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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26. Chapter 26

Feeling troubled, Rye Mash reflected upon his meeting with Princess Celestia. There was a lot she wasn’t telling them. Something big was going on, that much was clear, but the details of whatever it was were unclear. Rye suspected that the gold that had been aboard The Apogee had something to do with it, along with the ciphers they had found. He wondered if the Broker knew more.

Captain Spyglass, being a good captain that cared for his crew, secured pardons for each one of his crewmembers by name, a binding document with legal powers. As for Rye Mash himself, he, along with several others, had privateer contracts—Rye could not see any real difference between pirates and privateers, but Captain Spyglass assured him there was a great deal of difference.

There was also the matter of the up front payment, aside from all of the pardons, legal documents, and other kind gestures; Princess Celestia had given Rye a sword. The sword, a hanger, looked like a cutlass or a sabre that a griffon, a minotaur, or perhaps a diamond dog might favour. Rye, not magically well off, saw the hanger as a practical gift and was wearing it now as he paced the deck, thinking about everything. The sword had a blazing sun engraved on the pommel and was a beautiful weapon. Rye knew nothing about swords, but he knew it would be useful. Just another tool for the job. It was quiet, something that a gun wasn’t.

Hearing hoofsteps, he turned and saw Bloody Velvet. She was standing on deck, looking at Princess Celestia’s airship, which was moored nearby. Velvet looked afraid, she was shaking, very much so, and her ears were pinned back against her skull in a fearful, submissive manner.

“Are you going to be okay?” Rye asked.

“I think so,” Velvet replied, her voice was difficult to hear over the wind and the sounds of the ships whisper. “She scares me… I wish she would go away. I wish we weren’t helping her… why us, Rye?”

“We’re able bodied and capable.” Rye moved towards Velvet, feeling bad for her, but not knowing how to comfort her. The source of all of Velvet’s fears was but a short distance away.

“I can still feel her in my mind… I want my privacy back,” Velvet said to Rye. She turned and looked at her unicorn companion. “Rye, I’m so sorry that I stay stuck inside your head. I wish I could give you the privacy you deserve. Having… her inside of my head always drives that point home and makes me hate the power I have.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Rye, hoping his gesture would not be seen the wrong way, bumped up against Velvet, trying to be friendly. “How is Starjammer?”

“He has drank himself into a stupour. He’s out cold. She really messed him up.” Bloody Velvet leaned up against Rye, her muscles quivering, her ears twitching, and her eyelids were blinking out of sync. Velvet, not a pony given to many moments of affection, rested her head against Rye’s neck and she felt the pommels of several pistols pressing into her ribs.

For some reason, it was comforting to be next to Rye. He smelled of oil, of leather, of gunpowder, of steel, and the nose tickling scent of tea. For Velvet, it was nice to drop her guard and allow herself to feel vulnerable for a moment. Rye had proven himself to be trustworthy, he was a gentlepony. Velvet closed her eyes, she trembled, and continued to lean against Rye.

“We’re supposed to meet again with Princess Celestia tomorrow. Captain Spyglass has asked me to be there… I can’t do it, Rye… what do I do?” Velvet opened her eyes and watched a wing of pegasi circle around Princess Celestia’s airship.

“Just be honest, tell him you can’t, and hope that he understands,” Rye replied. He felt his insides squirming, this might have been the most uncomfortable moment of his life. Velvet, the tough as nails take no shite from nopony hardarse, was acting like a mare.

Not that mares were weak, Velvet was proof of that, but she was acting weird and Rye could think of no other way of putting it. Too late, he realised that Velvet knew what he was thinking. He tried to empty out his brain and focused on just trying to be a good friend and not thinking about anything at all.

“Thank you, Rye, for being a good friend. I think I am going to go below decks and lay down for a while. I have a headache coming on.” Velvet wobbled on her legs for a moment as she pulled herself away from Rye and found her balance.

“I hope you get to feeling better.” Rye watched as Velvet stumbled away, wondering what he was going to do with himself. He felt worried, anxious, and out of sorts. He glanced over at Princess Celestia’s airship, then glanced at the town of Sable Blanc.

Rye had an idea. Rye, being young and stupid, had the sort of idea that comes with youth. He decided to kick up his heels, he could do with a bit of celebration. He was young, he was free, he had a piece of paper that was supposed to keep him from being hung by his neck until dead.

Life, it seemed, was good.

 

 

Alone, Rye Mash prowled Sable Blanc. No one else was in the mood to do anything. Skeeter wanted nothing more than to lay down and get more sleep. Velvet had a headache. Starjammer had secreted himself away and was no doubt pickled. Even Mousy had refused him, deciding to spend time with Woe Betide. Oola was with the captain, doing whatever it was that kangaroos did when in the company of captains.

With Princess Celestia in town, the atmosphere of Sable Blanc could only be described as subdued. Extra Regulators patrolled the streets, preventing any and all forms of trouble. Surprising himself, Rye Mash had left his weapons aboard The Apogee, tucked away in his cabin. He was out to have a nice time, not kill someone. Sable Blanc was supposed to be safe, and Rye wanted to have fun, let go, and kick up his heels.

 

 

Craning his head, Rye looked up at the sign above him. A light shone upon it, it was large, made of wood, and painted. It showed a pony being romantic with a wheel of cheese. Just looking at it made Rye blush, the sign spared no detail. At the bottom of the sign in bright red letters were the words “Fromage Frottant.”

Rye had no idea what the words meant, but he guessed that it was something vulgar in Fancy. He stared upwards, open mouthed, his eyes wide. The more he looked at it, the funnier he felt. Something about the painting was erotic, but Rye couldn’t put his hoof on what it was. He hoped that he wasn’t becoming attracted to cheese.

Pushing open the door, Rye was blasted with a wave of heat and sound. The inside of the public house was sweltering, full of hot bodies all crammed in. The smell of food cooking, sweaty bodies, and beer filled Rye’s nose. On stage, a mare and a stallion were singing a duet in Fancy, and Rye had no idea what was being sung. The mare kept singing the words “amour écolière” while the stallion sang an unknown chorus.

Rye found himself swept inside. An out of tune piano kept pace with the singers, along with an accordion, a horn, and some sort of stringed instrument that Rye did not recognise. The music seemed strange, exotic, yet also somehow familiar.

The flow of bodies was like an ocean current—Rye found himself swept along, moving with the current, not trying to fight it. He found himself near an empty table and broke free from the moving, swaying, dancing bodies. The table, small, suitable for one or as a romantic table for two, had no chair, it was just a low table to keep one’s food and drink up off of the floor.

Sitting alone at his table, Rye looked at the crowd of revelers. Many of the ponies were his age. Young mares, young stallions, he found his eye lingering over both. Some were handsome, some were pretty, both were worth looking at. Rye could not help but feel a little lonesome in this situation. The couples were dancing, necking, swaying and moving with the music in such a way that suggested that there would be other kinds of dancing later. The air was thick with both romance and lust, some couples having both, some couples having one but not the other.

“What’ll ya be having?” an older looking unicorn stared at Rye, a faint smirk upon her face.

“To start with, what smells so good… spicy—”

“Fried potatoes with creamy pepper gravy,” the mare replied before Rye even had a chance to finish. “The house special. What’ll ya be washing it down with?”

“Wine,” Rye replied, feeling sophisticated and grown up. “I mean, that is the local drink, correct?” He looked at the waitress, hoping he didn’t appear stupid or immature. She was still smirking at him and something about her smirk made him want to squirm.

“I can bring you a lovely bottle of red or white, your pick.”

“Red.” Rye licked his lips, the smell was driving him crazy. Not just the smell of food, something else was in the air, something that gave him electric tingles in his nose. His throat felt dry and he felt thirsty in a weird way.

“We also have some well aged Clan Pickled whiskey… single malt.” The smirking mare gave Rye a wry grin. “With each passing minute we have less and less. Would you care to try some?”

“Yes, that would be wonderful,” Rye replied.

“Shall I bring you a bottle or a glass?” the serving mare asked.

“Um, a bottle…” Rye wasn’t certain just how one ordered whiskey.

“Spicy potatoes with creamy pepper gravy, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of whiskey. Anything else?” The mare’s tail flicked around a bit as she stood waiting, still smirking, her expression one of near laughter.

“That’ll do, I think, at least for now. I might have more to drink later.” Rye Mash felt a little uncomfortable, but dismissed it. “Thank you, by the way.”

“Oh, you’re welcome.”

Hearing the mare’s reply, Rye was unable to tell if she was being sarcastic.

 

 

The potatoes were fried in such a way that they were crispy, chewy even, on the outside and soft on the inside. They came in a large wooden bowl, smothered in white, creamy gravy that was dusted with pepper. No spoon had been brought to the table, just the blue wooden bowl filled with crispy fried potatoes and gravy.

The wine was somewhat bitter at first, but with each swallow, the wine grew sweeter. Rye found that he liked it a great deal. The bottle of whiskey sat in the middle of the table, it was a little bit smaller, just a tiny bit shorter than the bottle of wine. As he took a drink from the bottle, the sounds of enthusiastic lovemaking filled his now perking ears. He heard grunting, panting, little whimpers, all of which grew with intensity. Some of the patrons were hooting, some cheering, and still others were stomping their hooves. The sound from the lusty couple was coming from out of a back room, some place out of sight.

After setting down his wine bottle, Rye buried his muzzle once more into his food and began eating, trying to keep his face from getting too messy. It was difficult to eat with the sounds of two ponies rutting, but Rye supposed that it was part of the local charm. The regulars seemed to be enjoying it a great deal and the two singers, who looked damp and sweaty, were taking a break.

Enjoying himself a great deal, Rye gobbled down his potatoes.

 

 

The wine was so fantastic that Rye ordered another bottle. He could always take the whiskey back to the ship with him. He felt relaxed now, happy, it didn’t bother him in the slightest that two stallions were now going at it with great vigour in the hidden room. Grinning from ear to ear, Rye tipped back his second bottle of wine and took a long drink. He smacked his lips, belched, then licked the wine and flecks of leftover gravy from his lips. He had licked his bowl so clean that the kitchen could have just put it back on the shelf.

He felt hot, too hot, the room was still sweltering, but for some reason, now, the heat did not bother him. He was sweating, he was soaked, he could feel the sweat running down his body, but for whatever reason, he had stopped caring about being too warm. He felt wonderful.

The singing duet were crooning to one another, he kept hearing the word “bouc” and “ménage à trois.” He was dead certain that the song was dirty, but he had no idea what was being said. He was a stranger in a strange land that had delicious wine, spicy potatoes, peppery gravy, and smirking waitresses that somehow showed up at the exact moment they were needed.

After finishing off his wine, Rye Mash came to a worrisome conclusion. His table was a lonesome place. His friends, his companions, those he cared about, were stowed away in their cabins. They were miserable and afraid. He wanted them to be happy, just like he was feeling happy right now. He was so happy that he felt lightheaded. It felt like something fuzzy was in his ears. He could feel the warm rush of blood in his own neck. He felt alive, very much so. He was feeling generous. His friends needed a pick-me-up.

Almost as if by magic, the smirking waitress was there. Rye blinked a few times, surprised to see her. Unicorns… they had impressive magical powers. Even waitresses! He stared at her for a moment, she had used her magic to make herself a whole lot younger and a whole lot prettier. Wow! She was good looking. She didn’t look much older than he was. Rye licked his lips and wondered for a brief moment if the waitress wanted to disappear into the secret room with him.

He paused, remembering his friends. As much as he wanted to get to know the waitress a little better, he had his friends to think about. He had a mission. He had to make them feel better. They needed to feel happy just like he did. He grinned at the pretty waitress who was now somehow his own age.

“Hi.” Rye leaned forward, his barrel pressing against his table. “I has some ship back on my friends.” Rye stopped for a moment and thought about his own words. Something didn’t seem right, but after spending a few seconds thinking about what he had said, everything had seemed okay, he couldn’t find fault with what had been spoken.

“I bet you do,” the smirking waitress replied.

“I want to make my friends happy… I need more wine… so I can take it home to them. Maybe a few bottles of whiskey too… I have a lot of friends and there is a big kangaroo.”

“Sure there is,” the smirking waitress said to Rye.

“No, really, there is a kangaroo and she’s a boxer. Her name is Oola and she’s vulgar. I like her… anyhow, I need some wine and some whiskey to take home with me.” Rye wished the waitress would stop doing magic—for a moment, he had seen two of her. One good looking young mare was tempting, but seeing two of them was causing Rye a bit of a problem. Two good looking young mares were better than one. She was trying to seduce him with magic and Rye knew that he needed to go.

“Sure thing, I’ll get you a small cask of wine to take with you and a small cask of whiskey. You have enough coin?” The waitress’ smirk vanished and she gave Rye a hard look.

It was difficult to do magic, but Rye pulled out his coin purse from a leather pouch attached to his body harness. He opened it and began tossing out bright silver and gold coins. After several thumped down on the table, he saw the waitress nod.

“That’ll be enough. You just sit tight and I’ll bring you some wine and some whiskey for you to take back to your kangaroo.” The waitress’ smirk returned and she gave Rye a saucy wink. “Try not to get into trouble, hurry back to your ship, and be careful. The Regulators don’t take kindly to drunken troublemakers. Drunks are fine, but if you cause trouble, they’ll flog you while you are hungover.”

“Oh, that sounds very bad,” Rye replied. “Thank you… I’ll be careful, I promise…”

 

 

 

 

 

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