A note from Selkie

For my own sanity, and to stave off burnout I'm taking a minor break - next chapter will be Monday, the 15th. I'm taking the break now because 

The arc is nicely concluded on Patreon.

The last half dozen or so chapters are all 4-7k words long - AKA briefly rivaling The Wandering Inn

Four days before Summer Solstice. The halfway mark of Ranger Academy.

We were all assembled together, full armor and weapons, a rare break from the constant lessons.

“Trainees! You’ve managed to make it this far. Congratulations! Today, we’re hosting a tournament, to see which one of you is the best fighter in individual combat! Support and Utility will get their own bracket! Any questions?” Quintis roared at us.

A half-dozen hands shot up.

“I’m glad to see no questions! Trainees, move out!”

I suppressed a chuckle as I jogged along with everyone else to the waiting ship. We still fell for that one.

Military discipline was one thing, but Rangers were notoriously lax, and enough time had passed from the Hell Months where some quiet whispering occurred as we were heading along to the ship.

“What do you think….?”

“Mages? Against Warriors? Is that fair?”

“To who? The mages or the warriors?”

We got on the ship, and started to sail towards the capital.

“Obviously the mages have an advantage. A one-on-one fight? Short of a mage-killer, the mage will win.”

“For like, two, three rounds. Then they’re out of mana, and a mage with no mana is a dead mage.”

“Not if they take out all the warriors first!”

“No way they all get taken out first.”

I tuned out the endless debates, focusing on my own problem.

I’d come round – and as a result, [Oath] had come round – to the idea that sparring was good. Sure, minor injuries could occur, but they’d always be fixed, and in the long-run, it was good. It helped sharpen people, it increased their chances of survival. It was a net benefit, and nothing I did to people caused damage. Not that I was blasting flames, nor did I have the stats to properly make it through our sparring armor and cause any harm. Sparring was kosher.

The ship landed, and we neatly exited, jogging down the streets in formation to the arena. We were going to be good entertainment, but we were nothing like the grand plans the colosseum had for the Solstice. We were a warm-up, and one that didn’t even justify being that close to the main event.

On the obvious note, when someone was trying to kill me, I had no problems performing violence right back at them.

What was the right move in a duel that wasn’t meant to train, or improve, but to rank, and show off? To determine who was better, who was the best?

I didn’t have anyone I could bounce it off. Night was my go-to on [Oath] dilemmas when Artemis wasn’t around, but like most of our missions and ‘live’ practice, this had come out of the blue, to better mimic “real” conditions.

Having gone through the “real” conditions myself, I knew that scouting, prep, and planning was the name of the game, not throwing people in blind. The only “blind” fights we had was when we were attacked – by Classers or goblins or other monsters – and those we didn’t have the luxury of getting our armor on ahead of time.

I shrugged to myself, and the shape of a plan started to take hold. I knew what to do. I knew exactly what to do…

I was classified as one of the “Support and Utility”, blessedly not having to fight against a dedicated mage. They’d chew me up and spit me out, especially in a duel like this.

Our group was the first one to go – we were less exciting than the mages, warriors, and rangers, aka the cool shiny explosive group.

For once, I wasn’t on “stop the fight and heal” duty. The Ranger healers had that handled today, since in theory that was their job. Also, free tickets to the show for them, and a good day’s pay. What was there to not like?

I could see why convincing healers to go on the road, and not stay in town healing, was so difficult.

“Elaine. ELAINE!

I snapped to it as Instructor Jason called my name.

“Huh? What? Yeah?” I said, jumping slightly.

“You’re up. Come on.”

Whoops! Good thing this wasn’t important.

I walked out to the announcer calling me.

“From the East gate, Trainee Elaine!”

A polite smattering of applause, some hoots and hollers.

I looked at my opponent. It was Aura, who specialized in a dozen different supporting auras. He could buff himself with it, but his real power was in being able to buff everyone around him – selectively. Incredibly useful in a team fight, pretty awful in a 1 v 1. It did make him a better fighter though.

We saluted each other, and I implemented my dueling strategy – Operation ‘she’s lost her marbles.’

I kept my sword sheathed, planted my spear, and raised my hand up into the air, conjuring the largest, fattest gout of flame I could muster. There was no density to it, barely any heat – it was mostly for show. I threw a few fireballs around the arena, making sure they hit sand, far away from Aura or any spectators.

“Burn! Burn! Burn my pretties! Burn him to the ground! Burn the sand! Burn the stadium! Burn the people, ignite the town, let all be consumed by the all-devouring flames! The pretty glow of embers against the sky, the roar of the inferno in my ears! I wish to see it all, and it starts here, it starts today, it starts – with you!”

“Come closer, lie down upon the sandy altar of blood that is the floor of this colosseum, and give yourself over to the consuming flames! Free your body, free your mind, let all your worries burn away!”

“Let us start a wildfire! A grand inferno to burn the city down! Hundreds of levels! Together, we will-“

Aura didn’t let me finish, charging towards me, spear leveled at me. I cursed, turning the flames off, keeping my hand up in the air.

“I surrender.”

My early exit of the tournament afforded me a good seat to watch the rest of it, not that I paid it that much attention. Even being in the stands was a serious risk, that I’d see something that would demand I jump into the arena, and put a stop to it, heal the person who’d gotten injured. Bless the medics on standby, they always arrived before I was more than halfway out of my seat.

Operation ‘Pretend I’d gone nuts’ had been a complete failure. I figured that Aura wouldn’t want to tangle with a mage – correctly – and I’d tried to bluff having snapped and gone nuts, ready to burn him down.

He’d just shaken his head, put a hand on my shoulder, and told me.

“Ranger Elaine. We know you too well. We know you wouldn’t go crazy like that, and even if you did, your [Oath] would stop you. If you did go crazy, the only solution would be to kill you anyways – what Rangers are for, literally what we’re training to do. Lastly, your acting sucks.

With that smarting analysis of my shortcomings, I spent the rest of the day in the stands, watching.

The finals, to the surprise of some, was Hulk against Lava, the mages having run out of mana after a few rounds, then getting roundly beaten up by the remaining physical Trainees. In the end, while the mages had gotten some lessons from Artemis, none of them had her ability to efficiently take people apart over extended periods of time.

This wasn’t the first time this particular duel had occurred. Hulk usually had an edge, although if Lava could get going, it was anyone’s duel.

It was short. Hulk was one of the few people who used their own weapon. If I was being generous, I’d call it a large quarterstaff. If I wasn’t feeling generous, it was a small tree with the branches trimmed off.

Lava had already erupted a half-dozen times today, and the volcano was out of fuel. Hulk simply beat him down with brutal efficiency until Lava surrendered.

Aura ended up winning the support side of things. His buffs got him to the stage of a weak warrior, which was far above the combat prowess of most of the other supports. Barrier was his opponent in the end, and he didn’t make the mistake the other utility Trainees made, which was getting too close. Instead, he kept dancing back, whacking at the shields Barrier made, then threw things at Barrier from a distance, not falling for the fake “I’m out of mana” Barrier was pretending to have, in a last-ditch attempt to lure Aura closer.

Alchemist was declared an honorary third place, having not been allowed to properly compete. It’d be too expensive, and too dangerous.

I snuck to the back of the boat on the way home, and threw a few fireballs into the water. It was satisfying, watching the soccerball-sized ball of flame go whizzing off, hitting the water and erupting into a ball of flames.

Even Artemis had been slightly surprised at the enthusiasm I’d taken to practicing - and leveling up - [Fireball], me throwing them at every spare moment.

Morning run? [Fireball] into the sea.

Obstacle course? [Fireball] before the balance beam, [Fireball] on the balance beam, and one last [Fireball] as I jumped off the balance beam. All into the Nostrum Sea, conveniently to my right as I did all this.

I’d been banned from throwing [Fireball] anywhere else, after the third incident.

We don’t talk about those.

We made it back as the sun was setting, had a lovely dinner at the Villa.

“Ranger Elaine.” Arthur – or Toxic, as he was when he was calling me by my formal name – “Our lessons continue tonight.”

I saluted, the effect dramatically diminished by the entire apple held in my mouth.

“Understood.” I tried to say, but it came out more “Undastoof.” The perils of talking with your mouth full.

Reflecting on it, it was strange. I’d seen most of the Sentinels at dinner, except for Night and Magic. The others were rare – only if they were around – but they did show up now and then.

For that matter, had I ever met Magic?

The ‘lessons’ with Arthur were no more than the Instructors and Sentinels wanting free entertainment out of me. Apparently, it was an open secret amongst them that any bards or bard-like classes, when they rarely joined the Rangers and passed to the lesson portion of training, got press-ganged into entertainment services. It got boring on the island, especially when you weren’t a Sentinel, able to easily come and go back to the capital on a whim.

Given how close we were to the Solstice, I had a special play in mind.

“Welcome! Come one, come all, to Elaine’s nightly performance! Tonight, a special one, for the season – A Midsummer’s Night Dream! By the Bard himself!”

I got some scattered applause, one of the Instructors particularly pleased with Shakespeare letting me know his appreciation. I curtseyed at the crowd – involuntarily having gotten some social graces beaten into me by sheer virtue of practice. I really could make a living as a bard.

Or, more likely, I could try to pass off my second class as being Bardic, the correction and amplification from [Recollection] doing a weak mimic of the class.

Be advised, fair maid;

To you your father should be as a god,….”

The tune and words of A Midsummer’s Night Dream came out, the effect massively diminished by me trying to play every single role. I had a dozen different masks, each with a number on them, that I put on for each different role. Thesues was a mask with a 1 on it, Hippolyta with a 2, and so on and so forth.

As with all the works of Shakespeare, it was a hit, and I bowed to the applause at the end.

50-50 on [Recollection] leveling. It hadn’t leveled up for the last few performances, and Midsummer’s was new enough that I had a shot.

Come on, come on…. Yes!

[*ding!* Congratulations! [Recollection of a Distant Life] has reached level 152!]

The Instructors left, most off to bed, or whatever other entertainment they had planned for themselves, while Night and I went for our usual walk, his guidance and mentorship invaluable, the reason I’d gotten most of the levels I had. We’d talked about various general skills I could get, along with solid stat builds to go along with them, inventive uses of my skills, and long, deep discussions on my [Oath], somehow managing to probe and discover all the boundaries without triggering or causing problems.

“Your performance tonight was elegantly done.” Night always started the conversations, usually after we’d walked in silence for some time.

I knew the game; I knew the pattern. He was happier when I mimicked him. Him arranging the fight against Albius, as well-meaning as the intention had been to get me experience, still weighed on my mind though. Walking was good for thinking, for processing. Step. Step. Step. Step.

“Thank you.”

Step. Step.

“With that being said, I have come to realize that you are like an infant who’s somehow managed to unlock their System, throwing around skills without a care for the world, nor the damage and destruction that could be caused. This must be rectified.”

I wanted to say something, I had a powerful urge to defend myself.

I shut up. Night knew what he was talking about.

“Creatures that are nothing more than stories, myths and legends, nothing more than a dream to you are very present here. You’ve already been lectured on one, and yet, you persist in being flippant. Creatures like centaurs, elves, dwarves, selkies, goblins, orcs, trolls, and so many more – yes. They are safely ignored, dismissed. Oh, do not mistake me – they shall kill you as quick as anything, but they are entertaining fodder for discussion.”

“The Fae are not. They do not hear when they are called, but may come none the less. They do not follow the rules. They are unbound by the System. If you could, if somehow you managed to slay one, you would receive no reward, no accolades from the System, no experience. You would also invoke their wrath, which is not survivable, instead of their ire. They may look human, they may act human, but they could not be further from human. The way they think, what they want, are entirely foreign to us. Never think you understand them.”

Bless Night for insisting on silent contemplation after each sentence. He’d just dropped a dozen bombshells on me.

And for most of them, my mind broke, unable to get past a simple question, a simple problem which hadn’t come up before, which I hadn’t even realized back when Julius shut me up all that time ago.

How could he know?

Nobody I knew spoke of elves and dwarves. Centaurs weren’t even a figure of stories, there were no lessons on how to slay trolls, or how to battle orcs. Yet, Night just casually dropped all of them, like he had personal experience with it.

And if D----ns were so dangerous, so deadly – how did anyone know about them? How did that knowledge survive, how was it passed on?

Curiouser and curiouser. Night hated questions about him, and I wasn’t going to poke the bear, not when the bear was already… irritated… with me.

“The fae are elusive and secretive, generous and helpful, even-handed and fair, cruel and spiteful, all in one, all at the same time. The less you deal with them, the better off you shall be. Indeed, strive to never interact with them.”

“For you to know about the Fae. Take heed, for I shall not repeat myself.” Night said.

  • Strike no deal with them, make no bargain.
  • Take nor offer a gift.
  • Be nothing if not polite and courteous. Give no insult.
  • Do not lie. They can not lie, but never think they speak the truth.
  • Keep your word.
  • Do not give them thanks.
  • Do not partake of their food or wine.
  • Do not spy, nor violate their privacy.
  • Do not give them your full name… a task you might struggle with. Give them a moniker if you must.
  • Do not violate their rings.

These things seven may grant protection against the Fae, each in its own manner.

  • Cold Iron, pressed to flesh.
  • A four-leaf clover, to grant vision.
  • Wearing clothes inside out, to confuse, amuse, and befuddle.
  • Salt, sprinkled around in a circle.
  • Arcanite, pulsing with mana to blind.
  • The Symbol of the Five Gods, worn sincerely
  • A wreath of holly, a crown upon your head.”


“We arm our soldiers with steel, not only because it is better than iron, but because we do not wish to give systemic offense to the Fae. A single individual, or even a collection individually deciding to protect themselves will go unnoticed. A large attempt to ward them off will cause offense, and the full might of mischievous faeries would descend upon the troublemakers. Accidental warding would be one thing, but as I have the knowledge to the contrary, it would be seen as an affront.”

We walked, for maybe twenty minutes in silence as I engraved that knowledge on my soul. After the time, Night spoke again.

“I wish to compliment your work in Perinthus. I had not heard of the wide-scale attempt to ward off the Fae, and if that knowledge had been brought to me, the outcome would have been… different.”

A vision of fire and steel, of a town being put to the sword, ran through my mind, and I shuddered.

“What… mischief… can the Fae Folk wrought?” I asked, finding myself slipping into Night’s manner of speaking. Blah. It was like gristle in my teeth.

Night chuckled, amused.

“Whatever mischief they please. They are unbound by the System. They can do what they want.”

“Swapping a newborn babe with a changeling. Luring you in to dance, dance until your legs are bloody stumps, dance until you must dance with your hands, for your legs are no more. Hide things of yours, move them, misplace them – that is the least of the harm they may bring. Lead you astray, with pixie-lights and will-o-wisps, into a bog to your demise. Or worse, into one of their rings, where you may emerge the next day, a hundred years older – or a hundred years later, with only a day having passed for you. Music, entrancing and beguiling. It seems oh so safe to just listen, to hear, to get just a bit more of the magical, otherworldly tunes – but you shall listen until you die. Accept a gift of a pebble, and they shall demand the gift of your firstborn in turn. For to them, this is a fair trade. Accept a flower, and they may ask for the heart of your lover, and you will be compelled to fill said bargain, to give them said gift in return. Cruelty and fair play – by their standards, which you could be bound to.”

With that troubling note, we spoke no more, as I struggled to digest and remember everything that was said.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 17]

[Mana: 26710/26710]

[Mana Regen: 27637]


[Free Stats: 492]

[Strength: 164]

[Dexterity: 212]

[Vitality: 297]

[Speed: 220]

[Mana: 2671]

[Mana Regeneration: 3107]

[Magic Power: 2347]

[Magic Control: 2651]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 205]]

[Celestial Affinity: 205]

[Warmth of the Sun: 190]

[Medicine: 190]

[Center of the Galaxy: 205]

[Phases of the Moon: 205]

[Moonlight: 165]

[Veil of the Aurora: 205]

[Vastness of the Stars: 138]

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 108]]

[Fire Affinity: 108]

[Fire Resistance: 108]

[Fire Conjuration: 108]

[Fire Manipulation: 108]

[Fuel for the Fire: 108]

[Burn Brightly: 108]

[Rapidash: 108]

[Fireball: 108]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 131]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 152]

[Pretty: 129]

[Vigilant: 188]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 197]

[Ranger's Lore: 168]

[Training: 154]

[Learning: 205]


A note from Selkie

Tournament arc! Start, middle, and end, all in one go!

I had a lot of fun with it. I really wanted to lampshade a tournament, and while I didn't do a great job, at the same time, there was no way Elaine was making it past round 1. 

Fae! Faeries! They show up yet again! How many times have they been mentioned, or hinted at now...?

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! Sign up for Patreon! Buy a book!

PS: Signing up for Patreon gets access to all book ePubs.

Discord for chatting:

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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