A/N: Written for originalfic_las for the prompt: "deception.”
Summary: A contest held in a woodland clearing for the biggest liar amongst all the animal kingdom
Mockingbird trilled the song of the meadowlark, quieting down the crowd. Both wings raised aloft, the assembled creatures turned their attention towards him, eager to see the new round of the contest.
“Welcome, creatures wide and far! Some have traveled many hundreds, even thousands of miles to be here today, so let us welcome our newest contestants in… The Biggest Liar!”
Chirps, howls, and screeches rang throughout the clearing as the small group of creatures was revealed by raising the aspen curtain.
“From the south of the United States of American, I give you the Scarlet King Snake!” A snake with red, black, and yellow bands rose up and flickered her tongue. “Frequently confused with her venomous cousin, the Coral Snake, Scarlet King claims her deceiving colors have saved her life a dozen times. Scarlet, tell the crowd why you should be crowned the Biggest Liar!”
“Mockingbird, few other snakes in my area inspire as much fear to humans as I do when I’m seen, but I’m as harmless to them as a fly. I send them screaming in terror just by my colors.” She winked at the crowd. “My scales were also worn by a little old serpent who just slithered on them on Sundays.”
Chortles and hoots came from the crowd as the mockingbird laughed and gestured to the next.
“Though she has relatives in North America, this little lady hails from the equator, please welcome the Leaf-Emulating Katydid!” A leaf of the aspen tree waved at the crowd with her long legs, and jumped down to take center stage. “Tell us about yourself, Katy.”
“No one sees me, or if they do, they just see through me. I can eat all the plants I want, and farmers don’t even think to spray for me, because they don’t even know I’m there! I can feed with impunity,” Katydid said proudly, her leaf-like body rattling in the wind.
“Very clever there, indeed! Our next contestant is a close neighbor of Katy, also hailing from the tropical rainforests, everyone please give a warm welcome to the Walking Stick Bug!”
A very long stick peeled itself away from the ground and stalked to the middle.
“Not only does no one see me,” Walking Stick said, with a sideways glance at Katydid that held a world of withering contempt, “but my enemies don’t see me either. Not only do I feed on what I want, no one feeds on me, either!”
Katydid rattled her legs ominously, and glared up at the bigger Walking Stick.
Mockingbird hooted softly to try to get the two to move on, and finally turned to the next contestant, leaving the two rivals to their staring contest.
“Having traveled all the way from the island of Madagascar, we are pleased to have… Chameleon!” the mockingbird shouted as loudly as he could.
The two insects abruptly backed up into the tree as the insect-eating predator strode in with his odd, rocking gait, eyes going in all directions, his scales slowly blending from the green of the tree to the gray-brown of the forest floor.
“His name is the term for someone who can change their appearance at will, Chameleon is dead set on winning the title of Biggest Liar for himself! Chameleon, any words?”
Chameleon opened his mouth, and Katydid and Walking Stick all but cowered behind the aspen curtain. “I will win.”
Mockingbird waited for anything else, then chirped cheerfully and turned back to the crowd. “There you have it, from the lizard himself! He will win!”
“Unlikely, you stuck-up, self-centered, resting-on-your-laurels for the past hundred years disgrace to reptiles everywhere,” Scarlet King muttered.
“You said it!” Katydid squeaked from somewhere in the leaves.
“What she said!” Walking Bug added.
“And finally,” Mockingbird said very loudly, hoping to get the introductions done before the contestants tried to eat each other, “our last contestant, hailing from right here in the Rocky Mountains, we have the-.”
“Someone’s coming!” Eagle shouted suddenly, interrupting the contest.
“Quick, quick, hide!”
The woodland creatures scattered amongst the brush and trees as the rhythmic sounds of hikers penetrated their clearing. Boots could be seen as two humans paused near the aspen curtain, and began to hunt around on the ground by the conifers nearby.
“Look, there is it! I thought we weren’t going to find any more!” Hands reached down to pluck something from the ground, and abruptly the boots tromped away. The creatures waited several minutes before coming back out. Mockingbird ducked under the aspen curtain and could be heard talking softly to someone. A moment later, he reappeared.
“Well, we seem to have had a few technical difficulties, and an injury, but our last contestant is still ready to go on with the show! Hailing from right under this tree, our last contestant is…” Rabbit thumped hard on the ground to provide a drumroll as Mockingbird pushed back the curtain. “The False Morel Mushroom!”
What had been a cluster of mushrooms was now only a single small one, the others showing their broken stems, but it had a distinct, cone-shaped wrinkled cap, and stood very tall and brave amidst the carnage of its siblings.
Chameleon growled in irritation. “A plant? A fungus?!”
“What makes you so special?” Scarlet King Snake demanded.
“Your kin just got eaten! That hardly makes you a good liar,” Katydid said.
“I rather think you lose by default,” Walking Stick said dismissively.
False Morel spoke, its voice soft and barely audible. “I told the humans I was edible by how I look, and they will suffer for my lie. When they eat me, if they don’t die, they will at least wish they had. They will never eat us again.”
Scarlet King opened her mouth, then shut it again, Chameleon looked abashed, Katydid and Walking Stick just started to edge away in shame.
Mockingbird saluted the stunned former champions, their silent assent all the votes he needed, as he gave False Morel a bow.
“You are the Biggest Liar!”