|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
Lord Edward Dorset swore as he pushed his tired horse harder and harder through the grasses. He had chased the fox for a couple of miles without letting it out of his sight. This was what hunting was really about; the excitement and adrenaline rush from the thrill of the persuit. Which basically meant a great big horse chasing a much smaller and terrified animal to the point of exhaustion, while the rider anticipated the moment when the pest would cease to be a pest any longer, preferably by the slowest and most agonising method possible. Lord Dorset was not a pleasant man, and this bloodthirsty attitude was uncomfortably close to his general outlook on life. Edward was used to hacing his own way, and would shout and threaten to get what he wanted, knowing he had the wealth and power to make as many lives as he could miserable should that fail.
However, there were things even bullying was not guaranteed to achieve. A successful hunt, for one. Hunting without colleagues was not usually recommended, though Edward considered himself an expert. But everything seemed to be conspiring against him today. He and the whipper had become seperated early after the hounds, for no accountable reason, had suddenly decided to charge off in the wrong direction, all six dogs in a pack. And now Bob, the horse, was slowing down, his heart seemingly not in it. Normally Edward would have considered such a hunt to be a challenge. Today though, it was stubbornness and spite that continued to drive him on.
The notion of tiredness meant little to Lord Dorset. Fatigue was an excuse for servants and the working class to be idle. If Edward could carry on, then so could the horse. It didn't matter that Bob was doing all the work. He lashed out with the horsewhip, inflicting more pain in his customary manner. Bob tended to obey partly out of loyalty, but mostly out of fear. Not that it did him much good, the whippings and verbal abuse became harsher with every riding session. Some of those lashes were beginning to leave scars.
The fields would be giving way to woods pretty soon. Edward swore; it wouldn't be safe to ride at speed in that sort of terrain. He kicked savagely at Bob's flank. Bob had had enough prior experience to know that he was in trouble, and slowed down, reducing his pace to a walk by the time they reached the woods' edge, then stopped.
Edward swore again. Just because he couldn't ride through the woods at speed didn't mean he intended to stay outside. For some reason however he just couldn't seem to convince Bob of this. He tugged at the reigns, kicked out and hurled expletives at the horse, but still Bob's hooves remained firmly planted to the ground. It wasn't merely stubborness; Bob's ears were pinned back and his eyes were rolling, breath coming from his nostrils. Whatever was in the woods, the horse appeared to be more afraid of it than it was of him. Stupid animal... Edward would have to dismount and enter on foot. He took out the pistol that he always carried on these occasions, and made his way in.
The interior of the woods had a sinister air about them. Edward glanced nervously from tree, unable to shake the feeling of being watched, that the trees he passed where reaching out to him once out of sight. Looking back, the entrance had closed behind him, sealing him off from the outside world. Even twenty yards in, Bob couldn't be seen any more.
There- something moved. It was hard to make out, but... wait! A red shape, dashing from the undergrowth, visible for no more than a second before it vanished again. It had to be the fox. Rather than running way, the confounded animal was taunting him, darting from bush to bush, giving Edward no more than a fleeting glimpse at a time. Edward followed, his gun cocked, ready for the first opportunity to aim and fire. The fox couldn't keep this up for ever. Edward had never had a quarry escape him yet, and by heaven he was damned if this would be the first one. He followed gingerly, never letting his gaze waver from the thing moving sporadically in and out, back and forth, to and fro...
...And let out a scream as he was suddenly hoisted off the ground to dangle upside-down some four feet off the ground.
Dazed, Edward looked downwards- upwards, that is- trying to ascertain what had happened. His heart sank when he noticed the snare tied around his right ankle. The oldest trap in the book and he had walked right into it. The gun had been flung from his hand in the event and lay tantalisingly right below him, well out of reach. Then the red shape broke cover again, slowly this time, and Edward got his first clear view of the animal he had been persuing through the woods.
It was a fox. Or, what appeared at first glance to be a fox. That illusion was quickly dispelled however when it become apparent that the animal was much bigger than any normal specimen, almost man-sized in fact. And wagging behind it... good grief, how many tails did the beast have? It looked to be as many as five...
Edward blinked, rubbing his eyes. It had to be some sort of hallucination from the blood rushing to his head. It was a damned realistic one though.
The giant, multi-tailed fox thing padded towards him with a smug, rolling gait, plainly taking a gleeful delight in Edward's predicament. It sat there in front of him for a minute, tongue hanging out as if it were laughing at him. Then it seemed to decide that the fun was over. Before Edward's widened eyes, it got up, stood up on its hind legs, and tutted, shaking its head at him in a very humanlike manner. It reached out with a foot, pulled back the gun and kicked it away into the long grasses. Then the creature spoke.
"Why, Lord Dorset, delighted to make your acquaintance. Though I seem to have left you high and dry."
This last indignity blew away the last shreds of Edward's restraint and self-control. He should have been terrified of the unearthly creature that had already proved itself more than a match for him, but the fact had failed to register with his enraged mind. Besides, verbal abuse was a more appealing and familiar response instead.
"Get me down from here at once, you chicken stealing, flea infested vermin!"
"Don't give me that 'vermin' twaddle, I've heard it a thousand times before already. I could lecture for years about the suffering you humans inflict on everyone including yourselves, but I have neither the time nor the inclination."
The creature pondered for a minute.
"What to do with you? I can hardly release you now, and you'd hardly make the most welcome of house guests. It's a quandry, no? Hmm... perhaps I'll just indulge in a bit of 'sport'"- he spat the word- "of my own."
"You're going to kill me." A ghastly image of himself as the victim in a blooding ritual, hanging upside with his throat cut, the kitsune dawbing itself with his blood.
"Nothing so crude. What would be the point if you couldn't learn anything from it? Revenge? That's a human concept. No, I have something better in mind. Why don't I show you?"
The creature put two furry fingers to its mouth and whistled. From the undergrowth, there scampered half a dozen small, red fox kits, barely old enough to venture outside the den. They pawed at and tumbled over each other, obviously having a fine old time.
"Meet your own hounds, Lord Dorset. You sent them to find me, I happily obliged. I also offered them what they really wanted, deep down inside. A better life, away from human ownership."
With a chill, Edward realised he was in even bigger trouble than he'd guessed.
"You... you're going to turn me into another fox!"
The creature snorted. "Oh please. You seriously think I'd take a callous, cold-blooded killer for a species brother? Give you the freedom to sleep all day and play all night, and do whatever else you feel like doing? Where's the punishment in that? I have enough responsibilities of my own already anyway without yet one more unwanted burden. But I do know somebody who is more than happy to take yours on. Come on out."
A rustle from the brush heralded the arrival of somebody Edward would never have expected. Somebody with four legs, hooves and a tail. Despite Edward's apparent helplessness, the horse was visibly frightened as it walked up to the kitsune, who began to comfort him by scratching behind his ears.
"Don't be nervous. He won't be hurting anyone ever again. And no, he won't suffer either, not unless you really want him to."
"Hey! That's my horse!" Edward was blustering in the meantime. "You do anything to him and I swear I'll- argh!!" Edward's words were cut off by a sudden release in the tension of the rope, dumping him unceremoniously on his head. He lay there on the ground, groaning. His whole body ached, bruised and swollen. Swollen? Yes, for Edward could definitely feel the tightness of his clothing. His collar was beginning to constrict his throat.
"You did your part well," the kitsune told the horse. "You lead him right to me and he never suspected. Now, I think you'll want to watch this. I think you'll find it interesting." The horse obliged, gazing at Edward in what appeared to be rapt fascination.
Edward was practically choking now. He pawed at his collar, desperately trying to find a handhold and free his windpipe, but his fingers refused to obey him properly. What was happening? A sudden bulge of his neck and the collar tore; he gasped, a hoarse, throaty noise. His eyes were blurry. It was getting harder to distinguish the two figures watching him. Edward reached up to rub his eyes and discovered to his horror that his fingers had become horribly disfigured, dark black lumps that were sticking to each other. His scream of terror was deep and gutteral, sounding nothing like his own voice.
"What are you doing? Stop!" he shouted through swollen tounge and lips, and square teeth. He could feel himself becoming heavier and more muscular, upper body straining against his coat and shirt. He collapsed to his hands and knees. Buttons began to pop, revealing a barrelled chest that was sprouting chestnut coloured hair. The hands on the grass were now hard, flat and solid. Edward was turning into a duplicate of his own horse.
"No! You can't do this, it's inhuman!"
"You forget," came the reply. "I am."
Panic-stricken, Edward went straight back to what he knew best; threats and bullying.
"Don't think you'll get away with this! I own this estate- these entire woods are mine! My people will come looking for me and they'll scour every inch of the area. There's nowhere you can hide. Your head will be on my trophy wall before the night is out!"
"Well now, that depends on whether they really think you're missing, does it not?" He turned to the horse, having by now removed the bit, bridle and saddle. "Are you ready?"
The horse nodded, and settled down on the grass. Edward's eyes widened in renewed shock as the horse too began to change. A haze appeared around the head as the muzzle was drawn into the skull, nose and mouth seperating. The eyes moved to the front of the face, the ears slid down and become more rounded. It was Edward's own human face, he realised, even as his stretched forward painfully. Further protests emerged as whinnies; he could no longer speak.
The transformation continued. The almost-horse began to shrink, its mass being transferred to Edward's substantially oversized form. The clothes could take no more, and they split apart. Underneath was nothing but hairy hide. The change rippled down the horse's forelegs, chestnut hair blending into naked pink flesh as they became arms. The horse-man flexed unfamiliar fingers, marvelling at the new digits; the man-horse, meanwhile, found himself unable to rise from all four feet, fully hooves now. His forelegs danced as he tried vainly to control them how he wished; his hindlegs rose his enormous bulk higher off the ground as the hocks lengthened and buttocks enlarged. The last part of the change was the appearance of a long, flowing tail, while at the same time the other's tail dwindled away to nothing.
And then it was over. Master and servant roles had been successfully reversed.
Edward was too numb from shock to even move. He watched dumbfounded as the former horse, wearing the body that was rightfully his, propped itself up uncertainly and stood up on wobbly legs. He examined himself, feeling all over with his new hands, including the new equipment that was now a lot less impressive that he had been previously used to. Finally he leaned against a tree and raised a foot. The horseshoes, it seemed, had transferred themselves to Edward's hooves during the transformation. The tack had attached itself to him too.
The new Lord Dorset turning to the smug-looking kitsune. "What do I do now?"
"First of all," the creature replied, "you had better get dressed. If nothing else, you'll catch your death of cold like that." He gestured, and the tattered shreds of cloth reassembled into jodphurs, coat, shirt and undergarments. The boots had remained intact. The man began to put them on.
"What about him?" he said, gesturing to the horse.
"I'll leave that to your imagination," the kitsune grinned. "I'm sure you'll think of something. Do your worst."
There was a 'poof', and in a cloud of orange smoke the kitsune was gone. The other two were alone.
The new Lord Dorset took hold of Edward the horse's reigns, and began to lead him out of the wood, thinking of all the whippings and beatings he had previously received at the old Lord's hands and what he would be able to do in return. Then he shrugged, and put it out of his mind. He was not particularly vengeful after all, and the loss of stature and prevelige would be punishment enough. Maybe. The horse, meanwhile, was still too stunned to do anything more than dutifully obey.
At edge of the woods the pair were met by another person, Lord Dorset's whipper.
"Are you alright sir? I lost control of the dogs and couldn't find them again, and then I thought I could hear shouts. I say, you look rather dazed..."
"It's nothing, just a fall when Bob threw me, that's all. I landed in the grass so I didn't suffer any real damage. But I fear Bob here has become too unreliable and frisky for his own good. Look at him, he's exhausted himself... I think it's definitely time we had him gelded."
The horse pinned back its ears and cringed.
Outfoxed copyright 2003 by Eala Dubh.
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