I was standing in the deserted guild barracks, marker pen in hand, about to outline our tactics for taking down Cuddlyheehee to my assembled alpha-pets. “Ok, this is how we do it,” I told them. “Insanity, you go voooooom, and stun him. Try not to squawk, it makes you sound stupid. Lollop, you give him a swipe and a smack and then hit him again. Boggle, you are with us in an advisory capacity only, you stand here (I pointed to a spot well away from the mark) and you watch – feel free to jump up and down and use eek eek eek noises, if you feel it helps. Wiggles, once he’s stunned, cocoon him, and then, when he’s cocooned, Trollop, you jump us out of there and back here. Then I shoot him.”
Five sets of eye looked back at me. They weren’t impressed. “What’s wrong with it?” I demanded. They said nothing, but Lollop put his face in his palm. “Ok, you do better then,” I told him. “How would you do it?” Lollop pulled himself to his feet, and sauntered over to the imaginary gnome figure I’d made out of discarded bits of tier 9 stuff still kicking around the barracks. He stood by it, looked at me to be sure he had my attention then started hammering it with his fist, rather as if he was pounding a nail into balsa wood. The dummy was a lot smaller by the time he finished.
“Ok,” I admitted, “it could work.” I glanced at the pets. Four sets of deeply dissatisfied eyes glared back. Lollop scratched himself, but I could see he was upset by their reaction. “Ok, you do better,” I told Insanity.
“Squawk –squawk-SQUAWK,” he said, moving to stand by the dummy. In a sudden flurry of pecks he began to demolish the not-gnome. Bits of wood and cloth began to fly.
“Ok,” I said. “You do know that it’s just a dummy and not the real gnome, don’t you?” Insanity stopped and looked at me, blinking.
“Squawk,” he said, but his face went pinker.
“It works, in so far as it goes,” I placated, but you have to remember that he’ll be throwing spells at us the whole time. Hence you have to stun him. Then you could peck. What do you think, Wiggles?”
The spider glared at me, then turned and glared at each of the other pets in turn. He rattled his mandibles and wiggled crossly. It was easy to know what he meant; after all, I am a hunter. “Why is it always me who makes the cocoon? Why can’t I voooooom instead?” I thought for a moment about how I could best handle his tantrum. “They can’t do it,” I whispered. “And nor can I. You’re the only one with the skills.” That seemed to work, but in the moment of time it took to settle Wiggles back down, Boggle had taken over.
The monkey was my newest pet and very much on probation. He’d managed to find Forst’s abandoned flip chart and some pens, and was clearly taking things more seriously than I’d expected. We watched as he carefully drew a small gnome, and then, to my total astonishment, he drew a detailed layout of the establishment where the gnome worked. He pointed out the exits, as well as where help was likely to come from for our victim. He quickly ran through the spells the gnome had at his disposal, then he drew each of us in turn, marking the direction we should move in first, as well as the attacks we should make. Each of us had a different colour so that we could see clearly what we were meant to do. Even Forst at his most messianic had only ever used three. At the end there was a stunned silence.
“Well ok,” I said dubiously. “Lollop what do you think?” He looked at Boggle long and hard, then turned his back on the howler monkey and scratched himself. “Insanity? Any thoughts?” he sauntered slowly over to the flip chart and attempted to peck it. Boggle let out one of the most piercing eeks I had ever heard. Insanity backed away.
“For a start, if we shout eek eek eek all the time like you do they’ll hear us a mile away,” I said. “You’ve used pink for Trollop when everyone knows it’s Insanity’s colour. Too confusing. Also,” I said, “the gnome is taller than that.”
Boggle boggled at me, but I carried on. “I just don’t think it will work. It’s too…….” I was thinking frantically for a reason to reject it. Forst never had this trouble with his minions, and by all accounts his hunter alt’s pets NEVER speak back to him as mine do to me. Not for the first time that morning I thought longingly of my guild mates, and wiped a tear that would certainly have ended up giving me wrinkles or something if I’d let it fall. I thought of how Forst would have organised everyone by now, and indeed, of how Skarrz would have loved my secret mission to kill a gnome. Trouble is, he’d have had trouble at stopping at just the one.
Boggle stared at me really hard. “Eek?” he said, raising just one eyebrow.
“Ok,” I said. “It’s a good plan. It could work. So long as you work on the eek thing. And change Insanity’s colour to pink.”