The Catch

This story takes place roughly 200 years before The Chase.
If it wasn't for bad luck, Rye Mash would have no luck at all. As a foal, he was taken during one of the infamous sweeps of the Shetland Isles. Now, as a young colt, he is an indentured servant, forced to spend the rest of his life working for his master, a unicorn named Lace Collar, so he can pay off the bill for his education.
However, Rye Mash's bad luck ends up being Lace Collar's bad luck as well, and both of them end up as prisoners of the infamous sky pirates and their dreadful leader, Captain Spyglass, the mass murdering lunatic that is feared the whole world over.

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1. Chapter 1

In the entirety of his whole life, Rye Mash had never felt more fear than he did in the current moment. There had been many moments of fear. He had been taken from his home on the Shetland Isles as a very small colt during one of the many sweeps and taken to the mainland. He had endured the mainland orphanarium.

He and his master had been captured by sky pirates, led by none other than the infamous Captain Spyglass. Now, he was stuffed into a barrel and left in total darkness. He had heard some of the commotion all around him. He had his magic, but he was far too afraid to use it after the warning that he would be killed if he did. So he obediently remained stuffed inside the barrel trembling with fear and not knowing what to do.

He cried out in fear as the barrel was turned on its side and rolled. As he tumbled around inside he collected every bit of will that he had and tried not to piss himself in fear. The barrel seemed to roll forever. It thudded as it bounced over wooden planks.

Finally, the barrel stopped and the cover was pried off. Rye Mash was forcibly pulled out of the barrel and was left sprawled out on the deck, his eyes stinging from the sudden light. He was dizzy, disoriented, and could not see.

“Was it truly necessary to roll the poor colt in the barrel?” a voice said.

“Sorry boss,” a voice replied. “You said bring the barrel over.”

A figure stood over Rye Mash and he looked up. He had trouble focusing his eyes and seeing who he was looking at. The figure’s breath smelled like pickle brine and cheap booze, a smell that reminded Rye Mash of home.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Rye Mash begged.

“I understand that you are property,” the voice said.

“I am not property!” Rye Mash protested. “I am an indentured servant. There is a difference. I’ll be free one day once I pay off my debts,” he said angrily. Rye Mash’s vision settled a bit and he saw that he was speaking to a pegasus. “You are Captain Spyglass,” he accused.

“None other,” the pegasus replied. “And do tell. How did you become an indentured servant to this annoying fellow that we have been giving a good thrashing to?”

“I am from the Shetland Isles. I was taken in the sweeps. I was placed in an orphanarium in Fillydelphia. An agent of House Avarice came looking for useful unicorns. I was selected and given a great honour. I was sent to school to learn how to read and write. I was taught social graces and etiquette. I was taught magic as well. Now I am paying off the debt for my education and as soon as my education is paid off, I will be a free pony,” Rye Mash explained.

“Ah, I see,” Captain Spyglass responded. “So, do you know how much you owe? How much are they paying you? What service do you provide for your master?”

“I am his servant. For a time I served as his whipping colt when I was younger. I have never asked how much I am earning. Doing so would be quite rude and a breach of social etiquette. I am to place faith in the kindness of my benefactor and trust that such a good and noble pony is doing the right thing,” Rye Mash answered.

“Then you are a fool. How would you like to be a free fool?” Captain Spyglass inquired.

“Free?” Rye Mash asked in a trembling voice. “But my debts… it would reflect poorly on me if I did not pay my debts. How could I maintain any credibility if I didn’t pay my debts?” Rye struggled up to his hooves and wobbled unsteadily.

The pegasus sighed as several crew members chuckled raucously. “Look here. I free slaves. That is what I do. And you are a slave. You will never earn enough to be a free pony. You are bound. You might not see your chains, but you have them,” Captain Spyglass replied. “Would somepony be so kind and encourage our guest Lace Collar to tell the truth to this poor deluded colt?” the pegasus asked.

Rye Mash turned to look at Lace Collar as was horrified by what he saw. The stallion was a bloodied and battered heap on the deck. He wanted to go and comfort his fallen master, but he was too scared to move. Rye Mash wondered if this could end up being his fate as well. As he watched, a big scruffy looking earth pony kicked Lace Collar in the side of his head.

The battered unicorn tried to crawl away from his attacker but was kicked again. Rye Mash felt his guts churning from fear. A pegasus drove his hoof into Lace Collar’s side and there was the crack of bone as several ribs gave way.

“Enough,” Lace Collar gasped. “It’s true,” he wheezed. Blood splattered from his lips as he spoke. “You were never going to be a free pony,” Lace Collar admitted.

“And there we go. Finally, some honesty from the professional liars of House Avarice,” Captain Spyglass said. “And so I will ask you again. Would you like to be a free pony?” the pegasus asked. “I am in need of a well educated pony such as yourself as my cabin colt. I assume you can work numbers? Read and write?”

“I can do all of those things and more,” Rye Mash replied. “Forgive me for asking, but how do I know that I will not be your slave?”

“Clever colt,” Captain Spyglass said with a chuckle. “I pay my crew. In hard coin. You will get a bunk and you will be fed. And you will not be charged for said bunk and food,” the pegasus explained.

“What is the catch?” Rye Mash asked.

“The catch?” Captain Spyglass said in return.

“Why free me? Take me on? Why me and not somepony else more suited for… your criminal endeavours?” Rye Mash asked.

“Oh ho ho ho,” the pegasus laughed in reply. “I am not a criminal. Nor am I a pirate. I am a just and virtuous pony. Just as you were not a slave,” he added.

Rye Mash scowled and flogged his brain, trying to collect his wits.

“There is nopony on this ship that is a pirate,” a voice said.

“And you’d get a good thumping if you said otherwise,” another voice added.

“But I have heard of you. I know who you are. Everypony knows who you are. You are the the infamous Captain Spyglass. The terror of the skies. The infamous sky pirate,” Rye Mash said.

“And who says this?” Captain Spyglass asked.

“The newspapers. The Canterlot nobles. Everypony who is anypony,” Rye Mash exclaimed.

“Well of course they would say that,” Spyglass replied.

“I don’t understand,” Rye said in a confused and trembling voice. He cast a worried glance at Lace Collar who was bleeding all over the deck. “You commit crimes… how can you not be criminals?”

“I free slaves,” Spyglass corrected. “I seize vessels full of the most valuable treasure of all. Most of these vessels are owned by House Avarice of course and I understand they are a bit miffed that I am interfering with their flesh trade. I roam the skies and I prey upon their airships and their sea going vessels. I find the ones carrying say, a cargo hold full of zebras that are being sent to Minos to be sold in the minotaur slave markets. Or worse, to be sold to the griffons as either slaves or food. This despicable wretch on the deck was being sent to broker a deal with a foreign agent. Anyway, I seize their vessels and I free those they have taken. I loot the ships of course. Most of the loot goes to the slaves to allow them to get a fresh start in life. We keep a little for ourselves. We need to eat and keep well supplied,” the pegasus explained.

Rye Mash tried to come up with something to say but failed. He looked at Lace Collar and felt a confusing jumble of emotions as he stared at his master.

“What is a whipping colt?” a crewmember asked.

Spyglass sighed. “Among the nobles, they don’t whip their own foals. They get a whipping colt. And when the wee little lord is a bad little foal, they whip the whipping colt and make the bad little lord watch. Isn’t that right Rye Mash?” Spyglass said.

Rye nodded, still unable to say anything.

“If you do not wish to join us, we will drop you off in a port city friendly to our cause. We will give you some of your former master’s possessions so you will be able to make your way in the world. Either way, you are a free pony from here on out. But if I may be honest, I would like to take you on as a crew member,” Spyglass stated.

“What is to be done with him?” Rye asked, finally finding his voice. His words were squeaky and scratchy and he felt humiliated as his voice cracked, surrounded as he was by such a gruff crowd.

“He is a fop and a dandy. And he peddles flesh. I could deal with any two out of those three things, but alas, he is guilty of all three. I cannot stand ponies that wear clothing. It is most unnatural,” Spyglass replied. “We were never meant to wear clothing like the minotaurs.”

“To Tartarus with the lot of you… even you Rye,” Lace Collar spat.

“And he is rude. Ugh, somepony throw him overboard,” Spyglass commanded.

Rye gasped as a pegasus took wing and snatched up Lace Collar. The unicorn screamed, a ragged cry of fear and panic as he was lifted. And then without further ado, he was thrown over the rail.

Rye Mash could hear his master screaming for quite some time afterward. He gulped and looked around him. After the screaming finally faded away, he gathered up the courage to speak. “You would really let me go?” he asked.

“I do not tolerate slavery. And I really am sorry that my crew rolled you in the barrel. You were placed in there for your own safety. Sometimes, some of my crew are not the brightest ponies in the herd,” Spyglass replied.

“But I was threatened with death and all manner of torture,” Rye retorted.

“Well, you are a unicorn. We didn’t want you hurting us and I didn’t want my crew hurting you in return. We had to subdue you and find out who you were. I hope there are no hard feelings. I really am sorry and I apologise on behalf of my crew. I need a few sharper minds to help run the show and I could really use a unicorn,” Spyglass said in a well cultured voice that dripped with raw charisma.

“I am not much of a unicorn,” Rye said. “I am fit to be a servant and little else,” he said.

“They would tell you that,” a voice said. A female voice.

Rye turned his head. A mare approached and the crew made room for her as she passed through the crowd. She was a unicorn. One eye blinked and then the other did a moment later. She twitched and jerked as she walked. She froze for a moment, craned her head, and then seemed to stare at something that wasn’t there. She then turned her gaze back upon Rye.

“Let me guess… you are a type one or a type two. And you spent your entire time in school being told how worthless you were and how lucky you were that you have even a little bit of magic,” the mare said in a wavering and somewhat manic voice.

Rye nodded and his words died in his throat once again.

“This is Cerise Velvet. Formerly of the House Evening Star. Now my first mate. She had a bit of a falling out with her family when she found out how they made their money,” Spyglass said as he introduced the mare. “Everypony calls her Bloody Velvet. I wouldn’t cross her if I was you,” the pegasus warned.

The unicorn mare smiled a lopsided smile. “He is far too young and innocent to cross me. Aren’t you?” she asked of Rye Mash.

He nodded and backed away from her. Something about her was terrifying. “You… you are a type three, aren’t you?” Rye asked in a worried tone. “And you have the shivers.”

Bloody Velvet nodded. “I am. And I do,” she replied. She jerked again, her leg kicking the deck and her hoof made a solid thump.

Rye felt a twinge of pity. The shivers was a common affliction among the Canterlot nobles. Unicorns with too much power and not enough control. Usually they were kept away from the public, hidden away in a quiet place so nothing would spook them and invite potential catastrophe. And yet here one was serving on a ship full of ruffians and ne’er do wells. Rye was no longer certain they were pirates. The unicorn colt realised that he could not return to Canterlot. He couldn’t believe that he was contemplating joining this crew, not after what had just happened to Lace Collar. But he didn’t know where else to go or what to do.

“I accept your offer of employment,” Rye said in a quavering voice.

“Fantastic!” Spyglass exclaimed. “Velvet, could you be a dear and show this young colt to his quarters? Place him in the old quartermaster’s nook. You two can talk about unicorn stuff… get acquainted. Give him some time to calm down and collect his thoughts. I am sure that today has been most trying.”

“Wait, I must ask, what happened to the crew of the ship that Lace Collar and I were traveling on?” Rye questioned.

“They are below decks in the brig. They are being treated well. I plan to release them once we reach land. A few resisted and were subdued. One was killed because he would not submit. We don’t like killing but sometimes it must be done,” Spyglass replied.

A strange sense of confusion settled over Rye Mash after hearing the captain’s words. The newspapers always had stories of how Spyglass never took prisoners and never left anypony alive. He had always trusted the newspapers as a source of truth. Lace Collar and his family owned several newspapers in a few different cities. They were considered a bastion of integrity and truth. Rye said nothing, but intended to ask the captain a few questions in private when he got the chance.

“Follow me,” Bloody Velvet commanded, her voice cutting through Rye’s confusion.

The young colt did as he was bid. He walked behind her and looked around him at the crew who were already starting to disperse to do their work. His eyes met several of those around him. He saw smiling friendly faces. Hopeful faces.

He did not see the faces of pirates.

 

 

 

Author's Note:

Why yes, Bloody Velvet does come from the same house as Twilight Sparkle's family in The Chase. How observant of you to notice.

I hope you enjoyed the opening chapter. For those of you that haven't read The Chase, a number of things might not make sense. So go read The Chase.

 
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