Trivia stood in a meadow dotted with a few oaks, less than three kilometers from the grove - close enough to draw on the moonlight infusing her long, white petals and to smile when Ray bonked his head against her trunk. On another occasion, she might have eavesdropped on his conversation with Wilson, or called a breeze to tousle his hair, but Audubon was not easy to follow when she did not want to be followed, even for Trivia. She focused on her quarry and contented herself with the knowledge that Ray was safe.
The first fragrance notes carried only rumors and speculation; Audubon knew better than to tread on bare earth or brush against green branches. But even a crow in flight could not pass through these woods entirely unnoticed. Although these trees were empty vessels, they shared a sympathy and a language with Trivia, if not precisely a kinship. Without waiting to be asked, the wind carried corroborating fragrances to Trivia's skin - after all this time, she still forgot to breathe through her nose, except when keeping up appearances.
Trivia curled her toes into the soil and closed her eyes. Though her vision was keen, it was the least of her senses and a distraction from the forest's testimony, which grew louder every moment. Audubon could not hope to hide from her. Nor could she evade Trivia, no matter how swiftly she flew. But Audubon surely knew that as well as she did. The thought creased Trivia's forehead. What was her game?
She received three answers at once: The air grew stale, muting the song of the Green. A cloud engulfed the Moon like a tenebrous anglerfish. And the meadow grass bent ever so slightly beneath hollow bones and haute couture. Audubon had resumed her human form.
"You doubled back once you were sure I had outpaced Roosevelt," Trivia said. Her facial expression hid her concern at the extent of Audubon's deception.
Audubon removed her "le smoking" jacket and placed it, neatly folded, on the ground. Beneath the jacket, she wore a long-sleeved, white dress shirt and silver cufflinks. "Is it wrong to want a little privacy while I spill my guts? Or another's?" Her French accent had all but vanished. Like Trivia's breathing, it was an affectation for the sake of men.
"A heart-to-heart, then?" Trivia said.
"Impossible." Audubon pocketed her cufflinks - they were shaped like snowy owls - and rolled up her sleeves. "You left yours in the grove and mine in a ditch. You should be more careful with hearts that don't belong to you. Who knows what could happen?"
"If you think I'll let you threaten him-," Trivia said, unable to hide her anger.
"What will you do?" Audubon said. "What could you take from me that you haven't already taken? Do you think you could hurt me? Do you think you could make me feel anything at all?"
Trivia's voice softened. "Is that why you're doing this? I feel numb, too, but this isn't the answer. Don't torture yourself."
Audubon pried off her high-heels, revealing scaled, crow-like feet. To fit within the shoe, her taloned toes had been contorted more badly than a ballerina's. "Too late. String your bow. I can't see it, but I know it's always with you."
"Not even in jest," Trivia said. "However much you hate me, you aren't a threat to the Green." For a moment, she felt the weight of wood in her left hand, and sinew brushing against the other, but she dismissed her weapon before it could fully form.
"Your spear, then." Audubon cracked her neck and fingers.
"I won't fight you," Trivia said. "It wouldn't be fair."
"Because I wasn't born to war?" Audubon said. "I've learned a few trifles since we last met, a few cantrips, a few maddening secrets. That, I was born to."
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King of the Woods, or Trivial PursuitFantasy
Florida Forest Service duty officer Ray Lumley is in love with a white fringetree. Not an I-read-Walden-in-high-school love; a sweaty, sappy, I-want-to-rub-against-you-'til-I-get-splinters love. It's awkward. So, he's relieved to learn that he's rea...