I skipped along, singing drunkenly and off-key. Didn’t care, was too happy. Cool new stuff everywhere!
Awesome healing skills away! I could heal a person fully that I was touching, I could heal them at a distance, I could preemptively heal with [Solar Infusion] – in theory, still needed to test it – and I passively healed people around me!
All that, in one class! Most healers that I’d chatted with needed two classes dedicated to healing to properly work their stuff, and here I was, having compressed it in one class! I was pleased with my class and my skills, and I felt like it was justified.
Randomly [Identify]ing people indicated that I wasn’t the only one who’d gotten a ton of levels. People tended to cap out at 180 on the frontlines if they were “only” fighting Formorians – [Scribes], [Camp-Followers], [Generals], and more not included – and yet, most of the soldiers I saw were well above 200. The added stress and peril of the walls falling, of humanity getting pushed to the brink of extinction, fighting Royal Guards – well, that was enough to push the survivors up significantly.
I pitied any soldier who’d taken a [Formorian Slayer] class or something similar. If the Formorians were gone – truly, actually, totally dead – then they’d have a hard time leveling the class, and their specialized skills were likely useless. Additionally, the hard time leveling meant they’d be unlikely to hit 256 to be able to change their class.
Then again, while I appreciated the sacrifice any soldier who’d taken a dedicated killing class had made, I was slightly skeptical as to what, if any, long-term plan they had. Soldiers did retire eventually – doubly so if they had a strong combat class to help them survive, like, say, [Formorian Slayer] – and if they went into it without a plan of what to do after, well, that was kinda on them.
The stats they’d gotten from leveling up would stay with them forever though, and one of the beauties of physical Classers was they weren’t tied to their skills. Having 4000 strength was 4000 strength, regardless of what else your skills said and did. Didn’t need a skill to pick up and throw blocks of bricks around, nor to till a field. Sure, they helped, but physical Classers were crazy flexible.
Unlike magical Classers, who lived and died by their skills.
Flexibility versus specialization. When it came to fights, it was more a question of burst versus sustained.
I shook off my mental mutters as I made it back to the Sentinel’s tent. A roaring fire was outside of it, and all the Sentinels were around it, staring into the flames, chatting and drinking.
The weight of our presence kept nearly everyone else away. There was one person I vaguely recognized, and I did a double-take as I finally placed him.
A Ranger. He was the head of team…. 9? Maybe? It’d been quite some time since the last Convocation, but it would make sense that any nearby teams got ordered over here, or just came of their own volition when they heard the news. Only dude comfortable enough, unawed by our presence, to come up and chat.
At the same time, “Head of a Ranger Squad” didn’t exactly remove our aura of mystique, and I joined the rest of the Sentinels.
“Welcome, Dawn!” Night cheerfully greeted me, clearly in a much better mood now that the sun was gone.
“Night! I’mmmmm back!” I cheerfully, not-at-all-drunkenly, called back to him. Must not say the vampire thing must not say the vampire thing must not –
“Didja get your third class?” I blurted out, managing to not say the – you know what, I was going to stop thinking about it.
“I have gotten the opportunity to do so, yes.”
I made some more polite conversation with Night, reminded strongly of the many nights we spent together, slowly walking around the Ranger Academy island. After some time, I spotted Bulwark and headed over, eager to share a few words with him. Hadn’t seen him since we’d gotten here, after all.
“Bulwark! Good work on the walls! They looked good!” I said, cheerfully toasting my mug at him.
“Dawn. Excellent work with the soldiers. Caught a whole stream of them exiting one of the infirmaries you were in. Don’t mind the walls though, they’re a rough job. I need to go back over them and fix them properly later.”
Note to self: Chat with all the Sentinels about this area being a disaster.
I kept moving around, chatting with the rest of the Sentinels. Toxic, all moody in his mug, permanently tilted back as he tried to get hammered. Hard work, with all that extra mass and vitality. Then again, alcohol brewed by people with the right classes was good for counteracting high vitality. Which is why I had to be somewhat careful about what I grabbed. Then again, I could always partially cure myself down to the right level of drunk. Destruction, making water sculptures, having them move around in a jerky, uncoordinated fashion. Practicing and showing off his fancy new class. First person any of us had ever heard of reaching 512, and getting a third class.
Poor Night. Relegated to a footnote, since Destruction classed-up first, and would get all the fame for the act. I could practically hear the tune that the Ranger’s bard would use, both for the epic battle, Demos’s sacrifice, and Destruction’s power and growth.
That was assuming the bard was honest. Or that the Sentinels gave him the honest, real story, for that matter. We were the victors, we were writing the history. It’d be whatever we said it was.
I was strongly on the “tell the damn truth” side of things, but it occurred to me that if we all agreed that something happened, it’d be in the history books as having happened that way.
For that matter – Night might’ve had Destruction go first, just so he could stay in the shadows.
Too much thinking for how many drinks I had in me.
Brawling and Nature were arms-over-shoulders with each other, loudly belting out songs. Nobody was bold enough to tell them just how horribly off-key they were, but there it was.
I didn’t see Hunting around the fire, and I decided to poke in and check up on him. I entered the tent, and saw him curled up and lying down. I hit myself with [Dance with the Heavens]. I wasn’t going to fuck this up horribly by being too drunk.
I sat down next to him. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t do anything but sip my mug.
I didn’t think anything else needed to be done. Just some companionship, letting him know he was not alone in the world.
I don’t know how much time passed before Brawling popped in.
“Dawn. Hunting. The memorial’s going to begin.” He said.
I got up and left, and after a moment I heard Hunting get up and join me.
Night stood in front of us all, fire flickering large behind him.
“Sentinel Hunting. Sentinel Dawn. Sentinel Destruction. Sentinel Bulwark. Sentinel Nature. Sentinel Brawling. Sentinel Toxic.” Night said. “Thank you all for coming here tonight.”
“Tonight we are gathered to remember our brothers-in-arms who have died, fallen against the Formorians in their last, desperate strike. Each one a master of their craft, protectors and defenders of humanity.”
Couldn’t help it. The waterworks started, and the only dry eyes were Night’s inhuman ones. Even then, there was a glimmer to them that wasn’t entirely explained by the lighting.
“Sentinel Sealing fell fighting against the Formorian Queen, stopping nearly a dozen Royal Guards simultaneously. His efforts opened a pathway, allowing for myself and Sentinel Hunting to strike at the Queen. His work was not in vain, as all of humanity can now rest more easily as a result. He made the highest sacrifice possible, the last sacrifice, and his name shall forever be remembered on the Indomitable Wall.”
Night closed his eyes, and with a start I realized this wasn’t any easier on him than it was on us. Losing another Sentinel was like losing a friend to him, regardless of how many centuries had passed. He still felt. He still grew attached and lost, let the pain and the grief rip through him time, after time, after time.
I should have a chat with him. I should start working on some long, long, long term plans, along with acquiring coping methods. Why stumble through it in the dark, when I’ve got someone to give me a hand?
I mentally slapped myself. Funeral. Fucking focus.
“Sentinel Sky fell fighting against the same Formorian Queen, as he moved in to assist the angels that Priest Demos called down upon them.” Night said, keeping it short and sweet.
Or rather – this was the kindest possible description of Sky’s end, who’d been a fucking idiot to think that he was invincible in the sky, that “lowly ground-grubbing bugs” weren’t able to take him out. I hadn’t seen his end, but from what I’d gathered up in bits and pieces and snatches – he wanted to see the angels, be close to them, fight with them. Ignoring the fact that they were probably significantly more powerful than he was, and they were dying anyways. Sheer hubris had brought Sky low, disregarding entities on the ground.
I bet that if the Formorian anti-air had been fliers, that Sky would’ve treated them with the proper respect they deserved, and he wouldn’t have ended up dead.
Or hell! If he’d just bloody stayed with the rest of the team!
It made me so mad. Sky was essentially dead because he’d been an idiot, and did something dumb.
I was stewing in such a self-inflicted rage that I’d missed the rest of the short portion of Sky’s speech. Which just got me madder at myself, and more than a bit sad. This was Sky’s end. This was his funeral, and I got fucking distracted. This. Sucked.
“I would like to bring our attention to our last casualty.” Night began, and the outraged look on Hunting’s face just poured oil over my anger. Night’s callous dismissal of Katastrofi was earning him no brownie points here.
“Katastrofi, while not a Sentinel, was companion to one. Brave. Fearless. A terror to all who beheld her magnificence.”
Hunting let out a choked chuckle at that, his face rapidly turning from rage to relief, from anger to gratefulness.
“Bound Companion to Sentinel Hunting, Katastrofi was more than just a beast of burden. More than the deadliest killing machine in a century. She was aware. She made friends, held grudges, was a part of our family like any other Sentinel was. Indeed, I believe that her name belongs on the Indomitable Wall. Now. I wish for a moment of silence, of remembrance.”
I closed my eyes and bowed my head, repeating their names in my mind. Sealing. Sky. Katastrofi.
Katastrofi. First one I’d met, my introduction to real, live Sentinels, in the flesh and blood. Sentinels had been creatures out of myth and legend until I’d met her, and she had been my first chance ever to ride a dinosaur. Her tie-dye color scheme was etched into my memory, the riot of color unforgettable.
Sky. One of my teachers, who, in spite of his poor reputation and even poorer teaching methods, had successfully helped me to get a flying skill. As much as he gave off an aloof air, as much as he just winged his lessons, he was around when I first started. He caught my fellow trainees as they fell. He was careful to warn me about the skies, and the perils they could hold.
Sealing. I hadn’t had as much time interacting with him, but he’d given off a kind vibe. Made sure that I was shielded when one of the Sentinel’s brawls broke out. Selflessly helped me out, without teasing or rebuke, as I’d had trouble holding my portion of the grove.
Lastly, there was Magic. I spent a brief moment wondering why we weren’t mourning him, before remembering that he’d been declared missing in action. The ultimate magic trick – he’d made himself disappear! He was presumed dead, but barring additional evidence, the passage of enough time, or, we hoped, him popping up one day declaring himself alive, he was going to stay as missing in action.
The more time that passed, the less likely it seemed. Magic’s paranoia, illusions, and invisibility was great for dodging the arrow with his name on it.
The barrage of spikes labeled “To Whom It May Concern”, however, was an entirely different story.
Magic was no coward. He was no shirk. He wouldn’t have bailed on us, he wouldn’t have gone invisible and stayed on the Pegasus. He had been a soldier, then a Ranger, then selected from the Rangers as one of the best of the best, an elite, a Sentinel. For all his quirks, for all his paranoia, he wasn’t one to run from a fight.
I was hoping that he’d broken his leg in the fall, and being unable to reach us, had holed up somewhere, quiet, invisible. Part of that theory was dampened by the knowledge that he had a half-dozen Moonstones with my old [Phases of the Moon] in them, a cure-all that would fix any injury he had.
My heart refused to write him off. I’d have faith that he was still alive out there, until Night declared otherwise. We were Sentinels. Stranger things had happened than vanishing on a mission and showing up a decade later, with wild and fantastic tales.
“I first met Sealing when I was a fresh recruit at Ranger Academy.” Brawling spoke up, breaking the silence, words punctuated by the fire crackling. “He told me that I was a muscle-bound idiot, and that I needed to start thinking one day.”
“Still wondering when that day will be.”
A few cracked smiles, a half-hearted chuckle.
“I first met Sky at Ranger Academy.” I said, surprising myself. “His lesson on flying was basically ‘don’t hit the ground’, which was about as useless of a lesson as you can imagine. Somehow, that was good enough to get me a flying skill.”
A couple more chuckles. A few more smiles.
On and on we went through the night, each of us trading stories of the Sentinels, of Katastrofi. Sharing memories, making a new one. Trading, just a little bit of each other.
My resolve strengthened. My desire grew stronger.
Sky. Sealing. Katastrofi. Their names would end up on the Indomitable Wall, carved in stone to remember for all eternity.
Screw that. I was going to carve them into my memory, into my recollections. I’d have a [Pristine Memory] of them. I was going to become immortal, and remember them forever, a never-ending living legacy for all of them. All I needed to do was level up like crazy, and unlock [The Stars Never Fade].
It wouldn’t be the same, but they, too, would be timeless, forever immortalized in my memory.
My list was growing longer.
Lyra. Origen. Sealing. Sky. Katastrofi.
I closed my eyes again; more tears squeezed out.
More names would join the list. It was inevitable.