A note from Selkie

I'll be posting on Christmas as usual. Heads up though - while not sad or depressing, the chapter I'm posting on Christmas deals with a heavy, difficult topic. It's one of my better chapters IMO, but it doesn't quite match with the Christmas spirit and cheer.

I woke up, ravenous, and slightly confused. Wasn’t I just in the clinic room inside the temple? As I slowly shook sleep off, and Elaine.exe booted up fully, the fogginess in my head vanishing, I realized what must’ve happened.

My ‘one moment of rest’ had led to me passing out, falling into a sleep so deep I hadn’t noticed being carried back to the Argo. I must’ve been more tired than I thought, gone longer and harder than I believed.

Well, there was no changing what had happened. Time to get up, get back in the clinic, and get back to healing people.

“Morning Elaine!” Artemis jumped on me playfully, having me go half-splat back into my sleeping bag. “How’re you feeling?” She asked.

“Blah.” I tried to say. Being hungry, thirsty, and my face in my sleeping roll made it come out unintelligible, even to me.

“Here. Eat.” Artemis said, thrusting a bowl of food and a cup of water into my hands. I ate and drank without thinking about it, without checking what I was even eating.

“Welcome back.” Julius said drily, in a non-too-amused tone. “You need to work on pacing yourself.”

I didn’t agree – there were people to be saved, ‘pacing myself’ just translated to ‘let people die’, but I nodded anyways, too hungry to argue.

The rest of the team was lounging around in the Argo, making it somewhat cramped. Yay for being short! I wasn’t feeling the pinch nearly as badly as Arthur was.

Speaking of, he was still dozing as well, so it was nice to not be the last one awake for once.

We waited for a bit, killing time until Arthur woke up, sleepy and grumpy. Ah well.

Arthur ate, then we got down to business.

“Yesterday, Investigations went around and talked with people all over town. Docks, marketplace, main streets, back streets, everywhere. Stories seem to be roughly the same. Plague showed up about a year ago. People aren’t reliable about the symptoms though – most insist that the plague showed up with everything all at once, a few people say it changed around two months in to include the vomiting.” Julius said, quickly summarizing his findings. “We put in as many pins as we found cases of. Also, some of the coins seemed a bit strange to me. Origen, can you check?” Julius asked, handing over a handful of coins to Origen.

“Artemis, Elaine, what were your findings from yesterday?” Julius asked, as Origen started to trace mysterious inscriptions.

“Bleeding Plague is almost certainly transmissible from person to person.” I started. “Vomiting Plague isn’t transmissible from person to person. I can’t be completely sure of it, but Bleeding Plague patients occasionally needed me to heal Artemis or myself, while that never happened with Vomiting Plague-only patients.”

“Oh,” I said, realizing I should state the obvious, even though we’d half-discussed it yesterday. “I completely agree with the [Plague Healer]. There are two plagues, not one. I have no idea what’s going on if they both showed up at the same time. If the second one showed up after the first, it could be enough things broke down to let the plague in.” I said.

Julius and the rest of the team traded looks with each other.

“People are unreliable.” Kallisto stated. “They think they remember one thing, but they’re completely wrong about it. Who remembers exactly when things start? I bet there are things on this trip we wouldn’t remember, forget the relatively irrelevant details of a plague. All people know is when it started, and that it’s killing them.”

“Elaine, I need details on the second plague. Can a person with the disease pass it onto someone else that doesn’t have it, indirectly? Or is there a source constantly spewing out disease? I’m unclear on this.” Julius asked.

I weighed what he was saying, thinking about it.

“Indirect transmission, like re-infecting a vector, then having that vector infect someone else, is totally possible.” I said. “It’s how the Black Plague spread. A flea had the disease, would jump on someone, bite them, infect them. Other fleas would also jump on later, bite them, get infected. They’d then move onto other people. They were both the reservoir, and the method of infection. Kill all the fleas, and you were set.”

“We can’t kill all the fleas in a town.” Arthur said. “There’s no way.”

“No, but you can kill almost all the rats, and tackle the disease from that direction. And if you know – you announce that fleas are the problem, to kill fleas, to kill rats – people should put forth an effort towards it. Enough to make a dent, and possibly get this under enough control to burn it out, without the 3rd deciding to do their own version of burning.” I said.

There was a pause there as everyone digested what I was saying, only for Origen to interrupt.

“Counterfeit. Mage-Conjured.” He said, holding up the coin and a metal plate with glowing inscriptions.

“Gods damnit all, another thing to worry about.” Maximus cursed.

“20 coins it’s a newish mage that has no idea what they’re doing.” Kallisto immediately took out some coins. “The lack of detail suggests a low control level. Any takers?”

Julius said nothing, just had a deep frown on his face.

“No.” Origen said.

We all looked at him. He gave an exasperated twitch of his beard, clearly annoyed that he’d have to talk and explain this to all of us.

“No. We shouldn’t go after this mage. He’s keeping the town afloat. How many people did you see with bad coins? Do you think they’re all stupid, all unable to figure out they’re fake?” He said, a month’s worth of words in a single go.

“Laconia is poor. Yes, we have soldiers. We’re the mightiest warriors in Remus.”

There were some boos and jeering at that, but it was more of a good-natured rivalry. The floodgates were open though, Origen had found his voice and he was not going to stop until he’d said his piece.

“But none of that money stays. Soldiers come with money, spend it. Then farmers come, take some money. Merchants come, and more money vanishes. Tax collectors. Buying metal. Buying wood. Buying pretty dyes. Wool. Four months after the soldiers have left, the man with 10 coins left is as rich as the governor. Trade stalls. People start getting hungry, not because they don’t work, or don’t have goods, but because there are no coins to make it work. People start bartering, and it gets somewhat ugly, until soldiers come back. Flood the town with coins. And it repeats. It’s why I practice Inscriptions. I want to show my fellow Laconians a new way. A new path forward. People will come all over to see me, to buy my things, and more will follow in my footsteps.”

Advanced economics from Origen? You could push me over with a feather, and from the looks of it, you could push almost all of us over with a feather.

“Here has the same problem. Money leaves. Money doesn’t come back. Who’s paying for things from a plague town? Nobody. This mage is the only source of coin, the only reason things in this town aren’t even worse. He’s probably rich. He’s also saved the town. We ignore.”

Origen sat down, arms crossed at that pronouncement. Julius was blinking, owl-like, still trying to process what he heard. Maximus had started writing down what Origen was saying, but had paused halfway through.

“Well then.” Julius said, pausing. “That’s a lot. Thanks friend, we’ll do as you say. Focus is still on the plague.”

“If…” Julius said slowly, thinking about it. “If we hear a large number of complaints about this mage, whoever he is. Then we might look into it. For now, we’ll leave it.”

“Question.” I said, jumping in, wanting to change the topic. “Could we have another person on the Healing team? Right now, Origen’s on his own a bunch while he ferries people back and forth, and with how important it is to stick together, well…” I said, trailing off.

Julius immediately shook his head.

“Our team splits in two. We talked last night. Origen’s either in the room where there’s a dozen guards, or in the hallway to your clinic. That’s close enough to additional armed forces. You were able to last a solid chunk of time, as a healer with no physical stats, against three level 200ish assailants. Origen is stronger than he looks. Short of the entire guard deciding all at once to murder him, he’d last long enough for you and Artemis to back him up.”

“If something can kill all three of you, we’re doomed anyways. We do lose a Ranger squad about once every twenty years that way, either to a rebellion just starting in a town as Rangers arrive, and the team trying to single-handedly suppress it, or due to a Ranger squad being so abusive that the entire local guard comes down on them without waiting for a Sentinel to handle the issue.”

“No, what worries me is a riot. This town is prime for one, and it’s only a matter of time before some stupid incident causes the two cults to tear each other’s throat out, at which point the 3rd would be entirely justified at razing the town to the ground.”

Artemis had a grim, faraway look, making me suspect she’d been in the midst of a riot. Or two. Or perhaps had even incited one. Knowing her, very possible that she’d incited a riot, perhaps even deliberately.

“Do we need to know anything else before we get going? Or do you need anything from us?” I asked, itchy to start, to get back healing. I was regenerating mana, and my mana pool was full, wasting it. I was cognizant of the time, of every four minutes or so passing being another person I didn’t, couldn’t save.

“A quick round of healing for all of us.” Kallisto quickly jumped in, having the sack over his head already.

I refrained from rolling my eyes – a healthy fear of the plague was better than a cavalier attitude towards it, and hit everyone with a dose of [Phases] just in case.

Everyone was fine.

“I think you’re all set. Stay safe.” Julius dismissed up, shooing us out with his hand.

I was off like a bolt, Artemis on my heels, Origen slowly taking up the rear. We were still near the temple – where had the horses been stored? – and I quickly found my way back to my work room, Artemis on my heels. Origen had gone directly to the main patient room to grab someone.

I settled in for a long day of healing.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 127!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 107!]

“Elaine, I’m dropping off Herodotos and another apprentice for you. Good luck today.” Markus said, Herodotos and another apprentice shuffling in as I continued to stare at the map. There was a pattern here, I knew it. I just needed to see it.

“Welcome. When you’re full on mana, feel free to do a bit of healing. Otherwise, help me re-hydrate people who have the Vomiting Plague. Ok?”

“Ok.” He said.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 114!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 108!]

“There’s no way blood circulates. It oscillates. Is this the nonsense you’ve been saying is so good?” Unnamed apprentice said to Herodotos, between yet another lecture.

I wanted to cry in frustration, but Artemis simply filled the room with her power, all of our hair standing on end. It kept discipline, it kept people from questioning me, but at the point of a sword – or lightning bolt – wasn’t how I wish it was done.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 109!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 147! +10 Free Stats, +15 Mana, +15 Mana Regen, +15 Magic power, +15 Magic Control from your Class! +1 Free Stat for being Human! +1 Mana, +1 Mana Regen from your Element!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Celestial Affinity] has reached level 147!]

“Artemis, I’m going to dump my free stats into my Mana Regeneration, ok?”

Artemis looked like she wanted to protest, but closed her mouth as another patient was brought in on a stretcher. I could see the gears turning in her mind, the calculation of lives saved, the odds of her changing my mind.

“You know best healy-bug.”

[Mana Regen: 11,485] (Per Hour)

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 110!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 119!]

“Elaine. Eat.” Artemis ordered.

“Just after this patient.” I brushed her off.

“You’ve been saying that for the last 20 patients. Eat.”

“Hang on, one moment.”

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 111!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 115!]

“What do you mean, dead?” The husband was crying, tears flowing down his face, facing the truth, his wife was gone. The son wasn’t accepting it, becoming angry, hand on his sword.

Liar!” He yelled at me, drawing his sword.

Artemis disarmed him. Literally.

“Behave.” She said, as the husband threw himself on top of his son.

“Mercy, please!” The husband yelled. “I’ve lost everyone else.”

I sighed.

“Give him here. I’ll fix his arm.”

Thousands of mana needed to fix his arm. I gave him an evil eye.

“Because of your rash actions, ten people aren’t going to be healed. I won’t have the mana for it.”

The pain of his arm being removed had been enough to cool him down, and he had the grace to look ashamed.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 112!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 113!]

“It’s an interesting question,” New-apprentice said, having warmed up to me over the course of the day, regardless of my ‘radical’ ideas. “if you should’ve healed that man or not.” He said, referring to the idiot Artemis disarmed.

“Who’s worthy of healing?” He stated.

“Everyone. Not a question.” I said, still pissed and sour at him, exhausted from being kind and caring to all my patients today. I just had no bandwidth left, nothing to give to anyone else.

“Well yes. But in his case, if you didn’t fully fix his arm, just stopped the bleeding, he’d live. And you’d be able to save ten or more people from the plague. Was he a good use of your mana? Could there be a better use for it?” He was picking up steam, as I healed another patient, Origen turning around to get someone else.

“Probably not.” I reluctantly conceded.

“Which leads to a follow up. You’re healing the very sickest patients. Most of the other healers won’t touch them.”

What!” I squawked out in indignation, looking every inch a 14-year-old. “Why!?” I demanded, turning on him in a fury.

He leaned back, raising his hands up defensively. Artemis tensed – bored and on a hair trigger was a bad, bad combination.

“It’s something Markus teaches all of us! Heal one person who’s going to die today, or heal ten people who’ll die next week. If you heal the one person, seven out of the ten people will need the same level of healing in three days. By then, you can only heal one of them. The other six die. Each person you heal today, when they’re that sick, on death’s door, damns the other six to a grave.”

“You must’ve seen the pyres. The gravediggers and their wagons in the street, collecting bodies. Heard the cries of family members discovering their loved one dead. We’re nowhere close to having this under control. By handling the moderate cases, we prevent them from escalating, reducing the overall number of dead. Moderate cases also don’t need whatever touch-ups you’re doing to fix sores, bad lungs, and whatever other damage is present.”

I looked at him in horror.

“You didn’t know?”

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 121!]

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 2415/7190]

[Mana Regen: 11485]


[Free Stats: 0]

[Strength: 43]

[Dexterity: 79]

[Vitality: 65]

[Speed: 80]

[Mana: 719]

[Mana Regeneration: 1370]

[Magic Power: 667]

[Magic Control: 1175]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 147]]

[Celestial Affinity: 147]

[Warmth of the Sun: 119]

[Medicine: 127]

[Center of the Galaxy: 126]

[Phases of the Moon: 113]

[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: 115]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 121]



A note from Selkie

More healing! Heavy topics touched upon!

If you could give me an advanced review, that'd be great. They're weighted more heavily than anything else, and I've been looking carefully at trending - it's clear that the rating the novel has is super important. Hence, advanced reviews help me go up in the trending list. They help more people see it, which gets more people rating and following it, which has a synergistic effect that hopefully turns into a runaway effect, which gets enough people interested that I get to do this full-time. Seriously, it matters, and it helps.

BTDEM is bog standard in many ways. However, I'm willing to do things that turn some readers off - and so far, more of my reviews have been from people that I make mad more than people who are happy. Just how the internet works. I'm hoping some of you that are enjoying things are willing to leave reviews or advanced reviews. They matter. You matter.

Help keep BTDEM going - it's as simple as rating, as easy as reviewing.

Or you can help pay my rent, which is a MUCH more direct way of keeping things going! It's the start of the month after all, max Patreon benefits!

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Now, if you'd like to help me pay my rent, you can! With 10 advanced chapters, bonus chapters, bonus worldbuilding content, discord roles, and more!





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