance, the Rangers looked like the hard fist coming down.

Or that they were trying to intervene, take some measure of control. Also not desired, not wanted. Us dressing to the nines did give off some of that impression.

I looked around the room, as they looked at us. The colors were mostly muted, undyed cloth. We were on the opposite end of the Republic from where Aquiliea, and the dye industry, were, and showing off wealth right now was probably a poor life choice for healers. “Look at me, I’m rich and charging you money as you’re poor and starving.” Didn’t matter if you were saving someone’s life, that just left a sour taste in people’s mouth.

First was a strange person, wrapped in fine bamboo, head to toe. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman under all of that, and they were carrying a medium sized harp – anything larger wouldn’t be portable. This was possibly the same person we’d heard yesterday. Mummy-Bard, I mentally dubbed them.

A tattered-looking man was next, who looked to be in his early 20’s, in animated conversation with a second, bored-looking man. The second man was going grey at his temples, powerfully built, with a half-dozen younger men behind him. Interestingly, the tattered-looking man seemed to be roughly the equal of the older man, while the gaggle of younger men stood by, quietly drinking in their conversation. I mentally dubbed them Tattered-Man, Templar (because he looked like he’d be one in another time, another era.), and I lumped the young men behind him as The Apprentices.

A wiry, bare-chested man was eating food, not talking with anyone. Scars crisscrossed his chest and back, in such a pattern that it was clear that he’d been whipped in the past – many times. And his brazen display seemed to want to rub it in everyone else’s face, that he was here in spite of all of that.

That, or he was hot. We were in one of the hottest climates in Remus, during the early spring. I needed to invent air conditioning as soon as possible. Damn you Papilion, if you’re going to rip away the knowledge of how air conditioning worked, why couldn’t you also remove my knowledge of air conditioning? This was not love. It was not sweeter to have loved and lost, than to have never known love. This was just torture.

I mentally dubbed him “Whipping Man”. I was sure I’d get his name sooner or later.

Another strange fellow was a short, portly man, wearing a bag tied over his head. He had a pair of body-guard looking fellows following him, and a nervous-looking kid following him around, head on a swivel. With my amazing naming sense – really, they should be paying me – I named him Sack-Head.

There were more people milling about. I spotted a few women here and there, supporting each other. They must be like mom – moderately strong healers, with no real education on the matter, who were rising to the occasion, to heal their sister, their husband, their kid. Their fellow townspeople.

Amazing how suddenly women were valued in a pinch, and were suddenly, seemingly, a vital resource when push came to shove. Maybe some norms would be changed as a result. I could only hope.

A few of the people milling about looked to be more of the trained fighter type than healers. Sure, some healers were clearly fit, clearly worked out regularly – Templar sprang to mind as an example – but they didn’t have that fierce look I’d come to associate with guards, Rangers, and soldiers.

With the way they followed some of the healers around, and the way they were eyeing each other up, it made me think they were bodyguards. Probably not needed here, but who wanted to take the risk? Plus, it was possibly more relaxing to be in here, than out there, with angry people, not knowing what was happening to the person you were supposed to protect.

Or I was being horribly naïve, and there was a dark undercurrent between the healers.

Would be pretty stupid to try and kill someone here though – it’d be like shooting someone in a hospital, except all of the doctors are magically empowered.

Templar broke off his conversation with Tattered Man, and they both walked over to us. A couple more people broke off their conversations, and headed over to us, including, I noticed approvingly, one of the women.

Six healers stood in a semi-circle in front of us. Tattered Man, Templar, the woman, Sack-Head, and two other men. I assumed that this was the de-facto leadership bunch of the healers. Whipping Man, I noticed, wasn’t too far behind them, listening in, but clearly deferring. The apprentices were doing the same, but shooting glares at Whipping Man. No love seemed to be lost there. Sack-Head’s apprentice seemed unsure of himself, eyes constantly darting around.

Templar crossed his arms in front of his chest. Tattered Man kept glancing back and forth between different members there. Woman Leader stared at us fixedly.

“What can we healers do for the Rangers?” Templar asked, breaking the slightly awkward silence.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 6680/6680]

[Mana Regen: 6111]


[Free Stats: 174]

[Strength: 43]

[Dexterity: 79]

[Vitality: 65]

[Speed: 80]

[Mana: 668]

[Mana Regeneration: 1100]

[Magic Power: 626]

[Magic Control: 1121]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 144]]

[Celestial Affinity: 144]

[Warmth of the Sun: 117]

[Medicine: 124]

[Center of the Galaxy: 126]

[Phases of the Moon: 104]

[Eyes of the Milky Way: 94]

[Veil of the Aurora: 110]

[Vastness of the Stars: 127]

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 39]]

[Fire Affinity: 39]

[Fire Resistance: 39]

[Fire Conjuration: 39]

[Fire Manipulation: 39]

[Fuel for the Fire: 31]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 80]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 79]

[Pretty: 101]

[Vigilant: 110]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 111]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 119]


A note from Selkie

Elaine's not the only person trying to cure the plague! Other healers! A half-dozen different variations on how to heal!

Pyronox has been mentioned a few times, and debutes here. Fire and Darkness both have a concept of "cleansing" associated with them secondarily/tertiarily - removed everything, leave a blank slate behind to build off of. Pyronox (For the life of me, I couldn't come up with a previous-established word for "dark flames") combines those two concepts together, for a dark, purifying flame. We saw it with Elaine being offered a [Purificantress] class, dedicated to cleansing and purifying. Well, clearly someone here took a similar class, and took it to the nines.

Pyronox can also be an extremely descructive element, since Dark and Fire both have destruction primary. Think cursed flames. 

Yikes I'm tired. And rambling. 

A cast of characters for the arc!

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