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A note from Selkie

I was getting ambitious thoughts of returning to 5x/week releases really soon, but yesterday murdered me so hard, I'm unsure I'll make it back to that rate.

Also, I'd almost have enough of a backlog to get back there, if I wasn't writing so many bonus chapters >_<. However, people on Patreon have voted to make the bonus stories/chapters public for RR, so they're coming, so I guess I should count them as part of my backlog.

Anyways, tenative schedule for returning to 5x/week is early January. As long as I don't get too many hiccups like yesterday.

There's a chance I'll slowly ramp it from 3 to 4, then from 4 to 5 as I get in the swing of things, life becomes more comfortable, and Flora lets me actually sleep at night.

It's not the getting up in the middle of the night to feed, change, etc. It's when you do all that, and she decides no, I'm stay up making noise for another three hours after all that which kills me.

A reward for reading all the rambling - another piece of commissioned artwork came in! The entire Ranger team!

 

Yes, Elaine's a bit small in this. She's also short for a 14-almost-15 year old, and next to Arthur, who's described as "A mountain" "A bear", and other such ludicriously large measurements. I decided to NOT make him world-record-setting, and he's "only" 2.5 meters tall - about 8 foot 2. Meanwhile Elaine's on the short side, roughly 1.6 meters tall - 5 foot 2. The ratio's roughly there, but there's significant artistic license.

From left to right:

Arthur, Elaine, Artemis, Julius (with a surprise beard added last second), Kallisto, Origen (Who's not usually bare-chested, but the artist wanted to show off the tattoos), and Maximus. 

Enough rambling! Onto the chapter!

The rest of the week passed in a blur, a haze of pain, red flags, sadness, sickness, hide map, disease, death, blue flags, rot, blood, a random scattering of orange flags, vomit, pus, way too many hours spent staring at the map, thinking, trying to tease the pattern out, to see what was happening, punctuated by four rocks from Artemis through an offending limb. She was a hair more considerate, and tended to only take out a hand, instead of the entire arm – much cheaper for me to heal mana-wise. More people saved.

She did some grumbling about “precision shots” and “not good form”, but I appreciated it anyways.

There was one outright murder from Artemis, as she “didn’t think she could stop him in time without killing him.” I was too numb to care. You’d think people would learn by now that healers had bodyguards, and not to try and pull stunts.

Then again, maybe things weren’t as emotionally charged with the “Sick, but not at death’s door” patients. Another subtle benefit of skipping over the direly ill?

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 150! +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!* For reaching level 150, you’ve unlocked the Class Skill [Moonlight]!]

[Notice: All your class skill slots are full. Replace a skill for [Moonlight]?]

[Moonlight]: The phases of the moon are visible to all who look up at them and see them. Able to apply [Phases of the Moon] at range, whenever moonlight touches them. [Phases of the Moon] applies with a significant efficiency penalty. Penalty increases with distance. Increased range, decreased penalty per level. Current range: .1 meters. Current penalty: 1000% increased cost per meter.

I hesitated briefly over the skill, before indicating I needed a quick break by raising my hand. The three apprentices with me – Markus was rotating them spending time with me, partially because I was making them work hard, harder than they worked with him, and partially because he wanted them to have exposure to my “interesting” ideas – all relaxed, tension bleeding from their bodies as I snapped up a [Veil] around Artemis and I.

“What’s going on?” Artemis asked, a graceful mix of tense and relaxed, somehow looking perfect through the exhausting days.

“Hit 150. New skill offered.” I said, sharing the details of [Moonlight] with her.”

“Take it.” Artemis said almost instantly. “[Eyes of the Milky Way] isn’t that powerful, and you gain the ability to heal at a short – soon to be longer – range. You’ll still be mostly hands-on, the skill is limited, but it gives you an advantage, a possibility of stabilizing a serious wound as you’re getting to whoever needs help. Arriving a few moments earlier might be the difference between life and death for them.”

“Plus, that sounds similar to how battlefield power-healers work.” She said.

I tilted my head, asking the question without saying anything. Origen was rubbing off on all of us.

“They have massive area, well, healing would be putting it a bit strongly. They can close injuries, prevent death, but it’s bad flesh, poorly formed. You’ve seen some of it with injuries that weren’t well-healed. That’s the mark of a power-healer, with poor control. They have a massive range, and if you’re on a battlefield, you want one watching over you – they’ll save your life long enough for a control-healer to reach you and heal, like you do. That fixes the temporary fix, gives it the ability to feel and move properly. Sometimes, there just isn’t a control-healer around to do the secondary fix, and you’ve fixed more than a few of those injuries.”

Artemis hummed a moment, thinking.

“Glacia is likely a power-healer, if she counts as a healer. Hard to tell with her skills. Huge area, mediocre effectiveness.”

“Also, you’re getting up there in level. I don’t think I was as high as you at your age. You might be offered more skills evolving, than brand-new skills, as you keep going up. Something to consider.”

“The long and the short of it is, you’re dipping into the power-healer domain a bit with this. Your class evolved from a control-healer, so it’s not too efficient, but any extra trick is worth it. Your class has evenly distributed stats, which makes me think it wants to be a little bit of a Power healer, a little bit of a Control healer. This seems like a Power-related skill, in contrast with all of your other Control-related skills. I don’t think [Eyes of the Milky Way] are doing that much for you, and the situations the skills are in are similar – at night, under the sky. Seeing more, or healing an injury? Which one’s better in your opinion?”

I thought about it briefly. I had other sources of light – mostly my flames, but [Veil] had some incidental lighting. Not being able to see in the dark would suck a bit, I’d gotten used to it, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Also, I didn’t think Artemis was completely right. The moons did come out during the day. It was rare, but it happened. At the same time, I doubted it would work during a New Moon, when the moons weren’t showing up. Same difference, but I’d be even more locked towards knowing exactly what the moons were doing at any given time.

I dumped [Eyes of the Milky Way] for [Moonlight]. I felt nauseous, close to vomiting at losing a skill of that level. My stomach was much stronger after seeing Ponticus – the Light healer that ate his own finger – and after wading through a swimming pool’s worth of bodily fluids from my healing clinic. It would be some time before I could start practicing with the skill, getting the level up – the current penalty was harsh, and the range small, but I was sure that would change with time.

“Hey Artemis, um..” I said, trailing off, looking at her hopefully, wishing that she’d read my mind.

She tousled my hair affectionately.

“Yeah, your eyes are still starry.”

Yay!


“Elaine, you’re leveling way too fast.” Maximus said that evening.

I was too exhausted to really fight or argue with him.

“Is that bad?” I managed to ask, eyelids like lead.

“No, just strange.” He said.

I’m not sure exactly what Artemis said, since I was falling asleep, but it was something about how hard I was working.


I stared at the map. Red pins were all over, with a higher density near the shores, and clustered around the temple. Was there something about the sea, something about the temple causing the plague? Or was this just reporting bias?

Were there more people that lived near the docks with fishing equipment, so they were out fishing, and catching it? Or was there a foul wind coming off the sea, infecting people?

If it was a bad wind, why would other towns not have it?

Could it be from rats that came in on ships, and were settled near the docks?

But then why the cluster around the temple? Was that just reporting bias? Round and round in circles I went.


“Plague? There’s no plague!” An elderly man insisted from a stretcher, being carried by his son and daughter-in-law.

They glanced at each other, and turned to me.

“Look, you don’t need to convince him, but can you heal him anyways?” The son – not too much older than me - begged me.

I rolled my eyes and healed the man, saying nothing. Some people, honestly.

I was happy that an older man was showing up. Were we getting a handle on the plagues? Was I enough to tip the scales?


“You think the Fae are behind it, right? Right?” A sick lady asked me.

I made a non-committal noise.

“I knew it! The Fae are mad at us. We need to make them happy, so they leave us alone.”

I made another non-committal noise.

The plague was back out in force. I was healing younger and younger people now.


The blue flags were different. One-quarter of the town – the side away from the sea – had almost no infections. Then like there was a line drawn in the middle of town, cases suddenly showed up.

Was there some inscription buried in the town, warding plague off? Why, how, could there be a line drawn in the town, where people living on one side of it got the plague, and people living on the other side were fine?

Hours of staring at the map, thinking, meditating. There was an answer here. I had all the pieces of the puzzle. How did they fit together?


“Elaine, can you check a bunch of people to see if they’re still infected?” Maximus asked at one point, popping in with Arthur. Julius and Kallisto must be off somewhere else, looking into some other aspect.

“Sure.” I said.

Over the day, Maximus proceeded to bring in a dozen different healthy people, the vast majority of which were completely fine, and a few scattered here and there needed a few points of mana to heal them.

“Interesting.” Was all Maximus would say about the problem, while Arthur frowned. “Very interesting.”


I dreamed of the damn map. Every night, it started off blank, then one pin, two, dozens, hundreds more would land in it. Sometimes it was the shape of the real map. Sometimes it was different. Every night it was laughing at me, mocking me. “Can’t you figure me out?” It’d say, sometimes forming a mouth, other times the hundreds of little pins would sing in unison. “Isn’t it sooooo obvious? Every day you can’t figure out my secret, more people die.”

Then more pins would come down, a whole rainbow of colors, then turn into flames, burning bodies piled high, evidence of my failure burning into my eyes, filling my nose with smoke, the smell of burning and decaying bodies.

I was going to burn that damn map once we’d figured this out.


“You think the Fae are behind it, right? Right?” A sick man asked me.

I made a non-committal noise.

“I knew it! The Fae are mad at us. We need to drive them out, so the plague will leave!”

I made another non-committal noise.


We got to the day before the weekly healer’s meeting, during the late afternoon, as I looked over my levels gained for the week. They were quite something.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 160! +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 160!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 151!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 149!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 125!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 135!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Center of the Galaxy] has reached level 128!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Fuel for the Fire] has reached level 33!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 124!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Vastness of the Stars] has reached level 128!]

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Veil of the Aurora] has reached level 111!]

Origen was bringing in another patient – a young kid this time, we’d been slammed hard and I was back to treating very young, very sick children – and we went through the usual routine. Just the Vomiting Plague. Herodotos did some light healing, then passed the kid off to me to finish the job.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 150!]

I gave her parents the usual lecture.

“She should be better now. However, the disease can come back. Be careful around others, be careful with fleas, rats, insects, and bad food. Wear a mask. Or a hood, some people think those help. Boil your water before drinking it.” I said, reciting the usual tips and tricks.

“Good luck, and I hope I don’t see you again!” My little joke. Some people appreciated it.

They thanked me profusely – so nice when they did that instead of treating me like it was expected of me, or that I was dirt, or making some snide comment about my age or gender. Herodotos was convinced it was because I wasn’t charging – another lesson of his from Markus, that people were more grateful when parting with their money.

I looked at the map, and suddenly, things clicked.

[Medicine] leveling up. [Oath] applying to knowledge. A framework from Earth. Hundreds of patients with the Vomiting Plague coming through my room.

The line through town. The river, snaking through town down to the sea.

The river, that people drank out of.

Boiling water. Disease in water.

“The Vomiting Plague is Cholera!” I said, getting up so fast my chair hit the back wall.

[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 80!]

“You figured out the Vomiting Plague?” Artemis asked. The question was repeated by the apprentices.

“Yes!” I practically shouted. “I figured it out!”

“Get Julius?” Artemis asked.

“Yeah, get him now.” I confirmed.

Artemis let off a low thundercrack, reverberating through the hallways. Origen skidded into the room a moment later, hand on his weapon.

“Stay here with Elaine. I need to grab everyone else.” Artemis said, off like a shot.

Origen looked at me confused. I was too excited.

“I might have figured out the Vomiting Plague!” I said, jumping up and down with excitement.

The apprentices looked at each other. I pointed to Herodotos.

“Can you grab Markus for me please?”

He scampered off, as I heard the distinct rumbling of Artemis’s bolts through the temple walls. Three bolts, the lowest priority “need you now” signal she had.

In no time at all, Markus, Julius, and the rest of the team were crammed into my tiny room. We kicked the apprentices out to make more room.

“What’s so urgent?” Julius asked, while Markus said the same thing, phrased slightly differently.

“I’ve worked out the Vomiting Plague.” I said. “My [Medicine] skill hit 150, and it was like a thousand pieces of a puzzle suddenly came together, and I realized what was going on. It’s a disease called Cholera.” I said.

“Look at the map. Look at where the cases are. See the line basically going through town? People drink from the river, and almost entirely, they go to the nearest part of the river to get water from. That’s why there’s the line. People upstream of whatever’s causing the problem are fine. People downstream are getting sick.” I said, pointing furiously to every part of the map as I described it, almost tripping over my words in my excitement.

“The way Cholera works is it’s in the water supply. Someone drinks the water; it goes into their stomach. It grows and multiplies, and causes the vomiting and diarrhea. The tongue-swelling is unrelated, I don’t think Caecilius was right on that. People’s vomit and diarrhea are full of the Cholera bacteria, which then end up back in the water supply, to continue the cycle.” I said.

“Towns usually have inscriptions on the grates to handle dangerous things getting in.” Maximus pointed out.

“Yes, and that helps with things coming into the town. Not handling things that are sourced, are originated from the town itself.” I said impatiently. Couldn’t he see?

Markus held his hand up, interrupting.

“Elaine, this is amazing. This is perfect. The weekly healer’s meeting is tomorrow, it’s already getting pretty late, can you present all of this to us then? This is bigger than just me; everyone should be present to hear this. Less than half a day’s difference won’t matter, and being able to tackle this properly, all of us, is worth the delay.”

I bounced my leg impatiently, shifting my weight around. What did he mean, wait? People were dying now! We had to handle it now!

“Fine.” Julius said, dismissing Markus with a wave of his hand.

“Details Elaine. It’s better that we hear it now, and we can cross what you’ve told us against what we’ve learned. It’ll make a better presentation tomorrow, and we might be able to act on it.” Julius said, pulling out another scroll.

“It’s water-based. Find out where people are drinking their water from, and trace it.” I said, giving the bare-bones answer. “We need to keep drinking from our personal stores. It’s primarily in the river, but there are other drinking sources, wells in the town. We need to find out if those are contaminated or not. The primary source is the river though, or at the very least, it’s the most obvious.”

I took a moment to stare at the map.

“There’s an extra-large cluster here and here,” I said, pointing to two spots on the map. “Perhaps there are contaminated wells there.”

“Our water stores are nearly out.” Arthur said. “It’s been almost six weeks since we last restocked in Catona.”

“Then boil anything for a short length of time before drinking it.” I said. “Or drink beer. It should be safe.”

Arthur was going to love that.

“Fine, we have enough to work off of. Investigations, let’s go. Elaine.” Julius said, pausing to turn and look at me, putting a hand on my shoulder, looking me square in the eyes. “Fantastic work. Worthy of the best Rangers.”

I had to turn away as Julius and the rest trickled out. I didn’t want them to see me wiping away tears of joy and happiness that were involuntarily welling up at his praise.

Artemis gave me a hug from behind.

“Good work healy-bug.”

The rest of the day couldn’t go by fast enough. I even left willingly at the end of the day, only to find myself staring up at the ceiling of the Argo, unable to sleep.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 14]

[Mana: 9400/9400]

[Mana Regen: 14091]

Stats

[Free Stats: 6]

[Strength: 37]

[Dexterity: 129]

[Vitality: 90]

[Speed: 130]

[Mana: 940]

[Mana Regeneration: 1655]

[Magic Power: 842]

[Magic Control: 1409]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 160]]

[Celestial Affinity: 160]

[Warmth of the Sun: 125]

[Medicine: 150]

[Center of the Galaxy: 128]

[Phases of the Moon: 151]

[Moonlight: 1]

[Veil of the Aurora: 111]

[Vastness of the Stars: 128]

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

[Fire Affinity: 39]

[Fire Resistance: 39]

[Fire Conjuration: 39]

[Fire Manipulation: 39]

[Fuel for the Fire: 33]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 81]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 80]

[Pretty: 101]

[Vigilant: 110]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 135]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 122]

 

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A note from Selkie

Elaine figures out a plague! She thinks. 

Markus wanting to delay though.... practical? Or sinister? Find out Wednesday!

Or immediately on Patreon. Then again, it's almost the end of the month. Maybe delay until the end of the week to sign up.

Or don't, I'd appreciate the extra <3


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!

Discord for chatting: https://discord.gg/GStatMC

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Selkie

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