A note from Selkie

I *really* wanted to move to a 5x/week schedule this weekend. However, I keep ending up exhausted and only writing 4 chapters a week. As a result, 4x/week until I can consistantly make it to 5x.

However, I've been writing some really beefy chapters, which should more than make up for it.


The apprentices looked at each other nervously. Herodotos swallowed, paled, steeled himself, then said. “There was a runner. You should go see for yourself.”

Artemis tensed, coiled up like a spring ready to fire. Not one of those small little springs that used to be in pens. No, she was one of those heavy-duty large springs, that once it went off, it would ruin someone’s day.

My hair raised up around me, and chunks of stone from the wall separated out, going to Artemis’s hands, where she held a double handful of them.

Lead.” She ordered. This wasn’t one of her nice orders, her “I’m telling you something nicely but expect you to follow anyways in spite of my flippant tone.” This was her serious face, ‘Do what I say right now or suffer the consequences.’, the tone promising those consequences would be lethal. Herodotos nervously led us down a hall, around a corner, to where a number of guards were milling around a pair of bodies. This wasn’t Artemis who’d need to snap a stone into existence or use a bolt before hitting a problem – this was Artemis with her weapons at the ready.

From the tone, and how nervous everyone was acting, I didn’t blame her.

“They said they found them here.” He said, before wisely bailing.

Artemis pushed me behind her, and we went forward, guards parting. I peeked around her to find Origen and a teenager – probably the patient he was bringing to us – on the floor.

I rushed over.

“No. No no no no.” I said, trying to deny what I was seeing, putting my hands on him, trying to pump healing mana through him. I could restore the flesh, then the brain, then spark it back, and Origen would be back, sitting up with a grin, would probably even speak a few words, letting me know it’d been such a close call, and he was so grateful I’d saved him.

“Everyone back.” Artemis barked out, hair getting even higher. The guards decided staying near the clearly pissed, hair-trigger mage was a poor life choice, and that bailing was the better part of valor, leaving us alone.

Nothing. He was gone. Massive sores covered him, and he was lying in a pool of blood, like so many other victims of the plague. My healing found no purchase; my skills restored no flesh. If normally I got a vague sense of a moon waxing full, there was no moon. Maybe, if I focused hard, a shattered ring of a moon destroyed. How could the plague take him so fast? This was impossible. He was healed regularly, last time less than 30 minutes ago, even with the break I’d taken.

Artemis put a hand on my shoulder.

“Elaine, grieve later. We need to leave, now.”

I shook my head, mutely denying. Artemis picked me up.

“Elaine, until proven otherwise, a dead Ranger is assumed to be murdered. We need to get to the wagon, and notify everyone else. Until we’re together, we’re under attack. Now move!” Artemis yelled the last part at me.

I’d never seen her so scared. I’d never seen her so scary.

I moved, started running down the halls, to the back door where we were parked. Artemis thundering behind me, static electricity charging the air.

We weren’t in a terribly populated part of the temple, and people got out of the way. A door started to creak open as I was running past it, and Artemis sent a rock, followed by a bolt of lightning through it. I hesitated, and peeked in the door as I slowed my run. Those injuries were incompatible with life.

“Keep moving.” Artemis said, tone chilly, tone scared. Artemis fully believed she was in a war zone, threats jumping out from every corner, and I couldn’t fully blame her for the belief.

I picked up the pace, back to a full run, as fast as I could in the temple hallways.

If there was no time to heal, no gap between “Fully alive” and “Dead”, [Oath] didn’t say a word. It only acted upon things I could act upon.

We made it out to the alleyway where the Argo was, and instead of running inside, Artemis ordered me. “Up, on top of the wagon. Cover my back.”

I did exactly what she said, scrambling up on top of it. A single lightning bolt pierced the clear blue sky, shattered the deceptive calm.

Her ‘emergency right now’ signal. Only used in a fight, or the death of a Ranger. ‘Drop everything and come here as fast as you can.’

Artemis put a hand on the side of the Argo, and I could see it glowing as she pulled mana from it.

The door to the temple got closed over with stone, the back of the alley sealed, a stone covering hiding the sun and clouds, and a series of stone spikes, pointing forward at a 45-degree angle, pointing forward, to the entrance of the alley, the only way in. Protection on all sides.

She climbed up onto the Argo with significantly more grace and finesse than I’d managed, then looked around, head on a swivel.

A guard started to approach.

“Excuse me, we can’t have-“ He started to say, only for a rock from Artemis whizzing to his feet and exploding in shards to cut him off. He winced in pain, but deciding that there was no reasoning with Artemis, and backed off.

Lesson was clear. When Artemis was mad, when she was in this state – stay away. Stay far away. I couldn’t decided if I was blessed to be under her aegis, or strapped to an out-of-control rocket.

It was clear that Artemis still had some control. She hadn’t blasted the guard like she could’ve, it was clear she was firing warning shots.

We spent a tense few minutes, until we heard Julius call out.

“Artemis, we’re all here. We’re going to come around the corner now, ok?” He said.

“Prove it. Badge and ID code.” Artemis yelled back. Artemis never asked for ID codes.

There was some muttering, then a hand slowly – oh so slowly – came around the corner, holding four Ranger’s badges. Julius rattled off a seemingly random set of words, and Artemis relaxed a hair.

“Come over, fast.” She said.

Julius and co turned the corner, only for their eyebrows to almost uniformly fly off their face. They looked some more, and their gaze turned steely.

“Origen?” Arthur asked, blinking away a tear.

“Dead.” Artemis said.

“Right, everyone into the Argo.” Julius ordered.

I hopped down, entering the wagon, as everyone else filed in. I felt a rumbling right before Artemis came in, which I assumed was her sealing off the alley’s entrance, providing us a miniature fort in the heart of town.

“Origen’s dead. Looks like the plague.” Artemis said, without any preamble. “Patient he was bringing to us was found next to him, also dead of the plague.”

“Plagues don’t work that fast!” I cried out in frustration.

“They clearly do.” Maximus said derisively, practically sneering at me. “You say plagues don’t spread by eye contact. This one is. You say plagues don’t work that fast. We have a dead Ranger proving otherwise. You’ve been wrong about this, and so many other things, why should we keep listening to you?”

I half-screamed in frustration.

“It’s like the plague uses fucking magic, which it can’t because shit that small doesn’t get classes!”

There was dead silence at that. You could hear a pin drop, the pin drop, as everyone went still, my screaming voice echoing through the Argo in a strange way.

Almost as one, we said the same thing, at the same time.



“Elaine’s insistence that plagues didn’t spread by eye contact should’ve been a clue.” Artemis said. “She knows diseases better than any of us, and the [Plague Healer] was sure it was spread by eye contact. We should’ve listened to both, and realized it earlier.”

“Everyone’s been commenting on the leveling rate.” Maximus said. “They’ve been saying it’s faster, stronger, better experience than any other plague they’ve worked. It makes sense if they’re opposing a classer, not opposing a run of the mill plague.”

“The mass-heal event.” Kallisto contributed. “It showing up outside of the town? Classer didn’t want to get caught, didn’t want a tried-and-true method to reveal him. Must’ve deliberately sabotaged it.”

“The head of the guard being one of the first to fall to the plague.” I said, seeing the whole puzzle come together. “It was a targeted snipe, like Origen was. They didn’t want the guard organized and looking for them, they needed confusion and a lack of a strong response. The guard’s been too busy on standard protection and patrol, they don’t have the people that usually notice the patterns around.” My knowledge of how guards worked came in handy. How did I not see this earlier!?

Julius closed his eyes in grief, in regret. “I think it’s one of the healers. When we came down hard on Berucus, we mentioned that we were watching them, and we’d find out wrongdoing. We must’ve spooked him into acting, into targeting us directly for kills. Can’t have the Rangers looking too closely, like the guard would’ve. That, and Elaine solving one of the plagues in her first week here. He, or she, knew it would only be a matter of time before we figured it out. Origen was on his own, easiest one to pick off. In the temple, where we think the murderer is. If it wasn’t for Elaine’s knowledge, we’d just think he was just another victim of the plague. Just like the guards thought the head of the guard dying was just another victim.”

Arthur grunted. “Killing off an entire town is amazing experience.” We glared at him, a fresh reminder of his callous suggestion to poison half of Virinum refreshed in our minds. He held up his hands. “There are other possible reasons. I agree he’s probably with the healers though. When hunting like this, you want to see the response, be able to react to it. The best place for the hunted to hide, is with the hunters. They never look at themselves.”

“Real fast.” Julius said. “Let’s go down the list of possible people, and the why. Then we’re sealing the temple, and interrogating everyone inside. This Classer’s willing to murder in broad daylight, in the middle of a healing temple, they’re not going to immediately run. They’re going to try and blend in, like they’ve been blending in all this time. First off, who benefits?” He asked.

“Verta.” Artemis immediately said. I glared a betrayed look at her. She glared back. “Her, and the other maligned healers in this town, finally have respect. They finally have people looking up to her, up to them. She has a chance to reach 256, a milestone she’d likely never get in her entire life. Elaine, don’t give me that look. 10, 15, 20 more years in your shoes, if you were stuck in town, forced to marry Kerberos? I’d put you at the head of a rebellion, and more than one has started for similar reasons.”

I froze. There was no way Artemis could know about me being offered a [Revolutionary] class, but clearly Artemis knew me.

“Markus.” Kallisto said. “Has a bunch of apprentices, they’re expensive to feed, hard to get enough experience for all of them, hard to get each one of them the hands-on experience they need. One plague, all of them are high enough level to strike off on their own, rich and famous. He’s been spreading his apprentices all over, in theory to learn from other healers. Possibly to spy on them as well? It’d be a perfect information network. If it’s one of the apprentices, they could keep spreading the plague from different places, so even if someone suspected it was a healer, the pattern wouldn’t make sense. Who keeps track of apprentices anyways?”

“Caecilius.” Maximus said. “He’s all about plagues, and at almost level 300, he must be slowing down. Perhaps he’s making a plague to fix, since he might not have work otherwise. He mentioned that his second class might be mage, and might relate to healing. Causing a plague is completely related to healing, in a twisted way. Two classes synergizing like that, causing both the poison and the cure, should, would, cause both to rapidly rise together, ending up at a much higher final point than either one alone.”

“Might be his apprentice.” I mentioned. Maximus tilted his head to me, acknowledging my contribution, half-apologizing for earlier.

I was still kinda mad at him, and wanted a real apology, but I knew it wasn’t the time or place.

“Hesoid.” Arthur suggested. “Not even a healer, might be the cause. Ex-slave, might be out for revenge. Has the leveling pace you’d expect from someone killing a lot of people. Not even a healer.” There was some head nodding at that.

“Ponticus?” I suggested timidly. “His sense of right and wrong are, um, non-standard, and he’s been shown to make poor decisions.”

Julius shuddered. “He’s a Gemstone Artisan, and while I doubt he has enough gems for a sustained plague like this, it’s theoretically possible. I think. Maximus?” He asked, turning to him.

Maximus hummed, fingers twitching as he did some arcane calculations known only to himself.

“That would be an insane number of gems.” He finally settled on. “He can barely afford a proper tunic. Maybe if he spent everything on gems… but he’s so young. The problem with Hesoid being the source, is Decay doesn’t have plagues in its domain. Although Decay is extremely rare, I’ve never met one before.” He conceded in the end.

“Bacteria is the source of a lot of decay, I don’t see why it couldn’t expand slightly to include a plague.” I pointed out. Maximus shrugged at me.

“Glacia’s been lying to us, and everyone from the start.” Julius said. “She – or he – has a demonstrated wide-area effect, large enough to cover the entire town. I don’t know what motive he, or she, could have, but with the amount of lying done, and demonstrated skills and abilities, she’s worth looking into.”

There were nods of agreement, and I found myself reluctantly nodding along.

“Do we need to take a second look at Berucus?” Artemis asked. “Seemed pretty mad that we caught onto his scam, and maybe he was infecting people and releasing them, as the source. Easy to disguise seeding the disease as ‘failing to properly heal someone’ – even we thought he was just scamming people for money. Gives the motive as well, he’s one of the healers that’s become incredibly rich as a result.”

Julius sucked some air in through his teeth. “Sure, although I was convinced he was just scamming for more money. Worth a second look, people have been known to pull wool over my eyes before. Also, after the penalty inflicted, no longer incredibly rich.”

“Right, everyone gear up. Full armor, weapons, helmets. Artemis, Elaine, top yourselves up to max from the Argo. Someone acts twitchy, kill them. This Classer’s killed thousands, if not tens of thousands of people, and has shown a willingness to attack Rangers. Don’t give Elaine a chance to heal them, don’t make her choose. We’re already coming down hard on the healers, and we could spark a riot if we do this poorly.”

“We could spark a riot anyways boss.” Kallisto said, sliding on his laminar vest.

“That we could. Artemis, only open up the side door. I want this place like a fortress. Gives us a safe spot to retreat to.”

A few minutes later, and we were geared to the nines. Helmet, spear, sword, shield – I have everything except a spade with me.

The capes were left behind. This wasn’t intimidation, or looking good.

This was serious.

[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

RIP my rating, I hardly knew ye. People don't like major, named characters dying.

The end of the Plague arc approaches! A quick "Who dun it" in the poll below!

Find out who dun it, and the rest of the plague arc, on Patreon. It's the start of the month after all.


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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Who done it?
Verta, +/- Town healer
4.21% 4.21% of votes
Markus, +/- one of his apprentices
11.38% 11.38% of votes
Caecilius, +/- his apprentice
8.14% 8.14% of votes
5.03% 5.03% of votes
Ponticus - how else to get tasty human flesh?
2.19% 2.19% of votes
Glaci(a/us), +/- his/her bodyguard
27.79% 27.79% of votes
1.44% 1.44% of votes
Author is a troll, plague is naturally magical.
5.5% 5.5% of votes
Author is a troll, the answer isn't in the poll.
34.32% 34.32% of votes
Total: 2925 vote(s)

About the author



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