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.
In the first episode of Gor Meets Amazonia, we did a bit of a flashback about how Princess (then Duchess) Annabelle introduced herself to the Gorean Enclave with a show of swordsmanship that would baffle anyone who knows swordsmanship. All will eventually be revealed. Various other things moved along; Sherry has decided to immigrate to Freehold, and has discovered a few problems in her way, like she’s illiterate. Annabelle wants to turn me into the living representative of the gods, as the gods own ponygirl. I must say I was intrigued by the idea.
In the second episode we had the obligatory ponygirl race. I won the first two heats, and one of the twins won the third. Princess Annabelle decided we needed more staff, so she wanted a small shopping expedition.
In the third episode, we went shopping for more staff, and bought a courtesan for the Prince and Princess, a farm supervisor to take care of the place, and another groom to help Frank out. The Prince arrived, and I discovered that I was now expected to attend Enclave Control Committee meetings. They’re a trip and a half, let me tell you. In any case, plans are what doesn’t happen, and all the nice ideas about how to inject me into the Enclave with maximum effect were doomed to be unraveled, as you’re about to see. Not so incidentally, I also found out exactly how the then Duchess had managed that sword swing. Nasty tech, there.
We’d been planning my insertion into Gorean society at the Saturnalia, but the UN bureaucrats decided to move their timetable up a couple of weeks. I found out that the ecology representative was on the boat. Fortunately, that gave us a few days to prepare. The boat trip to Freehold takes five days. I’m not certain exactly how they manage to make it last that long, dog paddle, maybe? In any case, I was prepared to bless whoever decided on that delay.
We decided that the last thing they wanted me to do was take the ponygirl taxi to Freehold City. I still hadn’t passed either the visitor’s exam or the immigration exam, and they are quite rigid that you don’t get on the land side of the Customs and Immigration building until you do – unless you’re headed for the pony training stables as a trainee.
So I used my newfound divine powers to teleport myself to the pier.
I walked out of a shadow and recognized Princess Jeanette and Countess Sandra immediately. Jeanette, of course, I’d seen in the Enclave Control Committee meeting, and I’d been seeing Sandra’s face in the makeup mirror prior to that aborted assassination attempt. We said hello and compared notes on what we were to do as the ship heaved its bulk up to the dock and the dockworkers made it fast and rolled up the stairs for the disembarking passengers and their luggage.
This was supposed to be the main entrance to Freehold. Well, never let it be said that Running Flame does things by the book; I’d managed to be on Freehold for over a year without coming in the front door.
My target, um, my honored guest, came down the gangplank, and the three of us moved to intercept him. Shock value is always useful. He spent enough time looking at me that he almost missed the Princess and Sandra. I had decided on a Greek style chiton, which is a rather loose, ankle or floor length dress that is frequently worn with a deep fold over the belt, bringing the hem up to about the knee. In many ways, it’s a really practical style. Wearing it up lets people get a good look at my horse’s legs and gives my tail room to maneuver.
He got all the way down the portable stairway and partway up the pier before he recognized the Princess. It’s hard to avoid recognizing her actually. It’s not so much that she’s particularly memorable, because she isn’t. She simply looks like a Princess. She’d stand out in any crowd. Besides that, she’s the second most public figure on Freehold, at least from the outsider’s viewpoint. The news outlets usually showed Prince Gregory, but anyone with actual business on Freehold would run across her picture quickly.
The Princess, of course, was dressed appropriately for daytime office wear, just in much better quality than most office workers would dare to order from the system. Sandra was in the Embassy uniform, not that it would fool any Freeholder that had contact with her.
As soon as he recovered, he made straight for us, assuming that he was the reason we were standing there. He was, of course, right, but it never pays to ignore the porters. They’re no more intelligent than they have to be, and while some of them make it their business to check the passenger lists for VIPs, most of them don’t. They just assume that common courtesy will do for anyone. They are, of course, right. Since there’s no way of tipping a porter (or anyone else, for that matter) they tend to take a very egalitarian view of things.
We didn’t quite know what we were going to do with him. Well, that overstates the case; there were several possibilities, and we didn’t know which he would choose. Anyway, our two VIPs snagged him in passing, leaving the porter looking mildly confused. The last thing he wanted to do was interrupt the Princess; not that she would do anything to him, but he didn’t want to take chances.
I triggered the customs scan. Like many things on Freehold, the scanners could do a lot more than the hierarchy let on. The scan only takes a second or so, and not only checks for contraband and so forth, but also checks against the declaration.
The scan picked up six items that hadn’t been declared, all of which would have been grounds for sending him to the stables. The rules are the rules. We were still on the dock, so it didn’t matter – yet.
I stepped up. “I’m sorry to interrupt you.”
“Not hardly,” chuckled the Princess. “What’s the problem?” As if she didn’t already know.
“He has six items that don’t match his customs declaration.” I snatched a piece of paper out of the air and handed it to him.
He had the grace to look nonplussed. Frankly, I didn’t expect a senior government official to be trying this kind of stunt.
Then he looked at it further and frowned.
“I recognize the weapon, of course. I was informed that the Enclaves were quite dangerous. And these two are medications for a quite rare condition. I don’t know where these other three items came from.”
He seemed to be telling the truth. I triggered a full medical scan with reference to the two medications. In a moment it came back positive – he definitely had something that they could be prescribed for, although there were better medications. It was also easy enough to fix – if you could afford the Dodecahedron’s fees. Something was very strange.
The Princess signaled me to take it. “The Gorean Enclave is dangerous, but that kind of weapon isn’t allowed in any of the Enclaves. If you can’t use a sword, you’d be much better off with bodyguards. We’ve laid on a security detail for you so you should be safe.”
“We’ll hold the weapon for your departure,” I said. “We’re taking it on ourselves to fix the medical problem, so you won’t need the medications. Since you disavow knowledge of the other three devices, we’ll dispose of them for you.”
I reached into the air, pulled out a green tag, and stuck it on the luggage, and told the porter to hold on a minute.
“Now what happens?” the thoroughly confused bureaucrat asked.
“That depends on how you want to do this,” I responded. “We weren’t quite sure whether you wanted to spend a couple of days in Freehold City to consult with Ecology, or whether you wanted to go directly to the Gorean Enclave. In the first case, you have to take the visitors exam. In the second, I can teleport you directly to Temple Island. We have a room waiting.” I finished up hopefully.
“By the way, I don’t believe we’ve actually been introduced,” I continued. “I’m Running Flame, and I’m more or less your keeper while you’re in the Gorean Enclave. At least, I’m supposed to see that you get to your meetings with the Fisher’s Guild and back intact.”
“Are you a ponygirl?” he asked next.
“I suppose that depends on your definition. Except for the hooves and the ears, I could be an ex-ponygirl. Many of us keep our tails, but normally only career ponygirls have hooves, and only a few of them. There are also some differences with the Enclave ponies. I suppose you could say I’m a satyr, except they have horns and a lot more hair.”
While he was occupied with me, the Princess and Countess walked off, back to the Customs and Immigration building.
“I suppose I want to expedite this mission.”
“Which means we teleport. Let’s wait a minute until the rest of the passengers clear the dock, and then we’ll go. We’ve got a room reserved for you in the visitors center on Temple Island, and another one at an inn in Port Kar.”
We stood there and watched the show. The ferry is a big boat; the shipping company that runs them has ten ferries on this run, one scheduled each day. The passengers had finished debarking, and the cranes had started unloading the containers from the main cargo hold onto the rail cars on the other side of the dock. It’s an imposing sight if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
A few minutes later, all the visitors were off the dock.
“Hold on to your hat,” I said. A moment later, we were outside of the visitor’s center. He gulped; the sudden change of scenery does that to some people.
I took a moment to get my bearings, since this was my first time here as well. The visitor’s center is another of these hollow square buildings with an inner courtyard. This one was two stories. I signaled to one of the waiting slave girls. She made standing an act of beauty, and came over to look at the handcart in puzzlement. I showed her how to push and pull it. She made a pretty “Oh” of her mouth, and then followed us into the foyer.
The hotelkeeper hurried over. “You must be Running Flame and Ser Johannsen?” he asked. Not that identifying me was that hard, although he’d never seen me before.
“We are. I believe you have a room for Ser Johannsen?”
“Everything is in readiness. Allow me to tell Marta and Donna you’re here.” They were the two swordswomen we had engaged to keep Ser Johannsen in one piece. He waved at another of the ubiquitous slave girls, who hurried off to do his bidding. A few minutes later, two Amazons walked into the room.
They were both 5’10” brunettes, dressed in brown leather tunics, and wearing short swords where they could get to them in a hurry. They looked very, very competent, in the fashion of female guards the world over.
“So you’re the man who’s going to tell the Fisher’s Guild how much they’re allowed to catch,” Marta said.
“Doesn’t look like he’s got it in him,” Donna said in counterpoint.
“He doesn’t have to. The gods have decreed it, and it’s going to happen,” I told them.
“The gods?” Marta sounded like she was trying to suppress a fit of the giggles. “How are they going to do that?”
“They’ve told their handmaiden to take care of it,” I said with a straight face. “In other words, me.”
“I’ll have to admit, I’ve never seen anyone who looks quite like you,” Donna said. “Isn’t that the same shade of hair that the harridan who runs the Temple of Hercules sports?”
“Pretty close,” I said. “I think mine’s just a shade darker, but you can’t tell unless you see us side by side.”
“Talk’s cheap,” contributed Marta.
“So it is,” I said. I plucked an iron rod out of the air, tied it into a credible knot, and handed it to her. She tugged at it a moment and handed it to her companion.
“I don’t think the Fisher’s Guild would give you very high marks for that knot,” she said.
I shrugged. “They do the fishing, and I’m sure they do it well. I’m the god’s mouthpiece and enforcer.”
“Well, that answers one question,” Donna said as she handed the contorted bar back to me.
“Oh?” I asked as I tossed it into the air. It vanished at the top of its trajectory.
“We’ve debated whether the gods exist, or whether it’s the sorcerers of Freehold, or whether all this religion crap is just the priest’s way of making a soft living.”
She smiled. “After that demonstration, I don’t think it’s the priests.”
“Do the gods need the priests, or do the priests need the gods?” I asked in return. “I’ve got to go introduce myself to the Temple of Dionysus.”
“Lotsa luck with that bunch,” she said. “They’re probably still hung over.” I waved at them as I walked out of the foyer.
“If you need me, yell,” I said over my shoulder as I left.
When I arrived outside, I frowned at the two ponygirls standing sullenly at the hitching rack. Working on that situation was number two on my agenda, right after I got this official pain in the ass settled.
Well, since they were on my agenda, avoiding the issue wasn’t going to be helpful. I walked up to the first one, and looked her over. She was about six feet tall, several inches of which were accounted for by her hooves. I figured she would have been closer to 5’7” if she still had feet. She was a brunette. Whoever was in charge of grooming her wasn’t spending very much time on her hair; part of it was caught in a ponytail and part of it had escaped into windblown strands.
I plucked a brush out of the air and proceeded to brush it out and then put it up. She looked substantially better with that plume of hair waving above her head, rather than drooping behind it.
Then I scratched her behind the ears and under her jaw. I took out the bit and held a sweetmeat up in front of her. Her eyes widened as she looked at it, and then she looked at me as if to say: “May I?”
I nodded fractionally, and she bent her head forward to take it from my outstretched palm. When I held the bit up, she opened her mouth for me to reinstall it.
I untwisted her reins from the post, and got into the chariot. “Back,” I commanded as I pulled the reins. She leaned backwards, and let me guide her around. Another pull on the reins, and then I flicked them and she heaved the chariot into motion, and then settled into a trot.
Temple Island is an interesting place. Classical Greek style temples take up the center. The ancients agreed with modern religions on one point: the temples were the homes of the gods. Then they went in a very different direction: the god’s homes didn’t include the priest’s dwellings, offices and so forth. Because of this, dwellings and the other structures of a small town and its surrounding agricultural land take up the rest of the island. Dwellings for the permanent residents are scattered around. Not unsurprisingly, the adherents of particular gods or goddesses tended to congregate in one place; some of them had a complete building to themselves, and some of them shared dwelling space.
The reason I was headed for the Dionysus cult’s dwelling place was quite simple. Dionysus and Pan were my divine sponsors, and it would look awfully strange if I lived somewhere else. As the swordswoman had alluded, they were a drunken bunch, and nobody wanted to share the same dwelling with a pack of lunatics that were given to drunken rages. Consequently, there were some quite choice apartments open.
I didn’t really want to live with a bunch of drunken lunatics, either. So I’d set up a minor miracle. The devotees of the grape were about to discover the joys of sobriety, except during the official festivals, of course.
The other interesting thing about the island was the economy. The entire island was supported by offerings, and the founders had set it up as a primitive communism, not unlike the Catholic Church. In most of the orders, the vow of poverty meant that the cleric owned nothing of his own, other than minor items of personal importance, and the order itself took care of his needs. They had extended this to all of the permanent residents. The other side of the bargain, of course, was that all of those self-same permanent residents had to do something useful to keeping the place running, or they were kicked off of the island.
What most of the residents didn’t know was that quite a bit of the income came from Freehold, mysteriously appearing in the storehouses when nobody was looking. I’d found out about it as part of my briefing; like much of the policy, there was no reason given. They just did it. It had the interesting side effect of increasing the number and fervor of believers significantly, at least within the priesthood.
Once I moved in, which was mostly a matter of insuring that the bed had clean sheets and that there were a couple of spare outfits in the closet, I headed for the palace. Palace is much too grand a word for the building, but it did indicate its function as the place where administrative matters were taken care of. My concern was to meet with the council.
The council was the final arbiter of whether someone stayed on the island or not. In my case, that wasn’t a question. Her Holiness had told the council that I would be moving in, and there wasn’t going to be any discussion. The council members hadn’t liked the news, so I needed to do some political fence mending.
The Temple Island council was an interesting experience. It met in a largish room over the administrative offices. The room was set up more as a lounge than as anything most people would associate with a meeting. The members were the high ranking priests and priestesses from the various cults, who wandered in and out for most of the day. Basically, it was a place where they could meet each other on neutral ground, relax where their devotees wouldn’t be scandalized, compare notes, exchange favors and occasionally make group decisions.
The titular head of the council was the high priest of Zeus, as I would have expected. In practice, he showed up about as frequently as everyone else, and only exercised his authority when there was a formal meeting.
I simply walked upstairs and into the lounge like I belonged there. The conversation stopped as I walked over to the bar and accepted a glass of wine from one of the servitors.
“Hi, folks,” I said as I looked for an unoccupied recliner. “I’m Running Flame, and I hope that Her Holiness Annabelle did remember to tell you that I’d be arriving.”
“Yes, she did,” a well built brunette said from the other side of the room. “I’m Donna; we usually don’t bother with titles while we’re here unless there are outsiders present. Formally, I’m one of the Handmaidens of Poseidon. I’m afraid I’m not all that clear on what your title and duties are.”
“I’ve got the rather pretentious title of Messenger and Enforcer for the Gods.”
“Meaning Freehold, no offense meant,” a man said from across the room. “I’m Gerald, of the priesthood of Hermes.”
“No offense taken, although I would appreciate it if we left my affiliation a bit more ambiguous. As far as the average person is concerned, I’m a humble servant of Pan and Dionysus, and I’d prefer that it stay that way.”
“You’ll reconsider that once you find out what Animal House is like,” Gerald said to a wave of chuckles.
“Oh, Dionysus has taken care of that. He’s seen fit to give his devotees the gift of being able to drink as much of the fruits of the vine as they want without getting drunk.” I paused for effect. “Of course, they’ll still have the hangover.”
“I suppose I should be pleased,” a matronly woman said. “I’m Rinda, the Handmaiden of Hera, and Hera is usually not pleased by drunkards.”
“Very pleased to meet you,” I responded, “and I expect you’ll also be pleased by the first thing I’m bringing.”
“I thought that had to do with me,” Donna said. “At least, Annabelle said you’d be doing something with setting fishing quotas. I didn’t understand, and I need to.”
“It starts with overpopulation,” I said. “Too many mouths to feed, and the Fisher’s Guild is fishing in waters that rightfully belong to the Ancient Egypt enclave. It’s also overfishing several stocks, which has effects in several other places in the world. That’s what the pain in the ass I’m escorting around is concerned with, by the way. I doubt if he knows or cares about the Egypt connection.”
“I see,” a heavily built man that hadn’t spoken up to now said. “I’m Tarl, the high priest of Zeus.” I nodded at him. “So what is Freehold going to do about the overpopulation? A plague or something?”
“Nothing quite that direct,” I answered. “It’s simply establishing an ideal population level, and a target birthrate to keep the population slightly under that. What’s going to happen is that if a woman wants a child, she’s got to make a donation at the temple of Hera. From there, it’s basically a lottery. As many children will be conceived in the next season as needed to fill the quota.”
“Hum,” Tarl said, almost to himself. Then he spoke in a normal tone. “Let’s pursue the matter of the lottery later. I still want to know what Freehold is going to do to make up for catching less fish.”
“Well, I’m open for suggestions,” I said. “I don’t believe that the question really got any consideration.”
“It would seem to be a question for Dionysus,” Gerald said a bit slyly.
“Now why would that be…?” I said and then trailed off as it occurred to me. “In his aspect as the patron of farming,” I said brightly. “So you’re thinking that several years of bumper crops would help?”
“Or less insect damage, better storage, that kind of thing.”
“I’ll lay the issue before the council of the gods,” I said. “I’m sure they will see fit to lay a blessing on the fields and meadows.”
“Good,” Rinda said. “Now to get back to that baby lottery. How fair is it going to be?”
“There will be a bias in favor of women that are well fed, healthy and in good spirits, and against large families. Otherwise, it will be scrupulously fair.”
“Hera,” she pronounced, “is pleased.”
“What else do you have for us?” Tarl asked. “This whole thing with the babies came as a surprise, and I don’t like to be surprised.”
Especially if you have to explain it to your devotees, I thought.
“Well, there’s the entire pony mess,” I said. “That doesn’t have to be settled today, but the gods do want it resolved soon.”
In the event, things went better than I expected. Frankness has its virtues, especially when it’s accompanied by an honest desire to fit into the current structure someplace useful.
When we finished trading horses, I wound up exactly where I wanted to be: mistress of the ponygirl stable. We also had an understanding that the gods’ enforcer might be partial to enforcing council edicts, at least in some circumstances.
Since our itinerary called for us to take the ferry to Port Kar in the morning, I had the rest of the day free. On the entirely reasonable principle that the god’s representative wasn’t going to spend time sightseeing when she had things to do, I headed over to the ponygirl stables next.
The ‘girl I’d taken from the guest house to the Dionysian’s quarters, and then to the Palace, was still available. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not, but it did save me the trouble of making another ‘girl’s acquaintance. One of my assignments had required learning enough about horses to look like I knew what I was doing. I’d learned that if you wanted to ride one, it was best to make its acquaintance first. You didn’t have to do that with Freehold ponygirls, and many people didn’t bother, but I figured that putting in the effort was worthwhile, and being seen to put in the effort was even more so.
So I scratched her behind the ears and under the jaw while I unhitched the reins, and drove her to the stables.
The pony stables are on one end of the island, between the horse stables and the kitchen gardens. I paused to look at them. As I’ve said before, and I hope to be able to say again sometime in the not too distant future, I’m no kind of an agriculturist. My idea of wildlife inhabits nightclubs, not forests. It looked like various crops were laid out in some kind of order, with workers tending to them at different places. Whether this matched anywhere else in the world I couldn’t say, but I was certain that the ponies wouldn’t be seen elsewhere.
I took a few minutes to watch some workers cultivating a crop of something. They had a ponygirl hitched to a piece of equipment. It had a wooden framework that allowed the worker to guide it, and two blades that dug into the ground and broke it up. The girl walked stolidly down a row of crops, keeping all four hooves between the rows, dragging the rack behind her. The ag worker steered it, making certain that it didn’t cut any of the plants. I thought it matched a picture of something called a cultivator, not that I really cared.
Then I corrected myself. If my ponygirls were involved, I cared. I looked at the harness a bit more closely. It was a variation on the standard harness used for pulling carts, with more of an emphasis on shoulder pads. I sorted through pictures of horses pulling things in my mind until I figured out the difference. She had shoulders, a horse didn’t. A quick dig into history told me that the horse collar had spawned a minor economic revolution; before that, horses had been pretty useless for pulling anything heavy.
Anyway, enough sightseeing.
Rumor, of course, had beaten me there. There’s a suspicion that once the physicists begin studying rumors seriously, they’ll be on the way to an interstellar drive. A lot of people are crossing their fingers about that; it’s bad enough that the various species of aliens that have shown themselves have several different systems that they are not talking about, but what’s even worse is that the Dodecahedron has one that most of the aliens are in awe of. They aren’t talking about it either.
And what totally frosts the politicians is that the Dodecahedron’s first interstellar ship looked like a joke until it took off. Who could take a gleaming white cube of rock, a kilometer on a side, seriously? Especially when the instrument packages made black splotches against the white. Calling the thing the “Loaded Die” gave every politician on the planet a serious pain in the pomp.
The pony stable looked like a stable. What more can I say? It was a big wooden building with a dirt courtyard in front.
I rode up and turned my pony over to one of the grooms. This particular groom was a male slave. He was dressed in a dirty white slave tunic. A slave tunic is a simple pullover very like a long t-shirt that comes down to just above the knees. Besides the tunic, he had on sandals and a collar.
“Ma’am,” he said, “what would you like me to do with Brooksie?”
“When I’m done here, I’ll need to get back to the Dioniasic’s lodgings,” I replied. “Her name is Brooksie? We seem to get along fine, but then I don’t know how she’s going to get back to the stable for the night.”
“Formally, she’s Donnie Brooke, but we call her Brooksie. We round them up and bring them back,” he said. “Then we take them to where they go in the morning.”
“Why Donny Brooke? Some places, that’s a name with a history.”
He laughed. “She led a raid into a trap. That wasn’t so bad, but then she almost crippled the slave trainer who was trying to teach her manners. The head of the house had her turned into a ponygirl as an example to the rest of her troop. I heard they fetched a good price at auction.”
“Groom her and have her ready for me later,” I said as I saw Sasha walking toward me.
Sasha was every teenaged male’s wet dream; absolutely perfect proportions and a movement like an ancient Swiss watch. She didn’t do badly in the attraction department for lesbians or bisexuals, either.
Sasha was the manager of the ponygirl stable. I’d actually met her a bit earlier; right after the council meeting had broken up. I remembered that first meeting vividly.
Donna, the priestess from the Poseidon cult, took me down to the recorder’s room. The recorder’s room was filled with scribes lining both of the walls, each in a booth made up of a standup desk in front and a scroll rack to their left. The desk also had some clever racks so several scrolls could be unwound either horizontally or vertically for study. On the other side, most of them had a slave kneeling. This seemed to be an equal opportunity room; there were about as many female scribes as male scribes, and the slaves were equally mixed in gender, although there was a very strong tendency for the males to have a female slave and vice versa.
“New entrant and a slave title transfer,” the priestess told the little man at the desk in front. “I need someone who’s not going to be upset by a little irregularity.”
The little man looked down the rows of scribes. “See Stefan.”
“Good choice,” Donna told me as we walked down the aisle between the desks.
Stefan was a balding middle-aged male with thick glasses who affected a monk’s robe. His girl, on the other hand, was a reasonably pretty, and much younger, blonde, dressed in the ubiquitous black and white striped barber pole dress.
“What can I do for you, Holiness,” he asked Donna as we stopped in front of his desk.
“New resident and I’m going to transfer Sasha to her. I’m getting out from under running the pony stables.”
“So who’s the victim this time?” he enquired as his girl got up and hurried toward the back of the room. I hadn’t seen any signal, but then I expected that he probably had her trained so she could figure out what was needed.
“I’m Running Flame,” I told him.
“Sounds like something I’d call a horse,” he said, deadpan.
“That’s where I got it,” I riposted, bringing my tail up to scratch my ear.
His eyes widened at the movement and he leaned closer to peer over his glasses at me. “Let me look you over,” he said as he walked out from behind the desk.
A moment later he shook his head. “Horse’s hooves and ears, normal arms and a tail that doesn’t belong on any horse I’ve ever heard of. Where did you dredge her up?”
“I didn’t,” the priestess said. “Her Holiness Annabelle brought her in and told us she was staying.”
“Sounds just like her,” the scribe said. “Isn’t that the same shade of red hair?”
“It’s awfully close; you’ve got to see us standing together to tell the difference.”
“Humph.” He walked back behind his desk. “I hope you know what you’re getting into with the motherless bitch.”
“Sasha,” he clarified. “There’s a story going around that she wasn’t born the normal way, some sorcerer created her as the fulfillment of his sex fantasies. I don’t know about that, but every story about her says the same thing: she’s probably the best sex slave in existence, or would be if it wasn’t for one absolutely fatal flaw.”
“No hole?” I guessed, playing the game.
“According to rumor, she’s a superlative sex partner. The flaw is that she can’t get along with anyone except her owner. It’s not as if she doesn’t try; it’s more like the sorcerer that created her left something out.”
“So her owner lives in bliss surrounded by disasters.”
“Something like.” At that point his girl hurried up with three scrolls.
“Let’s start out by getting you enrolled.” He opened one of the scrolls and spun it to an empty place. Then he picked up a quill and squinted at it.
“Your name is Running Flame, I take it. Did you ever have another name?” His look was a bit strange as he asked that question.
“Not here,” I answered. “I used to be Lucy Smythe. That’s a y and an e,” I added helpfully. “But that was before I entered the Enclave.”
He shook his head briefly as if to dismiss a speculation. Strange. Very strange. “So you’re not native. I should have known that from the way you look. Did you enter from Freehold or Port Kar?”
“Freehold,” I said, a bit startled.
“So your name in Freehold was Lucy Smythe?”
“No, they’re the ones who gave me my current name. I’m from beyond Freehold.”
“Umph,” he said again, and then began writing.
“Description. About one meter, eight and a half decimeters? Flame red hair, eyes?” He peered at me again. “Grass green. I don’t recall ever seeing that shade. Horse’s hooves, roan coat with a white stocking on the off leg, horses ears, and how would you describe that tail?”
“I usually call it a cat’s tail or a monkey’s tail. It’s prehensile.”
He shook his head. “Nobody will believe this entry unless they see you. Any other identifying marks?”
I shook my head.
“I don’t think we need any more. You’re unmistakable. Now, what’s your occupation?”
“Messenger and enforcer for the gods.” I managed that with a straight face.
“Huh?” He looked at me like I was mildly nuts.
“I suppose a demonstration is in order,” I said. “I’m going to borrow your girl for a moment.” She was watching all of this with some interest. Now she froze.
“Relax,” I told her. “You might enjoy it if you aren’t panicking.”
I gestured, and she rose into the air and drifted out over the corridor. Then I had her fly to one end of the hall and back to the other, finally depositing her where she had come from. She grabbed her owner in a hug, and he absently kneaded her shoulder. After a moment, she relaxed.
“I hope that didn’t spoil too many documents,” I said into the silence.
That got a shaky laugh, and then the hum of conversation picked up to a fever pace. The scribe trimmed his pen and then wrote a few more lines. He turned it around and said: “Sign here.” I picked up the quill pen and put it down. Enough was enough! I pulled a ballpoint out of the air and used it to sign, then sent it back where I’d gotten it. Donna used the quill to sign as the council representative.
“Now, let’s get your personal record started,” He picked up another scroll, which turned out to be empty, and began writing. That gave us a moment to look around. Suddenly the rest of the room discovered that they had other business to attend to.
A moment later, one of the most desirable women I’d ever seen in my life walked in. Her slave livery could have been custom designed just for her, and her collar looked like jewelry. As you may have guessed, I’m bi. I could feel myself start to get wet down below just looking at her. “Down, girl,” I told myself. “Lust at first sight is not what the god’s representative should be feeling!”
“So what?” myself grumbled back. “Is she for sale?”
She walked up to Donna. “You called for me, mistress?”
“Yes I did. Meet Running Flame. She’s your new owner; I’m selling you to her.”
“You must be Sasha,” I put in as an alternative to staring. “The council wants you to continue at the stables.”
The scribe had unrolled another scroll and begun writing. “I presume she’s going to be domiciled with you?”
“Yes. I’m staying at the Dionysiac’s house.”
Sasha made a small grimace of distaste.
“It’s not going to be that bad,” I told her. “Dionysus has seen fit to bestow a blessing on his followers. They will now be able to drink as much of the fruit of the vine as they want, and stay stone cold sober. Of course,” I added thoughtfully, “they’ll still have the hangover.”
The scribe looked up from his writing. “If that’s a blessing, I’d hate to see a curse.”
He finished writing. “Sign here.” Donna used the scribe’s quill, and I pulled my pen out of the air again. Sasha’s eyes widened as she saw the piece of legerdemain. Then she signed the entry, which surprised me a little. Then I saw that it made sense; she was acknowledging that she’d been informed of the change of ownership, and her signature meant there was no mistake about the property being transferred.
He dusted the scroll and waited for it to dry, and then rolled it up. His girl picked them up and headed toward the back room.
“I suppose I’m not going to see her for an hour,” he grumbled. “Everyone’s going to want to know how flying around felt.
“You’re finished. Shoo so I can get some work done.”
As I was saying, I saw Sasha walking toward me. The nameless groom I had been talking to suddenly discovered he had work to do, and walked off leading Brooksie and the chariot.
“Mistress?” she asked, somewhat questioningly.
“Yes, girl,” I responded. Might as well get it over with right away. “Is there any truth in what the scribe was telling me about you?”
Her perfect face clouded. “I’ll just bet he told you about the motherless bitch!” She took a deep breath. “It’s partially true – I just don’t seem to understand people.”
“We’ll work on that,” I said. She looked doubtful.
“I suppose you’ve heard just about every permutation on that before. I’ve got some resources I doubt any of your previous owners had.
“That’s for later. Right now, I want you to show me the establishment. Let’s start with the stable itself.”
Now that she was on solid ground, she walked toward the two story wood building with assurance.
The stable’s two sets of sliding doors opened out onto the courtyard. As we walked in, I saw that the other side also had a pair of sliding doors. A small forest of pillars holding up massive wooden beams across the ceiling punctuated the open space.
The center seemed to be occupied by rows of wooden partitions. I did a quick count, and saw fifteen of them on each side.
“I presume these are the stalls?”
“Yes. They work real well,” she told me.
I walked over and looked at them. The walls seemed to be about a meter and a third high, maybe a shade less. The stalls themselves were between half a meter and a meter wide, and about two meters long. The far end had a shallow feed bin and water tray.
I swung one of the doors outwards, and checked the simple sliding bolt latch. I tested the thick covering of straw with a hoof, and noticed a channel cut into the floor; it seemed to run from one end of the row to the other, just inside the doors.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
I frowned a bit at that. One thing I never did as a ponygirl was mess my stall. While a Freehold ponygirl stall wasn’t intended to be a posh accommodation, it was home, and I found out quickly enough that ponies that messed their stalls had a regrettable tendency to wind up in freight or on a farm. Not that it was a punishment, mind you. Freehold didn’t believe in punishment. (I suppose if I said that enough, I might be able to maintain a straight face.) It was evidence of low social responsibility – it made more work for the stable attendants, and smelled the place up for everyone else.
I swung the door closed and shot the bolt.
“You don’t have any problems with ponies wandering, do you?” I asked rhetorically.
“No, once they’re in their stalls, they’re not going anywhere.”
“What if they try to clamber over the wall?”
“We chain them in the stall for a while.” She opened one of the stall doors and displayed a short chain dangling from the far wall, between the food and water trays. It had a snap latch on the end.
“That ought to be effective,” I said. “I suppose the rest of the main floor is like this.”
“Yes. Ninety stalls in all.”
I nodded. That was a lot of ponies to take care of.
“So what’s out back?” I asked.
We walked out and looked. There were a number of fenced enclosures, and what looked like a massive fenced pasture. I shaded my eyes to look out, and frowned in puzzlement. It looked like there was a mixture of horses and ponies in the pasture. The horses were placidly grazing, while the ponies were either resting, legs folded up under them, or playing some kind of complicated running game. Except for one pair that seemed to be rutting. The mare was standing with all four hooves solidly planted; the stallion had mounted her, his front hooves dangling in the air.
Well, if it worked. They did seem to be enjoying themselves.
“How do you manage to get the horses and ponies to share the pasture?”
“The ponies are smarter than the horses,” she said. “I don’t know how it works. You’d think the horses could mash them, but the ponies seem to have the upper hand. Well, the upper hoof,” she giggled.
The stable staff seemed to be a fairly even mixture any way you looked at it: slaves and free, male and female. It wasn’t that hard to count, either, since they had organized themselves in pairs, one of each. As long as they were happy with the pairing, I wasn’t going to get involved.
“Well, folks, I figure you’ve all had time to hear the rumors,” I started out. That got a bit of a laugh; apparently most everyone else lacked a sense of humor about the grapevine.
“Since I’m not sure which ones you’ve heard, I won’t confirm or deny them. I’m Running Flame, and I now run this menagerie. I also seem to have been gifted with Sasha, here.” That got another laugh.
“My official title is messenger and enforcer for the gods.” The range of expressions was amazing, although cynicism seemed to be the odds on favorite. “I’m not going to get into theological discussions with you – or anyone else for that matter. The gods have gifted me with a few little abilities somewhat beyond the norm so I can carry out their desires more efficiently.”
I made an arcane gesture, and Sasha flew into the air and hovered. Then I waved my arm in a slow circle, and she flew around the gathering, as if she was on a lead. When I brought her down, she looked rather shaken. The rest of the gathering still had a variety of expressions, but they were all different. Cynicism seemed to have dropped way back in the field.
“My duties are probably not going to let me be here all the time.” That seemed to be something they wanted to hear. “I’m going to leave you with a little talisman, so if you really need to get in touch with me, you can wherever I am.” I had the definite impression that the ge-gaw I left would gather quite a bit of dust.
“The gods,” I said, standing up straighter and folding my arms, “have decreed a few changes in the pony program. For starters, from this day forward, the ponies will be able to talk.” That got their attention, all right.
“You’re going to have to be on your toes to handle it. You’ll find that their speech is a bit odd, but you’ll get used to it.”
I figured that would do to hold them, so I collected Donny Brooke and headed back to Animal House with Sasha. Evening was coming on, and I had an urge to inspect the kitchens.
Animal House was jumping when I got there. The unheard of level of sobriety had everyone in turmoil. The confusion wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the inhabitants were having a lot of trouble staying upright; it seemed that they’d been sober so seldom over the years that their bodies didn’t know how to walk without all that alcohol sloshing around.
The kitchens, at least, seemed to be functioning, although the head cook was watching his meal plan disintegrate before his eyes. Like everyone else, he wasn’t prepared for the level of sobriety. After looking at the shambles, I decided that the best plan was to have the evening meal at the visitor’s inn.
“I’m finding the ponygirls, um, disturbing,” Ser Johansen said as he deftly speared a piece of steak.
“So do I, frankly,” I said. “What about them is the problem?”
I’d joined Ser Johansen and his two guards for dinner at the Guest House. The four of us sat around a table, while Sasha hovered in the background acting as our waitress. As I had discovered, if you brought your own slave girl, she was expected to serve you.
“The hooves,” he said.
“Hooves?” I said, a bit puzzled. “I know a number of ponygirls on Freehold proper with hooves. Now that I’m used to them, I think they’re more efficient than feet.”
“I was thinking more the front limbs, and the fact that they go around on all fours.”
“The front hooves bug me too, but the four footed gait is standard except when they’re actually pulling something, and not always then.”
“I don’t really know?” I cocked my head for a moment while I did a quick inquiry, and then laughed. “It’s control. The basic lesson is that they’re not trusted to act responsibly without restrictions.”
“Huh?” Donna said.
“Oh, right. I was speaking of Freehold. The situation here is different. As far as I can tell, it’s basically an end of the line punishment for people that can’t accept being slaves.”
“I suppose that’s one way to look at it,” Marta put in. “A corpse is, after all, pretty useless.”
“So, what’s the schedule from here?” Ser Johansen changed the subject.
“Tomorrow, we go to Port Kar. We’ll take the ferry, and get you into the Open Purse Inn around noon.”
“The Open Purse Inn? That’s a strange name.”
Marta laughed. “It’s a merchants hostelry, with both Amazon and Gorean clients, as well as a fair number of outsiders.”
“Outsiders?” I asked, curious. I hadn’t thought there were any.
“Traders, smugglers and some fishermen from the Ancient Egypt enclave,” she explained. “Plus the occasional tourist who’s heard of us and doesn’t want to go through Freehold to get here.”
“Is it safe?” Ser Johansen said. “I’ve heard a few rumors of people that came here and vanished. Even Freehold didn’t seem to know what happened to them.” He looked my way.
“Freehold doesn’t have the facilities to track anyone in the enclaves,” I said. “That may change, but right now you’re on your own here.
“Anyway, once you settle in, you’re scheduled for a meeting with the Fisher’s Guild tomorrow night.”
“How did you manage it that fast?”
“There are several scribes and merchants in Port Kar that have some kind of link with the Sorcerers,” Marta said. “They pay good coin for the occasional favor.”
“And Her Holiness Annabelle seems to have some kind of an in with them. At least, the word is that the Hercules cult is the place to go if you need something from Freehold on Temple Island,” Donna said.
“Or most anywhere else,” Marta added. “Actually, any of the priests will pass a message, at least if they like you. Whether that gets you anywhere is another question.” She shrugged expressively.
“Which reminds me,” Ser Johansen said, “I never did get your official title.”
“I don’t think I have one,” I told him. “As far as the Enclave is concerned, I’m the spokesperson and the enforcer for the gods.”
“What about Freehold?” he persisted.
“Again, I don’t think I have an official title. I’m simply the most junior member of the Enclave Control Committee, and my job is to do whatever they need done in the Enclaves. In the near future, that’s likely to be a bit of international law enforcement, with particular emphasis on smuggling and poaching.”
“I take it we shouldn’t talk about this,” Donna said.
I shrugged. “Rumors are rumors. Officially, what I can do is because the gods have given me some unusual abilities so that I can do their will. What I don’t want is anything credible that clarifies the situation as far as the average person is concerned.”
“I can deal with that,” Marta said, a glint in her eye.
Well, we’ve gotten Running Flame injected into the Temple Island structure, and have more or less handled Ser Johansen (or have we?). Now it’s time to get down to business. See the next exciting episode of Gor Meets Amazonia!
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