You may ask, how was I, so praised by myself for being sneaky, managed to be ambushed twice already. First, this time it was Arthur’s fault that his ritual was noticed. And even then, I wasn’t caught off-guard. Second, I didn’t have any experience stealthing in the mortal world and didn’t know much about this world’s magic, that’s why I didn’t anticipate the alarm the cultist placed. Obviously, there was much to learn for me about this world and its cunning denizens. Exciting! But first, we had a fight ahead.
“More are coming from the camp,” I warned my party.
“I’ll take care of this one, you all greet the others,” Silai gave us orders and faced the orc caster that appeared before us.
Arthur and Helena turned away to face the orcs approaching from the camp, I darted in the shadow but kept watching Silai. It took him only a moment to charge a spell, he raised a hand and it was already glowing with orange energy. Next second, a concentrated beam of fire burst from his hand towards the orc. The orc wasn’t unprepared, as soon as Silai started casting, he cast a spell of his own, creating a shimmering orange shield in front of him. The beam of fire struck the shield and dissipated in a burst of light. The orc moved back away, trying to increase the distance between them. In a swift motion he swiped his staff from side to side, it created a blast of wind, enhanced with magic, that rushed towards us. Silai, in a similar swipe with his hand, redirected the blast to the side. Invisible force crashed into a nearby tree leaving a deep cut and almost breaking it completely.
I would have loved to continue watching their elemental exchange, but I had to do something too. Orcs from the camp got close, around 15 of them in the front. They looked like simple guards, but they outnumbered us by a lot. Helena unsheathed her sword and took a stance, preparing to take the assault. Arthur stood slightly behind her, far enough to give her space to swing the sword, but close enough to be protected by her. Not like he needed protection, though. Before orcs came in melee with Helena, Arthur cast a spell too: a crystal on his staff glowed with green energy, then he slammed it on the ground, and thick vines appeared under orcs’ feet, trying to bind their legs and prevent their movement. Some orcs just fell as they went, some went around the vines and continued moving, others started cutting the vines with their weapons.
It worked to our advantage: they slowed and approached Helena less organized. Two orcs closed up on her at the same time and attacked her with their short swords. It’s hard to believe that as tall as she is and with such a big sword, she can move this gracefully, but she effortlessly sidestepped both of the orcs and in a quick upswing motion cut through one of the orc’s chest. It was a clear swing, without much preparation, like she wielded a rapier and not a great sword. Orc’s light armor had no chance of protecting him and was cut like a paper. In a backswing she paired the second orc and then in another move struck his neck with the sword, almost separating his head from the body. It was enough for the orc, though.
While she was fighting those two, another one tried to take advantage of her distraction by flanking her and attacking in the back. I wouldn’t let that happen, her sword dance was too good to be interrupted. I intercepted the orc by stepping right in front of him. Before he could react, I willed my shadows, and they launched from the ground piercing through the orc’s body.
At this moment the green light from Arthur’s staff receded, and Helena lost the ability to see the enemies. It looked like they weren’t fighting together for the first time because the next thing that Arthur did, was he risen his hand and cast another spell. Four globes of light appeared near his palm, and he willed them to spread out around us all. “Thanks!” Shouted Helena. It was good for her, but not the best for me: my shadows receded when the bright light touched them. I could have probably overpowered it, but it wasn’t the time. I gripped the dagger in my right hand, picked up a short sword from a fallen orc with the left one, and prepared for a more direct fight.
My melee with the orcs wasn’t nearly as graceful as Helena’s sword dance. I used the sword to pair an attack from the next orc, but couldn’t get an opening to strike. I had enough strength even in this small body and was dextrous to keep her at bay, but the size and reach do matter in a sword fight, the orc was just too far from me to strike her with a dagger. After trading a few blows, I found my opening, ducked under the swing and lunged my dagger in her heart. While I was at it, Helena dispatched a few more orcs. Arthur controlled his vines, bound some orcs and occupied some others with them. There was no use for me fighting here with the sword in the light.
“I’m going to intercept them,” I let the group know I’m not abandoning them during the fight, then left the lit-up area and become one with the shadow. In the shadow I moved swiftly, killing orcs left and right. Some were occupied with Arthur’s vines and didn’t even notice me before they died. Others may have had a thought or two about the nature of the shadowy creature that appeared in front of them the moment before their death. Some even tried to fight me, but they quickly found out that no simple weapon can harm me in my shadow form. Yes, I know, it’s almost cheating. But where I am from, not being hurt by non-magical weapons is the matter of course. All Hell fights either with magic or with some form of magical weapons. Even Wraith’s fists are magical and hurt like a bitch. It’s not my fault those orcs were not prepared to fight a shadow demon…
A few minutes later, Silai joined us in dealing with the rest of the orcs, probably after finishing his fight with the caster. He swung rays of fire hitting orcs approaching Helena, Arthur kept them from overwhelming her with numbers, and I was killing them behind the front line. It felt like the fight was easy, but more magical auras were moving in the camp, approaching us. What came out first, though, was a huge orcish creature, not from the camp, but the forest. It was easily two times as high and four times as wide as any orc I’ve seen so far, with paler, closer to yellow, skin and much less clothing. It had a huge club in its hand and it charged at us at speed fitting his big legs, swinging his weapon.
“Ogre from the right!” Silai shouted to everyone and immediately cast a ray of fire into the charging monster.
The ray didn’t reach the target. Another orc caster came out behind one of the tents and in a swinging motion of his staff created a gust of wind that intercepted the fire ray and dispersed it. They then cast another spell, that created a sort of glowing purple armor around the ogre, which had a strong anti-magical aura, probably, magical protection. Silai started preparing another spell, this time it took him more time. It felt like he was building a huge amount of mana, presumably enough to break the protection with a brute force. Helena gripped the sword with two hands and stood in a protective stance, sword close to her body, preparing to take the charging giant head-on. But she wasn’t just taking it with the bare sword. She started channeling mana of her own in it. Most curious was the thing that the mana came from within her, not from the outside, like Arthur, Silai and other casters I met in this world use. She kept channeling mana until the ogre was few meters away, then she swung her sword in an arc motion in front of her. Her sword cut only air, but her magic reached all the way to the giant, stopping his charge. The enormous creature was cut in half, and two parts of his body fell on the ground.
The night elf didn’t have a huge target for his prepared spell anymore, but instead of canceling it, he just released it in the orc caster that helped the ogre. A powerful lightning bolt zapped from his hands, piercing through the orc’s chest, a few tents and beyond, crashing some trees behind, only miraculously not setting the whole forest on fire. Or he was just that good at controlling his spells, which wasn’t that surprising after this fight.
It wasn’t over just yet. An orc with a weak magical aura stood near the now dead caster, he wore much heavier armor than others and held two swords in his hands. He probably was some sort of a leader, but he had no one to lead anymore and was shocked by the display of power he just witnessed. I didn’t give him time to recover and do anything. I slipped through shadows and pierced his neck from behind. Most armor is useless when I need only a small opening in it for my shadow. I concentrated on my surroundings: a few orcs were entangled in Arthur’s vines and out of the fight, lots of people were concentrated in one spot in the back of the camp - probably prisoners, but one target was quickly running away using magic. That was not acceptable, and I darted in their direction.
My target was fast, boosted by their magic, but I quickly gained on them. In a dark forest, I was much faster. When I came closer, they turned to look at me. Surprisingly, it wasn’t an orc, it was a human woman in a dark cloak. I lunged my shadows towards her, but she reacted by casting a magical barrier and reflecting my strike. She looked surprised and scared, but she was composed enough to keep fighting, adrenaline giving her the clarity of the mind needed to not forget her spells in the face of an unknown danger. She instantly ascertained the situation, stretched her hand towards me, and created a bright globe of holly light. The light burned at my shadows much stronger than it should have been considering her weak magical aura.
The holly fire hurt a lot, and I made a high pitched screeching sound. It was terrible: there are almost no holly spells in hell, so this was a pretty new experience. Not the kind of new experiences I was seeking. I hid all my shadows and took a human form, this way I could handle the light easier. The human mage tried to keep the glowing ball between us, but it was all she could do: she couldn’t cast another spell while holding the holy light, and she didn’t have other weapons. I pushed through the light and slashed her neck with a dagger. Her death broke her concentration on the spell, and it disappeared in a small blast. The mage’s body fell on the ground, unmoving, and I fell near her, still in pain from the effect of the spell. I concentrated on my internal mana flow and the mana in the air. I deeply inhaled, pulling ambient mana, refilling my reserves, and effectively restoring all the damage she did.
Bodies of summoned demons are mostly mana constructs. They’re still flesh and blood, in a sense, but flesh and blood created by the demon’s magic. That’s why non-magical weapons almost useless against any demon - they just cut flesh, that gets rapidly restored, or they can’t pierce through it at all. But mana burn abilities and holly element abilities are extremely effective - they burn our mana itself. It’s true for summoned demons, but it’s doubly so for demons whos real bodies are just souls wrapped in a thick mana cloud, like me. So yeah, I would need to maybe stay away from anyone capable of casting holly or mana burn spells. Or figure out some ways to shield me, because it seemed like magic users in this world were pretty versatile in what elements they can use.
Speaking of casters. I stood up after a couple of minutes of siphoning ambient mana and started inspecting the mage’s body. Just as I thought, in her hand, she held pieces of familiar red crystal. I also found two similar crystals on her body. This was getting disconcerting, if everyone had those crystals, I couldn’t judge a caster’s magical capability by their aura alone. If I couldn’t judge my enemy’s strength, I couldn’t efficiently choose which fights I should fight. Information is power, after all. I needed to gather more information on those crystals and how strong average magic users in this world were. My party alone showed considerable might in the last fight, and if they hide any more powers, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to kill any of them if I needed it. I probably could have if I used stealth and surprise to my advantage, but this plane was quickly teaching me to not underestimate anyone.
I stashed the crystals in my extradimensional storage and dragged the body of the slain mage back to the camp. The camp was still lit by Arthur’s globes of light and brazers, and my party was dealing with the aftermath: checking orc’s bodies, if any were alive, and finishing them off mostly. I dragged the body and shoved it near the others.
“Impressive fight, everyone,” Helena commended us.
“Didn’t expect us to actually take a full camp of orcs with two shamans, a captain and an ogre all by ourselves,” Arthur said. “I didn’t know you could use fighting techniques.”
“That’s… a family art,” she explained without going into any actual detail.
“Mhm. And you, Viviene. You killed quite a lot of them before they could even reach us…”
“I told you I’m good at killing my targets,” I shrugged with the dagger still in my hand.
“Who is this?” Silai came to us from another side of the camp and pointed at the dead mage I brought.
“Some sort of caster, she tried to run away,” I replied. “I dealt with her.”
Silai noded. “It seems like no threats are remaining, let’s see how the captives are doing.”
I was an assassin and not a rescuer, but in the few days I was in the middle plane, I already managed to rescue two groups of people. We found more than 30 people bound in a huge tent in the back of the camp, some of them were kids too. They were disheveled but alive and very grateful to us. I wasn’t used to gratitude, most of the things I did were because I wanted it or I had a deal with someone. Back in Hell, this was other demons, here it was Amelia or Helena and her friends. I didn’t think much about it. It was a fun experience, I got some useful information about this world, and now Helena will be my guide for some time. Oh, and I would get paid too, which is a nice bonus. We freed everyone and decided to spend the night in the camp, going at night through the forest with all those people was dangerous. During this time, Silai pulled me away from everyone for a private talk.
“Listen,” he said forcefully. “I know what you are. My people have a long history of very… intimate relationships with demons, and I’ve seen a lot of your abilities to be sure.” I listened to him without reacting. I decided to figure out how hostile he is before making my move. He might be useful alive, so I wanted to listen to what he had to say. “I don’t know what your deal is,” Silai continued, “but you were helpful, so I will not judge you by your species just yet.”
“Thanks,” I tried to encourage his positive attitude.
“But! We both know that trusting a demon is a bad idea, which is why I’m watching you. Nothing personal.”
I nodded. “That’s reasonable.” I wouldn’t trust a demon either, after all.
“I’m glad we are on the same page,” he finished and returned to the group.
I made a mental note to learn more about night elves. And other groups I should be more careful around. I also started thinking about ways Silai could be useful to me. He was a strong mage, had knowledge of demons and didn’t attack me on the spot after learning what I am, so I could at least try to learn something from him. It was a bit strange, though, if his people were close with demons, then how did I have heard so little about night elves? He might have been speaking about different “his people”, like a tribe, or a magic school, or a cult… Or the demons that shared bits and pieces about the mortal plane with me didn’t bother to tell much important about them. Different demons find different things notable about the middle plane when they’re summoned. Or his people might have been dealing with other factions of demons. Too many possibilities, too few answers. I mentally shrugged and returned to everyone.
Author’s note: chapters are getting longer, wow. Let me know what you think about the action scenes! All my experience with describing them is from being a DM for my D&D group :D