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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21. Chapter 21

Rye Mash took a deep, calming breath that did nothing to calm him. He looked down at the deck, staring for a moment, and then looked up at Captain Spyglass, his eyes pleading for some kind of reassurance. He drew another shuddering breath, shook his head, and then cleared his throat.

“Mister Mash, it is not a big loss. I am certain we will find a few helpful bits of documentation. Please, do try to be calm,” Captain Spyglass said to his cabin colt.

“We have to take them home,” Rye Mash blurted out.

Captain Spyglass stood still, unmoving, staring at his cabin colt. He sighed, looking thoughtful, and after a long moment, he shook his head. “We can’t do that. The Shetlands are too far away. The resources needed for that length of a trip would be—”

“We need to take them home!” Rye shouted, his voice cracking as he struggled to contain his emotion. He took a step towards his captain, his eyes narrow, pleading. “They were stolen just like I was stolen.”

“And if we took them back, they would just be stolen again, Mister Mash. What’s done is done.” Captain Spyglass’ eyes narrowed and his ears splayed out sideways. “Mister Mash, we will help them, I give you my word. In Fancy, there is a sizable population of Clan Pickled. They have wineries and vast tracts of farmland. They are a regional power. I daresay they will be better off in Fancy.”

“Okay,” Rye Mash replied, relenting.

Captain Spyglass looked around the deck, hopeful for a better future for the foals that had been recovered, worried about disease, and feeling concerned for his cabin colt, who appeared to be under significant stress. “Mister Mash, I assure you, Fancy will be a very good place for them. I know that this is difficult for you, but I do hope that you will trust me.”

Rye Mash replied in the form of a sigh. “I do.”

“Please, go search the cabin for anything useful. Let me know if you find anything,” Captain Spyglass said to Rye Mash.

 

 

The corpse was now gone, but the filth remained, the bed a sanitation nightmare. There was only scant documentation to be found. A few bills of sale, a letter, an agreement with the official seal of House Evening Star, and a shipping invoice that made no mention of foals, only resources and ‘foodstuffs’ that were being sold to ‘foreign investors.’

Rye Mash worried that he would suffocate upon his rage as he continued to search the cabin. Tears stung the corners of his eyes as he worked. He felt hot, as though he had a fever, and he was plagued by nausea.

There was a crash followed by the splintering of wood as Oola kicked apart a wooden desk. Rye watched as the kangaroo sorted through the wreckage, lifting up the wooden drawers and going over the inside of the desk.

“Found something,” Oola said as she held up a wooden drawer.

The sides of the drawer had hidden catch mechanisms to release the drawer from the desk, something that a unicorn might have been able to trigger to pull the drawer out. Hidden on the end of the drawer was a paper envelope secured to the wood, outside of the drawer, the outer part that would have been flush along the inside of the drawer’s housing.

Rye Mash ripped away the paper.

It was a tax notification, a document stating that taxes had been paid to House Avarice and with the tax notification was a writ of protection, a piece of paper that promised safe passage if shown to any allies of House Avarice.

The papers were, by and large, useless. The tax notification was stamped for miscellaneous resources and foreign foodstuffs. There were no names upon the papers. He placed them with the rest of the papers and then looked up at Oola.

“Thank you,” he said in a raspy voice.

“You look awful.” Reaching down, Oola grabbed Rye Mash and with no real effort at all, she lifted him up, holding him up at eye level, her hands gripping him just below his forelegs, against his ribs. “You ain’t slept in a while and you look terrible.”

“I’m angry,” Rye Mash said as he dangled in Oola’s grasp.

“Fancy a shag to feel better?” Oola asked.

Rye Mash shook his head. “No thank you, Oola. It’s nothing personal against you, I just don’t think it would make me feel better.”

“It’d make me feel better,” Oola said, a grin creeping along her features. “If you won’t shag me, you should shag somebody. How about little Miss Mousy? I bet we could get her drunk. Or if you are in the mood for buggery, we could get little Miss Priss into the bed with ya… Starjammer prolly wouldn’t need much in the way of booze to get him agreeable.”

“Oola, thank you for helping me today… I know it was dirty work but—”

“Oh, I enjoyed my work. You ever need a hired goon in the future and I’m all yours.” Oola set Rye Mash down upon the floor, patted him on his head, and then leaned back on her long tail. “Think we’re done here?”

“I think so, Oola,” Rye replied.

 

 

Towed behind The Whalefish, the captured vessel soared through the starry sky. The foals, now made as comfortable as possible, most of them were below decks, sleeping away the night. A few were awake though, prowling the deck, older foals who looked after the smaller ones.

Standing guard on the deck, Rye Mash stood, his cloak wrapped around his body. He stood silent, almost unmoving, remaining upon the captured vessel to look after what he felt was precious cargo.

Alone with his thoughts, Rye Mash thought about when he had been taken in the sweeps all those years ago. Stolen away from his mother, beaten, humiliated, almost broken, and then all of the years of being told how worthless he was, how easily he could be replaced. How lucky he had been to have been taken, to have been lifted up out of the muck and brought to civilisation. How privileged he was, how blessed he was.

Perhaps he had been lucky. Rye Mash considered the fate of these foals. They were being shipped to Griffonholm… as food. It was almost unbelieveable. It seemed so far fetched, yet here he was, sitting on a vessel filled with proof.

Worthless proof that would do nothing. Accomplish nothing. Some ponies were just too powerful. House Avarice followed the golden rule. They had the gold, they made the rules. For a long time, Rye Mash had believed the lie. That he wasn’t a slave, he was a servant, and he was paying a debt for his ‘rescue.’

Gritting and grinding his teeth, Rye Mash could scarcely contain his rage.

 

 

Sable Blanc was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The beach that stretched along the coast consisted of white sand. Almost every building in Sable Blanc was made out of white adobe. Rolling hills extended away from the coastline, hills covered in vineyards for as far as the eye could see.

The city by the sea was a mixed community, filled with ponies, zebras, and colony of minotaurs that maintained the fishing fleet. The city had a natural harbour of sorts, a wall of jutting, spiky rocks, some of which were almost a hundred feet tall. On a small island at the mouth of the harbour, there was a fortress with cannons, towers, and a beautiful white lighthouse.

As the trio of vessels approached Sable Blanc, two swift moving airships rose from the fortress to greet them in the air. Small vessels that bristled with guns. Being a coastal city, Sable Blanc had to protect its interests and its citizens, and no vessels approached without inspection.

 

 

“Hello Chapelwood,” Captain Spyglass said to the pegasus landing on the deck. “It has been a while since we met last.”

“Hello Spyglass, you old pirate,” Chapelwood replied in a voice that had a thick accent.

“You wound me, old friend.” Spyglass bowed his head and extended his wings, showing that he was unarmed and had no hidden weapons.

“I see you captured another vessel,” Chapelwood said to Spyglass.

“Some of yours, actually.” Spyglass waited a second for his words to sink in before he continued. “Clan Pickled. They were being sold as foodstuffs and were on their way to Griffonholm.”

“Feckin’ buggery.” Seeing Bloody Velvet, Chapelwood scowled. “Forgive me.”

“Nothing to forgive. I’ve heard worse… living among pirates.” Bloody Velvet smiled at Chapelwood. “How are you Woody? How are the wives?”

“Bitchy,” Chapelwood replied. “I married one Shetland mare and she’s ruined all the meek little Fancy mares I’ve collected.”

Standing beside Captain Spyglass, Bloody Velvet began to chuckle. She made a gesture at the captured vessel. “All foals. The entire lot of them. They’ll need homes.”

“That can be arranged.” Chapelwood looked over at the vessel. “The vineyards will need workers. I hope you brought me some fine Shetland earth ponies. Nothing, and I mean nothing makes the soil around here favourable like Shetland earth pony hooves.”

“Plenty of earth ponies,” Spyglass replied. The pegasus, looking serious, peered at his friend. “Some of them are a little sick and half starved. They’ll need some care before being shuffled off to work.”

“You know that they’ll be looked after.” Chapelwood heaved a sigh. “More and more, Fancy is becoming the new homeland of Clan Pickled. Sometimes I wonder if I should take all of my wealth and my influence and clear those isles myself.”

“Woody, you and I both know that as bad as it is, those isles are home… and nopony wants to be torn from their home,” Spyglass said to his friend.

“Those isles are spooky, weird, and awful.” Chapelwood shook his head.

“I have a Shetlander as my cabin colt. I would introduce you, but he is currently asleep after being awake for several days and standing watch over all of the foals last night.” Spyglass grinned. “You know, Rye Mash reminds me of you, just a little bit. Fearless, devoted—”

“And murderous?” Chapelwood asked.

“Perhaps. Just a little,” Spyglass replied. He looked at his fellow pegasus, his expression serious. “There is something about that colt. He has potential. He has done nothing but surprise me. He is quick witted, learns fast, thinks on his hooves, I think you will like him.”

“If I do, I might have to steal him away. I could use more Regulators.” Chapelwood looked at the crew and then brought his gaze back to Spyglass. “The rules state that no pirates are allowed in Sable Blanc.” Chapelwood made a gesture, pointing towards the fortress. “I have over four hundred bodies swinging in the wind, each one of them pirates. Tell me, any pirates in your crew?”

Spyglass stepped forwards and looked Chapelwood in the eye. “Not a one.”

“Good. You all are welcome to stay as visitors in Sable Blanc. Your captain shall inform you of the rules. Do not run afoul of the Regulators. All crimes within the city of Sable Blanc are punished in one of three ways; flogging, death, and being flogged to death. We are just about the most peaceful city on the coast and I will not have my beloved peace disturbed.”

“Make port!” Captain Spyglass commanded. “Ease in! There’ll be tugs to pull us into port. Make ready, and prepare to take on goods!”

“I am heading back to The Apogee.” Bloody Velvet looked at Spyglass. “I need to make certain that Mousy understands that any acts of theft will get her flogged or hung.”

“Check on Mister Mash… I am worried,” Spyglass ordered.

“Yes sir, I will do so, sir,” Bloody Velvet replied. She waved her hoof, then vanished.

“Woody, I’ve come for your cheeses… don’t make me sack your beautiful city!”

“You don’t have the balls!” Chapelwood made a dismissive gesture with his wings.

“Actually, Woody, before we discuss the cheese trade, there is something else I would like to speak with you about in private… think you could arrange for us to have a quiet, secluded place where we could talk about something that is of utmost importance?”

“It could be arranged.” Chapelwood’s eyes narrowed. “Are you about to ask me to do something illegal?”

“Woody, you wound me… I thought we were friends…”

 

 

 

 

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