The redbelly then came upon a strange tree at the forest’s edge. It was like a pine, tall and straight, but without the odor of sap and scaly bark. Its only leaves were at the crown, and thin; a pair of dark shoots that stretched into the distance in either direction from a strange, single, bifurcated branch.

Mating season was coming, and this tree seemed promising, so the redbelly hopped over to it and drummed out a love song. The wood was perfect for that purpose, and the call resonated through the area. Satisfied, the bird descended to what looked like a weaker spot, to test the tree’s suitability for a nest. It drilled at the wood, but found it unusually hard and unyielding, with a sour taste that soon made the bird feel ill.

Poisoned trees. They did exist, but never in so strange a form, so alien a shape. It was like a mockery of a tree, one specifically designed to attract and then disappoint woodpeckers. The redbelly flew off, still feeling rather upset.

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