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A note from Selkie

What is sleep? Who knows anymore!

Enjoy!

 

My eyes went wide, like a mango cut in half, and my mouth opened. “You’re a girl!” I said, pointing accusingly.

She laughed, a high, tinkling laugh, like the chime of a bell. “Yes, but stop pointing, or your fellow Ranger will think there’s something wrong. One of my skills stops sound from escaping, but if you look too agitated, he might come in anyways.”

“What’s with the…” I gestured broadly.

I couldn’t see her face, but living with Origen had given me a mastery over reading body language. Her subtle shifts indicated annoyance, but a restrained annoyance, trying to not let me see it.

That, or it was the thick layers of cloth she was wrapped in. That must be so hot in this climate! Whipping-man, the bare-chested Decay Mage was closer to my idea of the right way to dress here, not layers upon layers of clothing.

“Not all of us can be a Ranger, with a bunch of Classers as an escort, the fabled name of a Ranger behind them. Almost nobody here knows I’m a woman, and honestly, I’d like to keep it that way. You know why.” She said, with a hint of bitterness in her voice.

Sadly, I did. I only had a few years of the nasty flavor of sexism that Remus had, and I was sick and tired and furious at it from the first day, and while Glacia probably had decades of this nonsense. No wonder she found a way to continue working without a constant stream of belittling, nagging, and general put-downs – I approved!

“How do you talk with people that need help?” I asked, remembering her healer tag.

“Like this.” She said, with a distinctly masculine voice. [Galaxy] stopped me from jumping, but it was startling. “I also don’t do that much talking with people, it’s tricky and difficult. What I do doesn’t need much face-to-face interaction with people.”

“What do you do?” I asked. I had some idea – the harp and the music as we came into town made it kind of obvious – but I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

“Well, I’m a Sound healer. I play music, and depending on what I play, I get to generate a variety of effects.” She started.

“Wait, so they’re not all skills?”

Mummy-bard shook her head, a great rustling of cloths rubbing together.

“No, I have three skills working together, and I can make almost any effect I’d like. Usually healing.”

“That’s so cool! Can you teach me how to play?” I asked, quite honestly feeling like I was getting side-tracked, but not caring too much.

“Not now. There’s no time.” Glacia got me back on-track.

“How do you get paid if you’re doing a town-wide broadcast? How fast do you level up?” I asked.

I got a sense that I’d be getting a Look if I could see her. Instead, Glacia took a teaching, mentoring tone with me that I appreciated.

“Getting paid is hard – I run a weekly collection, and try to get enough to get by. Tough with the food prices, and so many people see me as not needed, so they don’t pay. It was workable before the 3rd closed the town off – I miscalculated how much people would stop paying me. It’s making it rough.”

“But enough about me! Tell me all about yourself! A woman healer, a full Ranger, and at such a young age! I’m so jealous, you’ve made it, and openly as well! I simply need to know everything!”

I hesitated. We were keeping our cards close to our chest for a reason, but Glacia should be safe to share it with, right? Another woman healer, someone who could understand the struggles I went through? Artemis was fine and all to chat with, but in some senses we lived in two different worlds, were two different sides of a coin – she killed, I saved.

In the end, I remembered Kallisto, and the brutal anti-charm training that Julius made Kallisto give me as part of his apology for talking me into making a bad decision. “People with high charm, or other social skills can read you, know more about you than you can guess. Only some of it is skill related. Other parts are just pure experience on their part. When in doubt, stick to your rules. They exist for a reason.”

This suddenly felt like I was being drawn in, like I was slowly being persuaded to give up information. Sticking to my guns. Sticking to the story.

“Sure! Let me tell you all I can. I’m Elaine. I’m a Celestial healer, from a merger of Light and Dark healer classes. I’m quite a bit older than I look – mostly due to that Divine nonsense with the goddess interfering with my life – and that same Divine nonsense dumped a bunch of medical knowledge into my head. Basics on how the body works, blood and bones, fingers and toes, and the like. I’m a relatively new Ranger, but it’s been wonderful working with them so far. Nice to meet you!”

Practiced. Rehearsed. Gave nothing away that wasn’t immediately obvious, painted enough of a picture to make additional questions and inquiries socially awkward for anyone trying, neatly deflecting them. Was all, technically, the truth – a part I’d insisted on.

Kallisto had spent a good amount of time crafting it for me, and lecturing me on the aspects and benefits of it. There were a lot more parts to it – ‘social obligation’ among other terms – but at a point, it just all went over my head. I might’ve gotten it if I wasn’t so allergic to social things.

“Oh, ok.” Glacia said, sounding somewhat hurt.

We chatted a bit more, the tone decidedly less nice – Glacia still sounded hurt, and I didn’t blame her, I was feeling bad as well, then the conversation naturally ended.

“Hey, do me a favor?” She asked me.

“Sure!” I said, still feeling bad.

“Could you not tell other people I’m a woman? Life’s hard enough as-is.”

“I totally get it.” I said.

We split up, and Julius and I continued rounding the room, talking to everyone. There were only about 20, 30 healers in total, and from the sound of it, from us talking with everyone, this was nearly every single healer in town, apart from one or two reclusive healers. They were either being anti-social, or dead, and their complete lack of presence both at the meetings and healing in general had the betting pool on dead. Still, that put us at either 20 healers left for 60,000 people worse-case, or 30ish healers for 40,000 people, depending on how many healers were left and not talking, and how many people in the town had left before the 3rd closed the town – or were dead.

Tattered-Man – Ponticus the Light healer – was the last person I chatted with at the end.

“Celestial, eh?” He asked me. Given that he knew the answer, I wasn’t quite sure what to do about that question.

“Yup.” I finally settled on.

“Got a [Restoration] variant?” He asked. A harmless enough question.

“Yup!” I answered.

“Cool! A neat trick with that is this.” He said, drawing his knife. Julius tensed slightly, but didn’t do anything else – he knew he was so fast, being focused on speed, that he could run three circles around Ponticus, do his taxes, and slit his throat before he got close to me – not that we thought there was any threat. He sliced his pinky off, grabbing it in his other hand, and with a sparkling of light, a new pinky was formed.

He then popped his finger into his mouth, and started chewing. Around bites, mouth open so wide we could see what was going on, he was talking to us.

[Greater Restoration] usually takes a ton of internal energy to use, making it annoying to level up via self-mutilation normally. However, if you eat the offending part, you recycle the food, making it easy and practical to level up!”

He looked at us, a gleam of mischief, delighting in our discomfort. I excused myself, and Julius and I retreated, both looking more than a little green.

“I think I’m going to be sick.” I said, holding my stomach. Julius said nothing, but the tight lines all over his face suggested that he’d clamped down hard on his throat muscles, keeping his breakfast down.

“Light cannibalism. Lovely.” Julius eventually choked out in a strained manner. I nodded furiously.

“Elaine, I’d like to apologize for the roasting incident. Also, let’s never, ever do training similar to that again. Nope. No way. If that’s what Light healers with a powerful [Restoration] skill do, let’s keep you far away from that.”

I nodded hard enough to look like a woodpecker, hard enough to give myself a concussion.

“That was so gross. And I’ve stuck my hands into bleeding people. Grossest. Thing. Ever.” I said.

We chatted with the [Plague Healer] next.

“Caecilius, right?” I asked him. He nodded in agreement.

“Phewf, I’m terrible with names! Are these events usually this long?” I asked.

“Not usually – a new healer is cause for celebration, although more and more it’s people getting the chance to class up and choosing healer, at which point they’ll come to one of these events to find a master to become an apprentice to. Sadly, we seem to lose healers at the same rate we get them, and it’s usually the newer healers that die. Which is fortunate, in some senses – we don’t want to trade an experienced healer for a new healer. Every loss is a tragedy though.”

“Is that usual?” I asked. My horror quotient for the day had been met, nothing short of Caecilius cutting off a hand and chowing down would disturb me now.

“Speaking of, the first few patients you heal you need to send to me, Markus, or one of the other healers you initially met.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, displeased at being told what to do, at this healer thinking he could give me orders.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, to make sure you can actually cure disease, and don’t do a half-assed job at it. Almost worse than no cure at all, people lose faith in us. We can’t have that happen.”

“It’s how Markus works – his apprentices do the bulk of the healing, then they go to him so he can apply the finishing touches. It lets him handle a lot more patients than most healers, and gives his apprentices solid practice and level.”

I glanced at Julius, who tilted his head, deferring the decision to me.

“Thank you. I’ll consider it.” I said.

“You should level quickly here. This plague’s some of the best experience I’ve ever encountered when dealing with an outbreak.” Caecilius said.

There was a lot to consider. My pride warred with keeping things smooth and running. It was likely I rivaled the [Plague Healer] in control, if I didn’t surpass him in it, and I was confident that my knowledge of disease was better than his. On the flip side, he was specialized in disease, which probably granted him a significant boost towards hitting disease.

Fine. I wasn’t as good as the premium plague expert in Remus. I was at least as good as some of the other ‘top tier’ healers here though. Being questioned, being forced to prove my qualifications rankled. On the other side of the coin, I did need them to listen to me down the line, and being a maverick wouldn’t do me any favors.

We all gathered back up as the event wound down. There were sick people to heal after all, and everyone had gotten a crack at the shiny new experienced healer, a rarity when the town was locked down. From the sound of it, these events were usually just a bit of mingling, wishing happy birthday to anyone who’d gotten one in the last week, congratulating each other on some levels – an occurrence so frequent, usually they just congratulated classing up – and sharing any new information among each other, which was rarer and rarer.

We’d spread the news that I was going to teach as much as I could, as much as I knew about medicine and disease after the meeting, but seeing everyone trickle out – including Verta, who’d asked for help, Markus, the Pyronox and his apprentices, the apprentice that’d taken [Oath], and Glacia, sent stabbing pains through my heart.

They’d been happy enough to entertain me, listen to me on the surface, but nobody thought I had any real chops, any knowledge worth sharing. What could a 14-year-old girl, around level 140, possibly know? Really drove home that the only respect I’d gotten, the only reason anyone had given me the time of day, was my badge, and the presence of my team with me.

“Ah, cheer up.” Artemis said. “They probably went way over time getting to meet you and chat, and want to get back to helping people. You’ll get them next time!”

I let Artemis give me an awkward side-hug, squeezing me against her.

Markus’s Pyronox doorways flickered and vanished, letting us know he was done, gone, out of range.

“Let’s head back to the Argo.” Julius said, and we did just that, piling into the wagon next to the temple. Fortunate back-door into the alley meant I only saw one sick person, taking a moment to heal them and move on.

[Veil].” Julius ordered, and having practiced, I immediately snapped up a [Veil of the Aurora] around all of us.

“In order. Report. Anything interesting you saw or heard. Elaine, we’re starting with you, then at the end, you’ll give your impressions. Go.”

I hesitated over what I was going to say, before coming out and saying it. Team first.

“You know the person wrapped in clothes with the harp?”

“Glacius?” Julius asked, having gotten the name from other conversations.

“Glacia, as it turned out. Sound-healer, a woman under all that apparently.”

Julius frowned. “How do you know?”

“Well, she told me.”

“With her voice?” Maximus pointed out.

“Yeah, how else would – oh.” I said, the pieces of the puzzle clicking together. She’d been able to pitch a man’s voice to me as well.

“There’s no way to tell from her voice alone is there?” I asked.

“No, and everyone else thinks Glacia is a man. So she- or he- is either lying to you, or lying to everyone else. No matter how you slice it, it means she’s lying. I don’t think it’s important right now, there’s no reason for us to care, but it does mean we need to evaluate anything she tells us carefully.” Julius said. “Kallisto. Did you pick anything up?”

“Yeah boss – most of the guards are at the temple where we’re at, the marketplace where they distribute food, and the docks, where they’re preventing fights and problems from everyone fishing. Speaking of, it seems like half the town’s given up on their normal trade, and have taken up fishing from the docks. It’s one of the only ways to get food here that the 3rd hasn’t restricted.”

“That makes sense with what I’ve heard.” Maximus added. “The guard seem to have been particularly hard-hit, along with fishermen and merchants. Apparently, the captain of the guard, and some of the more senior guardsmen were among the first to die of the plague. They’re more than a bit disorganized as a result, which might be part of why we didn’t see them at the gates. I have some thoughts on that, but Elaine, what’s your thinking?”

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 6680/6680]

[Mana Regen: 8785]

Stats

[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: 81]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 79]

[Pretty: 101]

[Vigilant: 110]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 111]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 119]

 

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A note from Selkie

More characters introduced! 

Ponticus showing what a Light healer munchkin looks like. Self-mutilating, eating the offending part for more food, rinse and repeat. Max grinding exp when solo.

Glacia? Glacius? Find out later!


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