"And then?" I asked.
"Well, in the middle of the afternoon, after I’d been watered and rested on the edge of the marketplace, he drove me up the main road to his door. Of course, I remembered the house. I’ve recognized it every time we’ve passed it. And when I realized he was untying me from the cart, my heart stopped. He left me in bit and harness and whipped me into the hallway and then into his room."
I was wondering if this wasn’t forbidden. But what did it matter? What could a pony do when such things occurred? "Well, there was the bed we’d made love in, the room where we had talked. And he made me squat low, on the floor, facing his writing desk. And then he sat down at the desk and looked at me as I waited. You can imagine how I felt. That position is the worst, squatting, and my c**k was unbelievably hard, and I still wore the harness, my arms bound tight against my back, and the bit with the reins over my shoulders. And he was picking up his damned pen to write!
"’Drop the bit,’ he said to me, ‘and answer my questions just as you answered them once before.’ I did as he said, and then he began to interrogate me about all aspects of our existence: what we ate, how we were groomed, what were the worst trials. I answered everything as calmly as I could, but finally I was crying. I couldn’t control it. And all he did was write down the things I said. No matter how my voice changed or how I struggled, he kept writing. I confessed that I loved the pony life, yet it was hard. I admitted that I didn’t have the strength that you have, Laurent. I told him you were my idol in all things, that you were perfect. But I longed for a stern Master still, a loving and stern Master. I confessed everything, things I didn’t even know that I still felt."
I wanted to say, "Tristan, you did not have to tell him. You could have concealed your soul. You could have taunted him and insulted him." But I knew this was no good for Tristan, this line of thought.
I kept silent and Tristan went on with his account.
"Then the most remarkable thing happened," he said. "Nicolas set down the pen. And for a moment he said and did nothing but gesture for me to be quiet. Then he came and knelt before me and put his arms around me, and he broke down. He said that he loved me, had never stopped loving me, and these months had been agony for him…."
"Poor boy," I whispered.
"Laurent, don’t make fun of it. It’s serious."
"I’m sorry, Tristan, go on."
"He kissed me and embraced me. He said that he had failed me when we had left the Sultanate. That he should have whipped me for my confusion in not wanting to be rescued and guided me through it–"
"It’s about time he realized that."
"And he wanted to make up for it now. He wasn’t allowed to take off my harness–there was a stiff fine for that and he had to respect the law–but we could make love together, he said. And we did. We lay on the floor together, as you and I did in the Sultan’s bedroom, and I took his c**k in my mouth as he took mine. Laurent, I’ve never known such pleasure. He is my secret lover again and my secret Master."
"What happened after that?"
"He drove me out again into the streets, and thereafter he kept his hand on my shoulder, and when he whipped me I knew that it was giving him pleasure. Everything was magnified. I was exalted again. Later, in the woods near his manor house, we made love a second time, and before he put the bit back in my mouth he kissed it lovingly. And he told me that all this must be kept secret. That the rules regarding the village pony stock were very, very strict.
"Tomorrow we’re to lead his team when he goes to the country. We’ll be tethered to his coach for some time almost every day, and he and I will have our secret moments when we can."
"I’m happy for you, Tristan," I said.
"But it’s going to be so hard, Laurent, waiting for opportunities with him. Yet it’s thrilling, isn’t it, never knowing when they will come?" I never worried about Tristan after that. And, if others knew of his renewed love with Nicolas, they did not seem to mind. When the Captain of the Guard came round to talk to me, he said nothing about it and treated Tristan just as affectionately as before. He told us both that Lexius had been taken out of the castle kitchen almost immediately and he now served the Queen on the Bridle Path every day. The fierce Lady Juliana had also taken a liking to him and was having a hand in his training. He was becoming an exceptionally accomplished slave.
"So now I don’t have to worry about either Lexius or Tristan," I thought.
But all this set me to thinking again about love. Had I ever loved one of my Masters? Or was love elicited from me only by my slaves? Surely I had felt a frightening love for Lexius when I’d whipped him in his chamber. And I felt love, profound love, for Jerard now. In fact, the harder I whipped Jerard with my hand the more I loved him. Maybe it would always be so with me. The moments in which my soul yielded, in which everything formed a complete pattern, were moments when I was in command.
But one strange contradiction to this troubled me. It was Gareth, my handsome stable-boy Master. As month passed into month, I grew to love him too much.
Every night, Gareth spent some time in our stall, pinching my welts, scratching them with his fingernails as he complimented me on what I’d learned, or how well I’d done, or passed on to me the praise of some generous villager.
If he thought that Tristan and I hadn’t been whipped enough that day–and this was common when we were not the last two in a team–he marched us out to the training yard, a large place at the opposite end of the stable from the other yards, and there he whipped both of us along with other neglected ponies until we were good and sore, having us all run before him in a small circle.
All detailed matters of grooming for Tristan and me he attended to personally. He scrubbed our teeth, shaved our faces, washed and combed our hair. He clipped our nails. He trimmed our pubic hair and oiled it. He oiled our ni**les to soften them after the pinch of the clamps.
And when we were put in the fair day races for the first time, it was Gareth who calmed us as the screaming and cheering crowds unnerved us, Gareth who hitched us to the little chariots we had to pull and told us to be proud as we strived to win.
Gareth was always near.
On those rare occasions when we were to have some new style of harness or rigging, he put it on us himself, explaining it to us.
For example, after we had been in the stables about four months, high collars were introduced, much like those we’d worn briefly in the Sultan’s garden. They were stiff to hold the chin high, and it was impossible to turn the head while wearing one. And this Gareth liked very much. He felt they added style, and provided better discipline.