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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17. Chapter 17

Trottingham was a disgusting city; Rye liked it for what it was. While it might have been fun having a companion to explore with, Rye could live with seeing the city alone. Skeeter was still healing and didn’t want to get filthy water into the cut on his face. Starjammer didn’t want his pelt soiled and was probably hiding for other reasons as well. Bloody Velvet was with Spyglass procuring supplies and provisions.

All of which meant that Rye Mash was alone while exploring the wonder of industrialisation that was Trottingham. The rain had let up but the clouds had not cleared. Rye wasn’t sure that the clouds could clear, the sooty black cloud over the city seemed to be a permanent fixture, blotting out the sun and leaving the city in a smoggy, blighted state.

In front of one of the factories was a showroom that had a sign that stated “Come and see the self pulling carriage.” That intrigued Rye, but the showroom wasn’t open and would not be open until tomorrow, which was disappointing. Another sign on the factory said “The future is steam—full steam ahead towards tomorrow!”

Steam did seem to be the future, but not the dirty coal powered steam of Trottingham. Rye Mash had already seen steam powered boilers that ran on various means of arcano-tech, such as The Whalefish and The Apogee. But coal was cheap and you didn’t need armies of unicorns to make things that would boil water.

Everything was sooty brass and grungy bricks. What windows there were had a slimy black film on them that shimmered, slick with oily rainbows. Rye Mash could see the future in the steam powered city of Trottingham, and the future looked filthy. Each and every puddle in the street was sewage and more oil slick rainbows. It was beautiful and disgusting at the same time.

“Come and see the fuel of tomorrow… liquid coal! Yes, you heard me, that’s right, liquid coal! A new extraction process from Germaney takes the energy of coal and puts it in concentrated liquid state! One ton of liquid replaces two point five tons of lump coal!” a street hawker yelled from the back of a wagon. “You can burn it in lamps! Power a boiler! Cleaner burning and won’t make your food taste like coal dust!”

Rye Mash stopped and watched the pony hawking the promise of liquid coal from the back of the wagon as coal dust fell all around him like dirty black snowflakes, covering everything in a fine layer of sooty grime.

“This secret formula produces no pollution when it burns! No black gunk covering your city!” The hawker held up a glass jar over his head. “See, it is clear as water, one hundred percent clean!”

If something sounded too good to be true, it probably was. Rye Mash suspected that it was water in the jar. Or it could be clean burning liquid coal. Or it could be liquid coal that produced pollution that one did not see. Either way, it sounded too good to be true. Rye got a move on, knowing that he only had so much time before he had to be back aboard The Apogee.

 

 

Rye Mash heard music. He stood in what appeared to be some inner city oasis. There were cafes, little art galleries, coffee shops, curio shops, and little stores of all kinds. It reminded him of Canterlot, only a whole lot filthier. There was a doll shop that produced beautiful little pony dolls that had brushable manes made from what the sign claimed was real pony hair.

Ahead was a large building that had a sign that had nothing but a black kettle upon it. It looked like a tavern. A lot of ponies streamed in and out of it. Rye, curious, thought he would have himself a look. He passed through the busy streets, pushing his way through the crowd, grinning and having a good time.

The Kettle, as it was known, may have been the most depraved place in all of Trottingham…

 

 

It was hard to think and even harder to breathe. The air was stifling and smelled like hot, sweaty pony. The sound of hundreds of ponies talking all at once assaulted Rye’s ears. Rye shoved his way through the crowd, trying to get away from the door, his nostrils crinkling from the stench of urine, as well as other horrible smells.

Mares danced upon a well lit stage, but everything else in The Kettle was dark. The grimy windows were so covered in filth that no sunlight made its way inside. The floor was sticky, covered by something so foul that Rye Mash didn’t want to know what it might have been, but likely a congealed mess of coal soot, sewage, vomit, and who knew what else.

This was the sort of place that epics were written about. This was the sort of place where world weary adventurers went to have fun. This was the sort of place where adventure happened. Rye Mash had some very romantic notions about the dirty cesspit he found himself inside of.

Looking around, Rye Mash saw a stallion with his head crammed under another stallion’s stomach. It took him a moment to realise what was going on. He jerked his head away and looked at the bar with hundreds of shiny glass bottles, grateful to be looking at, well, anything else. He took a deep breath and felt a little too warm.

“Fight starts in half an hour!” a pegasus shouted. “The pegasus known as the Bricklayer will be fighting the giant rat! Place your bets now!”

Giant rat? Rye Mash had to see that. It would have to be enormous to give a good fight to a pegasus. He pushed his way through the crowd, moving towards the back, where a group of ponies was pushing through a wide double door.

 

 

It wasn’t a giant rat. Rye Mash didn’t know what it was, but it wasn’t a giant rat. It had a long tail, was well muscled, and was almost rodent-like, but it was not a giant rat. He couldn’t see it very well from his vantage point, but getting closer to the cage where the creature was kept was impossible.

There was a large pit that went down into the floor and a massive dirty, disgusting mirror upon the ceiling where ponies could see the fighting that took place in the pit. Rye Mash thought the setup was rather clever, but he felt bad for anything kept as a slave and forced to fight in a pit. The creature in the cage looked miserable.

“Somepony help me!”

The voice was feminine and rather squeaky. It got Rye’s attention and he saw a blue-grey filly approaching. She was small, slight of build, and had a mane so black that it appeared to have blue streaks in it.

“I’m being forced into a marriage!” the filly said as she pushed her way through the crowd, which seemed to be ignoring her. “Somepony help!”

Feeling a swell of pride as well as a burst of excitement, Rye Mash pushed his way to her side, shoving his way through the herd of ponies, and bumped up against the filly. “What seems to be the trouble?”

“I have a debt… and I am going to be forced to marry a big smelly oaf!” The filly looked frightened, panicked even, and gave Rye Mash a pleading look. “Can you help me?”

Rye Mash looked around and realised that nopony else seemed interested in helping and as he reached this conclusion, he saw a big pegasus push his way into the room, followed by a gang of somewhat smaller pegasi. The crowd parted to get out of their way after they entered.

“Ah, Mousy… there you are. I told you what would happen if you ran… now I am going to break your leg to teach you a lesson and give you a good dry cornholing, you squeaky little bi—”

There was an ominous click that silenced the big pegasus. Rye Mash had pulled out the pepperbox, the four barreled pistol and was pointing it at the big pegasus. Rye Mash kept his other guns under his cloak. There was no need to pull out everything he had… yet.

The pepperbox had four barrels, each of them quite cavernous, large enough to stuff a whole carrot down inside. As far as raw intimidation went, it was a fantastic weapon, and it did its job very well. The big pegasus eyed the gun and there was a glint of fear in his eye, something that Rye Mash took note of.

“Now, I do believe you were just talking about rape… let’s discuss that,” Rye Mash said, still pointing the pepperbox at the big pegasus.

“Look, stay out of this, you grubby little twat,” one of the smaller pegasi said as he moved up beside the larger.

“Manners, good sir,” Rye Mash warned, giving the pepperbox a little wave. “I’ve shot plenty of foul mannered foes for far less.”

“I don’t think you have the stones,” another pegasus said, moving forward and off to the side. “I think this one is all talk… I say we should take him and sell him to Stubbs… Stubbs will be happy to sell this prissy little shite’s ass around the Barrens.”

Rye Mash became aware of the fact that he was being flanked. He started backing up, glancing around, and the blue-grey filly moved along with him at his side. “Don’t think I have the stones, eh?” Rye Mash grinned and brought out the scattergun from beneath his cloak, sliding it out from its leather straps. He pointed it at the pegasus attempting to flank him. The short barreled shotgun made a number of pegasi gang gasp.

“Look, we don’t need this sort of trouble. How’s about I pay you a few golds and you just walk away, how’s that sound?” the big pegasus asked.

“Yeah, you big lummox, you don’t seem so tough now, here’s a situation where you can’t just have your way or take what you need, you dirty asshole stretching genital wart!”

“I’m gonna have words with you later, Mousy, I’m gonna enjoy ripping your ass—”

“Shut up,” Rye Mash commanded, pointing the pepperbox at the big stallion. “Leave. Now. Walk away if you want to live.”

More ponies began to push their way into the room and the big pegasus grinned. “Ah, here we go. Backup. Now you were saying, you scrawny little shite?”

Rye Mash swallowed. Things were getting interesting. He pulled out the two pistols that Bloody Velvet gave him, the two long barreled pistols that he had taken from the griffon captain, and the scoped pistol he had purchased in Tradewinds. Feeling a little braver, he pulled out the shotgun. “This should even the odds a little. Who wants to die first?”

“You can’t shoot all of us,” the big pegasus said in a voice that quavered with fear. “You will be overwhelmed… your guns will be taken. If you walk away now, we can just forget that this even happened. Just walk away.”

“Aye, he might have more guns under that cloak of his,” a pegasus said, backing away and moving off to one side. “Rush him from all sides. He can’t shoot all of us.”

“First pony that takes a step towards me dies,” Rye Mash said in a low voice.

The big pegasus, nervous, blinked a few times and then took a step forwards. And that was when the trouble started. Rye Mash was a pony of his word. The shotgun winked, vanishing for a moment, and then reappeared behind the big pegasus.

When the trigger was pulled, a load of fire and nails went into the big pegasus’ groin, dropping him to the floor. As this was happening, Rye Mash fired one shot at the cage behind him with one of his pistols, blowing the padlock off of the door. There was a creak from the rusted hinges as the door opened.

“Oooh… ol’ Oola Roo is about to do some ass kickin’,” the creature said as she climbed out of her cage. She lifted her hands and cracked her knuckles.

The stunned pegasi stared and nopony moved. Rye Mash stood, two guns still smoking, looking around, waiting for more trouble. Rye Mash began to reload, using his magic to do so.

“Follow me, we’re going,” Rye Mash said to the filly at his side. “You there, whoever you are, you are free to do as you please.”

“They’ll just catch me again… I’ve already escaped a few times,” the creature replied.

“Then come with me,” Rye said as he stepped forwards.

Snarling, one of the pegasi lunged forwards, angry, hot headed, and he was very, very fast. Rye Mash pulled the trigger and shot the incoming pegasus in the head, dropping him to the floor. Blood began to pool around the body.

“Come on, let’s go,” Rye Mash said as he made his way to the door.

“Screw the lot of you, you filthy smegma suckers,” the large bipedal rat-like creature said. She raised her fists in defiance.

Leading the way, the pegasi now staying back, Rye Mash pushed his way into the next room, which was almost empty now. Only a few brave ponies had stayed behind to watch, to wait, and to see what was going to happen next.

The bartender, a unicorn, looked at Rye Mash. “I’d run if I was you. No doubt there are quite a number of pissed off unicorns coming right now. You have upset the wrong sorts of ponies. I’d guess you’re a sailor, I’d get back to your ship before the real trouble arrives.”

“Thank you, good sir,” Rye replied as he moved though the main room, keeping a cautious eye on those around him, all of his pistols and guns still drawn and ready.

“Drink piss,” the creature said to the bartender as she followed Rye. “I have half a mind to kill ya for what you’ve done to me…”

Reaching the front door, Rye Mash pushed it open…

 

 

 

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