by Van © 2020


Dramatis Personæ


Two Years Later
Near Castle Gladburn, Cumbria, North West England, UK

This was Effie's first time riding in the back of a Rolls Royce.  She liked it.  She decided she could get used to it.  It was also her first time in the United Kingdom.  She liked that too.  Driving on the left side of the road might take some getting used to, but riding on the left side of the road in a Gladburn Group limo was a snap.  Krystal Flambeau was comfortably lounging on Effie's right.

Effie and her boss had flown into Heathrow the day before, spent the night at The Dorchester, and were now in the final stage of the long drive from London to Gladburn Castle.  The entire trip was on Lady Jo's tab.  Officially, the CEO of Flambeau Investigations was consulting with the CEO of The Gladburn Group and this was a business meeting, but unofficially, it was a ponygirl reunion.  Effie was really looking forward to seeing Jo, Olivia, Jana, and Lolita again.  During Kyler Dragon's trial they'd all been witnesses, and thus had been forbidden from socializing with each other.  But now that The Dragon Lady was a convicted felon they could finally get together.

The Rolls had left the final multi-lane "Motorway" sometime ago and the last several miles had been over modern, well-maintained, two-lane roads.
Gladburn Castle

Finally, the road emerged from a grove of trees and Gladburn Castle came into view, perched atop a rocky hill on the far side of a picturesque lake.

"Wow!" Effie remarked, looking out the side window at the medieval fortress with its double ring of curtain walls and tall, central, windowed keep.  "Impressive."

Krystal leaned close so she could follow Effie's gaze.  "Oh, I don't know.  A couple of trebuchets and a little Greek fire?  Jo would surrender immediately."

Effie favored her boss with a skeptical smirk.  "I know for a fact that Gladburn Group has a lot more employees than Flambeau Investigations.  They'd sally forth and wipe us out."

"Probably," Krystal agreed, then addressed their driver, a handsome and very polite middle-aged employee of Lady Jo's wearing a dark gray chauffeur's uniform and cap.  "Does the castle have a secret entrance, George?"

"Certainly, madam," George answered, never taking his eyes off the road, "but I'm afraid it's a secret."

"Oh," Krystal sighed.  "Never mind then.  I guess we'll have to build a giant wooden horse and hide inside."

"Either that or a giant wooden badger," Effie countered, perfectly deadpan.

"Exactly," Krystal agreed.

The Rolls rolled through a formidable iron gate (which opened automatically as they approached), down a tree-lined drive and around the lake, climbed the hill, and found themselves in front of what was obviously the castle's main entrance.  A separate garage or carriage house and a few other outbuildings were off to one side.

As Effie and Krystal left the Rolls (before George could open the door for either of them), Lady Jo, Olivia, Jana, and Lolita emerged from the gatehouse or barbican or whatever the thing with the drawbridge, massive wooden gates, and open portcullis was properly called.  Her Ladyship and three employees (who weren't George) were dressed for business in high-heels, skirts, jackets, and blouses, all obviously expensive, quite possibly tailored, and in conservative colors complimentary to their individual hair colors and complexions.

Krystal and her employee were similarly dressed, although Effie's outfit was off-the-rack.  On what Krystal was paying her she could easily have afforded at least one top-of-the-line designer ensemble, but went for functionality and ease of replacement instead.  Effie Dennings was not a fashionista.

Jana and Lolita squealed with girlish glee and scampered forward.  Jana embraced Effie and gave her a resounding smack on the lips while Lolita subjected Krystal to the same embarrassing treatment.  Effie managed not to blush (almost) and smiled shyly, but there was nothing shy about Krystal's smile as she laughed with delight.  Jana and Lolita swapped victims and the outrage was repeated.

By this time Lady Jo and Olivia had arrived.  Their greetings were less ebullient but equally heartfelt.  Pleasantries were exchanged.

"I trust you had a pleasant journey?" Lady Jo inquired.

"First class on British Airways?" Krystal grinned.  "A night at The Dorchester, followed by a trip in the back of a Phantom?  My only complaint is we couldn't get George to join in the singalong."

George had been unloading Krystal and Effie's luggage from the Roll's boot.  He smiled (slightly).

"George, how could you?" Jo admonished (and smiled).

"My apologies, Your Ladyship," George answered.  "None of their repertoire was in my key."

"Oh," Jo chuckled.  "In that case, you're forgiven."

George touched his cap and returned to sorting out the luggage.  Jo led her guests towards the gatehouse.

"We'll have tea in the East Drawing Room while the staff takes your bags to your rooms and unpacks," Jo dictated as they strolled across the drawbridge.

Effie frowned.  "Unpacks?"

Krystal leaned close and whispered (loudly) in Effie's ear.  "Normal domestic service among the upper crust."

Jana and Lolita giggled.  Olivia smiled.

"Extended even to visiting hoi polloi," Jo purred.

They passed under the portcullis and into the courtyard between the outer and inner curtain walls.  Effie noted a narrow dirt track stretching in both directions and disappearing around the curve in the space between the massive stone walls.  Centered in the track was pair of wheel-marks, about three feet apart, and between the marks ran a set of... hoof prints?

They passed through the massive gate in the inner wall and began climbing a daunting stone stairway that wound up to the keep.

"I like what you've done with the place," Krystal remarked, and Jana and Lolita giggled.

"Thank you," Lady Jo chuckled.  "The fifth Marquess Fernwood more or less rebuilt the upper keep during the reign of Mad King George.  He decided to retain the medieval ambiance, inside and out, but added the many 'modern' windows.  Thankfully, he also added running water, making it much easier for the seventh Marquess to have modern plumbing installed."

"Cool," Effie said quietly, and Jana and Lolita giggled, once again.  "I'm serious," Effie huffed.  "Who wants to mess around with chamber pots?"

"Who indeed," Lady Jo agreed, and the climb continued.


The tea was delicious.  Effie still considered herself a coffee person, but she'd developed some level of tea appreciation in the two years since her abduction and the commencement of her Great Ponygirl Adventure.  The cucumber sandwiches were also delicious.  Not very filling, but she suspected that might be the point, that they were little more than palate cleansers for the tea.  Besides, the very idea of filling up on cucumber sandwiches was... mildly unsettling.

The East Drawing Room was... Effie decided to stretch the word once again and go with "nice."  It wasn't all that big, almost cozy, and had whitewashed stone walls (like all the spaces they'd passed through since entering the keep, including what was obviously at least two much larger drawing rooms and a library).  Its furnishings were comfortable, but surprisingly, not medieval.  Effie believed they were... Regency period?  Furniture style was something of a gap in Effie's education, but so far she had found her ignorance of the subject not to be much of a handicap.
Okay, the room was "nice," but included glass-front cases and display stands that tilted the ambiance in a slightly kinky direction.  Among the items on display were:
     (1) A hood/mask of black leather molded in the shape of a horse's head, complete with bridle!

     (2) A shining steel corset!

     (3) A black leather corset, with leather thigh/between-the-legs straps and clips for securing the tops of stockings!steel corset
The horsie-hood appeared to be fully functional, and both corsets were of the wasp-waist variety.  That is, Effie was quite positive a hypothetical wearer of either corset, even one with a naturally slender waist, would find the nasty things to be extremely tight and uncomfortable in the extreme!

Lady Jo noticed Effie's interest (and imperfectly masked astonishment) and smiled.  "My ancestors have been collectors of, shall we say... curious objects for many generations," she explained.

Effie nodded, then gulped the rest of her tea.  "I see," she muttered.

Jana picked up the Queen Anne silver teapot and refilled Effie's cup, then winked.  "Wait 'til you see all the fun 'curious objects' down in the dungeons."Black leather corset

Effie nearly did a spit-take, Krystal, Jana, Lolita, and Olivia laughed, and Jo smiled (reservedly).

"I'll arrange a tour for later," Lady Jo purred, her eyes on Jana.  "I'm sure I can persuade a certain cheeky, impertinent, ginger-haired monkey to assist with practical demonstrations of the objects in question."

Jana blushed and gulped her tea.

Effie found her ginger friend's discomfiture to be... (Sigh)... absolutely adorable.  "Uh, that's okay," Effie mumbled.  "I'm good."

Jana (still blushing) favored her Canadian pony-sister with a grateful smile.

Effie smiled back (and also blushed).

"And speaking of the dungeons..."  Her Ladyship paused for a sip of tea.  She set down her cup and focused on Krystal.  "Has there been any progress locating Tasha Nash?"  Krystal opened her mouth to reply, but was preempted by the elegant raising of Lady's Jo right palm.  "And before you start dissembling, I am well aware that you allowed her to escape.  It was a necessary prerequisite for our timely rescue, as well as necessary for the precipitous capture of Kyler Drāgon.  We all concur with your decision."

Much nodding and tea sipping ensued.

"I'm referring to your continuing efforts to ferret out Tasha's hiding place," Lady Jo continued, "despite your agreement."

Krystal shrugged.  "Tasha managed to abscond with all of her financial assets, which were substantial, thanks to Kyler's generosity.  Apparently, employees with the necessary skills to train and manage a first rate ponygirl stable and with the discretion to keep it all secret don't come cheap.  In addition, on her way out, Tasha managed to electronically loot the ranch's household accounts.  In total, it isn't enough for her to buy her own tropical island, but it's more than enough for her to cover her trail, bribe the local law enforcement, and retire to a tropical island... if that's what she did.  Anyway, I'll keep trying.  It seems like the... prudent thing to do."

"I agree," Lady Jo purred as Jana refilled her teacup.

"And speaking of prudent," Krystal said evenly, "are you absolutely positive the full details of your resolution of the Eve Darlington problem is your best course of action?"

Lady Jo raised an eyebrow.  "You know about the details?"  She then smiled, rolled her eyes, and sipped her tea.  "Of course you know about the details."

Effie favored her boss with an inquisitive stare.

Krystal shifted her dimpled smile to Effie, then sipped her tea.  "Need to know, my Padawan Learner, and you didn't have it."

"Not good enough," Effie muttered, then turned to Jo.  "What's she talkin' about?"

Jana and Lolita exchanged a wink and giggled into their tea.

"What?" Effie demanded.

"You said, 'What's she talkin' a-boot,'" Lolita chortled.

Effie was not amused.  "I'm Canadian.  Deal with it.  Also... bite me."

All present laughed (except for Effie).  They all knew that was just Effie being Effie.  The Canadian did smile, of course (just a little).

Lady Jo recovered quickly and once again set down her tea cup.  "I found Eve Darlington's betrayal to be especially hurtful," she sighed.  "I thought her to be my friend.  But when Drāgon offered her a chance to replace me as CEO of Gladburn Group, she betrayed me, totally.  She claims she didn't know about Kyler's plans to enslave me..."  She nodded at Olivia.  "To enslave us, and to use us to satisfy her perverted fascination with 'ponies,' and actually, I believe her.  Otherwise, I would have let Scotland Yard have her."

Effie frowned.  "Wait.  You're in contact with Darlington?  You know her whereabouts?"

Jo smiled.  "I am and I do.  You see, the Gladburn and Darlington families have been friends and political allies and have enjoyed lucrative financial ties for more than two centuries.  There are many Darlingtons I count among by friends.  I couldn't allow the inevitable scandal that would follow Eve's arrest, prosecution, and conviction to ruin the family's reputation.  As soon as I was able, I instructed certain loyal employees in my security department to, shall we say, expedite Eve's escape and secretly spirit her away to a safe hiding place."

Effie was still frowning.  "You had her kidnapped," she accused.

Jo shrugged.  "I've also arranged that that portion of Eve's salary she has always used to support her poorer relations continues to flow, allowing certain Darlington elderly aunts and cousins to enjoy the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.  And all of my arrangements insure the Darlingtons continue to receive invitations to Her Majesty's garden parties, Eve being an exception, of course."

"That's all very nice," Effie growled, "but you can't just make people disappear, even if they are dirty rotten snakes.  It causes all sorts of paperwork."  Her eyes widened.  "Wait you didn't..."

Jo smiled and resumed sipping tea.  "Eve Darlington is perfectly healthy.  In fact, she's in the best physical health of her life."

"She gets regular exercise," Olivia added, sipping her tea.

"She's here," Effie demanded, "isn't she."

"Very good, Effie," Jo chuckled.  "And just to be clear... technically, she's here voluntarily.  She and I negotiated a new contract.  I agreed to keep her out of prison in exchange for her agreeing to significant changes in her salary, duties, and lifestyle.  And once the Limitation Act has expired for her non-criminal offenses, I'll consider her contract fulfilled and she'll be free to go, with a reasonable severance bonus and the admonishment to never darken my doorway again."

"And Scotland Yard?" Effie demanded.

"I've arranged things so that Eve's role in our abductions has been totally... obscured," Jo explained. 

"That's it?" Effie huffed.  "She betrays you, Olivia gets to go along for the ride, then she tricks me into waltzing into The Four Seasons and getting myself abducted by The Dragon Lady?  And now she does what?  Lounge around your castle and ride a stationary bike with a pretty view of the lake if she feels like exercise?"

Olivia provided the answer.  "No, actually.  She languishes, rather than lounges, and her accommodations are a guest room in the Gladburn Castle dungeons, and as for exercise..."

Lady Jo glanced at her watch.  "How timely.  I believe we can settle the issue with a demonstration."  She rose from her chair and the others stood as well.  "If you'll all follow me..."

Her Ladyship led the way from the East Drawing Room.


They took a different route through the keep from the one they'd used to get to the East Drawing Room.  It took them down a long hallway lined with what Effie took to be portraits of Jo's illustrious ancestors, all of whom were dressed in costumes appropriate for the Tudor period and all the way up to the 20th century.  They also passed a Grand Hall with a plethora of swords, spears, axes, war hammers, pole-arms, etc., etc.  The medieval cutlery was all arranged in racks or mounted on the stone walls.
Pride of place was taken by a shield emblazoned with what Effie recognized as the Gladburn Coat of Arms: red above black with a superimposed cross surrounded by four rearing horses.  She knew there had to be a much fancier version as well, but this was the simple, functional version, for purposes of identification on the battlefield, so friends and/or allies wouldn't bash them on the head and their foes would know who was killing them.  Effie had no idea regarding the significance of the elements of the design.  Was it more than "we're Christian and we like horses?"  She knew that somewhere, probably in London, there was a distinguished and probably elderly gentleman paid to obsess about such things.  She believed he was called the "Royal Herald," or something like that.  Anyway, Effie was clueless.  Effie made a mental note to ask Jo about it later.

Next, they descended a long staircase with a total of four landings... and eventually arrived at a heavy wooden door.  They passed through and Effie found herself in the open space between the castle's inner and outer walls.  That explains the ridiculously long staircase, she noted.  We descended all the way down from the keep.

They were standing on a narrow balcony or stone deck set a few feet above the grass, and there was a low stone balustrade affording a more-or-less unobstructed view of about thirty yards of the curved lawn and the dirt track that encircled the castle.  The track emerged from a tunnel with a rounded arch on Effie's right... then disappeared between a pair of stone retaining walls cut into the hill on her left.  Stone benches lined the balcony/deck, set back against the inner wall.  There was also a small cafe table and four chairs.

Jo indicated the benches and the table and chairs.  "Please, be seated," she offered.  "We shouldn't have long to wait."

Wait for what? Effie wondered.

Jo, Krystal, and Effie settled into chairs around the table, leaving the fourth chair (the chair facing away from the balustrade) unoccupied.  Jana, Lolita, and Olivia made do with the benches, in that order, and with Olivia closest to Her Ladyship.

As if on cue, Effie heard a gradually increasing rattling noise emanating from the right-hand tunnel.  The rattle was joined by the clump of footfalls and jingling bells... and then...

Effie sat upright and her eyes widened.  "Wow!"

Lady Jo's
          ponycart Rolling into view was a small cart.  It looked "Victorian" in style and was either a well-maintained antique or an excellent reproduction.
Castle Stable Mistress
Felina Bass

Freema Agyeman

The cart's driver was a very attractive, dark-skinned woman wearing black riding-boots, black jodhpurs, and two tank-tops, a black tank under a satiny, slightly skimpier, outer charcoal-gray tank.  A broad smile curled her lips as she drew even with the balcony/deck and pulled back on the reins.  "Whoaaaa there, Evie," she ordered.

Pulling the cart was—and not to Effie's vast surprise—a semi-naked ponygirl!

Her costume/restraints were similar to the tack Effie and her herd-sisters had worn/endured back at Kyler Drāgon's Ranch, but the style-details were more Victorian, like the cart.  Style aside, the restraint elements were the same, in that her her arms were folded behind her back and encased in a leather binder strapped to the back of her corset-harness.  Her breasts were bare.

There was also a bridle/head-harness with blinders, a rubber bit-gag, and dangling reins; however, in addition, a cluster of black and red ostrich plumes jutted proudly from the very top of the bridle, forming a decorative crest.  There was also a leather collar, and the ponygirl's horseshoe-soled boots were more or less Ranch standard.  But instead of a leather thong/crotch-harness, this particular ponygirl was wearing (meaning locked into) an ornate steel chastity-belt!

The ponygirl's long, dark hair was plaited in a single braid secured with a red ribbon and dangling behind her back.  Also, the back of the chastity belt sported a fake (Effie assumed) ponytail that exactly matched the ponygirl's gleaming brown "mane."
One of Eve's nipple-bells
Finally, dangling from the steel rings piercing the ponygirl's nipples were a pair of tiny, ornate bells that took the form of Victorian maidens in full skirts.  Obviously, they were the source of the tinkling music Effie had heard earlier.

Oh-by-the-way, despite the bit cleaving her mouth, Effie immediately recognized the identity of the ponygirl in question.  She was Eve Darlington!

Eve was shining with sweat, panting through her bit, and her breasts were heaving.  It was enough to cause the bells to bob, but not sound.

"Wow!" Effie reiterated.

Truth be told, like the arrival of the cart, Effie didn't find this development to be all that unexpected.  She turned to Lady Jo.  "So, Darlington's punishment for her complicity in our abduction and ponygirl enslavement is... abduction and ponygirl enslavement?"

"Very biblical," Krystal nodded with a mischievous, dimpled smile.  "Old Testament, of course."

This elicited a round of giggles from all present, except for Effie and Eve-the-ponygirl.

"I asked my solicitors to estimate the length of the sentence Ms. Darlington might reasonably expect to serve if she came to trial for her crimes and was convicted on all counts," Jo explained.  "Eve will only be, shall we say, 'roleplaying' as a pony for that period, dependent on good behavior, of course.  It's hardly enslavement.  Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833."

"What year was unlawful imprisonment abolished?" Effie demanded with an even stare.

Another wave of giggles rippled through the balcony, with the exception of Effie.

"Hold that thought," Her Ladyship replied with a dimpled smile, then nodded to the cart's driver.  "Thank you, Felina."

Still smiling, the driver (who apparently was named Felina) touched her forehead with two fingers.  "You're welcome, M'Lady."  She then clicked her tongue and gave the reins a shake.  "Tick-tick."

Eve-the-sweating-ponygirl stepped off, the cart rolled forward, and continued rolling down the track.  It disappeared from sight between the curved retaining walls to Effie's left.  The sound of the jingling bells faded first, followed by the clomping of Eve's boots, followed by the rattle of the cart.  Effie noted that Eve's braided mane and not-braided ponytail had swayed in a provocative manner... not that she found the sweaty, semi-naked spectacle of Eve-the-ponygirl to be arousing or anything.

Effie turned back to Her Ladyship.  "You were saying?"

"Remember, Eve has a signed contract that specifies her current duties and accommodations," Lady Jo stated, "and her salary and retirement plan continues.  Also, she's graciously agreed to donating the majority of her disposable income to support her extended family, as well as select charities."

"How very generous of her," Effie huffed.

"She has a very nice room in the dungeons," Jana volunteered.  "It has a bed and everything, and only a few chains."

"And she only has to pull Felina around the track for a few hours three days a week," Lolita chimed in.  "It's very good exercise."

"Which is why you've talked Felina into letting you pull the bloody thing at least once a week," Olivia purred.

"You should talk," Lolita retorted (and blushed), "you let Her Ladyship harness you up for exercise at least twice a week."

Effie blinked in surprise.  "Uh, with or without bells?" she inquired quietly.

"Oh, without, of course," Jana answered.  "The bells are for Eve."

Effie nodded.  Her nipple-rings were still intact, discretely tucked under her bra (along with the nipples in question).  She assumed and/or strongly suspected the same was true for all her herd-sisters.  She'd made discrete inquiries and learned that thanks to the high-strength steel alloy used in the rings in question, in such close proximity to the soft flesh of Effie's favorite nipples, their removal would almost certainly be painful, messy, and probably damaging.   Surgery to remove the rings intact by slicing through her nipples remained an option, but just living with the damn things seemed easier (in Effie's opinion).

"So..." Effie frowned at her herd-sisters, one by one.  "You all let yourself be harnessed up so you can all pull the cart?"

"Felina doesn't mind," Lolita answered.  "And she doesn't do all the driving.  We take turns."  Her smile brightened.  "Just wait 'til you hear her English accent.  "It's very sexy."

"It is," Jana nodded in agreement.

The two Brits rolled their eyes and Krystal chuckled appreciatively.  Effie found the two Americans' enthusiasm to be mildly irritating (and adorable).

"Her Ladyship gets her exercise by other means," Olivia stated evenly.

"No doubt," Effie muttered, frowning at Lady Jo's dimpled smile.

"Just wait 'til you try it, Effie," Jana grinned.

"Not fucking likely," Effie growled.

"Think it through, Effie," Krystal grinned.  "We're going to be here for two weeks.  You have to get your exercise somehow.  Aren't you curious?"

Effie favored her boss with an unamused stare.  "Aren't you curious?"

"Not really," Krystal chuckled.

"You are decidedly petite," Lady Jo observed, giving Krystal an appraising look.  "My outfits would fit you perfectly."

"Quite tightly, actually," Olivia purred.

Jana and Lolita giggled.

"I'll certainly give it careful thought," Krystal stated, but it was obvious she was in no way interested in stripping naked, letting herself get strapped into full ponygirl ensemble, then dragging a cart around the castle, not even once.

Just then... Eve, Felina, and the cart emerged from the tunnel, completing yet another circuit of the castle.  The group watched attentively (and appreciatively) as Eve's exercise continued.  Jana and Lolita waved at Felina as she approached, and Felina smiled and waved back... then the cart disappeared between the retaining walls once again.

"Well," Lady Jo said, rising from her chair.   "Who's for more tea?"

Effie rose with the others.  "I could use a stiff drink," she said.

"That can be arranged," Jo chuckled.

"Don't forget," Jana said, smiling at Effie.  "We still owe you a tour of the dungeons."

"Yeah," Lolita agreed.

"The dungeons..." Effie muttered.  "Don't hold your breath."

The herd-sisters and Krystal passed through the portal behind them and started the long climb back up to the keep.

Effie pondered the offer to give being a Gladburn Ponygirl a try, to take Lady Jo's antique one-pony cart for a few spins around the castle.  And it was a one-pony model, unlike The Dragon Lady's two-pony model, so team training wouldn't be a prerequisite.  Stop it! she mentally chided herself.  That's nuts!

Then again, she'd been involuntarily kidnapped when she was forced to be Kyler's pony, whereas being Lady Jo's pony would be entirely voluntary... and she trusted her herd-sisters... all of them.

Effie scowled.  Stop it, stop it, stop it!

They reached the first landing, made a quarter turn, and started up the second set of stairs.

Well, Effie mused, I have two weeks to think about it, so... no rush.  And I never did get to see what it's like to pull a cart.

As they reached the second landing, Krystal turned and smiled back at her employee.  "A penny for your thoughts," she purred.

"Shut up," Effie growled, and the upwards journey continued.


& the story 


Chapter 9
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