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A note from Selkie

Hey everyone! I want to give a big shout-out to The Way Ahead, by NorskDaedalus!

 

Daedalus is one of my beta readers, and one of the reasons that BTDEM is so good! So give his story a try!

https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/42202/the-way-ahead

 

Onto artwork! Iona!

Day 6 started off like the rest, although the night was a pain in the rear. Night kept waking me up every 30 minutes or so to keep working on recharging my gems. Waste not, want not was the motto on mana. The morning was boring. The afternoon was interesting.

I was bored, holding my entrance, looking around, when I saw a familiar tie-dye splash of color come barreling towards us, surrounded by what looked like a cloud of dust or something.

I blinked and rubbed my eyes, making sure I wasn’t hallucinating from a lack of sleep, some new poison the Formorians were using, or anything else.

Nope. That was Hunting and Katastrofi, plowing their way through the horde to reach us.

“Hunting incoming!” I yelled. “He’s moving fast! Royal Guards are starting to go after him!”

The last part I yelled as I saw not one, but two Royal Guards take notice of Hunting, and start charging towards him as Katastrofi scythed through the Formorians.

“Night!” I yelled back, throwing up a [Veil] like we’d planned. “Going to need some help here!”

Night was next to me in a flash, the only indication of his passing being a strong breeze making my leather skirt flutter. He started barking out orders.

“Nature. Hold all three entrances. Sealing, Dawn – on me, like we planned. Brawling, Toxic – work with Hunting to stall the second one.”

Nature cursed, and got to work. I didn’t see what was going on, but I figured I’d see what was happening when we got back.

Night held up his hand in a fist, while the other one held up a part of the [Veil] I’d brought down. [Veil] was like a giant, absurd umbrella right now, but huge – large enough to give Night a solid amount of darkness to work in.

Katastrofi was charging towards us, full-speed. The Soldiers were practically a speedbump, but I suspected I’d need to tend to Katastrofi’s legs when this was done. There were only so many razor blades one could run through before they started to have an impact.

We stood at the entrance. I was nervously bouncing on my feet, Toxic was thumbing arrows, Sealing and Night were both standing unnaturally still, and Brawling was keeping the gap clear with great enthusiasm.

We watched the three of them converge, and when it became obvious Hunting wasn’t going to make it, Night simply dropped his hand.

We moved.

Brawling was the vanguard, the spear through the horde, merrily beating the shit out of the Soldiers, and carefully blasting them out of our way.

I was frankly a little impressed at his controlled violence. It was far too easy to swing a spear hard enough to go through a Formorian, simply bisecting them. The problem with that was, there was a Soldier body left over that we’d need to climb over. Sure, we were all superhuman enough to pull it off, but it would still slow us down. Instead, Brawling was carefully applying and exerting force in a way that just “flipped” Formorians like a pancake back into the horde, keeping a path clear for us.

He was flipping enough that even as the horde tried to close back in on us, we had enough room to keep going.

Brawling. The best physical combat Sentinel. Given that, what, half of all Rangers if not more were physical combat fighters, it meant something. Unlike myself, who one could argue I was promoted on the basis of “nobody else is a healer”, Brawling had more than enough competition for the position. He showed us why, how, he’d earned it.

“We’re not going to make it!” Brawling yelled at us, and a moment later there was a collective wince as the first Royal Guard plowed into Katastrofi’s side, the two locked in mortal combat.

Hunting jumped off her back as the Royal Guard hit her, and started stabbing with his spear. The name of the game was “avoid the jaws.” I had no doubt that even Katastrofi would be sheared in half if she ended up in the deadly mandibles.

“Toxic! Brawling!” Night yelled, pointing at the Royal Guard locked in combat with Hunting.

Night then peeled off, Sealing and I following him, as we headed directly for the second Royal Guard, the [Veil] still acting as an absurd umbrella. It was starting to take some fire, some Shooters objecting to the object in the sky, but it wasn’t anything that [Veil] couldn’t handle. Nothing was so strong that it threatened to break [Veil], although my mana took a hit on every shot. It was why I didn’t use it to stop sustained attacks – it was a great way for me to lose all my mana.

There was no such thing as normally in the situation, but originally I had planned on dropping back, then flying up and over, and staying safe above my own [Veil] and Sealing’s own barrier. The Formorians had Shooters, but Sealing’s barrier, plus me kinda hiding, would solve that.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and this one was no exception. The plan had assumed that Sealing would be safely inside our defenses, and not in the middle of the horde.

Which naturally led to me, by myself, surrounded by Formorian Soldiers on all sides, needing to hold them off of Sealing single-handedly while he channeled his barrier, sealing Night and the Royal Guard alone together.

This wasn’t the time for finesse or subtlety. This wasn’t the time to carefully conserve my mana, not when I needed to cover more than just myself in the middle of a gods-dammed horde.

I blasted and blasted and [Nova]’d and blasted away. [Nova] was good for clearing a chunk of Formorians, but it was horribly, horribly inefficient. I could kill a lot more Formorians with the same amount of mana that [Nova] took. It just took a lot more focus to do so – hence the occasional use of [Nova].

“Sealing! Get your back to your damn barrier!” I yelled at him, continuing to run around him in a circle like some kid on a merry-go-round.

Blessedly, he didn’t argue with me, instead taking slow steps to get his – well, he didn’t bother turning around – his front to the barrier, just staring in at the cage fight between Night and the Royal Guard.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to the other fight, but a high-pitched scream caught my attention. I watched in horror as the Royal Guard’s jaws closed on Brawling, slicing him cleanly in half at the waist, guts and blood spilling out.

“Night! Finish it now and get me to Brawling!” I yelled. “I don’t give a shit about saving some long cooldown move! Save Brawling.” I said, starting to run towards him.

Sealing must’ve popped several gems, because he was suddenly surrounded in a secondary barrier, glued to the first one. A number of Formorians moved in to attack him, but I wasn’t paying too much attention.

Had to reach Brawling.

I fought my way through the horde, indiscriminately firing away, not being too careful about preserving my mana, drawing on my reserves.

“Dawn! [Veil]!” Night yelled from behind me, and I reflexively toggled my [Veil] off, then back on, creating a new, larger ‘umbrella’ for Night. There was a brief, inhumane scream from behind me as Night encountered daylight – kinda surprised it hurt so much, although maybe it was due to injuries suddenly kicking in or something – then he was next to me, carrying the umbrella, moving us through the horde at an unbelievable speed.

Even with [Bullet Time] I couldn’t process how fast we were going, until [Veil] above was replaced by a solid, never-ending ceiling of flesh and chitin, the weight of a hill psychically pressing down on me. I saw bodies flash and Formorians die by the dozen, as Night used his blood blades to carve a path through them, depositing me next to Brawling.

Well. Next to half of Brawling, the half that was “him”. I had no time to try and find his other half, no time to ask Night to hunt it down. Emergency stabilizing medicine time.

I landed next to Brawling, the light fading from his eyes, hands slowly clawing futilely at his guts, trying to put them back inside his body.

“Daw…..” He started to say, head slumping back.

My hand was already moving, already reaching for his face. I touched it, and thanks to [Persistent Casting], I didn’t even need to focus, or make an image, or anything.

Pelvis and waist, legs and feet were recreated in a second, as my entire mana pool emptied out into him. I drew more mana out of the Arcanite, and watched more vanish, until it stabilized. Brawling groaned and rolled over, clutching his head.

“What a headache.” He moaned. “I’m never drinking again. Worst. Dream. Ever.”

“Brawling!” I couldn’t help it; it came out as a shriek. “Not a dream! GET US OUT!” I yelled, slapping at his back with both my hands like beating a drum.

Sure, I could walk out, but Brawling was magnitudes of order faster than I was.

Or Night could just carry us out I suppose.

To his credit, Brawling rolled over and jumped up. I mock-shielded my eyes.

“And get some damn pants!”

I needed a clothing-regeneration skill.

Night carried me while Brawling just ran out, cursing his lack of sandals as he squished through Formorian guts. We made it out, and Night yelled. “They are clear! Sealing!”

A barrier sprang up around the Royal Guard, Night, Brawling, Katastrofi and Hunting inside. Sealing, Toxic, and myself outside. Toxic and I got to work keeping Sealing safe.

It was a lot easier with help, especially of the physical classer type.

I had no idea how long it took, but I was tapping my Arcanite reserves again just to keep up, Toxic and I having our backs to Sealing, who had a hand on his barrier.

I got lucky. I glanced in at the right time, to see Hunting on top of the Royal Guard, thrusting down with his spear to perform the lethal takedown.

The barrier went down, and the Sentinels came out, bloody and bruised. I drew in more mana from my Arcanite, and healed up Night and Brawling. Hunting waved me off, pointing to Katastrofi. The injuries were a bit more serious this time – Hunting had an arm dangling uselessly, while Brawling was limping. Well, more serious than the usual bumps and scrapes. Less serious than getting sliced in half. Katastrofi had a series of nasty-looking gashes on one flank, great bloody footprints trailing behind her.

“Dawn. Katastrofi. Everyone else, escort back. Move!” Hunting barked out orders, which even Night complied to.

I nimbly climbed up and onto Katastrofi, watching my mana drop to nothing and stay there. Dangerous move that, but any mana I pulled at this stage would drain right into her, healing her numerous injuries, while not protecting me any further. I was completely reliant on the other Sentinels to defend me, while my mana drained into healing Katastrofi.

I glanced down, getting a better idea of her injuries. She had some nasty, nasty injuries on her flank, to the point where I was wondering how she was still moving. Super-dino, I guess. Companions, and creatures in general, also got a number of skills. They were just usually less than visible, although something had to be keeping her going.

I stayed basically flat to Katastrofi while we headed back to the grove, where Nature was busy holding all three entrances. The massive carnivorous plant was holding one entrance, while Nature was bouncing between two more entrances, one coated in vines, the other having a bush in the way, killing Formorians.

“Hunting. How are you?” Night asked.

Hunting gave Night a look.

“Katastrofi’s injured.” He flatly said.

“And Dawn is managing her. Can you hold an entrance?”

Hunting hesitated, then nodded.

“The small one.” He said, pointing at it with his still-good arm.

Sealing made a strangled noise as Katastrofi nearly stepped on the barrier. I didn’t know much about Sealing’s magic, but it couldn’t be good for it. He conjured up a quick ramp, which she used to step up and over.

Nature had no such luck with the grove, and I winced as Katastrofi trampled most of the perimeter, before settling down, wrapped about Destruction and Priest Demos’s barriers.

Ugh. We were going to have to get real cozy with each other. It was going to be cramped before we added a large dinosaur to the mix. Maybe I could sleep on Katastrofi? Then again, did I want to be that high up?

Toxic, Hunting, and Nature each took an entrance, with Nature stoically taking the responsibility, not even muttering about needing a break or anything. Night retreated to his hut, and I mentally checked him off the list of “needed healing”. He’d gotten a solid touch after his battle with the Royal Guard.

However – we were back now, and while Katastrofi was busy draining all my mana, she was clearly stable enough. She had crashed, physically and metaphorically, and was busy sleeping. My regeneration was respectable, but she was massive, and I was eating a gargantuan penalty for her being so far away from being human.

I figured it was better to touch everyone up, then get back to healing her. Hunting, after all, needed healing. He’d brushed me off before, wanting Katastrofi to get medical attention before him. I could respect the sentiment, but given how long it would take me to finish healing Katastrofi, versus how long it’d take me to fix Hunting, it was a no-brainer whose turn it was.

I got up, and did a round, making sure everyone else was also patched up. Nature was practically untouched, and Arthur needed some nasty slices healed up. I paused when I got to Hunting.

“Your feet!” I said, pointing to the huge bloody footprints his half-feet were leaving. “Holy! Why didn’t you say anything!?” I yelled at him.

He fixed a steely look at me, mechanically thrusting and killing Soldiers.

“Katastrofi gets attention before I do.” He said, in a tone that said “Duh, and you’ll never get a Companion if you ask dumb questions like that.”

I folded my arms.

“She’s resting, and she takes way more mana than any of you do. You’re defending her right now while she’s hurt. What good is your defense if you fuck up because you’re hurt?”

Hunting wavered a moment, before nodding at me. I touched him.

“Lift one foot up, then the other.” I instructed him, and he did, the bottoms of his feet magically recreated. I couldn’t do it when the ground was in the way. He winced as he put them back down.

“No callouses.” He said, answering my unasked question.

“How’d you kill the Royal Guard anyways?” I asked him.

He shrugged with his non-spear shoulder.

“I’m a Void mage. I’m Hunting. I’m really good at killing stuff.”

I mean, sure. That was as much of an explanation as anything.

“What happened to your feet?” I asked.

“The Royal Guards are Erosion. Started eating into me the moment I touched them. We need to be careful for more than just their jaws. Their entire body can erode us away simply by touching us.”

I nodded, and with not much else to say, wished him luck and carried on. The part about the bodies potentially eroding away anyone or anything that touched them was interesting from a healing perspective, but I was going to do my damnest to never be close enough to touch. I’d be so dead if that happened.

Sealing was fine, although he looked drained, and had some Arcanite out in front of him. Made me think he had to go through some of his reserves as well.

With everyone else topped up, I went to see Brawling, who’d blessedly found something resembling pants.

Sure, he was going to have an even worse time sleeping now that he’d cannibalized his blanket, but at least he wasn’t streaking anymore.

“Heya Brawling.” I said, sitting down next to him. “How are you holding up?”

I wasn’t prepared for the bone-crushing hug from him.

“Dawn! You literally saved my life! Seriously thought I was a goner there. Thank you. Best healer ever. You ever need anything let me know. For real.”

Brawling was fairly effusive in his thanks, and I got the life-size doll treatment. I couldn’t even get a word in sideways!

After a few minutes of my view rapidly changing, I’d had enough.

“Brawling! Let me go!” I yelled at him, and with a look of minor chagrin, he did.

“One minor complaint though. Not everything’s the same size.” He said, with a completely straight face.

I thought fast.

“I’m sorry. There was only so much enlargement I could do, given the initial small size I was working with.” I said with my best poker face. “On the bright side, you’re twice the man you were earlier.”

Brawling groaned and mimed an arrow through the heart, mock-falling over. I cracked a grin.

My healing couldn’t change anything. It simply restored back to the bodies natural state. How it knew how much muscle mass Brawling had before? Only thing I had for that was magic.

I looked around. Everything seemed ok for now. I went back to Katastrofi, and the mana I’d managed to recharge vanished in an instant as I touched her, one of the injuries on her side getting noticeably smaller as I did.

I refrained from sighing. At least I’d get a good night’s sleep tonight. All I had to do was stay touching Katastrofi, and all the mana I regenerated would go right back to healing her. Making good use of every drop of mana I had!

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A note from Selkie

Woo! More Sentinels showing up! Team Sentinel, assemble!

I'm considering posting BTDEM on Tapas. Does anyone know anything about it?


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.

Voting on reviews also helps! Upvote reviews you agree with, downvote reviews you disagree with.

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.

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