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“Tra la-la la-laaa!” I skipped along today, impish and fey and bored with today’s run. We were on yet another rescue-and-destroy run. The day before, I’d been quite pleased to find that my skills as a walking detonation device were of use to the company. The Brown had stood, confused, in front of a building that needed demolishing, unsure of how to do so cleanly. I had watched him rub his chin, brown hair falling everywhere as he tiled his head back and forth, for several minutes before walking up and offering my services. Five minutes later, I had emerged from the middle of the pile of ruin giggling, much to the dismay of my commander. He had, at the time, ordered me to “NEVER DO THAT AGAIN, DAMMIT!”, and so I was pleasantly surprised and gleeful when he asked me to do the same thing today at their next destination.

We were, at the time, partway through a valley that rather magnificently amplified any sound, and so as I could not sing my nonsense song out loud, I did so in the heads of anyone who would listen. I soon had many either amused, or exasperated with me. If I had really hit an interesting spot in their minds, they were both. The Brown was behind me, as was Shadowsong. The prior was amongst the ranks of exasperated, the latter tried to hide his entertainment and maintain his tough-guy exterior. The Medic, walking next to me today, was as always elegant and sleek, maintaining his aloof, blasé expression behind his glasses. If you looked, though-and I did-you could see the corners of his mouth twitch, indicating not only that he heard me, but that he was amused…and, quite likely, intent on joining the game.

 

“Tra la-la…la-LAAAAA!”

I crescendoed into a trilling peak at the end of my little song, giggling at the echoes of “Oh good gods…” and the returning giggles I caught, as we turned a corner. The Brown, apparently, had had quite enough, because I heard in mental reply a quite clear “You DO realize that you should not be making THIS kind of noise in THIS canyon?!”

I turned to look back at him, impishly grinning, scanning the faces of my fellows to see their reactions. As most of them were either as amused as the Medic and Shadowsong and I, or pretending not to be, I replied, “But of course. But, wouldn’t that require me to be audible to those rocks? They cannot hear what I say now. Or, indeed, what you just spoke to me. I think we’re quite safe.”

I was rewarded with an exasperated grumble, an eye roll, and a “move along” gesture. So, I turned around-although partially at the Medic’s pulling my arm-and moved on. I soon realized, however, why he’d taken my arm. He rightfully expected me to start skipping again. At my confused glance, he nodded ahead, to where a shadowy blob was barely visible in the distance. I changed my skip to my silent padding-my “assassin walk”, my children call it-and pulled one of my two knives, as did many of the others behind me.

We approached the object, still several miles away, at half the speed we had been going. It looked odder, and odder, the more we approached, and many of us could smell the death surrounding it. Unsettled, we became progressively more restless, more set on our guard, thus more armed…

…Until we got within sight. The tree had been stuffed full of dead men, impaled and thus pinned to the trees. It was recently done, too, because the smell was not of rotten flesh, but of blood. Some of them were still dripping it. These were our opponents too…it looked like some of their captives got the better of them. My mouth fell open in utter disbelief, as did many of the mouths of those behind me.

The Medic was the first to come out of shock. I looked at him, incredulous, as he cocked his head, rubbed at his chin, and considered the tree. He opened his mouth and took a breath twice, as if to say something, but shut his mouth, shaking his head with an “mmm”. He looked down at me out of the corner of his eye, and at my exasperated look and my mental “WHY DO YOU NOT JUST SAY WHATEVER THE FUCK IT IS”, smirked at me, winked, and turned around. And in his deep, drawling, voice, he quite clearly stated, “Oh look everyone! It’s an Idiot Tree! Everyone, pick an Idiot!”

I looked up at him, and grinned. He grinned back, with the same impish light to his eyes, and a fraction of a nod and an arch of an eyebrow were seen. So I shrugged, and flounced over to the tree. I picked the closest and most interestingly impaled man, with the most interesting implement, and yanked it out. Ducking drops of blood, I whipped out my knife, and proceeded to stab what would have been the living daylights out of him to the sounds of the Medic's and Shadowsong’s roaring laughter in the back of my head.

The repressed giggles were audible…and the Brown soon had his hands full trying to shush them, not wanting either a rock slide or attention drawn. His efforts were for naught, as we soon felt the approach of many heavy feet approaching us. They disliked us enough to begin with, and we were found near a tree full of freshly killed and impaled men…I was sure it would be a lively fight. I grinned at his dirty look, pulled my knives, and fell into formation to sprint to meet them with the rest of the fighters.

“Fighting with Chaote! Fighting away from us! No fighting! I’ll send you home! DON’T EVER DO IT AGAIN!”

The Brown was, it seems, displeased. I was rewarded for my efforts, and his hissy fit, with the lovely ease of fighting an easy fight to the sounds of my fellows wheezing, of laughter, in my head.

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