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A note from Selkie

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Leaving this image here for no particular reason.

The Thunderbird of Native Americans – Legends of America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julius got us through the gates no problem, although he got a number of funny looks.

Entering late at night, escorting a woman less than half his age? I briefly considered spiking his wheel, but decided that we were probably going to have a long working relationship together, and annoying him too much was probably a poor idea.

“Leveled up a bunch from that?” Julius asked me, referring to Deva.

“Yup! Good experience.” I said.

And that reminded me.

I’d been sitting on my free stats far too long, and I decided to finally allocate them, splitting them between vitality and speed, evening them out then splitting the remainder. I’d need to do some serious thinking as to which stats I needed to prioritize on my next class up. A solid discussion to have with Night at some point.

Before long I was back at Headquarters, had another luxurious bath, and the next morning was rolling around. Time for another meeting!

Ocean wasn’t around – on pirate clean-up duty – but Acquisition was looking smug.

“I’ve reached a compromise with most of the high-level thieves in the area.” He said. “They’ll tell the remaining ones. Anyone who’s not high level we don’t need to worry about.”

I raised my hand and gave him a Look. Thieves were the bane of my existence.

“Most mid and low-level thieves aren’t playing ‘best thief’ contest and trying to rob Sentinels.” Acquisition said, giving me a flat look. “The deal I struck with them is we’ll have a cloth on us that they can try to snag instead.”

Night gave him a Look.

“That is unacceptable. Sentinels are not playthings.

Glares around the room at Acquisition.

Acquisition held up his hands.

“I know. I KNOW! But they’re lawless. How am I supposed to get them to start following our laws? This is one of the only things they’d accept. They’ll get bored soon enough, plus,” Acquisition grinned, like he’d stolen something invaluable. “the cloth in question is easy to manufacture and copy. I’m going to simply flood the area with it, soon it’ll be impossible for the thieves to tell if a trophy is genuine or not, then they’ll get bored and go back to robbing Senators and grabbing fancy statues and the like.”

He turned to Night.

“Or just, you know, let me declare myself the best thief in Remus, prove it by robbing the Senators of their clothes while they’re in the Senate, and stop the pissing contest that’s thieves trying to one-up each other by robbing us.

I tuned out the rest of the argument and the debate. I thought being a Sentinel would be interesting and exciting, not arguing about the merits of government-sponsored thieves, and how to get thieves out of our business.

After a point, Night released us, but Brawling and I were the only ones to leave. Everyone else was enjoying the discussion too much.

Brawling headed out – he didn’t have tons to contribute to the Hell Months, being an almost pure physical Classer, and screwing with Trainees seemed a lot less fun without anyone else around. I gave them a pass. The Dawn wouldn’t rise this morning.

Make it even worse on them, if they could never guess when I’d show up and start a light show.

My armor was back and fixed, and I picked it up from the Quartermaster. They worked fast. Then again, 90% of their job was getting Rangers and their gear set, but the 10% of the job dedicated to supporting Sentinels? That got top priority.

I swung by the Gemstone dude, and we had a nice chat. The long and the short of it was – with my improved knowledge of the System with how [Persistent Casting] worked with my images, I made some of the Moonstones I was charging with [Phases of the Moon] “better”. That was to say – some Moonstones I made good at handling cuts, some I made better at dealing with poisons – basically, they were all heal-alls, but some did a better job at healing a specific type of injury.

The Gemstone dude seemed to know exactly what I was doing though, and I trusted him to properly pass it off to the other Sentinels.

I cursed. Bluebeard. I still wanted a long chat with him about companions.

I hurried back down to our meeting room, and I was lucky enough to catch him.

“Hunting! Hey, Hunting!” I called out, waving to him.

“Dawn! What can I do for our newest Sentinel?” He asked me.

“Companions! Hoping to have a nice long talk about them. Hoping to get your input.” I said.

He eyed me.

“Yeah, I can see why one would be perfect for you. Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

I shook my head.

“Why don’t we grab a bite to eat together, and I can tell you all about them? I’m not surprised you’re interested, not after seeing you with Katastrofi.”

I blinked at him.

“You remember that?”

“Of course I remember that! Do you know how few people want to get near Katastrofi? Then there’s a girl, hanging out with a full Ranger team, who has [Detailed Restoration] of all the skills, who instead of fleecing me for everything I have on me wants a ride?

Well. When he put it like that.

“Lemme gear up real fast.” I said, quickly darting into my room, changing into full armor – with my cape.

The cape of “I’m here to look badass, not get in a fight.”

Capes were terrible for fights, unless you had skills or something. Too easy to snag on things, and they did nothing for you in a fight.

Hunting quirked an eyebrow up at my outfit.

“Planning on getting a discount somewhere?” He asked.

I did my best flycatcher impression.

“A lot of stores will give us a discount if we show up looking like that.” Hunting said, nodding at me.

“No – well, now yes – but no, I was planning on yelling at the Adventurer’s Guild.”

“Careful with that. Yell at them for screwing up with ‘your good friend’, not with you. Reputation and picture of invincibility and all that.”

Ooooh good point. “Yes, Sentinel Dawn hired adventurers to protect her” – everything said after that would go in one ear and out the other. The rumor mill would have a field day though. Not that the Guildmaster probably didn’t have my number, but again – plausible deniability.

“Sounds good!”

We wandered through the city, and I was a little surprised we didn’t just grab a bite at the first vendor and called it a day. Rather – I grabbed something, and was letting my breakfast rapidly cool as Bluebeard seemed to be picky, looking and dismissing vendor after vendor.

“Whatcha looking for?” I asked, after the 8th vendor in a row got dismissed.

“Bulk meat.” Hunting answered. “First rule of companions – they eat before you do. Katastrofi requires huge amounts of food, and my usual vendor’s not in town, and my backup’s having supply problems. Gotta find someone who doesn’t screw with the meat too much, and who won’t charge me too much.”

“Thought the armor was good for a discount.”

“It is. But when a merchant smells money, and my need to buy? Doesn’t stop large scale purchases being expensive.”

Bluebeard eventually finished his shopping, and we headed out of town. Bluebeard was balancing a stack of meat, all of it still raw and dripping.

I kept my distance.

My outfit got me a straight pass through the gates, and Bluebeard nodded in a familiar way to the guards, who just cheerily waved him through. If he fed Katastrofi daily – which was possible I guess, but I didn’t know enough about dinosaurs – the guards would get to know him real well.

My question of “where did you store a multi-ton dino” and “how did Hunting make this all work” were answered as we arrived at a large, sprawling villa located outside the town walls. A huge “pen” was arranged for Katastrofi, but given that I could hop over the fence, it seemed to be more of a social warning, than anything that could stop Katastrofi. She could literally step over it – or on it – and not even notice. Well-trained to stay inside.

Very graphic signs posted around made it abundantly clear, without using a single word, that stepping inside the pen would result in being eaten.

With Remus’s justice system, the guards might not even talk with Hunting over it.

Hunting whistled, and Katastrofi came bounding over, great footsteps shaking the earth as the Abelisaurus came bounding over like an overeager puppy. She gave me a look, a sniff, and having determined that I was no threat, and that breakfast was here, happily snatched huge chunks of meat out of the air that Hunting was throwing at her.

“It’s good practice.” Hunting said, seeing my look. “Lots of small flying things that she needs to bite. Your companion is your life, your other half. Some treat them as just a pet, a tool. Then they wonder why they never bond, why the System never offers them the [Companion] skill. They’re so much more than pets.”

“It’s almost a lifelong commitment to have a companion. They change you, change you in many ways unique to each bond, and you’re changed in return. Abelisauruses aren’t particularly smart, but Katastrofi’s incredibly intelligent. She got that from me. I’m stronger, faster, and heavier.”

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I’m meaner. Angrier. Quicker to lose my temper, to throw a punch. I’ve got self-control, but it’s an unpleasant feeling, feeling rage bubble up at the most innocent and harmless of things and needing to fight it down. Katastrofi’s missing some of her instincts, can’t naturally do things other Abelisauruses do without thinking. She eats tons more than other dinosaurs, but she’s a lot more energetic. It’s give and take.”

“I also need twice the experience to level in anything. It’s mitigated by Katastrofi splitting any experience she gets with me. It’s why people don’t just bond with anything. When she was born, she was level 1 like anything else is. I was stuck at the same level for years while she grew up, until she caught up with me in level. It’s why people don’t just get a companion ‘just because’ – there are real downsides to go with the upsides. You need to make sure it’s worth it.”

“You also lose a general skill slot, or with rare classes, you lose a class skill slot.”

Hunting gave me some of Katastrofi’s breakfast, and I started tossing the hunks of meat to her, watching with delight as she snapped it out of the air.

“Oh! Something I almost didn’t mention. It’s hard, bordering on impossible, to bond with a fully grown creature. Their minds are formed already, their bodies have grown. They have a personality. You need to have almost exactly the same mindset ahead of time to bond with a grown creature, otherwise it just won’t work, for whatever reason.”

I nodded. “You mentioned you thought a companion would be good for me?”

“Yeah. You’re young, which helps. You two can mold each other. It gets harder the older – and more stubborn and set in your ways – you get. You’ve got plenty of strengths, and some glaring weaknesses, which a companion easily covers. You’ve got a good, caring heart, which is a major plus. You’d do well, unlike, say, Magic, who’d just see the animal as another tool.”

Katastrofi’s breakfast was over, and with Hunting’s encouraging nod, I moved forward, to slowly stroke her scaly legs. They were surprisingly warm to the touch, and she made a low growling noise, which almost sounded like a cat trying to purr.

A t-rex, making a content noise. What was the world coming to?

I had a thought.

“Can people bond with each other?”

Bluebeard sucked in air through his teeth.

“Technically – TECHNICALLY – it’s possible. I think. I’ve seen nothing to suggest it isn’t, but it’s like trying to bond a grown creature, but eight times as difficult. Both parties start off highly intelligent. Both parties have their own sense of self, have their own dreams and ambitions. If there’s any shred of doubt, it won’t work. And it’s all too easy to think ‘what if they’ll change in the future? What if…’. So many ‘what-ifs’. But yes. The famous romances bards sing about, when they sing of people in lifetime commitments, above and beyond mortal means – that’s usually bards taking a System bond and putting it into extra-flowery terms. If you somehow pull it off, congratulations, you’ve got a romance for the ages.”

He eyed me.

“No offense, but I doubt that’ll happen with you. You’re too strong, too powerful, at a young age, isolated and alone. I have no doubt you’ll find a measure of happiness one day, but someone exactly like you who you’d bond with? We’d already know about them.”

Well, Romance with a capital R was pretty far out of my mind at the moment, with my latest stab at it almost ending with me drained of all my blood. I was insatiable, and I wanted, needed, to know more. Interrogation away!

“What do you recommend for me? Also, Wolfy had multiple companions, how did that work?”

“Wolfy?” Hunting asked me.

Whoops.

“Erm. Dude in my graduating class, had two wolves as his companions.”

“Ah. Generally, it’s hard to get multiple companions, but wolves are one of the exceptions. They naturally fall into packs, and his arrangement and bond with them is probably pack-like. Something more solitary – like a saber-tooth cat, like a bear – is unlikely to work for a multi-companion bond.”

“Speaking of, that Wolfy of yours got extremely lucky with not one, but two casters. Generally, you bond early on, before you know what skills they’ll get. The smarter the creature, the higher chance of being a caster, and bonding does help with that. Still. Casters are rare.”

“He’s not my Wolfy!” I protested.

Bluebeard stared at me, fierce eyes over blue… beard… examining me.

“As for you. You lack in the physical department. Low level, something like a wolf would work well, something that could carry you, move you quickly between places, and that could physically fight and block things for you. A saber-tooth cat is more of an ambush fighter, and doesn’t quite have the same ability to move or take hits for you, for example.”

“But you’re Sentinel Dawn. You can do better than a single wolf. I won’t discount the value of a pack of casters, but that’s a different story.”

I could see that Hunting was working towards something here, and was basically thinking out loud.

“Bears start to look more attractive, and are a solid option. They can be tricky, along with anything that gives live birth, because you want to bond early – but the momma bear is going to object. Usually violently. And bear cubs need a lot of coddling when they’re very young. It’s tricky striking the right balance. Still. You’ve got the time, money, and resources to do it right, so they’re on the table, while they might not be an option for people without a support network.”

Made sense, made sense. I could see myself riding a bear, then curling up with it in the evening, basking in its luxurious fur.

“Now, I’m horribly biased, but I’m a big fan of Abelisauruses. Large. Powerful. Will eat all your problems. Egg-based. Doesn’t need a lot of care early on. Long lifespan. Carries all your stuff. Keeping them as an adult is tricky,” Bluebeard gestured behind him, at his massive villa and even larger area for Katastrofi to wander around in. “but the payoff is worth the price.”

He looked at me, continuing to look thoughtful.

“Now, you’re small. Lightweight. And can fly. Which means fliers are on the menu. There’s nothing worse than being in a bad spot, being able to fly away yourself, but needing to leave your companion behind. I know of at least two Rangers who probably could’ve saved themselves, but chose to stand and fight with their companion and died as a result; who didn’t want to leave their companion to die on their own. Knew one Ranger consumed by guilt for leaving their companion behind to die. There are a dozen different types of fliers, but all but two aren’t worth mentioning, for reasons I’ll get into.”

Hunting leapt, in a single bound, up onto Katastrofi, then beckoned to me, indicating that I should climb up. With a delighted noise, I nimbly climbed up – a far cry from the first time I’d done this.

I sat down in front of Hunting, and with barely a movement, Katastrofi started to walk, then run, then run. With great bounding strides, she ate up ground, and I could feel my hair waving behind me wildly – probably annoying the shit out of Hunting.

I couldn’t help it. I let out a scream, the exact same I would going down a rollercoaster.

“Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

We slowed down to a more reasonable, less hair-in-face pace, as Bluebeard finished up his lecture.

“The first option is an Ornithocheirus. Nothing wrong with them, they’re common, their nesting grounds are easy enough to find – heck, we’re constantly tracking them and trying to cull their population down, and dozens of eggs enter circulation annually as a result – we know how to saddle them, how to train them, and more.”

“Most other fliers aren’t native to Remus, and will only fly over rarely, and it’s even rarer for them to nest here. They’re also weaker than the second option, and both being harder, being rarer, and being weaker are all enough strikes against them that it’s not worth bothering to go after them.”

“No, the creature I think you should aim for, that if you’re game for we’ll try to find, that you could put a quest in the Adventurer’s Guild for, is one of power and strength. One that can create thunder with its wings, and Lightning from its eyes.”

“A Thunderbird.”

 

[Name: Elaine]

[Race: Human]

[Age: 18]

[Mana: 51840/51840]

[Mana Regen: 42269 (+17791.5)]

Stats

[Free Stats: 0]

[Strength: 244]

[Dexterity: 202]

[Vitality: 635]

[Speed: 635]

[Mana: 5184]

[Mana Regeneration: 4908 (+1779.15)]

[Magic Power: 4517 (+47654.35)]

[Magic Control: 4517 (+47654.35)]

[Class 1: [Constellation of the Healer - Celestial: Lv 246]]

[Celestial Affinity: 246]

[Warmth of the Sun: 198]

[Medicine: 215]

[Center of the Galaxy: 242]

[Phases of the Moon: 246]

[Moonlight: 246]

[Veil of the Aurora: 216]

[Vastness of the Stars: 144]

[Class 2: [Ranger-Mage - Radiance: Lv 188]]

[Radiance Affinity: 188]

[Radiance Resistance: 188]

[Radiance Conjuration: 188]

[Radiance Manipulation: 188]

[Sun-Kissed: 145]

[Blaze: 188]

[Talaria: 163]

[Nova: 188]

[Class 3: Locked]

General Skills

[Identify: 137]

[Recollection of a Distant Life: 159]

[Pretty: 136]

[Bullet Time: 198]

[Oath of Elaine to Lyra: 211]

[Sentinel's Superiority: 206]

[Persistent Casting: 56]

[Learning: 246]



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A note from Selkie

Thunderbirds!


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.

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