“A Halloween Egg Hunt”

A Halloween Egg Hunt
by Miss Mouse

The Autumn wind came down the rocky slopes of Sunrise Mountains, bringing the clean scent of cold air from higher up. The season was a particularly cold one, snow having already fallen once in the woods, and the mountains still dressed in white far below their barren peaks.

As she hiked, Beatrix paused for a moment to look back and see the forest of her home stretching out behind her to the mountains in the distance, bracing her green, pointed hat with her hand to keep it from blowing away. She was not homesick, for she had only been gone for one night and would be back before long, but she enjoyed the view from on high and how small it made everything seem.

Thoughts of home in her heart, she wrapped her cloak tighter around her shoulders and turned back to the path ahead, her staff beating a rhythmic pattern as she climbed.

Compared to the lush woodlands she normally inhabited, Bea found the Sunrise Mountains desolate and lonely. It seemed that nothing grew there but rocks and the smallest, roughest shrubs, but there was something romantic about the barrenness, something that gave her a pleasant soreness in her heart.

Abigail—her little mouse familiar—was curled up and dozing in her breast pocket, happy to spend this trip cozy and warm.

If her weather witching was correct (and Beatrix was never one to slack on her Divinations), the conditions were right for the eagle-owl harpies to begin nesting. With Halloween fast-approaching, Bea needed a fresh harpy egg for her ritual.

The eagle-owls were a territorial bunch, but the mateless girls of the tribe would go every year to lay their unfertilized eggs at the border of their grounds, and no one cared if a little witch came by to pick through them (so long as they did not see her).

Bea came up over the top of a rise to a relatively flat, sandy area littered with stones and boulders of all sizes. Here and there some rocks had been moved to form circles, often around shallow depressions in the ground. These were Dry Nests where the unfertilized eggs would be laid.

As she picked through the pits and stones fo the Dry Nests, Bea realized she must be quite a bit later than she thought, for little remained but the empty shells where hungry wildlife had made meals of the discarded ova.

A diligent oracle or not, Bea was not the best seer, and often found her gazing and card-reading to be of questionable accuracy.

So she spent the chill afternoon climbing up slopes and over rocks, digging through the pebbles and tripping over herself on the steeper parts of the scree. It was growing late, and all she had found was shells.

About an hour before sundown (she’d stayed overlong in her search), as she was picking through yet another barren pit, Bea felt Abigail stirring in her pocket. The little mouse climbed out and up onto her shoulder, standing up and sniffing the air with her twitching nose.

“What’s up?” Bea looked down at her familiar and (now distracted from her search) heard what had drawn the mouse’s attention.

Somewhere nearby, someone—or something—was crying. It was definitely a voice, but not quite human, she thought. There was a sonorous quality to it that made her think of the deep and lonely singing of a bird.

Bea carefully climbed up out of the nest she had been searching and followed the quiet sobs over the rocky field. Something in the song-like weeping filled her with with a sense of sadness and fear, and her heart ached for whatever creature must be so deeply hurt.

Coming over a small rise, Bea found the source of the sound huddled at the bottom of one of the nests. A young harpy—one of the Eagle-Owls who came here to lay their eggs—sat crying, her great wings raised to her face to wipe away her tears. The black and tawny feathers of her wings covered her almost defensively as she cried to herself, her pained voice interpunctuated by soft sounds not unlike an owl’s hooing.

Beatrix felt an odd tension in the scene, one which she was loath to break but knew she must, her heart unwilling to leave such a creature alone in her misery.

“Forgive me, Harpy, but what is troubling you?”

Immediately the girl straightened up, the two great “horns” of her long plumage twitching in surprise. Bea couldn’t help but admire the beauty of her face, her delicate and well-formed features and the brightness of her huge, orange-gold eyes, still full of tears.

“Get back!” she hooted, scooting a little as she sat to turn her back more towards Bea. Harpies did not wear clothing, and so her back was a bare and pristine expanse of golden-cream skin above her tail, the color of an Eagle-Owl’s ground coat. “I’ve no business with you, human. These are the lands of the Strixan Flock, and we brook no such trespassers as your kind.”

“I mean no harm,” said Beatrix. The Harpy’s tone was enough to make Abigail retreat to her pocket. “I was just looking for cast-off eggs and heard you crying.”

“Well, I’ve nothing to say to you, human.” She sniffed hard to try and stop crying. “We do not treat with those who tread nature beneath their heels. Your kind does not honor the world which feeds it.”

“That’s not me!” Bea dropped her walking stick and carefully climbed down into the pit. She didn’t approach further, just crouched down to the Harpy’s level. They were skittish folk and could be slow to trust. “I need the egg as part of an offering to Mother Autumn, to thank her for the harvest and the changing of the leaves. It is just as your people gather the fallen branches of the ironwoods beyond the wasteland.”

The Harpy was no longer crying, her confusion overwhelming whatever problem had so affected her. She turned her head quizzically, eyes flashing in the evening light. The hair-like feathers which covered the top of her head shifted a little, perhaps in some expression that Bea was not trained to identify.

“My name is Beatrix,” she said quietly. “I’m a witch—a magician and medicine woman—if you’re hurt, I can help you.”

The Harpy stared for a few long moments as if contemplating the intricacies of the situation.

“I am Ulula,” she said at last. Her shoulders relaxed a little, though her posture remained guarded.

“What’s happened, Ulula?”

“This is an important time for me. It is the Time for Laying, my first since becoming a grown woman of the Flock. I came with the others to lay my first egg, but it never came, no matter how much I pushed.” Fear crept back into her voice as she spoke, causing it to waver into higher tones. “I remained behind to continue my work, but the sun came and went and the others returned for the next Laying. This continued and I grew heavier as more of my eggs came in,” at this, she began to cry again, and as she raised her wings to wipe her face, and Beatrix caught a glimpse of her body beneath her long feathers. “And now I can no longer fly!”

The poor Harpy broke down crying again, her sobbing “hoo”s filling the gloaming air with pain and melancholy once more. Bea’s heart overflowed with compassion, and she scooted forward, placing one gentle hand on her shoulder where the soft feathers of her wings became the smooth skin of her body.

“I can help you,” she said in reassurance. “Here, let me see.”

Bea gently spread Ulula’s wings open to reveal her abdomen.

Harpies were lithe creatures, having no more fat than necessary to keep their bare parts insulated against the elements. Ulula had only the smallest hint of breasts—these being chiefly vestigial as Harpies rarely nursed their young—and ribs which one could see beneath her skin in good lighting. There was a shocking incongruity between this delicacy of her form and what had become of her belly.

It was large by any measure, but on the small body of Harpy, it was absurd. Her skin was stretched to paleness, not quite perfectly round as a bulge here and there showed where one end of an egg pressed out against the confines of her womb. Even in the light of evening, Beatrix could see veins spidering across the uneven ball of her stomach, a sign of the thinness of the flesh wrapping around the bulk within.

“C-can you walk?”  Bea’s mouth was dry and she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the sight of it. She thought she could count the eggs inside the girl.

“No, not well” sobbed Ulula, once again raising her wings to hide her face. “My hips are aching so badly…”

“Are you having contractions?”

“They come and go.” Ulula uncovered her face a little, her huge eyes catching Bea’s, staring into them with an earnestness, a vulnerability which broke her heart. “Can you really help me?”

“I’ll get you through this.”

The first task was getting Ulula out of the nest; there wasn’t enough room in the pit for Bea to work properly. This meant first getting her to her feet, which was a mountain to climb all on its own. The first egg was quite thoroughly lodged in her pelvis, putting a great deal of pressure on the bones and spreading her hips wide. Her legs were forced apart and the mobility of her hips greatly limited by this.

Harpies lacked hands, but a small appendage attached to the last joint of either wing acted as a sort of pseudo-thumb, allowing them to grasp small and light objects. Bea thought about this as she positioned herself in front of Ulula, holding out her hands for the Harpy to support herself with.

Ulula had her legs folded beneath her, but now with Beatrix’s help, she shifted to free them. She groaned in discomfort as her hips shifted, a soreness crying out in her joints as the pressure intensified.

Like the wings which acted as their arms, Harpies’ legs were feather-covered, though these ended in powerful talons. However strong these talons might be, her leg muscles were quite average and so standing took both of their efforts in tandem.

With a wavering cry of effort on Ulula’s part, they pulled her to her feet, where she wobbled uncertainly for a moment, leaning on Bea’s hands for support while she found her balance. The weight of her belly threatened to drag her back down to the earth.

“Ah!” Ulula cried out, suddenly bending forward, her weight almost toppling Bea as she leaned on her for support.

“What’s wrong?”

“C—” She couldn’t finish, her whole body tensing and curling against her will. The best she could manage was a stifled scream through gritted teeth.

“Sh, sh,” Bea tried to be supportive and calming, but she was in over her head. “It’s okay, I’m here.”

The contraction nearly knocked the poor girl off of her feet, legs shaking violently as her uterus tightened spasmodically around the eggs. It was a futile effort, but her body refused to give up regardless, trying against hope to move the stuck egg.

With Bea’s help, she managed to stay standing, but as the contraction passed she was left trembling and panting, what little strength her time of rest had afforded her now drained. Bea just held her for a time, waiting for her breathing to steady, her legs to steady.

“Are you ready?” she asked gently, once she thought it might be time.

“Mm,” Ulula nodded, pushing to straighten up again.

Standing on her own, the young Harpy was a sight to behold. Her thin frame barely supported the weight of her ladened womb, the structure of her body clearly affected by it. She looked… uncomfortable. Burdened. Her back arched dramatically, painfully, as the mass of eggs forced her ribcage upwards and her pelvis downwards, fighting for room inside of her body.

Her hips were notably wide, though something about the way she stood—her knees turned somewhat inward, her talons spreading for balance—said this as a somewhat new development. Even so, there was a beauty to it. Her legs were well-shaped, the feathers spreading up them and over the tops of her hips, wrapping about to cover the top of her pelvis in the back, her short tail spreading over her shapely behind.

The nest was only about four feet deep, but Ulula was perhaps only six inches taller, and the roundness of the slopes meant one had to climb out, if one could not fly. The Harpy was in no position to climb or fly, and although she was surprisingly light for her size (her body itself built for flying), she was still large and heavy enough to be far too cumbersome for Bea (who was not tall, herself) to carry out.

Bea’s first instinct was to push her up ahead, but this proved too difficult on both their parts, Ulula being unable to bend forward and grab the edge to pull herself up, and Bea not being the strongest girl. Magic was an option, but not one the young witch was quick to go to in this situation. Her abilities with conjuration were reasonable, but summoning a cup or book would be of little help here; levitation was tricky in an ideal situation and would be hazardous at-best here, with the unfamiliar location and subject.

Instead, Beatrix climbed out and sort of knelt down, grabbing Ulula under her armpits from behind and pulling up as the Harpy scrambled backwards, her talons scrabbling against the rocky slope to help. At the end, they were both left tired and panting, but Ulula was out of the pit.

It was well and truly dark now and the temperature dropping quickly. Ulula laid on her side, taking labored, shallow breaths and pressing wings against her stomach, feathers rustling quietly over the sensitive skin. As she calmed, she began to make small cooing noises to herself, the sounds of an anxious bird.

As soon as she could, Bea got to work. Ulula was stable for the moment, but she sent Abigail to watch over her while she started her ritual.

With the butt of her staff, Beatrix drew a circle around them in the pebbles and dust, making a closed space to operate her magic in. It was big enough that she would have room to work, and as she finished she could feel a change in the air.

A ball of light flashed into existence, hovering centered above the circle and showing their little camp in a cold, white light.

Within the circle she made a smaller one, scratching out a few runes inside and passing a hand over it. With a word, a campfire sprang into existence, complete with a kettle of water hanging over it to boil.

“I’m making you tea,” she said to Ulula as she plucked a few ingredients from a pouch on her belt. Around her neck was a bundle of dried herbs that she wore like an amulet, and from these she took a saw-edged leaf, which she ground up in her hands and added to the water. “Do you like tea?”

“It is man who dirties water with dead leaves,” groaned the sore Harpy.

“Well, this will help you relax.” Bea took a cup out of her pack. “You’re too tense, you need to let go, open up.”

Ulula snorted dismissively.

“I’ve assisted with births before and I know that stress leads to complications. We need to get you relaxed.”

“Would you be able to relax in my condition?”

“It’s not going to be easy, Ulula,” she said after some thought. “But I said I’d get you through this, and I will.”

After a few minutes, she poured tea into the cup and went over to her patient, carefully laying one hand on her shoulder. Despite the situation, they didn’t know each other and Ulula was touchy with strangers, it seemed. It may have been the stress of her long and difficult delivery, but Bea thought she might just be a high-strung person in general.

“C’mere, let’s get you upright.” It took some effort (Ulula was sulking and probably not giving it her all) but they got her into a sitting position, her legs once more spread wide as her belly settled on the ground. She scooted herself a little closer to the fire, and Bea handed her the cup of tea.

Ulula had to hold it with both wings at once, not having the proper digits to hold a cup of this girth with just one, and sipped it with a sour expression as Bea knelt down in front of her. Bea knew the tea wasn’t good—it was bitter and kind of spicy and had an odor like wet grass—but it was medicine and so its flavor was not the important thing. Bellvine was a powerful muscle relaxant, and should do a great deal to relieve the tension in Ulula’s body. Although, she was not sure how the herb would affect a Harpy.

“I’m going to touch you,” said Bea, giving the tense Harpy fair warning. “I need to feel how the eggs are positioned.”

Ulula didn’t respond, only frowned and did not protest.

Bea carefully placed her hands on the uneven surface of Ulula’s stomach, feeling it twitch a little in reflex. It was odd, not-quite firm in some places and hard in others, the exact shapes of the eggs and the spaces between their rounded sides becoming apparent with a little investigation.

There were three eggs, sort of stacked on top of one another. The highest was nestled up against the ribcage, a bit on the left side, pointing down. The next was pointing towards her spine and more-or-less centered vertically, the larger, rounder end pressing out against the front of her belly and forcing her navel outward. Last was the problematic first egg, which had caused this uncomfortable build-up in the small woman.

“I’m done with this,” said Ulula, sticking her wings out with the cup held between them.

“How are you feeling?” Bea set the empty cup aside and went back to palpating her belly.

“Uncomfortable.” But she sounded a little less sharp.

“Ulula, I need to feel the lowest egg. Can you lay on your back or side? How is it that your people give birth?”

Grunting with effort—but in no way asking for help—Ulula pushed herself up into a sitting position. From there, she wobbled a little, getting one leg under herself for support, then pausing to rest. Bea thought she looked a little embarrassed by it, her cheeks coloring in the strange light.

Did she see this as a show of weakness? Bea knew little about the Harpies beyond their pridefulness as they rarely deigned to interact with humans, but she thought maybe the young Harpy did not want to seem vulnerable. This first laying was important to their people, she said, and to need a human’s help…

Ulula got up into a crouching position, her heavy belly filling the space between her legs and brushing the ground. Her breathing was heavy, but there was an unnatural shortness to it, one that made Bea’s heart ache. The poor girl was struggling—even on the most basic, physiological levels—with the stress of her compounded pregnancy.

As if in response to the assumption of this birthing position, another contraction gripped the young Harpy—causing her to tense up, curling in pain as all her muscles tightened.

“No no no,” Beatrix went over to her, touching her shoulders gently and stroking her plumage. “Breathe, breathe, I know it’s hard but you need air,” she tried her best to calm the distressed Harpy. “Focus on your breathing, and the sound of my voice.”

Ulula opened one eye and looked at her, and Bea saw again the pain and the fear she felt. But she started to breathe again—first just one short exhalation, then another, then again in what soon became an almost-steady rhythm. She folded her wings tight against her legs, not tensing, but pressing with a diligent expression of her body’s needs.

The contraction passed, leaving Ulula exhausted, tears filling her eyes and threatening to overspill them. She started to sit back, but Bea stopped her.

“Hold on, sorry, I need you to stay like this.” The witch stroked her hair-feathers one last time before going to refill her cup. She had underestimated the dosage, it seemed.

Ulula took the cup reluctantly, a broad frown showing her distaste for the medicine. But she did take it, wheezing a little into her cup as she drank.

“I’m going to need to touch you now and feel where the last egg is,” said Bea, hoping that talking would help keep Ulula calm. “I’m going to start…here—just below your navel, at the second egg—and work my way underneath…”

Bea pressed hard, walking her fingers down the underside, feeling the outline of that second egg. There was a softness where its shell sloped up and out of reach of her probing. Then she found it. Ulula’s first egg, the cause of all this trouble. It was huge, but hidden inside the larger bulk of her distended stomach, only distinctly noticeable as a bulge that could be felt just above her pubic bone.

“Does your family carry large?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“All three of your eggs are on the bigger side of what I’ve seen, but this one,” she pressed against the largest egg, moving her fingers as high up along it as she could. “Is huge. I’m not surprised you couldn’t get it out on your own.” She didn’t want to say more, didn’t want to worry Ulula, but she soon realized that the silence she left unbroken may have done more damage than her words could have. “Have you noticed any changes?”

“Mm,” Ulula nodded, still drinking the tea. “During that last one. I think it shifted a little.”

“Good, that’s good. Movement means progress. Now, this is going to be uncomfortable, bear with me please.”

Beatrix carefully inserted her first two fingers between the Harpy’s lower lips, feeling a brief twinge in the muscles at the intrusion. She was very gentle, wanting more than anything for Ulula to be comfortable, but she needed to be thorough in her examination to understand the situation.

“Any pain?”

Ulula shook her head, making a negatory sound.

Not very deep into the vagina, the tips of Bea’s fingers found a mass. It was warm and hard, smooth as a riverstone, and quite firmly stuck. This was the narrow end of Ulula’s first and largest egg. She pushed a little, but there was no give.

“How’s that tea? Feel any different?”

“Does ‘nauseous and tired’ count?”

“Well, I can’t imagine you’ve been sleeping well.” Beatrix had seen enough of the situation now to have a better grasp of how to handle it. “Sit back down, if that’s more comfortable for you. It’s not time to push just yet and I need you to relax.”

Ulula dropped back on her bottom and tossed her head back, drawing as much air into her lungs as she could before shaking her head a little and sighing. She leaned back on her wings for support, her back still curving uncomfortably.

“You’re eggs,” said Bea as she positioned herself in front of the Harpy’s belly. “Are kind of stacked up on top of each other. The first one is really, really big and is stuck in your pelvis.”

“Mmm, I can feel it. It hurts.”

“I can imagine there’s a lot of pressure.” Bea touched the front of her belly, feeling the hard mass beneath. “This is the second egg. It’s kind of longways in you, front-to-back. The third one,” she ran a hand up to the top-right of her belly. “Is wedged up under your ribs and is probably very uncomfortable.”

“Yeah,” Ulula shifted a little to the left, trying to relieve the pressure of the egg against her ribs and diaphragm.

“It’s supported by the other two eggs. We can’t do anything about the first one at the moment, but I think we should be able to move the second egg enough to get the third one loose. It won’t get the big one out, but it’ll make you more comfortable and that’s sometimes the best medicine.”

Ulula didn’t seem very enthused by the disclaimer that this wouldn’t get the eggs out. Still, the promise of comfort was enticing enough to earn her support of the plan.

“Feel right here. Feel the egg?” Bea took Ulula’s wing and pressed it against the hard spot of the third egg.

“Mm.”

“I want you to keep a hold on that. I’m going to try to move the second egg to the left and have you push down and forward. It’s going to feel kind of weird, but it should get the egg out of your poor rib cage.”

Bea felt around the huge mass just behind Ulula’s navel, trying to visualize how it was positioned inside. She pressed her fingers in as hard as she dared, the tension flattening the nub of Ulula’s protruding belly button.

The harpy groaned a little, her face flushing in response to the odd stimulation.

“H-hey!” she squirmed. “Be gentle.”

“Sorry, I’m just trying to get a grip. It’ll be uncomfortable, but please bear with me.”

Placing her hands on either side of Ulula’s navel, she felt the egg beneath her palms and began to wiggle it experimentally. It was quite thoroughly wedged, but it did shift a little, a grinding sensation running through both of them as the hard shells rubbed against each other. Ulula shivered, cringing at the feeling.

“Are you ready? When I say to, push down and forward on the egg, and I’ll shift this one to the side. Okay, and breathe. One, two… three!”

She didn’t shove, just applied steady and even pressure against the whole right side of the egg, and pulling back a little on the left to help lever it. Ulula bore down hard, grunting with effort as she squeezed her belly. All at once, the egg slipped forward with a grinding sound, moving to take its place beside the second egg and in a very similar position.

They both fell away, breathing hard but glad that part was done with. Already Ulula seemed to breathe easier, her chest rising and falling comfortably, her expression more relaxed. She bent forward as best she could—which was better than before now that the egg wasn’t pressing up against her ribs.

The shape of her belly had changed. Once sort of tall and long, her belly was now very wide, the two smaller eggs now resting side-by-side and distorting her taxed skin. Ulula delicately stroked her new shape, her feathers trailing lightly over her curves as she explored them.

“How does it feel?” Bea asked, looking but not touching.

“Strange…” Her huge, golden eyes were glued to her body, carefully examining her form.

“Does it hurt at all?”

“Nn-nn,” she shook her head, her horn-like feathers swaying as she did. “This feels a lot better.” She leaned back a little, feeling the underside of her belly, and the mass that was nestled between her hips.

“Good, that’s good.”

“What’s next, then?”

“Well, there’s something I think we could try, if you feel up to it.”

Bea pictured the device in her mind, feeling the fabric of the world around her. It was complex, but she could handle it. The conjured item my not exist for as long her campfire and kettle, but hopefully they would not need it so long.

She held her hand over the circle she had made and drew from the ether a piece of smooth marble, some eight inches long and about two inches in diameter. The ends of this cylinder were slightly concave and padded with fine silk, and there was no part of it that was rough or sharp.

“Do you want me to do it?” she asked, weighing the object in her hand.

Ulula shook her head. “I’ll do it.”

The little Harpy took the item and maneuvered herself into a kneeling position, her belly resting between her bent legs like a small boulder. She took the marble rod and carefully held it beneath her, one end braced against the ground and the other brushing her labia.

“It’s cold,” she complained, but didn’t stop. Her limited dexterity meant holding and positioning it beneath her was difficult, but a little wiggling in the pebbles and sand buried the end enough that it stood securely without assistance.

“Sorry, it’s cold out and I didn’t think to warm it up.”

Ulula took a deep breath, preparing herself.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, not meeting Bea’s eyes.

“Just take it slow; I’m here for you.”

The Harpy didn’t respond, but something about the way she glanced at Bea made her think that she was glad to have her there.

With a careful slowness, she sat back, lowering herself onto the marble rod, feeling it part her the softness of her lips. She exhaled, not rushing, her thoughts on the odd sensation of the rod slowly entering her body, filling her. It was a new and strange experience, and Ulula was uncertain how to interpret what she was feeling.

It was uncomfortable at first, but as the moments passed and the rod sank deeper, warming, its smoothness sliding along her sensitive walls.

Her train of thought was interrupted by a feeling of resistance, the end of the rod encountering the egg. She stopped, opening her eyes (when had she closed them?) to look at Beatrix kneeling in front of her.

“Is everything alright?” asked the witch, concern apparent on her face.

“Ha… y—yes.” Her face felt hot. “I’ve hit the egg. I—ah, it’s—!”

She felt another contraction coming, building first in the muscles of her lower back as a cramp before spreading through her uterus, tightening it painfully around the eggs. Ulula couldn’t help but press her wings against her belly, as if that might in some way relieve the pain and pressure building inside her. She cried out, her voice wavering melodically through the air.

“Breathe,” Beatrix held her wings, supporting her. “Keep breathing, just like before, but don’t push.”

The goal of this was to dislodge the egg; pushing would only serve to make that more difficult.

There was a low and intermittent grinding noise as the pressure pushed the eggs against each other, now and then slipping a little in how they were positioned. Bea laid a hand lightly atop the bulge of one egg, in awe at how the muscles contracted beneath her palm. They were powerful, the Harpy’s body desperate to expel its burden.

Ulula tried her hardest, ignoring all instinct and trying to relax, to not give in, to not push. There was so much pressure, the muscle contractions forcing the egg more firmly into her cervix. She tore her thoughts away from that—from the need—and focused on the witch who was helping her, on Bea’s voice, the care with which she guided her.

And—slowly—the contraction passed.

When Ulula regathered herself, she looked one more time upon Beatrix’s reassuring face, before closing her eyes and shutting out the world. There was a lot to this. A lot to feel, a lot to react to. She needed her mind on it all, without any distractions.

Within herself, she felt the rod and that strange bit of resistance to her fully sitting back. She could feel the egg as it stuck fast in her pelvis, her hips aching, stretched to their limit. There was something else, too, a calmness that was slowly entering her tight muscles, untying the knots her ordeal had tied.

Was this the tea, or was there something else to it? Was it Bea’s presence, the kindness, the care?

She thought on these things and lowered backwards, feeling that resistance build, the odd tugging against the tight confines of her cervix as the long-stuck egg was pressured from beneath. Straightening up, she re-aligned her hips over the rod and carefully sat back, letting her weight press the padded rod against the egg, feeling the smooth friction against her inner walls, the tugging of the pressure as it pushed the egg gently upward.

This repeated with a slowly increasing eagerness, a strange and kindling heat that built at that point deep within her pelvis, itching and growing stronger with every motion. Her nerves were alive, flashing and flaring, tingling at this strange and exciting new stimulus. It rose in her body—filling her more than eggs, more than marble—burning and alive, coming to a blinding peak within her.

Ulula lost her sense of presence, all her consciousness turning inward to gaze upon the fire that now was threatening to overfill and consume her, become all that she was. She would be reduced to ash, but it was a wondrous feeling.

As the dust of her ecstacy settled—those long moments fading into timeless memories of pleasure—Ulula found herself sitting with Bea in the circle on that Autumn night, the white light in the air above them casting odd shadows on the rocky ground.

The Harpy gave a squeak, her cheeks burning red, her eyes filling with tears of embarrassment. She covered her face with her wings and began to sob.

“No, no, sshhh…” Bea moved to her, putting her arms around Ulula’s shoulders and embracing her. “You did very good, very, very good.” She stroked the soft feathers of the Harpy’s arm. “Just let it out.”

And for a little while, Ulula just cried and shook, grateful to have someone to hold her.

“The egg was successfully dislodged.” Bea withdrew her fingers and sat back, smiling reassuringly at Ulula. “You did a good job.”

Ulula blushed and glanced away.

“Now, I’m going to try to maneuver one of the smaller eggs into position before the next contraction. It still won’t be easy, but I think you’ll find it much more comfortable by comparison.”

Ulula lay on her side, her belly tight and shining in the light. Now that the largest egg was loose, it was once again fully taking up space in her womb, and she thought she could feel it. Even with the eggs rearranged for her comfort, there was a great deal of pressure on her body and her breath was short. Harpies were light and nimble creatures, and poor Ulula felt anything but.

Beatrix placed her hands on Ulula’s belly, causing her to jump a little, her mind having been elsewhere. She pressed gently—but firmly—at the underbelly, feeling the hard lump of the large egg and nudging it upwards. Ulula groaned a little in discomfort as it began to press against her diaphragm and Bea let off, turning her attention to one of the two eggs that lay front-to-back just on either side of her navel.

“Tell me if you feel uncomfortable.” She began to shift this one, pressing with both hands to angle it downward to the cervix. If she was correct, the narrow end should be nearly there, and so it was mostly just a job of tilting the new egg and keeping that troublesome big egg out of the way.

Ulula didn’t say anything, but whimpered quietly at the pressure and unease, the strange sensation of the contents of her womb being rearranged, these weights which kept her earthbound moving like great boulders beneath her tight skin.

There was no real way to ensure the positioning was completely correct, but so long as it wasn’t sideways there should be no real issue. Pressing hard with the tips of her finger, Bea moved the first egg towards the front, watching the odd bulge on Ulula’s round belly move along its curve.

“Okay, how does that feel?” asked Bea, sitting back on her heels.

“Weird.”

“Well, let’s get you back up and in position.”

Bea took her wing and helped hoist her upright, again supporting her as she maneuvered got her legs beneath her and crouched, letting out a pleasant sigh.

“That feels much better,” she hooted softly. The weight against her pelvis was less of a strain now, the smaller egg settling against her dilated cervix almost comfortably.

“Good, I’m glad that helped.” Bea took a pinch of ground matter from one of her pouches and placed it on a small, spade-shaped leaf, folding it over into a little package. “Hold this against the roof of your mouth and when the contraction starts, chew it as you push; it’ll help with the pain.”

Ulula did as she was told, and it was not long until she sensed the next contraction beginning to build. She took hold of Bea’s hands, the touch making her feel more at ease, her breaths coming more easily even as the contraction swelled within her. She pushed, her belly tightening, her whole body bearing down in concert.

It hurt, but as she began to chew the medicine, a warm and gentle tingling spread through her, and in only moments the edge of the pain was gone. Despite the discomfort, Ulula’s heart lightened—she could feel the egg moving through her, and that small sense of progress was everything.

The contraction faded, and Ulula felt relaxed.

This was better, this felt right. Her body was functioning again, the long-stalled process of birth resuming, her muscles now moving with purpose and not just straining fruitlessly. Now she sat down a little, taking the weight off of her legs to await the next contraction. Her heart raced in exhilaration, the anticipation of birth shining in her like the sweat that dappled her skin.

Beatrix looked on the Harpy with admiration, wondering at her strength and beauty. She was glowing, her face flushed with the effort of labor. Now and then Ulula would shift a little, repositioning her hips to find a more comfortable alignment.

The next contraction was not long in coming, perhaps brought on by the progress of the last one. She resumed her squatting posture, trying to manage her breathing as the pain and pressure came over her again.

The egg moved lower, slowly passing through her open cervix and moving into birth canal, which began to burn as it stretched to accommodate the mass. The egg was dense and heavy, its weight pulling it downward through her almost too-quickly, and she gasped at the sudden distention, her lower lips parting around the egg as it began to descend rapidly.

Bea moved to her side, carefully touching to feel the rounded tip of the egg as it crowned, cupping her hand against Ulula’s sex to help gently pace its egress.

“Hold on, go slowly. If you’re not careful, you could injure yourself. Wait and breathe, give yourself time to stretch.”

“But,” Ulula panted, her breath hot in the cold autumn air. “I need to p-push.”

“I know it’s hard,” said Bea, stroking the long feathers of Ulula’s hair with her free hand. “But bear with me, you can do this.”

Ulula whimpered, biting her lip to strain against her body’s urges. After finally experiencing a progression to her labor, to prevent it was monumental test of will, one she felt she was failing. Bit by bit she sensed her resistance slipping, but Bea was there, supporting her and the egg as more and more of it emerged.

Time passed in a pained slowness, but as the egg now descended at a slow and easy measure, she felt that distant burning lessen as her body adapted to allow its charge a safe exit.

“Okay, push just a little now. Give me one long, slow push.”

The egg came down, its width passing between her lips not painlessly, but without causing too much distress. Bea took this egg—a golden off-white color, like bright, clean sand—in her hands and held it up carefully to see it in the light.

“How’s it look?” Ulula panted, sitting back to rest.

“Beautiful.” it was the truth. “On the upper end of six pounds, I’d say, and its quality is right there with the best I’ve seen.”

“Good.” She took a moment to catch her breath. “I’d hate to go through all of this for bad eggs.”

Bea unclasped her cloak and made a soft nest of it on the ground, settling the egg there to await its siblings. No sooner had Bea set the egg down than she heard Ulula cry out. She turned to see the Harpy clutching her still-large belly, caught off guard by a sudden and intense contraction. Ulula was still sitting back—almost reclining—when it came over her, and now was unable to lift herself into her birthing position.

Bea went to her, sitting behind her for support as she labored. She could feel Ulula’s body tremble and tense in her arms, her breaths coming in small gasps as she tried to get control of her body.

“You’re okay, everything’s okay,” Bea whispered, stroking her cheek with the back of her hand. “Just breathe.”

Ulula struggled, trying to get a grasp on her body’s functions as the wave of labor threatened to overpower her, eventually attaining a rhythm with her breathing as the need to push built. She bore down, her muscles flexing, her large belly tensing, tightening as it filled the space between her legs.

“Is everything alright? Is it the smaller egg?”

Ulula nodded, but couldn’t speak, only push with the contraction. The egg descended steadily, borne by the force of the contracting muscles of her uterus. There was little burning this time, more a sense of great weight, an almost-pleasant stretching as it filled her, opened her, moved through her. Bea touched her labia, helping guide the egg as it began to emerge, the tip beginning to crown between her fingers. Ulula’s hips twitched a little, involuntarily moving forward against Bea’s hand, the young Harpy uncertain what she was feeling.

This intensity reached its head as the egg widened her, filling her completely before sliding out onto the sandy ground. She laid back against Bea, nearly gasping, her mind trying to wrap itself around the sensations of her body. For a time she said nothing, just let Bea support her while she recovered.

Ulula paced around the circle, enjoying the freedom of her new-found mobility. Now relieved of two of her eggs, her belly was greatly reduced. To Bea’s eyes, she looked to be a woman within a few days of deliver a child, though on her small frame this was still something to witness.

Her body was taking its time with this last egg, her contractions small and painless as the egg was maneuvered into position by the action of her uterine muscles. It was very heavy and was once again coming to rest in the bowl of her pelvis, the pressure building as her bones and ligaments shifted to accommodate the weighty object slowly entering her cervix.

Walking would help further this process, although Ulula found it a strange experience, her hips swaying back and forth in a new and foreign way, her gait affected by her pregnancy. Bea watched her tail twitching side-to-side, perhaps trying to help keep her balanced.

“I think I could probably fly if I had the energy.” Ulula was cheerful despite her tiredness.

“I’d recommend waiting a little while before trying,” laughed Bea. She was glad to see Ulula so happy; freeing her of some of the excess bulk and weight had done wonders for her mood, even though she continued to experience discomfort from her condition.

Ulula rocked back and forth on her talons, admiring her belly and brushing the soft feathers of her wings over its surface.

“I think I look kind of cute like this, don’t you think?”

Beatrix was sitting on the ground a little way away, watching her patient with her chin in her hand. Ulula was cute, she had to admit, and Bea was quite fond of her. The two had grown close in their hours together, the sort of bond forged by a shared experience of hardship and bare intimacy.

“Bea?”

“What was that?”

“I said I think I’m ready.”

Ulula came and knelt in front of Bea, displaying her stomach for the midwife’s examination. Her belly was now a perfectly smooth shape, a flawless, gold-cream oval which began just above her pubic bone and ran all the way up to her ribcage, her poked-out navel at its furthest point. Bea hesitated for some reason, but slowly reached out with both hands, feeling Ulula’s warm skin beneath her palms. It was distinctly hard, the only softness coming from the thin layer of skin, fat, and muscle which surrounded the solid egg.

“How do you feel?” Bea’s eyes were still on her belly, her hands almost trembling as she stroked its sensitive curves.

“It’s up against my lungs again,” Ulula replied, wiggling a little as if to work the egg down out of her ribcage. She was blushing a slightly, and her breathing a little labored. “And the contractions are getting stronger again.”

“Lean back, I want to see how it’s sitting in you.”

Ulula did as she was told, reclining back on her elbows, the egg settling back into the space between her ribs and pelvis, filling it quite completely. Bea touched the underside of her belly, feeling around its lower edges where the feathers which covered the Harpy’s hips and thighs brushed up against it. The egg was positioned correctly, its narrow end resting in the cervix and preparing to enter the birth canal.

As Bea was examining the position of the egg, Ulula made a sound, quickly followed by a sudden contraction. Her belly compressed, the muscles of her uterus forcing the egg against her spine and downward into her pelvis. Bea watched the bulge move lower by the barest amount, the egg’s progress slowed by the limitations of the cervix.

Ulula bent forward, applying pressure against the top of the egg to try and move it downward, but she couldn’t sustain the effort and fell back, breathing hard as the contraction passed.

“How do you feel?” Bea reached over and placed one hand on Ulula’s wing. “Do you feel like you’re making any progress?”

“Ha… maybe?” Ulula panted, working her way up into a sitting position. “It hurt a lot more than the last ones.”

“Your cervix is stretching again.” Bea stroked the long, smooth feathers of Ulula’s pinions. “I’ll make you some more tea, something to help reduce the pain and ease the muscles. Just try to get comfortable and relax.”

The contractions continued with regularity, Bea checking for progress intermittently while the tea steeped. Ulula was restless, standing up and pacing between the contractions and crouching down, pressing her wings against her belly as they came over her. Bea kept careful watch, walking with her, supporting her through the contractions, stroking and petting her soothingly to help her relax.

Ulula needed it. As this last birth progressed, she grew more and more uncomfortable, her body straining to open around the egg’s diameter. Walking became difficult, then nearly impossible as the egg once again stressed her pelvis, her hips aching horribly. She drank the medicinal tea as quickly as Bea would let her, and by then she was reduced to sitting, her legs spread and the bulge of her belly sitting uncomfortably low in her abdomen.

“At least it’s not pressing on your lungs anymore,” said Bea cheeringly, her hand resting on Ulula’s belly.

The Harpy groaned, but continued to sip her tea stoically.

In time, Ulula’s labor reached its stride. She crouched in her birthing position, the contractions coming with relentless regularity, giving her little time to rest inbetween. Bea knelt beside her and placed one supporting hand on her shoulder, the other feeling her belly and the bulge squeezing down through her pelvic opening.

By gently inserting a finger, Bea could feel the tip of the egg, very close to crowning now.

“You’re doing so well, Ulula,” she said soothingly. “Just a little more and I’ll be able to see it.”

“Nnngh, it hurts!” The Harpy was struggling hard to force the egg out. The medicine had helped, but nothing could totally block out the sensation of enormity, of weight, the slow and difficult stretching of muscles and ligaments as her pelvis spread around the huge object. “It’s too big!”

“No, you’re almost there, just…ah, there, it’s crowning!”

The tip of the egg emerged slowly, peeking out between the labia with a languidity that contrasted its mother’s fervent efforts. With each long, straining push a little more came into view, her lips spreading wider and wider around the tip of the egg. Bea felt this, carefully helping open them with her fingers to easy the stretching. The previous two eggs had done a great deal to ease the process, adjusting her body to the process by degrees—a prelude to the climax that was this birth.

She pushed, curling forward against the mass of the egg, and it—perhaps aided by its immense weight—moved, stretching her body to its limits, her lips drawn thin across its surface as inch after inch slid past.

And then it stopped, the tip having hit the ground beneath her.

“Here, lean back against me,” Bea helped hold her, her body trembling with exertion. “Come on, you’re almost there just give me one more. One more big push—”

The widest point of the egg crept through the narrowness of her pelvic opening and the remainder of the ovum emerged almost at once, falling to the sandy earth and tumbling to the side.

Ulula fell totally back against Beatrix, her small chest heaving for air after the labor of delivering the egg. She was totally exhausted, helpless in Bea’s arms, who cradled her, stroking her comfortingly and whispering words of kindness and encouragement.

Later, as Ulula slept, wrapped in Bea’s cloak, the witch examined that problematic egg, judging it to be nearly twice the size of the others, and even later finding it to have two yolks inside. It was nearly six inches across at its widest point and ten in length, its color like its two siblings, marked by small speckles. It was an awe-inspiring thing, to think how such an egg could have come from so small a bird as the one which now curled peacefully by the campfire.

In the morning, Ulula was quite recovered from her ordeal, eating a hearty breakfast of a rabbit which she caught, hunting on the wing as her kind did. Bea abstained, instead eating her dried meat and apples which she had brought on her journey. Still, it delighted her greatly to see Ulula in such good spirits, and the joy that she took in once again flying.

And when they were done and their time together through, Bea stood there with the three eggs bundled in her pack. She gave Ulula directions to the little hut that she lived in down in the forest.

“I’ll come visit you,” said the Harpy. “It’s not a long trip for me.” She gave a little flourish of her wings and laughed, and Bea laughed too.

“I’d like that.”

“But now, I need to get back to the flock. They won’t be happy if they find out I’ve been hanging around with a human.”

“Don’t get into trouble on my account.”

“I don’t mind,” she said. “You’re a good person, Bea.”

And before Beatrix could reply, Ulula stood on her toes and kissed her—a little more than a peck—on the lips. Then all at once she was up, soaring through the air and laughing. Bea stood and watched until she was gone from sight, and then a little longer, before turning back towards the forest and her home.

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