A Pony Named Freckles
A
              Pony Named Freckles


by Van © 2016


Chapter 1


DRAMATIS PERSONÆ


OUR STORY BEGINS

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, etc.

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 intruders.

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 virtually invisible.

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 the screen.Bryce!

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 agree?"

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 rules.

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 from it.

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.
A Pony Named Freckles
Chapter 1
Bridget 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 pleasant drive."

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."

Eve nodded.

"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 with... bondage.

"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 happened."

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 a series."

"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 is it?"

"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 the waitress.

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
Chapter 1
Reaching the 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 all sides. 

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... intriguing.

"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 I'm here?"

"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 lush grass.

"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
Chapter 1
The "Stables" 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 crossbeam.

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 bars.

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 ponygirls.

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 notes.

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 Freckles
Chapter 1
The
End


Chapter 2


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