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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20. Chapter 20

“Rye, you look terrible, how about you taking a break for a day or two?” Captain Spyglass, worried for his cabin colt, studied Rye Mash’s red, bleary eyes.

The Whalefish and The Apogee were making good time on their way to Sable Blanc. The skies were clear, there had been no trouble, it was smooth sailing, which made Spyglass happy. But he feared the boredom was having a terrible effect upon his cabin colt.

“Salad Days is a major buyer… I don’t know who he is, but he keeps showing up. He was a member of House Avarice I think… I can’t be sure. He was chased out of Equestria and then chased out of the Shire Isles. His current whereabouts are unknown,” Rye mumbled.

Captain Spyglass pondered Rye’s words. Rye had been combing through the remaining ledgers and bits of communication that had not been given to the Broker. This information that Rye was gleaning was powerful, dangerous, and perhaps even useful.

“Near as I can tell, Peck and Paw are two of Salad Days’ flunkies and maybe also a project. I think. I don’t know, it’s confusing. I think they might be griffons.” Rye Mash eased his haunches down to the deck and sat down, his mane whipping around his face as he did so. “I have determined one thing though. They are part of the plot to take down Princess Celestia and find some way to remove her from power. Of this, I am certain, call it a gut feeling, even though I don’t have hard evidence just yet.”

“I’m not sure you can remove an immortal alicorn from power,” Captain Spyglass said.

“Sure you can. It is said that Princess Celestia had a sister. I don’t know her name, but there was a fight between the sisters or something. Hard to say what happened, it’s all legend now. There is no sister to be found, so that suggests that alicorns can either be killed or somehow locked away.” Rye Mash shook his head. “Lace Collar talked about it a few times.”

Feeling unsettled, Captain Spyglass didn’t like this line of reasoning. Stories of Princess Celestia’s sister were just stories to him. He had no way of knowing if such a sister existed or what had happened to her.

“Where are the alicorns anyway? Gone… Princess Celestia had to come from somewhere. She had to be born. So where are her parents? Dead is my guess… I reckon there are ways to kill alicorns or remove them from power. Princess Celestia is the only one that exists. The last one. Somepony would have some serious bragging rights if they could claim that they killed the last alicorn—”

“Mister Mash, this line of reasoning is terrible.” Captain Spyglass felt a cold chill spike into his spine. “Anyways, Mister Mash, please, you have earned your salt and then some. Please, take a break for a day or two. Get some rest. Spend time with your crew mates. Have some fun. You are beginning to worry me.”

“Okay, fine,” Rye Mash replied, sounding very much like a scolded foal.

“If you must read or commit to acts of self improvement, read a cookbook or that book about wound care given to you,” Captain Spyglass suggested. The captain smiled and then glanced around the deck. “Now if you will excuse me, I must go and check on Miss Mousy. I understand that she shows some small potential as a pilot.”

 

 

“You know Starjammer, you have the most perfect grey eyes I think I’ve ever seen,” Bloody Velvet said as she peered into said grey eyes. Grey as a winter’s day. Grey as stormclouds.

Starjammer, grinning, squirmed away from Bloody Velvet and then resumed his walk down the narrow passage, his head held high and his hips rocking back and forth in a very feminine manner.

Shuddering from her Shivers, Bloody Velvet enjoyed the show. Starjammer was something worth watching. Pristine white pelt, silvery blonde mane and tail… and those perfect grey eyes. There were nobles, and there were nobles. Starjammer had fantastic breeding. There was nothing common about him at all, and just looking at him made Bloody Velvet feel like a giddy little filly on her first day of school. She kept watching, hoping that Starjammer’s flowing tail would swish to one side long enough for her to catch a glimpse of—

“Whatcha looking at?”

Startled, Bloody Velvet let out a faint squeak. Turning her head, she looked down at Woe Betide. Bloody Velvet’s mouth went as dry as the desert in the span of a second and she didn’t know how to respond to the filly’s inquiry. Avoiding the issue would only bring more questions. Knowing Woe Betide as well as Bloody Velvet did, she decided to be honest.

“I was trying to catch a peek at Starjammer’s goodies as he walked away.”

The filly rolled her eyes and let out a disgusted snort. “Pervert,” she said as she turned to walk away. She tucked her tail between her legs and trotted off, glancing over her shoulder at Bloody Velvet. “Stop looking at me.”

The absurdity of the situation lingered in the air for a moment and then, surprising herself, Bloody Velvet began to laugh. She threw back her head and guffawed at the series of events and their ever so strange conclusion.

 

 

“We have a ship,” Bloody Velvet said to Rye in a voice loud enough to be heard over the wind. “Still a good distance away. I’m about to wink over and let Captain Spyglass know. I don’t know what’s on it, but I sense misery even from this distance.”

“Nuts, here I was, enjoying myself, and these lovely days of not killing something.” Rye Mash’s face twisted into a scowl and his red, bloodshot eyes narrowed.

“Rye, you look terrible… you really need some sleep,” Bloody Velvet said.

“I can’t sleep… and you know why.” Rye Mash looked at The Whalefish. “You had better go tell the captain. I’m ready already. I’m bored. Let’s get this over with.”

 

 

“Coal steamer by the looks of it, you can see the smokestacks but no smoke. Ship’s not moving.” Spyglass pulled his telescope away from his eye and then slid it back into his broad black sash.

“Feels like a slaver ship. Lots of misery. All equine though.” Bloody Velvet looked at the pegasus beside her. “Dead in the air. Not moving. I don’t like this.”

“Might be a trap.” Spyglass gave a wise nod to the unicorn at his side. “She’s not a big ship, maybe a fifty footer. If there are no griffons, minotaurs, or diamond dogs, we might have found ourselves a slave ship run by ponies… and if that is the case… you know what we must do.”

“Yeah, I know.” Bloody Velvet heaved a weary sigh. “No quarter, no surrender, no prisoners. We have a reputation to maintain.”

“Get ready for a fight!” Captain Spyglass commanded.

 

 

The ship made no effort to protect itself. No cannons were fired. No pegasi swarmed off of the deck. No defensive spells or offensive spells happened. There was nothing, and this worried Rye Mash a great deal.

Even more worrisome were the foals visible on the deck as they approached. It confused Rye a great deal. If this was a trap, it was an elaborate one. Carried by Spyglass because Skeeter was still unwell, Rye Mash tried not to think about the fact that it was over a thousand feet down to the ocean below.

When his hooves hit the deck, he was greeted by wide staring eyes. Rye kept his guns away as he tried to figure out what was going on. This was something he wasn’t prepared for. He heard a grunt of confusion from Oola as she was set down beside him. It had taken several pegasi to carry her over.

“Hello,” one of the foals said in a small voice. A young colt, he stepped forwards and looked up at Captain Spyglass. “Are you here to help us?”

After taking a moment to gather his wits, Captain Spyglass took a deep breath and then replied with a question. “What happened here?”

The colt, who looked a little fearful, looked around at his fellow foals. “We were taken from our home. We come from the Shetlands. We were rounded up and taken during the sweeps.”

“Where are your captors?” Captain Spyglass asked, feeling a cautious sense of optimism that this excursion might end without killing.

“They all got sick and died,” the colt replied. “A few of us had the pony pox when we were taken. I think they got it.”

“Hmm.” Spyglass studied the colt.

“Captain?” Rye Mash said in low voice. “I’ve had the pony pox. We Shetlanders get it and we get a little sick, it covers us in little sores and blisters, but it doesn’t kill us very often. Mainlanders though… ponies not from the Shetlands… it’s known to kill. High fever, vomiting, and the explosive splatters.”

“Oh dear,” Captain Spyglass gasped. “Thank you, Mister Mash. Explosive splatters. Lovely.” The pegasus looked down at the colt. “Is anypony sick now?”

“Just the captain’s second mate. He’s locked himself into the captain’s quarters. I think he’s dying,” the colt replied. As he spoke, more foals crept forward, giving hopeful looks to Captain Spyglass and his crew.

“I take it everypony else is dead?” Spyglass looked around the deck at the starving foals. He could see far too many ribs, signs of dehydration, and abuse. He swallowed his rage and kept his calm, cool demeanour. “Mister Mash, since you are likely immune, would you mind paying a visit to the second mate?”

“I’d love to,” Rye replied. He looked down at the foals. “Can one of you take me to him? I’m a Shetlander… my name is Rye Mash.”

“Follow me,” a filly said in a raspy, hoarse voice.

 

 

The door was locked. This was a bit of a problem and Rye Mash wished that he had thought ahead. He stood there, feeling a little stupid, not quite knowing what to do. He glanced down at the filly and then looked at the door. It was a very sturdy door. Of course it was a sturdy door. You didn’t want slaves getting in and murdering you in your sleep.

“Move! Outathaway!”

Rye stepped back, squeezing against the wall as Oola came barreling forward through the narrow hallway. Oola, a kangaroo, was probably immune to pony pox. Rye watched as the kangaroo sized up the door.

“The captain said you’d be stymied by the door, runt,” Oola said.

“Rye—”

“Runt,” Oola said as she reached out and pinched Rye Mash’s cheek, giving it a good tug. “Aye, stand back, I can have this open in a jiffy!”

Rye moved back and the filly followed. As he watched, Oola leaned back, balanced upon her long tail, and she slammed both of her hind legs into the door. It was ripped from its hinges and fell to the floor with a clatter.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Rye Mash said as he stepped through the doorway and over the fallen door. “Stay outside of the door, little filly, we adults are about to do some very bad things. Oola, follow me if you will.”

 

 

The room reeked of urine and feces. There was a pony in the bed, a pegasus, and he did nothing but stare at his visitors. Rye Mash crossed the room, his head high, his attitude cocky, and Oola followed along at his side.

“Well, good day, sir. It seems that you have gone and caught yourself a case of the pony pox. How ya feeling?” Rye asked in a chipper voice.

The pegasus groaned but did not reply.

His eyes narrowing, Rye took a step forward. “I’m going to ask you questions. You know how this works. No sense in threatening you. Where to begin… where to begin.” Rye Mash glanced at Oola, saw her nod, and then asked, “Who do you work for?”

“Piss off,” the pegasus replied.

“Tsk tsk,” Rye clucked with his tongue. “What a pity. So much for being civil… Oola, make him screech.”

“Aye, my pleasure,” Oola replied as she stepped forwards.

Reaching down, the kangaroo grabbed the pegasus by the left front leg. She gave a good yank and then began twisting. Grinning, Oola gave another sharp yank on the twisted limb, and it popped from the socket, causing the pegasus to whimper. She gave another yank, heard a whimper, and then let go.

“That was not a screech,” Rye said in a somewhat annoyed voice.

“Whataya want me to do about it?” Oola looked down at Rye and shrugged.

“Who do you work for?” Rye asked in a low, flat monotone. “I am losing my patience. My hired help was told to make you screech, and she failed to do so. Now I am in a sour mood.”

Reaching back, Oola then dropped a left hook upon the side of the pegasus’ skull. “You got me chewed out by me boss, you toerag!” Oola pulled back her clenched fist and made ready for another strike.

“Tell me who you work for,” Rye demanded.

“Yer mother,” the pegasus said in a weak, wavering voice.

“Oola, here is your chance to redeem yourself. Make him screech.” Rye stepped back, his nostrils crinkling from the stench coming off of the bed.

“I think I know what’ll make him screech.” Oola grabbed the pegasus by the wing. “That’s just rude, by the way, talking about somebody’s mum.” Oola began twisting the wing, applying more and more pressure. She kept going when she saw the pegasus’ eyes open wide. There was a loud popping sound as the wing was dislocated and Oola smiled when she heard a screech. It wasn’t much of a screech, kind of pathetic, but there was no satisfaction like a job well done.

“Now, tell me who you work for, or I shall ask Oola to make you sing. In Canterlot, I loved to hear the voices of the castrati singers, until I learned what the word castrati meant.” Rye Mash’s eyes glittered with rage as he thought about all of the foals on the deck and there were plenty more belowdecks, no doubt. This had happened to him, and now, the memory was fresh in his mind. It was like ripping open a scab to let the infection out. It took every ounce of will that Rye possessed to maintain a calm outward appearance.

“Piss off—”

“Oola, I cannot abide his enduring attitude of defiance,” Rye said, shaking his head.

Scowling, Oola reached down, grabbed the pegasus, flipped him over, ignored his struggles, ignored the caked on filth, and snatched the pegasus by his testicles. With a yank, she hoisted the pegasus out of the bed, picking him up by his balls. She then slapped the pegasus in the face as he squirmed and made feeble kicks. The room filled with a high pitched siren wail as the pegasus dangled by his balls.

“Last time!” Rye shouted.

“House Evening Star!” the pegasus squeaked in a shrill, high pitched voice.

“And where were you going?” Rye demanded.

“Griffonholm!” the pegasus replied.

“You disgust me!” Snarling, Rye looked up at Oola. “Drop him.”

“With pleasure.” Oola gave one final fierce squeeze to the testicles she held in her left paw and then let go, dropping the pegasus to the floor. She stepped back, a lewd grin on her face.

Pulling out a pistol, Rye Mash pressed it against the pegasus’ skull and pulled the trigger, causing the pegasus’ brains to go spurting out of the other side of his head.

“I need to wash me paws, I do. I feel dirty,” Oola said.

 

 

 

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