Author's Note: This story contains bondage, some of it fairly explicit. However, there's also a lot of story here. And much of the more erotic material comes somewhat later in the story. For example, chapter one doesn't contain any sex or bondage... although there are hints of some of the things to come. Consider your self warned.
This story is also fairly long... 21 chapters; and it is complete, but I will be submitting it a few chapters at a time. This will allow me to edit the chapters as I go... which, in addition to catching a few spelling/grammar errors, will allow me to recall which story codes are appropriate. I will include all the codes I can think of that I'm sure fit for the story as a whole, but may add others as I notice them. Some of these tags may be fairly minimal. For instance, in chapter one there's a reference to incestual activity, but no actual scenes where incest occurs. Not sure if it occurs later in the story, I'll have to wait until I edit to be sure.
Finally, this story is set in a world of my own making--which includes other stories, including at least one other story that has been posted to this site. The plot in general is also my own. However, I did use (with permission) illustrations from IronHawke, over at DA, to help piece together the specifics of the plot's details.
Lord Egiss smiled as he looked out over the bow of his ship.
In the near distance, he could see the sandy shores that were the coast of Rolavar and swelled with pride at the knowledge that soon he would be arriving at the castle that was to be his new home. Already, he could faintly see the outline of Pisho, the small but vibrant coastal city that he had been commanded to govern for the next several years of his life. Unless he governed quite poorly, the emperor was likely to let him rule in relative peace for several years, and the main criterion for governing well was to successfully carry out the Emperor's mandate to expand the Takish reach on this abundant but only poorly settled inner isle.
The Zandadian tribes already had a greater hold on the isle, although their cities were farther to the north. But even they found it hard to recruit settlers in great numbers, due to the extreme heat on Rolavar. Of all the isles, only Nimesphia, at the very center, was hotter. Which meant that Lord Egiss would have his work cut out for him. Still, it was very nearly the perfect place. Close enough to Meswitch to make trade quite easy and common, yet far enough from the Emperor's absolute control on Meswitch that Egiss would have a reasonable level of control over his soldiers. He wouldn't have nearly as much influence over his nobility as magisters who ruled on the outer isles, but his life should be without the headaches of those more distant places.
Lord Egiss looked over at his daughter when he heard the clicking of heels on the wooden deck, but not the rustling of a formal dress of nobility. As usual, Lacona was wearing something totally inappropriate for the occasion. If they'd been going to hunt down a Golden Badger, she would have been wearing a fancy, but revealing dress. Since this was to be a formal occasion, she was wearing the sort of attire one would expect at a costume party intended to simulate the aforementioned hunt.
"Go and change," he said, barely bothering to give her a glance.
She let out a loud sigh, as if she hadn't known that he wouldn't let her wear such an outfit on a formal occasion. Sometimes it was like she was still a child; too young to know better. Only she wasn't a child any more and it was long past time for her to begin acting her age.
As he did so often, he lamented being so lenient with her when she was young. It had made her willful and rebellious. So much so that before leaving he'd vaguely toyed with the idea of selling her as a slave and leaving her behind on Meswitch. Marrying her off would also have been an option, if she were the sort of woman who would make a suitable wife. Unfortunately, there weren't any suitors willing to take her, even if he were willing to pay them instead of the other way around.
Oh, she was pretty enough, Egiss thought as he watched her walking back to her room. But she had a well deserved reputation for being a handful.
In the end, Egiss hadn't been able to bring himself to sell her at the slave auctions. Despite her annoying habits, she was still a delight to look at. Lacona reminded him of her mother in that way, which was probably why he'd been so lenient with her.
It didn't help that she was totally fearless but not driven by ambition, thus she had little incentive to bend excessively to society's mores. He couldn't intimidate her with threats-at least not ones he was willing to carry out. And he couldn't entice her with promises and gifts. Like her mother, however, she had an overly active libido and a remarkably high level of skill in the sexual arts. Her mouth was not one that would be easy to replace, if he ever decided to sell her, but he did frequently regretted the need to put up with what came out of it.
And her unwillingness to listen to what came out of his.
Lacona hadn't really thought she'd get away with her choice of clothing, but she'd tried the outfit anyway, because her father was often too lazy to make her go and change and often let her wear what she wanted. This was an important formal occasion, however. One he wouldn't want her to 'mess up,' as he liked to call it.
She didn't understand why, but she knew that he had a strong desire to impress people; impressing the locals on his first meeting would be particularly important to him.
Sometimes she thought that impressing others was the main reason her father still bothered to keep her around. She knew how men (including her father) looked at her. Not that she was eager to be bartered away to some stranger, which her father threatened to do occasionally. She didn't believe for a moment that he was serious, but she was also careful not to test his limits too far.
On the other hand, this was a new isle. Father's contacts wouldn't be as near to hand as they had been before, which might mean that she could push even harder-at least for a while. Not too hard on his precious first day though. She didn't pick up the dress father had placed on the bed for her. It was bulky and awkward, with too many layers for this stifling heat. Instead she picked out something lighter and more revealing, but something that was still somewhat stately in its presentation
It will definitely encourage those who look to take a second look, she thought.
She didn't think father would really mind. After all, her main value to him was to be eye candy-to impress those to whom he introduced her. That wasn't easy in a world where women were routinely bred for their beauty and uniqueness, but Lacona knew she possessed the sort of beauty that rarely disappointed. That was enough to grant her much wider latitude than most women, even full-blooded women who belonged to the noble class.
In many ways, this day started out like any other, for Vevita. There was nothing about it to indicate that it would be such a key turning point in her young life.
The magister's headman had come to wake her when everyone else (who wasn't a slave) was still asleep and still would be for some time. He'd given her the day's list of mindless chores and she'd been running herself ragged (trying to get them all done) ever since. Intentionally failing was never an option for Vevita, for failure to perform all of her tasks perfectly was cause for punishment, with each failure adding to the depth and breadth of her misery.
She was not a slave, so in order to receive that misery she had to willingly accept it; which she had to do if she wanted to work at the magister's castle another day. Sometimes, having to willingly accept her punishment only made it harder, but the pay was simply too good to go back to the work she'd been doing before she found this lucky break. In a single day, she made more than she used to make in a week... and that was when there was any work to do at all.
The pay she received was her family's primary source of income these days-and it would continue to be so, at least until the fall harvest. And Vevita knew that it was only her income that had allowed her father to forego the selling of any of his other children the past few years. So despite hating the work and hating the punishments she received even more, she really couldn't afford to quite.
Of course, her list of chores had been longer than usual for the last several sleeps-nearly two full days-so she knew something big was going to happen. Something big for someone, anyway. She rarely got to see what all the fuss was about.
And that's just fine with me.
The more she was around important people the more likely the headman was to find a short coming in her work. No it was far better to remain quietly in the background. No one ever bothered to tell her why she was re-cleaning something before its normally scheduled time; or why there was to be a formal dinner for all the nobles, in the middle of the day. She only knew about the dinner at all because she was scheduled to be one of the serving girls for the event.
The thought of personally tending to so many cold and impersonal people was not a particularly happy one.
The young noble, Lord Egiss, looked like a man with a purpose as he strode confidently down the ship's gangplank, his retinue in tow. Magister Nigmet recognized that look: so full of energy. Lord Egiss looked like a man convinced that he was on the verge of doing great things. It was a look that Nigmet had possessed once, when he was younger.
When he first came to this isle, Rolavar seemed like an ilse which possessed great potential for his political advancement. But these days it seemed more like a place where the second sons of great men (like Lord Egiss) could come to see their political careers die.
That had been the story of Magister Nigmet's predecessor.
Unlike Lord Egiss, Lord Rector had never been a particularly ambitious man. Being the magister of Pisho (a city which went by the name Achicho back then) was entirely his father's idea. He received the post because his father was a friend of Emperor Dashou, the premature; so named for his premature death.
Perhaps Lord Rector's father simply didn't understand Rector and feared that he was ambitious enough to kill his older brother to usurp his inherit. That seemed unlikely, given Lord Rector's laid back demeanor, but some fathers could be paranoid about their heirs. Or maybe the shame of having a son who would prefer to marry for love and live as a pauper had simply been too much to bear. Joining the military was a little better, but didn't provide the prestige and political connection that having a magister for a son would bring-if only Lord Rector was the kind of man to exploit his position for family gain.
These days, Nigmet was feeling like he was as much of a failure as Lord Rector-despite how different their stories were.
"Well meet, Magister Nigmet," the young lord said as he took his hand and shook it vigorously.
"Please, call me by my first name, Flagel," Nigmet said. He knew this sounded like a generous gesture, but it was more for his own sake than his guest's. He didn't want to refer to the younger man as Magister Egiss, as custom would dictate.
If Emperor Segmang had deemed this changing of the helm important enough to justify a state visit, he could have conferred the post onto the new man during a formal ceremony, with all the regal pageantry that those things implied. Rolavar was not a long or arduous voyage, but the emperor had not deemed it important enough. Such was the level of regard that Nigmet had fallen into. Instead, the emperor had confirmed Lord Egiss as Nigmet's successor before he left for his new post, which technically meant that Lord Egiss was already the new Magister. It was only the weight of tradition that allowed Nigmet to pretend he was still higher ranked.
There was a twinkle in Lord Egiss' eye, as if he understood all of this quite well, but he smiled cheerfully, with the patience of a man who knew he would hold his new post for many years. "Then you must call me Kropin," he said.
Nigmet nodded agreeably and together they walked back to the carriage they would share, with Nigmet's soldiers at the front of a long procession line and Lord Egiss' retinue following-both on foot. Together they made quite a long line as they wound their way along the streets that lead from the docks at the shore to the gate in Pisho's southern wall.
Up ahead, Lord Egiss saw what appeared to be an open-air slave market. There were several obvious differences between this one and the slave markets he'd been used to seeing back on Meswitch. For starters, this market was spread out over quite a distance, with numerous shops lining the street. On Meswitch, merchants brought their slaves to a single, dedicated auction house, usually situated at the middle of every larger city. There, a politically sanctioned auctioneer would sell the slaves on consignment, keeping a healthy share of the profits for himself.
Of course, Rolavar was consistently warm the whole year, so selling slaves out of doors made some sense, especially when many of the merchants weren't even human, and thus were no doubt not citizens of Pisho.
Since it would affect his revenue stream once he was the magister, Egiss couldn't help wondering if these unruly slave merchants even paid taxes; or whether they were permitted to buy and sell this particular commodity without rendering their cut to those who govern.
The human merchants had a few males for sale, but most of the slaves were female; and many of these were being offered for very specialized purposes. For instance, some walked on all fours and (as if there was any doubt) some of these even wore costumes to make them look more like a dog or a cat. Others were hitched to carts or wore strange harnesses with what could only be referred to as saddles, obviously designed to aid them in carrying someone on their backs. Egiss, of course, was used to seeing women used as transportation or beasts of burden, but these women were quite small and ordinary looking, compared to the Cordobian horse women, many of whom stood over seven feet tall and had thighs as large as Lord Egiss' waist. These smaller cousins were less practical. He didn't think any of them could carry a grown man, for instance, but there was something about them that was quite appealing to look at, none-the-less.
These horse slaves could be roughly divided into two distinct groups. Those being sold by human merchants tended to wear leather harnesses and thigh-high leather boots with hoof-like soles. While those owned by the smaller, non-human merchants were generally bound by rope and went barefoot.
"Tell me Flagel," Lord Egiss said, pointing at one of the small, non-human merchants. "What exactly are those small creatures? They seem to own many of the specialty slaves."
"Particularly the pony girls," Lord Flagel Nigmet agreed. He was the previous magister of Pisho; the man Lord Egiss was replacing, so he undoubtedly had a wealth of knowledge, if only there were time to tap into some of it. "The locals call them Druqs. They're a hybrid of two Amorian races: the Drun and the Lewquin. Officially, their kind are known as Druquins but only the scholars call them that.
"Why do you permit them to sell human slaves?"
"Well technically, according to local traditions, they own them."
"They own Humans; under human law?"
"It seems only fair," Nigmet said, "They hunt the girls and train them-particularly the younger and prettier ones... So you'd better keep an eye on that daughter of yours, if you don't want to find her here one day."
"I'm surprised you haven't tried to put an end to this," Egiss said with a scowl.
"I know it may seem very strange," Nigmet said, "but a Druq trained pony girl has a very high value to the citizens of Pisho; and they're highly valued as a trading commodity as well, there's quite a lot of pressure (mainly from the wealthier entrepreneurs) to remain on good terms with the Druqian people so we can keep the pony girls flowing. And besides, once a girl has been captured by a Druq hunting squad... Well, let's just say that these little creatures use their Amorian magic to maim the girl in a way that makes it impossible for her to ever rejoin human society as anything other than a pony girl."
"It just seems..."
"I know, but short of a major military incursion designed to completely wipe them out, I'm not sure it would be possible to stop them from hunting our women, even if I wanted to."
"For starters, they don't pay any attention to our laws. Each small group is its own hive, not governed be any agreements made by any of the other hives, so you can't make a treaty with them. They do have customs and traditions that allow these groups to peacefully co-exist and even take up war as a reasonably cohesive unit. And they're a very magical breed; as well as being very aggressive and capable when it comes to war. To make matters worse, wiping them out would be extremely difficult at best. As you know, they can breed at will, so if we went to war with them, we'd quickly be over run by thousands, if not tens or even hundreds of thousands. And, if we did manage to prevail... well, they're Amorians, so if even a single one was left alive it could repopulate the whole Druquin race within a single human generation."
"Not all Amorian races are like that," Egiss countered. "The Quald Amorians, for example, make very poor slaves because they breed very slowly and are impossible to induce, the way other Amorians are. They also seem to prefer death to being enslaved. But I take your meaning: Amorians can definitely be tougher than they look."
"And these little ones definitely are, believe me. Don't let their small statures fool you. These Druqs are fast and incredibly strong for their size. Fortunately, they're not interested in creating male ponies. And they'll rarely try to capture a female if she has a male with her-particularly if he's even mildly capable of defending his girls."
"That explains it," Egiss said.
"I've heard that many Rolavarian slaves have an unusual and unfortunate ability to fight; almost as if they've been trained."
"Many of the locals do teach their daughters to fight," Migmet admitted. "It's frowned upon, because it lowers the value of all Rolavarian born women as slaves, but it also makes them less likely to be captured and turned into pony girls. Although the little Druqs don't seem to be as impressed by a woman who can fight as they are by a man who can. So any man, who cares for his daughter and can afford it, always sends her out with at least one or two soldiers for protection. It's a steady stream of income, which has provided me with yet another good reason to remain friendly with the natives."
"These little Druqs might make good magisters themselves," Egiss said with a grin.
"Oh? How do you mean?"
"Just that they've got quite a racket going here. They kidnap a man's daughter and sell her right back to him."
"That does happen, but not as often as you might think. Most of the human locals are too poor to afford a Druq trained pony girl. But they are highly sought after on many of the isles-particularly the outer isles, such as Alimar, Lomaria and Ganuk."
"Strange that they're not more popular on Meswitch," Egiss said, "we're closer."
"Well, perhaps when I settle there we can start a venture to see if we can't increase their popularity there... but as I was saying, most Rolavarians are too poor to buy a Druqian trained pony girl-but more importantly, as I alluded to earlier, their arms are forever made useless with the Druqian magic. Even with a HealStone and an Amorian healer who knows how to use it, it's virtually impossible to repair the damage. And I'm sure you know just how expensive procuring those things can be? Suffice it to say that only the wealthiest locals could afford it, and very few of them would find it to be a worthwhile expense." He scoffed, as if the idea was absurd. "For a child that isn't even a potential heir? I don't think so. Even if it were for an extra son, I don't think there are many who would make that choice."
"Each isle is strange in its own way," Egiss said, quoting a familiar epitaph. "I can see that I will need advisors to help guide me through this isle's more unusual waters."
"Be thankful you weren't sent even further from the center," Nigmet said.
Together, both men quoted another familiar saying. "The further you go from the center the stranger things become."
Egiss smiled and continued speaking alone. "I have other reasons for not taking any posts further out," he said. "Riding on the water makes me sick; even when it's just a pond and the water doesn't move the isles. Perhaps it's for that reason that seeing strange places never held much interest for me."
"I was a navigator before I settled here as Pisho's magister," Nigmet said.
"So," Egiss said, "your guild hunted you, did they not?"
"I was five when a searcher came to my small village on the northern shore of Lomaria. Now that was a particularly unpleasant place. Mostly wasteland. It's known for its very thick fog, but the ocean's sky is beautiful, splashed with an array of rainbow colors, like slicks of oil on water. It's surrounded by numerous coral reefs, so only the boldest captains and the most experienced navigators ever go there. It makes those who are natives particularly valuable since those of us who fished were already familiar with at least a small portion of the coast's dangers and could add to the clan's book of knowledge."
"And you obviously excelled at math?"
"They visited many cities during their stay, but I was the only child to pass their tests. And during my training with them, I was the first in my class-so I had skill, even among navigators. So much that they wanted me to stay at the school and teach. But I wanted to see the world, so I hired on with one of the emperor's trading ships and once the onus of my schooling was repaid, I petitioned the emperor for a political position."
"Was this post everything you'd hoped for then?"
"Everything? No. But this city has its charms if you know how to appreciate them."
"You'll have to tutor me on the subject before your sailing window closes."
"We'll only have a few days," Nigmet said, "but I'll certainly do my best.
Until she'd seen the slave market, with all its slave women dressed in strangely sexual attire, Lacona had been extremely bored.
Of all the posts my father could have been given... why did it have to be this one?
But seeing all these mostly naked women, in their ropes or leather harnesses, was enough to make Lacona eager for the chance to own one of them herself. There were lots of things she could do with one of them. Lots of things that would certainly not be boring at all.
Perhaps living here won't be so bad after all.
Chapter Two-The New Serving Girl
Just what I don't need, Lacona thought, another fucking state dinner.
Sitting around with a bunch of old people, who insisted on talking about only the most boring of things imaginable, was not her idea of fun.
At least father hadn't made a fuss over the clothes she'd choosen to wear. And she did like the way everyone seemed to be looking at her. Perhaps that was why father permitted her to wear such a sensuous outfit in public. Or maybe it's this God awful heat? Even in these light clothes, the air was stifling. Which explained why she wasn't the only woman (or man, for that matter) wearing as little as possible.
On Meswitch, only servants would wear these kinds of clothes to a formal function, but Rolavarians were more practical. They had to be with this unvarying heat, which she'd been told never really improved, no mater the time of day or the year. The night only lasted some twenty-six hours-twenty-six out of two hundred and forty-three. During this brief stint of darkness, the temperature could drop nearly thirty degrees, making it simply warm. But the cooler air also caused an increase in humidity, so it could often be worse than the drier days. It rarely got cool enough to make wearing a bed cover comfortable. There wasn't any season to speak of either-so the endless heat lasted the whole year round.
Which to my way of thinking means there really isn't a year at all!
As miserable as the heat was, it was a strange sort of blessing, in a way, for it meant that all the serving girls in the room were wearing some of the most delightful clothes she'd seen-and they'd be wearing these clothes all the year round. Of course, there were a lot of muts in the mix: half-breeds and hybrids; so not all of these women were actually worthy of her attention. There weren't many true nobles at the table either. In fact, few of the so-called nobles in the hall (other than her father, of course) had her pure-blooded Aronian looks. Even the out going magister wasn't truly of noble blood. As she'd heard it, he'd risen to this lofty height (if you could call it that) after serving Emperor Semang as an imperial navigator for many M-years; much longer than she'd even been alive. Still, there were more than a few pretty bodies that were well worth looking at. How could there not be? Even away from the center-where less emphasis was placed on purity of breeding, even among the lower classes-the women still enjoyed the benefit of years of selective breeding. Not to mention the magical manipulations of the breeders on the Zylomian isles. They took in only the rarest and most beautiful specimen from all the isles and, after generations of captive breeding, turned them into new and stable races.
Unlike on Meswitch, there were surprisingly few men in the mix. This was true even here, at the castle, where she'd been told there were lots and lots of men. At least there were according to the woman who'd been tending to Lacona's needs ever since she arrived.
"Would you like me to refill your glass, Mistress?"
Lacona turned to the sound of the soft and ever so sexy voice. But when she looked up at the head that seemed to be hovering beside her own, she couldn't help blinking in stunned surprise. She was looking into the most beautiful green eyes, surrounded by an angelic halo of curly red hair. For the longest moment they're eyes seemed to be locked, then the serving girl pulled back and looked shyly away.
She's not Srowidian, Lacona thought, at least not full blood.
She recognized the characteristics of that bloodline. It was heavily mixed with other races, but somehow this server was still the most beautiful creature Lacona had ever seen. Even now, at the greater distance, and with the girl no longer looking directly at her, Lacona found it difficult not to stare. Not that there's anything wrong with staring, if you're the mistress instead of the slave.
The serving girl was shy, but clearly used to being stared at so often that she'd developed ways of dealing with it. She looked down submissively, like a good slave, but Lacona thought it looked more like real shyness than the tricks of slave training.
"What's your name?" Lacona asked.
"My name is Vevita," the girl replied, even more softly now.
"Vevita," Lacona repeated thoughtfully. "I'm going to ask my father to make you my permanent serving girl."
Vevita barely nodded in acknowledgment. "Would you like more to drink, Mistress?"
"Yes, I would," Lacona grinned. "And then, would you be a good girl and fetch me another roll?" She didn't really feel like eating the first roll she had, but she intended to keep this precious girl coming back to her table as often as possible. She wondered just how many little tasks she could think of before the evening was over.
I think I've finally found a way to make these boring dinners more interesting, she thought as she watched the bouncing cheeks of Vevita's ass as she turned and walked away.
"What a delightful dinner," Lacona said as she walked to her new room beside her father, after the meal was over.
He looked over at her and frowned. "Who are you, Shape-shifter? And what have you done with my daughter?"
"Oh, come now, father! I'm not that bad. I can enjoy a meal served by beautiful women as much as you can."
"Ah yes, I suppose that would explain it."
"Do you remember the girl called Vevita?"
"I don't ask the names of my servants," her father said, "but I presume she must be the girl whose time you were so scandalously monopolizing all night?"
"The pretty little red-head, yes; that's the one."
"She won't thank you, you know," her father said. "She'll probably be punished for shirking her duties tonight."
"I don't care if she's punished," Lacona said, "or even if she resents me for it. What I do care about is making her mine. I want her to replace my current serving woman, permanently."
"She'll thank you even less for that," he laughed. "Here in the outer isles, your particular sexual proclivities are not as accepted as they are back on Meswitch."
"Once again," Lacona said with a casual shrug, "I fail to see why you would think I care."
"No, no; of course not. I trained you too well for that," Father said. "Now if I could only get you to listen as well when I advise you on other topics."
"I didn't listen to you on this topic either," she replied with a chuckle. "I assure you, I never would have cared anyway."
"Well then," father said. "I suppose I'll have to see what I can do."
"Nonsense father! You're the new magister; you can do whatever you want!"
"I know it may seem that way," he told her, "but a good magister must rule within the bounds of isle traditions or he risks imperial censure."
"So I've heard, but I've never actually heard of an inquisitor being sent to an isle to remove any governing official, let alone a magister."
"That's because most rulers are smart enough to rule reasonably well. And most of the locals are reluctant to pay the price for calling an inquisitor-should their summons fail to find fault with him. It's a balancing act, you see. I clearly have the upper hand, but I can't abuse my rank too often, or even with one thing that's too extreme. So I'll see what this girl's situation is and attempt to buy her through ordinary channels. But I won't force a reluctant owner to sell her."
"Fair enough, I suppose," Lacona said, but the tone of her voice sounded more like a pouting child.
But I don't want to be given to the new magister's daughter, Vevita thought. Even now she couldn't help recalling how creepy it had been to have that girl looking at her all through the welcome feast. Valagrin hadn't punished her for ignoring his other patrons, but only because even he couldn't help notice just how unusual the girl's attentions had been.
She was clearly a spoiled little petchnick-which was not surprising, given that she was the daughter of a rich and powerful man. And, no doubt, it didn't help that she came from the center. It was said that on Meswitch, one woman wanting to be with another was not unusual. She certainly hadn't been shy about not taking her eyes off Vevita.
Vevita didn't complain out loud, of course. What she felt about it didn't matter. She was but a lowly cleaning servant; just one step above being a slave.
As her mother always said, "No one can stop you from having feelings... but a wise servant is one who never expresses them." Vevita wasn't sure if her mother was right, but she'd been taught that the only way for her to live a long and happy life was to make her employers happy. "You're pretty enough," her mother had said, "if you shine in front of your employer, and show him what a good servant you can be, he may take you as a second wife. From there, you might be able to impress him enough to become his first wife. That's the best chance for a girl born to a poor family like ours has to rise above her station."
Of course, even as a child, she'd known (as well as her mother had) just how rare such occurrences really were. Even for a girl as pretty as her. Becoming the serving girl for a known slit-licker, however, was sure to take her further away from such a dream-not closer.
"She wants you in her room this sleep," Valagrin said.
"She said that, 'in her room'!" Vevita echoed in alarm.
She'd thought of the girl as a slimy, lady lover; but even she hadn't dreamed she'd be so brazen about it. How can she be so perverse and not feel any guilt? But what other reason could she have for wanting Vevita in her room? At Night?
From the sympathetic look Valagrin was giving her, she knew he realized the implications as well as she did. But instead of the horror she felt, there was a strange look of intrigue in his eyes-as if he was one of those off-isle nobles who liked to punish their female slaves by forcing them to have sex with other women. "Just close your eyes and imagine you're with a man," he said, giving her a surprisingly cruel smile. A moment later he cringed. "Sorry," he said, "that was uncalled for. Still, unless you want to loose your post, you'd better go and do what she asks. There isn't any shame in it if you have no choice."
Vevita wished she could believe that, but no one ever said, 'She's a fur muncher, but not by choice.' No, they simply said, "She's a fur muncher.' And that was enough to ensure that the fur muncher was forever despised. Even a slave with such a reputation was held in lower esteem. In fact, there was a hierarchy among the slaves. The younger and more attractive house slaves occupied the top rung, with the older (former sex-slaves) who were now used as house slaves coming in right below them. Next were the less attractive slaves who worked all day in the fields, under the hot sun. Then came the bondage and pain slaves: pony girls, house pets, beasts of burden and those who were simply tormented for entertainment.
The only way to sink even lower (at least in the eyes of other Rolavarian women) was to be caught showing lesbian tendency with another female slave.
When the knock came at the door, Lacona was lying on her bed, wearing her most provocative nightie, waiting eagerly for her new toy. So, without giving it the slightest thought she said, "Come in."
For a brief moment there was a flicker of doubt as it occurred to her that someone other than Vevita might be knocking-but if that were the case, she would simply seduce them and they would have a threesome, when Vevita finally arrived. That might not be as much fun as having the girl all to herself, but Lacona was willing to make little sacrifices.
When the door opened, however, there were no surprises.
"Have I come at a bad time?" Vevita asked when she saw what she was wearing.
"Not at all, come in. I have a very important chore for you. You see, I can't fall asleep unless someone's licking my clit."
"I'm not like that," Vevita said, obviously shocked by her brazenness. "So if that's all?"
What? Lacona had been so focused on what she wanted from the girl that it hadn't even occurred to her that she might be rejected. "Are you serious?" She asked.
"I know that you come from the center, so perhaps doing this is... common where you come from. But it's not something that good girls do, here on Rolavar."
"Well," Lacona said with her most charming smile. "I've never been a good girl. Just ask my father, I'm sure he'll tell you the same thing."
"No offense," Vevita said, "but this really isn't about you. I simply don't want to do it; and since I'm a servant, not a slave, you can't force me."
"No," Lacona said in agreement. "I can't force you to do this, if it's really that important to you." She nodded, as if this news saddened her. "But it really would be a shame. You see, even though I can't force you to do something you don't want to do, I can tell my father to cancel your servant's charter."
Vevita's eyes widened in sudden fear. "You wouldn't?" she gasped.
"I take it that you're poor," Lacona said with a sympathetic frown. "I can't help wondering how your father would take the news that you've lost your job? How easy do you think it would be to find another, if I talked to every new employer you interviewed with and told them how angry my father would be if they hired you? I assume your family needs the money you make? But if that money isn't important to you... I'll understand."
She didn't, of course. Sleeping with her should have been an honor for a lowly servant like this girl, but Lacona wasn't the kind of person who liked taking no for an answer. If she couldn't charm this girl, she'd intimidate her.
Vevita was looking very nervous now. She swallowed and her dry throat crackled loudly.
"Your father hasn't been willing to sell you yet," Lacona went on, "but I wonder how he'd feel about a daughter who was nothing but a burden. Especially if the Magister's daughter came along and offered twice what a normal slave is worth. 'Please sell her to me," Lacona said in a beseeching voice. "I promise I'll take good care of her; and my father will be in your debt.' Imagine what an enterprising man could do with such a lofty political connection. Do you think your father could resist that temptation?"
"Fine!" Vevita fumed. "I'll do what you ask... If you still want me?"
"Of course I want you," Lacona said with a cheerful smile. "But since the feeling isn't mutual, I don't think it would be fair to let you come to my bed as an equal any more. You'll have to be tied up like a slave now."
"You tie up your slaves?" Vevita asked, wrinkling her nose slightly in disgust before she could suppress the expression.
"Just until you can convince me that you've changed your mind," Lacona said with a smug grin. "However long that might take."
"Go on," Lacona said, "Get your tongue up in there. I'm not going to let you breath until you do!"
Something about her demeanor made Vevita believed she was serious about the threat. Certainly, tied as she was, there was nothing she could do to stop her. Vevita was tied to the bed with her legs spread, ropes binding each ankle to a separate bed post. Worse yet, she was lying on her arms, which were held in a tight little square behind her back by a tight chest harness. Lacona was happily perched upon her face, the cheeks of her ass covering her nose; a whip with a long, rigid handle in her hand. Vevita couldn't see herself, but she was quite certain that her body was covered with bright red welts, from her lower belly to her upper thighs. Of course, those weren't the parts of her body that Lacona's seemed to be trying to hit, but apparently she wasn't a very good aim.
For some reason, the nagging advice of her mother came to mind. Practice, practice, practice! Of course, mother had been referring to Vevita's music lessons. Every woman should play a musical instrument, her mother was fond of saying. A young serving girl who hopes to become a first wife has to be as talented as she is beautiful, so that she can entertain her new lord in ways that don't rely on simply using her body. In a world where beauty was so common place (and women so plentiful) beauty was never enough. It was the more subtle intangibles that made her rise; or the lack of them that made her fall.
"That's it," Lacona said encouragingly, "You're learning. Ah a little to the left. Now, stick your tongue all the way out; force it in deeper."
Vevita was doing her best to do everything asked, but she was still waiting for the promised breath; and her head was beginning to feel a little light. She didn't know how much longer she could keep this up without passing out. Her lungs ached; but strangely, she was beginning to feel a very intense (and pleasant) tingle emanating from between her legs. Her nipples ached as Lacona reached down and brushed her fingernails across them.
"You're starting to enjoy this, aren't you?"
Not hardly! Vevita screamed inside her head. But there was enough truth in her words that Vevita could feel her face turning red for a reason that had nothing to do with holding her breath. In truth, the tingling was more intense than anything she'd ever felt before. And that's the most horrible thing of all! This sort of thing should be disgusting in every way. It should make her feel really bad; not really good.
Finally her need for air became too much. She couldn't keep still any longer; her body was reacting on its own, forcing her to buck up and down as her chest heaved in violent desperation.
"Oh yeah," Lacona crowed loudly. "Feel the burn! You're expanding your lung capacity now, aren't you?"
Oh God, I'm going to die! Vevita thought as she felt her senses beginning to fade in a way that she'd never experienced before.
That was the exact moment when Lacona rose up and let her breath again.
At first, breathing was all she had room to think about. The warm (but fresh) air was like a soothing balm inside her lungs. But by the third breath, something very odd began to happen. As the breaths came a little easier, she realized (with horror) that she felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude. And strangely, these feelings seemed to be directed at Lacona-the very devil's spawn responsible for all of her humiliation and suffering. The vile girl was blackmailing her into doing things she loathed and yet, instead of anger, she was filled with gratitude. Gratitude that her new mistress hadn't suffocated her.
She's an evil fucking witch, Vevita moaned is silent misery and despair. And now I'm just a slimy-faced, slit-sucker, just like her.
Chapter Three-Little Rebel
"Come on," Lacona said impatiently. "What's wrong with you? Pick up the basket and let's go!"
"It's wrong," Vevita said softly. She was looking at the basket in full-blown panic as if it were a deadly snake, coiled and ready to strike. But there was no telling her new mistress that.
"How can it be wrong?" Lacona asked. "Everyone needs to eat."
Vevita gave her a sour look. They both knew that eating wasn't all she intended them to do while they were skulking around illicitly in the Druqinic Wild Lands. The picnic basket contained barely any food at all. Most of the space was filled by reams of rope, nipple clamps, those magically vibrating wands, and all the other disgusting stuff that Lacona loved using to torment Vevita with pleasure.
This fact, however, had nothing to do with why she'd said it was wrong. Not this time. "It's too dangerous for us to go out there alone. At the very least, we should call one of your father's soldiers to accompany us."
"Oh soldiers, smoldiers!" Lacona pouted. "I'm tired of being told I can't go anywhere. This castle is boring. I may die of the doldrums if I don't get away from this endless tedium."
"Haven't you seen the Druq pony girls? Where do you think they come from."
"Nonsense," Lacona scoffed. "How many girls do you actually know who've been carried off simply because they went outside?"
"There were three girls carried away just last year!"
Yes, but how many of them did you actually know?"
"And how many times do young women go out alone? Surely every peasant farmer on this God-forsaken furnace can't afford to send soldiers with his daughter every time she needs to take a pee in the forest or pick greens for dinner."
"Well no, but..."
"So how many times do you suppose a female goes out alone in a year?"
"Well, hundreds... I suppose."
"Thousands, I should think," Lacona said, and the look on her face suggested that she was proud of her ability to think logically.
Unlike me: a mutt of mixed breeding and suspicious schooling, right.
"At a minimum, each woman leaves her house alone and unprotected a few tens to a few hundred times a year ... And you know about a measly three kidnappings? People probably fall down and break their legs more often than that. I know four people who broke their legs last year in Meswitch."
But you can recover from a broken leg, Vevita thought.
"Besides, even if these creatures who hunt women did happen to find us, surely they wouldn't be so foolish as to try taking the magister's own daughter. If I told them who I was, there's no question they'd leave us alone.
You can't honestly believe they would care who you are, Vevita thought. But she had the good sense not to say it aloud. Lacona didn't like to be contradicted, which meant she'd no doubt find some way to punish Vevita just for telling the truth. And then she'd still force her to go into the wilds anyway. The magister's daughter was stubborn like that; you couldn't tell her anything. She didn't even listen to her own father. And she made no apologies for it. The disapproving looks from her father's advisors had no effect on her at all. It's like she thinks the world changes to make her right, just because she says something is so.
"Are you going to pick up the basket?" Lacona asked. "I'm actually looking forward to seeing some pony girls in the wild. Jezlan told me just the other day that they sometimes manage to escape, and run wild over the plains in small herds of half a dozen or so."
"I suspect he was just pulling your leg," Vevita replied. "I don't think he really believes that."
"Oh," Lacona said her voice full of disappointment. "Well, perhaps one of these days I'll take your advice and have some soldiers escort me to one of their quaint little open-air markets. Jezlan also says the markets they hold in their own cities are far more interesting than the ones you find along the roads outside the city gates."
And how the hell would he know?
"Do I have to get nasty with you," Lacona asked, placing her hands angrily on her hips. You know that I've kept our dalliances secret..."
No you haven't! Not really.
"But I'm not the one who cares what other people think of me. I'd be perfectly happy to take you out for a little stroll after one of our little sessions. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy seeing you bound and all slimy faced."
Vevita paled a little at Lacona's description. She doubted her mistress understood the full depth of what those words meant: the level of contempt they implied. But it was still a slap in the face to hear her use them-particularly because Vevita knew just how true they really were.
Reluctantly she picked up the picnic basket and followed her mistress to the door.
From his post in the lookout tower, Leshjo could see two people leaving the city of Pisho and heading east, towards the wildlands. This was not all that uncommon, but these two looked a little small to be fully grown men. Perhaps they were boys, going into the wilds on a dare. It was a common rite of passage, frowned upon but ignored more often than not.
Still, Leshjo took these occasional stints on the wall as seriously as he took his more prestigious role as adviser to the new magister-so he raised his spyglass and focused on the two figures. To his surprise, it wasn't young boys but a couple of young women. Leshjo didn't recognize either of them at first, but then one of them looked back in a self-conscious, surreptitious fashion and he caught a flash of curly red hair. It had to be that half-breed Srowidian girl the magister had enlisted to be his daughter's new serving girl. Which meant the other woman was probably Lacona, the Magister's daughter herself.
The foolishness of women! Leshjo thought as he shook his head. He never would have imagined that women from the magister's castle would willingly choose to head in that direction alone. Peasants had no choice, of course. Occasionally a man needed something that could only be found out there: Magical things for healing potions, plants that made their cows produce more milk, or gemstones to sell to the traders from the center. Wealthier parents purchased these things from local vendors, but those without other adequate sources of income could always keep their family from starving by harvesting these things and selling them to the vendors. Virtually everyone else keeps their children away by telling them tales about the horrible things that happened there. Tales like The Ballad of the Little Rebel or The Lamentable Story of Sister Greenstalk. Many young children could be terrified simply by naming the place because when they were bad their parents threatened to abandon them there so many times that the name itself was like a curse. Not that most parents would ever do such a thing-unless, of course, a child were deformed or demented. If a man wanted to get rid of an unwanted daughter, he would be a fool not to get a little something for her by selling her at one of the slave auctions. Even an ugly child would bring in something. The Druqs didn't seem to care if a female was beautiful or ugly. Humans were strange and exotic creatures to them. It's unlikely they would even recognize the difference between the pure human breed. No father who could afford an alternative would send his daughter into the woods to be kidnapped without an exchange of money.
The stories made a strong impression on the youth of Rolavar, however, and Leshjo couldn't imagine how the magister's daughter had convinced her serving girl to go with her-or why either of them would have any interest in going there, to begin with.
Actually, that's not entirely true, he acknowledged. He'd heard rumors about what went on in Lacona's bedroom; and he didn't think the serving girl had gone along with such a thing willingly. She might be willing to do quite a lot if she thought it would keep her perversion a secret. Foolish girl, everyone already knows what you are.
As for the magister's daughter, Lacona was the most incorrigible young lady Leshjo had ever met. If ever there was a child who reminded him of Lil' Reb' she was it. It shouldn't have surprised him that she would do something this stupid. Ever since the magister arrived, she had been a constant problem. And now this! He didn't look forward to telling the magister; although he couldn't help wondering what (if anything) the girl's punishment would be. He smiled at the thought that he might be permitted to observe. Taking that girl down a peg would certainly be enjoyable and it might even make her a little safer in the long run.
In all likelihood, however, nothing would happen to her at all. That's probably why she's like this to begin with. Females need a strong, controlling hand to keep them in line.
Leshjo knew that not all fathers agreed with him, but he'd never known any man who had such a hard time keeping his daughter in line.
Leshjo sighed, anticipating the unpleasant scene that would ensue when he informed Magister Egiss that his daughter had wandered off into the dangerous wildlands. Not to mention what would happen to the soldier who'd let her pass through the gate undetected. It probably wasn't even his fault, since the outer walls were as porous as a cheesecloth. But he'd be punished just the same; as if anyone who was determined to pass through the walls without going through the gates couldn't find a way. And the serving girl probably knew where to find a few of the holes. It wouldn't matter, however. The poor sod on duty would do doubt be punished; Leshjo might even find himself feeling the Magister's wrath as well since he was serving duty on the wall.
On the other hand, Leshjo thought, with an evil grin maybe there's another way.
He wouldn't wish being a pony girl on anyone, but things really would be a lot calmer around the castle if the perverted little fur munchers were captured and taken out of the way. Leshjo and the magister's other advisers certainly wouldn't have to deal with as much every day.
I should be ashamed for thinking such a thing, he thought. But in the end, he knew the idea would eventually win out. It was just a matter of time.
If nothing else, he was a practical man.
Leshjo wasn't on the wall anymore, since his shift was over, but he'd been keeping a careful eye on the girl's room and he wasn't surprised when (several hours later) he saw Lacona and her serving girl walking down the hall.
Despite the horror stories that parents told, venturing into the wildlands was not a death sentence. Far from it. In fact, he'd estimate that if a girl went out a thousand times, she might not come back once or twice. This had been one of the determining factors in his decision to let Lacona's little act of rebellion go unreported. After all, some girls from poorer families went out into the wildlands almost every day of their lives. The money to be gained from scavenging for magical remnants was just too great for the poorer peasant to ignore. Such a man might keep his favorite daughters at home but one of them would be going into the wilds. Girls did this sort of thing all the time; and some lived to be healthy old women, without ever ending up in pony gear.
Others went out once and never returned.
You never knew about things like this. Those who could afford to pay for what they wanted at the market, preferred not to take the risk; but apparently, they felt little concern for the girls from poorer families who risked never returning. In fact, these same men were often happy to buy the captured girls from the Druiq pony auctions, keeping them as toys for their amusement.
Leshjo was no different. He was not a perfect man and enjoyed looking at the pony girls as much as any other. But he figured that if it was good enough for those poor girls who'd never done him any wrong, it was good enough for a pampered little petchnick like the magister's daughter, who'd never given him anything but grief.
Still, he was a man with a conscience; and he felt he owed it to the magister (if not the girl) to warn her. What she did after that would be her own concern. So when he saw the girls approaching, he stepped out from the shadows, gave them a perfunctory little bow, and said, "Can I speak with you, young miss?"
Vevita looked nervously over at her new mistress, obviously concerned that she'd been caught going out without permission. She probably felt guilty about what she'd been doing out there in the wilds as well.
He ignored her though, keeping his eyes on the real prize.
Lacona sighed. "Is this really necessary?" She asked, shaking her head.
"It is," Leshjo replied calmly.
"Fine," she said angrily. "Let's have it then."
"I don't plan on telling your father if that's what you're thinking," he said, trying to calm her. "But I did see you and your serving girl heading east... alone."
"It's not a big deal," Lacona began, obviously thinking to mount a preemptive defense. "We didn't even go that far. We had a pleasant picnic, in a secluded grove of trees: a place where we could talk without the fear of anyone eavesdropping. And then we returned home. It was nothing, just a pleasant dalliance."
Leshjo simply looked at her without comment, waiting for her ranting to run down.
"Fine," she said, apparently thinking his silence had some other significance. "What do you want?"
He shook his head. "I want to tell you a story."
"You're old enough to decide for yourself if you want to do something that's known to be dangerous. But I'm not certain you fully appreciate the dangers. I want to tell you a story, to help you understand."
"A cautionary tale, about a girl who reminds me a lot of you, actually. It's called The Ballad of the Little Rebel."
"Something tells me there's a moral coming at the end; I hate morals."
"If there is, I won't give it. I simply want to share the story. You can do with it as you will. Ignore it and keep sneaking out on your secret little trysts, if that's what you want. I'm not your father or your husband. It's not even for your sake that I want to tell you this, it's for my own. You see, in the off chance that you're taken, I don't wish to share any measure of guilt, knowing there was perhaps something I could have said that would change your behavior."
"Fine," Lacona growled, "tell me your stupid little story if you must."
The Ballad of the Little Rebel
Once upon a time, there was a rebellious young girl named Kimil.
She never listened to her father or the advice of those around her. She rarely did her chores; and when she did, she did them poorly. Her father was eager to sell her to the first suitor, a young man from out of town who didn't know her reputation. Her new husband took her back to his town, very pleased with his shrewd purchase. But when he spoke to Kimil, she ignored him the same as she had her father. Like many young women, Kimil thought she was smarter than everyone else, but unlike most of those girls, she saw no reason to keep this opinion to herself. She was always eager to tell her husband exactly what she thought of him.
After a few years of putting up with this, Kimil's husband tried to send her back to her father but, not surprisingly, her father refused. "I won't pay a single penny to take her back," he said.
"What if I don't ask for money?" the husband inquired.
"I still wouldn't take her back," the father replied.
"What if I offered you money," The desperate husband inquired.
But still the answer was no.
Not wanting to be stuck with such an onerous burden (and perhaps thinking that it would serve as an act of vengeance on the father) the husband decided to sell Kimil as a ponygirl. He was a little intimidated by her ability to screech and carry on, so one night when he was fixing their dinner again, after a long day of working in the field, he placed a drop of sleeping potion in her drink; and when she was fast asleep, he tied her up, loaded her onto his harvest wagon and delivered her to the Druquin tribe.
When she woke, Kimil was hanging from a Druquinian auction rack, waiting to be sold as a ponygirl; waiting to be trained. At first, she dared to think she couldn't be broken. She was certain that her spirit was indomitable. That she would be able to remain rebellious-and for several days she did. It wasn't the constant sting of the whip on her thighs. It wasn't being forced to sleep while standing in her stall. It wasn't when they pierced her nipples with metal rings. It wasn't when they shaved her head, except for a little ponytail at the very top. It wasn't even when they hitched her up to a wagon and forced her to pull human riders around-all of them former friends and people Kimil had once known. No, what finally broke her was when the Druq trainer took her voice and used his magical spear to clip the tendons in her arms, rendering them completely and forever useless. That was when she knew she could never go back to being a human. She was forever a ponygirl, now. That was all she was good for.
When Kimil was fully trained and sold at one of the Druq pony girl auctions, she was purchased by her former husband, who found it amusing to tease and torment her. She was still willful, trying her best to resist his will, but the sting of the whip was convincing and after he beat her enough, she would finally do what he wanted.
It no longer bothered her former husband when she was disobedient, for beating her was his favorite part of owning her-well, that and showing her off to all the other folks in town. She was such a common sight, pulling his carts around town that everyone came to know her story, as well as her name. She became so popular that her husband finally decided to start a taxi service so that other people could pay him to have her pull them around. His first customer was Kimil's father; and for the first time, the two men were in complete agreement about what Kimil was worth.
"...And that's the story of Little Rebel," Leshjo said.
"How can it be the story of Little Rebel?" Lacona asked, shaking her head. "You called her Kimil the whole time. If it's the story of Little Rebel, shouldn't she at least be called Little Rebel at some point in the story?"
"It's a long and very sad story," Leshjo countered defensively. "This is only one chapter in her saga and an abbreviated version, at that."
"So how did she get her pony name?"
"When Kimil's father purchased his first ride, he asked what her pony name was and after a little thought, her former husband gave her the name Little Rebel. Of course, people got lazy and began calling her Lil' Rebel for short. And after a while, they seemed to think Lil was her name, so they started calling her Lil' the Rebel. And eventually, that became just Lil' Reb'.
It doesn't really matter which name you choose, what matters is that these are the names by which she would be known for the rest of her life."
"Hum..." Lacona said, not really very impressed. "And I suppose I'm supposed to be this Lil' Reb' character in your story?"
"Oh no, not at all," Leshjo said. If you're ever captured by the Druq and turned into a ponygirl, whatever happens to you will be your own story. But I can assure you that it will be equally sad."
"Well, it certainly is a sad story," Lacona agreed. "Any chance this is written down in a book somewhere. I think I might want to read the full version some time."
"I would be happy to buy you a copy if you wish." He said, surprised that his telling of the story seemed to have had such an impact on her.
"Yeah, that would be great. I want to read all about this Little Rebel."
Who knows, I might want to buy a ponygirl myself.
"I'm sure the story will be educational."
Chapter Four-The Pony Trainers (added: 2021/04/27)
Lacona was lying on a picnic blanket, watching Vevita climb around in a Petchnick tree. Such trees were common on Feilom, but finding one on an inner isle was quite rare. The tree produced small brown fruit that were exquisitely delicious when ripe. Unfortunately, they ripened very quickly, then fell to the ground and spoiled within a few hours, so the fruit was almost always picked when still green and slightly bitter. When green, it was best cooked in a pie or used as an ingredient in another dish. Each individual fruit ripened in its own time, however, so Vevita had been climbing around the branches, looking for any that were ripe, or very close. So far, she hadn't found any.
The one good thing about Rolavar was that there was always plenty to eat. No mater where you went, there was always something growing nearby. And Vevita, being a local, knew all the tricks. She could dig up the roots of a dead looking twig and find a tuber filled with strange flavored water. Lacona wouldn't go so far as to say that it tasted good, but in the heat of the day, it was surprisingly adequate for quenching her thirst.
"Hurry up and pick something!" Lacona called out loudly. "I'm hungry!"
"Shush!" Vevita said
She reached out precariously to pick a fruit at the very end of her reach and threw it down-obviously hoping to keep Lacona quiet. Vevita was constantly shushing her when they went out on these excursions. It was obviously out of fear, but Lacona ignored the implied reprimand. "Hurry up," she called even louder, just to prove that Vevita had no authority over her.
"Keep quiet, for Kalem's sake," Vevita hissed when she'd climbed down from the tree. "There's a group of Druqs training their ponies just over the next hill."
"Really!" Lacona asked with a sudden thrill of excitement.
"Are you serious?" Vevita asked in disbelief. She knew she was being quite bold and might suffer the consequences for it later, but the dire circumstances seemed to warrant it. "Didn't you learn anything from Leshjo's story about Little Rebel? We're in serious danger here."
"Don't be silly," Lacona scoffed. "It was just a stupid little story."
"It's not stupid or little," Vevita hissed. "Leshjo told you... that was just a tiny fraction of the whole ballad. The whole is more like a collection of independent shorter stories, only loosely connected by the same theme."
"Well, the little part he told me was stupid."
"You're stupid," Vevita fumed. "And you're just like her. I swear you'll have us both wearing tack and gear if you keep this up."
"I wouldn't mind seeing you turned into a ponygirl right now," Lacona growled right back. "Maybe I should take you on over there and just see how much they'd be willing to give me for you."
Vevita's face blanched a little, but she wasn't ready to give in completely just yet. "They'd take you too," she warned.
Lacona frowned. "So maybe I'll wait until we get back to the castle," she said. "I can turn you into a ponygirl myself. And then I'll parade you up and down the castle halls and around the city's streets. Maybe I'll buy a carriage for you to pull and a whip to help motivate you."
"You wouldn't!" Vevita paled.
"If you don't show me where the Druqs are training their pony girls I promise I will."
"Fine!" Vevita said. "I'll take you, but only if you promise to be quiet. I'd rather be your ponygirl than a Druqian one."
"I'm not stupid," Lacona said, "I don't want to be caught either. I just don't think it's as dangerous as you think. As long as we stay hidden..."
"And downwind," Vevita said. "They can smell better than humans, you know."
"Good to know." With Vevita leading the way, they slowly and quietly crept closer to a small berm with bushes just perfect for hiding behind. "I wish I had a spyglass so I could see them better," Lacona said as she looked down on the small clearing. There were only three ponies and two trainers, but they'd cleared a tight circle of rock and debris. A Druq was riding one of the pony girls, who seemed to be fully trained and broken. She looked almost proud, as she pranced lightly around the clearing-and Lacona couldn't help thinking that she deserved to be proud. The ponygirl was as light and quick as a Pella Elk, and as graceful as a Golden Badger stalking its prey. But there was also a strange sort of camaraderie between the trainer and her mount. The rider would stroke her with care or lean forward to whisper a bit of encouragement (or an order) in the pony's ear. The trainer even held out some sort of treat and let her pony eat it from her hand. The girl obviously liked it and showed her appreciation by pressing her head against her trainer's hand. The other trainer was standing on the ground, holding a long whip which she wielded expertly.
I wonder if they're both females, Lacona thought. The two trainers looked very similar, both vaguely female in form, but with Amorians it was often hard to tell.
Lacona knew this because she'd spent a lot of time with scholars who studied Amorians. She found them fascinating: Each of the Amorian races was unique-some as different from others as a dog is from a cow. Their sexes didn't correspond to the traditional human notions of male and female. In fact, the scholars didn't call them by those terms at all. Usually, there were three sexes and sometimes four, so the Amorian races didn't even have the same number of genders. Every Amorian race had an alph, who was always considered female-even though she might not always look very feminine. What she looked like didn't matter, what mattered was the fact that she could give birth all on her own-simply by manipulating the appropriate sexual organ.
Drones were always thought of as males, and they always had a member dangling between their legs. Many Amorian races killed their drones shortly after they'd served their purpose because if the drones of these races lived much past the onset of puberty, they tended to grow monstrously large and became rather belligerent and unruly. They weren't picky either, so they were a danger to virtually any humanoid creature with a vagina it could fill.
Ha! The way these Rolavarians act, you'd think they were the only ones with something dangerous on their isle. Lacona thought as she remembered seeing such a drone up close.
The third gender that every Amorian race shared was the beta. A few races also had a secondary beta, but each race had its own strange configuration for which gender mated with which other to produce something else. The one thing they all shared, with the exception of infertile hybrids, was the ability for a single Alph to start the process of procreation all on her own.
Since Amorians invariably came to maturity much faster than humans, they were quite valuable as slaves. Particularly if their race had a docile nature (as many did) and if the scholars could figure out how to forcibly breed them by manual manipulation so that they could be bred on slave farms.
At the moment, however, it wasn't the Amorians that Lacona was interested in, it was the cute little pony girls-although they weren't so little compared to their Druq riders, only compared to the massive horsewomen known as Cordobians.
These ponies don't have to be as large as a Cordobian because their typical passengers are so much smaller.
Besides, a couple of well-trained pony girls could easily pull a light carriage; even if it was up a fairly steep grade. On flat ground, a single pony girl could probably manage a properly balanced two-man cart. But when it came to actually being ridden by humans, that would be difficult, if the rider was much bigger than a child-since most of the pony girls were little bigger than a typical child themselves. Even a small male adult would prove to be an unwieldy burden for most of the Rolavarian ponies Lacona had seen.
Lacona, however, didn't want to ride a ponygirl. She didn't even want to be pulled by one. No, what she wanted was to train one.
Vevita, for instance, would make an excellent choice. Too bad she's a servant instead of a slave... But perhaps, if I think about it hard enough, I'll figure out a way around that small detail.
Even though she didn't want to, Vevita found the pony girls rather fascinating, in a horrifying way. There was never a moment when she didn't wish she could slip away and run as fast as she could, but given that she had to watch, it quickly became difficult to drag her eyes away.
It was sort of like that time (as a child) when she'd watched her mother cut the head off a chicken. The ax lopped the neck in two quite easily, but when the chicken's body jerked, her mother lost her grip. The chicken had run around the yard for several seconds without its head, blood spurting from the neck stump.
She'd had nightmares about that moment for years. Not scary dreams, really, just weird scenes of animals or people walking around without their heads.
"Let's go..." Lacona whispered as she began to back down the hill.
Finally, Vevita sighed, following quickly, in case her mistress changed her mind.
"I wouldn't mind training a pony of my own," Lacona said when they were a few hundred feet away, "but for the moment, I'm in the mood for something else."
By the magic of the UnderCaves, Vevita said, rolling her eyes in disgust. The way Lacona was looking at her left no doubt exactly what her mistress had in mind.
"Lars said he saw you and your girl returning from the West again," Lacona's father said conversationally as the two of them were eating breakfast. "I'm told that's the direction of the Druquin territory. Dangerous land for young women to be wandering around in."
Lord Laromand, more commonly called Lars, had quickly become one of father's most favored advisors; but he was old and somewhat fragile, both in mind and body.
"Lars is a fag... and he drinks," she countered, trying to change the subject.
Her father raised an eyebrow. He obviously hadn't known the man was gay, but then he shrugged off the revelation. "That doesn't mean his eyesight is poor. Or that he's wrong to be concerned when you do something stupid.
"It's not stupid, father. Lars is just being an ass. Vevita and I are very careful when we go out."
"I can be careful when I put my hand in a fire too. Doesn't mean I won't get burned."
"Oh, for Kalem's sake! These pig farmers make more of the pony people than there really is. Have you ever seen how small they are? Besides, young Rolavarian girls go out all the time. Am I in more danger than any of them? Is it more important to protect me than any of them?"
"Of course it is," Egiss said, "You're my daughter."
"A daughter who's going crazy, cooped up in this city every day. There's nothing to do here, father."
"That's why I gave you a serving girl," he countered. "Even though I knew it would cause unpleasant rumors."
"Maybe... if you could buy me a real pony girl of my own."
"This isn't open for discussion," Egiss said. "I expect you to do as you're told."
"I will father," Lacona said, but she was thinking, 'When the isles stop spinning'. She went on, calmly, not really paying any attention to his outburst. "It's just so boring here at the castle... and even around the city. I don't see the harm in buying me my very own ponygirl.
"I'll think about it if you can prove you deserve it."
"Or maybe you can let me turn my serving girl into a pony. I'll bet she'd just hate that."
"She's not a slave you can do anything you want to," her father said. "You can't turn her into a ponygirl unless she's willing."
"Well, maybe she will be," Lacona said with a grin.
A plan was taking shape in her head.
Lord Laromand was sitting on the bed in Lacona's room when she and her serving girl, Vevita, entered the room. He wasn't surprised to see them; in fact, he'd entered the room with Lacona herself before she'd left to go fetch Vevita.
He had been surprised when Lord Egiss' daughter approached him earlier in the day. And he'd been even more surprised when she showed him a legal document that she wanted him to help broker. He'd been deeply suspicious, at first, but when she'd shown him the document he quickly realized that she was quite serious. Although it was obviously not written by a magister, the language of the document was actually pretty good.
"Did you write this?" He'd asked.
"I did," she replied with a proud grin. "Is it acceptable? It's my very first time writing up a legal document."
He glanced over the words once again, just to make sure there wasn't anything he'd overlooked. On the one hand, he was reluctant to broker any legal document he hadn't written himself, but on the other, the child was obviously proud of her accomplishment and he didn't want to risk alienating her further by rejecting it. Especially when it was surprisingly adequate, if not entirely professional. And, more importantly, forcing her serving girl to humiliate herself by pretending to be a ponygirl seemed like a rather small price to pay for getting Lacona to stop venturing into Druqian territory.
"What is he doing here?" Vevita asked, looking at Lord Laromand with obvious fear and suspicion.
"He's a magister," Lacona replied, "He's come to help us with a legal matter, of course."
"What kind of legal matter?"
Lacona gave the girl a wicked grin. "I plan on turning you into a ponygirl, and he's here to help with the necessary legal papers."
"I told you! I'm not going to become your ponygirl."
"It will just be here in my room," Lacona said. "And, if you agree to this, you have my word ... we won't go into Druqian territory anymore."
That caused Vevita to pause, but she was still reluctant. "Why should I trust you?" She asked.
"Who said anything about trusting me?" Lacona replied. "We're going to sign a legally binding contract. As I said, that's why Lord Laromand is here." She turned to him with a grand gesture, "Please, my lord, let Vevita read the document."
"I've already told you I can't read," Vevita said with a scowl.
"Oh," Lacona said as if she was surprised. "In that case, my lord, why don't you read the document to her, so she'll know what she's singing?"
He cleared his throat and shook the papers straight. "Be it known, on this day..." he cleared his throat again, skipping the actual words of the date, "that the serving girl of Lacona Egiss, also known as Vevita (and hereafter referred to as The Pony) has hereby agreed to be bound in pony girl attire, and to be trained, as Lacona Egiss (Hereafter referred to as Mistress) sees fit. In exchange for the verbal assurance that The Pony will not be required to leave her Mistress's private chambers unless The Pony gives her permission in writing."
"Which I will never do," Vevita said.
"I understand," Lacona gave her a sweet smile. "I give you my word that I will honor your wishes. I'm just so bored. I really need this, if I'm finally going to get over my fascination with going into Druqian territory to look for ponygirls."
"It's a binding contract," Lord Laromand assured Vevita. "If she violates it, her father will have little choice but to punish her severely." He gave Lacona a look of warning.
"I've given my word," Lacona said, giving him an offended look.
"I'm sure your word," And this legal document, "Will be sufficient," he said. "Because if it's not, I can assure you that I will take this matter all the way to the emperor if I have to; if your father does not punish you severely enough for any breach of the contract. And, let me state even more clearly that the established punishment for such a breach is the reversal of roles. You will become Vevita's serving girl if you violate this contract by leaving the room."
"That seems entirely fair to me," Lacona said with a smug smile. "I fully understand that this is a very serious matter. Exposing Vevita to the public, in such attire, would be entirely unacceptable."
Lord Laromand gave her a long hard look.
There was something about her smug manner that he didn't entirely trust. It was probably just because she came from the island of Meswitch, and had the same smugness as all those who lived on the Lord Emperor's personal satellite.
"Very well," he said, turning his attention to Vevita. "Then I suppose the rest is up to you." He held out the document. "I will witness the signing if you're willing."
Vevita couldn't believe she was letting Lacona dress her up like a ponygirl.
She didn't like anything about what she was wearing, but perhaps the worst part of Vevita's outfit was the diabolical training boots she was wearing. They'd been the last item Lacona put on her. If they hadn't been, she might have reconsidered her decision to go through with becoming Lacona's private ponygirl. Consequences be-damned.
The boots were open along the sides of the heels, with a leather strap at the back, to hold the upper part of the boot to the sole. On the inside of the soles, under her heels, there were several rows of nasty little spikes. These were visible through the open spaces on the sides of the boots, making it obvious to anyone who was watching that she was standing on her toes to avoid being jabbed and getting bloody heels. The result forced her to stay on her toes.
Her hands and arms were held in a horse-like position by two large, metal cages. These sleeves encased her arms from above her elbows (which were bent at a ninety-degree angle) to her middle fingers, which were held in place by three metal loops. The rest of her fingers were allowed a little more freedom, but not enough to grasp anything. More importantly, the cages forced her wrists into another ninety-degree angle, a position that immediately identified her as a ponygirl. A metal bar that ran behind her back connected the individual arm cages, further limiting their movement to a few inches of front-to-back motion and the twisting of her upper torso.
She was also wearing a leather body harness.
Instead of the rope harnesses, like the local Druqian preferred, Vevita's harness was black leather. As bad as things had been before the magister's daughter claimed her, things had only gotten worse since then.
Lacona smiled as if she was totally oblivious to this fact. "Don't be so uptight," she said, looking Vevita over as if trying to find her pony girl's hidden flaws. "You look really cute like this, you know."
"I'm sure I do," Vevita replied with a scowl.
Lacona slapped her really hard on the ass, and Vevita could feel her tail brushing against her legs as she jerked against the pain.
"Look at that," Lacona said in delight. "You were born to be my pony. You prance so nicely already, and you're not even trained. I can't wait until you are, but until then, I'll just have to work with what we've got. I'm sure your friend won't mind seeing you before you're ready."
"My friend!" Vevita said in alarm. "What are you talking about?"
"You know, that boy you're always sneaking away to stare at."
There were several boys at the magister's palace who Vevita very much enjoyed looking at. She'd been far too shy to ever approach any of them. Lately, there had been one in particular: an older boy whose sun-baked body glistened when he sweat under the sun. She loved the way his muscles rippled under his skin as he did his work.
And even though she didn't really know him, she was mortified by the idea that he might see her like this.
"You can't do that," she said sharply, "it would be a breach of our contract."
"Not exactly," Lacona corrected as she gave Vevita an innocent look. "I promised not to take you out of this room. I didn't say anything about not inviting other people inside."
"By Kham, you wouldn't?"
"Sometimes I'm not sure you know what that word means," Lacona said, giving her a look of mock puzzlement. Then she shook her head as if putting the quandary behind her. "I'm sorry I didn't have time to visit your mother, so she won't be joining us today, but I know where she lives, so you can be certain I won't forget to invite her next time."
"You frigid bitch!" Vevita burst out, unable to control herself, despite the possible repercussions.
Lacona just looked at her with a smug smile. "Now, now," she said chidingly. "I'm most definitely NOT frigid, as you well know. And I can assure you that you'll be required to demonstrate that fact again this evening, along with satisfying my guest.
Vevita was too angry and flustered to even know what to say as her mistress continued to circle around her, brushing her hand over her body occasionally as she continued to look her over. Suddenly, Lacona yanked at the bar that connected Vevita's arm cages behind her back; this forced her to take a quick step back or let her weight press down on the spikes under her heels.
"I think it's time I put on your gag," Lacona said as she watched Vevita's legs bump up against the edge of the room's bed. For a moment, it looked like she might be able to use the pressure of the mattress against the back of her knees to keep herself from falling, but then Lacona placed her fingers between Vevita's breasts and gave her a little shove. She immediately sat down to avoid toppling like a fallen tree.
Lacona held up a leather head harness, which sported a wooden bit-gag and a large feather that would no doubt sway distractingly every time she moved her head.
"Please don't do this!" Vevita croaked as she looked into Lacona's amused eyes.
"Well," Lacona said, pausing as if something had just occurred to her. "I've already invited your friend to come see my new pony; it would be incredibly rude to turn him away now. But I never mentioned that you were my pony."
"How does that help?" Vevita asked.
"Well, I have a mask that you could wear. It would hide your face so that no one would know it was you."
"You'd do that?" Vevita asked, not willing yet to believe it might be true.
"Of course! We're friends, aren't we?"
Vevita nodded, desperate to get out of her situation.
"Well then, it's settled," Lacona said. "But I will need a little something from you in exchange."
"What's that?" Vevita was suddenly suspicious again.
"I will change our contract to ensure that you will never be seen in your ponygirl outfit unless you're wearing a mask that completely conceals your identity... if you will permit me to take you outside of this room."
Suddenly Vevita was certain that Lacona had been planning this moment all along. She'd tricked her into signing the contract, knowing that there was a flaw in it because she was the one who'd written it. There's no way Vevita would have agreed to go out like this in public, even if she was wearing a mask... unless there was a greater threat to force her into it.
"Fine," Vevita said, reluctantly conceding defeat. "I'll sign it."
"Great!" Lacona said. "And because we're such good friends, I'll let you wear the mask tonight and trust you to sign the contract tomorrow."
Vevita didn't like it, but she didn't see that she had any choice. And she knew that she'd sign when the contract was put in front of her. Not only had she given her word, which probably would have been enough to force her hand, but if she refused, there was still the threat of being exposed to her mother. If she had to, Vevita was certain that Lacona wouldn't be above using the magister's guards to help force her into the ponygirl outfit, and given the contract they'd signed, she would be within her rights to do so. Therefore, if Vevita wanted to avoid being exposed as a ponygirl, she really had no choice.
Which was really what Lacona had intended all along.
Chapter Five-The Magister's Stables
Where are we going? Vevita wanted to ask.
Unfortunately, her mouth was gagged beneath the mask she was wearing.
She was following Lacona out the southeast servant's exit of the castle. This was the quickest way to the castle's gardens; and the stables. Unlike much of the rest of the castle's grounds, it was surrounded by walls, which didn't make it a very effective path, if you were headed into the city-or, even worse, if you wanted to leave the city. That, at least, was a comfort to Vevita.
Being close to the center, Rolavar was a rather warm isle. Not as warm as Nimesphia, of course, but then Nimesphia was so warm that only the coasts were even inhabitable, and there was no relief, either. Not a slightly cooler winter or even cooling at night, as there was on Rolavar. There was no night on Nimesphia, just a constant, endless day.
Rolavar didn't have much of a season either, but at least the temperatures dropped by nearly thirty degrees at night. But even on the coolest days, children and slaves commonly went about their business without wearing a stitch of clothing and even the nobles tended to wear as little as possible. Only at night (or during one of the rare thunderstorms) did Rolavarians wear heavier clothing.
So it wasn't the lack of clothing that made Vevita nervous as Lacona led her down the secluded path to the Magister's private stables.
"I'm sure you know Borel," Lacona said, seeming to sense Vevita's nervous confusion.
The stable master? Vevita thought in alarm. What do you want with him?
Lacona just smiled, as if she could see Vevita's expression-and maybe she could since the mask she was wearing only covered her lower face, leaving a wide ring around her eyes exposed. Beneath the mask, Vevita was wearing a bit gag or, at least, it looked like a bit gag. A long phallus was attached to the center of the bit, however, and she could feel it pressing uncomfortably at the back of her throat.
"Once you've gotten used to this one," Lacona had told her as she was forcing the bit into Vevita's mouth, "we'll replace it with something longer. But I don't want you retching all day so we'll work up to that slowly."
Despite those seemingly kind sentiments, Vevita had retched for several minutes before her body finally got used to the pressure against her tonsils and her exhausted stomach stopped trying to force the foreign object back out. Her stomach muscles still ached, and occasionally they would clench again, if she turned her head the wrong way. Fortunately, the collar around her neck helped Vevita remember to hold her head in just the right position to avoid that uncomfortable pressure-whenever she forgot, the spikes at the top and bottom of the collar poked into her tender flesh.
"Here we are," Lacona said as they approached a small single axle wagon that was resting on the ground. "This is going to be your job from now on." Lacona grabbed the metal bar that ran behind Vevita's back, connecting the arm cages, and used it to pull her back between the wagon's arm rails. Each rail had two black, leather straps, which were used to secure a pony's arms to the small cargo wagon. Even though she couldn't turn her head far enough to see the straps, Vevita knew they were there and, as Lacona leaned over and lifted the arms, she could feel the leather brushing against the bottom of her arms, in between the lines of metal that made up her arm cages. The cages held her arms at just the right angle to be strapped to the wagon's handles, with her fingers draped over the ends, which pressed against her palms. If the arm cages hadn't prevented her from making a fist, she could have held the rails and made the straps unnecessary.
But Ponies have to be harnessed to their wagons, don't they?
"Oh, you're going to look so fine, pulling this around all day. But first I want to get you in some real ponygirl boots."
Even though she didn't think pony boots would be all that comfortable, Vevita was grateful she would soon be finished with the spiked boots she was wearing. It didn't happen very often anymore, but even now she occasionally rocked back far enough on her feet to make contact with the spikes beneath her heels. Fortunately, they were not sharp enough to slice deeply into her feet, but the points were more painful than say, walking on a bed of jagged rocks. Not to mention that her feet were beginning to cramp from walking around on her toes all the time.
When she was wearing the pony boots, she'd still be on her toes, but at least the boots would help hold her feet in the right position so she wouldn't have to support her full weight, all the time.
Vevita heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Borel approaching.
For a moment the fear of being recognized sliced through her chest, but Borel didn't show any indications that he recognized her-probably because he didn't really know her. By the time he stopped walking her heart was beating faster than normal simply because he was standing next to her as much as out of fear of recognition.
"What do we have here?" he asked as he looked Vevita over appreciatively. She couldn't help feeling a warm glow of approval as he stroked her flanks. It was approval for a novice ponygirl, but his hand was still touching her leg. "She's a real cute pony," Borel said, answering his own question.
"Thank you," Lacona said, preening as if she were the one he'd complimented-and, in a way, she was. Ponies were nothing more than property. And when you complimented someone for their kitchen table, for instance, you weren't really complimenting the table; you were complimenting the owner on their acquisition of it. Still, Vevita couldn't help feeling proud that she was the object of such appreciation.
"I'm here to pick up those pony boots you're making for me. I assume they're ready?"
"They are," Borel said, "And I'm interested to see how they fit your pony. Usually, I take my own measures, from the mare herself. I've never worked entirely from a pair of shoes before."
"I wanted to make sure the shoes were ready to go as soon as she was under my control. But I'm sure you'll be making other boots for me very soon. You can fine-tune how they fit then."
"It will be my pleasure," Borel said. "Give me a few seconds and I'll go get them."
Several minutes later, he returned with the long, leather boots slung over his shoulder. "Let me help with these," he said as he knelt down in front of Vevita, waiting for her. Reluctantly, she picked up the foot that went with the boot he was holding. He removed the boot she was wearing (with those nasty little spikes under her heel) and let him slide the new boot up the length of her leg before securing it around her upper thigh.
Despite the circumstances-or perhaps because of them-having him touch her foot and leg in such an intimate way was causing her heart to beat faster; she could feel the sweat running down between her breasts. It was wonderful and terrifying at the same time. She loved having him touch her like this, even if it was to dress what he thought of was just an animal; but she was still concerned that he might recognize her, despite the mask she was wearing.
As she put her weight on the first boot, Vevita observed that its design forced her foot into an even steeper angle than the previous boots, but at least it didn't have those spikes under her heels; and it was obviously built to fit her foot, whereas the spiked boots were off the shelf and hadn't been sized to her feet. That was probably one of the reasons the sides were open. The other reason, of course, was to ensure that people around the wearer could actually see the spikes. What fun is it to torment your slave if no one knows you're doing it?
Lacona had taken a cast of Vevita's feet a few weeks ago, which explained why the new boots fit so well, and the soft lining on the inside of them ensured that any minor irregularities of construction were well padded, so they Shouldn't cause blisters or bruises.
Vevita wasn't sure if the padding was a good thing or not. The fact that the boots were so comfortable meant that she'd be able to wear them for long periods and the fact that Lacona had gone to the time and expense of making them this way seemed to indicate that she intended to keep her in them a lot and didn't want her feet to get infected. She certainly didn't believe her mistress cared about her comfort.
"She looks like she has a lot of potential," Borel said when the second boot was on Vevita's other foot and she was prancing around, to test them out. And again, despite the fact that he was essentially praising a horse, Vevita couldn't help feeling a sense of pride that made her want to kick her knees even higher.
"That's why I chose her," Lacona said dismissively as if what he'd said ought to be obvious.
"Is this that serving girl who's always following you around?"
"Of course not," Lacona said, even more dismissively. "Vevita is a rather coarse girl, more suitable for being used as a workhorse. She'd be suitable for plowing a field or pulling a cargo wagon. She would never make be suitable show pony-which is what I hope to turn this little mare into. Besides, if you've ever meet Vevita, you surely know that she's far too cantankerous to make a decent ponygirl. More importantly, she's not actually my slave, she's just a serving girl-so unfortunately I can't force her to do anything she doesn't want to do."
"Ah," Borel said wisely.
"Exactly! For instance, there would be ramifications if I decided to flay the skin off her back-and we both know that a ponygirl needs to be whipped occasionally to keep her in line. A serving girl would never do, so I went and purchased my own slave for this duty. Would you like to fuck her? I've seen the way you've been looking at her. Or, I could have her suck your cock, as partial trade for these wonderful boots you've made."
By the way his lips twitched, Vevita could tell that Borel was tempted, and part of her actually wanted him to agree. But, with effort, he shook his head. "Maybe next time; unfortunately, I kind of need the money right now."
The way Lacona was grinning, Vevita was sure her mistress had offered her up just to distract Borel from his questions. Lacona didn't have the right to let a stranger fuck Vevita-or to whip her, but then it would be impossible for Vevita to complain about such things without admitting that she was being used as a ponygirl. Which meant that Lacona could do pretty much anything to her she wanted-and, short of quitting once she was released from her ponygirl gear, there was nothing Vevita could do about it.
"So," Borel asked, still not willing to let his curiosity go. "Where is your serving girl?"
"I gave that frigid, little petchnick the day off," Lacona said without missing a beat, "Why should I pay her? It's not like I'll need her while I'm working out my pony?"
"I meant no offense, young miss," Borel said, "I was just curious. You hardly seem to go anywhere without your girl these days."
"I'm flattered that you've noticed," Lacona replied with a smug smile. "But I came to order these boots without her, didn't I?"
Borel nodded. "I suppose you did," he admitted.
Mercifully, that was the end of his questioning-at least for now. But Vevita didn't believe he was really convinced. He couldn't see her face with the mask she was wearing, but it wasn't like he'd never seen her body before; and the next time he saw her when she wasn't wearing the mask, she was certain he'd be looking at her a lot more carefully.
I thought you were going to make me a showgirl, Vevita thought angrily as her mistress attached her arm-cages to the handrails of an empty wagon. Once again, her gag kept her from complaining aloud. She scowled as fiercely as she could but Lacona never paid any attention to her moods.
Just a few moments before, Lacona had assured Borel that her new pony wasn't the same person as her serving girl by saying that she was too coarse for anything but pulling a cart. And now, as if to prove the lie was the truth, Lacona was hooking her up to a cart.
This whole pony girl thing is becoming more and more fucked up all the time.
The whole point of wearing the mask was to keep Vevita's identity a secret, but it was more obvious than even she'd feared that it wasn't going to fool anyone. She hadn't been wearing her ponygirl gear in public for more than an hour and already her secret was out. She could deny that it was her (the same way Lacona had) but no one was really going to believe her.
She was so furious over the way Lacona had carefully manipulated her into this horrible predicament that she was having trouble focusing on the straps being used to lash her arm-cages to the wagon.
The cages themselves were reasonably comfortable, so having her arms bound to a cart wouldn't have been a big deal, if not for what the cages implied. The cages were connected at the elbows by a metal bar that ran behind her back and there wasn't a lot of play. She could arch her spine to create a little space between the bar and the small of her back, but she couldn't move her arms forward at all, and the lacy bands of metal that encased her arms kept them bent at the elbows-with her wrists bent the opposite way, pointing down. It made her feel like a dog begging for food, more than a pony, but either way, wearing the cages was debilitating and humiliating. She could do almost nothing with her hands when they were bound like this. If Borel had taken Lacona up on her offer, there wouldn't have been anything she could do to stop him. Of course, he was strong enough that even if she had the use of her hands, there probably wouldn't have been anything she could do to stop him-but having her hands bound this way served to exaggerate her feelings of helplessness, especially when Lacona unceremoniously decided to plunge her fingers into the crevice between Vevita's legs. She did that quite often and always without warning. And it always made Vevita flinch and try to close her legs.
The first time Lacona had done it had been just after she offered Vevita to Borel, as partial payment for the boots Vevita was now wearing. That had been the worst, for not only was it completely unexpected, but Vevita had reacted to the touch right in front of Borel.
"You don't know what you're missing," Lacona had teased as she dug her fingers deeper and began to pump them in and out. "This cunt's folds are as creamy as Lomarian truffles."
To Vevita's surprise, Borel had watched this with amusement and longing, instead of the disgust she would have expected. But then again, he wasn't looking at her as a person anymore. To him, she was nothing but a ponygirl.
And what else were pony girl's good for?
Nothing but pulling carts, Vevita thought despondently as Lacona slapped her on the ass and she flexed her leg muscles to get the wagon moving.
It was light enough. The Rolavarian cart-makers were skilled craftsmen; so even their smaller carts were perfectly balanced over the axle. As long as it was carefully loaded and she didn't have to climb any hills, a single pony girl could pull more than ten times what a strong man could carry on his back. This gave a ponygirl some practical value, although few Rolavarians were wealthy enough to afford such a luxury. Thus, most of the poor were forced to pull their own carts; while those who were slightly better off might rent a ponygirl from a stable when they needed one. Those who needed regular loads pulled and were wealthy enough to buy a beast of burden usually chose one of the local animals that were akin to the horses and cows that Lacona was more familiar with from her time on Meswitch.
A few Rolavarians were even wealthy enough to import one of the Cordobian horsewomen, who were nearly as strong as a small horse, and stood over seven-foot-tall, with massive legs and tiny upper bodies. These creatures had been designed by the Zylomian breeders, but they were still humanoid, which meant they were capable of providing the same forms of entertainment that a Druq-trained ponygirl offered.
The wagon was empty at the moment but Lacona was sitting on its seat, pulling the long reigns to guide her as she paraded Vevita through the center of town. She wasn't sure where they were going, but Vevita didn't expect her light load to continue for long. Despite her suspicions, however, she was surprised when they approached the familiar house of a forester she'd known since she was a young child. He didn't seem to be around, probably out in the forest felling more trees. But the product of his daily labor was stacked in several long rows. Four young women in slave tunics were waiting beside the stacks. These were the forester's daughters, who were here to record the transaction and help load the wood into the customers' wagons.
Lacona had Vevita pull her wagon into a shallow bay next to one of the smaller piles of wood. This lowered the bed of the wagon by nearly two feet, making it much easier for the forester's daughters to load it.
"Here for your first load, I see?" The oldest daughter, Hevila, said.
"Just as we agreed," Lacona replied.
Hevila and her sisters began to pick up the logs, carrying them one at a time over to the wagon and placing them carefully in the bed.
"Not too heavy," Lacona said. "This is only my pony's first day. I suspect she'll need a few weeks to build up her stamina."
Chapter Six-Body Double
No respect, Lacona thought, None of these people have any respect for who I am.
If her pony were one of the massive horse women, pulling a full-sized wagon, people would have gotten out of her way without being asked; or risk being run down in the middle of the streets. The horse women were large enough to be intimidating in that way. But Vevita was so small that people barely seemed to noticed her; especially now, with the wagon being slowed down by it's clacking wheel. A flap of wood on the wheel's outer rim had come loose and every time the wheel came around it slapped against the cobble street.
At this speed, it didn't make enough noise to hear, which was part of the reason no one paid it any attention.
Despite all of this, Lacona was smiling. The frequent stops gave her an excuse to use her whip more than usual. She was getting very good at aiming the whip, getting it to flick against her pony's ass cheek, which was turning a brighter and brighter red each time she found her spot.
They were on a slight uphill grade and the wagon was fully loaded, which meant that Vevita had to lean into the harness just to keep if from rolling backwards. To get it rolling again from a stand still, she had to work so hard that her small muscles bulged beneath her skin as she strained against the harness. This gave her plenty of time to get in at least three or four more strikes against her pony's red cheeks, before she could get them moving again.
Of course, Lacona could have chosen a street that wasn't as busy. She'd been delivering loads of wood with her pony long enough that she was beginning to learn her way around the city's streets. But she enjoyed using the whip during these frequent stops-not to mention the pleasure she got from forcing her shy pony to be seen by as many people as possible.
The clacking of the wheel indicated that they were moving again so, reluctantly, Lacona placed her whip back in its holder and turned her attention outward, towards the buildings and the people around her.
Even though it was one of the largest cities on all of Rolavar, Pisho was a rather small and very rural city by Meswitchian standards. The Magister's castle actually stuck out like a sore thumb, because it was made of metal and polished stone. The more typical buildings on Rolavar were made with wood and had thatched roofs, instead of the imported ceramic tiles. Many of the poorer residents didn't even have windows, because they couldn't afford to put glass in the openings. All in all, Lacona was developing a rather intense dislike for being trapped in this backward city. There was literally nothing to do, except taking Vevita out in her pony girl gear and finding various ways to torment her. And, as fun as it was to play with her new toy, Lacona was getting bored with having to do it all day.
It was also becoming obvious to Lacona that virtually no one liked her.
Back on Meswitch, being disliked hadn't bothered her: there she'd had a few friends she could confide in and everyone wanted to be her friend, even those she teased and tormented. But here, the people who disliked her generally tried to avoid her. And when older people scolded her for being rebellious or disobedient, they did it with a look of disdainful disapproval-as if she were the daughter of some lowly servant, instead of the most powerful man in Pisho. Even Vevita frequently looked at her with disgust, as if she were a lower sort of person.
Along with her growing boredom, that look was the main reason she was so hard on the poor girl. She had no right to look at Lacona that way. She was the magister's daughter. Of course, she still would have turned Vevita into her helpless ponygirl, even if she weren't so smug and self-righteous, but she might not have worked her quite so hard over the past few weeks.
Lacona steered her pony through the palace gates and had her pull her load around to the stables and the small blacksmith's shop They could have delivered a load of wood first, but Lacona knew how humiliating Vevita would be when she encountered the object of her girlish crush while pulling such a load.
"And a very bright Shallisday to you, mistress Egiss," Borel said as Lacona guided Vevita and the lame wagon into his shop. He was one of the few people who Lacona might call friends, but he had more interested in her pony.
"Shallis was one of the commanders of the emperor's army, during the first invasion of Rolavar and today is the anniversary of her greatest victory. It's also the day Pisho was officially founded, although that didn't happen for another year."
"You're such a fountain of useless historical knowledge," Lacona said.
"Thank you," he replied, obviously choosing to ignore the word useless and take her words as a compliment. "And you may be working your new pony just a little too hard."
"Nonsense! That's what ponies are for."
"It is," he agreed, "But usually you build up their stamina slowly."
"What do you know?" Lacona countered playfully. "Who says I didn't buy this pony already trained?"
"If that were true," he replied calmly, "She wouldn't be looking so frazzled. She's showing signs of exhaustion. Which isn't a bad thing as long as you give her a chance to recuperate now and then. Besides, I know who your ponygirl is-which means I also know that she hasn't been trained."
Lacona grinned. "How could you know? She's wearing a mask."
Instead of answering, he seemed to change the subject. "I notice that your serving girl isn't with you today. What was her name anyway?"
"You mean Vevita?" Lacona said dismissively. "I gave her the day off. Surely you don't think a slight, little thing like her would be capable of pulling a fully loaded cart like this one."
"Of course not," he said with a knowing smile. "My mistake. Now, why don't I take a look at that wheel?"
"He knows," Vevita moaned plaintively as soon as Lacona removed her gag for the evening.
"Hush," Lacona countered, "he doesn't know."
"He suspects. They all do! I should have realized people would figure it out. I'm with you every day-except when you're with your pony."
"He suspects," Lacona admitted, "and he's far craftier than most. No one else will think to put it together the way he has."
"He's more than enough. What if he says something to someone?"
"He won't. Besides, I have a strategy for throwing him off."
"Throwing him off?"
"That's right. Tomorrow I'm going to spend some time looking for a ponygirl who looks enough like you to wear your gear. Then you and I are going to ride her around the city together. Once Borel sees you and the pony together, he'll know that he was wrong about who my pony is: how could you be my pony when you're sitting right beside me?"
"That just might work," Vevita said, obviously surprised that Lacona was being so helpful during this crisis.
"Of course it will work. How could you be my pony when you'll be sitting right beside me? The trick, of course, is to find a ponygirl that looks enough like you to fool Borel-he pays attention, and he works with pony girls, so he'll recognize anything that isn't right. But if we can fool him, we'll fool everyone. I'll have to acquire the new pony's time secretly; perhaps I'll actually buy her. Our little ruse won't work unless people think she's you... or rather, who they thought was you."
"I think we should go to a Druq pony girl farm and look for a match," Lacona said with a playful grin. "They'll have a lot more choices there."
"Yeah right," Vevita said with a frown. She obviously didn't believe Lacona was being serious; Vevita thought she had been playing her for a fool with all this talk about a pony serving as a temporary doppelganger.
The next day, before putting Vevita into her ponygirl gear, Lacona went to the supply room and requisitioned a cattle prod. It was an expensive tech-item, so if she hadn't been the magister's daughter the clerk behind the desk never would have given it to her, but she name-dropped heavily and with enough threatening, she finally got her way.
She kept the prod hidden until she had Vevita in full pony tact and hitched to a riding cart. The foolish girl didn't even seem to remember their discussion at the end of the previous day. She didn't look at the cart with suspicion, only relief that she wouldn't be pulling the log wagon again. It wasn't until Lacona guided the wagon east, towards the Druquinic Wild Lands, that Vevita finally thought to protest, but by then it was too late. A few pops of the electric prod against her backside and she was forced to pull the wagon anywhere Lacona wanted to go.
Several days back, Lacona had gone out drinking. She'd bought the drinks and encouraged the men she met to talk about what they knew about Druqian pony farms and how to find them. One man, by the name of Bezault, was particularly helpful, he even drew her a very detailed map; and now Lacona was following that map as she prodded her pony across the wildlands. With the map's help, it was easier than she'd expected to find a Druquin encampment where they had dozens of ponygirls.
As they approached, Vevita became increasingly nervous and reluctant to go further, but Lacona was determined. She kept using the cattle prod until she finally got her way. Lacona drew a lot of interest from the Druqian people. As she and her pony pulled up to their tents, a small crowd began to gather around her. They reached out, without asking, to pet Vevita, as if testing her fitness as a pony and Vevita, for her part, obviously didn't like the small creature sniffing around at her.
"This your pony?" the tallest Druq asked. He was focused only on Lacona, unlike the others who still seemed more interested in making Vevita nervous than in talking to her.
"She is," Lacona replied proudly. "And I'm looking for another pony to match her exactly."
"She's not a real pony," one of the smaller Druqs said, "Her arms haven't been clipped; she's not trained. She'll need a lot of work to undo bad training."
"I'm sorry," Lacona said, "but I'm afraid she's not for sale, although if you're interested I might consider letting you train her a little. But only if I get to watch."
The Druqs looked at one another.
"We don't train ponies we don't own," the tallest Druq said.
Lacona shrugged. "Well, as I said, she's not for sale..."
"Who said anything about buying her?" One of the smaller Druqs said.
"...But I am interested in buying another pony just like her."
"You know the law," the tallest Druq said. "We can't steal a pony from its owner."
"Well, she's definitely mine," Lacona said, "so I'm glad we've established that."
"She's not even a Ponella," one of the Druqs in the crowd said, "besides, if we capture the owner, she belongs to us, along with all that she owns."
The others looked at each other thoughtfully for a moment before nodding in agreement.
"I came here to buy a pony," Lacona said, "I intend to be a regular customer?"
Again they exchanged curious looks.
"I'm the daughter of Pisho's new magister," she went on. "You don't want to cause ill-will between your people and mine by offending him for no reason."
"I like her," the tallest one said, turning to the crowd "She talks a lot, but she's got spirit."
"Thank you," Lacona said, "I take after my father."
"I claim her as my own."
"You wouldn't dare," She said, holding up the cattle prod defensively. "This could start a war."
"The gatu thinks she has teeth," the tallest one said as he took a step forward, crouching in anticipation of an offensive move. The others were beginning to circle around, getting behind her.
Suddenly, Vevita turned and began to run wildly, dragging the wagon behind her, faster than it had ever gone. All Lacona could do was grab the reins and try to desperately hold on. The Druqs were giving chase on their own ponies and they caught her easily. Using small wooden tubes that were decorated in brilliant colors, they shot small darts at Vevita and after only a few more steps she began to falter. She slowed to a stop and then slumped to the ground so quickly that she didn't even have time to lay herself down comfortably.
"I'm still willing to forget all about this little incident," Lacona said as the Druqs turned their attention back on her.
"But I'm not," the tallest Druq said as he shot a dart into her neck.
Chapter Seven-Pierced and Clipped
For Vevita, waking felt like clawing her way out of a very dark and deep cavern. She tried to open her eyes but she still couldn't see as her eyelashes rubbed across the inside of some sort of loose blinder. An oversized gag caused her jaws to ache and the rest of her body felt heavy and bloated, her mind sluggish as if all the thoughts in her head had been replaced with little cubes of flaming ice. She knew something was definitely wrong but she was having trouble focusing on what it might be.
Whatever it was, she was pretty sure it was her mistress's fault.
It wasn't until she recognized that some of the pain in her body was coming from her ankles that she realized she was hanging upside down, with the loops of the rope wrapped around her ankles.
Now the pain in my head makes more sense, she thought.
Someone beside her moaned. It was a feminine sound, full of all the pain she was feeling too. Further away, she could hear the sounds of people engaged in activity: walking about, placing heavy objects on the ground, children laughing, something being stirred in a metal pot. This had been going on for a long time, but Vevita's brain had been too busy fighting its way out of her fog to realize that until now.
Mother have mercy, she thought with sudden realization. I'm dangling from one of those freshly caught pony girl racks.
She's seen some older women hanging from one when she was just a little girl. Like so many young children, her father had threatened her with being given to the Druqs, if she misbehaved. But her father wanted her to know what that meant, so he and several other like-minded fathers hired a group of soldiers to escort their children to one of the pony training camps. Vevita shuddered in horror as she looked at the women hanging naked from their feet, too shocked to even wonder what they must be thinking as the community bustled around them.
Vevita pulled with her arms to see if her wrists were bound behind her back, and was surprised to find that just her wrists were bound. She'd expected her arms to be tied in a tight square, the traditional way Druq pony girls were always tied, with loops of rope around the waist to keep the arms anchored in place. Still, she was definitely naked and the sounds around her were so familiar that she was sure she wasn't wrong. The last thing she remembered was Lacona forcing her to pull a carriage out into the Druquinic Wild Lands, so finding herself like this wasn't exactly unexpected, but it was still quite a shock.
"The other one is waking up," one of the Druqs who'd captured her said. He placed his hand on her waist as if to confirm his suspicion, and Vevita couldn't help thrashing about as she tried desperately to get away from his touch. "There, there, girl," he said as his hand slid down from her waist (or was it up, since she was upside down) and snaked between her legs, his finger probing her cunt with gentle insistence. He ground his palm against her clit, massaging it relentlessly as little sparks of magical delight tickled the tender flesh between her lower lips. "Settle down, no one is going to hurt you now." He continued massaging until Vevita was twitching and moaning for a different reason; then he took his hand away, leaving her inflamed crotch feeling very awakened, but far from fulfilled.
"This one will make an excellent pony," a more feminine Druq voice predicted, "she's already very receptive and I haven't even started my conditioning program yet."
"So, you want us to go ahead with processing them?" the first Druq asked.
"Yes Hegge, I think you did the right thing by capturing them," the female said. "Have them ready for the field by tomorrow; I want to begin training them as soon as possible."
"Yes, Mother Munsil. I'll have them both pierced, clipped, and ready for the training fields by first light. How do you want their heads? "
There was a long, thoughtful pause before the female Hegge had called Mother Munsil replied. "Make the blonde one's head hair short and bristly, to match her temper; and give the redhead a ponytail, symbolic of her true nature."
"As you wish, Mother."
"There now, pretty pony," Hegge said as he halved a rope and wedged the loop end between Vevita's back and her arms. "I think you've been hanging long enough to keep you subdued for a while." She held her arms away from her body so the rope wouldn't burn against her skin as he pulled it through; then he passed the loose ends through the loop so that it formed a large loop around her arms. He slipped the rope up over her shoulders, so the rope wouldn't slide down her arms, then quickly wrapped the rope around her arms to create a secure harness that could bear her weight. To her surprise, Hegge didn't pull her backward-that would have forced her to arch her back, and so it would have been painful enough, but instead, he placed one of the two ropes on either side of her bead before tossing the free ends of the rope over a rafter. Now, each time he pulled the rope, it tightened a little more around her arms and elbows. As he kept pulling her upper body was forced to bend at the waist-her breasts moving closer to her knees. The ropes over her shoulders pinched and scraped against her ears as she continued to pull her arms into an increasingly painful strappado. For a moment, her body threatened to twist around, but Hegge steadied her with a practiced hand. The ropes scraped over her ears and now her arms were supporting almost all of her weight, and there was too much bend in her waist for her body to be unstable anymore.
When her arms had been wrenched far enough that her head was slightly higher than her crotch, the pressure and the blood pounding in her head slowly began to subside. The Druqs pulled a small table under her back, to help support her weight. The forward edge of the table pressed uncomfortably against her armpits. But at least the aching in her head was gone and the Druqs untied the strappado rope from the rafter. Her arms were still bound together, but they no longer supported her weight. This, of course, allowed the edge of the table to dig into her spine as the weight of her head and chest forced her back to arch toward the floor uncomfortably.
Hegge placed something cold around her neck.
He's collaring me," Vevita thought in a rising panic as she heard the latch click home.
"Stay calm, pretty pony," Hegge said as one of the other Druqs began to caress her cunt with those same magical fingers.
Even though it was humiliating, she couldn't help responding. When she was moaning in pleasure, Hegge began to turn something (that felt like a small screw). It was attached to the front of her collar and as he continued turning it, she felt something sharp pressing against the hollow of her throat. Mercifully, her skin seemed to be numb, so it wasn't as painful as the sharp end began to press against her skin, but it did itch.
"Easy now," Hegge said to calm her renewed panic. "This is the hardest part, but it will all be over very soon."
He turned the screw a little more and despite the numbness, the itching feeling began to turn into pain. She could feel the tip of the metal making a deep depression in her skin. And then, suddenly, with a sharp, jarring ache, the surface of her skin broke and she could feel important things inside her throat tearing. The pressure lessened as the needle slid inside her. Although it didn't hurt as much, she could still feel the screw moving as Hegge continued to turn it several more times; then he stopped, leaving her side. He fumbled with something at a nearby table and when he returned he placed it against the screw. The needle moved in her throat as he pushed this something against the screw. The pressure didn't really hurt anymore. Whatever was numbing her throat seemed to have done its work effectively, but the movement of the needle still tickled the inside of her throat-much the way a cold tickled just before you had to cough.
She swallowed and tried to clear her throat, hoping that she could control the urge to cough. She could feel the tip of the needle scraping unpleasantly. If she did cough, she was certain she would rip her throat to shreds.
The pressure against her crotch increased as the Druq massaging her down there seemed to sense her renewed panic and began to work her over more vigorously. A moment later she felt some liquid flowing into her throat and everywhere it touched there was a mild burning sensation
Oh fuck, Vevita thought, ponies don't talk. He's burning out my vocal cords."
"Shhh... calm down little pony," Hegge said as he stroked Vevita's cheek tenderly.
It wasn't the constant sting of the whip on her thighs, Vevita thought as tears leaked from her tightly closed eyes. It wasn't being forced to sleep while standing in her stall. It wasn't when they pierced her nipples with metal rings. It wasn't when they shaved her head, except for a little ponytail at the very top. It wasn't even when they hitched her up to a wagon and forced her to pull human riders around...
The words of the familiar story seemed to rattle around in her head.
No, it was when they took her voice and clipped the tendons in her arms, rendering them forever useless that she finally knew she would never be anything but a pony, ever again.
"Good girl," Hegge said in a soothing voice as he unbuckled her gag and removed it. "See? That wasn't so bad, and now you won't have to wear this nasty old thing anymore."
He began loosening the screw in her collar and when he'd removed it she couldn't resist tested her voice to see what if anything remained. All she could produce was a hoarse, wheezing sound. "Hush," Hegge said again. "You need to rest your throat now, so it can heal."
"You took my voice," she tried to scream. It was painful to produce so much sound, but when the words came out they were breathy and tinged with wet, red bubbles.
"Here you go," Hegge cooed softly as he began to screw something else into the hole in her collar. "This will prevent you from trying to speak until the wound heals.
Something large, round and cold pressed against her raw throat: strangely soothing and yet slightly irritating at the same time. When she swallowed, the muscles of her throat pressed firmly against hard metal for a moment before opening enough to allow her to breathe without wheezing again.
"Now I think it's time to do something about that tongue of yours. Good ponies don't try to speak, you know."
Oh shit, oh shit. Vevita thought in horror. Not my tongue!
Hegge smiled down at her, oblivious to her expression, as he used a small tweezer-like tool with pads on the ends to grip the end of her tongue.
"Nawwhh!" She pleaded.
Hegge ignored her. He took a small tool that looked like a pair of pliers, only the mouth formed a little circle which held an open ring of metal with two very sharp looking points on the ends. Pain exploded inside Vevita's head as Hegge squeezed the pliers and these points came together in the middle of her tongue, piercing it. Her eyes began to water, but before the pain had even subsided, one of the Druqs pulled on her new ring, stretching her tongue out as far as it would go, so that Hegge could place two small bits of wood around it. Each end was wrapped with a string until the sticks bit into her tongue with so much force that they hurt almost as much as the piercing hole. These sticks kept her from speaking as effectively as any gag since any attempt to move her tongue from its fully extended position was prevented by the edges of the sticks pressing against the corners of her lips.
I'm going to have big sores there soon, Vevita thought as the sticks rubbed against the corners of her mouth whenever her tongue moved.
"Now it's time to clip your wings," Hegge said. He was smearing some sort of unguent across her shoulders and around her elbows. Everywhere it touched her skin became very warm for a few moments, but then (very quickly) all sensation in her arms began to go dead.
Vevita trembled with the knowledge of what was about to happen.
Hegge took something out of his pocket. A long, simple-looking piece of metal. With a slightly hooked point on the end. He pressed the point of the tool against her shoulder and forced it under her skin with a rocking twist of his wrist. He worked it around a little until it caught on something; then he gave a little yank and all the muscles in her arms went slack. Vevita tried to move her arm muscles, but it was as if they suddenly weren't there anymore. Her arms were nothing more than weighted bags of bone and flesh hanging from her shoulders.
Chapter Eight-The Missing Rebel
Magister Egiss was on the edge of what his father used to call having a snit. It would feel really good to break something just about now, but he was an adult. He hadn't broken things in a fit of rage since he was a child.
Three days had passed since he'd seen his daughter.
If he were a more pragmatic man, he might have seen that as a blessing. He was not unaware of the tensions and difficulties his daughter brought to his life-and those around him. But despite all the bad, he still couldn't help loving her. And, perhaps even more importantly, she belonged to him. If someone had done something to her, it was an attack on him as much as it was an attack on her.
The voice of his father seemed to rattle through Egiss' head.
A man of authority cannot allow those he rules to threaten that authority by attacking him. He must respond to such threats with quick and brutal force, to nip such a rebellion in the bud.
Egiss never really liked his father much, but over the past few days he had begun to think that maybe the man wasn't a complete idiot about everything; and the longer Egiss' daughter remained missing (without any explanation) the more her disappearance felt like an attack on him-or, at the very least, on his position of authority, as magister.
An attack of this nature required a response.
But he still had no one to lash out at: hence the growing desire to throw things.
Even though he was expecting it, he almost jumped when he heard a knock at the door.
"Enter!" He snapped.
Lord Leshjo, the man he was expecting, entered first; but behind him, there was another man whom he was not expecting and didn't really want to be present, even though he was in charge of the palace guards.
"Well, Lord Leshjo?" Egiss said, "Have you located my daughter yet?"
"No, Magister Egiss, we have not," Leshjo said with a troubled expression. "Perhaps it's time we began to question people more openly about her whereabouts."
Leshjo had ordered a search, but he'd wanted it to be done quietly, so that when his Lacona was finally returned, whatever mischief she'd gotten into could be kept as quiet as possible.
"Perhaps we should search the Druq pony girl auctions," Bezault suggested with an amused grin. "We all know of her fascination with the Druquinic Wild Lands. I would suggest that she may very well have slipped away again... only this time she didn't return."
"You overstep your place," Leshjo hissed.
"No, he's right," Egiss said reluctantly. "We should check every possibility."
"If she was... captured, as Bezault suggests, it would be too soon to search for her at the auctions. We'd have better luck trying to find her at one of their training fields; we might even be able to find her before they..."
"Before they take her voice and clip her wings," Bezault said, his grin widening, even though he tried to suppress it.
That was what bothered Egiss more than Bezault's words, the smug pleasure he seemed to take at saying them. The man was definitely becoming an increasingly troublesome thorn in his side. It wasn't until he learned that Bezault was the leading contender (among Pisho's nobility) for the post of magister (which Egiss had been given instead) that he began to understand the true depth of the man's animosity, and perhaps his ambitions as well. Instead of thinking of himself as one of Egiss' advisers, Bezault (no doubt) thought of himself as a spurned rival. The only question Egiss had was, how far will the man go to get what he wants? And how far should he let the man push before he responded with an official censure?
"The auctions are easier to find," Bezault said. "The ponygirls are typically trained by the Druqs who capture them, often only one or two at a time. The auctions on the other hand will have as many as a dozen or two ponygirls. And, because their purpose is to be found, they tend to happen much closer to Pisho."
"If we wait to find her at an auction, it will already be too late to..."
"If she was captured by the Druq, it's probably far too late to bring her back already," Bezault persisted. And searching for the more elusive training fields will require more men, since the Druqs aren't known for their willingness to give up the girls they've captured, before turning them into some sort of pet."
"Do it as discreetly as possible," Egiss said, "but search the training fields. If my daughter has been captured by the Druq, I still prefer to maintain hope that she can be found before irrevocable changes are made, since I would prefer not to declare war on the Druqs."
"War!" Both Bezault and Leshjo said at the same time.
"Of course," Egiss said, "If my daughter has been taken, as you surmise, Lord Bezault, there will be consequences."
"I understand the emotions you must be feeling, Magister Egiss," Bezault said, this time without any hint of pleasure. "But declaring war on the Druqs would be... very costly. They are magical creatures and, according to the historical records, they're a lot better at waging war than they look. Not to mention that their population is deep."
"Deep?" Egiss frowned. "How deep could they be? They live in a wasteland."
"True, but Amorians are capable of increasing their numbers at will. Their pregnancies are much shorter than ours and their young mature fully in a few short years. If we attack them, they'll simply hide from us until they build up their numbers; then they'll attack when we least expect it. And they won't attack us openly, the way a human foe would. They'll attack our merchant ships in the harbor; and our trading caravans on the road. Then they'll disappear until they choose to strike again. Why do you think they haven't been eradicated already?"
"In this case, Magister Egiss, I'm afraid that Lord Bezault is right. "Not only would such a war be costly militarily, but the economic consequences would be devastating as well."
Egiss frowned. This was one of the few times he could remember the two men being in agreement.
"I'm sure you're aware that their ponygirls are... highly prized on other isles. Yet the Druq sell them to us for a pittance of what they're worth. Which means that we do a brisk trade, which is highly profitable."
"I admit," Egiss said, "that I do not fully understand the consequences of declaring war."
"Another reason why a local should have been appointed as magister," Bezault muttered.
"I'll expect both of you to educate me further on this subject, but I warn you now. If the Druq have taken my daughter, there will be consequences. Whether we go to actual war or not; such an attack on my person can not go without some sort of punitive response."
"It's your daughter's own fault she was caught," Bezault said. "The Druq take barely a hundred or so girls a year, and usually only those they find in their own lands."
"It's my land!" Egiss corrected. "I permit them to live on it."
Leshjo cleared his throat. "Let's not forget that the Druq also buy nearly a thousand girls each year from farmers who couldn't afford to keep their farms running without that extra source of income. Take that away from them and you'll have a dearth of poor and unhappy peasants, itching to call in an imperial inquisition."
"We could import food in exchange for the magic we take from the Druqs during battle." Egiss countered.
"Except, my lord, the Druqs don't use easily accessible external magic, like most of the other Amorian races. Their magic is strictly internal."
"They may draw their power from the land," Bezault counted.
"This is not an academic question," Leshjo snapped. "My point is that there's nothing we can take from them, as a spoil of war. They don't even have much in terms of other material belongings. Other than the pony girls they currently have in stock, the Druqs won't have anything we can exchange for food."
"If you can think of another way to punish them," Egiss said, "I will consider it. But, as I said, I won't let such an aggression go completely unpunished. They took my daughter; there has to be a consequence."
"But my lord..."
"Enough! I've made my decision. If you want another outcome, then find my daughter."
Leshjo bowed reluctantly in acceptance. "So I have your permission to search more vigorously?" he asked.
"You do?" Egiss said.
"And you want me to search the pony training fields," Bezault added.
"I suggest you do so vigorously," Egiss said, "since you obviously want to avoid a military conflict with the Druqs."
Chapter Nine-Pony Training
Are you happy now? Vevita asked.
At least that's what Lacona thought she was asking. Perhaps it was just that she felt guilty about what had become of them because she couldn't be sure those were the words Vevita was saying. What she actually said sounded a lot more like, "hah hu heehee hohh whee?" And yet Lacona was pretty sure she'd just asked if Lacona was happy, now that she'd turned them both into ponies.
Lacona didn't try to answer. She turned her head away, ignoring her former serving girl. This childish behavior seemed almost as foolish as continuing to think of Vevita as her slave-but not quite as foolish as Vevita's persistent attempts to keep talking. Like Lacona, Vevita's tongue was trapped between two sticks, and she could see that the attempts to talk were turning the corners of her mouth into open sores.
Maybe she's trying to kill herself? Lacona thought.
Well good for her. A little infection might just rob these little beasts of their booty.
Lacona was too depressed at the moment to make such a valiant effort. And, unlike Vevita, she didn't have any reason to blame their situation on the person hanging from the pony frame beside her. So she didn't have any motivation to keep trying to overcome the damage that had been done by the throat piercing; or the limitations imposed by the tongue gag. The point being that it was pointless to cause herself pain, trying to do the impossible. Like her arms, her voice had been rendered completely incapable of performing its intended function.
The Druqs carefully raised her head up at frequent intervals, so the blood rushing to her head didn't do any permanent damage. At least not enough to prevent her from functioning effectively as a mindless ponygirl. Often, the Druqs didn't even let them down from the hanging frame, they just pulled their heads upward using another rope, until their heads were about even with their navels. Between these rest periods, however, Lacona's face had plenty of time to turn red as the blood rushed back into her head.
And now, once again, she and Vevita were hanging from their feet. It was obviously one of the Druqs favorite positions. This time, they'd left her hanging even longer than usual, and she was pretty sure her cheeks were bright red as a result.
Who would have thought something as simple as hanging upside down could be so oppressive and unpleasant?
In fact, the pressure was becoming nearly unbearable; not to mention that it made trying to think coherently very difficult. Maybe that was why Vevita kept acting so irrationally, trying to speak and all. The one thing Lacona knew for certain was that she was hoping the little Druqs would come back soon. She hadn't thought she would ever miss them, given that each time they returned they introduced her to new and different kinds of pain. But the pressure in her head was pounding at her temples like a sledgehammer
Maybe that's the whole point of letting us hang for so long.
"Hie hooh uh ot hu ho ho heeh, huh hu wuhuh hisheh." Vevita said as she rubbed her bound breasts against Lacona's flatter chest. Like her mouth, Vevita didn't seem to be bothered by the discomfort the act was surely causing her. Apparently, it was more important to grab Lacona's attention so that she'd finally pay attention to her inane rambling. Lacona refused to rise to the bait and steadfastly continued to ignore her.
It did make Lacona aware of the one difference between them and for once, Lacona was actually glad she didn't have larger breasts. Hers had not been bound because they weren't big enough to get a hold of any real flesh. Since there was not enough fat to loop the rope around, it had been impossible for the Druqs to bind her breasts with rope so, unlike Vevita, her mammary glands had not been turned into two large red balloons of flesh.
Now that their arms had been clipped, their arms were no longer tied loosely behind their backs at the wrists. Instead, they were bound in tight little squares, with plenty of rope around their waist to anchor their dead arms in place. They were no longer blindfolded either, and she wasn't sure if that was a blessing or a curse. She no longer had to wonder what if anything was going to happen to her next-but on the other hand, it allowed her to see the empty landscape that stretched for miles and miles around them. Other than the sand and small, dead-looking desert plants, there was nothing outside of the A-frame they were hanging from and the small tents the Druqs had retired to once the work of mutilating their captives was done.
The ball gag she'd once worn had been replaced with the unpleasant tongue gag-which was so tight that Lacona's tongue had begun to feel numb a long time ago. Vevita's hair had been tied back in a ponytail just as the one called Mother Munsil had requested; while her own hair was surely cut short and choppy. She couldn't see it to be sure it was choppy, but it was definitely short.
Otherwise, aside from the ropes around their ankles and the collar around their throats, they were both completely naked.
And we're both completely helpless.
That fact seemed to explain something that Lacona had wondered about quite often when she saw the way the Druqs and their pony girls interacted, for the ponies seemed to be emotionally attached to their Druqs in a way that didn't seem reasonable. She'd always wondered how they could feel that way, but now, hanging from this A-frame and knowing that every drop of water or bite of food she ate from now on depended entirely on the Druqs, she was beginning to understand how the ponies could act that way. She wasn't sure what she'd be willing to do for the Druqs at this moment if they would just let her down, but she was sure it would be rather substantial.
Vevita wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed when she finally heard the flap of a tent opening. The Druqs came out and walked towards her with determined expressions. There were three of them. One was bald, making her large ears seem even larger. The second was Hegge, who seemed to be a male. It was hard to be certain since his body didn't seem all that different from the others-except that his chest had a more masculine seeming shape. The third one was the one Hegge had referred to as Mother Munsil. Her large breasts and bushy hair made her seem slightly more feminine than the other two, but mostly they all just looked alien. Like little beasts eager to do mischief.
"They definitely look ready to come down," Hegge said.
Munsil grinned as she unceremoniously slipped her finger into Vevita's cunt and pumped vigorously a few times. "Is that right?" she asked. "Is my pretty pony ready to come down and play?"
As always, Vevita couldn't help responding, almost instantly, to a Druq's scintillating touch. It maddened her, the way her body reacted, but she couldn't help it.
"Tell me you're ready," Munsil commanded.
The only way Vevita could think to do that was to give a reluctant nod. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Lacona doing the same thing; and a moment later they were both being let down. Hegge didn't bother to let Vevita down easy. Instead, he let her drop quickly for about two feet. At the last moment, Vevita arched her back so that she landed on her face and breasts instead of the crown of her head. That might have been a mistake: dirt coated her tongue before she could twist her head to the side, but once the weight was off her ankles, it seemed to amuse Hegge to lower her much more slowly, as if he knew just how uncomfortable it was to have her back arched so much.
The bald Druq couldn't leave Vevita alone. As Hegge lowered her the rest of the way, baldy climbed up on Vevita's legs and sat on her ass, as if it were a seat; she caressed the lips of Vevita's crotch as she rode her all the way down. When Vevita was lying on the ground, one of the Druqs cut the ropes from around her ankle. It felt good to move her legs freely for a change, at least until the blood began to flow again and her feet were filled with pins and needles. One of the Druqs slipped something onto her feet: soft leather shoes, obviously designed to protect her feet; while another attached something to one side of the tongue gag. The Druq on her back was lashing something to Lacona's shoulders, using a rope.
"Time to get up little pony," Munsil said. Vevita realized the Druq was kneeling beside her head when she felt its fingers combing through her hair. It felt wonderful to have the Druq touching her, even when it wasn't somewhere embarrassing. She remembered her mother touching her hair like that when she was just a little girl. "On your feet," Munsil ordered. She was still petting Vevita's head, but from the tone of her voice, there was no question that she expected her command to be followed.
Vevita wasn't sure how she was going to do it, but she knew she had to at least try. If she didn't, something unpleasant would soon follow and she desperately wanted to keep the Druqs doing nice things-like touching her hair. So she struggled to get her feet beneath her. She felt as foolish as a fish flopping around on dry land, as she toppled over a few times before managing to get her knees firmly planted on the ground. Without her arms, it was difficult to maneuver her body, but from her three-point stance (2 knees and her head) she was able to get one foot beneath her. She felt weak and wobbly and foolish as she rose to her feet, staggering for a few moments before finally regaining her balance.
"The newborn stands," Hegge beamed with pride.
For some reason, his attitude seemed contagious and Vevita found herself grinning back at him with a strange feeling of accomplishment.
"Are you ready to run?" Hegge asked.
Vevita nodded her head-and the movement felt strangely horse-like. She was anxious, but she thought it would actually feel good to get the blood flowing by using her legs again. When Hegge used her arms and the ropes holding them in place to climb up on her back, she was only slightly surprised when he sat down on something that felt like a modified saddle. He was so light that she barely felt his weight.
"Let's go," he said, pointing his finger ahead.
And Vevita began to run. She paced herself since she realized that she'd probably be running for quite a while, but it was fast enough to create a wind that whipped the tiny strands of hair that weren't caught up in her ponytail back out of her face.
Hegge whooped in delight and his exuberance seemed strangely contagious, as Vevita picked up the pace a little-until the ground seemed to rush by under her feet.
"You too," Munsil said. She walked over to Lacona, pressing the toe of her shoe against one of Lacona's ribs as she lay on her side, unmoved by the Druq's command.
Munsil smiled down at her and then walked over to the A-frame where Lacona had been hanging and took a small wand-like object from the hook where it was hanging. It was basically a long piece of polished wood, with an organic-looking bur on the end. The green spines didn't look particularly dangerous; in fact, they looked sort of soft and spongy. Despite her misgivings about the object, Lacona refused to give in just because Munsil threatened her with some strange looking training device. How painful can it be anyway, she thought, scowling as the Druq approached her with it.
"A pony's sole purpose in life is to obey her owner," Munsil said as she jabbed the spiky end against Lacona's hip. Where it touched her skin, there was a slight prickling feeling. She snorted at the feeling with amusement. She was right, the spiky thing really didn't hurt much at all. "The skilled pony trainer's purpose," Munsil said as she dragged the bur up across Lacona's ribs, "is to make her ponies understand this new fact of life."
Everywhere the bur touched there was a tingling feeling that didn't go away. And the longer it tingled, the more the feeling turned into something unpleasant: a burning itch that was slowly becoming more and more maddening. "Come on, I know you can do it," Munsil said. The Druq was dragging the bur across her stomach now and Lacona knew it wouldn't be wise to hold out much longer. "If not, I'll turn you loose in the paddock and let the wild drones turn you into breeding stock. You might actually like that better: running wild in a herd, with an Amorian drone and his monster cock as your stallion."
It was maddening to have to give in to the little creature's whims, but finally, she couldn't take the build-up of itching anymore. Rocking forward, with her legs crossed in front of her, she stood up in one fluid movement. Her head was still reeling a little from all the hanging upside down, so she staggered a little. It made her feel like a newborn colt getting to her feet for the first time. She managed not to stumble around quite as much as Vevita had, which pleased her a little.
"Good girl," Munsil said, hugging Lacona's leg as if it were a small child who'd done something wonderful. "I knew you could do it. You'll make such a good pony, once you learn to let go and stop resisting.
Munsil was stroking her with those magical fingers and everywhere they touched the itching calmed down and receded. There was also something hypnotic about her voice. Emotionally, it would be so easy to make life easier for herself and her trainer. But there was still that proud and rebellious side that refused to give in too easily. Watching Vevita give-in to the Druq's magical touch had made Lacona feel superior as if it proved that she'd been right to turn Vevita into a ponygirl because it was clearly in her nature all along. Lacona knew she'd have to give in eventually, but she wanted to at least struggle enough to distinguish herself from Vevita.
Most of her skin was still itching ferociously from where the bur had touched her. But, even if it caused her a lot of extra discomfort, Lacona didn't plan on making it easy for her trainer. As if to prove this, she took a step away from Munsil and jerked her head against the rope the Druq was holding.
"That's it," Munsil smiled. "I love breaking in spirited ponies; they're so much more fun. And once you've gained their trust, they usually make a more reliable mount. So give me all the spirit you can muster, my pretty one. Just remember that every bubble you blow will eventually pop. And I don't think you're going to like it when they do."
"Humrmrr!" Lacona growled, letting the sound rumble deep in her throat.
"You're not regretting being bold already are you?"
Lacona tugged against the ropes again, just to prove that she wasn't; and this time she actually managed to drag Munsil a few steps before the Druq managed to pull her to a stop.
Munsil tied Lacona's lead rope to the same A-frame she'd been hanging from earlier. "I'll be back with reinforcements," she said, giving Lacona a hard slap on the ass.
Fifteen minutes later, she returned with a couple of young Druqs to help her.
Lacona wasn't sure why she thought they were younger. They weren't any smaller, their faces weren't pudgy and their voices weren't any higher. But they did seem surprisingly eager to help-and the way they hopped around just made them seem younger.
Munsil didn't say anything. She just attached 2 new lengths of rope to the sticks holding Lacona's tongue in place. Then she gave one of the ropes to each of the new Druqs. They took positions slightly behind and to either side of Lacona.
Munsil cracked her whip against Lacona's back and she jumped forward, more out of startlement than real pain. When she stopped moving ahead, Munsil cracked the whip again and again; and each time the whip landed on the same place, it became more painful. Finally, Lacona began to move forward without stopping, while Munsil and the younger Druqs ran along behind her.
"Left!" Munsil ordered.
When Lacona didn't respond, the Druq on her left pulled on the rope attached to the left side of the sticks that held her tongue. This pulled the sticks back, forcing them to rub slightly against the left corner of her mouth as her head was pulled to the left. It was surprisingly hard not to angle slightly to the left when her head was being pulled in that direction.
"Left!' Munsil ordered again.
This time Lacona tried to respond but she wasn't fast enough to keep the Druq from yanking on the rope, and this time the Druq pulled hard enough to make her head snap a little. The sticks rubbing at the corner of her mouth wasn't really painful, but Lacona knew that if she didn't start taking this training seriously, it wouldn't be long before the sticks had rubbed two little sores-and then each pull of the rope would become quite painful indeed.
She tried to avoid the next pull by anticipating, but she moved left when Munsil ordered right, making the counter pull even stronger.
"Ugh!" Lacona screamed in frustration.
"Just listen to the sound of my voice," Munsil cooed in her soothing voice. "Don't try to anticipate. Sagwain and Deispel will give you a little more time, now that they know you're willing to try. But don't slack off or lose focus, because they're still not going to tolerate any hesitation. Now pick up the pace a little," Munsil said as the whip cracked against Lacona's back again. "You've got to learn to listen, even when you're working hard."
When Vevita finally returned to the Druq training camp (after her long, wild run) her legs felt a little wobbly. Her body was slick with sweat; the strands of her hair were plastered against her forehead. So she was looking forward to finally getting to rest for a spell.
Hegge guided her over to a small stone trough filled with water. It was positioned about waist high, and to reach the cool water she had to lean over, her hips pressing against a thick horizontal bar. But she did so eagerly, sucking the liquid into her parched throat.
"Easy girl," Hegge cooed as he jumped down from his perch on her back. "Drink slowly, you don't want to make yourself sick." He was rubbing something over her legs-and between them-and everywhere the ointment touched, her skin began to tingle fiercely. "In case you're wondering," he said, "The ointment I'm using is a little unguent that Munsil likes to call War Balm. It's made with the dust of HealStones. The rendered fat of a Golden Badger is the ideal medium for allowing the skin to absorb the dust, so that it can work its healing magic."
As Hegge massaged her legs, Vevita's muscles began to hum with warmth. It was a strange feeling, but not entirely unpleasant.
"The salve feels warm, doesn't it? That's the healing you're feeling. If I were using an actual HealStone on an actual wound, your skin would appear to bubble and the healing process would be quite painful. Exhaustion is a sort of injury too, although far less serious, of course. Also, the dust isn't nearly as powerful as an actual HealStone, but Munsil says the same thing is happening, only on a smaller scale. And that's why it feels warm."
As he continued to massage her legs, the tingling began to fade, and soon Vevita's legs felt surprisingly solid and strong again. It was almost as if her muscles (which had been near exhaustion only a few moments before) had been completely revived. In fact, they felt better than they had before she began to run.
"The ointment can help the body heal minor wounds in just a few seconds. But for our purposes today, the ointment has a far more important effect: by rejuvenating your exhausted muscles, it allows you to run again. This, in turn, will make you a very strong runner in a much shorter amount of time."
Hegge dipped a small cup into the water trough and held it up to Vevita's lips. He grinned his approval at her as he lovingly scratched her head. "Looks like you're ready to go some more." He said.
She gave him a reluctant snort of acceptance and didn't try to fight him when he slipped the lasso end of a long rope over her head.
"I wanted to take you for a long run, to see what you're made of," Hegge said. "But now it's time to build up your stamina by running in a circle. I'm going to run you until you're close to exhaustion several times today, and each time I'm going to use the War Balm to revive your muscles."
"Uhhgh!" Vevita groaned.
"Don't worry, since this is your first day, I'll only do this three or four times. But as your training progresses and you get stronger, the time between applying the balm will increase, as will the number of times you'll be run to exhaustion. When you can carry a rider and still run all day without using any War Balm, your training will be finished.
"Now off you go," He slapped her on the ass and gave her a gentle shove
Vevita didn't wait around for Hegge to use the whip he was holding. She took off at a pace that was brisk, but not too quick to maintain for several minutes.
The sun was beating down, baking Lacona's skin just as it burned the plants that were trying to grow out of the cracks in the parched ground. Like the plants, she continued to exist despite the nearly unbearable conditions she found herself in. Despite feeling wilted and worn, she was unable to simply lie down and die.
In the distance, she could see Hegge running Vevita around in circles.
Lacona wasn't sure whether to be thankful or envious that she wasn't in her former serving girl's place. Vevita had been kept running for hours and hours on end, while she hadn't really been run at all. That didn't mean she wasn't tired, of course. She'd been on her feet for hours and she was beginning to stagger a little in the hot sun.
She wasn't sure how Vevita had managed to keep going-but she thought Hegge was giving her something that revived her spirits from time to time. Lacona wasn't receiving anything like that and her legs had grown quite weary.
"Right!" Munsil barked and even though she wasn't really paying attention Lacona found herself moving right, without even realizing it. The meaning of the word didn't even register for several seconds after she'd already moved.
Part of her was thankful that her head wasn't being yanked back and forth like it had been before she learned to respond this way. It would not have surprised her if the corners of her mouth were bleeding; they were definitely worn raw. And yet, there was another part of her that found her unthinking reaction rather irritating. Munsil was conditioning Lacona to obey the sound of her voice without stopping to think about what she was being ordered to do; and unfortunately, it seemed to be working. This was only her first day, and already she was responding to the conditioning-although her mouth had certainly paid a heavy price before her brain finally began to catch on.
I'm the rebellious one, she thought. Just like Little Rebell. That's why they're training me to obey. The thought made her feel sick. Not because it was true, but because it was a lie to think of herself as rebellious. It was only her first day and already she was tame, as helpless as a newborn kitten. What will I be like after she's been training me for a week? Or a month?