(with deepest apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien)
Copyright © 2002 by Adrian Hunter. All rights reserved. Please do not repost nor repurpose without permission.
"Stop it, Marie-Noëlle. That tickles!"
Spirella cantered ahead of her slender companion, who giggled as she bent forward and pretended to initiate another attack with the long feathers that adorned the harness of smooth white leather daintily padlocked around her head.
"Seriously! We have many miles yet to journey ere we take our rest."
"Yeah, enough with the pillow fights already," muttered Buttplug, still annoyed by the morning's revelation that he was down to a frightfully tiny portion of catnip at the bottom of his pouch. Accompanying two jejune ponygirls on a doomed quest across barren lands called for acres of potent snuff at his immediate disposal, and he was forever darting off the trail in search of fertile fields of unwanted male chronics to illicitly harvest.
Spirella snorted as she tried to stifle a laugh. Oh, she just loved Buttplug to pieces, she did! Of all the fabulous Furries they had met in Rivenmyst, she had immediately taken a shine to this morose male cat who appeared to be in perpetual need of a hug. Such kindred spirits, the Furries were... willfully adopting the ways and means of a favorite animal was certainly a higher calling to which frilly fillies could relate. And poor Buttplug certainly didn't make things easy for himself, given his name and species.
"Couldn't be helped," he had explained after rescuing Spirella and Marie-Noëlle from a particularly treacherous patch of muddy muck that were common to the province. "Some Furries choose brave and fearsome animals they imagine themselves to be, like lions and wolves and sports mascots. But true Furries know that one's animal self is discovered, not selected off the rack like a freakin' prom dress. And I'm a purple cat. Coulda been worse. Coulda been a poodle. Or a ladybug."
As for his name, he explained it as the whim of a previous owner who fancied herself a comedienne. "Beats Mittens, Fluffy or, ugh, Pussy," he had added thoughtfully, and not a little thankfully, Spirella had observed.
And thankful definitely described Spirella's mood as she pranced ahead of her attendants. Thankful she had been born a ponygirl. Thankful for her warm stall, her shiny tack, her comfortable bridle, her flexible harness, her adjustable clamps, her endless meadows and her dozens of dear friends like Marie-Noëlle.
But most of all, Spirella was thankful that she, among all the ponygirls in Snobbiton, had been selected for the undertaking upon which she and Marie-Noëlle had recently embarked.
Granted, epic adventure did not come naturally to her, nor her fellow former foals. Ponygirls much preferred to keep among themselves, having been the subject of much calumny over the years when strangers to Snobbiton had paused to scoff at their exquisite equestrian ways. Worst of all were those who would take advantage of the ponygirls' kind and trusting natures with uncouth manly efforts to defile, if not pillage, their hay-strewn sanctuaries. Spirella felt it was much better to steer clear of such unpleasantness and focus on more pressing concerns, like how to keep the brass rivets that adorned her beloved chastity strap from rusting.
But that was before the day when the elder mare known as Fanfic, a pony of much wisdom, poise, grace and a shimmering tail reportedly hewn from the hairs of a real-life princess who adopted a seriously short coiffure when she ran off with a member of a raucous troupe of ill-tempered and frightfully pierced musicians, had taken her aside with an urgent request.
"The ring," she had whispered as she nibbled Spirella's ear suggestively. "The dreaded ring must be returned to its place of origin and destroyed ere more harm befalls our happy corrals."
Hidden under Fanfic's rhinestone-peppered saddle was a strap of ancient leather with buckles on either end, and a large circle of tarnished silver in its center. When Spirella first took the device in her teeth, she felt a sensation of unfamiliar terrible warmth course through her silken loins. Suddenly, the malicious foreigners who visited Snobbiton did not seem so dangerous anymore. In fact, she quite fancied the idea of getting to know them better, preferably in a dark stall with the doors bolted shut, their cunning eyes blazing with unmistakable intent, their powerful fingers clutching raw flesh beneath her fetters, their sweat-crusty jerkins slithering off meaty shoulders, no possibility of escape...
"Enough!" the mare had whinnied as she knocked the device from the grip of Spirella's teeth. "You must never replace your bit with the ring, no matter how tempted you find yourself."
Fanfic explained the origins of the strange device in greater detail. How it had been forged by a tribe of evil spirits who lived many leagues beyond Snobbiton, in a land where males treated other living creatures with the same lack of respect a young boy pays to an insect under his magnifying lens. How it could cause even the most chaste ponygirl to fall under its spell, leading her to commit wild and wanton acts of such dire perversity that Fanfic was loath to discuss their particulars beyond a telling nudge with her well-etched hoof against Spirella's chastity belt. And especially how the ring worked, a description which made Spirella's nicely-toned tummy a little queasy, although she didn't necessarily feel sick.
"Very well, Fanfic," Spirella had said bravely as she placed the ring under her own saddle. "With the help of my bestest bud, Marie-Noëlle, I shall dispose of this artifact. Besides, I need a new bridle, and everybody's already seen this year's collection offered by the mange-riddled merchants of Snobbiton."
To date, their voyage had been fairly uneventful, with the exception of meeting Buttplug in the muddy muck, who afterwards insisted on accompanying them, mostly to avoid having to attend the Furries' annual gathering, an event which he described in grisly terms that made Spirella and Marie-Noëlle thankful that ponygirls didn't much care to parade their pride in public.
But Spirella knew that every puff of dust kicked up by the cloven heels of their crotch-high leather boots took them a step closer to their unknown fate. While Fanfic had been reticent to provide a detailed description of the nasty beasts who had forged the ring, Spirella entertained herself and Marie-Noëlle for hours in the evenings with fanciful thoughts that left both of them more than a little flushed and primed for the privacy of their sleeping rugs.
As they rambled down the road at a cheery pace promiscuously close to "skipping," Spirella allowed her mind to ponder the shape and size of her eventual foes, not to mention other fearsome and muscular creatures they might encounter in their travels.
"What the fuck is that?" cried Buttplug suddenly, his verging-on-violet fur standing on end. "Did you hear something?"
"Help! Oh please, won't someone help me?" called a pretty voice from somewhere along the side of the path.
"Come, Marie-Noëlle, we must investigate!" Spirella cried as she galloped down the embankment and into the woods.
It didn't take long before the threesome found a clearing between the trees where railroad tracks had been laid. Off in the distance, Spirella thought she heard the high, lonesome whistle of a southbound freighter coming their way.
"Look! Over there, on the tracks!" Buttplug exclaimed as his plastic claws clicked excitedly against the smooth steel of the rails. "Someone's in trouble!"
A few yards away, a young woman in a long flowing dress that was hiked up her legs, exposing multiple petticoats and a pair of adorably retro button boots, lay across the tracks, her body bound securely in vast quantities of thickly-braided rope.
"A damsel!" cried Spirella.
"In distress!" echoed Marie-Noëlle.
"What, no ripped bodice?" moaned Buttplug.
"Hurry, Buttplug, untie her," Spirella said, her ears twitching as they discerned the rumble of the fast-approaching express.
The woman gave them a sheepish look and batted her eyelashes demurely.
"Uh, that's okay," she said, suddenly calm. "I'm fine, really. Don't mind me."
"What? But there's a train approaching," exclaimed Spirella. "You'll surely be crushed, and your attractive dress shall be permanently soiled."
"Please, leave me be," the woman insisted. "Worry ye not about my apparent predicament."
"It's clear you are in need of immediate rescuing," Spirella asserted as she studied the layered coils and intricate knots surrounding the damsel's limbs with no small degree of admiration.
"Yes, but... well, it's a long story. Best you be on your way. Thanks for asking though. Good afternoon."
With that, the woman resumed her plaintive calls for aid, oblivious to the presence of the two ponygirls and their feline friend.
"Well, I never," huffed Spirella as they made their way back to the path. "She's going to be lunchmeat any minute now. Oh, we can't just leave her there. Buttplug, you must... wait, what's that I hear?"
Ahead of them, the unmistakable sound of another woman calling for help reverberated through the trees.
"Ohmigod, someone else is in trouble! Quickly!"
The trio rushed back into the woods to a second clearing where an equally-attractive woman, dressed in a parallel manner to the one they had previously encountered, was likewise trussed and squirming most appealingly on what looked like a continuation of the same set of train tracks.
"Help, please won't someone... oh, hello," she said as Spirella, Marie-Noëlle and Buttplug burst noisily into the clearing. "Lovely day, isn't it? And I'm quite keen on the way the leaves change around here."
"We have no time to waste with idle chit-chat," Spirella said brusquely. "We must get you untied before..."
"That really won't be required, love," the woman said with a smile.
"And pray tell, why not?" asked Spirella with just the tiniest hint of exasperation.
"Be quiet for a moment, and listen carefully," the woman instructed.
Cocking an ear to the sky, Spirella still heard the oncoming train, but surprisingly, it didn't sound like it had gotten any closer in the minutes since they had left the first woman. More importantly, she could make out the distant calls of several other women, all crying for help with varying degrees of anguish.
"Why, there must be dozens of distressed damsels in these woods!" Spirella deduced.
"Hundreds, actually," the lassoed lass replied demurely. "Tis a common practice on the frontier where you find yourselves. Following a merry chase and a stirring struggle, our men bind us firmly and leave us to our fate on the tracks, whatever that might be."
"But aren't you in mortal danger?" Spirella worried.
"Hardly. In fact, the process is quite pleasurable when done correctly and without extraneous interruption. Speaking of which, if you will excuse me..."
"An entire village of damsels in distress," Buttplug marveled as they made their way once again back to the path. "Well, I suppose it's better than being mangled by dragons. Unless they're Furry dragons, of course, in which case they're about as scary as a certain Rasta-spouting anthropoid from the aptly-named Plateau of Phantom Menaces."
"I should quite fancy a go at this distress business myself," said Marie-Noëlle unexpectedly. "Do you think I could try, Spirella? I shan't be long, I promise."
"Of course not!" Spirella said, desperate to shake the idea of all those complicated windings around her own body. "We have much more important things to accomplish than indulging in fantasies."
Buttplug couldn't help snickering.
"Oh, you know what I mean," Spirella snapped impatiently, her padlocks jingling as she wagged a forelock in his face. "We're on a mission. A quest. A journey into the depths of our greatest..."
"And don't forget shopping," Marie-Noëlle added, her heart set on a pair of shoulder-length gloves in white leather to match the rest of her ensemble.
"Quite right. We mustn't dally and delay our expedition any longer. Look, the sun has already passed its zenith, and soon it will be time to mount our feedbags. We must press on. Come!"
"With pleasure," Buttplug meowed, expertly avoiding the airborne hoof that Spirella had targeted for his crotch.
An hour later, the three adventurers noticed a strange set of footprints in the path.
"Look at these markings in the dirt," Spirella said. "They appear to be holes of exceptional depth, preceded by triangular impressions of some sort."
"Most irregular, yet quite consistent in their spacing and direction," noted Marie-Noëlle helpfully. "Almost as if each step had been carefully considered prior to its placement in the path."
"Uh huh," Spirella agreed distractedly as she pondered what sort of walking device would have such an abnormal effect on such a well-traversed road. "Well, not to worry, as they seem to be heading the same way we are. Unless we significantly increase our pace, I doubt we shall overtake them."
They followed the oddly-shaped footprints for another mile, somewhat disturbed by the increasing number of unique tracks that joined the original pair.
"Their ranks are growing," said Buttplug as he idly swiped a paw at a passing butterfly. "Whatever they are, there's more of them than us."
"Thank you for your brilliant observation," Spirella replied icily, her mood soured by a growing sense of regret over taking their leave of the damsels in distress so quickly. Perhaps if they had tarried, they might have encountered the dastardly men for themselves, leading to a skirmish in which her band would have doubtlessly fallen prey to their immoral...
"Sorry for paying attention, your horsiness. In the future, I shall prohibit myself from pretending to give a flying... whoa, bandits at 12 o'clock high!"
Indeed, there appeared several shadowy figures on the path ahead of them, all of whom appeared to be walking rather unsteadily.
"Hallo!" Spirella cried out with as much friendly inflection as she could manage. "Who precedes us in our journey that takes us far from the well-maintained dressage arenas of Snobbiton?"
"Oh, thank God," one of the strangers exclaimed.
"Maybe they've got bunion pads!" said another excitedly.
"Dr. Scholl's, even!" added a third.
"I'll settle for comfy slippers and a soak in the creek," sighed a fourth.
Spirella, Marie-Noëlle and Buttplug quickly overtook the curious band of fellow wanderers and introduced themselves with practiced curtseys, with the exception of Buttplug, who began mewling in a most unattractive fashion as their eyes took in the spectacle before them.
At least a dozen young women sat dispiritedly on the side of the path, all dressed in short black dresses decorated with much lace around their slender waists and atop their curly-haired heads, their legs ensconced in stockings of sheer black silk and their wrists entwined with matching gauntlets.
But it wasn't their splendid garb that led to Buttplug's outburst. It was their feet, or rather, the unusual walking apparatuses that were strapped and locked around their ankles. Each one sported an elaborate heel of considerable length that forced their wearers to walk on the very tips of their doubtlessly delicate toes in a manner not unlike a nimble dancer of dervishes.
"Greetings, fair maidens," said Spirella. "My name is..."
"We ain't maidens, we're bleedin' maids," spat one. "And unless you brung an ice bag for my achin' tootsies in one of yer saddlebags, you can piss thyself off."
"You try walkin' down this ruddy alleyway with an unabridged dictionary on top of yer noggin," screeched another. "Practicin' your balance in these contraptions is worse than listenin' to the prime minister babble about his poxy baby, like squirtin' useful sperm in middle age is some great accomplishment."
"Ahem," Spirella continued, motioning to her own fabulous footwear which arched her calves in a delightfully alluring fashion. "Well, we are on a quest to return the ring..."
"Ooooh, you got yerself a ring, didja?" piped up another maid. "Bloody typical that a decent man would want himself a horsy for a bride."
"No, no, it's not that kind of ring," Spirella replied, a bit more wistfully than she intended. "Anyway, where are you headed?"
"Back to the scullery, if you must know. And you can call me Giselle."
"And me as well!"
"Well, my name is Claudia."
"Likewise, I'm sure."
"Except me. I'm Gwen."
Spirella could not help notice Marie-Noëlle's unnatural fascination with the cruel shoes, their stiletto-like spikes sinking deeply into the unpaved dirt of the path. But she knew they had little time to tarry, especially with such crass and uncouth strangers.
"From where do you hail, kind servants of extended soles?" Spirella inquired with a supercilious twitch of her tail.
"We come from the land of Flagrantly Fastidious Fetishes," the first Giselle replied. "Our masters have sent us on an exercise run in which we are to traverse this accursed locals-only lane for a period of not less than eight hours balancing these heavy tomes atop our heads. If any of them should discover us in our current seated condition, we shall be collectively punished in a manner that will prohibit us from sitting again for an extended period."
That pronouncement caused Marie-Noëlle to swoon in a manner precipitously close to the vapors.
"You mean... they might actually... raise a hand to..."
"Whip us. Beat us. Strop us. Thrash our bottoms until they glow brighter than your cheeks right now."
Buttplug crumpled like an abandoned marionette into the grassy meadow abutting the path.
"Yes, well, that's all very fine and dandy for you gentlewomen, I suppose," Spirella said as she felt her haunches glow with unnatural fire at the thought of the illicit riding crops some ponygirls kept hidden at the bottom of their tack boxes. "And there is much to be said for poise, as any livery lass worth her saddlehorn could tell you. Come, Marie-Noëlle and Buttplug. Let's take our leave of this situation ere we are inadvertently introduced to the lords of these maids' households."
"Yeah, best to trot along, ya fuckwits," one of the Claudias sneered. "Wouldn't wanna soil those lovely leggings o' yours with an honest day's labor."
"Since when was Labour honest?" Giselle Number Three inquired, sparking a vicious political debate between the maids that sounded well-rehearsed to the point of ennui.
"Well, happy scrubbing," Spirella said over her shoulder as the trio scurried down the path as fast as their hooves would carry them. "Good thing we ponygirls don't have to suffer such injustices to our delicate carriages."
"Like running around in spurs and halters isn't a flagrantly fastidious fetish?" asked Buttplug with genuine curiosity, himself unsure of why he subjected himself to the daily distresses of his feline persona.
"Of course not!" Spirella retorted. "As a Furry, you should be well aware of the difference between a fetish and a true calling. One's a voluntary perversity, the other is nature's way of amending God's occasional errors."
The three of them continued chatting until Spirella finally announced that the time had come to end the day's journey. After finding a comfortable clearing just off the path, they settled down for an evening of much munching, grooming and storytelling about the ring still safely stashed under Spirella's saddle.
"What do you call these wicked dudes anyway?" Buttplug wondered as darkness overwhelmed the remains of their tidy campfire.
"Fanfic didn't tell us, but she assured me we would know them as soon as we met them," Spirella replied sleepily. "And with that, a very good night to you, and Marie-Noëlle, too."
Several hours later, the threesome awoke with a start to the sound of shouts and a great many men crashing in an orderly manner through the trees.
"Ohmigod, who goes there?" Spirella demanded as she hurried to straighten her mane and apply just a bit of mascara before they met whatever fate was about to befall them.
"Oh, Spirella, I'm frightened," squeaked Marie-Noëlle as she tore apart her rucksack in search of her curry comb.
"Oh, shit," sighed Buttplug, realizing he was going to have to be heroic without the benefit of stuffing his snout with snuff.
But the valiant vacationers proved to be no match for the dozens of short, hairless men wearing long white robes and matching headbands who descended on their clearing. Within minutes, Spirella and Marie-Noëlle found themselves stripped of their pony gear, gagged with large red balls, tightly bound in coils of rough brown hemp, and hung like fresh meat from long sticks carried on the shoulders of the men.
As for Buttplug, the invaders had simply laughed at his synthetic claws and electric-blue fur, but when they discovered he was male, they slapped him on the back, gave him a headband to match theirs, and beckoned for him to march alongside them as they advanced down the path to their village.
Buttplug couldn't understand their language, but as dawn broke over the horizon, he thought he recognized their thin eyes, clever fingers and great love for electronic gadgets.
"The Shibari," he whispered into Spirella's delectable ear as they approached a cluster of strangely-shaped wooden structures surrounded by elegant gardens filled with artfully-arranged stones of pleasing shapes and colors. "A politely barbaric tribe from the far east. I have heard they aren't really dangerous, but they have many rituals and very specific tribulations that they like to practice on their females and, er, esteemed visitors."
Spirella twisted and thrashed excitedly, and not just because of the coarse cords digging geometrically-symmetrical trenches in her limbs.
"Mmm mingggg!" she mumbled urgently through her gag.
"Don't worry, ma petite equestrianette. I snatched your precious cargo, not to mention the rest of your stuff, while the Shibari were busy with your bitchin' bindings. Besides, I don't think these are the chaps you're looking for. Shhhh, best to play nice until we get to wherever we're going."
The captors and their trussed prey entered the largest of the buildings, which was filled with painted screens, rough-hewn furniture, odd-looking scaffolding, and a preponderance of pulleys hanging from the ceiling. Spirella and Marie-Noëlle were freed from their poles, only to be tied again in an extremely elaborate fashion, including multiple windings around their breasts and hair, and hoisted high into the air, their refined orifices exposed for the pleasure and amusement of the men.
The shortest and most portly of the Shibari gestured excitedly at Buttplug and began babbling in his strange tongue at a very rapid pace while his cohorts busied themselves with various tasks, many which seemed to involve large rubber bags festooned with clear plastic hoses.
"He's the leader," Buttplug translated. "He seems to be saying that you are the Shibari's honored guests, and he wants to share his tribe's special form of hospitality with you. Apparently, it involves some kind of... cleansing."
A few moments later, the purpose and intent of the rubber bags became painfully apparent as Spirella and Marie-Noëlle found their most private passages filled to the point of bursting with warm, soapy water.
"Don't worry," Buttplug assured them, trying his very hardest not to enjoy his companions' dire and somewhat disgusting predicament. "It's very healthy and beneficial, or so I've been told."
After being instructed to release the contents of their bountiful bottoms into chipped white pans held beneath them, the Shibari lowered them to the ground and proceeded to take turns tying them up in some of the most fiendishly convoluted positions Buttplug had ever witnessed. Limbs bent backwards at impossible angles, scratchy ropes snaking around and across every inch of their elegant epidermis, dangling from the scaffolding in positions best described as "oblique," Spirella and Marie-Noëlle were treated like beloved dolls in the hands of older brothers.
After many hours of knotty diversions, the men invited Buttplug to join them in another building where their regular women served them bowls of steaming rice and plates piled high with strange delicacies from the sea, as well as copious quantities of a clear liquid which made Buttplug's head feel like he had inhaled a silo of snuff in one snort.
When they finished eating, one of the Shibari produced a wireless microphone and began crooning a popular song about a far-off metropolis so great, its name had to be repeated repeatedly in an off-key but heartfelt manner. Following much applause, the rest of the men clamored for a turn, and Buttplug slinked away unnoticed, his spirits much lightened by the day's unexpected turn of events.
"What took you so long?" shouted Spirella once Buttplug had untied and lowered her.
"Ooooh, why did you hurry?" Marie-Noëlle slurred, a contented smile replacing the gag across her mouth.
"Snap out of it, Marie-Noëlle!" Spirella growled at her semiconscious compadre. "We must effect our escape forthwith! Buttplug, where is our pony gear! And the ring! We must get away from this accursed village as fast as our hooves can carry us!"
"Stop sweating. Like I told you, I stashed everything safely in a tree by the path. And geez, what's your rush? I think Marie-Noëlle wants to, er, hang around a little longer."
"Not funny," Spirella hissed at Buttplug. "How would you like to spend the entire day suspended from the ceiling by your... manhood?"
"Are you sure we can't stay the night?" Marie-Noëlle inquired wistfully. "Or maybe Buttplug should alert them to our escape so the Shibari can capture us again..."
"Get real, Marie-Noëlle! The Shibari are obviously a cruel, cunning and dangerous clan. Their skillful masculine tricks have warped your fragile mind. And you're not helping matters here, Buttplug. Now, let's get properly accessorized and be on our way."
They tiptoed past the building where the sound of a Shibari warrior warbling about his feelings more than compensated for the sound of their bare feet on the well-manicured garden walkways.