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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22. Chapter 22

Rye Mash peeled open his bleary, sleep encrusted eyes. He had no idea how long he had been asleep. His mouth was dry and his tongue felt shriveled. His lips felt as though they were going to crack. He kicked his legs out of his bunk, hit the floor, and wobbled.

Faint memories of the nightmare that he had been having lingered. The burlap sack going over his head, the confusing darkness, the feeling of being whipped just to keep him afraid, so he would remain docile and submissive. He shook his head and then his whole body.

He made his way out of his cabin and stumbled off to the bathroom. He shuffled down the hall, stumbled into the wall, groaned, and tried to regain his balance. He watched a door open and then he saw Bloody Velvet step out into the hall.

“You’re awake.”

Rye Mash tried to talk, but his words came out as a hoarse croak, so he nodded.

“You’ve been asleep for almost eighteen hours. It’s going to be dawn soon.” Bloody Velvet clucked her tongue. “You look awful.”

Blinking, Rye Mash did not respond. He could not even begin to imagine how awful he might look. He looked at Bloody Velvet and saw Woe Betide wiggle between Bloody Velvet’s legs. The foal was looking up at him.

“You okay, Rye?” Woe Betide looked up at her rescuer, her eyes wide with worry.

There was no reply. Rye Mash shuffled off, almost tripping over his front hooves, heading for the bathroom. He failed to get the door open, walked into it, and almost fell over. It took several tries to get the door open. Once inside the bathroom, Rye Mash let out a loud, long moan as he began to relieve himself.

He did not shut the door behind him.

 

 

“I am off on an epic quest… a quest to find breakfast. I shall brave the wilds of this strange new land to find food,” Rye Mash said, sounding a bit more like himself. He held his head high. “I shall go into these wilds to find a delicious meal.” He looked over at Bloody Velvet and Woe Betide. Both were rolling their eyes at him. He looked over at Skeeter instead. “Skeeter… my brave and noble pegasus bodyguard, will you join me?”

Skeeter nodded. “Yeah… I think I’m feeling up to it.”

“Where is Starjammer?” Rye asked.

“He’s sleeping. He was up all night drawing pictures of Oola,” Woe replied.

“Huh.” This was not the reply that Rye Mash expected.

“I’m coming with you… will you have me for breakfast?” Mousy heard Bloody Velvet snort. It took a moment, but Mousy realised her mistake. “I mean, uh, um, that did not come out as intended.” Mousy’s ears drooped down against her face.

“Come with us, Miss Mousy.” Rye Mash made a sweeping bow and then winced. His head was still groggy and bowing made his temples throb. “I shall protect you from ruffians.”

“Rye Mash, a word, if you will.” Bloody Velvet’s eyebrow raised. “The Regulators here do not tolerate any sort of criminal acts. They have three penalties here… flogging, death, and being flogged to death. Keep your guns in their sheaths. This is a peaceful, safe place. Well, as much as any place can be in this day and age.”

“I will keep that in mind,” Rye Mash replied. He looked at Bloody Velvet, studying her face. She looked worried. “Do you have any plans?”

“I am going to take Woe to the beach and we’re going to look for seashells later.” Velvet looked at the foal sitting beside her. “Ready for a day of fun?”

Woe, who started bouncing in place, upon hearing Bloody Velvet’s words, nodded. “I wanna build a sand castle.”

“Miss Mousy, Skeeter, if you will accompany me.” Rye Made a gesture with his hoof towards the exit. “Breakfast is my treat. I have plenty of coin. Let’s go have a nice time.”

 

 

The city was very white and clean looking. The white adobe buildings almost gleamed in the sun. The white sand sparkled. The streets were filled with ponies pulling carts filled with all manner of goods. Some carts headed for the harbour, other carts headed inland, away from the harbour. Bottles of wine, large cheese wheels, wooden crates, alchemical goods, there was a little bit of everything here.

Standing on the wooden boardwalk, Rye Mash closed his eyes and took a deep breath, taking it all in, the wind blowing through his mane and his tail, whipping it out beside him. He cut a dashing figure in the wind.

“I wonder what passes for breakfast around here,” Mousy asked as the trio walked.

Skeeter shrugged, using his wings, and kept walking, his eyes wide as he took in everything. Sable Blanc was an amazing city. In the distance, a bell began to ring and Skeeter craned his head to try and see where the ringing was coming from.

“Skeeter, you going to be able to eat anything solid?” Rye asked.

The blue pegasus nodded. “I’m feeling better. I just have to eat slowly.”

“Good to hear.” Rye paused and looked around. “Over there. That looks like a cafe. There are a bunch of ponies sitting around and drinking coffee.”

“Something smells good,” Mousy said, holding her head high and sniffing. The earth pony was grinning from ear to ear as she took in everything around her. She also had a good chance to work on Rye Mash. The earth pony filly wondered what the sea breeze was doing to her mane.

Skeeter, who had signed on to see the world, had never seen anything like this. There were hardly any straight lines. Everything was smooth, flowing curves. The adobe buildings had no edges, no sharp angles. The tops of the buildings were graceful, curved domes and sweeping, flowing arches. The windows were all circular or oval. There were no rectangular or square windows to be seen. Even the doors had odd shapes. Keyhole shaped doors. Oval doors. Doors with arched tops. Some places didn’t even have doors; beaded curtains separated the inside from the outside. The whitewashed adobe buildings almost looked like shaped clouds, and something about this appealed to the pegasus.

 

 

“What passes for a local breakfast around here?” Mousy asked the waitress.

The waitress, a unicorn, gave Mousy a smile and replied in a heavy Shetland’s accent, “It’d be easier to show you than tell you. Would ye like the full breakfast, the light breakfast, or the farmer’s breakfast?”

“I’m starved. I slept for almost a day. I’m assuming the farmer’s breakfast is the one with the most food?” Rye asked, his eyebrow raised at a rakish angle.

“Aye… yer a Shetlander.” The waitress smiled. “And yer kinda cute too… ye come here to stay?”

“Ma’am, I just came here for the breakfast.” Rye rested his hooves upon the solid wooden table and looked over at Skeeter. “Care to gamble?”

The pegasus nodded. “I’ll take the light breakfast.”

“The farmer’s breakfast for me,” Rye said as he settled into his comfortable chair.

“Farmer’s breakfast for me as well,” Mousy added. Her ears perked forwards. “And tea. Do you have tea? If not, I can settle for coffee.”

“We have tea. Would ye like black tea or breakfast tea?” The waitress waited for a reply, her eyes locked on Mousy.

“Breakfast tea,” Mousy replied. “It comes pre-served, correct? I’m a bit clumsy.”

“Mousy, I will serve you tea,” Rye offered. “Have no worries.”

Mousy’s heart began to dance a funky rumba in her barrel and she batted her eyelashes at Rye as a way to say thank you. She watched the waitress jot everything down on a notepad.

“Two farmers’ spreads, a grazer plate, and enough breakfast tea for three!” the waitress shouted.

“You have any sort of juice?” Rye asked.

“Orange juice!” the waitress added.

“Perfect.” Rye sat back in his chair, feeling rather content. So far, this was the perfect day. He yawned, letting out a faint whine. This is just what he needed. A nice relaxing day. A day without violence.

 

 

Seeing the platter set in front of him, Rye’s eyes bulged. He didn’t even recognise most of the food on the platter. There were plenty of melon wedges, but he didn’t recognise all of the different types. There was cantaloupe, Rye recognised that, but there were also green melon wedges, something yellow, and something blue with green seeds. Orange wedges lay in a pile. There were lots of grapes of different colours. Some kind of yellow-orange fruit that looked like a cherry. In the middle of it all there was a bowl of something white and on a separate platter, there was some kind of flat, chewy looking bread, piled high.

“Bon appétit!” the waitress said as she departed to look after her other customers.

“I don’t even know what this is,” Skeeter whispered to Rye. “And I don’t care. It looks good.” The pegasus leaned forwards and stuck his muzzle down into the bowl filled with fluffy white stuff. He pulled up a moment later, licking his lips.

“What is it?” Mousy asked.

“It’s like the thickest, creamiest whip cream ever,” Skeeter replied. “I think you dip your fruit into it.” The pegasus picked up a piece of melon in his teeth, dipped it into the bowl, covering the piece of melon with whipped cream, and then threw his head back to get the piece of melon into his mouth. He chewed and closed his eyes. The pegasus chewed on his uninjured side, doing so slowly and with great care.

Rye began serving tea, pouring it into cups that already had milk, and he added a few lumps of some light, toasty brown sugar. He watched as Mousy tore into her food, dipping bits of fruit into her massive bowl of cream and then gobbling them down with gusto. Mousy and Skeeter didn’t have magic to help them eat, to help them stay neat and tidy. Rye didn’t care, either. He was enjoying himself. He took a drink of orange juice; it was thick and pulpy.

“These slices of fruit are star shaped… how weird,” Mousy said between bites.

“I have no idea what these pieces of bread are, but they’re good,” Skeeter said as he pulled one off of his side plate. He pinned the bread between his hooves and gingerly tore off a piece, mindful of his healing face. “They’re warm.”

Rye picked up a piece of the bread, tossed a few chunks of fruit into the middle, and then added a dollop of the thick, heavy whipped cream. He rolled up the whole thing and took a bite as he watched Mousy sample her tea, sticking her puckered lips down into the cup.

“What are these?” Skeeter asked with his mouth full. “I like these a lot.”

“Crepes,” the waitress said as she walked by.

Mousy, holding a spoon in her lips, scooped fruit onto a crepe, then added some whipped cream. She put the spoon down, dropping it from her lips, and it clattered to the table. She had trouble folding it while trying to use her lips, and covered her snoot in heavy cream. No longer caring if she got it perfect, Mousy tore away a big bite, smacked her lips, and began chewing.

“Oh, I could live like this,” Rye said between bites. He leaned back in his chair and chewed. This was a feast for the senses. Not only was the food delicious, but the smell, the texture, the contrasts of different types of food in his mouth—the closeness of his friends. He glanced over at Mousy. Was she his friend? He supposed that she was. He saw her glance at him and give him a little smirking smile. She had whipped cream on her nose.

“What are we doing after breakfast?” Skeeter asked.

“I have no idea,” Rye replied.

Skeeter swallowed. “We could go to the beach.”

“Or wesh coulf goshee fee sheeshes,” Mousy suggested with her mouth full.

“I’ll confess, I’m curious about cheese.” Skeeter looked over at Mousy. She was an enthusiastic eater.

“Might I recommend a climb to the top of the lighthouse?” The waitress smiled as she paused near the table. “Yer in need of more juice. I’ll bring some.”

“Thank you.” Rye made a mental note to add a good tip. He looked at his companions, Skeeter first, then Mousy, and then said, “Why not do everything we can?”

 

 

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