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A note from Selkie

I'm back! Break was restful, and I feel good and ready to write! Before taking the break it was feeling like a drag - this break was just in time.

 

Yesterday I might've given Kana (The owner of RR) a bunch of extra work. Whoops. LONG story (pun intended) short, the ding-pocalypse was hilarious and short-lived, and gave Kana a headache. Anyways.

 

Royal Road is where we're all reading these stories. It has some of the least-obstrusive advertising ever. We all probably get hundreds of hours of entertainment out of it per year. Consider throwing a few bucks towards RoyalRoad by subscribing to a premium membership here: https://www.royalroad.com/premium/subscription ; - it's only $2.99/month for readers, and helps keep this amazing platform running. I've personally been subscribed to the author premium since I started - seemed only fair.

 

Onto the story!

Early winter of the second year of Ranger Academy.

“Trainees! Fall in after dinner!” One of the instructors roared at us as we were eating dinner.

Those of us sitting at the same table all turned our heads to stare at Wolfy, who’d more than earned his reputation for intel-gathering.

“What? I have no idea.” He said.

We good-naturedly pelted him with breadcrumbs.

“This is so unfair.” He said, brushing the crumbs off his tunic when we were done. “None of you knew either, why am I the one that gets penalized?”

“Because we expect you to know!” Dancer cheerfully said. “Any bets?”

“Well, it’s gotta be a non-standard class, right?” I said.

“Duh. It’s not the first time they’ve done this.” Aura gave me a look like “Are you dumb or something?”

I sank down a bit and muttered darkly to myself. Next time I’d [Fireball] him…

We fell in after dinner, most of us being smart enough to keep it light.

“Mages! On me!” A familiar voice called out. My eyes widened.

Artemis!!

I blew [Rapidash] just to be in front, grinning like a lunatic as I met Artemis’s eyes.

“Heya Ranger healy-bug.” She said, grinning back. “We’re going to have fun today!”

In a more serious tone, she called out. “Mages! Follow me!”

We jogged, following Artemis – Instructor Artemis – to a large field.

“Attention Trainees! I’m Instructor Artemis. Most of you know me, some of you don’t. I was a Ranger for 14 years, and retired recently. Special lecture today on fighting other mages. Rules are as follows: remove the lower left leg, you win. Trainees, attention! Spread out in a single-file line.”

We shuffled around quickly.

“Ranger Elaine. Fall out.” Artemis said. I stepped out of formation, and walked over to her as she beckoned.

“Wait a moment, then heal.” She whispered to me. “Stand away from me.”

I knew what Artemis said would make sense in a minute or two.

“I know, I know, most of you think you’re hotshots. Who’d like a duel to start?”

There were some nervous mutterings, then one of the Trainees raised his hand.

Artemis didn’t even blink. A quarter of a second later, the rock had finished going through the Trainee’s knee, and he was on the ground screaming.

I waited a heartbeat, then moved over to him, healing him up.

“First rule of mage duels! There’s no such thing as a fair fight!” Artemis said, leaning forward, lifting her left leg up and behind her.

“Would anyone else like to try?” She said, from the awkward pose that also made her almost unbeatable.

“Also, because at least two of you are getting the bright idea to attack me first – you’re not allowed to attack the Instructor without announcing your plan first.”

“But that’s-“ one of the Trainees said.

“Not fair?” Artemis finished. “Exactly. You should never be in a fair fight. There’s no such thing. Hit them from behind. Hit them when they’re not looking. Hit them without announcing yourself. Hit them, six against one when they’re sitting in a cell.”

Artemis paused a moment, letting it sink in.

“There were plenty of Rangers with notions of fair play. They’re dead. I have no notion of fair play. I’m retired. Do the math. It’s much, much easier to say ‘I’m sorry, I screwed up and hit or killed the wrong person’ than it is to attend your own funeral. Attendance is mandatory for that one.”

“I’ve screwed up plenty of times. I’ve killed dozens of people by accident, or who weren’t actually a threat. On one level, they haunt me. On the other – yeah, I’m pretty happy to be alive.”

“Just about all of you know how to use your class and magic well. I’m here to teach you as many tricks about fighting dirty as possible.”

“Anyone have a powerful shield skill?”

Barrier – for some reason he was in the class – raised his hand.

“Great! Shield up!”

He promptly put his shield up, then looked at Artemis, defiant look in his eyes.

“Great!”

Artemis threw a few rocks at the shield.

“Now, normally this barrier would be hard for me to break. It’s also a good one, and I can’t conjure up rocks or lightning inside the barrier to hit him – remember that trick by the way, it’s good for killing most barrier mages – however, watch this trick.”

“Trainees! New orders! Bring down that barrier!”

Barrier went pale as all sorts of projectiles were sent his way, a massive barrage of rocks, metal, wood, flames, water, an air blade, and more. I started running towards him, seeing how this would end.

“Trainees! Halt!” Artemis shouted out.

Barrier was pretty beaten up, but nobody had gone too hard. His legs were a mangled mess though, and I started to patch him up.

“First dirty trick – bring friends. No such thing as a honorable 1 vs 1 duel, not in our line of work. Let’s continue….”

 


“Ranger Elaine. Excellent, you are on time.” Night said, at the start of Toxic’s entertainment time.

Night looked around, and spotted Instructor Jason.

“Ranger Jason. Remain. The rest of you – leave.”

There wasn’t even an angry mutter at Night rudely killing entertainment hour, just muttered, respectful “Night.” and salutes as each Instructor took their leave.

Also, wait – Ranger Jason? Not Instructor Jason?

Most of the Sentinels stuck around.

“We have arrived at a decision. Toxic. Prepare what you need. Ranger Jason. Full exploratory gear. Sky – get the ship ready. Ranger Elaine. With Ranger Jason, get a second set of gear. Nature. You may come if you’d like. Meet back here on the next gong strike.”

I saluted, and followed Ranger Jason, who had a pained look on his face.

“What’s going on?” I asked him, suddenly an equal with the titles used.

“Blah. Night’s going on a long trip, you, Toxic, and Nature are going along, and Sky’s going to be transporting. Me? I drew a short straw, and I’m going to be gone for a few weeks, maybe a month or two. No idea with you. Although, maybe we’re going together? Impromptu wilderness survival trip, that you’re on because you’re a Ranger? Giving me some backup, a team of two?”

We arrived at the Instructor-only portion of the villa, and being escorted in by one of the Instructors was enough to not have anyone challenge me. We made it to what I assumed was their armory, filled with armor, weapons, and all manner of survival tools and packs.

This wasn’t the slightly aged stuff they had Trainees use. This was the good stuff.

A gruff older man I immediately mentally dubbed “Armorer” was sitting in the room, stitching a cloak back together, the material looking good as new under his careful ministrations.

“Ranger Elaine. Fourth armor set on the right is yours. Get it on, I’ll adjust after. Ranger Jason. Seventh set on the left. I hope I don’t need to adjust it more.”

The Look Armorer gave Jason let him know that he better not have gained any weight, and I silently resolved never to be on his bad side.

“Two exploratory packs please.” Jason asked, putting his armor on. I did the same, a few places a little tighter, a little less comfortable, from how I remembered it.

Armorer grunted, walking in the back, coming out with two large backpacks, shovels hanging off the side, a sleeping roll on top. He walked over to me, put a hand on my armor, and, with a speed that put Maximus to shame, my armor immediately fit, like a snug second skin. Even the padding under it shifted to cling to me, like it’d been vacuumed on.

Thinking about it, it’d be hell to get out of, but then again, I suspected I was going to be in this for some time.

We geared up, and met back in the courtyard.

Arthur was being, well, Toxic, and I could see what Maximus had meant by “getting stranger.” He was carrying a massive – and I had no other word for it – dresser on his back, dozens of little sliding wooden boxes neatly labeled, and a huge corked gourd.

“Do I want to know?” I asked.

“Well, a benefit of being a Sentinel is support.” Arthur cheerfully told me. “I have all sorts of poisons now, from all over! Neatly delivered to me. This here,” He said, patting the gourd. “Is a special project, and most of the reason for our trip.”

“Pray, tell me, why do you see it appropriate to give all this information to Ranger Elaine?” Night said, stalking in from the shadows.

Toxic saluted him.

“Sir! She’s going to be our teammate on this mission. Shared information is worthwhile, and my personal evaluation is that she’s need-to-know.”

Night hissed in an amused fashion.

“Well reasoned. It looks like Nature will not be joining us. Sky, get down here.”

The last line was directed up, and Sky dropped down.

“Aww, but we still had more time until the gong!” He complained.

Night just gave him a long, flat stare, until Sky wilted.

“Alright, alright, let’s go already!”

Sky shot off into the distance, and Night gave a long-suffering sigh at his antics.

We made our way to where Sky had shot off, to find what looked like at first glance to be a small sailboat, with enough room for a dozen people to be seated comfortably, and five large Arcanite stones, seated in the middle of the boat, locked in by mystical rings. Inscriptions glowed all over the boat, a trail of little lights along the rim, and at the top of the sail.

“Hop on, hop on! Let’s gooooo!” Sky said.

We gave Toxic room as he went on first, nobody wanting to be near his chest or jug of extremely deadly poisons. Or Toxins. Ranger Jason hopped on next, I followed him, and without a whisper, or movement of air, Nature appeared out of nowhere, leaping into the boat, settling down without a word. Night raised an eyebrow at this, but with aristocratic grace, settled into the boat as well.

The boat was on dry land, but with all the magic I’d seen, I wasn’t going to question anything.

“Hope you have a strong stomach! By the way, if you fall off, I’m not catching you. You’re on your own.” Sky said.

Night hissed at him.

“If Toxic’s gourd should fall, you will retrieve it, understood?”

Sky wouldn’t meet Night’s eyes, as he muttered something about “personal responsibility”, but then went around, tapping all of us.

“95% weight reduction! And now, for the main event!” He said, wind starting to howl around us, sail catching the wind.

“Up! Up! And awaaaaaaaaay!”

The wind caught the boat, and the combination of skills, inscriptions, and generally good construction, caused the boat to catch the wind, lifting us off the ground.

“Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” Sky yelled in pure glee, hand on the Arcanite. “This never gets old!”

Night had a smile, and Arthur looked positively giddy. Nature just looked dour, and Ranger Jason looked like he was going to be sick.

“Westwards.” Night ordered.

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.” Sky shot back.

We started flying, a powerful gale at our back, moving our little boat along the currents of the air.

“Ranger Elaine. This is the Pegasus. While it’s no great secret that Sentinels have ways of rapidly moving around Remus, we prefer for you to not shout about it from the rooftops. Understood?”

I saluted.

“Sir! Yes sir!”

“Very good. Ranger Jason will soon demonstrate some of the more interesting aspects of the Pegasus.

I heard some soft cursing from him, his face in a deep frown.

“Could we at least land –“

“No.”

More cursing and swears, softly, self-directed. Night seemed to let it slide.

We traveled through the night, going at a blistering pace, the miles beneath us being devoured, occasionally dipping through the clouds as Sky had some fun moving us up and down.

“First crystal down!” Sky cheerfully informed us.

Everyone else seemed to be trying to doze, and I mimicked them.

A few hours later – “Second crystal down! Time to shine Jason!”

Ranger Jason cursed, and opened up his bag. Two of the massive Arcanite Crystals were removed, dimmer than before, having been completely depleted. They got packed into his bag.

“Best of luck!” Sky said, tapping him.

“Hang on, wait a mom-“ Ranger Jason tried to say, before Sky physically threw him out of the boat.

As we were going through a cloud.

“I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttttteeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ttttttthhhhhhhhiiiiiiiii-“

I leaned back with surprise.

“Uhhhh-“

“Arcanite is heavy. People are heavy. Once the two crystals are drained, it is worth removing them, to make the rest of what we have last longer. At the same time, Arcanite of that size is exceptionally valuable. Ranger Jason now needs to make his way back to Headquarters with the Arcanite, so it may be used once more in the future.”

Basically, thrown off with ridiculously expensive, heavy crystals, in the middle of the wilderness, and expected to make his way back to HQ with them.

Alone.

No wonder he’d looked so sour at the duty.

“Where are we heading?” I asked.

“The frontlines. Toxic wishes to try a new way of poisoning the Formorians, and your knowledge could be useful as he refines his attempts.”

Oh.

We continued to fly through the night, trying to doze fitfully, as Sky kept making happy noises, occasionally making the Pegasus swoop about – waking us all up, making us glare at him.

Dawn broke, we broke into some light breakfast, Night scowling as he threw a cowl over his head, wrapping himself up in his cloak, and generally did all he could to subtly stay out of the sun.

“Hey Elaine, you never mentioned your level 200 healer skill.” Arthur said, making some conversation. “It’s usually something good.”

I snorted at the memory.

“I was offered [Astrological Horoscope]. Something about ‘reading the stars to learn what was wrong with a patient.’ Wasn’t worth the spot – [Medicine] and my own experience does most of that already. I’m also sour on the snake-oil that’s astrology. I’d rather just throw more mana at the problem if it comes to that.”

Arthur shrugged.

“I don’t know enough about it to comment. Shame the 200 skill was a dud though.”

I shrugged, not having much to say. After some time, we had some lunch, and then we arrived.

At the frontlines. The eternal war against the Formorians, trying to overrun humanity. The walls, holding them back. The 4th – 20th legion, locked in never-ending conflict.

The massive pseudo-city of camp followers, making sure the soldiers’ every need was met. This was the first major encampment that didn’t have complete surrounding walls, just a sprawl of humanity.

The destination of our journey.

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 17]

[Mana: 28120/28120]

[Mana Regen: 28953]

Stats

[Free Stats: 576]

[Strength: 168]

[Dexterity: 212]

[Vitality: 297]

[Speed: 220]

[Mana: 2812]

[Mana Regeneration: 3239]

[Magic Power: 2466]

[Magic Control: 2766]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 210]]

[Celestial Affinity: 210]

[Warmth of the Sun: 193]

[Medicine: 192]

[Center of the Galaxy: 210]

[Phases of the Moon: 210]

[Moonlight: 177]

[Veil of the Aurora: 210]

[Vastness of the Stars: 139]

[Class 2: [Pyromancer - Fire: Lv 112]]

[Fire Affinity: 112]

[Fire Resistance: 112]

[Fire Conjuration: 112]

[Fire Manipulation: 112]

[Fuel for the Fire: 112]

[Burn Brightly: 112]

[Rapidash: 112]

[Fireball: 112]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 133]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 156]

[Pretty: 130]

[Vigilant: 192]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 199]

[Ranger's Lore: 172]

[Training: 160]

[Learning: 210]

 

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A note from Selkie

No such thing as a fair fight according to Artemis!

Jason being thrown out of the Pegasus is probably one of my favorite scenes.


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: https://discord.gg/GStatMC

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!

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/SelkieMyth

Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/selkiemyth

 


 

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Selkie

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