|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
The Night Ride
(Loosely Based on American "Hills" Folklore)
Tobe was worried about his younger brother, Thomas. Thomas was acting so tired all the time lately - last week he was barely able to stay awake for his own 15th birthday party! They shared a room and Tobe couldn't understand why Thomas was always so tired - Tobe himself slept very soundly every night! Finally Tobe couldn't stand it any more and asked Thomas what was going on - away from their parents.
At first Thomas wouldn't say anything, just shrugging his shoulders and saying he didn't know - but something in the way he said it made Tobe wonder. He kept after Thomas, asking every few days - watching his brother get more tired each day. Tobe even tried staying awake a little longer to keep an eye on Thomas, but he stayed up for a few hours later than usual, and didn't see anything different - Thomas looked like he was sleeping soundly. Tobe did think he heard some unusual noises at the window, but he didn't see anything when he checked.
The next morning, Tobe again got him away from their parents and asked him how he was feeling. This time Thomas looked at him carefully, then looked around for anyone else. "I know you're not going to believe this - but you have got to at least promise me you won't tell ANYONE! ok?"
Tobe nodded - he had to know what was happening! "You got it! What's the big secret - and why won't I believe it?"
Thomas got very quiet and sighed, "I know you're gonna think I'm crazy - just don't say anything until I'm done, ok?"
Tobe nodded, his eyes curious.
Thomas began, "Well, I've been having these... nightmares. Only, they're not really nightmares at all. I go to sleep when you do, Tobe - but when I wake up in the morning, I'm covered with sweat, sore, aching and I feel like I've hardly slept at all!"
Tobe started to speak, but Thomas cut in, "I know it doesn't sound like much - but I know this is something different!" His voice sounded so urgent as he continued, "every night I have the same dream - I wake up in this bed and there's someone standing here beside my bed. I look over and see that you're still sound asleep in your bed - this is some stranger. I try to yell, and then..." he stops and looks confused.
"And then what?" Tobe asks his younger brother gently.
"And then..." Thomas continues, "and then... I don't know... I... it's all blurry. I remember running, and... and something in my mouth. I remember my side hurting." He sighs, "And then I wake up."
Tobe looked at his little brother and asked, "and you have this EVERY night?"
Thomas nodded, "almost - every now and then I don't have it - but when I do, it's the exact same, every time!"
"Maybe... maybe it's just that you're growing a lot now, or something" Tobe tried to reassure his brother.
Thomas looked up angrily, "I KNEW you wouldn't believe me! Then explain these!" He pulled his shirt up and pointed to his sides.
Tobe's eyes grew wider as he saw angry red welts on his brother's side. He gently touched them but pulled back when Thomas winced, "I - I don't know what they are" he mumbled, then he looked at his brother, "Tell you what - why don't we swap beds tonight? Maybe that will help?"
Thomas agreed, and they split up to do their chores. That night, Tobe slipped into Thomas' bed. Tobe vowed to himself to stay awake and see what, if anything, was really bothering his brother. He watched as Thomas fell asleep almost immediately, then Tobe rolled over and looked out the window - thinking about what could be causing his brother such problems sleeping.
Despite his resolve to stay awake, Tobe's eyes got heavier and he slowly he gave up and was falling asleep. Suddenly he realized there was someone beside him! He looked over and saw their door closed and his brother sound asleep, but he knew there was someone else there. He let out a yelp and tried to grab the stick beside the bed, but his hand got caught in the sheet. Suddenly he felt something slip over his head - some kind of straps. He jerked around, but whoever was there seemed amazingly strong as they tightened the straps on his head. He struggled to get free from the bedsheets as he suddenly felt a flush of intense cold, then heat. He tried to yell again - noticing as he struggled that his brother remained sound asleep despite everything he was doing!
Tobe opened his mouth to yell again when he felt something metal slip between his lips into his mouth. He almost gagged as it slipped over his tongue - he felt it stretching his lips as it was connected to the straps around his head. He fought free from the covers and put his hand up to remove whatever had been put on him - then froze in horror as he caught sight of his hand.
His middle finger was thickening and getting longer, and the other fingers were being absorbed into the enlarging digit. In moments, even his entire hand was almost indistinguishable - he no longer had a hand, but rather a longer extension of his arm, although he could see his fingernails still on the end of his arm. He looked at his other arm and saw it too had changed - even his elbows seemed to be bending funnily.
By now his arms were quite a bit longer and the ends of each arm were covered with a thick gray substance that looked kinda like his fingernails. His dramatically changed arms began to itch like mad, then he yelled as he felt like his entire body was suddenly burning. He stared in horror as his arms began to sprout a thick coat of hair. He rolled off the bed and onto the floor, barely realizing he was on all fours. He stood that way a moment, distracted by the burning sensation of hair sprouting everywhere, then he realized that he was strangely comfortable standing on all fours - he realized that along with his arms, his legs felt a little different too. It occurred to him then his legs must have changed also - because he was standing on all fours naturally, as if that was how he was meant to stand.
He looked over at his bed where Thomas was still peacefully sleeping despite all Tobe's yelling - it was like a bad dream! Then he realized - this had to be the same thing that had happened to Thomas! He tried to look behind him where the person was who did this, but he let out a loud yelp as his eyesight began to get really strange.
He could actually feel his eyes changing positions in his skull, slipping down the sides of his face. At the same time though, he had the amazing sensation of his entire jaw, mouth and nose suddenly pushing outwards! It felt so strange - it didn't really hurt, in fact it was almost a strangely pleasurable sensation. As he felt his entire head reshaping, he felt this wild sense of excitement and exhilaration run through his entire body. He felt his jaw lengthen, the straps around his head and the metal thing in his mouth also shifting with his jaw to continue to snugly fit him. He also felt his neck suddenly lengthen, and an unfamiliar twitching sensation in his lower back.
In a minute or two (which seemed like forever) he thought everything had stopped. He felt that wild sensation still coursing through his body, which felt quite different now. Things even looked quite different - he could tell his eyes had changed positions because he could see things far out to each side. He tried to focus ahead of him, but there was a large mass that looked like it was right in front of his face. He blinked a few times and realized that it actually was his face - now strangely pushed out far in front of his eyes. It looked like his jaws and nose were pushed way out, his eyes slipped down more on the side of his now rectangular head.
He looked down then at his arms then as it had occurred to him that he was still standing on all fours like that was the normal way of standing. He was having a hard time seeing around the large mass of his face and jaw, but he stared down at his arms. They were much more rounded than before, with his elbow and wrist in unfamiliar positions - his wrist halfway down his arms, and it seemed his fingers merged together and lengthened ending in thick blocks. He blinked a few more times, then it all seemed to come to him suddenly - he was looking at hooves at the end of legs - horse's legs! The realization making him suddenly began to think about all the strange sensations he was feeling from his body now. He lifted what used to be an arm and saw that it did bend just like a horse's foreleg. He could still identify the elbow and wrist, but it was all so different. He looked up and tried to concentrate on what he realized was now his muzzle - trying to get some idea of how much he had changed. He looked behind himself, just in time to feel some kind of reflex motion in his back and to see the flick of a long tail just past his barrel-like body. He felt a twitching sensation on his head and realized it was his long ears flitting atop his reshaped head. He took a deep breath, trying to adjust to the fact that he was now somehow a horse.
He looked over his other shoulder, absently noticing how supple his neck was now. He could see a shadowy shape standing there - he opened his mouth and was reminded of what had been put on him that started the entire thing. As he tried to focus on the shape (he was still trying to adjust to seeing things with a muzzle in the way), he explored the metal bar in his mouth with his tongue - feeling the straps against his head. The shape stepped forward and clipped something to the ends of the metal bar. That's when he realized what had happened - as the figure tugged on the reins, he stepped forward almost involuntarily at the pull of the bit he realized was set firmly in his mouth.
He found himself following the tug of the reins despite his unwillingness to leave the room. He wanted to scream or kick, but all he did was meekly follow the shape out the door. Tobe twitched the skin around his neck experimentally - amazed at how much control and awareness he now had over his body. He also was a little scared at how strangely comfortable he was as he clopped along on four legs. He was even thinking how strangely comfortable the bridle and bit were as they got outside. He turned his head to face the person, ears flitting toward them when he heard the other say, "Hello pretty horsey - you aren't the one I've been using but I'm sure you'll work out fine." He finally managed to get his eyes to focus properly and realized that this was a woman - a woman he knew who lived in town. His ears flitted atop his head as he realized this was the lady some kids used to whisper was really a witch - and now he knew they were right!
With that, the witch lead Tobe out to the yard, then put a blanket on his back and hopped on. Tobe wanted to buck her off, to fight her - but he found himself moving obediently as she directed, her hands firmly on his reins. She guided him to the road, then she suddenly dug her heels into his flanks, surprising him into leaping forward into a gallop - she had spurs on her feet that she dug into his side mercilessly. Tobe galloped on as she slapped the reins against his neck and kicked at him. He tried to stop, to do anything else, but he just couldn't manage to disobey.
Despite it all though, he quickly found himself almost entranced as he galloped on. Although he had someone on his back, bridled and bitted, he still found this galloping strangely exhilarating. The wind through his mane, the road beneath his hooves - he began to settle into the motion almost happily despite everything. If only she wouldn't JERK like that on his reins - his mouth was WAY too soft for that! He turned as she directed - and found himself riding toward a field where there were already several horses standing beside a tree, their reins tied to a branch to keep them from getting anywhere.
The witch yanked back on the bit, making him rear and try to yell with the pain. She laughed as Tobe let out a loud whinny, then she eased back, urging him toward the tree with the sharp spurs. He stopped beside the tree and she hopped down, tying his reins firmly to the tree. She petted his velvety nose a moment and patted his neck, "Nice horsey - stay here while I see my sisters". She wandered off through the trees, leaving Tobe the horse standing there.
Tobe tried to back up, to pull the reins free, but he quickly gave up - unable to find any way of escape. He looked over at the other horses, still not quite used to having a muzzle with eyes on each side. The other horses all look back at him with equal intelligence - and he's quite sure they are each, like him, a transformed boy or girl. He quickly recovered from the long gallop, bemused at how his new equine form seemed so very perfectly suited to such a run. He found himself watching the path the witch left on, realizing he was hoping she would return and ride him again like that. As he stood there adjusting to such a though, several more witches come galloping up. Some were nicer to their horses than others - more than a few galloped in still beating their horses with canes!
After the other witches moved off down the path (obviously to some kind of gathering), Tobe began to try to communicate with the other horses. The cute filly to his left seemed to be much more aware than the others, but he was getting frustrated at being unable to talk with her. Then he shook his head and wondered just how he knew she was female... and she was a horse! Why was he thinking how cute she was?
He then realized he was mysteriously sensing things from her, and the other horses. Using some sense he didn't know he had, he was now able to share basic thoughts with the others. He could sense the cute (well, she was!) filly beside him was trying to communicate with him also. He gnawed the bit in his mouth in frustration, noting absently that she was doing the same thing.
Tobe shook his head again, thinking furiously about what to do next. He was deep in thought when he suddenly realized that his mouth was full of something. He blinks and realized that while he had been thinking, he had idly reached down and munched on a mound of grass in front of him - in fact, he had eaten over half of it without realizing it. He shivered for a moment, wondering what would be next. He was thinking more and more like a horse instead of a human! He shook his head again - the bridle the witch had buckled on him seemed to be a little loose and it was irritating him. Tobe munched on more grass as he guessed it was loose because he had surprised the witch by it being him in his brother's bed, so she must not have tightened the bridle as well as normal. Then his head shot up, making the filly (who had edged a bit closer to him) start back a little. That was it! With the bridle loose, maybe he could get it off himself!
Tobe began rubbing his head vigorously against a branch of the tree all the horses were tied to, making the filly beside him watch him curiously with her intelligent eyes. Tobe was trying to catch the buckle of the bridle and get it loose, but he just couldn't quite get it to work. He stepped back and stomps at the ground with a forehoof in frustration. He shied away when the filly suddenly nipped at the side of his muzzle. She nickered at him, nodded her head and approached again. This time Tobe stood still, curious - his skin quivering as he felt her soft lips brushing against the side of his muzzle again.
After a moment, Tobe let out a snort when he finally understood - she was trying to use her lips and teeth to get the bridle off! He stood there nervously, realizing he had no idea how long it had been since the witches left, or when they would return. The filly snorted several times and stomped the ground a few times in frustration as she struggled to work around her own bit and bridle as she worked on Tobe's bridle. Finally Tobe felt his bridle slip loose! He whuffled happily and leaned forward to scratch against the tree branch again. In moments, the bridle finally slipped free from his head. For a brief moment, he had a strange feeling as of something lost as he opened his mouth to let the bit drop from between his lips. He shook his head and let the bridle and bit fall to the ground between his forehooves.
The Night Ride - Part 2
Tobe looked down at the bridle between his forehooves, unsure of what would happen now. He looked over at the filly and realized his neck wasn't moving like it was a moment ago. He looked back down at himself and saw that the fur on his forelegs was slowly disappearing. Then Tobe felt his entire body shaking and twitching as it reshaped itself. As when he was first changed, Tobe felt a wild excitement and a burning pleasure/pain as he felt his body changing. He could feel his chest flattening out, his hips changing structure to allow him to return to a two-legged stance. He rears up onto two legs as his hips completed their change, watching his hooves began to shrink, fingers beginning to sprout from beneath the hoof. The hoof itself shrinks back down until it is only his middle finger again, his hands and arms are back to normal. He looks over at the filly and tries to smile - and notices that something isn't quite right.
Confused, Tobe put his hand up to his face and head and felt of them. Everything felt ok - ears long and pointed, sloping head, eyes set a little down each side of his muzzle, nose and mouth ok. Then he realized, he was supposed to have changed back! He still had a horse's head! He felt of his head again more carefully, it was definitely still a muzzle, but he didn't think it was nearly the size of a real horse's. Without a mirror, Tobe guessed that his head had only partially changed back, he seemed to have a half-boy half horse head. He waited for a moment longer hoping it would finish changing, but nothing further happened. It was so strange, the muzzle didn't really feel wrong or strange to him, although he knew it should have changed back with the rest of him.
Tobe looked over at the filly then and tried to say something, but only an equine-like whicker came out at first. He tried again, concentrating, and managed to say, "it worked!" Although that came out a little broken up and in a very horse-like whinnying sound, it was understandable. The filly was looking at him, moving her head up and down with a strange look in her eye, but she nickered softly in reply. Tobe stepped forward toward her and quickly discovered that it wasn't just his face and head that had failed to return to normal.
He looked down and cocked his half-muzzle so he could see himself better -and shivered as he saw that from his waist down, he was still pretty horse-like. His hooves and lower legs were unchanged, and his legs were still fur covered, though they were at least shaped like human legs. He felt a strange twitch above his butt and realized he still had a horse's tail flitting behind him. After that quick glance, he looked back at the filly with an almost scared look, but she just nickered softly again and nodded her head up and down. He stumbled over to her, not used to walking on two legs again - and certainly not used to walking on two legs with hooves instead of feet. He fumbled with her bridle, his hands very stiff, but getting better.
He got the bridle unbuckled and eased it from her head, gently removing the bit from her mouth. As he watched, the fur covered her body began to thin out and disappear. Her chest slowly flattened into a more human shape, and her arms began to thicken back to their original form. Unlike him though, her equine muzzle and head began to shrink in on itself, her eyes moving back to their original positions. She lifted herself back onto two legs and smiled, her face and head showing no trace of their former equine shape. He looked at her with envy for a moment, then he looked a little more carefully and realized that she too had failed to return fully to human shape.
Tobe gently reached over and touched her left ear which, like her right, was still fur covered, long and pointed - sticking out from her long hair noticeably. She took a deep breath at that touch and her hands moved up to her ears. She looked at him and moaned quietly, "My... my ears? Like your... your face and..." she looked down at his lower body, then at hers and suddenly trailed off into silence.
Tobe glanced down and was reminded of his still very equine lower body, then back to her, and blinked as he realized why she got quiet. Although his equine muzzle didn't clearly show what he was thinking, he was very surprised as he looked down at her and mumbled, "you too?"
The girl almost fell over, because starting from just below her stomach, she still looked almost exactly like the filly she had been. She was able to stand on two legs, but that was almost the only thing that had changed back. Unlike Tobe's legs, which were more or less human shaped, her legs were basically still those of a filly, including the thick fur that had covered them. Her fur extended up to finally thin out and end around her stomach. She still had her long tail, which now matched the color of her hair. She suddenly blushed as it occurred to her she was totally naked! Tobe was also embarrassed, but of course his muzzle wouldn't show it.
She was returning the detailed look Tobe had given her, and she made a small sound. Tobe looked down at himself more carefully this time, and then realized what she was staring at. He put his hand down to his crotch this time and wanted to blush again - as his hands felt of the very large scrotum and thick sheath that hung between his legs. He had always been proud of his penis - from when they went skinny-dipping he knew his was larger than the other boys - but now, well, he was literally hung like the young stallion he had just been!
They both quickly realized there weren't any clothes anywhere around, so they tried to more or less ignore each others bodies. It was hard, because they both were young and in good health - and still feeling a bit strange from their transformations. But they managed to continue their conversation.
Tobe turned to look at her and saw that she was examining herself closely. He whuffled softly and managed to say, "I'm sorry... I didn't know it would happen." He was having to make a big effort to talk, having a small muzzle made it very hard to be understood he was finding.
She nodded and took a deep breath, "It... it's ok - tonight wasn't my first time for this - they've been using me for so long now. Well, my name is Danae." Danae smiled a little at him - clearly she was still a bit shocked at everything though.
Tobe pulled his lips back a little in an attempt to smile and ducked his head, saying, "I'm choby!" He sighed, wondering if he would ever be able to speak clearly. He looked up and tried again, very slowly, "I'm thoby" he lisped.
Danea looked at him frowning, "Tobe?" she guessed.
He nodded and sighed, "can' chalk ferry well".
Danae nodded again and then impulsively moved up and hugged him, "It's ok - thank you so much for freeing me! Even... like this, it's better than what they were doing!"
Tobe didn't quite know what to do when she hugged him - they were both naked after all, and her being so close made him feel so funny. He pushed that thought aside quickly and held her out at arms length and tried to smile, "it's okay, but witches will come back!" If his equine-like head would have allowed, Tobe would have been blushing a bright red. He was lucky she also didn't look down just then, because he could feel things around his middle that unsettled him and made him even more embarrassed!
Danae looked around suddenly, "y... yes they will, b... but what about the other horses here? They must be kids too! We should change them back!"
Thinking quickly Tobe's eyed the bridle he had recently worn. He picked it up and said, "Yes, but I'd love to put these things on the witches!" Tobe was having a hard time talking, and began to speak in shorter, simpler sentences to make it easier to talk with that muzzle.
Danae quickly realized what he was getting at, "You mean... do to them what they've done to us? Yes!!" Danae looked at him and gripped his hand, "I... I've been here before - they never come back all at the same time - we can ambush them one by one as they come down this trail!"
After reassuring the other horses (who seemed to understand them), they moved into hiding positions at the edge of the dense woods, one to either side of the trail. When the first witch appeared, it was amazingly easy to wrestle her to the ground and slip the bridle over her head. And Tobe used the same trick on them he used on the horses at home - pinching their cheeks to make them open their mouth - then slipping the bit in. As it had happened with him before, when they changed into horses they became very docile and the control of whoever bridled them.
They returned to the area set aside for the horses and picketed the new horse where they had been kept. Then they moved to the next horse down the line and removed his bridle and bit. In short order, there was a very scared looking boy, about 14 years old. As had happened with Danae and Tobe, he hadn't completely returned to human form. In his case, his face and head remained almost entirely that of a horse. His muzzle was much longer than Tobe's, almost unchanged actually. He still had a horse's tail, like Danae and Tobe, and his genitals remained more or less those of a young stallion. But his legs and feet were totally those of a human again. He stared at them both and tried to talk, but got very frustrated before he realized his fully equine muzzle wouldn't allow him to speak. Tobe saw his problem and pointed to some soft dirt nearby and asked the boy, "Can you write?"
The boy snorted in relief at finding some way to communicate - he bent down and wrote, "My name is Frederick - what are we going to do?"
Danae took Frederick's hand, "It'll be okay Frederick, we are going to get each witch as they appear and put these bridles on them! His eyes lit up and he nodded his equine head in rapid agreement - he was ready to help!
The three of them took their places not a moment too soon, another witch was coming up the trail. They tried to ambush her the same as the first, but she managed to slip away. She turned and began to run down the path. Without thinking, Danae took off after her, and amazed everyone (including herself) at how fast she could run on those two totally horse-like legs. She immediately grabbed the witch, and Tobe was there to fit the bridle and bit into the witches mouth with little struggle. They led the transformed woman to the pickets and added her to the growing herd.
They moved on to the next transformed youth and removed her bridle. This time, as in the other three, she changed back very rapidly - but was still not completely human. In what was possibly the least change yet, the very pretty girl seemed to change very little to the eye. Her face and head did shrink back to nearly totally human. Her muzzle was much smaller than Tobe's, but was still quite noticeable. However, almost all the rest of her remained very horse-like. She was able to stand on two legs, although they remained as horse-like as Danae's. Her chest only changed back partially (The chests of the other three had changed back totally), and her neck only changed a little. Her lower arms changed in a very curious way. Her hooves remained more or less unchanged, but from the area between the hoof and where her wrist used to be her sprouted three fingers and a thumb! Her middle finger, it seemed, had formed her hoof - but all her remaining fingers returned. Her arms still strongly resembled forelegs, she still had hooves; but at least she more or less had fingers again.
She looked at herself and began crying almost hysterically - clearly scared and confused at her only moderate transformation back. Danae hugged her and finally managed to calm her down. Her name was Jennifer, they finally learned, and she wasn't sure being changed like this was worth it! Finally, under Danae's comfort, Jennifer calmed down and they told her what they were doing. She nodded and sighed and finally said, "W... well, I'll help you if I can". She began to move around a little, and found that although she could stay on two legs, walking was a bit difficult. It was like her balance was off, and she would need a bit of practice. In the meantime, she returned to walking on four legs as it was much easier and more natural. She looked so strange like that - except for her head she was extremely horse-like.
Tobe looked at Jennifer and Frederick and realized that he and Danae were a few years older than the other two. He got Danae over to the side as Frederick and Jennifer sat together and asked, "Danae, none of us are changing back properly - do... do you think we should stop or what?"
Danae sighed and then looked up, "I think we have to keep on - but maybe we can make the next witch tell us what we're doing wrong - and how to change us all the way back."
He nodded and gathered the other two - explaining they would try to get the next witch to talk - then they all got in "ambush positions."
To their surprise, the next witch was no older than Frederick! They easily got her under control - Danae whispered some very nasty threats (making Tobe glad he couldn't hear what she was saying!) - and the witch-girl started talking immediately. She explained that the bridles had to be removed with a proper counterspell, or nobody knew what would happen. Then she looked around at the four kids and gave a cold smile, "although I think I see here what would happen - you all remain a lot like the beasts you were."
Danae grabbed her ear and pulled it very hard - just like Danae's mother was good at doing to her. "So what's the counterspell? And how can we change back all the way?"
The witch-girl told the simple counterspell... but she winced and said, "You can do whatever you want with me - but there is NO way to change you back once you break the spell as you did! However much you changed back is now how you really are from now on."
They threatened her more, but to no use - the most they got was, "maybe a more powerful witch than those here would know, but none of us do!". And "the change can be permanent if the bridle is kept on too long, or if the transformed one wills it so." Danae asked what she meant by that and was told, "Well, that's kinda what the bridle is for - it reinforces the person's belief that they are a horse. The bridles hold the spell, but once the spell is on and until it's broken, almost anything can be the reinforcement." They kept on at the witch-girl for several more minutes until they decided they had gotten everything useful out of her. Then they slipped the bridle and bit on her and watched with satisfaction as she changed before their eyes.
They captured and transformed several more witches - each time releasing a youth. This time using the counterspell before releasing the kids. Unlike the previous changes, each horse completely transformed back into a human boy or girl. These kids ranged in age from 13 to 16, but none older than Tobe and Danae. They were scared, but looked to Tobe and Danae to help them out of this. Feeling very self-conscious with their partially transformed bodies around these other kids, the first four nevertheless led them back to the ambush area. There were a total of thirteen witches, and by now there were only three left.
They got worried when they heard the last three witches coming up the row at the same time. Despite that though, they managed to get all three witches captured and changed very quickly since they had so many more kids to help this time. They now had a herd of transformed witches - and they had to decide what to do.
First they all introduced themselves. It seemed none of them was from the same village, but they were all from not too far away. They all were very appreciative toward Tobe, Danae, Frederick and Jennifer, but they were clearly unsure of how to treat the still equine-like youths. For their part, the four kids generally stayed together, because they each felt very embarrassed and strange in their part-equine shapes.
They talked for a while - the kids at first embarrassed at everyone being naked - but they got used to it. They discussed quite a few options. No one wanted to change them back, but some wanted to release them into the woods, others wanted each kid to take a horse back home. Tobe pointed out that their parents might not understand or believe where the horses came from. He also noted that when their bridles were removed, they would all change back!
Danae suddenly remembered something the witch girl had said. "What we need to do" she had a very evil smile as she continued, "is make sure they don't change back. That girl said the bridles weren't really necessary after they change, but they do need something horse-like. So what we need to do is get them something horse-like. Would ya'll say having them shod and branded would be enough?"
The other kids looked shocked for a minute, then they all began grinning and laughing. Tobe had earlier suggested a few of the oldest kids might could go find some clothes and food. By now they had returned with clothes they stolen some that were hanging up to dry and fruit and a cured ham. There was just enough clothes to give all the kids something to wear. Danae, Frederick and Tobe managed to at least find some long work shirts to wear, but Jennifer couldn't even wear one of those.
They ate some of the food and everyone discussed what to do a little more, and they finally decided to send two of the older boys into the closest town to get the herd shod.
When asked what they would do for money, Danae replied, "You can offer them a few of the horses in trade, just make sure they're shod and branded first."
They laughed at that and headed off. It was midmorning by now and the remaining kids hid in the grove where the witches had been. Towards the end of the day, the two boys returned, with nine of the horses, several of them loaded down with supplies.
When asked how things went, the older of the two, Alan, replied "It was great! The smith who worked at the stables didn't even ask any questions. He agreed to do all the work and pay us a good amount for four of the horses! We watched as he branded and shod each one of them!"
He pointed to the flank of the horse he was riding, which clearly showed the brand of the stables in that town. "I've got enough clothes for everyone, and supplies to last for a few weeks. But... I hope we can all be home before then."
Danae sighed at that. She, Tobe, Jennifer and Frederick had talked for a long time about what they could do. They each knew they could not go home - not looking like they did. Jennifer finally had the idea - she remembered her cousin Linda who lived up in the hills not far from where they were - only a few days travel. Linda always claimed to be a practicing white witch, and Jennifer assured the others that Linda really was too!
When the older boy, Alan, talked about going home, Danae knew that it wasn't going to happen to the four of them anyway. She started talking to all the kids then about what they would all do. She explained that she, Tobe, Frederick and Jennifer would have to leave - and how important it was that no-one know where they were.
The other kids were sad, but the four noticed they other kids all looked more than a little relieved on hearing that. Danae suggested they make up a story to tell everyone's parents. Tobe suggested, "kidnappers" He still wasn't able to talk very well, so he mostly stayed quiet in these discussions. Danae nodded to him this time and agreed, "Kidnappers makes the most sense - We were each taken from our homes and brought to an abandoned house. When they all left for a while, all of you escaped. You tried to get the four of us out, but weren't able to - and we made you leave us."
She sighed, "You'll have to tell our parents (referring to the four still partially transformed teens) that you're sure we're dead - that the kidnappers were going to sell us as slaves somewhere - or something - but our parents can't know what really happened!"
They all looked very sad about that - Frederick and Jennifer were crying, and Tobe and Danae weren't far from it. They managed to hang on though as the other kids talked about it and finally got a story together. "After all," Danae added, "it's not like anyone is going to believe it if you told them the real story anyway!"
They talked late into the night - but already it was obvious the other kids were separating from the four. There were two campfires, and most of the kids were around one - the four half-horse kids and two of the older boys were the only ones around the other. They worked out a split of the horses. Danae and the others would only take one packhorse, while the other kids would keep the remaining horses.
The next morning, while the others were getting breakfast, Danae went to where they were keeping the horses. She said, "are any of you the girl we captured, who talked to us first?"
One of the horses nickered and nodded her head, looking at Danae sharply. Danae smiled and moved that one off to the side, "then we'll take you with us" she whispered to the girl/horse. "You helped us and weren't too mean about it, so maybe we can help you." The horse looked at her, then suddenly rubbed against her gently - then looked away and began to eat some grass. "It's a start" Danae said as she clopped away.
The four watched the other kids mount on the horses, a few of them riding double. They had decided to all go to the nearest village and tell them their story. The horses they would say were stolen by the kidnappers. They waved at the four as they rode off, but most of the kids didn't even turn around to look after they left. Only Alan, the oldest boy looked back. He vowed silently to pass this story on - so someone would know what had really happened.
After the other kids had disappeared, the four half-horse teens looked at each other and sighed, then started off. It would take them a while before they could get to Jennifer's cousin - and they weren't sure what might happen then. But they were at least together - even if they were changed as much as they were, they at least weren't alone. They would miss their parents and families terribly, but they knew they could never return as they were - but maybe they could find someone to help them. They had no way of knowing that they would be the start of rumors for hundreds of years about horse-people who lived up in the back hills.
Back at home, Thomas was wondering if he'd ever see his brother again. From then on everyone noticed how nicely he treated every stallion he met - and wondered why he always said the same thing to them... "is that you?"
The Night Ride copyright 1996 by Pony.
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