“Blasting the hell out of the Formorians” eventually became a chore, and I started to mix up my attacks, manipulating flames to hit Formorians closer to the Outcropping I was on, mixing it up with the [Fireball]s I was throwing further out. [Fireball] had a longer range than my manipulation and control skills, and had more bang for the mana used, but - and I couldn’t believe it - I was getting bored of throwing endless, extra-large-backpack-of-Arcanite-fueled [Fireball]s. There was just no variation.
My night vision went to hell in a handbasket with all the flames being thrown around, and I was oh-so-briefly regretting ditching [Eyes of the Milkyway]. Ah well. [Moonlight] was much, much better.
I’d occasionally see flashes of light from other Outcroppings further down. There seemed to be a Lightning mage to my left, lightning bolts like Artemis’s crackling every 70 minutes or so, and some sort of Brilliance mage to my right, a rain of Brilliance arrows showering down every 40 minutes or so.
The natural conclusion, I mulled as I threw more fireballs into the crowd, was other mages traded off on the Outcroppings, blowing all their mana, then trading spots while they regenerated up. I had a backpack full of mana, so I was able to single-handedly hog the spot.
Something was wrong. I didn’t need to be able to hog a spot to give Toxic support – hell, I wasn’t doing any supporting at the moment. I didn’t need this massive backpack of mana, fueling a [Pyromaniac]’s every dream.
What was going on?
I had lots of time to think – I didn’t really need to aim, just occasionally pause as Night flashed by, trail of gore left in his wake. However, no matter how I put the pieces together, it didn’t quite fit.
The only conclusion I came to, was this was probably related to my lessons being heavily focused on leadership and the like, relating to the Rangers maybe wanting to make me a team leader? Maybe they’d decided I was doing well enough in my lessons, and wanted to get my level high enough to justify it?
But this was absurdly expensive. Why not just, I dunno, let me be a Ranger for a few years, and let my level rise naturally that way? Get a solid core of other Rangers who knew me before making me a team leader?
And who ever heard of a team leader right out of Academy? Ok, fine, so I wasn’t right out of Academy, but still.
I continued puzzling and blasting for most of the night. Didn’t have much else to do, besides make sure I didn’t fall under any circumstances. I’d die horribly.
Eventually Night jumped up onto my Outcropping, and bless [Center of the Galaxy] for not having me fall.
“Excellent work Ranger Elaine.” Night said, in his usual formal manner. “Let us return, and see what progress Toxic has made. I trust you still have mana in reserve?”
“Sir! Yes sir.” I said, not quite sure why I was going full-formal.
We walked down the outcropping, endless tides of Formorians on either side, rushing to their doom in the meatgrinder.
“Why do they keep attacking?” I asked.
“I do not know. Eight times I have attempted to dive deep, to find and cut off the source. Eight time I have failed. There are larger, more powerful Formorians, and once inside their nest, I would be overwhelmed and crushed. Even I am not powerful enough to directly challenge them in their lair, nor am I able to fight a Broodmother. I am certain, however, that the Broodmothers, the Queens of the Formorians, are leveling, and leveling well, from all this.”
“They do not desire to communicate, nor do anything other than consume. For the most part, I have given up attempting to solve the problem myself, rather keeping an eye out for those with the talent to potentially solve the issue. Hence Toxic, and to a smaller extent, you.”
I nodded, as the dawn started to light up the horizon. We reached the frontlines, where a massive roar of approval came from the soldiers. Night lifted his right hand in the sky, clenched in a fist, and from the sound coming from the soldiers, it was like their favorite team had just won the Superbowl.
“Night! Night! Night! Night!” A chant came from them, the soldiers energized by his mere presence, throwing the Formorians back with vigor.
Night smiled, a pure smile of genuine happiness, at seeing more soldiers alive from his efforts, at the cheering of the crowd, his efforts to protect being rewarded.
The moons were setting as the sun was coming up, promising a perfect, cloudless day, and I took the chance to blast out [Moonlight]-empowered [Phases of the Moon], seeing dozens of small injuries heal up.
I ignored the level-up notifications. There had been a lot of those recently, and I wanted to see them all once we were done.
Night and I walked back.
“With your leftover mana, and Arcanite, we shall take you to one of the healer’s stations. I believe you wish to do some good there, correct?” Night asked me, pulling his cowl up to hide himself from the sun.
“Yes please.” I said, eagerly looking forward to it. I was so bored of blasting endless waves of Formorians.
We made our way to a large tent, rows of soldiers on stretchers outside, each marked with one of two strips of cloth – a green, or orange strip. Soldiers from the frontlines were coming up in either pairs or trios, either one soldier supporting a second, wounded one, or two soldiers carrying a third on a stretcher. A half-dozen support staff milled around, receiving each soldier in turn. They’d get marked with a green strip of cloth, an orange strip, or immediately sent into the main tent, an efficient triage system.
“I’m here to help. I’m here to help. Let me get in position to do the most good.” I mentally repeated to myself, fighting off the urge to just start blasting healing around. The green-strips would be fine – heck, some of them were only technically injured. The orange-strips needed some help, but it was the people that weren’t given a strip, just sprinted right into the tent, that required the most help.
I needed to be in that tent, helping.
“Ranger Elaine. I trust you’ll be able to find us once you have completed your task here.” Night said. I’d barely started to nod when he was off like a shot, back in the direction where our tent was.
He really didn’t like the sun.
I made it to the entrance of the tent, where a pair of guards waited.
“Everyone needs to wait in line and be triaged first.” One of the guards recited mechanically, not even looking at me properly.
“Hi, Ranger Elaine here. I’m – “
“Don’t care. Everyone needs to be checked out by triage, Ranger or not.” The guard said.
“I’m here to-“
The guard looked down with a frown.
“Was I not clear?” He asked, gripping his spear.
“Are you fucking dumb?” I shot back, tired of trying to be polite. “Have you bothered to [Identify] me? Can you not see I’m a fucking healer, trying to get in and help?”
The other guard lost it, doubled over laughing, as the first guard went red, then purple, veins throbbing on his head.
“Go in, go in, healers are always welcome.” The second guard said, tears of laughter in his eyes. “Forgive him, we get way too many people trying to skip the line, trying to pull rank for some reason or another.”
The first guard came to a decision, and unhappily relaxed. “Go in.”
I didn’t thank them on my way in. I was feeling petty.
Long story short, after the guards it was relatively smooth sailing for me to get, for the lack of a better word, a booth.
“Pull down the red tassel when you’re out of mana. Pull the green tassel down when you’re ready to accept patients.” One of the helpers told me.
I experimentally pulled down on the green tassel, the red one lifting up via a simple pulley.
“Sounds good! I’m just here briefly until I run out of mana.” I said, getting a foul look from the helper, who muttered something about ‘part time workers’ and ‘no work ethic.’
I resisted sighing and rolling my eyes. Seriously people. Instead, I patted my backpack.
“I have a lot of mana.”
The look in the helpers eye changed somewhat, as he put one and one together. I wasn’t here for a dozen patients or so – I was here for potentially hundreds.
Green tassel down, the first patient was brought to me, the two soldiers with him flopping his hand onto my booth as he lay, barely breathing, not really conscious, on the stretcher. I got eyed by the soldiers, who decided that I must’ve been screened at some point, and that it was a 17-year-old girl in the healer booth, not the grizzled 40+ man they expected.
“Left stomach, long cut.” The first soldier recited. I glanced down at the man I was going to heal, seeing that was indeed the primary injury, although they’d neglected to mention the guts hanging out. I touched him, focusing on the injury they’d mentioned, pulsing [Phases of the Moon] through him, watching the guts get sucked back into his stomach, wound stitching back up.
“Thanks!” One of the soldiers said. The other just threw me a dirty look, and the three of them walked out.
That was pretty much how it went. Injured soldier came up, and either him or his friend would give a short description of the injury, saving me – and the other healers – the trouble of diagnosing the problem, letting us quickly get to the needed image to rapidly heal them in an efficient, if not perfect, manner, balancing mana usage with rapid healing, to get to the next patient, who might be critical.
There was no telling when a critical patient would come in, but mostly I was on a steady diet of orange patients. A green patient came in at one point, grumbling about the long, long wait.
“Look, see that guy over there?” I said, pointing to a soldier being rushed in, screaming, missing his legs. “That gets you immediate attention. Lose some legs, and we’ll see you first.”
The soldier – both green in seniority, and now green around the gills – mutely nodded, letting me fix his arm, before moving on.
It took me about an hour and a half to finally run out of mana, at which point I made my excuses and took my leave.
“Ranger Elaine.” The helper saluted me on my way out. “We appreciate your help at any point.”
I smiled at him, mentally snorting. I probably threw something of a wrench in their operation, a healer randomly showing up, causing a kerfuffle, then leaving again after a short time, but hey – that was more of a “them problem” than a “me problem”. Plus, I was helping people.