Hinterlands Book II: The Stables (5 page)

This went on for no more than 15 minutes before Ms.
Farstone announced that breakfast was complete.
 
Many of the new girls stuffed bread into
their mouths in horror, afraid that they would never encounter such opulence
ever again.
 
Amelia noticed the more
senior girls simply leaving-off, however, and she had an inkling that meals
like this were typical here, as unbelievable as this seemed.

The girls were ushered out of the dining hall and deeper
into the stables away from the courtyard.
 
Many of them chattered good-naturedly.
 
They were a much larger group now, and
their own odors were divine and pleasurable to experience, overpowering even.
The flowers, food and oils mixed together to create a virtual cloud of
loveliness, and cheer that seemed to infect all the girls, causing them to
smile and laugh comfortably.
 
In
this state they were all lovely to behold to Amelia, despite their nakedness,
or even perhaps because of it.
 
She herself
felt a sense of elation as the food warmed her soul and she considered that her
plight here in the stables was perhaps not so bad as she had initially
feared.
 
Poor Kitt had been
mistakenly frightened, she reasoned.
 
There was no danger thus far, unless one considered immodesty a danger,
and indeed many did.
 
The notion of
walking around unclothed in this place leant a certain pervasive awkwardness
for sure, at least for the time being.
 
Regrettably, there simply was nothing they could do about that.

They emerged once again into the sunlight, only this time
they were outside the stables. A vast green field stretched out before them
hundreds of yards in each direction. They could see luxuriantly tended green
lawns, fading into rolling green hills far in the distance that were dappled
with patches of forest and rocky outcrops.
 
Amelia couldn’t imagine a more beautiful vista.
 
It was something out of a painting.

Ms. Farstone emerged from the door behind them and called
out nonchalantly. “What a lovely morning!
 
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I can’t think of anything
that would be nicer than a little run?
 
Can you Mr. Stephen?

“Indeed I cannot Ms. Farstone!”
 
Mr. Stephen’s voice shocked a number of
them.
 
No one had expected him to be
here.
 
Some of the girls covered
their nakedness instinctively.
 
The
graying old man had been standing by the corner of the building languidly
smoking his tobacco pipe.
 
Taking a
long slow drag and blowing the smoke up into the air he continued
speaking.
 
“I think no less than 20
laps are in order, don’t you?”

“Certainly!
 
And the chamber for the winner then?” She asked grinning.

“Oh, I’d say the chamber for the first two Ms.
Farstone.
 
It’s such a beautiful
morning.”

“Okay then.
 
Mr. Stephen has set the rules.
 
20 laps girls.
 
Don’t be
shy.
 
Let’s put you through your
paces.”

With this, the vast majority of the young women bolted
off into the open field settling into a long easy gait.
 
Amelia’s group of seven stood around
momentarily, disoriented before they realized they had been left behind and
were meant to follow the others. Amelia started jogging along then, deciding
she had better not stay behind.
 
The
initial sensation was thrilling, and she found herself enjoying the feeling of
the soft green lawn on her feet, the soft breeze blowing, and the sun shining
down on her oiled skin.

The other girls were far ahead and running fast, some
were very tanned and seemed natural in their step, while others were paler and
not so fast. Amelia could see Ms. Eleros, the girl from the courtyard, easily
leading the pack by twenty yards.
 
Her lithe form was running smoothly and she climbed the first grass hill
as if it were nothing and began to descend the other side out of sight.
 
The rest of them followed suit and
Amelia trailed behind. She knew that she would have to pace herself or she
would tire soon.
 
She glanced over
her shoulder to see the others bringing up the rear, jogging along as fast as
their legs would carry them.
 
For
some reason she knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing to finish last, so she
pushed forward, struggling to catch the main group.
 

She could see they were on a well-worn path through the
grass.
 
It looked as though it
received daily use. Amelia was mystified by this.
 
Did they run every day?
 
As she rounded the top of the modest
grass hill she realized that she had made up significant ground on the others
and now was only 20 or 30 yards behind them.
 
They were heading down the slope toward
a small distant group of trees and as they arrived were rounding them quickly,
tearing off back toward the stables.
 
It was a small patch of Oaks, and Amelia turned round them in a flash,
sprinting hard back into the other direction.
 

She actually was beginning to feel comfortable and
natural without any skirts to inhibit her legs.
 
This must be what it feels like to run
like a man, she thought to herself, and began to feel how silly it was to be so
encumbered by skirts all the time.

After her first lap she finally caught-up with the main
group and began to pace them. They glanced at the newcomer nervously. The
collective sound of their feet pattered softly in the grass in an even cadence,
like a herd of rabbits. As for Amelia, her slender legs ached and her lungs
were burning, yet she was determined now to catch Ms. Eleros, even entertaining
the possibility of beating her. The scented wax in her hair was melting in the
afternoon sun, and beginning to drip down her back in a mixture of sweat and
perfume.

As she inched passed the main group, she realized she was
quite good at this running business, enjoying the feeling of her heart pounding
in her chest. They leapt over a thick log and sprinted past a carriage that Amelia
hadn’t noticed the first lap. It was parked right next to the path.
 
She couldn’t be sure, but she thought
she spied a pair of eyes peering out of the curtained window at they careened
past.
 
The path looped around and took
them right past the stable entrance once again. Amelia was a short distance
behind Ms. Eleros, her skin saturated and running freely. She took great
pleasure in the look of utter shock that lay upon the faces of Ms. Farstone and
Mr. Stephen as she sprinted past and she could see them talking nervously
together.
 

She increased her tempo, slowly making up ground on Ms.
Eleros, stretching her legs into long graceful strides and pumping her arms
hard. They rounded the hill once more, then the grove of trees, and back past
the carriage.
 
The race had become a
blur and all Amelia could do was place one foot in front of the other, thinking
of her sisters, thinking of home, thinking a hundred things.
 
She no longer noticed either Ms. Farstone
or Mr. Stephen, focusing entirely on catching Ms. Eleros.
 

She was twenty steps behind. Ten.

She surged to pull neck and neck with the leader and she
was filled with wild ebullience, as she saw the path ahead open up before her
empty for the first time. The girl turned to look at Amelia with a grin, the
lily hanging limply from her braid.

“Well done nightshade! They chose well!” she called out
as they jogged along. At first Amelia had no idea what this meant, only that she
was being commended by Ms. Eleros. She quickly realized that the purple flowers
in her hair marked her as nightshade, the symbol of her trio.

“Th-Thanks!” She called back breathing hard.

“The name’s Psalm” the girl called out grinning.
 
Psalm’s tanned face beamed brightly like
the morning sun with this smile.

“Amelia!” she called back, finding it hard to talk and
run at the same time.
 
Psalm’s
stride was athletic and easy, her beautiful skin sparkled with sweat. She
seemed to be scarcely breathing hard, whereas Amelia felt like she was dying.
Psalm was keeping pace with Amelia out of pity.

“Careful Nightshade, someone’s watching.”
 
She gestured towards the carriage as
they passed by.
 
Who was in there?
 
Amelia craned her neck but couldn’t
quite see.
 
While she was observing
the carriage Psalm took the opportunity to sprint away effortlessly like a
deer.
 
Amelia watched as she crossed
in front of the stables and slowed to a fast walk.
 
She had completed the twenty laps far
ahead of the others. Amelia came in second place, gasping for breath and
placing her hands on her trembling knees.

“Well, well, well!
 
What a surprise Ms. Kerrick.
 
Your first day in the paces and you come in second place!
 
Isn’t that shocking Mr. Stephen?”

“Indeed it is!
 
Ms. Eleros will have to watch herself.”

“Certainly she will!” Ms. Farstone approached Psalm, with
a dubious expression. She reached into her skirts and took out the small
leather crop that she carried with her.
 
It was an evil little thing full of menace. Psalm stared straight ahead
despite this threat, appearing graceful and alluring, just as she always did. Ms.
Farstone on the other hand was trying to appear as threatening as possible to
little effect.

She ran the end of the crop lightly over each of Psalms
breasts, circling the deeply hued nipples and patting them softly. Amelia
watched this fascinated, still trying to catch her breath. Psalm’s nipples
stiffened rapidly from the stimulation. Her red lips opened just slightly, and
her eyes hardened as she worked to resist Ms. Farstone’s titillations. Her brow
glistened with sweat and bits of melted wax.
 
The other girls all gathered around
breathing hard and also covered in sweat.
 
The afternoon sun was beating down mercilessly upon them all. Each was
curious to watch how Psalm would react to this new assault, she being the
strongest out of all of them.

“Now, now Ms. Farstone, Ms. Eleros won the race fair and
square.” Old Mr. Stephen had come to the rescue.
 
He always was a stickler for the rules.
“She gets the prize she has earned.
 
It’s the loser we must
encourage
,
you know that!”
 
He was having a
grand old time with this.
 
Ms.
Farstone looked put out.

“Some of these girls have never been disciplined at all
you know.” She said this to herself wistfully fondling the crop under Psalm’s
chin and down her smooth throat. Her face hinted at some inner conflict, and
she seemed unable to decide what to do next as she devoured Psalms flesh with
her eyes.
 
Finally some force
emerged victorious and, she suddenly turned away to face the other girls.
 
“Now then.
 
Who was the loser today?”
 

The group parted slowly almost theatrically to reveal
Molly Jenkins, who had arrived last.
 
She was still trying to catch her breath and seemed unaware all were
staring at her.
 
The daisies in her
red braids were drooping slightly, but all in all, she really didn’t seem to
have put up as much effort as the others.
 
That must have been why she was so far behind.

“Ms. Jenkins!
 
Come forward.
 
You’ve been a
very naughty girl now haven’t you?”

“Sorry Ma’am!
 
I….I stepped on a pebble Ma’am” Molly was thinking fast for an excuse,
but couldn’t come up with anything. She was wringing her hands nervously.

“Now now, Ms. Jenkins, you’ve been bad and must be
disciplined…rather, encouraged to do better, right Mr. Stephen?”

“Oh indeed so Ms. Farstone.
Encouraged
.” Mr. Stephen repeated this word for emphasis.
 
Apparently someone had counseled them to
use it. He took another long draw on his pipe.
 
The smell was sweet like molasses.
 

“Step up to the platform now girl.” Ms. Farstone ordered.
 
Though Molly looked terrified, she
obeyed. The platform was a small stage made of wood that was elevated about six
inches off the ground.
 
On this
stage a wooden cask, lay on its side.
 
Boards had been removed from its bottom so that it wouldn’t roll and
would stay fixed in place, though the cask’s top was worn smooth from some sort
of friction.

The reason for this was immediately clear, when a couple
of the female attendants appeared out of nowhere and grasped Molly by her
wrists.
 
They gently walked her up
onto the stage, bending her over the wooden cask and exposing her backside to
the group.

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