The Sacrifice

- by Xaltatun of Acheron

Copyright 2002 by Xaltatun of Acheron (A Pseudonym). All rights reserved. This may be posted on any free access web site, provided this notice and all identification is retained. For purposes of this notice, any site requring registration of any form, or employing any form of tracking customers is not a free access site. Any other use will require written permission, including payment.

All persons, places and events in this story are completely fictitious. No resemblance to any people, places or events is intended, except for purposes of parody.

This story is part of a series, which currently contains two stories:

1. The Sacrifice.

2. The Contest.

This contains adult themes, including nudity and ponygirl bondage. If you are under the age of consent in your community, or if such things bother you, please go elsewhere. This isn’t for you.


Tania strained against her bonds, grunting slightly with the effort. The guard standing negligently on her left gave her a backhand swat, never taking his eyes off the two men standing working in the middle of the room. She let out a gasp, more for effect than from the blow, and tried squirming another way to see if there was any more slack in the ropes holding her stretched out on the table.

The two men, meanwhile, completely ignored their beautiful captive as they gave the geometric designs inscribed on the marble floor a last detailed inspection. Finally they stood up straight. “Everything’s ready” said the tall, thin one.

“Seems like it, Frank,” replied the squatter brunette. “Let’s get started.” He waved at the guards, and they walked away from the table, being very careful to put their feet in the locations they had been taught.

The first one stepped carefully into one of the circles, and opened the massive book standing on the lectern to a carefully marked page. Meanwhile, the shorter man stepped into the circle surrounding the table supporting the pinioned blonde, and took up the knife from between her legs.

Frank began reading from the book in a long, sonorous voice as his companion walked around the staring woman and began a very shallow cut just under one breast over the heart.

“Now why are you doing that?” a voice asked with a touch of worldly-wise bored curiosity from behind them.

Both men straightened up and turned around as if they were on strings, the executioner dropping his knife as he turned, not noticing that it scribed a neat line of red against the alabaster skin in a place he had not intended to cut.

“I’m… We’re…” the first man stammered as the apparition walked over the lines and looked at the book from the back.

“The Necronomicon of Albull Alhazred,” he said, with somewhat of a laugh. “That man had an impressive imagination. Totally faked, of course.”

“Faked?” the tall man sounded shocked. “But we were assured…”

“Yeah, right. That and a quart of holy water will get you wet.” He paused. “As long as I’m here,” he walked over to the sacrificial stone, and poked the girl in the ribs. “She hasn’t expired from fright yet, I see.”

“Expired from fright?”

“She could hardly die laughing while she’s gagged like that,” he responded with a touch of amusement. The object of his comment glared at him from above the red ball bound into her mouth. “Still got some spirit left. I like that, girl,” he said as he rolled one nipple between thumb and forefinger. She let out a squeak.

“So what did you think you were doing?”

“Summoning a demon,” the first man had regained a bit of aplomb. “But you were supposed to materialize there.” He pointed at a circle with a very ornate pentagram inscribed inside. The candles on each point were still sputtering.

“Oh, there,” said the apparition. “Seems like wasted effort to me.” He looked at the tall man curiously. “You don’t seem to know that demons don’t exist.”

“But…” the man sputtered again.

“You begin to bore me. I’m an elf, of course. What your kind calls a dark elf.”

“A dark elf?”

“Must you repeat what I’m saying?” The elf twitched one of his long, pointed ears as a demonstration. “Let’s make this short. What do you have to offer me?”

“Offer?” the man collected his wits. “The girl over there is yours.”

“Of course. She’s my consulting fee,” the elf smiled, showing long canines. “She might be amusing before she breaks. What I meant was,” he continued in a slightly menacing tone, “what do you have to offer so I let you go? I can have five times the fun with five of you that I can have with one.”

“Our souls?”

“Oh, come on now. If you had any such things, they’d already be mortgaged - assuming there was anyone who’d want them. I’m interested in what you can do for me in the world.”

“What do you want done?”

“The usual. Murder, mayhem, wars, disasters. A few terrorist attacks might be amusing.”

“I don’t understand,” the tall man said.

“I’m sure you don’t,” said the elf. “Mortals, most fragile. You weren’t here a few million years ago, and you’re going to vanish back into the dust shortly. I want some fun playing with you while you’re here.” He smiled lazily like a cat. “What do you do for amusement? Start with what you expected to accomplish by summoning a demon.”

“We wanted a ponygirl ranch. Someplace to play where we wouldn’t be bothered with police.”

“The law and order types are so tiresome, aren’t they? What’s a ponygirl? Just think about it,” He looked at them and then laughed. “Amazing,” he said. “You really are creative, aren’t you?” He gave them another smile, showing his canines. “That interests me. I can do that. A few square kilometers should do nicely for what you have in mind.” He mused. Then he brightened. “Your job is to find enough people to make it work. I’ll take care of the meddlers. Meanwhile,” he walked over to the girl still stretched out on the black stone block, “let’s see how well you train up. You should like doing something useful - for a change.” He waved his hand, and the ropes holding her parted with a sodden thud. She came off the block in a rush, and ran straight into a dazzling light. When it cleared, she had vanished without a trace.

“Ta, ta,” the elf said. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” He waved one perfectly manicured hand languidly, and vanished silently away.

Chapter 1. Capture and Disposition

The nude girl appeared suddenly in the middle of a pleasant grassy lawn. She tried moving, and discovered that she seemed to be surrounded by an invisible cylinder of something that kept her tightly confined to the spot. It pressed in on the back of her arms, molding them her hips. She made a few muffled sounds around her gag, which were promptly absorbed by the barrier around her, although she couldn’t know that. After all, the birdcalls and other noises came through perfectly.

She struggled a moment, trying to maneuver her hands and arms up toward her face. She had managed to work them up around her waist, and was attempting to get them above her breasts, which were crushed against the invisible barrier, when Grand Duke Abkonarkion suddenly appeared in front of her, causing her to attempt to jump. Of course, it didn’t work because her torso was held fast, the flattened mounds of her breasts pushing her back and shoulders into the invisible cylinder enclosing her.

“Well,” he said, “let’s take care of the formalities.” The red ball vanished from her mouth, which shut with a snap.

“Let me out of here,” she gasped.

“Why?” he asked in an amused tone. “You want to be let out of our agreement?”

“What agreement?” she responded.

“The one that happened when you were kidnapped, of course,” he said, even more amused.

“I did not agree to be kidnapped,” she practically snarled.

“Oh, but you did,” he said, holding up a hand to forestall further argument. “Let me explain something to you. The High King does not allow us to interfere with you mortals unless you agree. When the High King decrees something, it happens. I may disagree with him, but what he wants, happens. I am no more capable of violating his commands than the Sun is of rising in the West. Since you are here, you obviously agreed.”

“But,” she sputtered, wide-eyed. “There was no contract.”

“Of course there was,” he gave her a wolfish grin. “Do you recognize this?” He held the piece of paper that had just materialized in front of her.

She pushed her head forward a bit to look at it closely. “Of course. It’s the End User License Agreement for our software.”

“How many of your customers read that gibberish?” he asked.

“Almost none.”

“And you still consider them bound by it?”

“Uh…” she recognized the trap.

“You’re taking advantage of them,” he gave her a wide, tooth-filled smile. “The High King has decreed that we must treat you at least as well as you treat your fellow mortals. You take advantage of them, we can take advantage of you.”

She closed her eyes a moment.

“Praying won’t help either.”

Her eyes flew open.

“Your god has already told you the rules. Treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s right in your holy books. It’s not going to bail you out.”

“But,” her eyes stared at him out of a pale face.

“Think about it while you’re learning how to act like a horse,” he said as he turned away.

Three more elves had appeared in the meadow while this conversation was occurring. Seeing that their liege had finished with his captive, the tallest one bowed slightly. “Your desire, my lord Duke?”

“This mortal is to be trained to act in all ways like a horse.” He turned to the youngest of the three. “Kapardinov, she belongs to you. See that she’s trained properly. Take your time.”

“How would I do that, lord?” the youngest of the elves blurted.

“You’ll think of something,” the Duke said, dismissively. “Just so it’s like what one of her mortal captors would have done.” He considered a moment. “I want her to know exactly what’s happening to her as it happens. Don’t break her spirit. I want her to be a perfectly obedient, but feisty pony when you’re done. You can, of course, use magic to improve her a bit. More stamina.” He looked at the girl imprisoned in the invisible cage. She cringed back in shock. “Maybe a tail. Pointed ears and a mane.” The Duke stopped talking. He was obviously finished.

“As you command, my lord Duke,” the young elf gulped. He bowed deeply and walked over to look at the rigidly upright girl, fuming a bit as he looked. “Might as well get on with it. Look like a girl, act like a horse. This is going to be amusing!” He reached through the spell holding her upright and stroked her back, slowly from shoulders to waist. After a few strokes, she began to relax. He continued for a few more strokes, and then stepped back, looking at her thoughtfully. The other three elves moved off a ways, deep in conversation.

“Arms,” he mused. “Horses don’t have arms. Centaurs do, but my Lord didn’t say anything about turning her into one of those stuck-up beasts. Well, we’ll just have to compromise.” He reached back into the magical cage and began stroking her shoulders and arms. She let them fall to her sides; not noticing that the close confinement she had been enduring relaxed to allow them to move easily. He brought her elbows back, and spoke a word. A rope appeared, bound snugly around her arms, just above the elbows, joining them. “Arms up, girl,” he said. She obediently brought her arms up and he spoke another word. Another rope appeared, tying her hands together in front of her. He walked around her, inspecting the bondage as she craned her head, trying to keep him in sight.

“Let’s take her to the stable next,” he told himself. He snapped his fingers again, and a knotted rope appeared in his hand. He twisted it around a bit, and held it in front of her head. “Put your head in the bridle,” he crooned. “That’s a goo...”

“Not on your fucking life, you bastard,” she practically spat at him, pulling her head back as far as the magical cylinder allowed.

“My lord did say spirited,” the elf grinned at her. “I see you can obey orders.” She looked at him confusedly. He reached around and began stroking her, taking his time and working her flanks until she let out her breath in a sigh, and melted into the strokes.

“Let’s try that again, girl,” he said, holding out the rope halter once more. She tried to back away, shaking her head.

“Very good,” he praised her, scratching behind her ears. “That’s exactly what a horse would do to escape the bridle. Now just come on, bring your head up a bit, that’s a good girl,” as she looked at the bridle. She sighed and stuck her head forward. He pulled the halter around her head, and tightened the rope under her chin.

“Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asked as she shook her head from side to side, trying to shake it off.

He gave the bridle a tug, and she staggered forward a step, discovering that the invisible wall that had confined her for so long had vanished. The elf walked on, rope coiled in one hand, as the girl followed him. They arrived at a gravel path on one edge of the meadow.

“Ow, that hurts!” the ponygirl exclaimed as her feet hit the gravel.

The elf stopped and turned around. “Your feet?” He picked up one of her feet as she teetered on one leg and looked at the sole. “No callus, I see. Well, my lord did say I could improve you a bit, and I don’t see how you’re going to do very well around here with foot problems.” So saying, he tossed his end of the bridle rope over a convenient branch, and stepped back, as the girl rocked back and forth, trying to keep the sharp gravel from further abusing her tender feet.

“Let’s see if I remember how to do this,” the elf muttered to himself. He whistled tunelessly for a moment, and then waved his hands in the air. Something very like a heat shimmer fell out of his hands, wafted across the space and wrapped itself around the ’girl’s legs. They blurred for a moment, and then the shimmer vanished.

The girl looked down. “I’ve got hooves!” she exclaimed in horror.

“Pretty nice ones, too” the elf grinned. “One of my better spells, if I do say so myself. I’ll have the farrier shoe you later.”

He walked over and stroked one of her thighs. She raised her leg, and he brought the hoof up to where he could inspect it. She teetered again on one leg while he stroked the fine, thick horsehair that grew from just below her knee all the way down to her ankle. He traced the bones in what had been her ankle, and noticed that they would have arched her foot cruelly if they had still been human feet; which, of course, they weren’t.

He backed up, and noticed one other thing as he took the lead rope from the tree. She was about half a foot taller. “Well, longer legs make for a better runner,” he said as he stroked her long, silky hair. “Come on.”

Chapter 2. Interlude on the Path, with a Fairy

The elf led the ’girl down the gravel path. She staggered a bit, getting used to her new height and the way her hooves came down on the ground. As they went on, her gait improved until she was walking comfortably behind him, lead rope not quite tense, but not drooping either.

A large butterfly soared into sight and circled the pair lazily. “Hey, Karp, what have you got here?” the butterfly said as she settled onto his shoulder. “Tormenting the mortals again?”

Once the butterfly settled, it became clear that it wasn’t an insect at all; it was a fairy. The fairy was about four inches tall from head to toes, and looked like a cross between a preying mantis and a dragonfly, although not really much like either one.

“Oh, hello, Flitter. The Duke wants her trained as a pony. I’m still thinking about what I want to do with her.”

“Pony? Her?” The fairy laughed, a high, tinkling sound like falling water. She lifted off of the elf’s shoulder and flew back to the tethered girl. She lit on the girl’s shoulder, and peered into her ear. “Hey, Karp,” she called. “I can’t see through.” She lifted off again and flew around the girl. “She’s got a nice set of hooves, but fauns don’t quite look like that?”

“She’s not a faun,” the elf laughed. “She’s a mortal. I gave her hooves because her feet hurt on the gravel.”

“So why’s she here?” the fairy asked.

“The Duke brought her and gave her to me to train. How she fell into his clutches I haven’t any idea. I suppose I’ll find out in time.”

“Hey, a mystery!” the fairy warbled. “This ought to be fun!” She vanished in a trail of sparks, which drifted off on the slight breeze.

“She could just ask,” the dazed girl muttered under her breath as she walked along after the elf.

One of the elf’s ears twitched, and he stopped and turned around. “You said something?”

“Uh, yes, sir,” she replied, looking scared.

“Horses,” he said flatly, “don’t talk. You will learn horse speak. Understand?”

“Huh?” she said.

“Whinny when you want to agree with me. Like this,” he gave a passable whinny. She tried. “Again.” She tried again. About the fourth time, she managed something that sounded somewhat like a horse – on a very bad day.

“That’ll do for now,” he said. “You’ll improve with practice.” He stroked her under the chin a moment, and then stepped away and put his hands on his hips.

“You know,” he said as if to himself, “There have been times when I’ve kind of wished my horses could talk. Not,” he said directly to his captive, “very many times. When it’s something a horse could say, you will say it the way a horse says it. When it’s something a horse couldn’t say, then you can speak. Just remember, horses can be very expressive creatures. Watch them and learn.” He turned on his heel and tugged on the rope, jerking her out of her daze. In a moment, the pair was walking further down the path, the ponygirl keeping her lead rope comfortably tight.

Chapter 3. Saddle and Bridle

The path emptied out into a clearing filled with horses and elves. A large stable occupied one side. A pause rippled through the activity as the elves noticed the bound girl being led by her halter.

Two older elves walked over as the activity picked up again.

“My lord Abxardov, Stablemaster,” the young elf gave a half bow, as his captive looked on curiously, the shadow of a smile playing around her mouth.

“So this is the newest addition to our stables,” said the stablemaster. He reached out a hand and she shied away. “Steady there, girl.” She took a deep breath and relaxed in place. “Your kind is new to the stables. Never fear, we’ll get you straightened away.” He gave her a measuring look. “I’ve got just the stall for you.” She shied away again, eyes wide. He gave a slow grin, and stroked her face with the back of his hand until she settled down.

Lord Abxardov cleared his throat, and both elves turned to look at him. “The Duke has told me what he plans. For the moment,” he looked at the young elf, “all you need to be concerned with is that this filly is yours. I presume you’ll learn everything else under the fig tree. All the Duke wants is that you train her and put her to use – as a horse.”

“Put her to use?” said the young elf. He brightened. “I wonder how she’d do as a saddle pony? I’d probably have to make some changes…” he mused.

The noble elf laughed. “That would be splendid. She’d certainly turn better than a regular horse. In fact…” he mused. “Well,” he straightened up, “let’s leave that until we see how well your filly turns out.”

“Well, I’m done here,” he said to both of them. He turned on his heel, mounted his magnificent black stallion, and rode off down the path, back to the Duke’s palace.

The stablemaster chuckled under his breath. “Well, lad, if you’re going to be riding her, we need some tack.” He walked away. The young elf tugged on his new mount’s lead rope and followed him.

“You’re going to do what?” the harness maker said, looking askance at the ’girl. “You want a saddle so you can ride her?” He shook his head as he examined the ponygirl. “Well, her legs certainly look sturdy enough, but her back? You’re not thinking of riding her shoulders?”

“No,” the elf said. “I don’t think it would be stable enough. I was thinking of a saddle on her lower back, just over the hips.”

 “You’d fall over backwards, unless…” the harness maker said. He put a gnarled hand on her belly, and another one on her back. “Bend over, filly.” He pushed her over until her torso was horizontal.

“No, that’s not going to work. Up a bit, girl, that’s good.” He got her up to halfway, and then walked around her, looking.

“That might just work if we put her arms somewhere else.”

“You could just leave them untied, sir” the ponygirl said into the sudden silence.

“Horses don’t have hands,” the harness maker said in a tone of finality. “Also, they don’t talk.”

“I’m not a horse, sir,” she pointed out. “I can’t keep you from treating me like one, I suppose, but if my rider, there, wants to get some use out of me, he really should think about that.”

“What would you use hands for while you’re being ridden?” The harness maker sounded like he’d made a point.

“Balance,” she said.

“Well, let’s try it,” said the young elf. He untied her arms, and watched her rub the sore spots from the ropes. “Up here, I think.” He guided her arms until they were folded against the side of her body, elbows tucked in and framing her breasts. “Keep them there unless you’ve got something to do with them.”

“We could tie them,” said the older elf.

The younger elf looked at his unusual steed. “Maybe. Let’s see how it works, first.”

“Now let’s see what I’ve got.” He pulled a blanket with straps from the wall, and wrapped it around her waist. “Get on and let’s check.”

The young elf pulled up a step, and swung his legs around the ’girl’s torso. She grunted as she settled under the weight. The harness maker swatted her ass, and she staggered forward a step, arms coming out to keep her balance. She tucked them in promptly and stood bent over, swaying under the unaccustomed load.

“Well, the balance is fine, but she’ll never bear up under the load,” said the harness master as the young elf swung off of his shaking mount.

“That, I think I can fix,” the elf said, as he probed her back with his fingers. “Just needs some strengthening, is all.” He stepped back and looked at her for a long moment. She looked back over her shoulder. He raised his hands.

“Pardon me, lord,” she said, sounding a bit scared.

“At least you’re polite about it this time,” he replied. “What do you want?”

“If you’re going to change me, could you add a tail? I’ve always wanted a tail like a cat.”

“Like a cat?” he said, a bit surprised.

“A cat or a monkey, sir. I’ve wanted a tail to wrap around things.” She blushed.

He chuckled. “Well, I can always change it later.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and then raised his hands. After a moment, the air around them shimmered. Then the shimmer wafted across the space between them, and wrapped itself around her hips and back. Everything blurred for a moment. Then the blur vanished, leaving her with wider hips and a stronger back. A long, fur covered tail hung down to the ground, and curled slightly.

“Back,” he said. She moved back a step. He stepped on the stool and then wrapped his legs around her torso. She sank slightly under the load. He squeezed her torso with his knees, “Giddap,” he said. She walked cautiously forward; tail held backwards, arms tucked in, finding her balance quickly.

“That’s a lot better,” said the harness maker. “Her head’s at exactly the right level, but her neck looks like it’s under a bit of a strain.”

“I’m going to need a bridle and bit, so let’s look at that next.”

The harness maker walked over and examined her head, muttering to himself as he drew lines with his index finger. Finally he was satisfied. “Well, nothing I’ve got is going to fit.” He pulled out some rope and began tying pieces into a bridle. In a moment, the rope took shape. He molded it around her head, adjusting the knots until he had a snug fit. “What kind of a bit…” he muttered to himself. He took the smallest bit he had off the wall.

“Open up, girl,” he said. She eyed the gleaming piece of bronze warily, and obediently opened her mouth. He shoved it in and settled the ends against the places in the rope bridle where it would snap on. Then he wiggled it back and forth a bit, as she moved her head to accommodate the pressure.

“That,” he pronounced, “is not going to work. We need to get the smith to craft one just for her. Straighten up, girl,” he switched his attention back to the ponygirl.

She straightened up. “Look at this,” he told the younger elf, pointing to the teeth in her open mouth. “To settle a bit, some of those teeth are going to have to come out.”

“I see what you mean,” he replied. “Bend forward,” he commanded, and the girl bent forward to her riding angle, head held back so that she was looking forward.

He raised his hands, and another haze appeared. This time, it drifted to wrap her head and upper torso. When it cleared, the angle of her head seemed to be more natural, less strained. Also, her hair now extended down her neck and back to just below her shoulder blades in a very pretty mane.

“Back up,” he commanded. She came fluidly upright, her head tracking the movement very naturally. “Down.” She bent down again, stopping at the exact angle they had been working toward.

The harness maker clapped the young elf on the back. “Beautiful work, boy! Your sorcery master would be proud of you! Take her over to the smith so he can craft a bit. And get that bridle back to me, so I can do one up proper.”

“Thanks,” the elf waved. “Back up, girl.” She came up. He tugged on the lead rope, and they paraded over to the other end of the stable yard, where the smith had his forge.

Chapter 4. Brand and Collar

“Hey, Karp,” a pretty young elf waved. “That your new pony? Stablemaster assigned me as her groom and trainer. I see you’ve already got it gentled down.”

“More likely stunned, Coral” Karpardinov replied.

The ponygirl looked at Coral with wide eyes. Coral was indeed a sight. She wore what looked like a snakeskin tunic, with a marbled pattern of red diamonds, trimmed with blue and green. The ropes of diamonds twisted vertically around her. The tunic went from just under her arms, covered her torso like a second skin, and then flared into a skirt that went to mid-thigh. The only thing that said it wasn’t, in fact, her skin was that the fabric stretched between her breasts.

She also wore a pair of mid-calf length high heeled boots, made of the same snakeskin, and just as devoid of any indications of seams, closures or buckles. A snakeskin belt cinched her waist. The belt had a slightly simpler pattern of blue diamonds, outlined in orange and green. It latched in front with a very realistic snake’s head holding onto its tail with its fangs. The whip hanging coiled from the belt was almost an anticlimax.

She had another snakeskin band holding her long, raven hair back from her face. Like the belt, it also had a snake’s head. Unlike the belt, the head came up and poised as if to strike, ruby eyes glittering.

“Probably,” the elven girl replied. “I see you’ve made some changes. Although you’ve let the important parts alone.” She brushed one of the ’girl’s breasts with the back of her hand, and then tweaked a nipple. The ponygirl pulled away.

“Steady there, girl,” the groom said, stroking her face until she shuddered back to a relaxed stance.

“What’s its name?”

“I’m Tanya,” inserted the ponygirl.

“Not unless I say you are,” Karp said, firmly. “I haven’t thought of one yet.” He looked at her twitch her tail. “Cattail? No, that’s a plant, and the last thing I want her to do is vegetate and go to seed. How about Bushytail?”

“But…” wailed the ponygirl.

“No objections,” Coral emphasized the command with her quirt. The ponygirl yelped and twitched as the lash cut her flanks, and then steadied, holding her position. “Your owner has named you Bushytail, and that’s the end of it.”

“What’s next, Karp?”

“Taking her to the smith. She needs shoes and a bit, Coral.”

“If you’re leaving its hands free, it also needs something to keep it in its stall. Possibly a collar?”

“Makes sense,” he replied as they turned into the smith’s workshop. He tossed the lead rope over a convenient rail, and deftly secured the end.

“So, boy,” the smith boomed. “This is the mortal girl that’s going to become your pony. Why not just turn her into a pony and be done with it?”

“The Duke wants her to stay mostly the way we got her.”

“With improvements. I see. It needs shoes and a bit. What else?”

“Coral thinks she needs something to keep her under control in her stall. Possibly a collar?”

“To keep her from wandering off, kind of accidental like?” The smith paused a moment. “Collar and a light chain should work. How you want her branded?” he changed the subject abruptly.

“Branded?” Bushytail squealed. She turned and tried to run, only to be pulled up short by the lead rope on her bridle. She grabbed at the bridle to take it off.

“Stop that!” Coral commanded, emphasizing the order with another stroke of her quirt. Bushytail’s hands went back to cover the weal on her ass cheeks. Coral stepped up and began stroking the ponygirl to quiet her down.

“We brand all of our livestock,” she said. “What makes you think you’re any different?” Eventually, Bushytail calmed down.

“Shoes first,” the smith said. “Bring up your left hoof, girl.” Her hoof came up as he stroked her left flank. “That’s good.” He checked the hoof swiftly, reached out for a glittering bronze horseshoe and tried it against the hoof.

“Almost right.” He twisted the bronze slightly, and tried it again. “Perfect.” He drove in the nails with precise taps of his hammer as Coral held her. Then he did the other shoe; this time the ponygirl didn’t flinch as he drove the nails into her hoof.

“Now let’s see about a bit.” He pressed in against her jaw until she opened her mouth wide. He inserted a bronze bit and wiggled it. “No good.” He twisted the bit in his hands and tried it again. Then he twisted again, and tried a third time. “Much better,” he pronounced.

“Now look at how this flares on the inside,” he said as he held out the bit. “It has to go in here where there’s a gap in the teeth. You can’t hold its mouth open quite that wide for too long. Especially,” he gave the elven girl a rough caress, “if you want to keep its mouth suitable for other things.”

“Other things?” The elf girl wiggled her ass suggestively. The ponygirl’s eyes widened at the exchange.

“Which reminds me,” Coral said. “Can you fix it so she can’t play with her collar and chain? Or with herself.”

“Play with herself?” Karp asked.

“You are so naive,” Coral said. “Mortals are so much easier to control when they know who can let them rut.”

“Ah,” he said. He raised his hands again. This time the mist circled the hapless ponygirl’s hands. When it had vanished, she looked at them. Nothing seemed to have changed.

The smith chuckled. Young elves were so intense! This pair would settle down in a few millennia. He cleared his throat.

“Collar next.” He picked up a strip of bronze from the wall, and wrapped it around the ’girl’s neck. When he finished, it was a perfect circle, without a break. He picked out a ring and post, and held it against the front. The post sunk into the bronze of the collar, making a join so perfect that it could have been molded in place.

Then he took the branding tool off its hanger, and pressed it against her flank. She tried to pull away, and then calmed down when the metal turned out to be cold.

He looked at the impression and frowned. “Should have thought of that,” he muttered to himself. “Horses are flat there. This one is curved.” He pressed the metal to her flank again and looked. Then he bent the metal in his hands and tried again. Finally he was satisfied that he had the metal molded to the curve of her flank.

He put the tool in the forge, which flared up in response to a quick gesture. The ponygirl stared at the bronze head as it gradually began to glow.

“Need to hold her steady,” he commented to no one in particular.

Coral reached up and pressed the ’girl’s carotid artery firmly. She collapsed in a heap at their feet.

“Good,” was all he said. Then he held the hot metal against her flank for a long moment, and withdrew it, leaving a livid burn behind. Coral reached over and put her hand on the burn. When she withdrew it, all that was left was a vicious looking scar, in the shape of the Duke’s brand.

Chapter 5. Bushytail gets put in her stall

Coral marched down the row of stalls that lined the stable; automatically noticing which of the horses were stabled and which were out being worked. Bushytail followed behind, following the lead attached to her halter.

Coral stopped in front of an empty stall. “This is it, girl,” she said as she opened the stall door. “Inside!” Bushytail walked in before Coral had a chance to swat her. Then she looked around at her new home.

Coral walked up beside her and clipped a thin bronze chain onto her collar. Then she tied the other end of the supple chain to a ring set in one of the walls.

“Hold still a moment, girl,” she said as she removed the bridle and hung it on a peg on one of the posts. Then she walked out, closing the stall door behind her with a sharp click as the latch caught.

Bushytail stood a moment, looking around at her new home. Then she walked over to the door and looked at the latch. “Should be simple enough,” she thought. She reached over to unlatch it, and found that her fingers wouldn’t close on the gleaming bronze. Nothing she did let her move the latch at all. Finally she backed away from the door, tail lashing from side to side in frustration.

Then she tried to unlatch the chain from her collar, with the same frustrating results. She could feel the shape of the simple spring catch, but her fingers wouldn’t push the spring to open it. Then she inspected the knot the elf girl had used on the other end of her chain. It looked simple enough to unravel, but nothing she did moved it. Or rather, she could move it, but her fingers simply wouldn’t close on it to let her pull it apart.

She balled her fists in frustration, holding back tears with an effort. Then she noticed that her hands closed in fists. In dawning wonder, she tried to touch other things in her stall. She found she could pick up anything. She could even make a bundle of the straw that lined the floor and try to use it on the chain. That almost worked – except that as soon as the makeshift tool touched the chain, she dropped it!

Finally, she took a deep breath and looked around the rest of the stall. There was a basin of water, and what looked like a pile of roots and vegetables. The sight reminded her that she was hungry, so she started eating. Then she snorted as she noticed that her hands worked perfectly for that task.

Food turned out to be what she needed. Once her belly was full, she looked around the stall, taking stock of what she had to work with – or live with, as the case might be. It wasn’t that much.

It was, she supposed, a typical horse stall, which meant she could move around in it comfortably if she lay lengthwise, but she couldn’t sprawl out sideways. “Well, it could be worse” she thought to herself.

“How?” her mind answered.

“Stop that!” she retorted. “This is bad enough, thank you.” She rubbed an ear with her tail as she looked around. Then she did a double take. Her tail. Couldn’t possibly. Nobody with the power those elves had could have left a hole like that. But… that haze had wrapped her hands.

Swiftly, she twisted a bundle of straw together, and then twisted her tail around it. A little cautious probing pushed the light chain around on the ring to where it dropped off. She snorted. That wasn’t going to manage the hook that held the chain to her collar.

Except that it came off when she squeezed. She looked at the chain and shook her head. A quick check. Nobody in sight except horses – who probably didn’t count. She still couldn’t get a grip on the latch on her stall with her hands.

She thought a moment, and then clipped the chain back on her collar, and looped it around the ring, pulling it tight. This time, it let her unravel the knot with her hands. She shook her head, frowning. Good thing Karp whatever his name was wasn’t working for her! She’s fire his ass for an oversight like that!

She chuckled silently at herself. One success out of however many unknown successes, and look at her! Slave girl to Galactic Overlord in one bound. Not likely!

Well, she thought, at least it’s a start. Now for some sleep. She lay down on the straw; bronze chain puddled in front of her, and closed her eyes. She absently rubbed her crotch, and then paused after a moment.

No sensation? Shit! She remembered what that bitch Coral had said just before Karp had spelled her hands. She could feel her crotch with her hands, and she could feel her hands, but it didn’t do a thing for her. Oh, well. It’s not like sex is a necessity.

Yeah, right. Who was she kidding? was her last thought before drifting off to sleep.

Chapter 6. Training

Bushytail came awake slowly, thinking drowsily about the nightmare she’d had. Weird nightmare, not at all like her usual ones. She stretched and suddenly came fully awake. Whatever she was lying on scratched!

Oh, my! It wasn’t a nightmare. She had hooves and a tail?

At least the tail seemed to be real, she thought as she wrapped it around her waist. And her feet didn’t seem to work. She twisted around to look at them, the light bronze chain stroking her breasts as she sat up. Right. Or rather, wrong. She had hooves. She felt on the bottom. Horseshoes.

“Now stop that!” she commanded herself as she felt an impulse to gibber come toward the surface. She reached up and unclipped the chain from her collar, and looked at it. Then she clipped it back, and felt the collar with her hands. There didn’t seem to be a lock. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any seam she could feel.

She got to her hooves to look around. Just like she thought, it was a stable. Horses on each side. A noise in the distance seemed to be a stable boy coming around with hay. Or rather, a stable elf, although he sure looked masculine. Which reminded her…

She ran her hands through her hair and made a face. Not only snarled, but loaded with straw. And no brush in sight; let alone a shower, with shampoo, conditioner, gel and the rest of the necessities. Damn again.

Slowly, she took stock. Hooves. Mane. Missing teeth. Elves. Magic. How was she ever going to get out of this? Well, her positive thinking course recommended looking on the bright side. “What bright side?” she asked herself. “You don’t have to worry about that project deadline Monday,” her self responded.

Yeah. Right. She tossed her head, and then giggled at the picture it brought up in her mind. So like a horse!

So, what did she have to work with? “Nothing,” a voice muttered in the back of her head. “Nonsense!” another voice commented. “You’ve figured out how to detach your chain.”

So she had. But what was the next step. Get on someone’s good side? Coral, obviously, didn’t have one. Karp probably did, but only if she turned into the saddle pony he probably dreamed about.

Pray for a miracle. Couldn’t hurt, but you couldn’t plan on them. Magic? “Don’t be stupid,” one of her voices told her. “There’s no such thing as magic.” “Oh, really?” the other voice drawled, emphasizing its point with a flip of her tail.

So, what did she know about magic? Karp seemed to do things with that heat wave of his, except it didn’t feel like heat. It felt like… what? Something she’d never felt before, that was for sure.

The smith seemed to shape metal with his hands. There was some bronze here. She put her hands around the ring that her chain was tied to, and pulled. Nothing. Then she brought up the feeling she’d had when Karp had changed her and pulled again. Nothing again. Or was there? Had the bronze felt a little soft?

She looked closely at the hoop. There, in the perfect metal surface, were her thumbprints!

“Neat!” a tinkly voice said from behind her. “I didn’t know mortals could do that!”

She whirled and stared at the fairy hovering at head height.

“Well,” the fairy said. “Give me someplace to light.”


“Your tail, silly.”

My tail? Oh. She brought her tail up in a neat curve, and the fairy settled delicately onto it. Now that it was still, she could examine it. Its body seemed to be about four inches long, not including its four legs. It had four wings like a dragonfly, which it had folded back and up. Two arms, one head. The head didn’t look at all human, even though it seemed to have regular eyes, rather than insect eyes. The overall effect was… pretty?

“You’re pretty,” she said. “But I thought fairies looked like miniature people.”

“Why?” it asked. “This is a much more effective form. Your problem,” it said, a bit portentously, “is that you think everything revolves around you. It doesn’t, and you’d do well to remember it.”

“Huh?” she said. “Why?”

“I could be mysterious, and say ‘Because,’” the fairy said. “However, you want to know how to get out of here. Learn that things don’t revolve around you, and they’ll have to let you go. It’s the law, and the law around here takes care of enforcing itself. Cuts down on legal fees.”

“It would,” she said. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“That’s what you need to figure out, girl. Now do something for me. Launch me, and I won’t tell anyone about those fingerprints.”

Launch it? Oh. She gave the end of her tail a flip, and the fairy sailed into the air. “Whee! That was fun!” it caroled, as it flew out of sight down the barn.

As the fairy buzzed away, she became aware of Coral walking down the aisle toward her, swinging a bunch of straps in one hand. The ponygirl shuddered slightly as the elf maiden walked toward her, snakeskin garment shifting in the patchy sunlight.

Coral stopped in front of her stall, flipped the door open and walked in. “My, you look a mess, don’t you?” she said brightly, in an encouraging tone. Bushytail backed up, looking confused.

“Ponies don’t understand what people say,” she said severely. “When I use a friendly tone, come up and nuzzle me,” she added cheerfully. Bushytail took a hesitant step toward her. “Just bring your nose up by my face,” she added as Bushytail eased closer and finally brushed Coral’s face with her nose and lips. Coral scratched her behind the ears, and eased the halter over her head at the same time. When Bushytail pulled back in surprise, the halter tightened.

“Gotcha!” she chuckled. “You know you’re going to be bridled or haltered whenever you leave this stall, so get used to it, girl.” She unclipped the bronze chain from the ponygirl’s collar and walked out of the stall. Bushytail followed on her lead, tail dragging.

Coral led her to a corner of the yard. “Here’s where you relieve yourself,” she said, again in a friendly tone. “I know you don’t want to foul your stall, or at least I hope you don’t!” Bushytail blushed beet red. “Now, just let it out,” Coral crooned to her as she stood there. In a moment, the ponygirl got herself back under control, and let her bladder empty. “Good girl,” Coral praised her. “Now, look at me,” she said. “Ponies do it whenever the urge strikes. You’re going to do it a bit different. If you’re somewhere it doesn’t matter, you’ll do it like a pony. Whenever the urge strikes, let go. If you’re somewhere it does matter, just wait.”

“Let’s go,” she smiled, and tugged on the pony’s lead. “Grooming next.” She led the ’girl to a place with an overhead beam. “Legs apart and hold onto that beam. Make like an X. Good girl!” she praised as Bushytail planted herself under the beam, feet apart and hands spread wide overhead. She took the halter off and then took out a brush. “Curry comb,” she said as she held it up in front of the ’girl. She started in on the ’girl’s head, combing the snarls and straw out of her luxurious hair. Then she worked her way down the mare’s mane, and finally dropped down to curry the thick coat of horse hair on the ’girl’s legs.

“Lots better,” she said as she surveyed her work. “Let’s just put that hair up.” She brushed it up to the top of the girl’s head, and twisted with her hands. When she took them away, the ponygirl’s mass of sable hair was bunched in a thick cylinder that rose from the center of her head for about six inches. From that point, it spread out in an effect very like a fountain.

“Now, that’s pretty,” she declared. She slid the halter on again. “You can take your hands down,” she commanded “Bring them behind you, hands on elbows.”

Bushytail tried to obey, eyes wide.

“Can’t quite make it. Well, we’ll just work on it. You’ll get there. Now, breathe into your chest, bring your collarbone up, that’s a good girl. Bring your shoulders back, good. That’s where you’ll have your hands whenever you’re out of your stall. I’d make it easy for you and tie them back, but Karp wants them left free. Would you like me to make it easy?” she crooned. Bushytail took a step back.

“Now that looks nice,” she said as she surveyed the girl. “That’s a great pair of breasts.” Bushytail blushed, and bent forward slightly.

“Stop that!” Coral snapped. “Bring yourself back or I really will tie your arms.”

Bushytail froze and then breathed into her upper torso.

“Much better,” Coral crooned, stroking her face. “Your breasts are really delicious, you should be proud of them. That’s better.”

She stepped back, looked and frowned slightly. “Just a bit of sag. That I can fix. Hold still a moment,” she commanded as she stepped forward. “I’m going to put in some rings so you can wear some nice bells.”

“Rings?” Bushytail squeaked. Coral clutched the pony’s lead in her left hand, and gave the ’girl a firm stroke with her quirt.

“You talked. You are not to talk unless there is a reason, and that wasn’t one. Whinny if you understand.” Bushytail gave a thin wail.

“I see we’re going to have to work on your whinny, girl.” She noticed that the girl had kept her hands behind her throughout. “Later will do, however. Now, just stay still.” She took a bronze ring from her pouch. It was about an inch and a half in diameter, a perfect circle without any obvious closure. She took the ’girl’s left breast in her hand, and held the ring to the flesh, slightly under the aureole. The ring sank into the flesh until it was a quarter buried. “That didn’t hurt at all, did it?” When she took her hand away, the breast looked different. The sag was gone. The nipple was a bit higher, and properly centered.

Bushytail gave a kind of singsong grunt. “Little bit better, wasn’t it?” Then she did the same thing with the other breast. “Let’s just see how these work, shall we?” She took a pair of small bells from her pouch, and clipped them onto the rings. “Shake your torso a bit, girl,” she commanded. The bells gave out a bright tinkle as Bushytail shook from side to side.

“You’ve been a good girl,” she praised, taking something else from her pouch and holding it out in her hand. “See what I’ve got for you. Bring your head forward, that’s a good girl.” Bushytail brought her head forward to see what Coral had cupped in her palm. “Go ahead. Take it,” Coral said. Bushytail hesitated a moment, and then licked Coral’s palm, picking up the sweetmeat. “Good girl!” Coral giggled at her. Bushytail looked at Coral a bit strangely, and then shrugged minutely.

“Now it’s exercise time,” the elf girl said. “When I take you anywhere at a walk, you’re to bring your knees up all the way on each step.” She held her quirt out in front of the ponygirl to indicate the correct height. “Left leg up.”

The ’girl brought her leg up, finding her balance on her right hoof. “Down. Up. Down.” Coral worked her until she was satisfied that Bushytail had the height firmly in mind. Then she stroked her again, picked up the lead and walked off, Bushytail following, working her legs up and down with each step.

This time, she led the ponygirl to a corral behind the stable. She walked to the center, paying out more of the lead rope. “Walk!” she commanded. The ponygirl walked straight ahead, until suddenly she came to the end of her tether and had to turn. Coral spent a few minutes making sure her charge could walk in a circle. “Trot!” The ’girl broke into a run.

“Stop!” Coral emphasized the command with a swat of her quirt. “Trot is not a dead run, girl. That’s a gallop. Let’s try it again. Trot!” The ponygirl broke into a run, but slower this time. “Much better.”

Coral worked the ponygirl for close to two hours, making sure she knew what a walk, trot and pace were, and giving her breaks to catch her breath. By the end of the time, the ’girl had worked up a thorough sweat; her mane was plastered to her back and she was beginning to stumble slightly.

She finished off the exercise session by having her walk to cool down, and then led her out of the corral back to the place where she had originally groomed her charge.

Bushytail looked at the overhead beam, sighed slightly and placed herself under it, legs spread wide on the ground and hands spread on the beam. Then she grimaced as the returning circulation in her arms and shoulders assaulted her nerves.

Coral took up a bucket of warm water and a sponge and proceeded to soap her ponygirl down, paying particular attention to her sweat matted hair. Then she rinsed her off with cold water, accompanied by a yelp from the unfortunate mortal girl as the cold hit her unawares. She finished by passing her hands over the ’girl’s hair and mane, forcing the water out and leaving dry, lustrous hair behind.

Coral put the ponygirl’s bridle back on, and led her toward the stables. She smiled to herself listing to the methodical clip-clop of hooves behind her in the pace that indicated the girl was following instructions, lifting her hooves high for each step. The cheerful tinkle of the bells hanging off her nipple rings added to the mood of the moment.

Coral swung the stall door open. “In.” Bushytail walked in, legs still coming up to an exact horizontal. “You can bring your arms forward now,” Coral instructed as she picked up the bronze chain and snicked it onto the mortal maiden’s collar. Then she turned to look at the bronze ring that the other end of the chain was attached to, and she frowned slightly.

“When are you planning to escape?” she asked. Bushytail froze in surprise.


“Those are your fingerprints in the bronze, aren’t they?” Coral asked sweetly. “Did you put them there trying to get the chain off?”

“Trying?” Bushytail burst out. “I succeeded, damn you!”

Quick as thought, Coral’s quirt lashed out, eliciting a howl of protest and a slowly reddening streak on the victim’s skin.

“Politeness counts. Never forget that, girl. You can tell the Duke where to put it – if you do it politely and with some thought. If you don’t, you’ll spend a long, long time painfully regretting it. If you succeed, he’ll actually respect you for having the guts to tell him off, and the intelligence to do it so he listens.”

“So,” she continued, “you’re going to try to escape. Be my guest. All captives try to escape; it must be in the rules somewhere. So, how’d you manage the chain?”

Bushytail glared at her, jaw set and tail lashing from side to side.

Coral laughed. “So you used your tail. Clever. Then you decided to do some practice with magic, and managed to leave your prints in the bronze. I like that, girl. The Duke wants a spirited ponygirl, and I could use some excitement.”

“Now,” she continued in a more serious tone, “if you don’t want me to mention it to Karp, convince me that I shouldn’t. One clue. I’m not going to be that hard to convince. Another clue. I’ve already given you the major clue about how to do it.”

Bushytail stared at her for a moment, and then burst out laughing. “Please, mistress, give me the opportunity to confound you.”

“You got it,” Coral said. “I’ve had dozens of mortal girls as slave maids. The only two I remember were saucy wenches. Come to think of it, they were also the best maids of the lot. You won’t succeed, of course, but as long as you keep me amused with your antics I’ll let you continue.”

The elf turned and walked out of the stall, closing the door with a final sounding click. Bushytail watched her walk down the line of stalls to one occupied by a magnificent black stallion. She shook her head as Coral bridled the beast and backed him out of the stall. Her bells tinkled as she dropped to the straw, curled up and went to sleep.

Bushytail’s hooves struck the stall door as she woke up and stretched. The patches of light on the stable walls had moved quite a bit. She stood, stretched, and ducked her head into the water dish for a drink, brushing wet hair out of her face when she finished. Then she thought for a while as she munched on the vegetables that had been left in her bin.

She tried to take the bells off her breast rings, and failed. Her fingers slid over the simple catch without being able to get a purchase. She frowned and stamped a hoof in frustration, tail switching back and forth in short, angry jerks. Then she laughed at herself.

“Deal with it, girl,” she told herself. She laughed. “How?”

“Coral’s given you leave to do whatever you want,” herself answered.

“As long as you keep her amused,” came the immediate counterpoint.

“So, it’s magic. You’ll have to learn magic to leave here.”

She flicked one of the bells with her finger and felt the tug on her breast as it swung, tinkling. Finding out how to take the bells off might be a good start.

She sat on her hooves, feeling the taste of bronze horseshoes on her bare bottom, and caressed the catch on the bell. How did it feel different? After a while, she got a sense of two different things; the bronze nubbin that was the slide, and a smooth something that might feel like a tingle, except that it didn’t feel like any tingle she’d ever experienced. It seemed to be a very complicated tingle, somehow connected with what her hand felt and what her muscles did about it. Very like one of those very old computers she had only read about, a long time ago.

If she moved her finger here, it did this. And there, it did that. It seemed to have a logic of its own.

“Hssst!” a high pitch voice hissed. “Coral’s coming!”

She jerked back to consciousness and saw the fairy sitting on the edge of her water trough, wings folded neatly behind her back. “You getting the spell?” it asked.

“Bits and pieces, little one. Just a little bit.”

“That’s a start. Throw me,” the fairy commanded.

She brought up her tail, and the fairy perched on it. Then she gave it a flip. “Wheee!!!” as it flew up into the loft and out of sight.

Coral walked up to the stall door and flipped it open. “Work time, pet.” She held out a webwork of straps. Bushytail stood up and backed to the end of the stall. Coral tapped her foot and shook her head. “Your hair’s a mess again,” she criticized. “Turn around, hands folded under your breasts.” She pulled the currycomb out of her pouch and straightened the girl’s hair and mane in swift, sure strokes, the snarls and straw falling out if it as if by magic. Then she put it up, black hair falling out the end like a fountain.

She held up the bridle again, and this time the ponygirl stuck her head in it. Coral fastened the bridle snugly, checking to make certain it didn’t have any slack that could rub. Then she held out the bit. Bushytail snorted and pawed the ground, but didn’t move back. Coral stroked the ’girl’s face, and she obediently opened her mouth. Coral slid the bit in and fastened it to the sides of the bridle. Then she snapped the reins to the sides of the bridle, and pulled lightly from one side to the other. The ponygirl moved her head from side to side, releasing the pressure on her bit as she did so.

“Good girl,” Coral praised her as she unsnapped the bronze chain from her collar. “Come.”

Bushytail walked out the stall door, remembering to lift her legs high, and folding her hands behind her back in the prescribed position.

“Bend over,” the harness maker said. Bushytail bent over as he settled the new saddle into the small of her back and pulled the cinch tight. He tried to shift it from side to side, and grunted as it proved to be immovable. “Good. See if that young scamp likes it.”

“He’s tied up somewhere else,” the elf maiden said. “I’ll work her for a while.” She put her foot into the stirrup and vaulted into the saddle, her snakeskin skirt molding itself to her seat as if it was part of it. She pulled the rein lightly to the left, and squeezed her knees. “Giddap!” Bushytail walked out, arms held rigidly to the sides of her breasts.

She guided her mount around the stable to the corrals in the back, getting the feel of the roll of hips and of two legs under her rather than four, and letting her own balance shift to compensate. The ponygirl’s moves became noticeably smoother as they proceeded, until they got to the corral where she had worked out that morning. Coral flipped her quirt around the post of the corral gate, knocking the latch open in the process. Then she pulled it open, and squeezed her legs gently. Her mount obediently walked into the corral. Coral pulled the gate closed with her quirt, and started her mount on a slow walk around the enclosure.

She spent an hour walking her around the corral, in various patterns, pulling her now this way, now that, stopping and starting her unpredictably. Eventually, she seemed to be satisfied. She halted the pony in front of the corral gate, and opened it with her quirt again. A knee signal, and the ’girl walked through. Coral pulled on the reins in surprise; she’d expected her mount to stop for her to close the gate, and she hadn’t!

She stroked the pony’s mane anyway, and then swung off, leaving the reins on the ground. She closed the gate, and turned back to see what Bushytail had done with the signal. She still stood there, placidly swishing her tail back and forth. Coral picked up the reins, swung back into the saddle, and rode her back to the stable. She groomed her and then put her into her stall for the afternoon and night.

Bushytail stood in her stall, arms folded under her breasts, tail curled in contemplation. She looked at, but didn’t see, a magnificent roan mare in the next stall, which was eating hay out of her bin and snorting occasionally.

Her training was going way too successfully. She’d been here, what, only one day and already she seemed to be doing what these insane elves wanted. She shrugged slightly. Probably magic. Which reminded her…

She sat down again on her hooves and began stroking the bell that still hung from one of her breast rings. In a moment, she got the feel of the spell that kept her from applying any kind of pressure to the simple latch, and started studying it intently. The more she looked at it, the more she became convinced it had been put together by a novice. Or rather, not by a novice, but by someone who had never heard of system or method. Completely intuitive programming.

Not that she had anything against intuition, but working systematically was usually the best way of getting a program to work right with a minimum of fuss. If this was typical, she was going to have fun with magic. Either that, or she was going to get frustrated very, very quickly.

First things first. She needed something to practice on. Possibly one of her ears? She’d seen someone wiggle theirs, but had never been able to do it. It wouldn’t have been ladylike, even if she could. Here, who cared? She grinned.

She studied the spell in her hands a bit more. It seemed to merge with her body here, and here, and here. Some of the places seemed to be nerves, some seemed to be muscles. She shifted her attention to her left ear, and was rewarded by an image of the nerves and muscles. A little bit of trying, and she spotted the gap where a motor nerve wasn’t hooked up to a muscle. Now, what if she…

Her ear shifted back and forth. She felt it with her hand. Not real great, but it was definitely moving! Now, the next thing she needed…

Click! The latch on her stall door unlocked, and she jolted out of her trance.

“I see you’ve been working,” Coral drawled as Bushytail scrambled to stand. “Got the spell in your hands figured out yet?”

“No, mistress,” the ponygirl replied.

“Liar,” the elf said. “Maybe not all the way, but you’ve made a good start. I’m going to ignore it this time. Next time you lie to me…” she caressed her whip, “you are going to regret it.”

“Now for something different,” she added. “Turn around.” The ponygirl turned. She felt the elf girl’s hands on her left ear, and something tugged. Then she felt more weight on her right ear.

“So you’ve been practicing,” Coral chuckled. “That’s the weirdest spell I’ve ever seen. Show me,” she commanded. Bushytail flicked her ear. “Not bad for a rank amateur,” Coral said. “Just for that, I’m going to make you do the work. I want you to play a tune on your bells. Both ears and both breasts. And your nose.” She grabbed the hapless girl’s head and slid a ring into her nose, then hung a bell on it. “I want to see some progress tomorrow morning.” She grinned evilly, and walked out, latching the stall door behind her with a final sounding click.

The ponygirl stared at the back wall in some bemusement. Coral actually approved? It took her a while to figure it out. She was only going to be a brief incident in Coral’s obscenely long life. Coral didn’t believe that she could do her any harm, so why not encourage anything that would provide some amusement?

So, Coral wanted her to play a tune? That meant ringing those bells independently. She sat back down on her hooves, deep in thought. She flicked her left ear again, and heard the bell ring. She started laying out a possible approach. How was she going to handle jiggling her breasts independently?

Chapter 7. New mare and stallion

Coral held Bushytail’s reins as Karp swung into the saddle, almost pulling the girl over as his weight pulled the stirrup. Bushytail steadied herself without flailing her arms. Coral handed Karp the reins, and stood back, sun gleaming off the polychrome scales of her snakeskin tunic.

Karp twitched the ponygirl’s reins, dug his knees into her flanks and said “giddap.” She started walking, hips swiveling to maintain a steady seat for her rider. “Good girl,” he said, patting her shoulder as she moved toward one of the openings in the forest surrounding the stable. “Trot.” She stepped up the pace, not that there was any significant difference between a walk and a trot other than speed.

She trotted down the trail, her long strides eating the distance. Over the past months, she had become so much a part of this forest that the various creatures continued their mysterious business as she passed. The elf in her saddle held the reins loosely, only pulling them to guide her through the intricate network of paths through this enchanted wood.

This time, the path led into a small sunlit clearing, covered with grass and wildflowers, partly edged with a small brook. Karp pulled her to a stop by the brook and swung off. This time, she anticipated his movement, and shifted her weight smoothly to compensate. He slid the bit out of her mouth, and pressed her back lightly as she dropped to her knees and plunged her mouth into the brook to drink.

After a few swallows, she came back to her hooves, and he held the bit out in front of her. She wrinkled her nose around the ring, and then opened her mouth to accept the gleaming bronze. “Steady, girl,” he said as he put his foot into the stirrup and swung back into her saddle. He backed her up slightly and turned her toward the center of the clearing. “Think you can do it yourself this time?” he asked softly.

She whinnied around the bit. The center of the clearing started to glow slightly, as if a swirling cloud of dust motes scattered the morning sun. After a moment, it thickened into a golden fog that obscured the opposite end of the clearing. Karp studied the glowing fog a moment, and then flicked her reins. She trotted confidently forward, tail held in an upward curve, bearing her rider into the mist.

They came out of the mist almost immediately, to find themselves in another clearing in a forest. This forest, however, was different. Somehow, it was tamer than the one they had left. It was also more cautious. The birdsong stopped as Bushytail and Karp passed, only to resume as they vanished down the trail.

In this forest, the various crossings were marked with signs, not that the pair needed them. They turned left, then right and right again. Eventually, the path opened out into fields and a cluster of buildings. Bushytail trotted confidently down the road, past fields where lightly clad field workers toiled under the watchful eye of their mounted overseers.

The slaves toiling in the fields were dressed only in shorts for the males, and shorts and halters for the females. Beyond that, they wore bronze collars around their necks, rings in their noses, and resigned expressions on their faces.

The overseers were dressed more comfortably in shirts and slacks, and sat relaxed on their horses.

She carried her rider around a bend into the plantation complex. Karp directed her into the stable area with a light tug of the rein, and drew her to a halt in front of a hitching rail. He swung out of the saddle and flipped her reins lightly around the rail, not bothering to cinch them tight. She stretched to an erect posture and then settled, arms folded behind her, hands on opposite elbows just above the saddle, and looked around.

Karp waved down a passing stable boy, “I’ll be back in a moment, let her drink and then leave her here at the rail.”

“Yes, sir!” the boy responded, head down.

Karp frowned at him thoughtfully, and then walked down the path toward the manor house, shaking his head slightly. Mortal slaves should know their place, but excessive servility really got in the way of efficiency. He shrugged slightly. That was their business; he was here to pick up a new pony as part of the rent the Duke was charging for this establishment.

After a short time, he came back down the path with one of the owners.

“We’ve got four new ponies in the last batch, sir,” the owner said. “Two fillies and two stallions.”

“We may want a stallion this time,” Karp said, “However, it does depend on how they look. How are they training up?”

“They just came in this morning, sir,” the owner said. “We haven’t started breaking them yet.”

“That’s probably just as well. That way Coral won’t have to retrain them.”

“They’re in this section,” the man said as they walked into the stable. “That’s them in these stalls.” He gestured to the four stalls on the right as they walked in. The difference was obvious. The two men and two women standing in the stalls looked variously frightened and furious. They each had their hands locked behind them in leather arm binders, and each had an efficient looking ball gag in their mouth. Otherwise, they were completely naked.

Karp walked up to the first stall, and flipped open the door. The red headed filly tried to bolt, but was brought up short as Karp planted a hand in her stomach and pushed her back. “Stand up and turn around,” he commanded. Then he stroked her face and neck from behind, until she sighed around the gag and relaxed. He ran his hands over her shoulders, and cupped each of her ample breasts for a moment, checking her response. He checked her lower back and hips, and then picked up each of her legs and looked at her feet. Finally, he removed the gag and told her to open her mouth. She kept it stubbornly shut, even though it was obvious she would have liked to have opened it to relieve the ache the gag had left.

He pressed the side of her jaw, forcing her mouth open. He looked at her teeth and nodded. This set of mortals seemed to keep their teeth better than he remembered for a long time!

“What have they told you they are going to do to you, girl?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“You’re going to become ponies,” he told her. “One of you is going to come with me, and become a riding pony. The rest of you will stay here and learn to pull carts. Which would you like?”

“I want to go home! You should all be in jail!” she spat at him.

“Good. I like spirit in my ponies,” he said. “Open up!” He held the gag in front of her. She shut her mouth. He pressed her nose closed, forcing her to open her mouth to gasp. Then he shoved the ball back in and buckled it behind her.

The next stall held a solidly built male with brown hair and a mean expression. Karp held his head firmly and looked him in the eye. He shook his head and walked out of the stall. “This one won’t do,” he said. “By the time you break him, he won’t have any spirit left. Besides, he’s too thick in the waist.”

The third stall had a blonde filly. He went through the same examination he had with the first girl. When he took her gag out, she begged him not to hurt her. He looked at her a while, and then shook his head as he put the gag back in.

The fourth stall had another stallion. This one gentled down as he stroked its face.

“Do you know what they’re going to do with you?” he asked it.

“I think they’re going to make me pull carts,” it said.

“How do you know?”

“I heard what you told the redhead over there,” he nodded toward the first stall, “and I’ve done a bit of reading.”

“How do you feel about that?” Karp asked.

The man’s eyes shifted a bit. “I don’t want it, but what can I do?”

Lots, Karp thought to himself. This one thinks it’s being crafty. That might do nicely. He held the ball up and the stallion obediently opened its mouth.

They walked out of the stables. “I’d like to take both of them,” Karp said, “but the agreement was for one.”

The mortal laughed. “I’d prefer you took the other stallion, actually. He’s going to be nothing but trouble until we break him.”

“He won’t be any use to us if we have to beat the spirit out of him to make him behave. You can always use another cart pony.”

“True. Well, take both of them. I’m short on trainers, and I don’t really need more ponies until I’ve got more trainers and grooms. They’re the ones in short supply.”

“Very well.” They walked back into the stable and flipped open the first door. Karp held up a rope halter in front of her. She looked at it and backed up. “Come on, little one, just come forward,” he said softly as he stroked her head. After a moment, she stuck her head forward and allowed him to fasten the ropes. He led her out of the stall, and fastened the lead around a pillar.

“Now, just hold still a moment,” He said. He walked a couple of steps away, and raised his hands. A shimmer built up around them, and the wafted to wrap itself around her hips and legs. They seemed to ripple for a moment. When they stopped, her feet had turned into hooves, and her legs were covered with a thick coat of reddish horse hair, matching her head and her tail, which hung down to mid-calf. Her eyes widened as she felt the change.

He reached up to remove the gag. “There’s one rule about talking, girl. Don’t talk unless you’ve something to say that can’t be expressed like a horse. You’ll make a few mistakes learning, but I don’t have very much patience with mistakes, and your trainer has even less. Understand?”

She opened her mouth and closed it a couple of times. Then she gave an experimental whinny.

He smiled at her. “Good. That whinny could be improved, but it was the right thing to do.”

He raised his hands again, and created a shimmer. This time it wrapped her head and torso. When they settled down, her poll of red hair grew half way down her back in a mane, and her breasts were higher and firmer. He raised his hands a third time. This time the shimmer clasped her hands and sunk in. He took off the arm binder, and she looked at him in confusion.

“Put your hands behind you, hands on elbows,” he told her. She tried, but couldn’t get them all the way.

“Good start,” he said. “You’ll improve with practice. Just breathe into your shoulders.” He pulled on her halter-rope, and led her to the hitching rack next to Bushytail. The two ponygirls looked at each other, and Bushytail laughed. Then he walked back to the stable to get the stallion.

The new girl looked at Bushytail, and stared at her tail.

“Go ahead, talk,” Bushytail said.

“I can? I mean?” she stammered.

“Did he say anything about not talking to me?” she asked rhetorically. “No, he probably just told you not to talk to him unless you had something to say. Right?”

“Uh, yes. What’s going to happen to me?”

“You’re a ponygirl. You’re going to be trained to be a riding pony, and you’ll belong to one of the elves. It’ll ride you all over.”

“It? I thought it was a he?”

“Oh, Karp is male enough. Most of them call me it, so I return the favor.” She twitched her tail in a laugh. “Don’t let them get to you. Elves are not human, and the sooner you figure out what they’re about, the better you’ll get along. You’ve got a choice. You can either decide to be their livestock, or you can play the game. Either way, it’s much better than you’d get here.”

“Better?” she sounded baffled.

“Yes, better. They aren’t cruel. They are inveterate game players. They could make it impossible to escape, but they don’t. If you decide to play the game, they’ll leave you opportunities. You need to see them and take advantage of them.”

The redhead thought a moment. “What happens if I try to escape right now?”

“Well, try. Go ahead.” Bushytail laughed at her.

The girl tried to take her halter off. Her fingers slipped off the knots without getting a purchase. Then she tried to unwrap the knot that tied her halter-rope to the hitching rail. She couldn’t get a purchase on that, either. Meanwhile, Bushytail looked at her with an amused smile.

“What’s so funny?” she said, frustrated. “He must have done something to my hands!”

“Exactly. He put a spell on your hands. You can’t untie anything they’ve tied.”

“Shit! How could I possibly escape?”

“It’s possible,” Bushytail told her with an air of amusement and a flip of her tail. “I’ll let you figure out how.” She untied her reins from the rail, and then tied them on again, backwards.

“He didn’t spell your hands,” she said, accusingly.

“Actually, he did. I figured out what to do about it.”

“You. Figured. Out. What. To. Do. About. It.” She said, slowly. “And they haven’t noticed?”

“Oh, they know. Remember what I said about opportunities? Elves don’t think like us, and that’s a fact.”

“Show me!”

“Can’t be done,” Bushytail shook her head. “At least, I can’t do it. You do have to figure the first steps out for yourself.”

Karp walked into view from around the side of the stable, leading an impressive looking male by a rope attached to his halter. Bushytail pawed the ground with one of her hooves, and whinnied excitedly. A stallion! Coal black hair, mane and leggings. Besides, he looked like he was hung like a … stallion! She felt her body react. She whinnied again. The new redhead looked at her in some confusion, and then looked at the stallion. She whistled and shook her head.

Karp flipped the stallion’s lead around the hitching rack, and turned to Bushytail. She nuzzled him excitedly, and then dropped to one knee and tried to open his pouch with her tongue, keeping her hands firmly behind her back.

Karp chuckled, and scratched her behind the ears. She snorted and stood back up. He put his hand on her shoulders and pushed lightly forward. She bent over into riding position. He took the two new pony’s lead ropes and tied them to the saddle, and then swung astride. “Giddup!” he said, giving the reins a shake. She walked ahead slowly, mindful of the two human ponies behind her.

The redheaded mare began walking before her lead snapped tight, but the stallion wasn’t quite as quick on the uptake. His lead snapped tight, jerking his head forward. He staggered a step and then began to walk.

They headed back up the road, into the forest.

Chapter 8. Bushytail is Promoted

“Two more?” Coral said. “Granted, Bushytail is easy, but she still has to be groomed and exercised, and every other groom has refused.”

“The Duke…” Karp began.

“The Duke can force the issue if he wants to. So far, he hasn’t. It’s up to you to deal with it, with whoever you can recruit. In fact …” she looked at him measuringly.

“In fact, what?” Karp said.

“If I refused, you’d have to take one of them back. Then what?” she stood there, hands on hips in a typically mortal gesture.

“All right!” he snapped. “Just don’t let it get out of control.”

“Who, me?” she smiled slowly at him, fangs showing. “Since when have I ever let a mortal get out of control?”

“None of them were magic users,” he pointed out.

“Just makes it more interesting,” she showed her fangs again. “Especially since she’s got the most interesting approach.” She paused a moment. “By the way, have you named them?”

“Black Beauty and Redtail.”

Coral stifled a laugh. “Does it know it’s going to be Black Beauty?”

“No, is that a problem?”

“Mortals do have their customs. Beauty is a mare’s name, not a stallion’s. It will have a fit!” She grinned nastily. “Might help tame it down, anyway. Well, I’ll tell it and let it stew while I get the other two straightened away.” She turned and walked toward the stable.

The stablemaster had cleared out the stalls on either side of Bushytail. The new stallion stood in the stall on her left, and the new mare in the stall on her right. Both of them were standing, trying to remove their chains as Coral walked up, a brightly colored piece of cloth over one arm.

“Cat got your tongue, Black Beauty?” she addressed the stallion.

“Garrph!” he replied with a look of utter frustration.

“Huh?” she looked a bit closer. “Bush, did you do that?”

“He was getting on my nerves, mistress.”

“Show me,” the elf commanded.

Bushytail didn’t seem to do anything, but suddenly Black Beauty said: “Get me out of here!” clearly.

“I see,” Coral said, completely ignoring the stallion. She waved her hand, and his jaw clamped shut. “Nice spell. Did you explain the talking rules to them?”

“I told the mare before we left. I didn’t have time to tell the stallion, and once we got here, he didn’t want to listen. I didn’t think it was my place to discipline them.”

“It wasn’t,” Coral said cryptically. She turned her attention to the other mare. “Redtail, you still haven’t figured it out yet?”

“Figured what out, bitch?” the redhead snarled. Then she looked startled.

“That instant obedience is the only option, of course.” Coral snapped her fingers again, and the mare’s jaw shut with a clack.

“Here,” she said as she threw the cloth at Bushytail. Bushytail picked it out of the air and examined it curiously. It was a tube of the same snakeskin material that Coral wore as a dress.

“It’s a dress, stupid,” she said. “It’s your dress. If you can figure out how to put it on.”

“Thank you, mistress. I think.” Bushytail unclipped the chain from her collar and slid the cylinder over her head and let it slither down her body, stopping when the top just covered the top of her breasts. Then she frowned a moment as the garment shaped itself to her curves. In a moment the back of the skirt split and her tail popped out. Then the skirt reformed itself into a single, unbroken expanse of brightly colored scales.

“You think?” Coral asked when Bushytail had finished molding the dress to her body.

“You might be in the mood for a gift, out of the pure goodness of your heart. But somehow I doubt it. There’s got to be a catch.”

“Catch? I’m making you my assistant groom. Forget that silly chain.” She waved away Bushytail’s attempt to pick it up and reattach it. “If anyone hasn’t figured out you can unclip it any time you want, he’s probably dead. You will stay here, and you only get to wear that dress when you’re acting as a groom. Let’s get started. Put a halter on Redtail, and take her to the exercise corral.”

Bushytail reached over and flicked the latch on her stall door, took a halter from a peg on the wall, and walked into Redtail’s stall, holding it out. The mare looked at her as if she was a ghost. Bushytail reached out and stroked her for a moment until she relaxed, all the while holding the bridle out in front of her.

After a moment Redtail said: “I’m supposed to stick my head in that thing?”

“That’s where your head’s going, one way or the other,” Bushytail replied.

She minced forward, and let Bushytail wrap the knotted rope halter around her head, tightening the strap under her chin.

“Come on, Red,” she said, as she started out of the stall, lead rope in hand. She stopped almost immediately.

“Two things. When you’re walking, bring your knees up level with your hips. And keep your hands behind you, hands on opposite elbows.” She looked at the hapless girl. The new mare put her hands behind her and strained.

Bushytail shrugged slightly. “Bring your chest up like you’re proud of those breasts, girl! Arch your back a bit.”

Redtail blushed and adjusted her posture. Her hands slid a bit more toward her elbows. Bushytail tugged on the rope and started walking. “Remember those legs,” she called back over her shoulder as she led the way to the practice corral where she had spent so many hours.

“Good start,” Coral said as she followed the little procession out. Black Beauty stared at them from his stall, bronze chain knotted in his hand.

Coral swung the gate of the practice corral open in front of the pair, and swung it closed after them. Then she perched on one of the logs forming the fence and crossed her legs, letting one of them swing free. Bushytail looked at her in some confusion.

“Well, start exercising her,” Coral said, amusement showing in her voice.

Bushytail walked toward the center, pulling the lead tight. “Walk,” she commanded. Redtail stood there, looking baffled at the whole thing. Bushytail made a gesture with her free hand, and the new mare jolted forward with a yelp, hands going to protect her ass.

“Keep walking! Get those knees up, hands behind you!” Bushytail commanded, emphasizing it with another gesture. A loud crack sounded from behind the haltered ponygirl. She jerked forward another step, and then hastily took a third step, remembering to raise her leg while struggling to get her arms folded properly.

“That’s better. Keep going.” Bushytail kept tension on the lead rope until she had the girl marching around in a circle. “That’s good, keep going.” Occasionally, she prompted the girl to keep her knees up.

“Have her alternate a walk and a trot,” Coral called as she swung her legs over the fence and walked off.

“Trot,” Bushytail commanded. Redtail tried to keep bringing her knees up, only faster. “Stop.” Redtail stopped.

“Don’t bring your knees up that way on a trot. Make it a slow run. Trot.” Redtail started trotting again. “Too fast.” Bushytail started counting cadence “Right, Left, Right, Left…” Red fell into the beat. Bushytail gestured, and a measured click started sounding next to her ear. She quit counting cadence, and simply checked whether the mare was on time.

“Very good. Walk!” Red slowed down, and then suddenly remembered to lift her knees on the third step.

“Trot.” The girl started running. Bushytail called out a cadence until she adjusted her pace. “Walk.” She forgot to lift her knees again. This time, her trainer gestured with her free hand, and the ponygirl yelped as her leg jerked upwards.

After a while, the new mare settled into the paces. Each time her trainer called out the new pace, she shifted into it properly. About ten minutes into the exercise, Coral came back leading Black Beauty. She led him into another corral, and began working him, training him in the same two paces.

Finally, Coral waved to Bushytail. “Scrub her down and put her back in her stall, then come back here.”

“Stop.” Redtail stopped, chest heaving. Bushytail opened the coral gate and tugged on the lead. The new mare walked after her, legs coming up and down correctly. The assistant trainer closed and latched the corral gate with a wave of her hand as she walked on.

They stopped under the washing rack. “Have you been groomed before?” Bushytail asked.

“Uh, no.” Redtail replied.

“No, what?” Bushytail swatted the haltered girl lightly.

“Uh. No, mistress,” she hazarded.

“Better. Spread your legs three feet apart, and hold the rail above your head, hands three feet apart.”


Bushytail started to wave her free hand. Red’s hands shot up to the rail, then she shifted her feet so they were braced several feet apart.

“You’re learning,” Bushytail commended dryly. She pulled a bucket of water from the well, dumped some soap into it and warmed it with a spell. Then she proceeded to lather her charge from head to toes, scrubbing lightly. When she was done, she pulled another bucket of water from the well and rinsed her off as the girl squealed from the shock of the cold water. She walked behind the girl and passed her hands above her head and down her back, drying her hair and mane. She brushed out her hair and mane, and then used a currycomb on the coat of horsehair on her legs.

“You’ve been a good girl,” she said, scratching her behind the ears. “Position.”

“Huh?” Red said. Bushytail started to make a gesture, and Red pulled her legs together and brought her arms together behind her back.

“Don’t try that dumb act again,” the trainer warned. She held out the halter, and the ponygirl stuck her head forward, making it easier to put it on.

Bushytail held up the bronze chain and looked at her charge. Redtail began to look confused, and then sighed. She tilted her chin up to present the ring on her collar. Snick! Bushytail clicked the simple spring latch. Then she scratched the girl behind the ears again and walked out of the stall. She turned and leaned on the stall door.

“I’ve got a couple of minutes,” she said. “I’d prefer to talk to you without the stallion present, so ask away.”

Redtail thought. “This morning you were a ponygirl. Now you’re a trainer?”

“Surprised me too. Elves are unpredictable. I’ve learned to roll with it. Next question.”

She looked scared, then determined. “How do I get out of here?”

“All I can tell you is what the Duke told me when I came. There’re some rules set by someone called the High King. It’s got something to do with how well you treated people. I don’t understand it, but Coral, at least, seems to think that I could escape, somehow. I think she’d be amused if I did, as long as it wasn’t something she let slip.”

A large insect buzzed Bushytail’s head. She brought her tail up, and the fairy settled onto the end. “New ponies!” it squealed in it’s high voice.

“Sure are, small stuff. This is Redtail. Black Beauty is out being exercised. Coral wants me back in a few minutes.”

“Redtail. She’s got a real horses tail,” the fairy said, rather obviously. It took off and circled the new ponygirl, and then settled on the stall wall. “Go on, Coral’s expecting you.”

“Bye,” Bushytail waved her tail as she left the stable, her hooves making a swift clip-clop on the stone floor.

Chapter 9. Black Beauty

Black Beauty was puffing hard when Bushytail arrived at the corral where Coral was working him. He had a number of red streaks on his ass from the elf girl’s quirt. The elf waved at the fence. “Sit.”

Bushytail arranged herself on the fence, legs crossed and tail wrapped around a convenient fence post. She settled in to watch Coral’s technique. It wasn’t, she decided, very different from her own; except that Coral used her quirt instead of spells. That was pretty good, she figured. She seemed to have gotten most of Coral’s training technique down, not that there was a whole lot of it.

Finally, Coral was done just as the ponyboy looked as if he was going to collapse from exhaustion. She waved her bemused assistant to the center of the corral and handed her the lead. “Wash and groom it, put it back and then meet me in the office. If you want, you can have it tonight.” Coral turned and walked off, leaping the corral fence in a single, sinuous bound.

Bushytail looked at her charge. Boy, did he look like a wreck. Hair matted with sweat, gasping for breath and staggering slightly. Her eyes narrowed as she took in his arms hanging slackly at his sides. She shrugged slightly. Why Coral had overworked him was her business, but right now, he needed a minute or so to recover. She extended her senses, seeing the disordered flow of energies in his body. She spotted a blockage, and gently applied some energy. It dissolved. He took a deep breath and straightened slowly, gaining strength moment by moment.

“Hands,” she said calmly. He jerked in startlement, and then put his arms behind, hands stretching toward opposite elbows. She tugged on the lead, and headed toward the overhead beam they had been using for ponygirl wash.

He really was a handsome brute, she reflected as she lathered him up. Nice thick hair on his chest and arms. Good muscles all over. Pity he’d loose upper body strength; ponies didn’t need it that much. She considered his face. He hadn’t been shaved in a couple of days. Well, Coral could change it if she wanted, but she was going to get rid of the stubble. Except maybe a beard. Anyway, there was a more important body part.

She dug into his groin as she spread the lather, and noticed him stiffen. She patted his member possessively. “Would you like me tonight, big boy?” she asked, in her best fake sultry voice. He gasped as his member stiffened further. “Oh, my. I guess you’re glad to see me.”

“Damn you,” he gasped.

“Whinny when you say that, big boy.” She grasped his penis and twisted lightly. He gasped. “Tonight. Think about how you’re going to make me very, very happy.” She picked up the bucket of cold water and sloshed it on his arms, and then on his head, letting it sluice the lather from his body. He shuddered as the cold water hit, his member shriveling before the onslaught.

She ran her hands over his head and mane, water cascading out before her stroke, leaving dry hair behind. Then she brushed it out with long, firm strokes. Another stroke of her hand dried his tail. She walked around in front, and considered his face again. Then she stroked his face and neck, and the stubble fell away.

“I can never make up my mind, whether I like beards, mustaches or the clean shaven look. For right now, it’s hairless for you.”

She held up the bridle, and he stuck his head forward, resignation on his face.

Chapter 10. Epilog.

The spare office was one room facing the stable yard, in between the smithy and the stable master’s office. Coral lounged on a cushion, limbs arranged so that she looked very like a coiled snake. “Sit.” Coral gestured. “On your heels.”

Bushytail sat, knees primly tight together.

“So. What do you think is going on?”

Bushytail shrugged. “I’ve been tossed into one of your games, obviously. Outside of that …” she shrugged again.

“If you did know?” Coral prompted.

“Up until today, I’d have said that you were toying with me, to see if I’d be clever enough to find a way of escaping. Or maybe dangle escape in front of me, and then jerk it away.”

“Pretty much, although most of us don’t go in for the cruelty to animals bit.” Coral left the sentence dangle in the air.

“After today,” Bushytail continued, “I don’t really know. I never expected that I’d be impressed into being a groom and trainer. You’ve obviously got plans, but it caught me by surprise.”

“Good,” Coral commented cryptically, showing her fangs. “Do you remember what my lord Duke told you about being here?”

“Huh? He said something about an agreement that I never made, and something about the Golden Rule. I didn’t understand it at all.”

“Well, it’s actually very simple. The High King got tired of mediating disputes with and about you mortals, so he made it a law that we had to deal with mortals the same way they dealt with their own kind. We can act better, but we can’t act worse. The High King’s laws take care of enforcing themselves. There are no options and no discussion. It’s simply not possible for us to disobey.”

“When Karp brought two pony slaves back instead of one, I got very irritated with him. It’s more work, and none of the other grooms wanted to do any of it. So I thought of impressing you to help. When I thought of it, it felt very like one of the High King’s laws had kicked in. You seem to have taken advantage of your own kind, but you don’t seem to have ever been cruel.”

“Now that you’ve discovered you’re a mage, you could have made a nuisance of yourself. You haven’t done that, either. In other words, you’ve behaved responsibly with that power, so we have to treat you at least that well.”

“So what you’re saying is that my promotion is because I’ve been a good little girl?”

“More that you are a good little girl, to use your terms.”

“Huh. I can’t say that I understand. So if I strive for sainthood, I’m away from here free and clear?”

“Not likely!” Coral laughed. “If you knew what we know about your so-called saints, you’d never think that.”

“What’s going to happen,” Coral continued, shifting so that the scales on her garment shimmered in the later afternoon sunlight, “is this: You’re going to be one of the grooms and trainers for our ponygirl and ponyboy herd. Karp is just going to have to pick one of the other two as his mount.”

“I’d prefer it if you took over Black Beauty from me.” Coral continued. “I don’t like males very much, and I think I drove him a bit far today.”

“You did. I had to fix something before he began to recover.”

“Tell me about that – in a moment. You’ve got a couple of other duties to think about. First, think about how to train them for pulling carriages. That’s for ceremony, not for work; we prefer riding horses most of the time. Second, think about riding games. Polo for starters. The Duke wants to challenge the mortals to a friendly game.”

“That wouldn’t be fair,” Bushytail said. “I don’t think that crew could even manage to ride them. Their backs won’t take it.”

“I hadn’t realized! Karp did something to your back so you could be ridden?”

“Just before you showed up. We aren’t adapted to take that kind of strain. He also must have done something to my balance, and I know he did something to my neck so I can hold my head back easily.”

“I have to hand it to him,” Coral mused. “That popinjay is quite good at biophysical transmogrification. The result looks completely natural. Damn!”


“He scored on me with that one. Besides, I doubt that the Duke knows either, and that’s playing with fire. I have to think about this one.”

“What don’t I know?” a deep base voice asked from the doorway.

“My Lord Duke!” Coral flowed swiftly to her feet. Bushytail scrambled up as soon as she noticed.

“As you were,” the Duke gestured. “Now, what is it I don’t know?”

“The mortals won’t be able to train their ponies to match the ones we’ve trained. Karpardinov changed them so they could be ridden. The mortals can’t match it.”

“I wondered when you’d catch it,” the Duke commented blandly. “Actually, the head of that gaggle of losers fancies himself a magician. He’s actually got some talent, or I’d never have noticed his pathetic attempt to summon a demon.” Bushytail shuddered at the memory.

“Besides, right now, they’re in a panic. It took almost half a day for the implications to sink in when our young popinjay rode Bushytail here over to pick up the new ponies.” The Duke smiled, showing his fangs. “It will be most amusing watching them try to weasel out of this one.”

“But…” Coral said. When the Duke nodded, she continued: “You did tell Karp to train them the same way the mortals would. That’s why I’ve been doing it the hard way.”

“I said train them. I gave him leave to make physical improvements, like stamina.” He looked at Bushytail. “He seems to have done quite a good job. Let’s see what you look like in riding position.” Bushytail bent over. “I see. Very good job. I’ll mention it to his tutor.”

The Duke shrugged. “If it comes down to it, I’ll have Karp transform their ponies so they have a chance.” He looked at Bushytail meaningfully. “You understand?”

“Yes, lord,” Bushytail said. “I’ve got to be better than they are at training our team.”

“See to it.” The Duke turned and left.