In this story, Poor Coulias is struggling to find game in the wake of some seasonal seismic activity, so our intrepid hero Ceylon offers herself as a meal to alleviate the hunger!
Of course, Ceylon isn't so keen on ending herself, and is more interested in helping him gain the strength needed to hunt on his own again.
There's no sex or sensuality in this story, so keep that in mind, yet it was a lot of fun due to how awesome Coulias is as a character and how silly I got to portray myself!
Appetizer on a Bed of Greens
He stalked his prey, chest pressed tight to the loose and dry dirt as his beak poked out from under a fern. The gryphon had left his goggles back at his den in fear that even the slightest hint of reflection would give away his vantage; despite being colored with bright tropical colors of blue, yellow, and green, he still held camouflage in this dense forest, and he wanted to keep it that way.
Game had been sparse over the last week or so, and Coulias was having a particularly hard time finding something meaty enough to sustain him. This lack of prey I the region was caused by the mass migration that came alongside the rumbling of the subterranean volcanoes of the northern forests, and as a result the exodus of game had impacted him so much so that his gut was rumbling loud enough to compare it to the soil below him. This was not uncommon this time of year, as the land groaned and shifted beneath him, resulting in light earthquakes and tiny lava flows that made the region unstable in early summer every annum. The volcanoes themselves never erupted, so Coulias opted to remain in his home, hunting and stalking any deer, rabbits, or other potential food items that remained in the region.
On this day, he was hunting a doe that was chewing on some flowers, blissfully unaware of his presence. She seemed thin, so she clearly wasn't fawning so Coulias couldn't feel bad about feasting on young. As he crept forth, gingerly extending each of his talons forth to gain a proper vantage over the game trail to leap out at her, an audible groan emanated from his belly, making him wince. The subtle movement shifted the fern he remained hidden beneath, giving just enough of a warning that the doe immediately perked her head up, cautious and worried before immediately bounding over a nearby fallen log to disappear into the underbrush.
He collapsed in place and flopped onto his side, whining to himself as he cradled his belly, clicking his beak in disdain. "Not fair! I'm so hungry!" He moaned to himself, whimpering before rolling back to all fours and shaking off the dirt from his light colored feathers. At this point, even a rabbit would be enough to stave off his starvation, even if it wouldn't satisfy his hunger fully.
Disheartened, Coulias hopped up to the trunk of a tree, digging talon and claw into the bark to climb up to the canopy where he could once again find a vantage point to scout out potential prey. He didn't have the energy to fly, not without expending the last of his will that he needed to pounce his target. Up in the tree, he draped his tail and two legs over the side of the branch as he looked out over the underbrush below him. Even by his keen eyes he couldn't see any movements sans the shifting of bugs on each leaf and twig.
By then, even a juicy grub or bug would be an improvement over the nothing he was graced with.
Hours passed with him resting in the tree just below the canopy, eyes focused on every twitch, every shift in the leaves, and every trail of ants that marched along the forest floor. Something would reveal itself to him, something had to. He didn't care if it was a rat, or a rabbit or a terrestrial avian or a fox, he needed something to eat. It had been days since his last meal, and he had been seriously considering using his tongue to fish out termites out of a mound or digging up an ant colony.
Had the molten lava swells not impacted the streams, he could have happily caught a fish, which would have been wonderful since they tended to flop and squirm all the way down; a pleasant reminder of a full belly. One salmon would last him for days, but this time of year had the streams and rivers barren, as all the fish had gone to their spawning grounds and wouldn't be back for months. Still, he could fantasize.
After many hours of patience, as the sun began to set, Coulias spotted movement! Something brown and white and with light specks of brown, long ears and a fluffy tail. It was a mother rabbit, with a dozen babies in tow, and they were lightly hopping their way through the underbrush, presumably having just emerged from their den or were heading towards it. Rabbit wasn't the best food out there, but it would do and the mother looks pretty fat and delicious. Remorse couldn't come into play here, as it was the law of the land. Plus Rabbit was quite filling for a gryphon of his size.
Gently, he rose to all fours on the tree branch, wings partially spread to catch the wind as he pounced. As a gryphon, his bones were hollow and he could leap from the canopy to the forest floor with ease and grace, and if he was able to pounce the rabbit from above without rustling any leaves on the way down, he'd have a meal - potentially flanked by a half dozen appetizers. Moments passed that felt like hours as he surveyed the land, the movements of the rabbit family, and the gentle breeze that swayed the many leaves and branches around him. This was hunting, as was dictated by the gryphons of the past. From the sky he would come, talons outstretched and beak agape, ready to gobble up whichever he could swallow.
He leapt, hindpaws kicking off the bark of the tree to propel him downward, resisting the urge to screech like an aerial hunter as he dove for fear of alerting his prey. Though he was mindful of his vocalizations, he couldn't stop his belly from groaning, abdomen rumbling audibly and twisting his gut in a cramp. This subtle and brisk distraction contorted his body just enough that he landed just to the side of his target, his body bursting through the underbrush and giving the rabbit family all the warning they needed to kick off the dirt and dart away into their den underneath the gnarled roots of a nearby tree.
Coulias lunged forth and swiped his claws, trying his best to catch one of the morsels with no luck, and once they disappeared into their subterranean lair, they were well beyond his grasp despite his attempts to shove his foretalon down the passage. As it became clear he wasn't getting this meal, he angrily flared out his wings and barreled through the underbrush, hissing at himself for missing such a perfect opportunity. He was so hungry that his stomach rumblings were strong enough to affect his hunting ability, and that was about as bad as it could get.
There was a lake nearby, and he had to resort to the lowest of the lows. Having failed so completely at hunting in the forest, he knew that the only thing he could hunt now was stationary clams and other mussels attached to the rocks of the lake near his home. He wasn't a fan of clams - at least not raw ones - but it was all he could possibly think of that he could use as a last resort.
Every step he took was a stomp, his eyes narrowed and beak held tight in rage. This wasn't like him at all, as he was always quite chipper and happy, but hunger changes a person regardless of their usual demeanor. Now he was hangry, and he felt like he would snap at anyone who dared approach him. By the time he returned to his home, the sun had begun to disappear over the horizon, giving the sky a dark blue and vibrant orange tableau painting the clouds. The view calmed him a bit and he was able to allow the frustration to melt away, which tugged his thoughts from failure to relaxation. Coulias the Burd was able to focus on sleep, preparing himself to try again the following day.
He hiked his way up the cliff next to the lake, eventually flopping down onto his belly with beak digging into the dirt as he glanced over to the water's surface. He rolled onto his side and sighed deeply, another rumble groaning up from his belly as he relaxed for a few minutes. Then, from below him, he heard a splashing. From atop the cliff, he leaned over and caught sight of a tiny black and white creature splashing about in the shallows. It was another gryphon, black and white striped and about the size of a large cat or small dog. Though there was a pang of hesitation deep within him, as Coulias hated the idea of preying upon another gryphon, his belly was screaming for sustenance.
Coulias was on the perfect perch to pounce from, as he was up on the cliff overlooking the shallows of the lake. The gryphon was partially submerged so there was little chance they could escape if they chose to flee, which gave Coulias yet another advantage to go with his ambush. This was not going to be a good day for that black and white striped burd, but it was about to be a good day for Coulias, as he would finally get a nice filling meal, even if this gryphon was a smidgen smaller than the small doe he'd been hunting earlier.
He only hunted food he could gulp down in one go, and both this gryphon and the doe were on the larger side of what he could consume in a single gulp. Given his hunger, he was willing to take that risk and target things a bit bigger than what he'd normally eat.
As he crept forth, once again with his chest low to the ground and his body mostly hidden by grass, he came to remember he had the perfect weapon to stun this prey of his. He possessed the ability to conjure lightning from his fore talons, a bolt of electricity that would travel through the surface of the water and shock anything unfortunate enough to be breaching the barrier between sky and lake.
The gryphon was in that exact location, splashing and chirping and swishing her tail in the shallow water. Her motions allowed Coulias to see she was definitely a hen and not a drake, as he could see under that tail of hers with ever whirling swish.
But then a wave of self-guilt came over Coulias, as he felt quite terrible about potentially preying on another gryphon. He hadn't any specific rules against cannibalism, but he preferred only to eat creatures that were common and could replenish their numbers with ease. Gryphons were rare – especially in this region – and it felt wrong to him to target such a magnificent creature. Still, in the wild it was eat or be eaten. There were no middle grounds between starvation and salvation, and the opportunity was too perfect to give up.
After arguing with himself, he eventually gained the courage and confidence to creep his way to the edge of the cliff, wings partially spread and rump in the air as he tensed up his haunches to pounce. His eyes narrowed as he focused, a light sizzling sound emanating from his clawtips before he burst out of the hiding spot amidst the grass.
His wings spread and his talons extended forward as he lanced a series of powerful lighting bolts from his front legs to the surface of the water near the hapless gryphon, causing her to tense up and chatter her beak before falling over onto her side. She floated, with all four of her legs swept back as her muscles tensed, leaving her exposed for Coulias to snap up.
Before landing, he rescinded his magics and drew back in the electrical energy he'd spent, landing heavily in the shallow water next to the twitching gryphon, tiny sparks buzzing at his ankles. Without missing a beat, he pressed his talon down on the gryph to hold her in place as he reached down with his beak agape, prepared to swallow her whole in one bite.
As his fleshy maw closed down on the gryphon's head, the gryphon screeched and clawed back, resisting and twisting her body out of Coulias' grasp to bolt away. Coulias pounced again, pinning her down once more amidst a splash, only this time he hesitated before trying to gulp down the gryphoness. It shocked him that she recovered from the stunning bolt, and it shocked him more when she spoke.
“And just what do you think you're doing?!” The gryphoness hissed at him, eyes narrowed and ears flattened to the back of her skull. “What kind of gryphon are you, eating your own kind?!”
Coulias' eyes went wide and he gulped deep, her voice of protest and anger pulling him from his hunger-induced feral desires. He slowly stepped back, shaking his head in shame. “I-I....”
“Yeah, that's right, step off, boy. If anyone's gonna eat me, it's gonna be a snake or something.” She got to all fours and shook the water off her wings, the liquid beading up to show she and her feathers were hydrophobic. That's why she floated.
Just then, a powerful, audible rumble came from his belly, stomach groaning and grumbling in protest at his hunger. He didn't know she was sentient, he couldn't have known. Had he not been blinded by his encroaching starvation, he would have surveyed the situation better. “I'm so sorry, I didn't-”
“Didn't what? Realize I was a gryphon? Realize I was sentient? Or realized that-” She stopped mid-sentence to take in a long and deep breath, calming herself. “Sorry. I can see you're hungry, I know how it is, and it's hard to think straight when hunger has you. I can't fault you. Come on.” She cocked her head to the side and started walking towards shore, dipping her head under the water for a moment as she trotted, beads of it running down her back as she floofed and re-adjusted herself.
At first, Coulias had no real interest in following in tow, as he'd felt quite terrible about what he'd nearly done. A large part of him wished to simply turn tail and bound away, return to his home, and try again tomorrow by turning over some rocks and eating some grubs. Really not his sort of meal, but the protein would help him get the nutrients he needed to stave off his hunger.
“Are you coming?” The gryphon asked as she glanced back over her shoulder, splashing with every step. “I'd love to have a chat with you.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” Coulias responded, shaking off his self doubt and remorse as he quickly caught up to the smaller burd. When he made it to her side, he glanced down at her and thought, if only for a moment, that maybe now was the time to have a meal, when her guard was down. Of course, he quickly dismissed this scenario to listen in. “Look, I'm seriously sorry about all this, I just...it's been a hard season.”
Once they reached the shore, the small gryphon hopped up onto a log to look Coulias in the eye, a smile curling at her beak and her expression one of hope and happiness “I can understand that. With the seismic activity boiling just beneath the surface, most animals high-tail it out of here and don't come back for weeks or months. I get it. Why don't you go with them? Why don't you go into town? Why don't you set up traps? There are other ways to get food, you know.”
Coulias nodded. “I know, I know. I just find hunting to be so much more fun. Half the enjoyment in a meal comes from the chase, you know?” He paused a moment to think about other options before adding, “And even the towns don't have much to eat this time of year. Won't for a month or so.”
“This is true, of course, but it still doesn't get you off the hook for trying to eat me.” The gryphon scolded, ears folded to her head. “But, since that's already over and done with I might as well introduce myself. My name is Ceylon, and while I was initially just passing through her en route to the Viokenic capitol, I think at this point it's a bit more pertinent that I help you find some food so you don't end up going about eating some hapless gryphon, again.”
“You know, you could always just let me eat you; clearly you're not hapless and you'll fill my belly well.” Coulias suggested with a grin, stepping forth to place his talon on the wood next to Ceylon, cocking his head to the side as he chirped. “But I know you won't do that so-” He paused to wince as a grumble bellowed from his gut. “-so I have to ask, what brings you here? This is my lake, my den is nearby.”
Ceylon gently pushed Coulias' talon away with her tail, one eyebrow perked in amusement. “So this is your home, then? That's why you won't leave it and why you're being such a stubborn burd. I can respect that, even if I don't necessarily think it's the wisest of reasons to hold your ground. No, no.” She hopped over one of the protruding branches of the log and started pacing up and down its length, talons digging into bark. “No, I think you need something special, something grand. Tell me, what is your name?”
“Coulias.” He said quickly. He was confused as could be since Ceylon seemed to be rambling on, stringing together a half dozen random thoughts and ideas en masse without making a point, yet he still wished to hear what she had to say. “Pleasure to meet you.”
She hopped down off the log and quickly darted between all of Coulias' feet, looking up and poking at his belly as well as pinching at his legs. This made Coulias uncomfortable at first, and just as he was about to say something Ceylon spoke up. “So you're hungry, yes, but you're not scrawny. You've got some bulk here, but you're not fat. Nice structure and conformity, some fatty reserves-”
“I'm not fat! Maybe if I ate you I would be!” Coulias joked, hopping away and lowering his chest to Ceylon's level.
“I know you're not fat, but you're not scrawny. Didn't I just say that? I'm just trying to make it clear that you're not in any danger of starvation, as your body has some reserves to last you...oh, another week or three, depending on how active you are. Have you ever considered hibernation?”
What gryphon hibernated? “No, it never really came up. Not sure if that would work, since this land does have winter but they're short, the game is sparse early summer instead. Plus, and I can't stress this enough, what gryphon hibernates?”
Ceylon offered a salute – an odd action, but Coulias tried to dismiss it. “Well, I would say that a gryphon who is having a hard time finding prey is about as good a candidate as any to try the mammalian hibernation technique.” She hopped up onto Coulias' back, gripping at the base of his wing with a tail as she leaned over, poking the side of his belly. “The key is to eat a lot before the season starts, and spend your days relaxing. The less energy you expend, the better. The fattier your food, the longer it will last. Gryphons have an interesting metabolism so you won't just get fat if you gorge yourself. Kinda like a snake, you know? Wings do it. It's the wings.”
“Hey, could you not be so...I don't know how to say it. Can you get off me, please? I might be tempted to eat you if you don't get off my back.” He shook like a dog, twisting his body and rocking Ceylon until she hopped off and flutter-glided back over to the log beside him. “Look, I don't know who you are or what you're doing here, but this portion of the forest is my property, which means you're technically trespassing, and you look like a mighty fine meal to me.” He licked his beak, trying his best to look menacing even though he had no intention of bringing any harm to Ceylon; this lasted until his stomach rumbled again, causing him to twist his face in an attempt to hold back his wince.
Yet Ceylon didn't take heed of this feigned threat. “I see, I see. Okay, so maybe hibernation isn't a good fit for you. Why not just travel a bit? I mean, I see no property markers, I crossed no fences to come here so it's not like your territory has hard boundaries is it? Why not just travel west towards the mountains and hunt goat or whatever up there? They didn't migrate when the seasonal seismic activity started.”
That's when Coulias sighed and lowered his head. “I can't eat goat.”
“Why not?” asked Ceylon, a hint of concern in her voice as she chirped her inquiry.
“Too big for me. But you're not!” He winked, still trying his best to act like a big bad pred.
Regardless of his bravado, Ceylon kept ignoring his threats to consume. “What do you mean it's too big? You're a gryphon, same as me. You have claws and what I presume is a sharp beak.” She wrapped herself around his wrists and plucked at his talon to look at the claw there. “Yeah, you should have absolutely no problem tearing a strip off.”
Coulias pulled away and lowered his head, blushing a bit. “It's not like that. I can't eat anything I can't get down in one gulp. I don't like blood at all, makes me squeamish.”
Ceylon stared up at him, head tilted as she blinked. Moments passed as she thought, before she spoke up. “I respect that, coulias. I do. I mean, I can eat a steak or whatever, but I'm never comfortable preying on my food in the more traditional sense. We're better than that, right?” She held up her fore-talon in a fist, offering to bump it. When Coulias reluctantly did so, she saluted again. “So yeah, nothing wrong with that. Is it the gore or the fact that you like the feeling of kicking and squirming on the way down?”
“Can it be both?”
“It can. Yes.” Ceylon spun and hopped back up onto the log, plopping her rump down while she hoisted up, talons in the air as if she were giving a sermon. “So I declare you, Burd Coulias, consumer of rodents and friend of all creatures big and....bigger.” She chirped happily before hopping over to squat down on Coulias' shoulders, riding him as if he were a noble steed. “Now take me to your den, I'm going to see what I can do to make you a dinner fit for a god!”
Instead of complying, Coulias shook Ceylon off once again, ruffling his plumage before stretching and folding up his wings. “I'm sorry, Ceylon, I think you should leave. I'm going to go rest and try for a meal again tomorrow. If you can find a fish in my lake, you're welcome to have a go but I doubt you'll find anything due to seasonal migration.” He turned to walk away, glancing back over his shoulder as he slipped into the shallows of the lake, stifling a belly grumble as the cool water smothered his feet. “It's been a pleasure knowing you, but if you continue to tempt me I can't say I won't gobble you up.”
Ceylon hopped into the water after him, chirping and bouncing with every few steps. “Who said you couldn't eat me? I asked you what made you think you could, I never said you couldn't.”
Deep inside, he couldn't quite make sense of what Ceylon was saying, so he paused and contorted his face, trying to remember their first words. “Wait, what?”
“Yeah, if you recall, I simply asked what you thought you were doing and furthermore asked what kind of cannibalistic burd you were. Not once did I say I was not permitting you to make a meal out of me. Pay more attention, Coulias.”
Coulias couldn't help but shake his head in disdain; clearly Ceylon wasn't understanding his reservations and hesitation. "Look, you're a cute gryphon, Ceylon, but I can't eat you. I just can't. I could consume ferals if need be, but no sentient birds shall be my meal, for I am incapable of killing someone; I cannot murder, not even for survival. I'm not that kind of predator."
"Whr?" Ceylon cocked her head to the side and raised an ear in confusion before chirping in laughter. "Oh Coulias, clearly you're still not listening. I didn't say anything about killing anyone. I have no interest in death, I am far too fond of myself. No, I would be happy to become your meal with the aid of a few spells. I take it you haven't heard of the Vore House of Klyneth, have you? Actually, don't answer that, I think I know that you have not, given how reclusive you are here in the northern wilds of Viokenic."
Still, Coulias responded with a shake of his head. "I have not. No. What is it?"
Ceylon beckoned Coulias to come closer, as if she were telling a secret. When the larger drake was close enough, Ceylon wrapped her front leg around his neck, cradling him with her wing. "The Vore House of Klyneth is a wonderful, magical place in the heart of Saff'Rald, run by my snake mate Leera and her business partner Yetzer. The two of them have been blessed with the ability to consume prey whole without any of that pesky death or suffocation - an evolutionary adaptation that satisfied their predatory needs to prey on fear by keeping their meals alive and kicking."
He gulped heavily, uncomfortable with the notion. "But I don't want to feed on fear, I don't want to-"
"Again, my burd friend, you aren't letting me finish. Now, Leera is like you and she doesn't like to harm people under any circumstances, not even if they specifically ask for it, so she created the Vore House to let people interested in such endeavors indulge in their fantasies without fear of death or pain. I, alongside a few of my friends, have found a way to emulate that digestive system via potions or spells, so I could in theory cast upon you a spell that makes your belly a nice and safe place for me to relax for a bit!"
"But how would that help me? I'm hungry and I need food. I see no reason to gobble you up if you're not...going to be a part of me. I'll still be hungry."
Ceylon nodded with a grin. "I see where your concern comes in, I truly do, but I contest that you have nothing to fear. See, you are right that I wouldn't be offering you any nutrition, for I am not keen on having my feathers dissolved or my skin melted off." She paused to wince at the thought. "But that's the glorious nature of the spell I've perfected. I would fill your belly, thus removing all hunger pangs, cravings, and weakness, which would in turn give you the strength you need to hunt for something real. Something substantiated." She waggled her brows and grinned with a gape upon her beak.
A long, awkward silence came over the two of them as they stared at each other. Coulias had a look of concern and hesitation on his face, while Ceylon's expression was that of excitement. Coulias sighed, slowly shaking his head. "Look, I'm really sorry but I'm not comfortable taking that risk. I don't know what kind of spell-casting ability you have, but what if something goes wrong? I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I'll just go back to my den and dig for some grubs, okay?" He turned away and splashed through the water, leaving the smaller hen behind.
The two parted ways, with Coulias refusing to even look back at Ceylon; he knew she likely had a look of disdain and sadness at being rejected. He kept his way steadfast across the shallows of the lake before returning to the cliff that he'd pounced from; at the base of it to the west, a small cave outfitted with Coulias' personal belongings. His den.
The mouth of the cave's opening was adorned with a door and two windows off to either side, as the entire interior was built up and kept like a modern home, with hardwood floors, running water for plumbing (In reality just a well that ran into the underwater rivers heading south), a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom. It was a typical home. His home.
Next to the front door, his goggles hung from a coat rack - the only use he had for a coat rack. He considered putting them on, but opted not to and instead he would co rest in the living room, nestled into a broad cushion in the last remaining sunbeams that lanced through his window. After stepping in circles on the nest, he flopped down and rested his head on the side of the pillow. Within moments, he started to briefly fantasize about the offer that the tiny gryph had offered him. He did like the idea of being able to enjoy the pleasures of predation without any of the nasty side effects, and he'd vaguely heard of such things being possible but had never considered it to be any more than a myth.
He found himself grinning in fantastical delight on the verge of drifting off into sleep when a knock came at his door.
Coulias hissed to himself as he clenched his beak shut, immediately grumpy that his personal space had been invaded. He knew who it was at the door and for that reason he considered ignoring it, but he couldn't say no to a cute gryphon and he knew that she'd likely keep knocking if he ignored her. She seemed to have that sort of personality.
As he opened the door, he looked down to see Ceylon, sitting pretty as she looked up at him. "Can I help you?" He asked, finding himself unable to smile at her cute expression and the swaying tail out behind her. He briefly considered letting her in but instead stepped out to stand tall over her. She stood her ground and looked up at him with her throat pressed against his chest.
"You can't help me, but I can help you. Have you reconsidered my offer?" She chirped with a grin.
"I have not. Sorry. I just-"
"Can I at least do a demonstration? Prove to you that I'm no hack and that my spells are quite effective?" She scuttled back, keeping her posture as she looked up at the larger gryphon. Her tail swished with such vigor that she was blowing bits of dirt off to the side, creating a crescent moon shaped sweep behind her. "I promise, the result will be quite enjoyable for you. I know you're thinking about it, considering it, but you don't want to admit it. Everyone does, it's a natural thing for predators to enjoy their place in the food chain, but you seem like a sweet burd and don't want to hurt anyone."
Coulias gulped a bit; in his mind Ceylon was looking more and more like a drumstick the more she talked and insisted upon feeding herself to him. Still, he had to decline. "I am a sweet bird, at least I think so, but the more you push the more I want to just gulp you down and be done with it."
"Good! Do that! I can cast the spell on my way down."
His eye twitched. "N-no." He turned and slipped back into his house, using his tail to close the door behind him.
Outside, Ceylon stood with beak agape in frustration before calling out. "Come on, Coulias, I've wanted to offer myself as prey for a while and my Leera hasn't been in the mood. Please don't deny me this, and I promise I'll make it worth your while!"
Rather than accept this and move on, Coulias shut his blinds so he didn't have to look at her, yet he still peeked out through the crack in the window to see Ceylon pace back and forth, her eyes darting around to show her racing mind. Eventually, she darted off and took to the skies, leaving Coulias with a wash of relief. Finally, she was giving up.
"Sorry, dear, I just can't risk it. Especially not to another of my kind. Let me have my sleep and I'll face the world again in the morning." As he walked away from his front window - the kitchen window - he once again curled up and flopped down on the nest he'd made in the living room, only this time the sunbeam had disappeared. The sun had set over the mountains to the west and the land had been blanketed in a deep red and orange glow. Night time would be upon him soon, and a new day would come.
He found himself drifting off into a pleasant sleep over the next twenty minutes or so, mind filled with thoughts of a full belly and kicking prey before once again hearing another knock, this time a bit gentler and more controlled.
Rather than get up, he simply raised his head and glanced over to his front door, wondering what he could do to dissuade her this time. When she knocked again, Coulias reluctantly got back up and grumpily stomped to his door, pulling it open with intent to snap at her. However, what he saw melted his heart.
Ceylon was laying on her side on a bed of leaves and lettuce with her belly exposed, apple in her beak and a series of fruits and vegetables laying around her. She chirped once and spat the apple out. "I can be your appetizer, help you get the strength to hunt a real meal if you so desire. I offer myself on a bed of greens and a fruit platter!"
He blinked, trying his best to hold back his laughter before letting loose a hearty guffaw. “Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I can't say no to a cute face like that!” He reached out and placed his front talon on Ceylon, pushing her playfully. His belly rumbled a bit but he hardly noticed thanks to how distracted he'd become by Ceylon's brazen display. “Come on in, I guess. We can talk.”
She chomped down on the apple to enjoy the fruit, but instead of following him, she cocked her head to the side and flapped backwards. “Naw, I'd rather play by the lakeside! Think of it as a picnic!”
Coulias remained hesitant for a moment, but eventually gave in and shrugged, stepping over the platter of fruits to give chase. “Come on, gryph, why are you making me follow you? I'm hungry and weak to the point I-” He stopped to grab at one of the fruits that Ceylon had brought, realizing that it was as good a source for noms as anything. “I would even consider eating bugs. So what gives?”
“Just follow me, would you? The day is getting old and night will be upon us soon, I'd love for you to enjoy me in the open air as the stars reveal themselves to you. A beautiful backdrop for a gorgeous meal.” She kept flapping and flying backwards, keeping just a few paces ahead of Coulias before landing, spinning, and kicking off the end of the cliff to glide over the shimmering surface of the lake. When she landed ashore, she turned and squawked loudly to entice Coulias to join her.
Though he remained weak with hunger, he still was able to leap out over the water and use his wings to happily glide over the surface to catch Ceylon at shore. When he landed, his talons dug at the dirt and clawed furrows in the soil, skidding to a stop. “Any reason why you chose to....do this here?” By now he was willing to give into anything Ceylon claimed, going with the flow.
She hopped through his legs and dipped her body beneath the surface of the water to soak herself before shaking off and ruffling her plumage. “Well, I figured I'd taste better if I were clean. Fruits are nice, but I was rolling around in dirt to get them – especially the strawberries.”
Coulias stepped into the water next to her, glancing down at her, unable to resist her boisterous charms. “So, uh, how exactly does this work? I mean, if there's a spell to be had, don't you have to do some sort of ritual?” He paused to think about how silly this seemed to him. “And I have to know, do you really get enjoyment out of being prey? Some things you said earlier made me think so.”
“How this happens is entirely up to you. Go slow, go quick, let me do it, chase me, it's entirely up to you. And yeah, I enjoy it as long as I'm with a partner that I know doesn't want to hurt me or end me. You've made it remarkably clear that you're not interested in deriving pleasure from the pain or suffering of another so you're a perfect candidate. And like I said, I want to help you, while also enjoying my sacrifice all the while.” She spread out her wings and used them to lightly splash a few times, aiming water up at Coulias. “And no. No ritual.”
“That's something of a relief, but how do I know you're fine? How is this going to work? What if something goes wrong?”
Ceylon leapt out from the water and latched onto Coulias' chest, nuzzling gently into his throat feathers with a gentle purr. “Oh, you're such a sweetheart. Don't worry, my dear, I promise nothing will go wrong and it will be fun for both of us. Besides, if I really want out, I know how to back out and you seem to have a nice, loose, throaty gullet.” She started massaging at his neck, which made him gulp heavily
“But, this feels awkward. I've never had a meal willingly offer themselves to me. Usually I have to chase and struggle and swallow within seconds, but this...this sounds almost sensual for you, which would make me feel quite awkward.” He grabbed Ceylon and pulled her off his neck to hold her at arm's length, trying his best to get a gauge for her attitude. When he saw just how eager and enthusiastic Ceylon had shown to be, he couldn't help but accept it. “But if you're absolutely sure, I can do this for you.”
After squirming and chirping in delight, Ceylon cheered at this. “Glad to hear it, Coulias! But remember, this is more for you than it is for me. I mean, if I really wanted to be prey, I could find some massive snake to do me in and I could cast the very same spell. No, I want to help you, but I want it to help me, too. I think, ideally, this should help us both. Yes. Both.” She nodded and grinned, writhing out of Coulias' grip to land on the ground. “Now lay on your belly, would you?”
“Whyso?” He asked, cocking his head to the side and chirping with a gryphon gape-grin. “Can't I just...you know, swallow you up?”
“Where's the fun in that? I wanna try something else. Just go ahead, lay down, and rest your beak up just above the water, and I'll take care of the rest if you don't mind.” Ceylon was growing more demanding and commanding, pointing her talon down even as Coulias made it clear he wasn't too keen on the idea of having to plop down in the shallows. Ceylon could see and relate to this, so she shrugged and nodded. “Okay, okay. To the shore. Let's do this there if that's where you're more comfortable. TO THE FALLEN LOG!” She leapt away, splashing through the shallows to step on the smooth rocks of the shore.
He followed, dainty in his own way yet lumbering and heavy compared to what would be his meal. Eventually, he nestled up next to the log, resting his head on its bark with his beak open. “Like this?” He asked, tongue flopping out and glistening throat flesh reflecting the dim orange light of the evening.
Ceylon hopped up to get a proper look at the gaping beakmaw, smiling and chirping to herself. “You don't have any sort of gage reflex, do you?” She joked, hopping up onto the log next to him, his beak open like a cave for her.
“I don't think so, or I'd be a pretty poor predator!” He jested back, tongue flopping around out the end of his beak to make the sounds. As he lacked lips – as all gryphons had – he used his tongue and windpipe to speak almost entirely. When he was done answering, he opened his maw back up and glanced around, waiting for Ceylon to make a move. There was an anxiety in the air as Coulias sat patiently, his talons idly digging at the dirt with his neck and throat resting on the log.
Before long, Ceylon had leaned in close and started to knead at the soft flesh of Coulias' beak, her head poking into maw to get a proper look around at the soft pillows of gullet that pulsated and drooled all over. Tiny strands of saliva bridged from one side to the next, drooping down to land in puddles on either side of the gryphon's lower maw next to the wind pipe and tongue sheath. She tapped lightly at his beak, chirping happily. “Well, I have to say, Coulias, you've got a nice maw. And it's nice that you don't have stinky breath!”
“Well, no, of course not. Hard to get stinky breath when I haven't been eating.” Coulias meant it as a joke, but the reality of his statement hit him pretty hard immediately after saying it. He shook off his disdain and returned to his position with beak agape. “Just, please don't make me wait much longer.”
Ceylon was happy to oblige, so she leaned in and pried open Coulias' beak as wide as it would go, leaning into the open maw to relish the sight of avian throat one last time before diving in. She could see the muscles and flesh heaving and pulsating with every breath, an occasional twitch of the muscle quivering the gullet in waves. “I won't make you wait for me.” She said as she leaned inward, using her beak to prod and part the flesh, the warmth and moisture of his saliva smothering her past the beak and over her head.
Coulias gulped, the swallowing motion tugging on Ceylon a bit as her paws and talons kneaded out against the crook of his beak and came to rest on his lower maw's flesh. His tongue curled up to get a taste of her belly, just to see what she was like before she went on her way down. As if on instinct, he leaned in closer and twisted his neck to the side, his maw rotating and tongue lashing out to coil around her hind leg as he clamped his jaw down lightly around her. He half expected her to dart away, to evacuate before he got too into his consumption, but she dug her claws into the bark and pushed harder, body distending his gullet as her head and upper body slid past the back of his beak.
She extended her front talons forward in a dive, guiding herself farther down his throat as he gulped and twisted around her; she could feel his motions and his reservations in his timid actions, so she kicked off as hard as she could, twisting her body to slide her shoulders in past the crook of his beak.
Though Coulias had quite the elastic throat, his beak was still something of an inhibitor to swallowing larger prey, as the firm nature of it contrasted the stretchy gullet flesh that passed between his maw and his belly. Still, the beak material had some malleability to it, and he was able to twist and gape open wide enough to pass over Ceylon's shoulders with some help from his prey. Had she not been willing, this could have been unfortunate as she may have been a touch too big for him to swallow without harming her. Luckily, she was as eager to be within him as he had been to have a belly full of bird.
As she got gulped down a few inches at a time, she triggered her spell as her eyes started to glow, the magic extending to coat his throat on her way down, illuminating the undulating pathway, visible only on the gooey reflections of peristaltic waves that passed over her from back to front. She could actually see the color of the flesh go from bright pink and red to a dark mauve, and ending up more like a pitch black violet the closer she slid to his belly. Then, in a sudden lurch of movement, she felt her entire body lifted high and her legs cranked up to the sky with her tail flailing about; without any bark to kick off against, she found herself at the mercy of gravity and the swallowing motions of her predator.
Coulias had let his instincts take over. Though he'd intended to let Ceylon dictate the pace of her consumption, his feeding response had been triggered and he couldn't help but ease her just a bit faster into his belly. He tossed his head up and extended his throat as his beak gaped, the saliva-rich slickness of his throat passing over her body with ease as he snapped and bobbed his head, extending forth to envelop more of her. He was particularly careful that the tip of his beak avoided her legs or body, as that could have been unpleasant for her.
She noticed this, and was happy to writhe about and knead at his throat flesh as she felt herself forced downwards. Her hind paws flailed until they found the edge of his beak, and she used that as leverage to dive forth, body twisting amidst the quivering walls of flesh that encapsulated her. Though her eyes were glowing and the glistening walls of throat flesh were illuminated by her spell, the eager hunger of his swallowing kept the flesh so close she could barely see anything that wasn't the blurred mess of saliva and near-black violet skin pressed right up against her face. All she could do was press out against the elastic, distensive flesh, presumably making talon prints in his neck.
With one final lurch, Ceylon's thighs and legs pushed past the bottleneck of Coulias' beak, leaving only her toes and tail exposed to the relatively cool air of the night amidst the warmth and squishiness of his depths. He closed his beak tight around her extremities and twisted his neck to apply the pressure needed to force her all the way to his belly, causing her to lurch forth through the bulge of his neck to flip and burst into his gut.
Finally, she had some room to move around! Inside his belly, she intensified her spell to alter his body chemistry to match her mate's, still holding her breath until the process was complete. She found herself curled up in a fetal position with her head resting against the opening to his esophagus, forepaws folded on her chest and hindpaws pressing out against the opposite end – the entrance to the path that would eventually let her out.
She was content, having filled his belly, offering him what he needed and the strength to carry on. As such, she allowed herself to rest inside, a devious grin on her beak as she kept her spell-casting going for just another minute. His belly would be comfortable.
Coulias let out a long, satisfying belch as the air that had been trapped within him escaped his gullet, eyes glazing over and beak coming to rest in a partial gape of contentedness. His belly was visibly bulged out, sagging to the ground as his now-loose throat tightened itself back up. He yawned heavily and twisted his neck, putting everything back into place as the sensation of hunger quickly evaporated. The growling in his gut had stopped entirely, giving him the satisfaction of a proper meal despite knowing that his prey was going to be completely safe there, and that he would still need to hunt for any farther meals to sustain him.
Still, he couldn't help but feel utter and complete satisfaction at the sensation of that full belly. After days of failed hunts and wasteful foraging, he finally had some meat in him, and nothing could be better at that time in his life. He gave a proper pat of his bulging belly, feeling Ceylon's paws press out back against his in an act of camaraderie.
The sun had almost entirely set by then, with just the faintest bit of orange glow extending from the horizon and the mountains behind his home, so his day was complete. There was nothing left to do. Content and stuffed, he padded his way around the southern edge of the shallows, splashing happily en route to his cave den with belly swinging. However, once he arrived he saw the light orange and yellow glow of a thousand fireflies dotting the treeline, so he felt like maybe he could stay outside instead.
With a contented sigh and another demure belch – one he tried to hide to avoid scaring off the fireflies – Coulias curled up under some ferns with his head on his paws, struggling to find the proper position that wouldn't squish the gryph in his belly. He gave one final saliva-rich yawn before gulping down and rolling to his side, sleep quickly taking him as he felt Ceylon kneading and writhing out against his belly, completing the spell with her expressive paws.
The following morning, as the sun rose to the east, Coulias stretched out all four of his legs, his wings, and his tail all at once, his weight pressing down on his belly bulge. The rousing action seemed to wake Ceylon as well, as she started squirming about once again, pressing out against the gryph's abdominal wall.
He patted his belly. “Glad to see you're still alive and well in there, Ceylon.” He chuckled with a combination of jest and relief. Part of him remained skeptical the entire evening before falling asleep that the spell wouldn't work and he'd be the kind of predator he tried his best to avoid; a cannibal. Luckily, she still seemed alive and well, so her spell worked and his hunger had completely dissipated.
With another yawn, he got to his feet and lumbered out into the clearing, once again emerging to the cliff that overlooked the shallows of the lake. There was a light breeze tickling at his feathers, so he couldn't help but spread his wings and take in the gust. It was time to hunt, for real this time.
Coulias leapt off the high rock cliff, banking hard before hitting the water to be off on his next adventure, ignoring the subtle motions of the gryphon in his belly that was making her way through his gut, prepped and ready to leave once he found a proper prey replacement. Both would be quite alright.