Before I could reply to Helena’s offer, another person came to our table. His figure was tall and intimidating, wrapped in a long coat covering all of his body except his face. His face was of light grey color he had long ears and grey, almost white, hair. I guess his species was called night elf? I’m not an expert in mortals, I can name 2640 types of Sloth demons, though.

“Hey, Silai!” Helena greeted him, “This is the girl the guards told us about, I’ve just been telling her about our quest.”

The night elf, apparently named Silai, looked at me intensely for a long moment. “Aren’t you a bit young to be killing cultists and what not?”

“I am older than I look”, I replied. Yeah, I probably should’ve changed my form to more adult one before talking with the guard, but I was caught in a moment and just realized it. Well, I’ll see where this goes…

Silai didn’t look convinced and become even more suspicious, but before he could voice his concerns, Helena intervened. “Don’t stare at people, it’s rude. If she’s capable and on the good side, it’s all okay in my book. Relax!”

Silai sat at the table with us, everyone ordered their drinks, and Helena finally got to explain why they have approached me.

“So, about the task. We’ve come from Arturel because one of the trading caravans got missing, local lord and authorities hired us to investigate. We followed the path which caravan should’ve taken until we came here, but we didn’t find any traces of its disappearance. Looks like it got lost even earlier, so we need to keep backtracking it. But here we learned that a few more caravans disappeared and some townspeople haven’t returned. So whatever the cause, it’s not a single occurrence. I hope it’s orcs or some other band of misfits just ambushing travelers and caravans…”

I didn’t know what those “orcs” are, but I wouldn’t blow my cover. She spoke about it like it’s some widespread knowledge, so asking would probably reveal that I’m not from this plane. Instead, I asked another important thing. “Why do you need me for this?”

“If it’s orcs,” Helena continued, “people they captured might be still alive and kept prisoners. We can get a hefty bonus if we return with both information about it and the missing people. But infiltration and rescue are not our best sides, we all are more about… face to face confrontation.” She patted the hilt of the great sword on her back, illustrating her point. “And since you already rescued some kids without getting any of them killed, I figured we might ask you if you’d be willing and able to help us.”

“Let’s imagine I will agree to help you. What’s in it for me?” Infiltration is fun, but I can do it without those people or quests.

“We split the reward in four ways. It’s 2000 gold total for the information about caravans’ whereabouts, and double this if we can deal with the cause, or rescue the missing people.”

I wondered if it’s a lot and if I’m even interested in gold. Judging by the prices in the tavern, one gold can buy an average mortal a day worth of food and drinks. I didn’t need either to live, only for fun and with gold, I took from this cultist, I can buy lots of ale. But creatures of this plane seem to put high value in gold, so I wondered what I could buy for it. I could probably steal anything I needed, though, so gold is not important for me. I was curious about this world, and orcs and caravans, so it might be an interesting adventure in itself.

“And if we find anything of value on our way that doesn’t belong to anyone… we got to keep it. That’s the rule of adventurers!” While I was thinking, Helena tried to sweeten the deal.

“I agree if after this you help me get to a bigger town than this one.” I needed a more lively place to start exploring this plane and having a guide would help.

“Sure, you can just return to Arturel with us. It’s almost as big as the capital. It’s settled then! We are moving out at dawn.”

We gathered near the tavern the next morning. I altered my clothing to be more fitting for travel and adventure: replaced my dress with a pair of pants and a blouse of the same dark purple color, perfect to hide in the shadows (not like I needed any help with it), got myself a pair of boots similar to what my party was wearing, and a backpack. I didn’t need a backpack with my extradimensional inventory, but other people don’t have it, so I needed to at least look like a traveler.

We went outside the town’s gate, two sleepy guards didn’t react to us leaving. Guess their job was to check who’s coming in, not out. I looked back and seen the town from the outside for the first time. It had around 300 houses mostly built out of hewn wood, and it was surrounded by a wooden wall. I realized I didn’t even know the town’s name, but asking it now would be suspicious. The road that we followed, and the town itself were surrounded by a dense pine forest.

Arthur, the man with a long staff, who I assumed from his aura to be some magic-user, broke the silence. “To make better use of our skills and work as a team, we need to know about each other abilities. We have been traveling for some time together, but you Vivienne is new. I’ll start with the basics. I specialize in healing and restraining spells and can use them at a significant range. Silai here can zap a fly with a lightning bolt at 100 yards. Helena is…”

“I’m really good at cutting things! And punching things.” Helena interrupted his explanation with a grin and a couple of swings with her sword.

Arthur almost rolled his eyes. “Yes, she is the muscle of the team. What about you?”

I thought for a bit how to describe my abilities without giving much away. I wanted to see where this goes before I needed to ditch those adventures, which means keeping my nature a secret for now. It’s known across all planes not to trust a demon you don’t have a contract with, and often even a demon you have a contract with. I know I wouldn’t…

“I’m really good at quietly dispatching of targets and sneaking in and out of places.” That seemed to satisfy Arthur for now.

After about an hour of walking, we reached the first crossroads which had 4 roads marked with different signs. Here I learned that town I’ve been summoned to was called Flamehold if you’re interested. One of the signs pointing to the north said “Arturel”, and another one pointing the same direction said, “Highspire, Capital”. The interesting thing I noticed was, that distance was written in some “miles” which I wasn’t familiar with, but also repeated in kilometers that demons use too. I assumed different nations here used different measurements with some using the same as demons.

“We are heading south to Neverfield,” Helena explained. “At least two lost caravans were from there. It’s a two-days walk, but I hope we will find the lead earlier.”

We walked north almost till the sunset. But before it got dark, we finally found a lead. Pretty obvious lead, actually - a scene of the previous fighting in the middle of the road. I looked around, trying to ascertain what happened. There were no bodies directly in the vicinity, but I noticed a trail of blood and a feeling of death leading away from the road to the woods. Few wooden carts were broken and flipped on the side, a broken spear laid nearby. Probably the caravan had some protection, but they were overpowered.

“Can’t say if it’s orcs or just random bandits from this,” Silai concluded after his investigation.

“Would there be any reason for bandits to take prisoners?” Helena asked him.

“They could’ve killed everyone to give them more time before anyone noticed the caravan’s disappearance and hid the bodies. There are no corpses here, but enough blood to have at least some dead.”

“There,” I pointed to the woods. “At least two corpses are a few meters off the road. A trail of blood leads there.”

We all went to look where I pointed at. As I felt, a few meters from the road we found two corpses - male and female, both looked pierced with a spear.

“Orcs then. That’s both good and bad news.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Since there are no other corpses, the caravan people probably were captured alive. There is no reason for normal bandits to capture so many people, they usually don’t have any use for slaves or prisoners. Which leaves orcs. The good news is the rest of the caravan might be still alive. The bad news is that orcs are harder to deal with, depending on the size of the band.”

“Any tips for the newbie?” I smiled at Silai trying to be as unsuspicious as I could. Playing an inexperienced adventurer card was effective!

“If it’s a big band, it might be way over our head. We can probably deal with a small group, but if they have shamans or captains, our best bet is to investigate, report back and bring a bigger army.”

I nodded. “What’s next?”

“We’ll see where the trail goes and think later!” Helena looked excited despite Silai’s warning about the danger. I wasn’t sure if she was reckless, brave, self-delusional about her strength or all of it…

We set on an easy to spot trail through the woods. It looked like multiple people, some in heavy armored boots, walked there. Arthur used his magic, subtly making roots and shrubs part ways before us, helping us on our path. It was interesting magic I’ve never seen before. I wondered what else could he do with it, and how his other spells look like. Demons’ innate magic was pretty one-sided most of the time and it depended on the demon’s type. But mortals created their magic to solve whatever problems they needed. I was really curious to learn more about the magic of this plane. I loved my magic, of course, but I wouldn’t be an Envy demon if I didn’t want to try new things.

We traveled for close to an hour, the sun already set. It looked like both Arthur and Silai had no trouble seeing in the dark, or at least they saw good enough to follow the trail. It wasn’t a problem for me too, as a being of shadows I could see in the dark much better than in daylight. Helena, though, had some problems, she drew her sword and put her left hand on Silai’s shoulder following him closely.

We were getting closer to a few living auras, but I decided not to mention anything to my party. I wanted to see how good they are and didn’t want to share my abilities just yet. Silai noticed first, he motioned everyone to stop.

“We are getting close,” he said in a hushed voice. “There are guards about hundred feet forward and I can see campfires farther away too. We need to go around them or quietly dispatch them.”

“That’s my queue,” I smiled at him and darted in the shadows. I expected the guards to see in the dark since they were patrolling without any light source, but unless their dark vision was magical, there was no chance they could spot me before too late. Killing them was too easy, but it was my first meeting with an orc. It looked like orcs are grayish-green humanoid species with angry faces and big tusks. Or at least those looked angry, I’m not gonna judge the whole species by a couple of people that were attacking caravans. They were also pretty big, at least those two were a bit over two meters. It would’ve been hard to fight them face to face with this small body, luckily I didn’t need to, for now. Few slices with the dagger and they were done with, they barely noticed their own death.

“Two down, the whole camp to go,” I appeared directly behind my party, playing with the dagger and smiling, which scared Helena almost to death. She would’ve screamed if Arthur didn’t cover her mouth quickly.

“DON’T DO THIS EVER AGAIN!” She quietly but emotionally swore at me. I laughed without making a sound, Helena played tough and confident, but just for a moment she was really scared, and it was a delightful change of the atmosphere.

“Sorry, tough girl. Two guards down, we can get closer to the camp, but there are patrols and many more people there.”

“We need to get closer to get precise information,” Arthur told us.

We moved as quietly as we could before orcs’ camp could be seen in its entirety. There were a few tents, small and big, roughly situated in a circle around a big campfire. Despite orcs being able to see in the dark, the camp was lit with brazers here and there. Some orcs were shouting something in the language I did not understand, it looked like they were drinking and even fighting each other? It was a lively place overall.

Arthur stopped at the age of the clearing near the camp, sat on the ground, put his hand on the dirt and started casting some spell. His hand glowed faint green glow that flowed in the ground and disappeared as it spread away.

“What is he doing?” I asked others.

“It’s a druid power, he is communicating with nature. Probably trying to gather information about the orcs.” Silai explained to me.

“That’s a really handy ability.” I could achieve a similar result by reading auras, though. I tried to concentrate on mana flow around me and gather some information of my own.

“There are at least 50 people in the camp, most of them gathered in a big tent on the edge of the camp on the opposite side. I suspect those are captives, so we are dealing with 20-25 orcs.” Arthur told us after a couple of minutes. I counted 63 auras myself, but I didn’t correct him. Two of them had strong magical auras and two weaker ones.

“We got all we need, there is no way we can take them all by ourselves,” Silai announced the end of our expedition. “Let’s get going, I don’t want to sleep in the woods.”

Helena audibly sighed. “I hoped to have a good fight…”

“Be careful, missy, or you might get what you ask for!” A voice behind us suddenly spoke.

There was an orc with a long staff standing behind us. He was less muscular than the guards I killed, but still over two meters tall. His staff was adorned with some feathers and bones, and he wore leather armor. He didn’t appear out of nowhere, of course: one second before he spoke I noticed the usage of magic in the camp, he probably used some teleportation ability. I looked at my party and pleasantly noticed that they all looked ready to engage. Good, they were capable enough not to be caught off-guard like this. Noise from the camp risen in volume and other auras started moving in our direction. It looked like straight confrontation was inevitable. As much as I didn’t like it, I was curious to see what everyone gathered here could bring out. ‘This will be fun.’

Author’s note: It looks like a pattern of slow chapters and action chapters started to emerge :D Don’t get used to it tho, it remains to be seen how good I am with action scenes, and if the pattern will continue.

About update schedule: I am currently maintaining one chapter in edit and one chapter in writing to have some leeway for editing and my ADHD. I hope for a chapter or two per week though.[/author]