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.
In the fourth episode, a UN official, Ser Johansen, shows up to deal with some fisheries problems, and I get injected into the Enclave early. When the dust settles, I’m ensconced in my permanent position in Animal House, which is what the apartments occupied by the followers of Dionysus is called, and have acquired titular authority over the Temple Island pony stables. I’ve gotten a semi-permanent ponygirl named Donny Brooke, and I’m the owner of a slave girl named Sasha, who is somewhat of a problem.
“Sasha,” I said, pointing to the floor with my fingers curled under. “It’s time to talk.”
She sank to sit on her heels where I was pointing. The movement was so fluid that I thought it must be automatic. In fact, it was. I’d been having the system do brain scans on her to see how she was processing various things, and one of the interesting tidbits it had turned up was that her response to most of the hand signals completely bypassed wherever most people made decisions.
“We need to work on your relationships with everyone else. But first, where do you come from? I don’t think you were born here.”
“I wasn’t,” she said. “I think I was born in Europe. I was one of the products of a genetic experiment,” she continued a bit bitterly. “That’s all I remember of the first few years, being told that when I grew up I’d be a perfect servant for some man. All the children I grew up with were designed for various things.”
“I think I remember something about that,” I put in. “Didn’t they break it up about fifteen or so years ago?”
“Yes. I was a teenager then. They tried to straighten us out, but I didn’t like them! I escaped, and then fell into a white slaver’s hands and eventually wound up here.”
“So you’ve got a pretty decent outside education,” I asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. They were educating me to be some man’s plaything. I do know that some of my fellows had to learn a lot more about things.”
“So how did you get this fixation on your owner to the exclusion of everything else?”
“They trained me that way,” she said, a bit of surprise in her voice. “There were some things that shocked me if I tried to think about pleasing anyone besides my current trainer.”
“That’s what the experts thought from the brain scan,” I told her. “Well, they think it can be fixed, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
“Oh?” she said. “How?”
“For the next few months there’s going to be a spell monitoring your brain. Whenever your thinking hits one of the blocks they put in there, it’ll route around it. It takes a while for new brain cells to grow, and new synapses to form and all that stuff. All you’ll notice is that the blank spots will begin to fill in. In a few months, your brain should be back to where it should have been.”
“Spell?” she asked somewhat cynically.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” I said. “You don’t have a need to know the words I’d use with someone else.”
“So it’s just going to happen?”
“Well, ‘just’ isn’t quite the right word. You’ll begin noticing things that you hadn’t noticed before, but it will be up to you to learn how to handle them.”
“Well,” she said, “you’re obviously from Freehold; I suppose you know what you’re doing. They will take it off when they’re done?”
“I have to trust someone else on this,” I said dryly. “No, the spell won’t come off; there are a number of other things that it’s useful for. One of them will allow me to call you wherever you are, and you can call me as well. You’ll find about the rest in good time.”
“Sasha,” I said, “I’m going to be spending a few hours in conference with the gods. You’re going to be in charge of keeping my cup filled, and maybe answer a few questions.”
She turned from what she was doing to stare at me like I had suddenly sprouted horns. Well, it made a bit of sense. She already knew I was a Freehold representative, and my miraculous powers were simply some form of technology she didn’t want to know about.
“Just tell everyone I’m at my devotions, and make sure the door is bolted. Do you remember what a full sense VR system is like?”
“I think they were talking about them when I left,” she said, a bit doubtfully. “But I thought they took a lot of equipment?”
“Those do. This system is a bit different. When the conference starts, you’ll seem to be in a large room with a number of people, however, you and I will still be here, and they’ll be somewhere else. Different somewhere else’s, for the most part,” I added.
“It’s kind of like double vision. You have to be careful moving around so you don’t walk through anything.
“On the other hand, they won’t see you except when you’re kneeling at my side. You also won’t hear what anyone is saying for most of the meeting.”
“Convenient,” she murmured.
“Very. Much of the meeting will be concerned with the other enclaves.”
“Usually three to four hours,” I told her. “It varies. I understand this one has a lot on the agenda.”
“You’ve never quite said,” she said a bit tentatively, “but I assume that the gods are Freeholders?”
“The Enclave Control Committee, in fact. Most of the permanent members are Princes and Princesses. I’m the lowest ranking permanent member.” I didn’t think I needed to mention the yawning chasm in status.
The first time I’d attended one of these things, the VR had kicked in when Princess Annabelle had triggered it. This time, I was aware of the meeting status. Once a couple of the other members had joined it, I plopped myself down on my lounger and told Sasha to bar the door and come over. As soon as she was kneeling by my side, I joined the conference.
This was the third monthly meeting I’d attended, and the first since I’d hit the Gorean enclave. I checked the arrangements. As I expected, I was on the opposite side of the room from Prince Gregory. Princess Annabelle was on my left, and Prince Andy was to her left. I chuckled when I saw that Bonnie was kneeling next to the Princess. I wondered how long that was going to last.
Steel Rivers sat next to Prince Andy, not that I expected anything different. There were three people that I didn’t remember. One was a redhead, and the other had a head of the most amazingly black hair I’d ever seen. The third was … a Sirian. I asked the system about them. The redhead turned out to be named Alice, and the other woman was named Black ThunderBolt. No titles. So I asked for their job responsibilities. The system hesitated before telling me that they were from the Dodecahedron. Alice, it turned out, was somewhere undefined in their governmental structure, and the ThunderBolt was a well-known geneticist. The Sirian’s name was unpronounceable, but he seemed to be their equivalent of an anthropologist, assigned to the Liaison Commission. A quick check showed that the system wasn’t showing any of this to Sasha.
Prince Gregory cleared his throat. “The 499th meeting of the Enclave Control Committee will begin. Does anyone have any issues with the minutes of the last meeting?” I noticed that he didn’t introduce any of the three visitors, which I took to mean that everyone else not only knew about them, but they were occasional attendees.
Then we discussed progress on extending the Freehold systems to the Enclaves. Prince Davis’ people had made quite a bit of progress before I’d come over, and had gotten even farther in the weeks since. This wasn’t news to me of course; I’d been accessing parts of it as they came online. It was one snazzy system; I’d gotten well past making notes to myself that obeying the laws wasn’t optional on Freehold.
The Old South Enclave, as usual, wasn’t causing any new problems. Neither was the Hungry Tiger Ponygirl Ranch. As tourist destinations, they were quite well managed. On the other hand, there were still several poachers in the forest outside the settled areas.
I cleared my throat. “Those poachers seem to have arrived on my to-do list,” I said. “I need a policy decision – does my jurisdiction extend outside of Gor, and if so, how much and how far?”
“There’s a problem with that?” Prince Gregory asked.
“Not as far as I’m concerned. My job is whatever you decide it is, but I do need that part of it spelled out, with some idea of how to operate in each of the enclaves.”
“We’ve got an issue with that,” the new redhead spoke. “As long as she restricts her activity to the Gorean and possibly the Old Egypt enclave, what she does can be passed off as religious miracles to the inhabitants. Once she begins operating outside of there, some people are going to begin thinking she’s operating on behalf of the Dodecahedron.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked into the sudden silence. “Everyone knows that the Dodecahedron has some varieties of miracle for sale. So Freehold bought one from you to simplify a particular law enforcement problem.”
“They’re not generally available for military or law enforcement purposes,” Alice responded. “There are long term policy issues involved.”
“You used to have an agreement to keep organized crime off of the Island,” Prince Gregory put in.
“We’ve been reminded of that several times recently,” she said. “All right. If Running Flame will accept Dodecahedron jurisdiction, we’ll approve.”
“What does that involve?” I asked cautiously. The Dodecahedron was very deep water that anyone even remotely sane wanted to stay away from.
“I’m not entirely sure. We’ve never had a case where we had to interface one person with both our system and Freehold’s. As far as administration is concerned, you’ll qualify as a Dodecahedron resident, and be expected to comport yourself accordingly. At the bottom level, that isn’t very different from what you’re expected to do as a Freehold supervised citizen, although the procedures are very different.”
Never let it be said that Running Flame was unwilling to rise to a challenge. “If that’s acceptable to Freehold, I’ll accept.” I said, very cautiously.
“Very well, we’ll get back to you when we’re ready to do orientation,” she said.
The Prince scanned the attendees. “It seems to be the consensus that Running Flame should operate in all of the enclaves, and the unsettled territory on the borders.” There were nods all around. “Boris, Jeanette, Andy and Annabelle will get the necessary guidelines formulated.” Everyone nodded. That seemed to settle that question. I noticed my meeting planner sprout a new agenda item.
Old Egypt still hadn’t settled down. The debate from the last meeting continued on for a while, and it didn’t look like it had any hope of concluding in the near term future. I decided to stick my oar back in the water.
“If I may make a suggestion?” It seemed that the idea was welcome.
“There seem to be two different issues here: law enforcement and the Enclave’s future. If we funnel information to the international law enforcement agencies, and destroy the drug manufacturing labs, we should have the first part covered, and then we can let the situation develop. That may shed some light on what to do about the Enclave.”
Boris and Jeanette looked at each other and nodded thoughtfully.
“What about the people that remain in the Enclave?” Andy asked.
“Let them be for the moment. What happened should be rather obvious, especially after I get done with some smugglers. One of the issues seems to be what to do with governmental infrastructure if they all leave. If they want to settle down and be good little Egyptian lords and ladies, why not?”
They debated it for a while, and then decided to accept my suggestion.
Gor / Amazonia was next. Ser Johannsen hadn’t liked the ponygirls, and the human rights people were getting mobilized to make a big, noisy issue of it.
I’d also managed to get access to Princess Jeanette’s complaint file on Gor, and found out that a number of outsiders had simply vanished. She hadn’t instigated investigations because the issues didn’t seem to be serious enough to get the Dodecahedron involved. With the new system in place, however, I had asked Justice to get their dossiers for me.
The crop was certainly interesting. There were several law enforcement agents, a couple of intelligence agents and five anthropologists. Most of them were still alive. Whether they were enjoying themselves was somewhat less certain. The survivors were, after all, only slaves or ponies.
I spread the results of my investigation into the net.
“Good work,” Jeanette commented after a moment. “Now what do we do about it?”
“I’m not certain,” I shrugged. “It mostly depends on whether you want them out of there right now, later or never. That’s a political question.”
“The law enforcement agents seem to be legitimate,” Boris grunted. “I’d say pick them up and give them back. The intelligence agents, on the other hand, were trying to penetrate us by the back door.”
“If they’d have succeeded, we should send them to the stables, but they didn’t,” Jeanette said. “Sending them back would complicate things; they know too much about the pony situation to let them loose right now.”
“The anthropologists seem to be legitimate academics,” I put in. “I think they’ll need a bit of recovery time, and the ponyboy needs a transformation back to something resembling what he was.”
“That’s the same problem,” said Jeanette. “They know too much.”
“Which applies just as much to the law enforcement people,” I said. “What if we make them an offer they won’t want to refuse? Either stay where they are, or become Freeholders. That should take care of the security problem.”
“Well, maybe,” Prince Boris said. “I want to return the police officers, but I agree, the security problem needs to be dealt with for them as well.”
“The Loaded Die could use a couple of permanent anthropologists,” Alice put in. I saw the Sirian make a gesture that I recognized as agreement, even though I was sure I’d never seen it before. There were nods all around.
“Would it be legitimate to use the distraint system for security?” I asked.
“I don’t know that I want to go down that road,” Princess Jeanette said. “We could do it, but each time we do something more with it, the temptation simply grows.”
“I agree,” Prince Boris said. “Let’s have Running Flame pull them out of whatever situation they’re in, but leave them in the enclave until we can come up with something workable.” More nods all around.
“Which brings us,” Prince Gregory said, “to the pony situation. I think it’s time we eliminated the entire problem. Snarx has some views on the matter.”
The Sirian said something that I shouldn’t have been able to understand, but I did. Somehow what he said got translated directly into my brain.
“As you’re aware, part of the reason we asked you to maintain the enclaves was so that we could study your interesting species under different conditions. We don’t think that maintaining the pony program in the Gorean Enclave adds anything to the study that we don’t already know. The study team does not want you to think we have reasons to want that situation to continue.”
That certainly threw several curves at once. Well, since I wasn’t on a policy level, my response should be to listen. Closely.
Prince Gregory said: “In other words, you have no objection to our eliminating the practice in the Enclave.”
“Precisely.” That translator was incredible. I saw Alice nod in agreement.
“That will simplify the international situation,” Jeanette agreed. “Now, how do we do it to minimize disruption? Annabelle?”
“I don’t know,” Annabelle replied. “Flame?”
“The gods will simply decree that it will happen on a particular feast day. The issues seem to be how fast we can do the transformation and how we give them a choice about whether to stay ponies. I’d like the transformation to be a matter of minutes. Seconds if possible.”
“They can’t stay ponies there,” Jeanette put in. “We need to clean up completely. On the other hand, how do we give them a choice if they want to immigrate?”
“We’ll take care of the technical and choice issues,” Alice said. “Just give us a couple of weeks to work out details, and then we can set the date.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Prince Davis put in. Everyone turned to look at him. “Logistics. They do quite a bit of work, and withdrawing them will leave holes in the system. We’ve been doing some studying, and those holes will cause a lot of disruption.”
Annabelle nodded thoughtfully. “I have to agree. Besides, I’m not certain that the alternative wouldn’t be worse.”
“How?” Prince Gregory said.
“It’s a violent culture,” she answered. “If we take the pony solution away from them, they’ll probably wind up killing recalcitrants.”
“On the other hand,” Prince Gregory said, “I’m not sure that being reduced that far is preferable to death, but I certainly see why you haven’t acted before this.” His eyes scanned the room. “Flame?”
“Well, if I understand the issues correctly, all questions of morality aside, the basic problem is that being turned into a pony is permanent.”
“So the gods will simply turn them back after several years?” Prince Davis said. “We could certainly do that.”
“That would work, especially the part about the gods. What I really want to do is discuss this with the Council on Temple Island.”
“Now that is an idea,” Annabelle said. “Let me think about it a while, this may play right into some other changes I want to make. We should have a proposal by the next meeting.” She smiled grimly. “Getting the Ubars of Ar and Port Kar in the same room with the Queen of the Amazons will certainly be interesting.”
“Which brings us back to the human rights issue,” Prince Gregory said. “How do we want to handle it? Do we even want to bother?”
“It’s got to be damped,” both Princess Jeanette and Alice said simultaneously. Most of the rest of the committee nodded.
“Jeanette?” Prince Gregory asked.
“I really don’t know,” she said. “Sandra might be able to handle it, but she’s in an ambiguous position. The last time this came up, we managed to deflect it by showing them our advancement system. This time we don’t have that.” She glanced in my direction.
“Alice?” Gregory gave her the floor.
“As everyone knows, we operate out of the shadows. We’ve carefully cultivated a reputation for killing people that interfere with our operations, but I don’t think that will work here. For one thing, Gor is a little far afield from where most people see us. The other factor is that we usually have, if not the high moral ground, at least a clear reason for acting. The human rights people, though, take the moral high ground on this issue.”
The discussion paused thoughtfully.
“Flame?” Jeannette asked me directly.
I felt like saying “who, me?” but I didn’t think that would be very productive. Instead, I chuckled. “As it turns out, I assassinated one of them once. I have no idea who she managed to irritate, but I learned quite a bit about how they operate for that mission. Most of the membership is quite idealistic, but a lot of the leadership has an achievement perspective.”
“Meaning they’ll be looking out for their own interests, and everyone else can take care of themselves.”
“They’re not quite that crude about it, but I’d have to say that idealism is not really at the top of their personal agendas.”
“The things I get into,” I mused as I stood practicing stillness on one side of the clearing watching the trail from the shadows. It was the same clearing where I’d been a semi-unwilling prisoner what seemed a lifetime ago, and the same two poachers were walking up the trail with a freshly acquired tiger skin. A very contraband tiger skin.
Well, at least that tiger wouldn’t be bothering my favorite watering holes. My tail twitched in amusement as the thought of it stalking through a Goa nightclub passed through my mind.
“Be very careful where you point that thing, guy,” I said from behind them as they were part way to the cabin.
They, of course, spun around, the assault rifle Bill carried coming up to cover me. Or, at least, he tried to bring it up to cover me. Part way through the movement it froze solid in midair, almost as if it had run into an invisible wall.
Not the most original observation, but it did express the sentiment adequately.
“Yes, me. To be more formal, Running Flame representing the Freehold Ministry of Justice. Consider yourselves caught red-handed violating international law concerning poaching protected species. I presume you know your rights as well as I do.”
“I’ll take that as yes. I’m going to be civil about this; you’ve got three options. I can turn you over to the international police, you can decide you’re tired of a life of crime and immigrate to Freehold, or you can just leave quietly and not come back.”
Bill quit trying to move his weapon, so I let it drop. “You’d let us go?”
“Let’s just say that whether international law, Freehold law or enclave law applies is an interesting point that the judges could discuss for some time. In the interests of efficiency, we’ll call it a guilty plea and a plea bargain. If you come back, you’ll be fitted for your pony boots before you know what’s up.”
“And if we decide to immigrate?”
“You’ll see an adjudicator before you go to the stables for training. People do survive a term as a pony all the time.” I waved my tail at him for emphasis.
“So why aren’t you just turning us over to the Ints?” Bill asked suspiciously.
“Freehold medicine, good as it is, hasn’t been able to cure my allergy to paperwork,” I told him. “I’m not going to be dramatic about it and tell you to hit the trail right now or else. Take your time and think it over. If you want to surrender to one set of authorities or the other, give us a call.” I plucked a communicator out of the air and tossed it at them. Frank caught it. “Otherwise, leave the communicator on the table when you leave first thing in the morning. We’ll take care of disposing of the pelts.”
I walked out of the clearing down the path, then I teleported back to my rooms and settled down to watch them. After a couple of minutes, they walked over to where I had been standing and looked at the ground.
Frank grunted. “Horseshoes.”
They followed my path down the trail to where it vanished in the center of a wide space. They looked around for a while.
“Now what?” Frank asked Bill.
“You want to learn how to whinny?”
“Grumph.” They headed back to the cabin.
Almost two weeks to the day after the meeting, I woke up and noticed a difference in my computer links. All of the Freehold stuff was still where I’d left it, but there seemed to be other things populating my subjective landscape.
[I see you’re awake] a perky voice said in my mind.
“Huh?” I responded. I was used to talking to myself, but this wasn’t one of my internal voices, although it sounded exactly like them.
[I’m Cherry,] the voice in my mind said. [I’m your Dodecahedron trainer.]
“Oh.” I wish they’d tell me these things in advance.
[You didn’t know?] the Cherry voice said, a note of palpably false contrition apparent.
“I knew something was going to happen, but not when and not this.”
I got the impression of a shrug. [We never tell new inductees how it’s going to feel, and we didn’t know until last night that we had the link working properly. Hopefully your schedule is clear today?]
I started to say that I had one smuggler to deal with when my day planner came up and spread itself out.
[Oh, good. We can work around that easily.]
“What happened?” I asked shakily.
[I accessed your planner through your brain,] she said a bit smugly. [You’ve got lots of time. You pick up those two anthropologists. I’ll show you how to get them here.]
[You’re doing well so far. Here’s how you access our teleporter.] Suddenly my perspective shifted dizzily until I seemed to be looking at a modest white building. [Take your time and look around.]
I did. It almost felt like the Freehold distance vision system, except that where I seemed to be certainly wasn’t Freehold, or anywhere else on Earth for that matter. For starters, the sky was dead black spangled with stars in recognizable constellations. There were two large blobs of light in the sky that didn’t look like suns. The rest of it, however, not only looked normal by comparison, it was positively homey. Even the ponygirl with her reins twisted around a hitching rail looked almost normal, until I suddenly noticed that she wasn’t quite like either the Freehold or Gorean model. She not only had four hooves, but she had a coat of horsehair all over; not just on the forelegs like the Gorean ponies. Also, she didn’t have pony ears.
There was another redhead standing there. She was dressed in an abbreviated white tunic and sandals. My mind automatically identified her as Cherry.
[Now get both here and where you are together in your mind, and then move yourself from one picture to the other, like this.] The two images came together in my mind, and then I felt more than saw myself shift from one to the other. I fell on my ass because I hadn’t gotten myself upright yet. Things had just moved too fast.
At least the air felt all right, the grass felt like grass and I didn’t seem to weigh more or less than I should. I picked myself up.
[That’s how you do it,] she said. [Think you can put yourself back?]
Never let it be said… Nuts. I didn’t really feel like posturing to myself right now. “I’ll give it a go.” It took a moment before I got the hang of the Dodecahedron vision system, and then I had my quarters on Temple Island in my mind’s eye. I overlaid them and shifted. A moment later, I was in my quarters, looking at a very wide-eyed Sasha.
[That went well. See you later, unless you’ve got questions.]
Did I have questions? My questions had questions, but it seemed better to let things settle for a while. I thought I heard a sardonic laugh in the back of my mind.
Getting properly dressed and outside of some food helped. The girl belonged to a scribe in Glorious Ar. From what I’d seen, describing their relationship as rocky was something of an understatement. He kept her chained at night, and permanently belled. I didn’t have any idea why he kept her at all, especially since he’d named her “Sleen.” It wasn’t a term of endearment.
I decided to start with the Caste of Warrior’s hiring hall. I teleported straight into the hall, in full view of several of the warriors that were lounging around, and promptly got a firsthand experience of Glorious Ar.
I’m not all that good at describing pandemonium. The initial reaction sorted itself out quickly enough when I plastered the first two attackers against the ceiling. I didn’t damage them at all; they just lay there as if the ceiling was the floor and they were too weak to get up, not that they didn’t try.
The scribe at the entrance got up from where he’d ducked and looked at me. “Running Flame, I presume,” he said into the silence.
“Yes. I want to hire two guards for a couple of hours.”
He looked at where my two assailants were reclining. “What for?”
I decided to let them back down gently. “I’m going to buy a particular slave, and I don’t want to keep explaining myself every ten steps.”
“Two guards for a half day, two silvers each.”
I plucked six silvers out of the air and handed it over. The guard captain and the scribe promptly made the extra silvers vanish. A minute later, I had two very competent warriors named Tarl and Jehan.
“Where to?” Tarl asked me.
“The slave’s owner is named D’rk of the Scribes,”
“And he lives in the street of Scribes,” finished up Jehan. “What he needs is the guts to discipline her properly.”
“Or else turn her into a ponygirl,” Tarl added as we set out.
The street of scribes twisted around among shops displaying scrolls and writing paraphernalia, with the occasional larger establishment set back a bit from the encroaching booths.
D’rk of the Scribes turned out to be a harried looking man running a copy shop. He had three scribes diligently working at copying something as we walked in.
“What can I do for you?” he asked as we entered.
“Sell Sleen to me,” I answered. “What do you want for her?”
“Ten gold,” he answered as I saw a look of blazing hope on her face as she identified me. Well, that answered one of the questions I had. She really did want to get away; it wasn’t just some kinky game they were playing.
“For that?” I acted shocked. “She wouldn’t be worth five coppers even cut up for bait! Two silvers.”
“For the best ink maker in the street! It’ll ruin me to replace her! Eight gold.”
“Eight gold! I’m going to have to spend that on a trainer to straighten her out! Ten silvers.”
“Don’t just stand there,” he appealed to the guards. “I’m being robbed! Five gold.”
“You’re being robbed?” I yelled back at him. “If I give you more than one gold for that rat bait I’ll be a laughingstock.”
He shook his head. “Three gold and not a silver less.”
“Including all her clothes and accouterments.”
“Done!” He said, sticking out a hairy paw.
We shook on the deal. I waved a hand in the air and handed him the three gold. A moment later, a pack appeared from the air. “This is the rest of it,” I told him.
He waved it off. “You must be an honest woman,” he said.
I pulled a slave leash out of the air and held it up. She walked up and bared her throat as I snapped it on. A wave of my hand and her hobbles unlocked and fluttered up to where I dropped them into the pack. I handed it to her, and she shrugged her arms and shoulders into the straps.
“Back to the Warrior’s Hall,” I said. We headed back up the Street of Scribes, my new purchase in tow.
“The next step is a bit of a doozy,” I told her after leaving the two guards at the hall. I teleported us out.
“Huh?” she said as we arrived.
“We’re now in my apartment on Temple Island. Dump the pack over there and sit down.” I gestured with my two fingers together. A moment later, she was kneeling where I had pointed.
“Your real name is Faith, right?”
“Whatever you chose to call me, mistress,” she answered.
“You certainly seem to be well enough trained,” I complimented her. “However, answer the question. What was your name before you arrived in this benighted enclave?”
“Faith Svensdatter,” she answered readily.
“Icelandic?” I guessed.
“Yes,” she brightened considerably.
“First, as you undoubtedly know, I’m Running Flame, and you’ve been rescued.” She shifted her weight as if to get up, and I stabbed my finger out again. She subsided.
“From here, you need to decide what to do next. The biggest consideration is security. You won’t be allowed to talk about the pony situation, and you won’t be allowed to talk about me at all. I don’t exist. Or if I do, I don’t have any abilities out of the ordinary, and I look just like anyone else.”
“Damn,” she said feelingly. “I spend three years with that dork, and now you tell me my Ph.D. thesis is down the drain.” She shrugged. “Well, my thesis advisor did suggest I find someplace else to do my research.”
“You might be able to salvage something,” I said. “Going back is one option. Another is staying as my slave girl.”
She looked at me like I was crazy. “Why would I want to do that?”
“I can use a trained anthropologist on my staff. I don’t understand this culture, and it looks like I might wind up doing something more than simple enforcement.”
“You have something else in mind?”
“You could immigrate to Freehold. That would take care of the security concerns, and I expect there’s lots of work for anthropologists here in the enclaves. Of course, then you’d have to deal with being in the enclave without authorization, but that’s between you, Justice and the review boards.”
“Freehold always sounded boring,” she said, “even though there’s never been a decent anthropological study done.”
“Finally, there’s a slot for a couple of anthropologists on the Loaded Die. That, of course, requires that you become a Dodecahedron resident.”
“What’s the Loaded Die?”
“A starship. It’s a Dodecahedron project, and I gather it’s been out and back a couple of times already.”
“Oh! Shit! If it was anything but the Dodecahedron.”
She sighed. “How long do I have to think this over?”
“As long as you want. Of course, until you make your decision, you belong to me.”
“What else is new, mistress?” she answered.
“Saucy, I see.” I grinned. “I can see why D’rk didn’t get along with you.”
She grinned back. “If mistress would answer a question?”
“Are you Bess?”
“Am I who?” I asked, startled at the curve. “Who is, or was Bess?”
She settled back on her knees a bit. “Bess was the Pony Girl.” I could hear the capital letters in her voice. “There’s a whole story cycle about her. It says that her people were taken in bondage somewhere, she vanished and then came back to free them. They came here, and she turned up several times during the first years to bring them supplies and help them through difficulties. According to the stories, she had a tail, and she could teleport and pull things out of the air, just like you.”
“I’ve never heard of her,” I admitted. “But it does account for a few really strange looks I’ve gotten. Was she involved in the pony situation?”
“I think so. There are some indications she helped to straighten out some problems early on. She’s the one who gave them the gift of not having to think about what they’d become.”
“Oh, my,” I said, for lack of anything else. “I want to hear a lot more about Bess. Later.” I looked at her.
“One of the primary rules here is that if I don’t have anything for you to do, you report to the housekeeper for assignment. Let’s go.” I pointed at the door.
Things are becoming more complicated by the minute! Running Flame seems to be building up a staff, and what is the Dodecahedron doing in this story? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Gor Meets Amazonia!
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