This work is copyright 2000-2004 by Xaltatun of Acheron (A Pseudonym). It may be posted on the Internet to any free forum, provided it is not modified in any way, and provided that this notice is included in its entirety. It may not be sold, or included in any compilation that is sold, or posted on any forum that requires a fee for access, without my written permission. My permission will require payment, terms to be negotiated. For purposes of this notice, sites guarded by Adult Check or similar packages are considered pay sites. Posting on any site must include this copyright notice.
Adult Content Warning - this story contains adult themes, including non-consensual bondage/slavery and forced sexual acts. If you are under the lawful age for such materials (18 in most jurisdictions) or if you would find such material offensive, please go elsewhere.
Safety Warning. This story may contain descriptions of practices that are decidedly unsafe, either in general, or if performed by someone without adequate training. There are a number of good books available on safety in the BDSM scene. Most large cities, and some not so large ones, have organized BDSM groups that will usually welcome a newcomer. I'm not going to point out which practices are safe, and which aren't. Any practice is unsafe if performed by someone with inadequate training and experience, or if performed when not paying attention. Please think before you act. Don't make yourself a candidate for a Darwin award.
Story codes: (MF, FF, pony, SF, little sex)
There are currently eight stories in the Freehold series:
1. A Slave Girl of Freehold
2. A Ponygirl of Freehold
3. The Field Ecologist's Ponygirl (sequel to A Ponygirl of Freehold)
4. Delivery Ponyboy
5. Carriage Team of Freehold
6. Escaped Ponygirl
7. Pyramid Scheme
8. Gor meets Amazonia
Stories 2 and 3: Ponygirl and Field Ecologist form one story and should be read in that order. Story one leads into story 4, although there isn't any real continuity of plot.
Carriage Team of Freehold, Escaped Ponygirl, Pyramid Scheme and Gor Meets Amazonia form a sequence, to some extent based on events at the end of Delivery Ponyboy. You do not need to read them in sequence, but it may help fill in gaps.
Some additional background on Freehold, in particular, how it happened, is in the story "The Curtain Falls, The Curtain Rises," the end of the Ponygirl Transformation series.
The name Freehold has no relationship to any other use of the term by any other author. No connection should be assumed, either derivative or as a base for parody.
OK - now on to the story -------
Chapter 1. It happened this way: Twenty Years previously.
Chapter 2. The Princess Arrives.
Chapter 3. The Race.
Chapter 4. After the Race.
Chapter 5. Shopping Expedition.
Chapter 6. Plans
Chapter 7. Enclave Control Committee Meeting Number 497.
Chapter 8. Prep Time
Chapter 9. Unexpected efficiency causes a slight problem
Chapter 10. Temple Island
Chapter 11. The Stables
Chapter 12. Bureaucratic Flashback.
Chapter 13. Back at the stables.
Chapter 14. Diplomatic Dinner
Chapter 15. Sasha
Chapter 16. Enclave Control Committee Meeting Number 499.
Chapter 17. Payback Time.
Chapter 18. I Meet the Dodecahedron. We both survive.
Chapter 19. I buy Sleen.
Chapter 20. Customs Duty.
Chapter 21. Terri is a What???
Chapter 22. Introduction to the Dodecahedron.
Chapter 23. Interview with a ponyboy.
Chapter 24. Sojourn in Fantasyland.
Chapter 25. Conversation with the God’s Own Winemaker
Chapter 26. Master Skodarian.
Chapter 27. Taking Care of Terri.
Chapter 28. Council Business.
Chapter 29. Human Rights Conference.
Chapter 30. More Meetings.
Chapter 31. Bonnie out-clevers herself.
Chapter 32. Back at Master Skodarian’s.
Chapter 33. Another Mob Scene.
Chapter 34. Executive Reorganization.
Another prolog? Well, I suppose I can’t expect everyone to have read my previous memoirs, so here goes. If you have, you can get right into my latest contremps.
I’m Running Flame. If you think that sounds more like something you’d call a horse, you’re absolutely right. I am, or was, a ponygirl (it’s a bit confused which is which at the moment) and that’s my pony name. When all of this started, I was an assassin for a government department that’s so secret it’s never mentioned. I specialized in impersonating notable personages that someone in power wanted eliminated, and substituting for them for long enough that their eventual regrettable demise wouldn’t be traced back to foul play.
My last assignment was to remove someone named Sandra Stone. I knew she was some kind of mucky-muck on Freehold, but that didn’t ring any alarm bells. So I tried, failed, and wound up in a ponygirl training stable on Freehold, being trained to haul one of the big shots around in this ornate carriage. All that’s in my previous memoirs: Carriage Team, Escaped Ponygirl, and Pyramid Scheme.
Freehold is a very bizarre society that occupies this humongous island, well away from anyone else. One of the things about it is that they have enclaves of even more bizarre societies scattered around. The one I’m currently in is set up to look more or less like Ancient Egypt, including a real pyramid, which they’re still building the old fashioned way. We got there after one set up to look like the American Old South, more or less. I could have dealt with less, frankly: their ponygirl stables left a lot to be desired.
At the end of the last episode I was told that if I kept my nose clean, I was out from under being a ponygirl, and could transfer to immigration. But not just yet. I still had to finish up some work around the villa I’d found myself in charge of.
Right now, there are five other people in our merry band. Rippling Stream and Sparkling Brook are identical blonde ponygirls. I still haven’t quite figured out what the ponygirl thing is all about, but if there was such a thing as a natural ponygirl, those two were it. You could have used them as the definition of dumb blonde.
Fast Fox is a ponyboy who was my partner on the last assignment. He’s some kind of government enforcer from another department.
Bonnie and Frank are the housekeeper and pony groom. They were enforcers for the local drug trade, and had been insinuated into the household to keep track of us and do whatever seemed necessary. Well, they tried. Right now, they’ve got some kind of incomprehensible widget keeping them from doing anything harmful, and they’re headed for the training stables as soon as this caper is over.
Prince Andy is the Freehold Prince that owns the carriage we were pulling when this started; Steel Rivers is his valet. They’re off somewhere else at the moment.
The tall swordswoman appeared out of thin air in a dimly lit section of Port Kar. Amazons usually didn’t come to this district, and if they did, they walked in teams with safe conduct passes. Even then, regrettable things sometimes happened to them. At least, they would have considered them regrettable, although their new owners mostly didn’t. It was, after all, common knowledge that Amazons made the very best slaves – if you were man enough to tame one. If you weren’t, well, then you probably wouldn’t regret your lack of good judgement for very long.
The flame-haired swordswoman wore a simple tunic, the leather belt around her trim waist invisible because of the fashionable fold of fabric that drooped over it. She carried a field pack on her back, and wore her sword over her shoulder.
After a quick check, she strode down the dim street, ignoring the catcalls from several idlers as she passed. She noticed several shadows pacing her, and smiled grimly. Her first task was to gain some notoriety, and these vermin would certainly do.
“Whatcha doing here, girlie?” one of the bravos said as they pounced. “Little girls shouldn’t play with knives.”
Three with knives and two with swords, she noted as her sword slid out of the scabbard with the ease of long practice. Five against one was impossible odds, regardless of what the storytellers said. Except – these were thugs, not trained soldiers, and they wanted to capture her intact. She had no such inhibition.
She spun once, her blade slicing the two swords cleanly in half, and removing the three knives at the wrist. She took one hand off of her blade, and gestured. A flare of light, and the three handless bravos screamed as it cleanly cauterized the stumps on the ends of their arms.
The two remaining thugs dropped what was left of their now useless swords and turned to run. Two swift steps, and she had one of them dangling by the scruff of his tunic. “One question, oh incompetent one, and I will let you scuttle off to your lair. What is the way to the Temple of Hercules?”
“Hercules?” he gasped.
“Swiftly, or you will be able to take refuge there yourself,” she said, as her other hand found a purchase lower down.
“Take the ferry by the river docks,” he practically screamed, but he still managed to wave one arm in the right general direction.
[Behind you] a voice said in her mind, as a picture of two more thugs creeping up on her while she was occupied displayed itself.
She crouched to gain leverage as she threw her victim in the path of the approaching pair. They went down in a tangle of arms and legs.
She straightened up, and slowly surveyed the preternaturally quiet street around her.
“Now that was fun, guys,” she said into the silence. Then she turned and walked down the street, giving a sexy wiggle that caused her tunic skirt to flare.
Duchess Annabelle looked over the docks. She noted that the sign for the river ferry was still where she expected it, and strode down to the pier where it usually docked. The dock was empty, which wasn’t all that surprising; the ferry spent most of its time on the river.
She joined a small group of people who were obviously waiting. Two swordsmen who looked much better trained and equipped than the scum she’d just finished playing with and one man who looked like some kind of laborer. One of the swordsmen had a slave girl on a leash.
She was a delicious looking piece, the swordswoman decided. The girl knelt beside her owner, eyes down and legs spread apart, causing the tunic of her diagonally striped slave livery to rise on her thighs. A nice swordfight always made her horny, but now was not the time to arrange a short-term rental, darn it! Even if the swordsmen wouldn’t be shocked speechless by what she wanted to do with the blonde.
A few minutes later, the ferry came into view, floating down the river. The six oars, three on each side, rose from the water as the steersman turned the boat. Then they dipped in again and picked up the beat, bringing the boat into the dock.
The ferry was two levels. The six rowers were in the center, two to a bench. All six of them were slaves: four males and two unusually brawny females. Manacles gleamed on their wrists, attaching them to the heavy shafts of the oars. Although she couldn’t see it, she knew that their feet were also chained to a ring in the center of the deck.
A dockworker took the thrown line and made the bow fast to the pier, another one likewise pulled the stern in. Then they shoved the gangplank over to the upper deck, and the passengers disembarked.
There seemed to be a few of them. Another two warriors, several men that appeared to be merchants, three slave girls with their collars chained together, and a half dozen head of cattle.
The small knot of passengers uncoiled and walked aboard.
“Where to?” the captain asked her.
“Temple Island,” she replied.
She waved her hand in the air, as if grabbing a falling leaf, and then handed a silver piece to the man. He looked at her strangely, and then frowned as he bit it.
“Get aboard,” he said.
A few minutes later, the two deck hands pulled the gangplank ashore and cast the lines off. The boat drifted downriver a moment until the drum began beating, and the rowers dipped their oars in the water.
Temple Island, she decided, was much better kept up than Port Kar. She wasn’t surprised, given that she’d looked at everything she could, in some detail, in the distance viewer. It also wasn’t surprising considering that religious people tended to the ultra-clean and neat. They always said it was to honor the gods, but she had her doubts. She thought that it was more likely that neat freaks were attracted to religion.
The Temple of Hercules was a roundish building off to one side, in the archaic Greek style of pillars everywhere. She strode into the courtyard and stood for a moment admiring a statue of a baby in his crib, strangling two poisonous snakes.
“What brings you here, warrior?” a soft voice asked from behind her.
“I have an urge to take up a religious vocation,” she replied. Her questioner was a smallish man, dressed up in a priestess’ garb, and not making a very good show of it. Well, that wasn’t very surprising, considering the cult’s theology.
“You do know the requirements for our clergy?” the apparition asked.
“Of course,” she responded, and lifted the skirt of her tunic.
The priest took a long, admiring look.
“I will take you to the novice master,” he said.
The first I knew of Princess Annabelle’s arrival was when the two ponygirls that headed her carriage team turned off the road into the villa’s courtyard. The two brunettes strained at the straps that held them to the carriage shafts, the gaily colored ostrich and peacock plumes that decorated their harness tilted sideways with the effort. The two ponyboys behind them pulled forward, as the coachwoman swore at them in a furious alto voice. The red and gold coach came into sight a moment later, wheels creaking from the strain of the turn.
I shook my head in disbelief. We hadn’t made anywhere near as much fuss with the Prince’s carriage, but then I noted the differences. The suspension creaked when they turned, and the carriage seemed to bounce. I wouldn’t swear that the Prince’s carriage didn’t, but I was pretty sure of it. It swayed a bit, that I could feel from the way the shafts tilted, but I’d never heard a sound from behind me that wasn’t Steel Rivers swearing at us. The only reason I wasn’t entirely certain was that I’d arrived as part of the team, but I knew I hadn’t had anything like the difficulty this team seemed to be having.
As they brought it around to the path, I got a chance to look at the gaily decorated ponies a bit more closely. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. This set seemed to have real hooves, topped by horsehair from the knees down. Whoever had done them hadn’t done a real good job on the color scheme either, I thought a bit critically. The brown didn’t quite match their hair, but the white stocking one of them sported looked cute.
Their forelegs were lashed behind them, crosswise, just like we did ours, but there the similarity ended. Forelegs was the right word, it seemed. These ended in more real hooves, with horsehair from the elbow, or should I be calling it the knee, down. Well, if they were career ponies, it might make sense. Career ponies wouldn’t have any use for hands, not that even us short-timers were allowed to use ours. We had our hands and feet in pony boots, which pretty much made the difference moot.
The other obvious difference was the hair. They had a full head of hair, done up in a ponytail. Ours had a real mane, an inch wide and coming from the brow down the back to just about where the ribs ended.
Well, there was another difference. Their tails. This foursome had horse’s tails. That doesn’t seem like very much difference, but we had a real oddball combination of a horse’s tail and a cat’s or monkey’s tail. It was actually the latter, with longer hair at the beginning so that it looked kind of like a horse’s tail. It was also prehensile. I could use mine to swat flies and pick up little objects and throw them. Sometimes I even hit what I was aiming at!
As they stopped, I heard one of them snort. The other three just stood there, tails drooping behind. Well, they couldn’t do very much sightseeing, the way they were done up with blinders and checkreins. They had my sympathy; I hated the damn things, but the two blondes that filled out our team needed them to keep their minds on their work, or at least whatever they used instead of brains, so Fast Fox and I had to wear them too.
I am, by the way, Running Flame, and I’m a bit of an anomaly. As you’ve probably figured out, I’m a ponygirl, but at this point I’m also running the villa, so I’m not wearing my pony boots. I’m wearing a simple linen sleeveless dress that goes from my throat to the ground, punctuated with a leather belt and the most ornate buckle I’ve ever seen. I’ve swapped the boots for sandals; it’s easier on the floors.
The Princess’ driver vaulted off the seat and walked to the carriage door. She was dressed in what I almost had to call barber pole chic. It was a short tunic, low cut in both front and back, and a skirt that barely made it to midthigh. The black diagonal stripes on the white background had to be some kind of uniform; I don’t think anyone in her right mind would use something like that for everyday wear otherwise. She had her long brown hair tied back with a leather thong; it at least meshed nicely with the bronze collar that circled her neck. She was shod with a very utilitarian pair of sandals.
She pulled the door open with a flourish, although the effect was quite spoiled by the creak of the hinges. I shook my head again. This was fitting for a Freehold Princess? Whatever the reasons for the rest of the ensemble, that door shouldn’t creak! Unless it was a security measure. I frowned at the thought.
By the time I managed to assimilate all this, Princess Annabelle had alighted from the carriage. She, at least, lived up to my expectations. She was fairly tall, slim as a willow and with a no-nonsense air about her that said she was not only used to being in charge, anyone who doubted it for an instant was in for a not very pleasant discovery.
Unlike her driver, who I assumed was also her maid, she was dressed rather conservatively in a one-piece dress that reminded me somehow of religious robes. It had a light blue top, and a brown full-length skirt, divided by a green belt. She was a natural redhead; with hair so red I expected it to burst into flame. Whether it was redder than mine wasn’t something I could say right off. It had to be religious robes, I thought. Nobody with normal color vision would put that combination together.
I frowned again at the sight. There was something slightly off in her presentation. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but somehow it seemed a little inappropriate. My prior experience with Freehold Princesses was exactly none, but somehow I didn’t think that if one wanted to make an impression, she would make any false notes. Anyway, my contemplation of this assortment of anomalies had to be cut short to take care of my duties as hostess pro tem.
While I sorted out the introductions, Frank moved up to take care of the ponies. Frank was dressed, as were all the men around here, in a simple white linen wraparound short skirt with a knotted belt. It was probably the most authentic part of the Ancient Egypt enclave.
“I hope you’ve got somewhere I can freshen up a bit,” the Princess said as soon as we’d gotten the introductions out of the way. “We must have hit every rut and pothole on the way.” The Princess driver and maid, Sherry, flinched, and the princess turned to her. “Not your fault, pet. You deal with what you’ve got, and I should have had this miserable excuse for a carriage replaced a long time ago.
“Make sure my luggage gets into my suite while I’m working the kinks out.”
“Bonnie will show you where it is,” I put in. And help move it, I hope, I added silently. I wanted to see whether she’d take advantage of the opportunity to get acquainted with Sherry, or retreat to her kitchen.
Bonnie headed for the carriage as Sherry opened up the luggage compartment, and I made to turn up the flagstone path that goes into the compound, when the Princess said: “Show me what the compound looks like on the way.”
“Of course,” I said. “On our right, we’ve got the slave kennel and pony stable.” At least, I assumed that was what it was. It was a long building with a series of stalls along one wall, each of which came equipped with a ringbolt and chain, and not much else in the way of amenities. The ringbolt was set about a meter high in the stone wall, and the chain wasn’t much longer, which didn’t give the occupant a lot of slack as to where to stand or lie. I doubt if it had been planned that way, but it did give the ponies more room to maneuver; they normally stood on all four hooves when not in active use pulling something, so the four feet of chain gave them enough slack.
For the rest, the stalls were about a meter wide, and had two-meter high wooden partitions. Frank had taken down some of the partitions, providing several doublewide stalls.
We came out the other end onto the path as it twisted around the ponygirl stable and a large, cylindrical building on the left. The princess looked inside and chuckled. “So that’s how you keep them occupied,” she said. “What’s it for? A grinding mill?”
“It’s a water pump,” I said. “There’s a huge cistern on top.”
She walked over to take a closer look. Our two ponygirls and one ponyboy were hitched to three of the six spokes of the windlass, and were marching around to the beat of the thumper.
This mechanical marvel was a pendulum controlled drum, powered by a slow drip from the cistern. Frank had gotten it working a couple of days previously. The ponies were keeping time properly. This surprised me slightly; I expected Fast Fox to keep time, but the two blondes had never seemed to be quite that synchronized – except with each other. Then I chided myself. They didn’t have any trouble with keeping pace in the carriage, and this was no different. At least, they kept pace if they were outfitted with checkreins and blinders. They didn’t have them here, but then, there wasn’t anything to distract them.
The princess headed for the circular stairway, and I followed her up. The cistern itself isn’t much to see: it’s simply a huge open water tank, with a bamboo (or at least I think it was bamboo) pipe sticking out of one side spurting water, and other bamboo pipes lower down that distributed the water to various parts of the compound.
“Staffing shortage?” she asked after we’d come down from the water tower, indicating the wilted vegetation by the side of the path.
“Yes, Princess. There’s just me, Frank and Bonnie. You and your maid won’t strain Bonnie, but seven ponies and the grounds are a bit much for one groom.”
“I see. I don’t know yet whether we’re going to keep this place full time.” That was the first I’d heard of that plan! “If we do, we’re clearly going to need more staff.
“By the way, that windlass only had six shafts, and you’ve got seven ponies. What did you plan to do?”
“Well,” I answered, “I’d planned on either giving the odd pony extra study time, or keeping her in harness for trips to the village. I haven’t firmed up rotations yet because I didn’t have your pony’s dossiers, and I don’t know how much study time they can use.”
“None,” she said. At my surprised look, she explained: “They’re not on the system because they’re not Freeholders. In fact, they can’t talk, and I’m not certain they could use the helmets either.”
“Huh?” That was certainly not what I expected!
“It’s a problem,” she admitted. “One we haven’t figured out how to solve yet.”
“But…” I hated to sound repetitive, but that didn’t seem right.
“It is,” she said quietly, “on the short list to be solved.” The way she said it sounded like she did not want any more discussion.
“I take it that I’m not to worry my head about it until then,” I said.
“Exactly. You have neither the background nor the responsibility level.” I shrugged. Tilting at windmills has never been one of my favorite occupations, and if they did turn out to be giants that could pound me into the ground like a tent peg, well, that’s not one of my favorite occupations either.
We were back on the path by then. The next building was our destination: the villa itself. Like many buildings in this enclave, it was built as an open square, with an enclosed courtyard in the center. Its two stories loomed over the stables and the equipment shed. It’s huge, and the three of us have only made use of a few rooms. The rest still needs cleaning and repair.
Our villa comes equipped with a full size Roman bath. The water comes from the cistern. The bath is marble, divided into a pool and a platform. The Princess sighed in pleasure as she saw the arrangement, and slid out of her formal robes. At that point, the anomaly I had spotted sprang into focus. She had a penis where her vagina should be. Or rather, I saw as I attempted to avoid staring, she had a penis at the top of her vagina, where the clitoris normally hid. Otherwise, she was normally endowed, with a set of breasts whose firmness belied her apparent age, a trim waist and flaring hips, not that her belt had left me in any doubt about that part of her charms.
“I see you’ve noticed my little peculiarity,” she said with a chuckle. As if I could miss it! “Let’s get washed up and then you can work the kinks out of my muscles. I do hope you’re good with massage?”
“I studied it for one of my assignments, but I haven’t done it for a while,” I answered.
“No matter,” she said. “Do what you can while we brief each other. I didn’t have very much time to prepare for this assignment.” She walked out of the bath and draped herself over a low table. I knelt next to it and started in on one of her legs. She turned her head to look at me.
“What do you know of the Gorean and Amazonian enclave?”
“Not a whole lot,” I confessed. “I knew it was next, but there isn’t that much on the system that I can get at. Your comments on the ponies just about doubled what I knew.”
“Well, it started out as two enclaves, separated by a river. The Gorean part was male dominant, female submissive, and the Amazon enclave was exactly the opposite. They’re both based on absolute dominance. Whoever manages to dominate can do anything they want to whoever submits to them. Of course, the inferior can rebel, and sometimes wins. What keeps them going seems to be the old primate male and female behavioral instincts. Besides dominance, Gor seems to run on honor, and Amazonia runs on the standard female clique formation.
“The foundation myth for the Gorean enclave didn’t include anything resembling a religion, but the Amazons brought in the entire Classical Greek pantheon with them, and put their temples on an island in the river separating the two groups.”
I looked at her; a bit puzzled at the direction she was taking. She sighed as I worked the kink out of her left bicep, and began on the forearm.
“Well, part of the background was this demigod named Hercules. Ever run across him?”
I searched my memory. “Something about labors?” I hazarded.
“At least you know that much. Well, Hercules was a demigod, meaning his father was one of the gods, Zeus in fact, and his mother was mortal. Zeus’ wife, Hera, took an intense dislike to him, which wasn’t that surprising considering how much philandering Zeus indulged in. In any case, he wasn’t the most stable character around. He got in trouble by killing one of his King’s guests, so the King set him a series of impossible tasks that he was only able to finish with the aid of his goddess, Athena.
“You’d think that he would have learned better, but no, he wound up killing someone else politically important. This time the King kicked him out, and to expiate his sin, he served three years as the slave of a Queen somewhere. She dressed him as a woman and used him as her maid.”
I whistled at that. “Quite a comedown.”
“It was that. The point of all this background is that the historical Hercules cult castrated their priests and dressed them as women to celebrate that part of the story. The Romans put a stop to the castration when they took over, but the priests still dressed up in women’s garb. Besides being rather bizarre, it served a socially useful function. At that time and place, they tolerated gays, and kind of ignored lesbians, but they didn’t have any way of integrating people with other sexual oddities into the culture. So they declared them to be ‘touched by the gods,’ and sent them to the god’s house, that is, the temples.
“Which brings us to me,” she continued as I started unblocking the liver meridian down her left leg. She winced as I hit an unusually sore spot, and then continued.
“I like to tell people what to do, and had an interest in shifting parts of the culture around. Freehold likes to give people enough responsibility for them to find where they belong, as long as they learn to handle it first. Or at least, learn enough first so that they’ve got a reasonable shot at handling it.
“So I made my way up the hierarchy, and by the time I made Countess I’d pretty much run myself out of things to do on Freehold that really needed my talents. So I started studying the enclaves and making suggestions about how they could be improved.
“All of the large enclaves are problems,” she said, leaving the question dangling.
“Even the Old South?” I asked. “I didn’t really see too much of it from the bottom, but it did seem to be functioning.”
“That’s the best of the lot, but it still needs a lot of work. Prince Andy keeps it meandering along adequately, but culture transformation isn’t really his field. He’s a negotiator. Jeannette might be better, but she’s needed where she is.
“So the leadership noticed my interest, and started letting me make changes, after lots of discussion, of course. Eventually, I got bumped to Duchess, and it looked like I needed to take hands on control of one of them. What decided me on the Gor and Amazonia squabble was the Hercules cult.”
“It’s the perfect place for a hermaphrodite,” I said, showing that I was following this rather strange tale.
“Exactly. You know that Freehold doesn’t dictate sexual mores. It lets people with unusual sexuality grow in their own way until they’re old enough to make a decision on their own. Then most of them opt to remodel their physiology to match their instincts. There are six basic body types; well eight if you count neuters.”
I worked it out in my head and nodded. She was a hermaphrodite in a female matrix.
“So one day, an Amazon swordswoman appeared in Port Kar and then joined the Hercules temple. I rose to High Priestess rapidly by force of personality and a wave of small miracles. I got my bump to Princess at the same time, which I suspect was mostly a courtesy. In a lot of ways, both Prince Andy and Princess Jeanette can run rings around me. The three of us and some others are on the control committee for the enclaves.
“When I got there, the two groups had expanded to where they were pushing the border. When they were smaller, the occasional slave raids were a minor nuisance, but as they got more population, it looked like they were brewing a major war. I’ve spent the last two decades getting the notion across that dominance has very little to do with either sex or gender. It’s still two different societies, but now there are some dominant females on the Gorean side, and vice versa. They’re grudgingly accepted.”
“What about the ponies?” I asked.
“Oh, those,” she shrugged. “That situation goes back a ways. In fact, it goes back before Freehold – all of the enclaves are older than Freehold. They got the technology to make the ponies from the predecessor to the Dodecahedron. So did we, for that matter. The difference is we got the entire technology and keep improving it, while they just use it. Point, pull the trigger, stick the victim in a stall and watch him or her transform. So our ponies are considerably better.
“Meanwhile, we let both the Old South Plantations and Ancient Egypt wobble along on their own, with Prince Andy looking in on them. As you just discovered, that turned out to be a mistake.”
I shrugged as I began working on her groin. That gave me a chance to examine her sexual arrangements a bit more closely, and I noticed something. “No balls?”
“Oh, I have them, but they’re internal. Good bit of genetic engineering there to let them function at a higher temperature. Ahhh…” she sighed as I got the last knots of tension.
“Now, tell me what’s been going on around here that wasn’t in either of your reports. Start with the villa and your arrangements.” She gathered herself together, and flipped over on the table so she was resting on her elbows, her too perfect breasts squashed against the table.
So I spent some time filling her in on what little I knew of the enclave, and of the drug trade. Fortunately, she knew everything I’d put into my reports, and everything that was in the Prince’s reports, and an amazing amount of trade data: the enclave exported specialty agricultural products. What she didn’t have was a clear understanding of how the society was set up. Fortunately, she didn’t expect me to clarify it for her.
What she wanted from me was how the villa was set up.
We’d gone over the front on our way here, so I didn’t say very much about it.
As I’ve already mentioned, the actual villa itself is a rather large, two story building with a storeroom complex in the basement. As well as several other things, including a well equipped dungeon and torture chamber. That, at least, was up to modern standards. Then there was an agricultural equipment shed with lots of equipment in various states of repair, and a formal garden that we were rescuing from the weeds. Farther back, there were more gardens and an orchard with various kinds of fruit and nut trees. It was a huge establishment that had left me puzzled about why it was abandoned.
All in all, a very nice spread. It would have been even nicer if it hadn’t had an underground tunnel to the pyramid included. That whole underground tunnel system was what the drug traders used to do their business without anyone noticing. Prince Andy was attempting to figure out the system from the top, without anyone getting too upset; we’d managed to penetrate it by making Bonnie and Clyde (well, Frank, but I keep thinking of him as Clyde – it’s somewhat appropriate) sing like little birdies.
As I found out, the reason it was empty was political. One of the local rulers had died, possibly of foul play, and the various lords hadn’t gotten around to replacing him yet. So when the Prince came around with an entourage, it was conveniently available.
“So what’s your staffing situation?”
“Well, we’re making out so far. Bonnie can handle the cooking, and if I can co-opt Sherry we’ll have the housekeeping well in hand, even when Prince Andy and Steel Rivers get here. The place we’re short handed is in the stable staff and grounds crew. That’s Frank, and he’s got his hands full with seven ponies.”
“What about getting more staff locally? Is there a job market? Could we buy them?”
“Probably. I’m getting good enough at Coptic so I can understand most of what Bonnie and Frank say if they speak slowly. I’ve still got quite an accent, and my syntax is atrocious.”
“You’ve been on the program for what, five days?” she asked. “You should have it down perfectly day after tomorrow.”
“That’s one amazing language program,” I agreed with her.
“It certainly is. How’s your course work?”
I snorted. “Overwhelming.”
She laughed again. “That’s normal until you decide you’ve advanced far enough, and then there’s still keeping yourself up to date. Even our ponygirls study.”
“If they want to stay on taxi instead of freight,” I answered the implied question. “In fact, the two blondes just figured out that they needed to study to stay off of farm work when the Prince was done with them.”
“I saw that note. Good work, by the way. That’s why you’re the deputy supervisor; neither Andy nor I have the time to deal with them.” She chuckled.
“Well, I’m confirming you as chatelaine. Sherry isn’t capable of doing the job, and I don’t want Bonnie in the position.”
At that point I heard the slap of two pairs of sandals on the stone of the corridors. A moment later, Bonnie and Sherry came in. Sherry fell to her knees against one of the walls; both Bonnie and I looked at her curiously. It looked like some kind of prescribed position.
The Princess rolled off of the massage table and walked over to where she’d left her dress. Sherry promptly shot to her feet to help her put it on, not that she needed any help. I slipped mine on over my head and buckled the belt, checking my knife more out of habit than anything. That amazing ten-inch sliver of Damascus steel had come in handy twice, and I wasn’t taking the chance that I wouldn’t have it if I needed it again.
“Sherry, bring me a tray in my suite in half an hour,” the Princess ordered. “Yes, Holiness,” Sherry answered and looked about in confusion. I realized that she didn’t know her way around yet, so I nodded to Bonnie to make sure she knew what she was doing around the kitchen. The two of them walked out, sandals slapping against the flagstones of the corridor.
After I checked on Frank, which took a while as he had to settle the new ponies, I headed for the kitchen. Sherry had just gotten back from delivering her tray to the Princess. Both Sherry and Bonnie looked a bit frustrated, they both seemed to want to talk, but neither one wanted to start.
“Sherry, how do you know when the Princess wants you?” I decided to start with some organizational details.
“My collar tickles,” she said with a straight face. I must have looked a bit startled, because she elaborated a bit. “It’s something the High Priestess does; none of the other priests can do it.”
“Oh. Well, just make sure you tell whoever you’re with at the time when she wants you, and don’t leave whatever you were doing in a mess.”
“Who reports to who?” Bonnie asked when I ran down.
“Sherry belongs to the Princess, and she has first call. When she’s not serving the Princess, she reports to you. However, she’s to talk to me about assignments and so forth. We’ll talk more about that after the conference. Figure another half hour or so until Frank gets the ponies finished and washes up.”
“If it pleases you…” Sherry looked at me sideways.
“It pleases me for you to be direct.” I riposted.
“Are we in Freehold?”
The question startled me for a moment, before a possibility occurred. “Were you born in the Gorean Enclave?”
“Amazonia, actually. I was captured in a raid and enslaved, and then sold to the temple. I’ve never been anywhere else.”
“Well, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, this entire island is Freehold, but then, so is where you live. The no part is that this is an enclave like yours, but based differently. It’s called Ancient Egypt.”
“Can I immigrate to Freehold?”
“I don’t know? Have you asked the Princess?”
“Ask the High Priestess? Once.” She paused for a moment. “She told me I would become a ponygirl.” Sherry looked like that was a fate worse than death. If what the Princess had told me was true, I wasn’t surprised.
“Well, let me find out,” I said as I put my communicator on the counter and pushed the on button and called up the advisor.
Good Morning, Running Flame. What can I do for you today?
I waved my hands above it, playing like I had a real chord board. “Sherry just asked me if she could immigrate to Freehold. I haven’t a clue how to answer her.”
Who’s Sherry? I don’t have her on the list.
“Princess Annabelle’s maid.”
Why hasn’t she asked the Princess?
“She asked once, got told she might have to become a ponygirl, and seems to be scared to ask for any more information.”
Tell her that the option is open, but we don’t think it’s advisable. There’s likely to be too large a gap for her to fit into our society on any level higher than household slave.
“Is that based on her observed performance, or just general expectations?”
General expectations. We don’t have her on the system since she isn’t a Freehold resident. It’s possible she could adapt, and it’s also possible she couldn’t do better than ponygirl.
“I see. I presume I need to discuss it with the Princess as well.”
I turned the machine off and hung it back on my belt.
“What was that?” Sherry asked.
“That’s what I use to talk to the advisor,” I answered.
“Kind of like when the High Priestess is talking to the gods?”
Odd. Very odd. However: “Kind of. This is another yes and no answer. Yes, you’re allowed to immigrate. No, you probably don’t really want to. The advisor thinks there’s too big a gap, and you will likely wind up in a very similar position, as a household slave.”
Her face fell. Then: “That’s better than being a ponygirl.”
“Opinions differ on that. Freehold ponygirls aren’t like your variety. You might have to start out as a ponygirl while you learn enough to advance. You most likely won’t end up there unless you like it. In any case, we need to discuss it with the Princess.”
“Do we have to?”
“Yes. Consider this your first lesson.” I noticed Bonnie listening, so I spoke a bit generally. “The Gorean enclave is based on dominance. Freehold is based on responsibility. From a Gorean enclave point of view, you belong to the temple, and the head of the temple, that is, High Priestess Annabelle, can dispose of you as she sees fit. Nobody will contest her decision in the matter. However, from a Freehold viewpoint, Princess Annabelle does not have that kind of absolute authority over you. She is your supervisor, and you aren’t of high enough rank to make this kind of decision on your own. From there it gets a bit complicated. She can’t prohibit you from immigrating if you want to, but she can’t make any special provisions for you either.”
Sherry looked confused. “Princess Annabelle?” she finally asked.
“Yes. High Priestess Annabelle is a Freehold Princess.”
“Oh. Then what did she mean when she said I’d become a ponygirl?”
“That’s the bottom of the system. Let me elaborate a bit. Responsibility comes in two flavors: personal and social. Personal responsibility is how well you do the various tasks you have to do in your daily life or your profession. Social responsibility is how well you fit into society, how you treat other people, and how you support the various social structures that keep everything working smoothly. You simply don’t have the background to function in Freehold society except on the bottom.
“Ponygirls are at the bottom. The Freehold variety has access to an educational system you’ll have to see to believe, although no one is going to make them study if they don’t want to. Everyone has the opportunity to advance, and that’s rigidly enforced. How high you go depends mostly on how much effort you want to put into your own advancement.”
I was saved from having to say any more by the sound of Frank coming down the corridor from the bathing chamber. We headed upstairs to the Princess’ suite.
The Princess was sitting in a comfortable chair, eyes closed and apparently asleep as we came in. She clearly wasn’t, since she opened her eyes immediately and waved us to the side, pointing at a corner with two fingers. Sherry dropped to her knees in what looked to me like another prescribed posture. I filed the hand signal for future reference, and sat on my heels beside her, in the standard position for Old Egyptian women. Bonnie sat next to me in the same fashion, and Frank filled out the row, sitting cross-legged.
She closed here eyes again for a few minutes, and then aparently finished whatever she was doing. She turned to Sherry and looked a question.
Sherry stammered a moment, and then burst out with: “Mistress, I want to immigrate to Freehold.” She looked both scared and relieved once she got it out.
“I was wondering how long it would take you to ask,” the Princess said, a bit dryly. “I believe Running Flame told you that I would grant your petition?”
Petition? Oh, she was talking as the High Priestess.
“Well, it isn’t quite that simple. From a purely personal point of view, I’d like to talk you out of it. You do your job well, and I’d have to train a replacement. I’d hoped to retire first.
“If you immigrated now, you’d have to start as a ponygirl. Freehold ponygirls are not the same as ours, you can ask Running Flame to tell you the differences. You don’t know enough about Freehold to start anywhere else. If you decided to come back with me and study until you could take the immigration sequence, it would take a few years.”
“I don’t think that would work, Highness. If I went back, I’d probably never do it.”
“It’s good that you know yourself that well, although not maintaining your resolve is a weakness you need to work on. However, that leaves me in a quandary.”
She turned to me. “Running Flame, there’s something I’d like you to think over. How’d you like to become the Ponygirl Goddess? Or at least the god’s own favored ponygirl, with all the trappings.”
“Huh?” I do not look good with my mouth open like that. I shut it with a snap.
“Where did that come from?” I admit it wasn’t the most intelligent thing to say, but I couldn’t think of anything else.
She laughed. “You remember our conversation earlier.” That wasn’t a question; it was a signal that she wanted to be a bit elliptical in front of Bonnie and Frank. I nodded.
“I think that having a ponygirl as a divine messenger would shake things up in a way I want to have them shaken.”
“What’s the job entail?” I asked.
“Well, part of it is being my personal ponygirl, and part of it is being a priestess, fairly high up in the hierarchy since you would have a personal patron in the pantheon.”
“So I’d switch back and forth?”
“That’s likely. I haven’t worked out all the details yet.”
“What’s that mean in terms of Freehold?”
“Well, if you were setting policy, it would be a job for a Duchess. Since you’re nowhere near that, and probably won’t ever make it that high, you’ll be following strict orders on policy.”
“One step below Princess, just above Countess.” I nodded, impressed.
Frank cleared his throat. “I suppose this is as good a time as any. Can those four ponies of yours talk? It doesn’t seem like it.”
“No, they can’t. That’s one of the things that’s going to have to be corrected, and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned. It’s not your problem; they can understand you well enough.”
“Anyway,” she continued, “that introduces the reason I’m here. I’m a specialist in culture transformation; you might say the specialist since there isn’t much call within Freehold. We need to do something about the mess here that the drug runners have left, and we’re nowhere near a decision about whether to continue it the same way we’re doing the Gorean enclave, or to shut it down and absorb the population into Freehold.
“Prince Andy told me you’d be shutting it down,” I ventured.
“Well, we may. We really need a reason to continue it.”
“Like the Old South enclave has one?” I asked, a bit ironically.
“Besides being a tourist attraction? Yes, it’s based on Bondage and Chivalry, and don’t underestimate the tourist aspect. It’s a very important safety valve for a certain element of the world population, although that isn’t usually talked about publicly.
“Over the next couple of days, I’m going to be pumping you two,” she indicated Bonnie and Frank, “for what you know of the local culture. Flame, you set all three of them up on the system, you’re still the chatelaine and my deputy. I want dinner with all of you an hour before sundown.”
We discussed schedule a bit more and then left, a very confused Flame leading the herd.
A bit later, I started to show Sherry how to use the communicator. Right away, she stopped in puzzlement, a frown on her face.
“What’s the problem, pet?” I asked.
“I need to read?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied, puzzled.
“I never learned. That’s what scribes are for.”
I sat back and looked at her. Talk about missing the obvious. “Let me think a moment.” I took out my communicator and switched it on.
Good Evening, Running Flame. What can I do for you?
“Sherry’s illiterate. Now what do I do?”
There’s a basic literacy program for adults. I’ll set it up first, but you’re going to have to help her get started. I’ve put the course on your curriculum. You may also have to motivate her a bit; people who grow up in a culture that doesn’t value universal literacy sometimes have real difficulty understanding why they need it.
I shut the thing off and sat back to think a moment.
“Well, the first thing you’re going to have to do is learn to read and write.”
“Why? I’m not going to become a scribe. That’s boring!”
“Let me explain the facts of life on Freehold. Ponygirls do three kinds of tasks. They pull people around the city; that’s called taxi. They pull freight wagons, and they do farm work. You don’t need to be literate to pull freight wagons or do farm work, but you do in order to do taxi. Freehold city is too big to learn by being driven around and having someone tell you where things are. You have to study the map, and the map is in there.” I pointed at her communicator.
“If you want to ever rise above being a ponygirl, you have to study for the next levels. Those courses are in there. The examinations are in there. They are nowhere else. Some courses you’ll have real teachers to help, but there is always material you have to read. If you go to Freehold and you don’t learn to read, you’ll spend the rest of your life either pulling a freight wagon or pulling a plow.”
“But I don’t want to become a scribe!”
“What’s this scribe business? Freehold doesn’t have scribes. There’s no need. Everyone can read and write, and there are other ways of keeping records.”
She started to pout.
“Sherry, you need to make a decision. Either you decide to learn to read and write, or you forget immigrating to Freehold. Freight and farm work is for the stupid and those that lack any kind of ambition. You’re better than that. Whether you’re good enough to advance to where you can organize your life to suit yourself is something that I can’t predict, but you won’t have the chance to find out unless you learn to read and write.”
Sherry sighed. “Let me think about it. I never knew I’d have to do this.”
“Don’t think too long,” I said. “The offer will remain open, but you did say you had problems keeping up your motivation.”
“It’s not that. I tried learning how to be a scribe, and didn’t make it.”
“Oh? What went wrong?”
“I couldn’t make out some of the letters. There’s something wrong with my eyes, I think.”
“We can probably deal with that, but it may take a couple of days.”
“Oh!” She straightened up in excitement. “That would be great!” Then her face fell. “Why so long? I thought the sorcerers could do anything!”
“I don’t know that much about medical procedures, and they may want me to be involved in tests. Everything takes time.”
“Especially if you have to do it,” Sherry nodded. “You’ve got a lot on your hands.”
The day wound down. I delivered Sherry to her mistress. The Princess pointed to the chain hanging from the foot of her bed; Sherry made a face, and then snapped the lock on the ring hanging from the front of her collar, and tossed the key to Annabelle, who hung it on a peg out of easy reach of the slave girl.
Then I retired with Bonnie and Frank. After locking them into their collars, I left them on the bed to study, and went into the next room for some privacy while I hit the system.
My system greeted me with a bunch of new items. It now had Sherry’s dossier, such as it was, and a tidal wave of new courses. It also had a load of stuff on the Gorean Enclave, and an entry for the body makeover designer that I’d last seen almost a year ago.
I switched to the advisor. “Sherry tells me she tried to learn to read some time ago, and she couldn’t make out the letters. Is there anything you can do?”
I’ll switch you to medical.
What’s the nature of the problem? It was another different “voice.”
“One of my subordinates, Sherry, reports that she couldn’t learn to read because she couldn’t make out the letters.”
We don’t have her medical records. Please locate the person named Sherry. The system switched to some kind of viewport, with me centered in the frame. I studied it a moment and identified the controls. Then I moved it around to the Princess’ suite, and found Sherry still attached to the foot of the Princess’ bed. I zoomed in on her, and pressed the virtual button.
One moment while we add her to the system and do a preliminary check. I sat back to wait. Like most people, its idea of a moment seemed to be longer than mine, but it came back in a couple of minutes.
There doesn’t seem to be any obvious genetic or structural problem preventing her from being able to read. The brain areas involved are underdeveloped. This is normal for people who have never learned to read. We will need to run some tests while she is looking at text to further diagnose the problem.
“Can I schedule it for tomorrow?”
Of course. We also note that there are a number of minor genetic problems that should be dealt with, and a major physical insult that appears due to an incomplete sex change procedure. We would suggest that it should be dealt with, but you do not have the authority to approve the procedures.
“Send the request to Princess Annabelle.”
The Gorean Enclave material included an orientation for visitors, and a more in-depth orientation to the Hercules cult, with special emphasis on temple routine and ritual. I put that to the side for the moment, and turned to the body makeover designer.
“Why do I have the makeover designer now?”
Why do you think?
It’s asking me. Well… “I suppose the Princess wants me to look more like the Gorean ponygirls.”
That’s right. In particular, you’re to set up hooves on your rear legs, and long, horse type ears. You can keep the tail the way it is. For the rest of it, think of something imposing. Think of what a god would want in its high priestess.
Imposing, eh? I could go for that.
“What kind of color scheme?” I asked.
The Princess hasn’t decided exactly where to fit your divine patron into the pantheon. At a guess, you might look at Poseidon; he was a horse god before he became the god of the sea.
Poseidon, huh? I made a note for myself to look him up and ask Annabelle. I signed off the advisor and looked at my course work. The new courses looked like an avalanche. In a couple of minutes, though, I understood what most of them were about. One section was the immigration sequence; the advisor had decided to simply dump them on me since I wouldn’t be going back to Freehold City any time soon.
The rest was the assessment and remedial sequence it had decided on for Sherry. Apparently someone with her background wasn’t a completely new proposition.
I started on the makeover, and then laughed quietly to myself. I’d made my decision; I was going to stay a ponygirl for a while longer.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Gor Meets Amazonia. How is Running Flame going to deal with being the God’s Own Ponygirl?
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