A note from Selkie

Happy New Years!

True to the prediction of Julius and Markus, the Cholera bombshell, the revelation of what the disease was and how to fight it, completely derailed the rest of the meeting. Some couriers were brought in and dispatched, and suddenly everyone was interested in seeing what was going on, in being part of the action.

I’d lit the spark, carefully fanned the flames, and now I could sit back, and enjoy the roaring fire of action it’d become. Something like this was far larger than any one person could do on her own, but I did my part. I’d worked together with a team, we’d figured it out, then brought it to everyone’s attention. They had better tools than we did to actually fix, and solve the problem, and now that they knew what it was? It’d be easy.

Relatively speaking.

Kallisto, interestingly enough, had a good suggestion.

“Boil or Beer.” Was the slogan he came up with, to tell people how to safely get liquids. Boil your water, or drink beer, and I suspected there’d be no more beer in town by the end of the week.

I eyed Kallisto. Did he just inadvertently plant the seeds for another riot? The limited food coming into town wasn’t helping at all, although maybe if this plague calmed down the 3rd would relax, and normal trade would resume.

“Might not work.” Caecilius said sagely. “I tried something similar with sacks on heads, to stop the spread. Problem was, people didn’t distinguish between the two plagues, and people didn’t wear them right. When people, who thought they were doing things right, still got sick, it undermined the entire attempt. It was soon after the failure of the mass-heal event, and our credibility took an even steeper nosedive.”


“Let’s get out of here.” Artemis said to me, Origen beside her.

“There’s basically nothing we’ll be able to do at this point, might as well get back to healing people.” She said.

I looked around, pleased as punch with what I’d done. I’d half-hoped that between my demonstrated knowledge, and Markus’s apprentices learning from me that I’d be able to give a lecture on medicine, but it seemed like fate was conspiring against me once again. There was always next week.

Plus, I was regenerating mana into a full mana pool. That wasn’t helping people, not directly.

“Alright, let’s go.” I said.

The three of us worked our way through the temple, until I got to my work room, Origen off to gather more patients.

I didn’t have the map – it was still being stared over by, well, everyone, but I’d get it back soon enough.

We settled in for more healing, and a more or less normal day.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 161! +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 161!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 152!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 153!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 152!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 126!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 137!]

I expected the day to be different somehow. For there to be music in the air, birds bursting into song. We’d figured out one of the plagues!

Well, there was music in the air, but that was Glacia’s doing.

The day wrapped up, and once again I was practically dragged out of my workroom, back to the Argo, where we locked up for the night, glowing inscriptions bolstering our defenses.

Useful things, inscriptions.

I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and happy. Another day to heal! From the sound of it, the outhouse had some broken pipes, so instead of dumping waste into the sewers, it had been dumping waste into the river. Which had been feeding the cycle.

A pair of wells were also identified, the map returned to me – apparently there’d been a bit of arguing over that, with Caecilius wanting to take control of it, but Julius had put his foot down - and we had a new color marker for “new” Cholera cases, to see if any more sources were identified, we could try to cut those off. There was a strong optimistic air.

“Morning sleepyhead.” Artemis said cheerfully, hands behind her back.

I narrowed my eyes at her.

“You’re far too cheerful and nice this morning.” I said. “What are you plotting?” I pointed my finger at her accusingly.

Artemis took one hand out from behind her back, placing it on her chest, looking all offended.

“Me? Plotting? I’d never.” Artemis said.

The fact that she was still hiding stuff behind her back made me seriously doubt her.

I looked around. The other Rangers were stifling giggles. Some coins changed hands.

“I feel like I’m being pranked, but I have no idea what’s going on.”

Everyone suddenly stared intently behind me, where Julius was. I whirled around, only to see his last finger curl down, the end of a countdown.

“Happy Birthday Elaine!” They all called out.

“Oh.” I said, pulling up my status.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 15]

Well. Would you look at that.

“It’s my birthday! Woohoo!” I shouted, to a great laughter coming from everyone else.

I tried to bounce around in my excitement, but the Argo was simply too cramped with everyone to do it well.

Artemis pulled out what she was hiding from behind her back – a mango.

I gasped.

“For me?” I said, hardly daring to believe. The last time I had a mango was near when I’d joined up with the Rangers all those months ago, right after the bandits. Perinthus was the home of mangos, the port where they all came from, but I hadn’t seen any yet, nor was I going to ask. Not when so many people were sick, were starving. Asking for luxury food goods was such a poor choice, even I knew to keep my mouth shut.

Artemis didn’t say anything, instead pushing the mango towards me. I gently, reverentially, took it into my hand, savoring the feel of it, the lush red ripeness, the tender feel of it in my hand, the delicate smell of fresh mango making its way to my nose.

I took a deep sniff, enjoying the smell. Slowly, like I was making an offering to the gods, I unsheathed my knife, slowly splitting the skin, watching the orange goodness emerge as the skin peeled back.

Slice. Eat. An explosion of tasty flavor, of sweet juice. This was love. This was life. My reason to be. My reason to live.

Delicious. Fucking. Mangos.

Too soon, cruel reality reasserted itself as the last bite of mango went down the hatch, the seed sucked clean, every gram of flesh from the skin scraped and eaten. With a longing sigh, I put it down, licking my lips, making sure I got every drop of ambrosia.

“Alright healy-bug, we should get going.” Artemis said.

With a small whimper I left the licked cleaned remains of the mango, and went off to continue another day of healing.

It was strange. It was like the plague had mutated. Patients had more symptoms, were bleeding from their eyes, fingers and toes starting to rot. Was it blood-based? Was that why it was hitting so much of the body? Was the immune system being attacked? I was starting to see repeat patients, people I’d healed last week coming back, just as ill as before. Which made sense if they didn’t have an immune system.

Did the immune system of people with the disease not kick in, not learn the disease if it was burned out of them with a skill? Was that why things were so bad? Would things be better if we just… didn’t heal people, let them fight it off on their own?

I was back to staring at the map, little red pins mocking me, laughing at me. “Can’t you see?” It was like they were saying. “It’s so obvious.”

The next day, I was healing again. It never ended.

The entire investigation team showed up at one point.

“Elaine, can you take a long break with us?” Julius asked.

“Sure, let me just burn all my mana out real fast. Origen, if you could get five patients on this next run?”

He nodded his head, leaving to grab more people. Kallisto still had the sack on his head. To his credit, he hadn’t needed healing once. I was getting close to recommending it to people.

Origen showed up, I blitzed through the patients, and I turned to Julius.

“Want the apprentices here with us?” I asked, pointing my thumb over my shoulder to Herodotos and another one of the apprentices that’d been rotating through with me. My credit among them had skyrocketed ever since figuring out that it was Cholera, and I was getting more respectful questions and listening, and less dismissive “why am I stuck here with the crazy healer-Ranger-girl.”

Julius thought for half a second before shaking his head. “No, they can stay.”

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“We’re going to work out once and for all if this plague’s transmitted through eye contact.” Julius said.

“First off, Investigations! Turn around, face the wall, eyes closed.” Julius ordered.

Kallisto, Arthur, and Maximus promptly obeyed his orders.

“Right, Elaine, heal everyone except those three.” Julius said. I obeyed.

“Give it some time. Keep checking everyone except those three for illness.” Julius said.

I did what he said. No problems.

“Right, Arthur, Maximus. Turn around, look at Origen and Artemis, directly in the eyes.”

Everyone followed Julius’s choreography.

“Elaine, heal everyone.”

I did what he said, surprised when Artemis and Origen suddenly needed a tiny amount of healing.

I reported my findings.

“Right. Until further notice, this plague’s being spread by eye contact.”

I made a frustrated noise.

“It just doesn’t make sense! How does that even work!” I said.

Maximus shrugged.

“You’re the healer, not me. If bacteria were larger, I’d say they had a class, and a class-related skill. But they don’t, otherwise we’d get notifications about killing them, and they would all need to have the same class, and the same skill. I mean, it could just be bad luck for now. However, you’ve gotten us on a good trail, and we’ll keep going down it.” He said.

The Investigation Rangers left, and I pounded the table with my fist. This disease was so frustrating!

I took a deep breath in, then out. Cholera had looked frustrating as well, with a seeming line right through the middle of down. There had been a reasonable explanation for that. There would be a good reason for everything this plague did, we just needed to find it.

Magic though. Could this plague be influenced by magic? What would that look like, what would that mean? I needed to let my pre-conceptions go, and possibly tackle it from scratch, looking at it from that angle.

The problem was, I had no basis, no knowledge, for what a “Magical Plague” could look like or do. For all I knew, it could make you fart unicorns and rainbows.

The day ended, and I let the notifications flow over me.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Constellation of the Healer] has leveled up to level 162! +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 162!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Phases of the Moon] has reached level 154!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Medicine] has reached level 153!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Warmth of the Sun] has reached level 126!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 138!]

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Oath of Elaine to Lyra] has reached level 139!]

I shook my head. A level a day. Unbelievable. It was no wonder that healers risked their life in a plague for the levels and experience. It was as good as daily fights for your life.

The next day dawned, like so many before them. Investigations went off and did their thing – apparently, they’d traced another bad well, and thought they’d gotten them all, although most of what they did was a mystery to me. We all moved to the workroom, and I prepared for another exhausting day to pass by in a blur. Heh. Who knew the secret to training montages was pure, sheer exhaustion?

“Elaine, you need to eat.” Artemis complained at me around lunch time.

“Yeah, I know, I know.” I said, brushing her off. My stomach growled, but I ignored it.

[Veil].” Artemis ordered, tone brokering no arguments.

I was the boss, being the head healer, but I knew better than to try and argue with Artemis when she had that tone. I snapped it up, giving us a bunch of room, having Herodotos crammed into his own tiny space.

“What’s up?” I asked Artemis.

Instead of answering, she yanked my tunic up. I squeaked in protest, as she pointed to my chest.

“Look at yourself.” Artemis said, tone cold, tone angry. I looked down, seeing ribs.

“Yeah?” I said, not quite getting it.

“No, really look.” She said again, poking a finger between my ribs.

I looked again. I was skinny. More than that, I was skinny. It looked like I’d been starving myself for months, like I’d been training all my life to be a super model or something.

“Using skills takes a bunch of your own energy. You’ve been marathon casting like you’re in a warzone for a week and a half now, and not eating the way you need to be. Eat. Your. Damn. Food. Or I’ll call this whole thing off, and confine you to the Argo until this is over. You can’t kill yourself to look after other people. Don’t light yourself on fire to keep others warm, no matter how much you have [Warmth of the Sun], and your Fire class.” Artemis said seriously.

“I refuse to stand by as you ignore yourself, as you ignore your body. I’m trying to treat you like a mature adult, not a 15-year-old, but if you neglect yourself more…” Artemis trailed off, leaving the threat unsaid. My imagination would conjure up worse thoughts than she could utter.

“Fine, hand me what you must have hidden.” I said, bowing to Artemis’s superior wisdom. She handed me way too much food – half a wheel of cheese, an entire loaf of bread, and the dried thigh of a saber-tooth cat leg, and folded her arms. How on Pallos did she have that much food tucked away!? I dutifully, slowly chowed down, finding my stomach suddenly roaring back into action as it realized it was finally being paid attention to, that my long neglect of it had ended.

To my great surprise, but Artemis’s complete expectation, I managed to eat all of it.

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Fuel for the Fire] has reached level 34!]

I dropped [Veil] with Artemis’s approving nod, expecting a patient to be waiting for me. There wasn’t one.

“Where’s Origen?” I said, looking around at the apprentices, expecting him to have left a message or something.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 15]

[Mana: 9740/9740]

[Mana Regen: 14491]


[Free Stats: 30]

[Strength: 37]

[Dexterity: 129]

[Vitality: 90]

[Speed: 130]

[Mana: 974]

[Mana Regeneration: 1695]

[Magic Power: 869]

[Magic Control: 1445]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 162]]

[Celestial Affinity: 162]

[Warmth of the Sun: 126]

[Medicine: 153]

[Center of the Galaxy: 128]

[Phases of the Moon: 154]

[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: 34]

[: ]

[: ]

[: ]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 81]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 80]

[Pretty: 101]

[Vigilant: 110]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 139]

[Ranger's Lore: 67]

[Running: 74]

[Learning: 122]


A note from Selkie

Explaining why not everyone is wearing a sack over their head, even though it works.

If you thought anti-maskers were bad, just wait until it seemed like wearing a mask doesn't actually do anything. Whoof.

Elaine's been so busy, she completely forgot her birthday! Fortunately Artemis is around to save the day.

New month! Which means now's a great time to sign up for Patreon! 

I also just finished the end of book 2, huzzah! Artwork commission for book 3 cover is in the works, although it'll be some time before I show it to all of you.


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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