Long before the time of this story, men and women on a colonised planet divided themselves completely from each other, and formed separate societies; the women separated so far as to move their population to a different world altogether. On rare occasions, however, a woman convicted of crimes could choose to be sent to the men's planet. When this happened, she was sold as an exotic pet, had the status of an animal, and was kept as a slave. This is the story of Etrin, a young woman who makes this choice, and Garid, the man who buys her.
In the course of their separate evolution, the men have gained considerably in height, while the women have selected for smaller size to save scarce resources. So Etrin, even smaller than the female average, is tiny beside her owner. He keeps her in the most abject slavery, never allows her to speak or learn his language, and enjoys the absolute control and pleasure that his ownership gives him. His staff, Pav and Arleben, look after Etrin as well; Arleben is particularly experienced at breaking an animal to harness. At this point in the story, Garid has decided to come out of his possessive isolation with his slave and try connecting with other owners, some of whom use their females as ponies.
It took time to learn how to move in all of this, much less to run well. I was taken through the same moves again and again, walking, slow runs, fast runs, with my knees well up and my head high. I think with horses and jonthes they call it dressage. It felt like my early training all over again. I had no way to understand what was wanted, except by trial and error. I had become good at responding to non-verbal signals, but most of the time I couldn't see whoever was training me very well, through a haze of sweat, tears in my eyes, my head fixed forward in the bridle. The only things I had to go on were shouted reprimands, yanks on the reins, and the whip. The whip flicked the backs of my thighs when I wasn't raising my knees high enough. It smacked my ass hard when I wasn't going fast enough. It caught the underside of my breasts to make me straighten up even higher than my harness already held me. These things I could figure out.
What I couldn't get at first were the subtleties of pace and action, the ways to run more efficiently and beautifully. I know that's what they wanted, because I seemed to be beaten less as I got more graceful and efficient. I don't know how it happened. I had to let go of my reasoning powers and my confusion and just let the whip teach me. I still had to strain every nerve to do what was expected of me, but only through mute physical response to conditioning. If I tried deliberately to examine what worked and what didn't, tried to take the initiative, inevitably I tensed up, reached too far with my foot, spoiled the rhythm, lost the symmetry, messed up somehow. When I surrendered my body to the demands of the reins and harness and lash, somehow, sweating, crying, gasping, I found myself performing properly.
Eventually I displeased them less, and was back in my cage with fewer stripes and weals on my aching body. The occasional 'Good jeedy!' was so precious it made me weep. It was only when I'd done well that my master let me lick the dust off his boots.
There began to be one or two men who would join my master to watch my training. I saw them as I came around the circle, their heads together but their eyes on me, exchanging comments. I had the feeling these were not the usual visitors; the way they looked at me reminded me of the group that had moved in toward the platform at the auction. I began to be rather nervous about what was coming. My master allowed them to stroke my breasts after the sessions, and at first I was scared; these men wanted me, it was plain; did this mean my master might sell me? I turned to him as far as the harness allowed me. But he held my reins hard and short while I was fondled, and I found this reassuring.
Then one day after a warm up trot, there was something new. A contraption of struts and two large, very thin wheels with a seat in the middle; a kind of sulky. So this was the idea... They harnessed me up, arranging the heavy bridle, bit and reins so that the slightest twitch would convey their demands to my vulnerable mouth. Then for the first time blinkers were added, and I could only see straight ahead. It was surprising how frightening this was. I felt like one of those animals sent home from the vet with a cone on its head to prevent it from licking its wounds. I kept moving my head uneasily in an attempt to increase my range of vision.
Then they backed me between the shafts and fastened them to my hips. I could feel the extra weight, but it was slight, until my master climbed into the seat. Then I could feel it all right. How could I pull anything so heavy? How much would he hurt me before he realized I couldn't do it? Still, the heaviness of him, weighing me down by the hips, felt good. How can I describe it? I was his animal. He couldn't ride me, and suddenly I felt sad about that. But I could carry him in a fashion. He could use me, I could serve the master I worshipped, in this new way.
Adjustments were being made behind me. I leaned forward a little, taking the weight of the shafts. Then my master chirruped, the reins slapped my shoulders and my backside stung. I stepped forward, almost folded in the middle with the weight I was pulling, but leaned my hips into it and managed to get the vehicle moving. The flicks of pain on my ass and thighs kept me moving forward; I tried not to let myself jump with the sting and upset my gait. Soon, to my surprise, I managed a slow trot. With the momentum the shafts felt a little lighter on my hips, and in response to the whip's encouragement and some clicking speed up sounds from my master I moved into a faster trot. The pull of the bit steered me onto a smooth track they had made around the grounds. On this I was really able to run. I was doing it!
My initial elation carried me through some of the grueling training that followed. Once again I felt like I was starting all over. All my gaits had to be adjusted for the weight behind me. My center of gravity was suddenly a whole lot heavier than it had been before.
It felt very odd, using my hips to pull a heavy weight. On Raniz if I'd had to pull something, I'd have used my arms and shoulders, put my upper body's weight into it. In fact the harness on my upper torso wasn't just for show; it transferred some of the pull to my shoulders and chest. Still, without hands or arms to use or swing, without even the ability to throw my head forward, I was operating under some remarkable handicaps.
Turning corners was a new experience. In a sense I was now a quadruped with no ability to bend sideways, or a little biped with a huge rigid tail. During later trainings my master - who seemed to be learning himself - steered me into tighter and tighter turns at different speeds, until we reached the limits of what I could manage without capsizing.
That first day, though, he mostly worked on different speeds, smooth starts, and instant obedience to the orders conveyed by the reins, the whip and his voice. I had a lot of signals by rote now and could rely on some of the mind-free responses I had been conditioned into. But it was a constant struggle to meet the new demands. As I tired, my legs dragged a little on the track and I had more trouble holding the rhythm when the whip stung me. I gasped and yelped more as my chest heaved against the confining harness. Sweat rolled down my forehead, ran stinging into my eyes, and joined the tears already rolling down my face.
I could see the point of keeping my feet high, because I was afraid of stumbling and falling on my face, no arms to protect me. When, at the end of that exhausting first day I did finally lose my footing, though, I didn't fall. The weight behind me was so great that I hung suspended from the shafts long enough to get my feet under me again. But my relief was cut short when my master made up for the lack of frontal injury by thoroughly punishing the back of me.
After that, every day of training included the sulky. Arleben drove me if my master wasn't around. He was meticulous about my form, demanding perfect symmetry in my movements, precise placement of my feet. Every day they worked me relentlessly, to exhaustion, but as time went on I could run faster and longer. I became better at this bizarre method of movement, my upper body so tightly confined, harnessed to immobility, only my breasts bobbing a little in their restraints.