The Bird and The Cage Chapter 5

“It wouldn’t be that easy…” Cullen grumbled, looking out from the hole in the cave at the vast forest below, his eyes trailing along the nearby river and outward towards where his home was, his heart aching. 

He should have known that the harpy’s home would be high up; after all, what would be the point of their wings if they didn’t roost high up. However, he hadn’t expected her home to be situated in a mountain of all things. He looked down at the forest floor below, getting dizzy as he gazed down at it before he stepped back into the cave and cursed, kicking a stray rock. He had been so excited when he had woken up to see the harpy gone, but now it seemed pointless. He should’ve realized than that it wouldn’t be so simple as to just leave the cave while she was gone. Of course, she would be confident in leaving him alone because she knew that there was no way for him to scale down the mountainside.  

Sighing, he found himself slumping down on the makeshift bed the harpy made. The one solace he had was that he was correct in thinking that the harpy lived nearby to his town. The mountain he was in was the one that overlooked his town and from which the sun often rose over in the morning. However, that didn’t solve the problem as to how he was going to get off the mountain, and it was almost mocking him with how close he was to his home and yet having no way of returning.

 Groaning, he fell back into the bed. Is this what his life was going to be for however long the harpy decided to keep him? Was he just going to be a plaything to the whims of some monster? How long would she keep him then before she was bored of him? It was frightening to think that his life was on such a leash like that, bending to the desires of a creature he has no comprehension of. Though, his mind lingered back onto the bed she had seemingly made for him, it wouldn’t make sense for her to kill him so soon after going to the effort of making one for him, and, if anything, it almost appeared like she planned to keep him indefinitely regardless of his own desires. Maybe she had no intention of harming him, but he shook those thoughts out of his head: she was still just some beast, and like any beast, her desires would shift and she would only think of her own needs. For all he knew, she was just keeping him to have an easy source of food if she was to ever get lazy and did not want to hunt.

Rolling to his side, he glanced outside the opening of the cave, a symbol of his own imprisonment. To think he was so close to his home and having a prime opportunity to escape now as the harpy was gone, but a barrier that he couldn’t traverse was chaining him to this place. It felt like the harpy was mocking his futility by leaving him alone like this knowing he could never leave even when she wasn’t around to stop him. His blood began to boil at that thought: an image of some pompous bird chortling at his inferiority and uselessness, so confident in how he couldn’t do anything to get out of the situation he was in.

He clenched his fists and sat up from the bed, “I’ll show you, feather-face.” He shouted, his words echoing around the hollow cave.

He was mad at the monster and ashamed of himself; he had given up so quick, he thought, casting his gaze downwards, imagining his father reprimanding him for giving in. He shook his head vigorously and rose to his feet, his limbs filled with renewed vigor as he looked around the harpy’s home.  He wasn’t going to lose to some overgrown chicken, he told himself with new resolve.

A confident smile stretched across his face as he began to walk around the cave, running his hands along the unforgiving stone, shivering as the cold stung his hand. Now looking around the cave, he realized that it was a lot bigger than he had imagined in his addled state: the ceiling was high up and he could see thin stalactites hanging, arranged together like sharp teeth threatening to chomp down on him. The interior was spacious, and he thought it had to be bigger than the whole interior of his own home, maybe even the church in town; it was definitely more spacious without the pews taking up everything. He chuckled a bit at the image of the good father preaching in this cave–it would at the very least be able to keep him up with the old man’s voice booming inside the cave.

Looking around, there was nothing but the smooth gray stone, nothing that resembled a huge entranceway in besides the large opening in the front that allowed the faint beams of light to filter through. A familiar dread began to crawl back over him as he inspected thoroughly the cave, even going over it again just to be safe, but wasn’t finding any sort of exit or even a small hole, but it swallowed it down and pushed himself harder. However, he was continually only met with the gray wall and a faint prickling began to pick at his skin, clenching his fists tighter.

He stopped at the last corner of the cave he hasn’t inspected yet, and rubbed his hands against the wall, hoping to feel some sort of weakness or anything that could allow him to escape, but he was met with the same insurmountable barrier. He rested his head against the wall, closing his eyes and his shoulders slumping. The previous excitement had fled his body and now he felt like someone had punched him in the gut. Was he never going to be able to escape this cursed place? Would he never see his family again?

It felt so hopeless and a part of him wish that he hadn’t explored the cave because he could have clung to that hope that he could escape. With that thought, he wanted to crumple up into the makeshift bed and cry. He swallowed again and for the first time noticed a dryness to his throat that made it uncomfortable to swallow and breathe, and he cursed his bad luck; it seemed like everything since late last night was to make sure he suffered. However, he remembered that he had left his house with his waterskin, having forgotten to take it off when he got home that day, and a faint smile came to his face as he reached down for it. He realized once more that he was letting himself get hopelessly depressed again, he just had to sit down and think it through once more; he had to keep himself hopeful or he would already lose. Maybe give the cave another thorough look-through once he was calmed down; there had to be another way out of here.

He grasped down for the waterskin that should be hanging around his belt, but he was met with empty air and as he reached down closer to his belt, he felt nothing but the thick leather of it. He pushed his head off the wall and glanced down to see that there was nothing hanging from his belt. His mind went blank as he continued to grasp at air before he at last realized that it must’ve fallen off during his abduction. He stared down at the ground for a second before a terrible, wrathful feeling overcame him.

He looked up at the wall again and his anger grew worse to the point that he felt like he wanted to hit something, and what better than the mocking barrier in front of him. He raised his leg high and launched it towards the wall, but, much to his surprise, his foot wasn’t met with any resistance, but instead empty air. Gasping, he felt it caught on something hard as the follow through continued and he fell to the ground, rubbing his lower back as he sat himself back up quickly in shock. He looked towards the lower end of the wall and saw something that caused his eyes to shoot open wide: an opening.

Scrambling forward, his heart lurching at the potential sight of his salvation, he came to a stop in front of the hole, a panting mess as he lowered his head and gazed through it. He extended his arm forward tentatively, scared at the notion that his mind could be playing tricks on him. However, once his hand pushed through that invisible barrier, he jumped to his feet, a loud cheer ripping from his throat before he found himself bent back over, groaning as the sharp ache in his back reminded him of his clumsy fall.

But the pain soon faded as excitement coursed through his body, and he laid flat on the cold ground, peering into the opening. The opening appeared to be just big enough to fit through, and he tested it by sticking his head through up to his shoulder. There was a definite tightness to it, and he could feel the stone scrap roughly against his clothes and skin, but it was just wide enough to let him fit his shoulders through. The hole led into a small, dim hallway that led off into more darkness, causing his chest to tighten up as he looked down both ways. He should’ve expected that any exit to this cave would have faint to no light, but now looking at it, it made the task a bit more daunting, and he could feel the excitement dissipating.

His mind began to wander to the many problems that could befell him walking through these dark halls. He never feared any creature in the woods, but that changed the moment he realized that such creatures as his current captor existed, and he couldn’t be sure that similar or even more monstrous beasts didn’t dwell within this cave system. He shuddered at the thought of running into a werewolf or something akin to that, something that wouldn’t wait to sink their claws into him the moment he bumped into them. And that’s not even considering that there could be potential pitfalls in the cave that he might not be able to see. He could die or easily break a leg if he fell, and the thought starving to death in a dark pit filled him with fear. 

He pulled his head out and swallowed, feeling the dryness in his throat and mouth as he looked towards the giant opening of the cave, the sun’s light illuminating through. Maybe it would be better if he stayed here? The harpy didn’t seem to make any attempt to hurt him yet, and maybe she would be willing to return him home after she did whatever she wanted with him—no harm, no foul. He would have to wait it out, but it’d be better than ending up maimed or lost in some cave system. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, he thought, slumping against the wall. She did appear to be nice, taking care of his wounds and making him a bed. And, he couldn’t really deny it, but she was pretty, remembering the image of her spreading her wings yesterday to stop him from getting up. He didn’t think it back then, but now looking back on it, she almost looked like an angel.  

However, as quick as that thought entered his mind, he as quickly shook it away. She was just some monster—an animal—nothing more, nothing less. He couldn’t go now and think her to be some benevolent person as she wasn’t human. She was just a beast dominated by her instincts. She has no intentions but to fulfill her own desires and wants, with little care for her captive. He couldn’t—he wouldn’t—let himself be deceived into thinking that she had any other intention for him than to use him for her own ends; to be her future dinner.

Slapping himself in the head for allowing himself to become downtrodden once more, he laid flat and looked through the hole, the tightness in his chest returning as he hesitated. It was either he went through the hole and risked the potential perils in the darkness, or he remained here, trapped to the whims of a monster. Both can lead to death, but only one gave him a chance of making it out, even if it was dangerous as well. He clenched his fists, he rather have a fighting chance than no chance at all. His mind made up; he plunged his head into the hole once more.

Before he could make it much further than his head, however, he heard the powerful beat of something as it pumped against the wind, like a person hold two large fans and waving them hard. A loud squawk accompanied the beating of the wind, and his courage faltered as he pulled himself away from the small hole, turning his head towards the opening in the cave. He stepped away from the hole and moved back towards the center of the cave, his heart pounding as a large shadow descended upon the cave, followed by a sudden loud smack as if a pound of meat had just been thrown on the floor, his eyes snapping to the location of the sound.

Cullen saw a strange gray mass lying motionless on the ground, but didn’t have long to look at it before another loud squawk permeated through the cave, echoing discordantly in his head as it pounded off the thick walls of the small cave. His head snapped back to the entrance as the owner of the squawking settled down on the edge to the cave, her lithe body blocking most of the sunlight from entering, leaving a thin outline of sun bursting from around the sides of her, giving her an angelic look. She stepped into the cave and shook her body, making him blush red a bit and stare at the ceiling as her small breasts followed her body’s movement. His eyes only came back down when he heard a soft squelch on the floor, going wide as they settled upon the source of sound: his waterskin.

The waterskin jiggled as the water settled down, Cullen watching it until it stood still before his gaze went up to the harpy, who’s eyes rested on him expectantly. For his part, Cullen stood still and flipped his gaze back and forth between the offered waterskin and the monster, his eyes narrowing. But his bemusement didn’t last long as he once more felt the terrible dryness in his throat, and he let his more cautious inclinations be squashed as he stepped forward to relieve the irritable feeling.

Her eyes trailed him as he stepped forward, sparkling as he moved towards her, letting out a small chirp as he stopped a couple feet in front of her. Cullen felt awkward suddenly as he stood in front of her, not really knowing how to act or what to say to the harpy for filling up his waterskin. He figured that it would be better that he remained on his captor’s good side for the foreseeable future, so he felt inclined to offer some sort thanks or greeting for bringing back his waterskin, even if he wasn’t sure that she could understand him; he figured the message would at least be able to get across if he showed his appreciation.

“Thanks…” He said, nodding his head at her, which she reciprocated with her own head-bob and another small chirp.

Satisfied with his simple response, though still without the knowledge as to if the harpy could even understand him, he began to lean down to pick up the proffered waterskin. However, he didn’t get far down before it was seized beneath the harpy’s claws and dragged back towards her, sparse amounts of water squeezed out from the open top and staining the gray floor. He stood back up straight and looked down at her angrily, which she returned with a pout.

“What’s the big idea?” Cullen shouted, pointing down at the waterskin clenched in her talons. “Didn’t you fill that up for me?”

The harpy didn’t respond to his anger and let out a loud huff as she looked up at him. She chirped and looked down at the waterskin and back up at him before shaking her head, earning a scoff from him.

“What are you going to do with it? You can’t even hold it with those wings.” He said before shaking his head and taking a step forward to grab it.

Her eyes narrowed as he took a step, but she made no sound or motion as he approached. However, once he began to lean down to remove it from her talons, she let out a sudden hiss and unfolded her wings from her side, flapping them with enough strength that the air buffeted his face, causing him to shut his eyes and take a step back. She flapped her wings a couple more times at him before folding them again, and Cullen, opening his eyes, began to feel his anger starting to boil over at the infuriating bird.

“Are you going to give me the damn thing or not?” He shouted as they glared at each other.

Cullen took a step forward, which earned a small hiss from the harpy, but she didn’t motion to open her wings again, but he decided not to push his luck with the monster, so he stopped in front of her but made no motion to reach down for it. The harpy once more looked down at the waterskin and back up at him before letting out a sharp chirp. She leaned her head forward while tilting her head to the side to show him her feathery cheek, as if this gesture would give him the answer he was looking for. Cullen, for his part, was confused wholeheartedly by it.

The harpy turned her eyes back towards him, glowering at him before she rolled her eyes, earning a scoff from Cullen. It wasn’t like it was his fault that she decided to abduct somebody who couldn’t understand her; that was her mistake. He clenched his fists and glared at her, the dryness in his throat causing him to start wondering if he should try and force it from her talons. She was quite small, standing near a head shorter than him, and her upper body was thin, he could, in his mind, be able to fight her if need be. However, his eyes wandered down to sharp talons on her feet. One swipe from those could easily disembowel a pig, and he didn’t want to risk getting cut in the flailing of limbs that would ensue if he tried to wrestle her.

He threw his head back and sighed, taking deep breaths as rubbed his eyes thinking about how to let the dumb bird give him the waterskin when he began to hear shuffling in front of him again, making him snap his head back. The harpy closed the already thin gap between them, hopping awkwardly because of the object within her talons, a loud squelching sound erupting as the skin hit the ground, a jet of water shooting out. Cullen grimaced at the sight, but held his tongue as the harpy looked up at him, pursing her lips and letting out a small chirp. Cullen had expected her to do something, but the harpy remained content with looking up at him, and her gaze began to make him sweat a bit.

He scratched the back of his neck and turned his head away from her, “Can I help you wi—”

The words caught in his throat as he the harpy sprung up and pecked him on the cheek before sitting down on her haunches, looking up at him with a tilt of her head. Cullen reached a hand up to his cheek, rubbing it expecting there to be some sort of pain there, but instead he only felt a soft wetness. He furrowed his brow in confusion at the feeling, removing his hand to check if it was blood, but it was unblemished. Was he sweating? He didn’t really feel hot, nor was it particularly hot in the cave to cause him to sweat, and his forehead would have felt wet too if he was indeed sweating. His eyes widened as a sudden thought sprang into his head, thinking back to the harpy turning her cheek to him and the swift motion she had done just moments earlier. But it couldn’t be, he thought, laughing to himself; there was no way the monster meant him to do that.

Cullen’s breath caught in his throat once he turned his eyes back down to her. He saw that she had once more turned her cheek to him, letting how a small chirp as if she was saying that she had shown him what to do, like last night when she showed him his bed. But she couldn’t really mean for him to do that? His brain came to a stop at the thought, and he simply looked down at the offered cheek.

The harpy turned back towards him, her eyes filled with annoyance and she let out a loud squawk, startling him as she hopped back, leaving the waterskin on the ground in front of him. However, he couldn’t reach down to pick it up before she scooped it up in her mouth and started towards the entrance to the cave, her claws clicking on the floor. Cullen watched her go, not sure what she was doing until she reached the entrance and began to lean her head out, and suddenly his brain snapped to action as he realized what she was going to do.

“Wait!” He called out desperately, running towards her as she turned around, her head still too dangerously close to the entrance for his liking.

He stopped in front of her, his hands held out in front of him in an attempt to placate her. Cullen motioned for her to bring her head back in, nodding his head, trying to relay that he would do what she wanted. Her eyes narrowed, but she did bring her head back away from the ledge and dropped the waterskin on the floor. He sighed in relief at the sight of it safely on the floor once more before turning his eyes towards the harpy, who looked at him expectantly. Cullen approached her slowly, nervous that moving too fast would cause her to snap it back in her jaws and out the cave before he could react.

Stopping in front of her, she turned her cheek to him again, and he bit his lips. He really had no choice, did he? He figured that she wouldn’t take kindly to him not doing what she wanted again, and his dry throat almost called out to him in desperation to just do it already so it could be quenched—he just hoped that this is what she wanted. Taking one last deep breath, he shut his eyes tight before leaning down quickly and kissing her on the cheek.

He felt the softness of the feathers on her face as his lips touched her cheek, the thick mane of feathers around her neck rubbing against his cheek as well. His nose picked up the unmistakable scent of the forest on her body—the smell of the flowers, leaves, and the pleasant scent of pine–a sweeter, more comforting smell than he had expected on her. But he didn’t take much time to bask in it before he tore his head away, turning to face away from her, his face bright red.

Embarrassment and disbelief flooded him at what he had just done. He couldn’t believe he had just kissed a monster—on the cheek of course, but that thought wasn’t any more comforting to him. He rubbed his mouth with the sleeve of his tunic, but he could get the feeling of the feathers on her face, nor her pleasant scent out of his mind. Contrasting to his disgust, he heard the harpy let out a happy squawk, and he cast a sideways glance towards her to see a smug smile plastered across her face, causing a flare up of bitterness towards the monster. However, he swallowed his pride, feeling the dryness in his throat and reminding himself that he wouldn’t be here much longer once she inevitably went out again.

Grabbing her attention with a cough, he pointed to the waterskin and was relieved when the harpy finally bobbed her head up and down. He bent over and picked it up, feeling the water jiggle within, before raising to his mouth. Cool water flooded his mouth as he took large, greedy sips from the top of it, and he began to cough violently as he drank too fast. He slapped his chest, noting bitterly that the harpy shook at the sight of it, as if trying to conceal her laughter at the sight of him choking.

Shaking his head, not wanting to give the bird the satisfaction of seeing him riled up, he began to sip slower from the waterskin, swishing it around in his mouth to erase any hints of dryness in his mouth before gulping it down. Sighing in contentment, he moved past the harpy, who seemed to be content with watching him from her small bed and depositing it next to his own before sitting down on the bed. He laid back, resting his head in his hands, a small smile on his face as his throat was finally satisfied, mixed with joy from having a plan of escape in his head–he knew he would soon be rid of this vexing bird!

He shut his eyes and took a deep breath, soon this would all just be a bad memory; he just needed to bide his time and wait for her to go out once more. He smirked: her smugness at her confidence in him being trapped would only make his escape sweeter, especially when he thought of the look on her face when she returned and found her cave empty. He wish he could see the look on her face in person, but he would be long gone and in the comfort of his home, with the new lesson in his head of no longer wandering out in the woods alone nor at night. Tomorrow, or maybe even later today if she went out again before it grew too late, he could be out of here, and for now, he could just relax with the fear of uncertainty off his shoulders.

However, before he could doze off to quicken his inevitable escape, a loud rumbling erupted from his stomach, accompanied by a small prickling of discomfort that went through his abdomen. He could almost hear the Harpy’s head snap in his direction at the sound coming from his stomach, and his face grew a bright red as he laid there with his eyes closed. In all his excitement in planning his escape, hunger had snuck up on him, building slowly until it erupted in the raucous cacophony from within. He realized that he hadn’t eaten anything since his evening meal with his family, and he estimated that it must have been close to noon now, essentially meaning that he had skipped breakfast. Not that even remembering to eat when he had awoken would have been something he could do since he had no food on his person.

Cullen moaned quietly and rubbed his stomach, concluding that he would have to go without today since he had no way of getting food for himself. He promised himself when he got home tomorrow, he would beg his mother to make her beef stew that he loved so much, and he was sure she would do it for his homecoming gift. He chuckled, maybe that was the one good thing about getting kidnapped like this: his mother would dote over him when he returned. He had that to look forward to when he fled at least.

His ear perked suddenly as he heard shuffling from his feathery captor, the clicking of her talons echoing in the cave as she moved. His heart picking up as he thought that this might mean that she would be heading out again. Sitting up, he looked towards the harpy, but a flood of disappointment washed over him as he saw her hunched over towards the ground, nowhere near the entrance to the cave. Groaning at this, he nevertheless remained sitting up, his curiosity piqued at what she was doing, watching her bob her head up and down as if she was pulling on something. Narrowing his eyes, he tried to tilt his head to peak around her but couldn’t see around the wings folded at her side. He made to rise to his feet, but her head suddenly snapped back and a loud sound, akin to the sound of leather being torn in two, echoed throughout the cave.

Startled, Cullen cocked his head at the sound, but the harpy continued about her work unimpeded, lowering her head again and making the same motions as before. Again, they were followed by another loud tearing sound, but she paid little mind to any of it with the cave filling up with the sounds several more times before she appeared satisfied with her work. Shaking her head, she leaned down once more and twisted her head violently, but the loud sound from before didn’t echo, but instead a softer sound like when Cullen would hear the butchers chop or tear meat.

Cullen could begin to feel a cold sweat break out on the back of his neck, and his throat felt suddenly dry once more. But before he could do or say anything, the harpy turned around back towards him, and he could see what she had been working on so intently before: a rabbit, or what remained of one anyway as the end shown to him no longer had fur of any sort on its body, with only the red meat and innards being exposed to the world. His eyes trailed up to the face of the harpy, his breath catching in his throat as he saw her mouth was covered in blood with a long string of bloody meat dangling from it.

She approached slowly, her talons clicking against the stone floor waking Cullen up from his stunned horror. He crawled backwards, eyes wide as blood dripped from the freshly torn flesh and stained the floor, a horrid sense of déjà vu coming over him as he backed up. The sense growing worse when he felt his back stop against the cold wall again, and he gulped loudly as he tried to rise to his feet only to be jumped on by the harpy.

His leg was clamped by her talons once again, but this time, in his panicked state, he tried to fight against it, only to feel his legs barely move as they were held in place, a sharp prick making him stop his useless struggle. Despite her petite appearance, her lower body was abnormally stronger than her body would suggest, and he could feel her squeezing him tight earning a grimace as she made it clear that she didn’t want him to move. He looked at her huffing, and thought about shoving her off him, but another sudden squeeze made him realize the foolishness of that idea. He would need his legs for his eventual escape, and if he shoved her off with how tight she was gripping onto him, he knew he would regret it. Sighing, he relented and looked fearfully up at the harpy, his breathing heavy.

She hovered above him, small drops of blood staining his tunic in small splotches from the overhanging meat. Suddenly, she began to move forward, until her body was pressed tight against his, her face equal with his as she looked into his eyes. His breath hitched at the sensation of her body against his, his legs involuntarily squirming a bit as the softness of her body. His heart began to pound, but the harpy paid little attention to his nervousness, letting out a small cooing sound that was muffled because of the meat. She motioned with her head, and held the meat close to his mouth, causing him to shake his head and tighten his mouth. 

She brought it closer and he could feel the slick meat rubbing on his face, leaving a faint trail of blood around his lips. He gagged at the sensation, and could feel his stomach churning as it rubbed against him, but he kept his mouth shut despite the nauseating feeling. Her eyes began to narrow at his behavior, but Cullen shook his head, which did little to dissuade the harpy as she continued to wave the piece of flesh in front of him, as if it would hypnotize him to finally open his mouth; he maintained his composure, however. Eventually, he hoped, she would get frustrated enough to leave him alone; after all, he couldn’t imagine her doing this for the rest of the night if he remained tight-lipped. 

Annoyance flared up in her eyes, and he began to hope that it would be a signal that she was finally relenting to his stubbornness. He could feel her weight starting to lessen on him, and he almost let out a sigh of relief before he realized that he was still in a present danger and quickly corrected himself. He gazed once more into her eyes only to see the annoyance in them suddenly shift with her eyes narrowing, a sudden viciousness entering them as she gazed into his own, and the relief he once felt was swiftly replaced with a familiar feeling of fear. 

It started off as a faint squeeze on his leg that Cullen almost didn’t register at first as he was transfixed by the predatory glare of his captor, but the sensation began to grow tighter, causing him to squirm and tear his eyes away from her. He glanced down at his sprawled out legs and saw that her feet was progressively growing tighter and tighter around his calves, which caused him to narrow his eyes in confusion at them before he struck him what she was trying to do, his eyes shooting up at the sight of her talons growing closer to his fragile skin. He tore his gaze back to her, and saw a sadistic gleam enter her eyes as his own panicked look met hers; he swore he could see her smirking at him. 

Cullen’s breathing quicken as she tightened around him, the image of her talons piercing his calf and ruining his chance of freedom playing through his mind. He shook his head and silently begged her to stop, but his attempts only seemed to encourage her more as the savage look her in her eyes began to grow more excited the more panicked he became. His mind was in pandemonium as he tried to think of a way to remove himself from the situation, but all the thoughts jumbled together, mixed with the ever growing tightness around his legs, caused nothing solid to come to mind. 

A sudden sharp prick against his leg caused him to jump, and he looked back at the monster in front of him, her face enraptured at his fear. He could do little but shake his head and beg quietly to spare him. He felt another sharp prick against his calf in response to his pleas, causing him to jump once more, but his mouth remained mercifully shut. However, he felt a quick succession of pricks against his leg, not enough to elicit any pain, but enough that he jumped a bit at each one, though he started to flinch less at it as it continued. However, the gradual pricks became torturous to him as his mind began to worry about when the big one was going to come. Before his mind could completely snap under the fear, there was a pause in the pricks, enough that he thought he could catch his breath and collect himself. 

That’s when she stuck.

` A stabbing pain erupted throughout his leg, causing him to jump up and open his mouth, intent on letting out a scream, but it was silenced before it could be torn from his throat as his mouth was quickly covered. Stunned, it took a few moments for Cullen to realize what had transpired as he felt something slick and wet enter his mouth, his eyes widening as it swirled around in his mouth. She had jammed her mouth against his, like mother bird does with her chicks, and forced the stringy meat into his mouth, and appeared content with keeping her mouth pressed against his until he swallowed it. 

Gagging, Cullen tried to shake her off of him, but she held on tight and a wave of exhaustion fell over him as he sat there, her mouth on his, the slick flesh in his mouth. Suddenly, he felt no longer fighting against this creature and instead, to bring about the end of this whole ordeal, he started to chew on the meat. It was tough to chew, and he could feel his mouth tiring as he tried to tear it apart, struggling further as he gagged at the slight irony taste of the blood. However, he persevered and, gradually, the long, stringy piece of flesh was swallowed, a sick feeling rumbling in his stomach as he felt it slide down his throat, but he managed to keep it down. 

The harpy, feeling the sensation of his swallowing, removed her mouth from his and, at last, pushed herself off of him. She looked down at him with a smug smile, happy that she had gotten her way once more, before finally releasing him and moving away from him, her body having a bounce to it. Cullen wiped his sleeve across his mouth, taking deep breaths to calm the raging storm in his stomach, leaning his head against the wall before turning it towards the small hole across the cave and looking at it longingly. 

Soon, he reminded himself, this would all be a thing of the past, a scary story to tell Isabel with at night, and then he could move on. He sighed, for now he would have to suffer through this bird’s twisted games, but tomorrow he would be home safe and sound once more. Smiling, and if not tomorrow, then he could wait until she eventually made a mistake, he thought as he turned away from the hole and back towards the center of the cave where he saw the harpy leaning once more over the rabbit. She turned towards him, another string of meat in her mouth before she began her approach towards him again, giving him another vicious look.

He decided then that tomorrow would definitely be the day.

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