|by Van © 2016
It was a hot,
humid day, and the ponies were feeling the heat.
Where exposed to the air, their tan, athletic, well-toned bodies
glistened with sweat, and under the tight leather of their
knee-boots, corsets, body-harnesses, armbinders, and bridles,
they were well-lubricated. Both had dark bay (brunette)
manes pulled back in tight (and appropriate) ponytails, and both
were in excellent physical condition, fully accustomed to the
boots that perpetually kept them up on their toes and perched
atop the horseshoe-shaped and iron-shod soles. They were
also accustomed to the custom harnesses restraining their bodies
and the "arm-bag" binders encasing their fingers, hands, and
folded arms behind their sweating backs with each hand cupping
the opposite elbow and pressing forearm against forearm.
It would take much more than hauling Mistress on a two-mile trek
to damage their joints or irritate their skin at any
hypothetical points of friction, much less raise blisters.
They were harnessed to the two-wheel cart Mistress called her
"Touring Sulky." It was a sophisticated design of tubular
titanium alloy that had as much in common with a modern mountain
bike as a traditional horse-drawn cart and was engineered to be
pulled by a pair of ponygirls, as now. Its comfortable
bucket seat accommodated one, with a rear-mounted storage hamper
for picnic baskets, blankets, coils of rope, rolls of duct tape,
The sulky was painted dull coyote-brown and olive-green, and
like the ponygirls' tack, the leather seat cover was a textured
medium-brown. All the extraneous metal parts were dark
bronze, and Mistress' current costume of brown knee boots, taupe
riding pants, and khaki-tan cotton blouse was similarly
subdued. Among the surrounding Douglas Firs and Tanoaks,
the sulky, ponygirls, and driver blended in quite well.
The scheme wasn't what you would actually call camouflage, but
it was unobtrusive to the casual eye.
The ponies were trotting down an equestrian trail that led to
the periphery of the thousand plus acres of "Private Habitat
Preserve" that was Mistress' estate. The majority of the
property was atop an elevated plateau surrounded on all sides by
agricultural fields, including a stretch of vineyard, and was
defined by a barbed wire fence marked with "NO TRESPASSING" and
"NO HUNTING" signs. Mistress' solitude was further
protected by the terrain. The main gate was motorized,
tall, and quite substantial, and all approaches to the plateau
that might have seemed inviting to casual hikers, poachers, or
4x4 enthusiasts were blocked by thick plantings and
strategically placed piles of large boulders. Finally,
Mistress had good relations with all her neighbors and they both
respected her privacy and acted as a buffer against casual
The trail turned to the right and paralleled the edge of a cliff
face for a hundred yards. This particular part of the
plateau overlooked a large field, and about a mile distant was a
stretch of state highway. If they cared to turn their
heads, Mistress and her ponies would be able to see cars and
trucks passing on the distant road, but anyone in said cars and
trucks wouldn't even suspect the ponies, the sulky, or Mistress
were there. Even from the near edge of the field, the
scattered trees and bushes between the trail and the cliff and
the overhead canopy casting deep shade rendered the travelers
The trail took another right turn and a quarter-mile on they
came to a pond surrounded by a grassy meadow. Mistress
pulled off the trail to a shaded area under a stand of firs,
then jumped from the seat, passed the reins through an iron ring
set in an upright wooden post, and tied a secure saddle
hitch. She then knelt and hobbled her ponies, using a pair
of double-ended clips to join D-rings attached to the ankles of
their boots for that very purpose. Standing and brushing
the fir needles from her knees, she strolled to the hamper
behind the sulky's seat, then returned with an iPad encased in
brown leather and a plastic bottle with a curved plastic straw
attached to its cap.
The ponies' bits were hard, black rubber, an inch thick with
steel cores. They could be removed without unbuckling the
rest of the bridles caging the ponies' heads, but Mistress
didn't bother. She simply tucked the end of the straw in
the corner of each pony's grimacing mouth and gave them generous
squirts of water. She then placed the bottle on the seat
and returned with the iPad, holding it so the ponies could see
On said screen was the image of a very attractive young woman
with straight, ginger hair and clear, pink skin. There
might have been a dusting of light freckles on her cheeks and
across the bridge of her button nose, but in the photograph it
was only a hint. Her face was symmetrical and undeniably
beautiful. She might have been in her late twenties, but
Mistress knew she was actually in her early thirties, roughly
midway in age between her two ponies. There was no doubt
about it, the ginger was quite the looker, with gorgeous
features and an attractive body, what they could see of
it. The photo was a head-and-shoulders portrait.
Anyway, the subject practically radiated youthful vigor and
innocence while at the same time presenting an air of
intelligence and sophistication.
Mistress knew the redhead was a graduate of Lewis & Clark
University and had a modestly successful career as an author of
Young Adult fiction, mostly of the princesses-and-dragons
variety. She also kept a semi-popular blog. It was
mostly for fans of her writing, but she also did a little
investigative reporting, delving into diverse areas of popular
culture that captured her fancy. In any case, Mistress was
sure the redhead's little constellation of followers and Facebook likes
would dwindle and vanish if, for some unknown reason, she were
to stop posting.
"Bridget," Mistress said, gazing at the photo with a somewhat
predatory smile. "A pretty name, but I'll have to think of
something else, of course. The pageboy is unusual," she
added, referring to the woman's hair. "It's almost too
long to be called a pageboy, but I like the way it frames her
face and accents her cheekbones, but she'd look better with a
ponytail." She smiled at her ponygirls. "Don't you
The question was rhetorical, of course. Mistress was
holding the iPad at the proper viewing angle for Mistress.
The pongirls' view of the screen was slightly suboptimal.
More importantly, ponygirls aren't allowed to have opinions and
quickly learn to keep their thoughts to themselves.
"Anyway," Mistress continued, "my consultants have completed
their investigation and have found no impediment to inviting our
ginger friend out for a visit." Mistress finally held the
screen so the ponies could clearly see Bridget's image.
"Just think―Scheherazade, Prancine―soon you may have a new
sister, a new member of the herd. Isn't that
wonderful?" She then turned off the iPad and placed it on
the seat next to the water bottle.
The ponies, Scheherazade and Prancine, stared straight ahead. They
didn't try to speak. Rubber bits aside, they knew the
Without another word, Mistress returned to the hamper, pulled
out a rolled blanket, and strolled away towards the pond.
Standing in the traces, balanced on their pony-boots, and
helpless in their inescapable harnesses and restraints, the
ponies watched Mistress unroll the blanket, stretch, then begin
undressing. First she removed her boots, of course,
followed by her socks, riding pants, panties, and finally, her
blouse. She wasn't wearing a bra.
Mistress was forty-something, but thus far, Father Time had been
very kind. Her body was as athletic and shapely as
her ponies, and if there was any sag in her breasts, it was
insignificant. Her blond hair was short, but not pixie
short. She had an allover tan. No tan-lines.
This wasn't the first time she'd been skinny-dipping in the
pond, nor was this the first time a pony or ponies had been her
means of transportation to her private swimming hole. Far
The ponies watched Mistress slowly wade into the no doubt very
cool and refreshing water... then begin to swim. They both
could have used a dip in the pond, themselves, but apparently
that wasn't on Mistress' plan-of-the-day. All they could
do was stand... and watch... and be grateful for the shade.
Riordan pulled her somewhat elderly Toyota Corolla into the
parking lot of the Los Pinos Inn in the "thriving community" of
the same name. Actually, Los Pinos was little more than a
gas station and a general store at a crossroads of two state
highways, and the inn in question was a slightly shabby motel
with an attached coffee shop. Bridget parked and made her
way to the coffee shop, pausing to examine her reflection in the
glass door. She was wearing sensible pumps, a light beige
skirt, and a white cotton blouse. The skirt had a matching
jacket, but she'd left it in the car. The day was too hot
for layering. She just hoped the restaurant hadn't cranked
up the air conditioning. Her light brown leather tote was
over her right shoulder.
The restaurant was semi-busy, with a lunch crowd of obvious
locals and a few probable tourists. Traffic on the state
road to Los Pinos had been sparse, mostly long haul trucks and
farmers in pickups. In the back, a blond woman stood,
smiled, and waved. Bridget stepped forward and shook her
hand. "Ms. Wilkinson?"
"Please, call me Eve," the blonde replied. She was in her
forties, expensively dressed, and had striking features.
"Call me Bridget," Bridget said with a smile as she eased her
tote off her shoulder. They both sat. "Thank you for
this interview." There was ice water and a menu already
waiting at her place. Obviously, Eve had told the waitress
that she was a party of two.
"You're quite welcome," Eve replied, "and thank you for meeting
me all the way out here in lonely Los Pinos."
Bridget continued smiling. "No problem. It was a
The waitress arrived and took their lunch orders, then left.
"I'd like to hear more about how you became aware of my interest
in photography?" Eve inquired.
Bridget paused to sip her water before answering. She
realized that Eve's use of the word "photography" was something
of a code. What she really wanted to know was how Bridget
had linked Eve Wilkinson to the subject of her
photography. "When we spoke on the phone, I explained that
I'm an author of fantasy for young adults."
"My last book was about centaurs enslaved as beasts of burden in
a medieval kingdom."
"And the princess who befriends one of the centaur maidens and
leads a revolt," Eve nodded. "I was curious, so I
downloaded the e-book. It's very good."
Bridget blushed. "Thank you."
"I generally don't read YA fiction," Eve chuckled, "but I quite
enjoyed Stable Thrall. Anyway, you mentioned
someone e-mailing you copies of some of my photos?"
"Yes," Bridget confirmed. "After Stable Thrall's
release, a thread started on my blog about the details of the
way the centaurs were handled by the Slavers Guild, and someone
sent me a link to a gallery site that featured your
photos. Uh..." Bridget's blush returned. "I
didn't want to start a discussion of 'ponygirl cosplay' at a
blog frequented by young girls, so I never posted the link."
Eve smiled. "And yet, here we are."
The photos in question depicted what were unmistakably young
women in leather harnesses and toe-boots with horseshoe
soles. Their features were never seen, but it was clear
they were posing in leather costumes that at least flirted
"A comment at the gallery site mentioned 'Wilkinson Ranch,' so I
did more research and found some of your other photos,"
Bridget explained, "including some landscapes. That helped
me narrow the search until I found you."
Eve nodded. "As I suspected. I don't want you to
think that ponygirl cosplay is the norm at the ranch. I
don't even remember where the idea for the shoot came from, but
an acquaintance of mine had the required costumes, so... it
Bridget nodded. Just then their Cobb Salads arrived and
conversation was interrupted.
"I take it you want to do a little more research?" Eve
said after several bites.
"Yes," Bridget nodded. "I think it might help my
writing. I'm working an a sequel to Stable Thrall
in which the princess and her centaur friends infiltrate the
Slavers Guild of a neighboring kingdom. It may even become
"Well," Eve said, "as I told you on the phone, some of the
costumes are still at the ranch and I'm more than willing to let
you examine them."
"That's very kind," Bridget smiled. What she really wanted
was an introduction to the mysterious acquaintance Eve had
mentioned. Apparently, he or she was the "ponygirl
cosplay" expert, rather than Eve, but Bridget didn't want to
seem too pushy.
"After we've finished our lunch, I'll lead you back to the
ranch," Eve offered.
Bridget blinked in surprise. "Uh, today?"
"You have other plans?" Eve chuckled.
"No," Bridget answered, "it's just... unexpected. How far
"Only a few miles," Eve answered. "You can spend the
night. That way there will be plenty of time for us to
talk, and for you to examine the costumes."
"But I'm not prepared," Bridget objected.
"I'll loan you a nightie," Eve said. "We're about the same
size. And everything else you'll need is already in the
guestroom bath. I confess I've met only a few authors and
I'm quite curious about the writing process."
Bridget was still undecided. "Well..."
"Oh, please say yes," Eve gushed. "I'm very proud
of the ranch and quite enjoy showing it off."
Bridget smiled, then nodded. "Very well, and thank
you. You're being most kind."
By this time they'd finished their salads and the waitress had
arrived with the bill.
"Allow me," Bridget said, pulling her wallet from her tote and
fumbling for her credit card.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Eve chuckled as she handed her card to
Eve's payment was processed and they left the coffee shop.
Eve climbed into an SUV hybrid, Bridget into her trusty Toyota,
and the caravan of two left Los Pinos.
|A Pony Named Freckles
ranch had required not only a few additional miles of highway
travel, but was followed by two miles on an improved dirt road
surrounded by large fields of what Bridget suspected was...
sorghum? It was grain of some sort, and she didn't think
it was wheat. They came to a barbed wire fence that
stretched in either direction as far as Bridget could see.
There was a pause while a motorized iron gate rolled open, then
the convoy of two continued up a switchback road to the top of a
large plateau. Reaching the ranch itself took an
additional mile through the dappled shade of mature trees.
Eve's "ranch" turned out to be a huge estate. The style
was a blend of Arts & Crafts, Mountain Hunting Lodge, and
log cabin. More like a 'log mansion,' Bridget
decided. Actually, only about half the structure was
constructed from wooden logs. The rest was rough, mortared
stone, and the same was true of the extensive outbuildings: a
large garage and a complex of barns or stables. The
setting was refreshingly natural. What landscaping Bridget
could see was little more than a slight taming of the native
undergrowth under the tall trees that surrounded the estate on
Bridget loved the place. She'd fantasized about owning a
house like this, only not on such a grand scale. A
secluded and natural setting where she could do nothing but
write, that was her dream home. This was way too much
house for a single person―too much to keep clean and too much to
take care of―but she decided the Wilkinson Ranch would do in a
pinch. And as long as she was fantasizing, she'd hire a
maid to do the cleaning for her.
The convoy pulled up to the front of what was obviously the
garage, and as Bridget stepped from her trusty (rusty) Corolla,
she found two women waiting. Both were dressed in casual
cowboy (or in this case cowgirl) boots and denim
jeans. One was a tall blonde wearing a chambray work-shirt
with pearl-covered snap-buttons, and the other was a somewhat
shorter Latina in an embroidered, Henley-style blouse of white
linen. The women were quite attractive (in Bridget's
opinion) and were quite obviously in very good
shape. Also, they gave off something of a tomboy vibe
while at the same time being quite feminine. It was a
contradiction Bridget had always found to be somewhat...
"Bridget," Eve said, smiling and indicating the blonde and
Latina, "meet Lydia and Maya. Lydia is my stable mistress,
while Maya does her best to make me fat."
"I'm the cook," Maya said, rolling her eyes. "It's getting
late," she observed. "She's staying?"
"She is," Eve confirmed.
"I'll double-check the guest room," Maya sighed, then turned and
strolled away. "Lucky for you I made extra enchiladas,"
she called back over her shoulder.
Lydia took Bridget's right hand and gave it a firm shake.
"Don't mind Maya," she said with a dimpled smile. "She's
that way with everyone."
"But she's really a pussycat," Eve chuckled, "and her food is to
die for." She shifted her smile to her stable
mistress. "Lydia, why don't you show Bridget the stables
while I change?" She then turned back to Bridget.
"After you've seen Lydia's domain, I'll show you the house."
"Okay," Bridget answered.
"See you soon," Eve said, then turned and followed Maya towards
one of the mansion's side doors.
"So, you're a writer," Lydia said.
"I am," Bridget nodded. "Eve told you about me... and why
"She did," Lydia confirmed. "Do you ride?"
"Uh, no," Bridget answered. "I've always wanted to learn,
but never had the chance."
Lydia pointed to a large paddock surrounded by a rail fence on
the far side of what appeared to be the main stable. "At
the moment, we only have two horses. Both are somewhat
spirited, so I'm afraid neither would make a good mount for a
first time rider."
There were indeed two horses on the far side of the grassy
expanse. One was tan in color with a dark mane and
tail. The other was brown and white in a very pretty
dappled pattern, with a brown mane and tail. Both looked
in the distant humans' direction, then returned to grazing the
"They're beautiful," Bridget sighed. She wasn't just being
polite. The horses were magnificent.
"You don't have to convince me," Lydia chuckled, then
led Bridget towards one of the stable's many doors.
|A Pony Named Freckles
were actually a complex of buildings, one large barn-like
structure, and several smaller outbuildings. On the side
of the main stable opposite the paddock was a square, fifty-foot
expanse of packed dirt bounded by the main stable, itself, a
much smaller, single-story outbuilding directly opposite, and at
either end by a combination rail and wire fence. The lower
five feet of the fences in question are conventional, more or
less identical to the fence surrounding the paddock, but the
barriers continue upwards an additional five feet with strand
after taut, horizontal strand of electrified wire stretched
between glass insulators affixed to periodic steel posts.
In the center of the yard was a very tall, thick, vertical
wooden post supporting a horizontal steel crossbeam.
Equine aficionados would instantly recognize the T-shaped
arrangement as a machine for exercising and conditioning
horses. The crossbeam's hub was motorized, and once set in
motion, would lead a pair of horses in an endless circle.
This was confirmed by the countless horseshoe-shaped impressions
in the dirt forming a track around the center post and directly
under the pair of steel chains dangling from either end of the
The smaller outbuilding was of stone and timber construction,
like all the buildings of Wilkinson Ranch, but it had one
unusual feature. Set into the side of the stone
foundations and facing the exercise yard was a long, narrow
window with its sill a few inches above the dirt, strong
evidence that the outbuilding had a basement. The window
was about fifteen inches high and six feet long and was
protected by closely spaced bars of black iron, one would assume
to keep wildlife out of the basement. Beyond the bars was
one continuous pane of one-way glass. Anyone inside the
basement could see out, but no one in the exercise yard could
see in. In point of fact, there were two panes of glass,
but only the outer pane was silvered, and both were thick safety
glass separated by a quarter-inch void. Inside the
basement, the window was protected by a second set of
The basement itself was entirely of stone, except for the heavy
wooden rafters and thick planks overhead. The floor was
poured concrete, and a double row of steel support columns run
the length of the dark space. There were light fixtures
here and there, but at the moment all were off. Access to
the basement was at one end, via a set of wooden stairs leading
up to the ground level, but between the stairs and the main
basement was a wall of iron bars interrupted by a door of even
more iron bars secured by a very solid looking lock.
The basement was empty... except for two very naked, very female
figures: Scheherazade and Prancine. Their real names were
Claire and Kyndal, respectively, but long ago Mistress gave them
their new names, names commensurate with their status as
Both were standing with their backs to one of the two support
columns that give the best view of the exercise yard through the
long, narrow, doubly-barred window. Their wrists were
bound with white rope behind their respective columns, and
additional ropes bound their ankles, lower legs above and below
their knees, their thighs, waists, forearms, and their torsos
and upper arms, above and below their breasts. All the
ropes were cinched and hitched between their limbs and bodies
and the posts, binding them tightly and firmly, and none of the
many ropes' key knots were within the reach of their fluttering
groping fingers―or rather would be if said fingers were
either fluttering or groping. Both post-bound captives
were standing perfectly still, more or less hanging in their
bonds and not trying to escape. Escape would have been
impossible, in any case.
They were also gagged. Large sponges have been stuffed in
their mouths, then secured in place with band after band of
tight Vet-wrap, first cleaving their mouths, and then mummifying
their lower faces from nostrils to chin. The prisoners
weren't mewling through their gags, just as they weren't testing
their rope bonds. Lydia had crafted their predicaments,
and when Lydia gags a ponygirl and ties her to a post, she stays
gagged and tied to a post. Scheherazade and Prancine knew
this from long experience.
Mistress had many different leather outfits with which to outfit
her beloved ponygirls, but they weren't kept in harness
24/7. Lydia considered that to be unhealthy.
Sometimes, they were given the run of their stalls with only
superficial bonds to keep them under control, like
leather-padded handcuffs, canvas straitjackets, or simple
rope-bonds. And sometimes they slept in cells with real
beds, the kind used by humans; however, when that happened, they
were usually collared and chained to the wall. The point
was, Lydia liked to mix things up. Scheherazade and
Prancine had regular training routines as harnessed and
leather-bound ponies, but they weren't allowed to get "barn
sour," as Lydia put it.
That said, today was different. The ponygirls' bondage was
always inescapable, but it wasn't usually this
restrictive. Today was also special in that they'd been
told that there was every reason to believe the new pony, the
redhead Mistress had shown them on her iPad at the swimming hole
a few days ago, might be arriving. Scheherazade and
Prancine suspected they were locked away in the basement,
stringently post-bound and well-gagged, so they couldn't warn
the newcomer away. And if that was the case, it was an
effective strategy. Even if the redhead entered the
exercise yard, knelt at the basement window, clutched the
exterior bars with her pale hands, and tried pressing her
lightly freckled button nose against the one-way glass, the
captive, unseen ponygirls beyond couldn't have warned her, no
matter how hard they tried to scream through their gags
And then, it happened. Scheherazade and Prancine noticed
movement in the exercise yard. Lydia was leading the new
pony on a tour―only the redhead didn't yet know she was a
pony. She was wearing heels, a beige skirt, and a white
blouse―human clothes. And her iPad photo didn't do her
justice. She was beautiful, in a prissy, very feminine
sort of way. Both post-bound ponies arrived at this
conclusion independently, but they'd have to wait to compare
Lydia was gesturing around the yard and pointing out the various
aspects of the equine (ponygirl) exercise machine.
Scheherazade watched as the redhead stared down at the hoof
prints in the packed dirt, then up at the motor and crossbeam
mechanism atop the post. Would she notice anything
unusual? Would she be able to tell the difference between
iron-shod tracks left by quadrupedal as opposed to bipedal
ponies? Apparently not.
Scheherazade and Prancine heaved simultaneous gagged sighs as
Lydia and the unsuspecting ginger reentered the main stable
building. The side door closed, and they were gone.
The post-bound and stringently gagged ponygirls were alone,
again, and they expected to remain that way for hours to come.
|A Pony Named