DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks go to Bearblue and Vendetta17 for their wonderful and hard work. This story came to be because of this line in Bearblue's wonderful story The Devil's Mistress. ""Also, I would prefer no pony-play. I am not ever a horse."" So you need to thank Bearblue for this story. In this story Ponyboys are devolved humans. They have the thought processes of an average monkey, they communicate like horses and they have finer tuned senses then humans. Physically from mid-breast down they are extremely larger then humans due to enlarged bones, musculature and organs. They have extremely thick skin on the bottoms of their feet way beyond that of human skin yet still softer then hooves. They are completely covered in fine hair the only place there is none is the bottom of their feet and the hair on their head is like the finest horses mane. When a ponyboy walks they pull their knees up to waist height and is called high-stepping. Also they are still able to breed with humans. Half-breeds are looked down upon in general. Slave-ponies are slaves that are treated just like and used as ponyboys are and are not allowed to speak.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To michi6877[at]yahoo.com

The Long Road
By Michi and Greyregies


Chapter 1

As the false dawn lightened the sky, Andrea quietly arose from her cot and made her way down the long room she shared with the other stable boys, grooms and the like. Leaving the room she went right and down a short hallway and entered the only room on the left. She quickly sponge bathed herself with the barrel of water by the doorway. The two little windows high up on the opposite wall let in very little light. Andrea knew where her clothes hung amid all the clothes hanging all over the walls. She grabbed her short, sleeveless tunic and knee length loincloth and dressed in the matching dirt brown clothes. Eschewing the various styles of footwear along the walls she left the room.

At the stairs she cocked her head and listened for any sound of movement. When there was none she smiled and thought to herself, *I enjoy these solitary mornings so much.* The other stable boys and even some of the grooms tried to torment her over the fact that she still high-stepped like a ponyboy. She didn't let it bother her, which frustrated her would be bullies.

Heading down the stairs she could hear a few of the early rising ponyboys neighing softly to her. She went to the closest stall and looked in on the gelded ponyboy. "Good morning, Tut. How did you sleep last night?" She asked quietly, he is such a sweet tempered animal, she thought.

At her voice he stood up and went to the stall door. He smiled at her, set his hands on top of the door, and leaned out for her to pet him. Which she did without hesitating.

"That good. I'm glad to know it. Hopefully, my poultice worked on Misty's twisted knee and you'll have your neighbor back soon." He butted her shoulder with his face. "Thank you for your vote of confidence. How's that scratch on your wrist? Doing much better I see. Unfortunately, I've got to go and check on Misty. Once I'm back from my run I'll have a surprise for you." She gave him one last pat before she left him and went to the stable boy's tack room for her bag of supplies.

Before she left the room she made sure her bag was restocked with her specifics, and satisfied that it was, she left. Another difference she saw between herself and the other stable boys and some of the grooms was that she didn't trick herself into thinking the supplies were actually hers. Slaves own nothing, not even the clothes on their backs. She slung the bag over her shoulder and left the main stables.

Stopping just outside the doors, she took a deep breath and listened to the birds early morning chorus. As usual the Mistress's granite castle loomed out of the morning mists like a giant standing guard over squat dogs. She knew her Mistress had one of the largest bailey in the surrounding countryside; a three mile diameter. The main stable slanted northwest and the castle slanted northeast. The second and third stables were in a line along the west side of the main stable and the birthing stables and accompanying foal pastures were in a line along the eastern side of the castle. The buildings made a u-shape with their doorways facing inwards creating a smaller, more intimate bailey. The castle blocked out the rest of the miscellaneous buildings or the small forest blocked them from sight.

Stepping towards the birthing stable, Andrea enjoyed the sensation of dew soaked grass under her feet. Andrea's thoughts soon turned to Misty and her twisted knee. She was positive the poultice she left on her knee last night would bring down the swelling enough for her to be able to just use liniment on it today. She was concerned for Misty, but a small bit was also worried for her Stable Master. The poultice just had to work; it had to justify her lessons with the Veterinarian, to her mind at least. Following that thought a picture of her Mistress formed in her head. Her glorious short silver-white hair with the curling S lock over a pair of shrewd ice blue eyes. Her Mistress with the slender body; Andrea ended those thoughts before they could be fully formed. She would do extra chores to make up for what she considered disrespectful thoughts.

Entering the birthing stables Andrea re-directed her attention to Misty. The birthing stables were twice the width of the main stables to accommodate the larger stalls. Andrea moved to Misty's stall and looked in on her. Misty was asleep on her back with her left leg slightly crooked for the wrap around her knee. From about the middle of her ribcage up, her chest, arms, and head were proportionate to her height of five feet seven inches, but from mid-torso down she was extremely large and disproportionate due to extreme musculature and large bones, like all born ponyboys; as well as a coat of fine hair covering her entire body.

*Born ponyboys are one of the most beautiful animals in the world,* Andrea thought. Their movements were surprisingly graceful considering how unbalanced their bodies looked. She would never have a born ponyboy's gracefulness nor would she ever have the body of a human. She would always be that of a half-breed, half human, half ponyboy and belonging to neither world, she thought bitterly. Andrea shook off the gloomy mood that tried to settle on her.

Clicking her tongue softly, she entered the stall. Misty's response was to try to bury her head under the straw. Andrea just clicked her tongue louder.

"Come on, wake-up, sleepyhead," she spoke softly waiting for Misty to open her eyes. When she did Andrea smiled at her. "Good girl! I couldn't check your knee with you asleep, now could I?"

Andrea kept up a steady stream of chatter while she unwrapped and removed the poultice from Misty's knee. She was surprised to see how much the swelling had gone down. As she wiped off the excess poultice from Misty's knee, she took note of lessening of redness and the temperature of the knee was that of body temperature.

"Looks like your poultice worked great Andy. I'll leave her care to your judgment. Until she's completely healed." Said a gruff voice from behind her.

Andrea looked to the source of the voice and spied a short wiry woman with grey hair and weathered face standing by the stall door. She deeply bowed her head to the woman.

"Aye, Stable Master."

She nodded her head in acknowledgment. "Don't forget your morning run, when you're done here." She said sternly, then turned and left as quietly as she showed up.

Andrea was too stunned to react. She just sat there staring at the empty doorway, until Misty playfully nudged her with her toes. She shifted her attention back to the wounded knee, and gently smoothed liniment over the knee. After she was done, she repacked her supply bag and spoke to Misty.

"Is it just me or does this day seem like a dream?" Misty whinnied in agreement. "That's what I thought, I'll be right back with your morning feed."

After feeding Misty, Andrea returned her supply bag and headed for the little track that wound its way around the entire inner bailey. As she started out in an easy trot, she pondered the fact that she was given the complete care of Misty until she healed. As she spied the forest up ahead, she went from a trot to a gallop. Nearing the woods, Andrea had the uneasy feeling of being watched; even though to her knowledge only the guards, the Stable Master and she were up this early. She shook off the feeling and broke into a canter to keep up her morning regime.

From high up in the northern most tower, Lady Miranda Priestly avidly watched Andrea as she disappeared into the forest. *She still moves beautifully*, Miranda smiled to herself. Turning her back on the window she faced the two women and two men seated around the room and sat down at the large desk in front of her. She shifted her eyes from the Stable Master on her far right, to her Veterinarian next to her, on to her Chancellor and lastly to her aging father.

"How fares my Misty?" She inquires of her Vet.

"She's exceptionally better then expected. Andy used a few surprising herbs in her poultice," she held up a hand to silence the Lady's questions. "Surprising because I never thought to use those particular herbs the way she did. Andy has a lot to learn medicinally and magically, but she's the fastest learning student I've ever taught. And a lot of what she needs to learn only experience can teach her, Milady."

She turned her gaze to her Stable Master.

"In many ways she knows the ins and outs of your stables better then I. She seems to have a great affinity for each and every ponyboy…."

"Pssha, of course she'd have an affinity for the damn animals!!! She's been one most of her life!!!" Miranda's father spat bitterly. "Why are you even considering this ludicrous idea? All because *she* suggested it?" He glared across to the Stable Master.

"As a matter of fact, no. I came up with this 'ludicrous' idea all on my own. I already know your opinions about my choice in a new Stable Master. You're only here out of respect for the fact that you are my father. If you do not like this conversation you may leave at any point. You were saying Stable Master."

"There's not much more to say, Milady. In a few years she'll be able to run your stables on her own." She shrugged nonchalantly.

"Are her papers and purse ready?" Lady Miranda asked her Chancellor.

"I've brought both, Milady." He placed both on the desk before her. "The seamstress shall be here just after the noon meal, as you requested Milady."

"Clothes, too?! She can buy her own damn clothes in the village like every other freewoman!" Her father roared, standing up.

"You forget your place, father. I've had my majority for a while, I rule the Priestly Holdings now. You are dismissed." The steel in her voice was unmistakable. He rudely turned his back to her and stalked out of the room.

"Are her rooms ready, Stable Master?" Lady Miranda asked, breaking the tense silence.

"Aye, Milady they are."

"Good have her summoned to me a half hour before the noon meal and do not expect her back to work too soon."

The Stable Master stood and bowed low at her dismissal.

"Geran, make sure her rooms are stocked with all the necessities she'll need to continue her education with you." She rose and bowed her leave as well.

"Chancellor, I would like for only you, Emily and Douglas to bear witness to her freeing. And inform the servants that they are to keep my father away from Andréa while she is in the castle." Lady Miranda held up her hand to stay his words. "I know he is trying to adjust and I have been patient, but if he hasn't adjusted in ten years, he'll never do so. I've already decided to send him to the manor he brought with him into the marriage with my mother. He's always loved it better there. Please be here a half hour before the noon meal."

After he left, Miranda quickly entered the secret tunnels that riddled her home and raced up and down the tunnels hoping to catch the rest of Andréa's morning run.

Andrea was headed back to the main stables to wash up before the noon meal when a castle servant came up to her. "Are you the slave called Andrea?" He asked.

She automatically lowered her eyes. "I am."

"Please follow me." He turned and headed for the castle.

*Who in the castle would wish to see me?* Andrea thought as she kept her eyes lowered befitting her station. *Have I done something wrong? Am I to be punished? Or worse sold, again?* She could feel a cold sweat break out all over her body as she followed the servant through the twists and turns to the back of the castle. She was too nervous and worried to note the stunned looks she received from the castle servants and slaves. Before she knew it they had stopped in an elegantly decorated room.

"Lady Priestly bids you wash, I shall be outside waiting till you are done. Then I shall escort you to her." He said all the while looking down his nose at her.

Mistress? Wanted to see her? Andrea shook her head in confusion. She'd never understand nobles. Looking around she spotted the wash basin beside the hearth and proceeded to clean herself thoroughly. If her Mistress wished to see her, she would make herself as presentable as possible.

*All I have ever wanted to do is please her. I know it is not my place to feel this way, to love her, but I do.* Andrea thought, *if nothing else I shall be proud of who I am.* She carefully refolded the towel and replaced it by the basin. Exiting the room, she lowered her eyes, but not her chin and followed the servant up a narrow stone staircase and down a long hall. He stopped before a relatively small, nondescript door and knocked twice.

"Enter," came a muffled voice.

The servant held the door open for her and came in behind her. "Slave Andrea, Milady." He bowed low and left the room.

Andrea went down on one knee and bowed deeply. "Mistress."

Lady Miranda drank in the sight of Andréa's golden skin, her muscular physique and long russet tresses that curtained her face.

"Stand, loyal Andréa, and look me in the eye." Lady Miranda said solemnly.

Andrea was so excited to finally get a glimpse of Mistress's eyes for the first time in five years that as she rose she gripped the hem of her tunic tightly. Those pure blue eyes, so solemn, yet hiding something. *Stop right there, you have no right to think such thoughts Andrea de L'Isle you are still a slave*, she berated herself.

"Andréa, this is Chancellor Nigel, Lady Emily and Lord Douglas. They are here to witness your freeing and the receiving of your compensation wage." Lady Miranda gestured to the other people in the room.

Andrea stumbled back, her brown eyes wide in shock. She stared dumbfounded at the Chancellor then at Lady Emily and her friend Lord Doug. *Me, free?!* Was the only thought that could get through her stunned mind.

The Chancellor chuckled. "I think you have given her quite a shock, Milady."

"It seems I have at that Nigel." She carefully watched Andréa.

"Of course it's a shock, Milady." Lord Doug added. "No one thought to warn her ahead of time that she was going to be freed."

*I'm free, really free!* Andrea was ecstatic at first. *But wait if I am free, that means I must leave. No, I can't be free. If I'm free that must mean she's tired of me.* Her whole body shook with distress. Her face pinched in misery. "No!" She shook her head in denial. "No, Mistress, do not free me. I'll do anything else, *anything else*, just do not free me!" She even neighed in her distress.

It was the Lord's and the Lady's turn to be shocked. "But…Andrea here are your papers. You are free." Nigel held her papers out to her.

Andrea reacted as if he held out a snake to her. She thrust her hands behind her and backed up until she hit the wall. Her eyes darted around the room in panic. Lord Doug moved to calm her down when Lady Miranda slowly came up to Andrea and soothingly brushed her hand down the side of Andrea's face.

"Shh…Shh…easy now. Calm Andréa, easy Andréa." Lady Miranda whispered to her, she did this for several minutes. As Andrea calmed, Lady Miranda stood directly in front of her and continued to look her in the eyes while continuously stroking her cheek. "Do you trust me, Andréa?" She asked softly. *So soft, such a beauty and endearingly loyal, ahh…my dearest, you will know my whole plan soon enough*, Lady Miranda thought.

"Aye, Mistress, I do." She replied in a shaky voice.

"Then trust me in this too," Lady Miranda spoke softly and stroked Andrea's face one last time. "Now let's finish this freeing ceremony. Accept your papers."

Andrea slowly, unsteadily made her way in front of the Chancellor. Her body felt as if it was trapped within a quagmire, she felt as if she had to shove her own hands out to receive her papers.

"Slave Andrea, here are your ownership papers; they are now transferred into your care, to do as you wish with them. And here is your compensation wage; it is to compensate your steadfast loyalty and hard work. Slave Andrea, you are a slave no longer. You are Andrea of the Priestly Holdings, may peace and prosperity follow you into your new life." Nigel hands Andrea her papers and a purse full of coin.

Andrea looked at the items that filled her hands while her mind went through everything the Chancellor said. Of Priestly Holdings? Isn't it supposed to be 'formerly of Priestly Holdings'? She glanced questioningly at the Lady Miranda. Who nodded to the fire burning in the hearth next to Lady Emily, Andrea and the Chancellor, reminding her that the ceremony wasn't finished. Andrea looked at the papers in her hand and then gently tossed them into the fire. As the last of her papers burned the Chancellor made his excuses, bowed low and left the room. Followed by both the Head Lady In Waiting and Head Lord In Waiting, bowing low and leaving the room.

"Now that that is over, come celebrate your freedom with me. By sharing my noon meal. Just the two of us." Lady Miranda's lips quirked, noting the still slightly panicked look on the former slave's face. "It's not as bad as you are thinking, it's time to relax and enjoy." With that said Lady Miranda grabbed her hand and led her thorough another well concealed door into a private dinning room.

Andrea noted that the table was already set for two and covered with dishes. She sat unceremoniously on one side of the table and just stared at Lady Miranda, until said Lady ordered her to eat. She dished herself up slowly and began to eat even more slowly.

"There are two reasons why I wished you to dine with me. The first, how would you feel about working for me?" Lady Miranda asked her casually, while she watched her like a hawk.

"I…I…would be extremely honored to remain on with you as a stable boy Mist- I mean Milady." *She doesn't want to get rid of me; she's not tired of me,* Andrea thought ecstatically. *Now I shall get to observe her beauty more often.*

"No, not as a stable boy. I want you to apprentice under the present Stable Master so that you may take over as Stable Master in a few years." Lady Miranda smirked delightedly at the shock spreading over the freewoman's face. "And my second reason, it's been five very long years since I've been able to enjoy your…company." She lightly brushed her fingers over Andrea's cheek.

If her heart swelled any larger it will burst from her chest. *Whoa, there don't take it that way. You're still unworthy of her,* Andrea told herself harshly. *Think of your linage, if anyone is worthy of her you are,* replied her inner voice. *But look at the other half,* she debated back. She shoved her mouth full of food to try and quell her feuding thoughts. Lady Miranda leaned back and watched the conflict of emotions warring on Andrea's expressive face. They were the only confirmation Lady Miranda needed to know that Andréa felt the same way about her.

"When you are done Andréa, I can take you to my seamstress. Not that I don't enjoy you in stable boy clothes, but they're just not appropriate attire for a Stable Master's apprentice." Lady Miranda fairly purred.

"I'm done now, Mist- Milady." Andrea could feel her face flush over her continued blunders over Lady Miranda's title.

"Follow me," she got up and led Andrea through another door into a private solar. *It's so cute the way she trips over the change in my titles, but like Geran said Andrea is a fast learner.*

Where a short robust lady stood waiting for them with a measuring tape slung around the back of her neck while an apprentice stood with a pencil and paper ready to jot down whatever was said. A servant stood by the door watching everything with a bored gaze. Before Andrea had a chance to catch her breath the seamstress had her in the center of the room, arms out from her sides. She was taking measurements like a whirling dervish and calling out the numbers to her apprentice. And as suddenly as she started the seamstress asked for the notes, accepted them and left the room calling to her apprentice.

Lady Miranda turned to the servant and waved a dismissive hand. "You may go now. And spread the word that nobody is to disturb my privacy. That's all." As the servant left Miranda turned to the stunned newly freewoman and stalked slowly towards her. "Now that I have you to myself…whatever shall I do with you, hmmm?" She purred out.

All Andrea could do was watch as the shorter woman made her way to her, her eyes fastened on the mischievous glint in the older woman's eyes, there was something else in those eyes. Something she recognized from five years ago, desire, pure raw desire. She swallowed softly at the thought of what was to come with that look, Miranda smirked to see Andréa's unease.

One part of Andrea's brain was shouting, *Yes, finally!* While the more pragmatic part of her brain was warning no, not yet, it's not proper. With these two sides warring within her, Andrea put up her hands to stop her Lady, but instead they slipped caressingly around Miranda's waist. Realizing what she had done, Andrea stepped back and released her waist, but gracefully clasped her hand instead.

"As much as I would love to take this where you are aiming to go, Milady. All the pieces haven't fallen into place yet, plus I would love to take the time to get to know you and your children better as a freewoman." Andrea regally bowed low over the hand and in a courtly gesture caressed the back of Miranda's hand with her lips. "When the picture is complete-"Andrea blushed profusely. "I will come to you." Stepping further back she executed a low bow that would make any Lord or Lady proud, and then she turned toward the door, intent on fixing what must be fixed. But her exit was brought to a halt by a hand latched upon her upper arm. She was turned, to face Miranda, who now looked upon her calculatingly.

"Just this once, I shall abide by your wishes. But I shall have a kiss to seal your word to me." She tugged the taller woman into her arms, clasped her hands behind Andréa's neck and lift up to deliver on her words. As her lips connected with the unforgettably soft lips of Andrea, she could not help the moan that slid past her guard. Andrea's brain shut down at the first press of those delectable lips against hers, all she could do was enjoy the feelings they evoked within her. Upon hearing the moan, Andrea let her tongue slip out and slide along those lips seeking entrance that was granted. As each slick muscle relearned the other, their bodies pressed as close together as humanly possible. Their passion building to heights they'd not forgotten, Andrea lifted her head from the kiss and reverently set Miranda at arms length. Breathily Andrea said, "And thus I am sealed to you, Milady." Once more she turned to leave only to be stopped by words this time.

"Can you not tell me at least *one* of these pieces?" Lady Miranda inquired plaintively. Her eyes still dilated with desire.

"A simple letter to my parents, to let them know I'm still alive." She replied turning back around, entranced by Miranda's appearance. Those passion plump lips tempted Andrea like nothing else has.

"Did they not-"

"Nay, 'twas another. I am sure they had no knowledge of my enslavement until after the fact."

"So you are from?"

"Carin, Surneth."

"The capital." Miranda murmured to herself. "You're a long way from home, to be certain. When you are done with your letter, bring it to me and I shall send it with my fastest messenger."

"Aye, it shall be done. And my thanks, Milady." Again with a regalness that many a queen would envy, Andrea bowed low before leaving. She ended up stopping short in the private dining room, unable to remember her way out of the castle. But she was saved by the entrance of the Chancellor who headed for the private solar.

Bowing her head respectfully Andrea asked. "Sir Chancellor, would you happen to know the way out of here?"

"Aye, I do kind freewoman, but I shall do you one better. Follow me." With that he turned and headed out into another hallway, this one busier then the last one Andrea had been in. He stopped a servant girl. "You, show Andy the way out, then get back to whatever it is you're doing."

The servant girl took in the dirt coloring of Andrea's clothes and was about to sneer when, "I wouldn't if I were you, she's newly freed and the Lady wouldn't take kindly to your rudeness." At this the girl blanched and quietly said. "Follow me."

"My thanks, Sir Chancellor." Andrea nodded her head respectfully once again.

"You are welcome, Andy, but do call me Nigel."

"Aye, I will at that, Nigel." Andrea turned to follow the servant girl with what Nigel suspected was a royal bearing.

Nigel found his Lady pacing the solar with as fierce a frown as he'd ever seen on her visage. He smirked, "Ah, I see things didn't go as you planned."

Lady Miranda whirled around with an icy glare that didn't let up when she spied her Chancellor. "No, no it didn't. But I did find out something rather interesting. I also find it fascinating that I bar people from my private solar and yet you enter."

Nigel blushed at the low tones, but bravely continued. "So tell me your interesting bit of news and I shall share with you the interesting information I've received."

"Did you know, Andréa comes all the way from the capital of Surneth?"

Nigel let out a long low whistle. "That is a ways away, however did she make it this far? Never mind, don't answer that, the ponyboy trade, let alone the slave trade is definitely vast. But that is rather interesting, since this just arrived." Nigel held out a large official envelope. Miranda glanced at the broken seal then looked at him pointedly.

"It's an invitation to Christian de L'Isle's birthday bash, hosted by their Royal Majesties of Surneth."

"That popinjay!! I could care less about his day of birth, but since his parents are some of my best costumers it would not due to insult them. Hmmm….. Have my usual entourage readied, but you are coming with us and we are leaving the Stable Master here. She doesn't care for these long journeys nor does she care for the antic's of courts. We'll take Andréa with us instead. And you know the drill, ponyboys for the human carriages and horses for the luggage wagons. The twins shall be coming along as well. It is time for me to see what they've learned. Of course, Andréa shall be driving my carriage when I am not. And expect Lady Cruella any day now, I'm sure she'll wish to travel in our company."

"Aye, Milady. Do you think it wise to bring Andy with us?"

"Aye, if for no other reason so that while we're there she may visit her family."

Andrea was almost back to the main stables when two little redheads came charging out of them calling her name.



Andrea leaned down and scooped the twins up into a tight hug. "And where is the decorum your mother has taught you both?" As she set them back on their feet, they ignored her question and peppered her with their own.

"Is it true?"

"Did mom finally free you?"

"Have you seen your rooms yet?"

"Why are you still dressed in slave clothes?"

"Whoa, there Miladies. One at a time." She held up her hands to forestall any more questions. "Aye, 'tis true, she did indeed free me. Rooms? Will I not continue to bunk with the stable boys and grooms? I'm still dressed in these clothes, because I've no other clothes to change into."

"Good, it's about time she did," Cassidy stated emphatically.

"And of course you won't be bunking in the stables any more. Mom has arranged several rooms for you in the castle, plus you shall be taking meals in the Great Hall now too…," Caroline started.

"And you have several outfits already in your rooms waiting for you, mom made them especially for you. Come, Caro and I shall show you to your rooms and aid you in dressing," Cassidy finished and with that each twin took a hand and led her back towards the castle.

Andrea could remember the first time she met the twins and how they looked down on her and disdained her. She could tell they were unhappy that a slave was to teach them to ride and drive ponyboys as well as how to ride horses. But over time they warmed up to her gentle, yet respectful instructions. The bond between the three truly blossomed when the twins realized two things; one was that Andrea could always tell the difference between the two, no matter what tricks they played on her. And the second realization was that Andrea always treated them like adults and showed them the utmost respect and not just because they were the heirs to the Priestly Holdings. She did so because they each were unique individuals. From that point on the lessons went more smoothly. The twins hung on every word that came out of Andrea's mouth. And for her part Andrea always made time for them, unless there was an emergency. Even then, once the emergency was over she would seek out the girls to find out what they wanted and/or needed. What also helped strengthen her bond with the girls, was her recognition of the fact that while Caroline liked ponyboys, Cassidy loved them like her mother does, whereas Caroline's love lay with the equines.

As they entered the castle a blue orb formed before Andrea and floated at chest height. "What is this?" Andrea asked, she let go of Caroline's hand to reach out and touch the orb, but it bounced out of her reach. Upon re-clasping the twin's hand the orb came back to its original position.

"'Tis a direction orb. You tell it where you want to go and it will show you how to get there." Cassidy answered.

"Lord Doug made it for you, to help you with the castle layout until you get it memorized." Caroline added.

Andrea looked at it uncertainly. "Take us to my room." She ordered it and it took off down the hall at a comfortable pace. As they followed the orb, Andrea took note of where they were headed and noticed that through each and all stairways and halls they passed, the furnishings and trappings kept getting fancier. Upon the fourth floor the orb went to a doorway and stopped in front of it.

"See there's your rooms, we tried to get mom to put you up on the fifth floor with us. But mom said that might make you uncomfortable…" Caroline started

"So you're down here with Lady Emily, Lord Doug, Nigel, Geran, and the Stable master." Cassidy finished.

"But shouldn't I be down with the other apprentices, where-ever they're at?" Andrea asked placing a hand on the door handle.

"Why should you?" Caroline asked aghast.

"You're family; you should be up there with us, mom and Cruella." Cassidy stated firmly.

"Who?" Andrea looks perplexed between the two.

"Oh, you would probably know her as Duchess of De Vil…"

Andrea felt a shiver work its way up her spine at the name. She had perfect recall of the first time she saw the Duchess. She had just been promoted up from slave-pony to slave and was on an errand for the vet when a beautiful woman with perfectly monochromatic hair stepped down from a carriage. The left was snow white and the right was almost blue-black. Taking in the green dress she wore, Andrea felt as if a horse had kicked her in the chest. The top of the dress was skin tight with a scandalously cut bodice and a full flowing skirt starting at her narrow waist. Only once before did her body react so viscerally and that was to her Lady, the last night of her recuperation from the accident, when she got her first full look of Lady Miranda.

The twins took in her reaction and grinned knowingly at each other.

"Yeah, she's mom's best friend…"

"They've been friends since they were younger than us."

Andrea opened the door and walked into elegance. That's the word that came to mind as she stopped in the middle of the large room. She took in everything, from the huge four-poster bed to the large desk under one of the arched, paned windows to the significant wardrobe and the doors on opposite walls. That's not to mention the tapestries lining the walls or the velvet curtains draping the sides of the windows. Cassidy went to the door on the right and called Andrea over.

Upon opening the door, Andrea's jaw dropped. Beyond the door was a fully fleshed out apothecary room.

"Mom thought you could use such a room for your different tinctures, potions and stuff." Caroline said from behind them. "Oh and your bathing room is over here."

All three moved to the opposite wall and through the door where Andrea was again surprised. Not necessarily by the indoor plumbing, but by the fact that her Lady felt she warranted such things.

"Wow," was all Andrea could articulate.

Across from the door was a large green marbled bathing tub and next to it was a matching shower stall, and from the fixtures Andrea knew that it imitated a waterfall. On the same wall as the door is a vanity with a wash basin and stocked with cosmetics and toiletries. Above the vanity was an expensive glass mirror with no warp to it at all. On the opposite side of the vanity was a water bowl on which one does their business.

Andrea stumbled back into her sleeping room, shocked at all that her Lady had done for her. This time, viewing the room, she noted the main color was forest green with tan and silver accents. She couldn't help, but wonder how her Lady had found out and so quickly.

"How…Why did your mother choose…?"

"She knows how you love nature, so we chose these colors to mimic nature. We figured it would make you comfortable with the rooms." Cassidy answered the unfinished question.

"So do you like them?" Caroline asked hesitantly.

Hearing the uncertainty in her voice, Andrea smiled warmly at the twins. "Nay, I do not like them, little ones, I love them." She looked at them fondly. "Now you mentioned something about new clothes."

"Oh yes!" They exclaimed together and rushed to the tall and wide wardrobe, throwing open the doors. One twin snatched down a pair of black pants and a black short tunic, while the other grabbed out a pair of white panties and something Andrea couldn't identify. "You'll have more clothes in a few days, but until then mom modified these spare clothes for you."

As the twins went and laid the clothes on the bed Andrea shucked off her loincloth and tunic. When they turned around and spied the nude woman they giggled, which she paid no attention to as she stepped closer to the bed. Andrea grabbed up the silk panties and hummed her appreciation as she slipped them on. Next she put on the pants, she noticed the sewn in ties at the waist and that the pants ended at her knees with ties there as well. As she bent to tie the legs closed Caroline grabbed up the weird white cloth that Andrea couldn't identify.

"Uh, Caroline, what is that?"

The girls giggled again and Cassidy answered for both of them. "'Tis a bra. How do you not know what one is?"

The older woman cocked her head. "Because I've never worn one, let alone seen one." She knew that wasn't entirely true, she'd seen one once, five years ago on their mother, but she didn't think they needed to know that. The two gaped at her then asked simultaneously.

"Why haven't you seen one before?"

"I'll tell you, but you mustn't tell anyone, okay?" The both nodded. "I was sold into slavery at the age of twelve and turned into a slave-pony at the age of thirteen. And, as you know, I was turned back into a slave five years ago. As a late bloomer I never had needed one before, as you also know that ponyboys and slave-ponies have no need for clothes."

"How old are you?" Cassidy asked in a stunned whisper.

"I turn thirty-six this year." Andrea said, with a neutral look on her face. She watched them doing the math in their heads. As they realized just how long she spent as a slave-pony, they looked at each other and gasped. Then they flung themselves at her and hugged her fiercely. She hugged them just as tightly.

As the hug ended, Caroline stated firmly, "Then we shall help you with it. We've watched our mom put hers on many times. And we're starting to have to wear them ourselves." And they proceeded to do just that. They showed her how to put it on and take it off until Andrea could do it all by herself.

"This is gonna take some getting used to." Andrea said, as she adjusted the bra one last time, before taking up the short sleeveless tunic and putting it on.

"Andy, why don't your pants go all the way down? Why do your tunics lack sleeves? And why don't you have any shoes or boots?" Cassidy asked in a hurried rush.

"'Tis simple o' curious one. Your mother knows I love the feel of Mother Earth under my feet and the feel of Father Sun on my skin." She answers blithely. "And imagine how bad the bottoms of my pants legs would get in a Sister Rain with no boots to tuck them into."

"Oh, that makes sense." Caroline answered thoughtfully.

"Only two more things to go and you're finished." Cassidy said, as Andrea tilted her head in inquiry. The twins head back to the wardrobe whispering to each other. They each grabbed something out and returned to the older woman. They kept these things hidden behind their backs.

Caroline pulled out from behind her, a cerulean blue silk cloth, which turned out to be a tabard slightly narrower then Andrea's tunic. Having taken the tabard from her, Andrea inspected it, taking note of the intricate embroidery of the silver phoenix in the middle of the tabard and the extreme delicacy of the embroidery along the edges of the tabard.

"Since this is the day of your Freeing, we felt that you should wear this tabard…" Cassidy started.

"Mom and Cruella, both did all the embroidery on it. They felt that you needed a proper tabard for celebrations. So they made this for you…" Caroline continued.

"And what better day to celebrate than your Freeing? They also made a matching belt for it." Cassidy held out a thin leather belt dyed a matching cerulean blue with silver embroidery matching the edges of the tabard. They could read the shock plain on Andrea's face.

"Then I shall wear them with honor and pride." Andrea slipped the tabard over her head, then reached for the matching belt and cinched it around her waist regally. Then she went to the desk and searched for and found, paper, ink, quill, envelope and sealing wax. She jotted down a quick note, lit one of the many candles on the desk and sealed the note in the envelope. She turned to the girls. "Could you take this to your mother and ask her to send the messenger to me? I shall be in the stables learning what my new duties are."

"Aye, we can do that for you." Caroline said as both twins came up to her and gave her one last hug before they raced out to find their mother.

The twins tiptoed into the office and took in the scene. Their mom was busy reaming one of the house staff, while Lady Emily glared at him and Apprentice Serena just rolled her eyes at the hapless servant.

"Do as I originally instructed, Do Not assume you can think for me, that's all."

The servant bowed low and turned to leave the office as if he was on fire. Looking up, Lady Miranda spotted her girls at the door, she smiled widely.

"Girls, come in, what brings you here? I thought you were going to find Andréa."

The twins looked at each other then back to their mom. "We did see her mom."

"Then why…?"

They looked at each other again.

"We need to talk to you alone."

Miranda quirked a brow.

"We do, mom…"

"It's important…"

"And no one, but you…"

"Needs to know."

"Emily, Serena leave us."

Both bowed low, exited the room, but only stepped a few feet from the door. Caroline closed the door, then they approached their mother together and set Andrea's letter on the desk.

"Andy asked that you send the messenger to her, when you send him, so that she can tell him where to go with her letter."

Miranda looked down at the letter, picked it up and then looked back to her girls. "So what's..."

"That's not it." Caroline surprisingly interrupts. Cassidy continued.

"Andy was sold into slavery when she was twelve…"

"At thirteen she was turned into a slave-pony…"

"Then you changed her back to a slave…"

"She's turning thirty-six this year."

They watched their mom as Andrea had watched them. And so they saw when it hit her, she sat back in her chair and dropped the letter onto the desk as she paled. "You are right; nobody else needs to know this." She quickly glanced at the timepiece. "And you two have lessons now, if you want to be attending the feast tonight."

"Aye, mom."

"Aye, mom."

They hugged their mom and quickly left the room, leaving the door wide open. Emily and Serena had barely entered the room when Lady Miranda started listing off her demands, picking up several envelopes off her desk.

"Serena fetch me my three fastest messengers and Nigel, Emily go fetch Sir Kyran, Alberto and Douglas. Have them meet me in the Great Hall. Then come back, that's all."

Part 2

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