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A note from Selkie

To not cliff you all, chapters will continue while I take a brief end of book 3 break. Then a week long break for my mental sanity.

Then a massive dump of words in a single week. 

It's a bit uneven, but oh well

Time to put my SERE training to the test, push it to the limits. It’d been designed for a full Ranger team against a rebellion or large bandit camp – but one Sentinel against a few dozen pirates was roughly the same scale and ratio.

I started to pulse the Radiance glow around me rapidly, pushing it to full strength one moment, withdrawing it to almost nothing the next, then pushing it out again. It was possible to adapt to a constant, bright glow. It was almost impossible to adapt to a disco-ball style rave ball, constantly flashing bright lights. I was going through a dozen cycles per second.

Warning: Looking at Sentinel Dawn may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy.

The attacks started to go askew, even more than before – most people weren’t equipped to shoot down a rare flier in the first place – and I kept moving as fast as I could, remembering to constantly draw in additional mana out of the Arcanite in my armor, making sure I was perpetually topped off.

It became rapidly clear that there was at least a Wood and a Metal mage, who I mentally added to my list with the Mist-aligned pirate that had to be running around. I wouldn’t put it past them for there to be other types of mages, but so far, their attacks were easy enough to avoid. Screwing everyone’s vision up was great. Hard to hit what you can’t see.

A few shots did come close, but they were spent, clattering harmlessly off my armor.

And being a flier, well, air versus ground combat was pretty easy from my perspective. Just drop stuff on them.

Like [Nova].

I started to drop [Nova] on crowded clumps of pirates, then rapidly changed to “whatever pirate I could still see” as a half-dozen kill notifications came streaming in, and the pirates – captain included – vanished off the deck to below-decks on both ships, leaving with me the smoky remains of some small fires burning.

I didn’t use my beams, because they were only effective in a relatively short range. [Nova] could travel much further, and it kept me out of range of more skills, as well as making attacks travel twice as far to get me.

One [Nova] was generally enough to kill the average pirate, and just over a second worth of Radiance beams on a head killed. From the looks of their classes, that was for physical Classers. Magical Classers would probably go down faster.

I eyed the ships, and for a moment, seriously considered just burning both of them down. I shook my head.

There were innocents on the merchant ship for sure, and from the classes and what I’d seen of the pirates, they were busy capturing a bunch of people to sell off as slaves. While their boat was more like a longboat, and it’d break apart and give people a chance to swim away, there was no telling if people were chained to each other, chained to the hull, or something else.

The merchant’s ship would end up being a coffin for anyone inside without a good underwater breathing skill, and even then, there was no telling how far it could be pushed.

Plus, I still wanted a lift home.

Could I… just steal the pirate ship and sail that away on my own?

I considered it, before realizing that there was no guarantee that people on the ship would know how to sail. I cursed my lack of sailing lessons.

Fine. The hard way it was.

I flew over to the pirate ship, and proceeded to happily set as many sails and ropes on fire as I could find though. It shouldn’t spread too badly, not with skills being involved, and it might light a fire under the pirate’s asses.

Although – whoops, sails burned really fast.

I also tried to burn things that looked important. Blowing stuff up was so much easier than building stuff.

I did a quick sweep, looking at the various weapons that had been dropped, either by a panicking pirate, or by one of the pirates I’d managed to kill. I found a sword that was almost exactly like the usual short swords I was used to using. Army surplus? A caravan raided? Some soldier turned to a life of crime?

Irrelevant questions honestly. I upgraded.

Eight down so far. Generally between level 110 to 160. The dude had said there were thirty pirates, but after the goblins, I didn’t believe that was the right number. They either inflated the number, to seem more intimidating, or deliberately undersold the amount. Still.

More of the pirates seemed to be on the merchant ship than the pirate ship, so I decided to start with the pirate ship. I looked at the deck, flames surrounding me as the ropes burned, toppled barrels rolling around. I looked at the two entrances, open, inviting me in like a wolf invites a rabbit into his maw.

No way there weren’t weapons readied for me.

At the same time, there were no eyes on me. I could finally implement the next part of my plan.

Time to be clever.

I’d been given a bunch of gemstones to help me out, and some were a lot stronger than others. [Light] was pretty weak, all the way up to the [Wall Buster] I’d used, and another skill I considered the strongest I had on me.

[Invisibility With Eyeholes].

I cast it, seeing my body just… vanish. It was disconcerting, to say the least. Like, how did it know to move with me? How did it keep my sword invisible? How did…

I wasn’t going to overthink it. All hail magic. All hail skills.

To play it safe, I also hit myself with [Muffle], and [Tracks-Be-Gone]. No idea if the [Tracks-Be-Gone] would do anything, but hey. I was in a bit of a pinch here.

I did some experimental jumps, seeing the eye holes jump with me. I then willed it to stay as I dropped down, and the entire world dropped away from me, inky darkness surrounding me as I lay down on what I assumed was the deck of the ship, the eye slits shining light inside.

Freaky.

I stood back up, and got the eye slits realigned. Right. I could see out of it, and they could only see my eyes, if they were looking in the right place. Talk about major advantages! At the same time, I was slightly worried. Radiance was the bane of Mirage skills – if I blasted too many shots through the skill, would I break it?

Possibly. Possibly not. I needed this skill too badly to risk it though, which left…

Laser eyes.

Meh. I suppose I could also slip an invisible knife between their ribs, or slit their throat.

Oh wait – something to try really fast…

Nope. Couldn’t fly while invisible. No sunlight reaching my feet.

Fine then. Sneaky [Arcane Trickster] Elaine time!

I glanced at the other ship, still tied to the pirate boat. I had a plan I wanted to use to get in… but it’d need to wait for the bigger, badder boat. Fewer people here, I could test run how this went.

From my understanding of invisibility, I was still there, just hidden. I had a good grasp of myself, I knew where all my limbs were without needing to look or see them or get any sort of feedback.

People would look for me at head level. My major weakness right now were my eyes being seen.

My solution? Crawl on the floor. Especially the first few times, before they caught on that I was invisible, I might be able to sneak past some eyes.

I was seriously tempted to stick the sword in my teeth. Horribly impractical, but I was fighting pirates.

Sadly, practicality won out.

I considered just blasting through the floor, although I couldn’t see who was on the other end.

Although... could I drill little holes through the planks, then look down through them, and snipe whoever I saw?

The idea seemed to have merit, although as I thought about it, I realized a key weakness.

I’d have to block the hole with my eye as I looked, which would give them a great “Shoot here” indicator.

However, the idea was still valid for a distraction.

I ran up and down the length of the hull, looking down and firing little blasts of Radiance, just enough to burn through the deck, not enough to do much more than that. Took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but hey. It worked.

It was also a solid destabilization trick. Make them worried. Make them afraid. Make them think I was everywhere, that I could kill them at any time. More SERE tactics.

Heck, if they were an encampment, I’d just raid them every night, taking out one or two each time. Sadly, they were not, and I’d need to sleep eventually.

Wait.

I could totally do that couldn’t I? Hide on the boat, sneak out, kill a pirate or two, then sneak back to a hiding spot? Like a murderous stowaway?

Eh. It’d take a long time, and I had no idea how long [Invisibility with Eyeholes] would last. I’d need to ask for more gemstones. Why did they only outfit us with one each? Plus, they could just sail away to their pirate hideout, then I’d need to deal with more pirates.

Although – were pirate hideouts a real thing, or something fake? Too many blasted holes in my memory to tell. Fuck Papilion.

Fine. I’d pretend they were real, to avoid bad situations. Gotta ask Ocean later.

I was saving my [Cast Scream] for the merchant’s ship, and I felt brave enough to crawl along the ground to the entrance towards the lower deck of the pirate’s ship. I took a quick peek in.

Seven pirates, none of them looking at me. Dozens of slaves, huddled along the side, collars around their neck, chained to each other, chained to the walls. I broke out in a nervous sweat. Glad I hadn’t burned the ship down.

There were four large benches on either side, with a nice cushion on them. Four massive oars were in and folded, one per bench. The other four, on the side of the water, were out. Interesting. Instead of a bunch of galley slaves rowing the boat, the pirates elected to have a few powerful pirates row instead. Stopped a slave with a good skill from fouling everything up – or a slave without good skills slowing them down – letting them go much faster.

They weren’t terribly well organized though. Crates and barrels were strewn all over, no real organization that I could see. Coils of ropes, some primitive torches here and there cast light and shadows all over.

The pirates were huddled near each other, looking at the ceiling. Six of them had weapons drawn, and the last one was pointing with his finger.

Mage?

[Identify] confirmed a mage, level 170. Yikes.

There was a creaking noise, and the pirates all whirled towards it.

Just normal ship noises.

I had them jumpy though, which was nice.

They were grouped up, which was less nice. Ideally, they’d all be separated.

I considered throwing a [Nova] at them, and trying to one-shot the entire group.

Blasted slaves made it hard.

Hmmm.

I eyed them up. I eyed the slaves up. I thought about [Nova].

I shook my head. No [Nova] blast in the middle, followed by a short-range scuffle, then hopefully healing anything who’d gotten hit. The odds of someone dying – hell there were at least two kids I could see – before I got to them was too high. No yelling stuff, framing a slave for it. [Muffle] was still active, didn’t even know if I could say anything without breaking the skill. Those would all end badly,

I had to…

I had to…

Damn all the gods and goddesses, I had to wait. Wait for them to chill a bit, wait for them to break apart from the group. I’d done a great job spooking them and making them not watch the entrance, making them convinced I was going to snipe them from above.

Too good of a job.

I did some more poking around, only to realize one slave was starting to follow me with his eyes.

And that’s my cue.

I went to one of the benches, and hid under it. It’d be hard to step on me here, hard to bump into me, hard for anything really to disturb me. My plan was basically, wait until they were separated, snipe one, hide under another bench. Repeat.

The slaves started to mutter, and after some time the pirates realized I’d “left.”

“You go check.”

“No, you go.”

“You don’t tell me what to do!”

A slave let a little giggle escape.

“Shut up!” The pirate said, and I heard the sounds of smacking flesh, a cry of pain.

Patience. I consoled myself.

“You, you, and you! Go!” A new voice chimed in. “Hit opposite doors at the same time, and just peek out! Move!”

“Why should I?” A fifth voice whined.

I heard a lethal whizzing noise that I associated with Artemis, although the tone was somewhat different.

“That’s why!” The voice shouting orders said.

Grumbling and stomping around. I took a quick peek out – nobody would notice my eyes, blue against the shadows – and it sounded like it was time.

I crept out, then hesitated. Take out the person alone? Or the mage?

I looked at the dude, back turned to me. I looked at the mage, wooden spheres whistling around him. I only got one surprise strike before people realized I was here.

A mage could be hard to fight. Much easier to jump him, and kill him before he could start throwing powerful skills around.

I waited, keeping low to the ground.

“We’re going to look on three, ‘kay?” The pirate who’d gone to the door said.

“Kay.” The other pirates on the other side of the ship said.

“One…”

And let’s GO! No sense in waiting for them to be fully wound up.

I blasted the mage with a tight beam of Radiance, drilling straight through his head, even managing to burn a second pirate. I dismissed the notification – he had been a [Pirate Mage – Wood] – electing instead to roll across the room, and hopping on top of one of the more sturdy-looking crates.

The mage had dropped fast. Downside of weak physical stats.

Ugh. That could be me one day. Dead from a surprise attack to the head before I even knew I was being attacked.

“He’s in here!” They yelled, and started looking around wildly.

The not dead pirate was on the ground, screaming in agony.

“Mirage!” One of the pirates yelled, starting to swing his sword back and forth as he stalked down the center walkway.

Heh. Being tiny had advantages. They wouldn’t try poking where I was. To boot, they probably hadn’t gotten a good look at me.

As he passed, and more eyes were facing away from me than towards me, I blasted the side of his head. It made me slightly sick, but I’d gotten the hang of how to properly headshot the pirates – I needed just a hair more than a quick burst of sustained damage. A quick burst got the blinded pirate from earlier, and the pirate screaming in agony now.

Well, that’s when they were physically built, with a bunch of stats in vitality. The mage had considerably less, which is why he’d gone down so fast.

I ducked and rolled to another bench, hiding under it.

Two pirates dead, one crippled. Four left. I could probably take all four of them, but why risk it?

“Stay together! Stay together!”

“No fuck this, the Sentinel’s in here with us, I’m getting out!” One of the pirates yelled.

“Same here! Captain’s on the other ship, he’ll know what to do!” A second pirate yelled out.

I heard the pattering of feet, and made a split second call. I didn’t want news of me being invisible to spread, especially not to the other ship. I thought they’d be a lot more isolated, a lot more spread out, and a lot easier to snipe one at a time, and knowledge that I had an invisibility skill would ruin all that.

I ran out, only to see the pirates emerging from the other side. They hadn’t noticed the pair of eyes – combined with part of my nose I suppose – floating on the other side. They coughed as the smoke hit them, and I opened fire, happily throwing a [Nova] their way, followed by beams of Radiance.

One kill was clean. The other one got some tortured screams out before the flames claimed his life. I winced slightly at that one.

The System gave me two more kill notifications, letting me know they’d been handled.

I walked down the stairs openly, not bothering to hide. Two against one? I was happy with those odds. My major concern was breaking my invisibility at this point.

“You killed them right? You’re in here with us right?” One of the pirates was yelling, tremor in his voice betraying his fear.

I spent a brief moment looking at it from their point of view. A single, hidden, silent killer, picking them off one at a time, as smoke slowly filled the area? A killer who couldn’t be seen, couldn’t be reasoned with, and was just out for blood? A killer, claiming the name of Sentinel, the best of the best?

I was their worst nightmare made flesh.

One of the pirates grabbed a kid, hoisting him up, rattling his chain and all the chains attached to him.

“Show yourself! Or the kid gets it! You can’t let a kid die, right?”

I rolled my eyes. Idiots.

I walked up to him, and he saw my eyes at last.

“Ahha! Now drop the invisibility, put your weapon down, or the kid gets it!”

I didn’t say anything, just walked closer. The other pirate was nearing, clearly excited that their ploy was working.

“Don’t get any closer!” He said, trying to back up, getting yanked back by the kid’s chain.

Meh. I was close enough.

I blasted him in the face with Radiance, a thin beam, aiming for the eyes – good trick that – and the pirate went down with a scream, his arm flexing, slitting the kid’s throat. A hot spray of blood coated me, and while I didn’t have a great grasp on the skill – it was a gemstone skill after all – it felt like it was flickering, as I got coated in blood.

I lunged forward, dismissing the notification that the pirate was dead, laying my hand on the boy, pumping [Phases of the Moon] through him. It brought an invisible smile to my face, seeing his neck seal back up.

He was still pale though, so very pale, and I quickly reached for one of the blood loss potions I made sure to have on me. I uncorked it, shoved it in his mouth, then turned as quickly as I could, to make sure the other pirate wasn’t trying anything.

Well, he was trying something alright – surrender. On his knees, weapon down, hands behind his head. Blabbering that he surrendered.

“Please don’t kill me please don’t kill me I surrender” He said, on and on, repeating himself. I wrinkled my nose. It stank down here, slaves not exactly having the best of hygiene, but I was pretty sure he’d just contributed.

I grabbed one of the ropes lying around – for some reason that didn’t become invisible, go figure – and tied him up, being wary for any sudden tricks. There were none.

I looked at the pirate who’d gotten a blast, who’d stopped screaming and was now just on the floor, whimpering. I sighed, tied him up as well, and healed him.

I’d sworn I’d heal anyone, and he was about as down and out as possible.

I looked around. I wasn’t going to leave the slaves like this, but I couldn’t exactly ask for a key. However, most seemed to be hooked up to some sort of “master chain” that wove through everyone, so the logical move was…

Ahha! That’s where it was bolted to the hull.

I burned through all four places it was bolted to – two on each side – and the slaves figured out pretty quickly from there what was going on.

“Thank you!”

“Thank you so much!”

One grumpy dude tried to throw cold water over the whole thing, just sitting there with arms crossed, not helping take the chain out from his link.

“They’ll just beat us even harder when they get back. No point in trying.”

Sourpuss.

With the first ship taken out, and a total of 15 pirates down, I prepped to take over the merchant’s ship.

Time for the hard one.

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A note from Selkie

Elaine: A bunch. Pirates: 0 


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