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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35. Chapter 35

Bloody Velvet seemed just a teensy-weensy bit angry and Rye Mash, who was feeling bold, continued to look her in the eye. He felt no need to justify what he had done. Velvet trembled, either from her disease or from near apoplectic rage. One eyelid fluttered, the corner of her mouth twitched, and when she blinked, it was out of synch.

In the common room of The Apogee, eleven rescued slaves were getting warm, with Starjammer being a gracious, if silent host. Mousy too, was getting warm, but she was standing beside Rye, saying nothing, observing the contest of wills between Rye and Velvet.

“Rye… what were you thinking? I mean, how could you just do this? You had the chance to just waltz right in, find out what you needed to know, and waltz right back out. You could have learned everything you needed to know—”

“No,” Rye said in a forceful voice, butting in and cutting Velvet off.

“No?” Velvet’s eyebrow rose. “And do tell, what magnificent excuse do you have that could possibly justify this? How could you possibly justify putting all of us at risk?”

Ears drooping, Rye turned away and his gaze fell upon Mousy. He had his reasons, but he felt ashamed for having them. He had let his emotions get the better of him. He stood in silence, unable to look at Bloody Velvet, feeling very much like a colt being scolded by his mother.

Rye felt his muzzle grabbed in the firm grasp of magic and his head was yanked around, forcing him to look into Bloody Velvet’s eyes once more. He blinked, then stared, and then attempted to pull himself free, but Velvet’s grip was just too strong, her magic irresistible.

“Tell me. Make me understand. I know you have your reasons.” Velvet’s face hardened into an unreadable mask, her left cheek twitching. “And for your sake, they had better be good reasons… you’ve put us all at risk.”

“He treated Mousy like a piece of meat!” Rye snapped, his lip curling back into a snarl as he once more tried to jerk his muzzle free of Velvet’s grip. “He grabbed her and started looking at her teeth and he was touching her and I wanted to kill him right there in the tea shop!”

Much to Rye’s surprise, the grip upon his muzzle eased and then was gone completely. The hard look on Bloody Velvet’s face softened and Rye began to feel a little confused, no longer certain what was going on. His ears perked as he heard Mousy say, “You mean you did this for me?”

Sucking in a deep breath, Rye felt his mouth go dry. Thinking back to the moment, he felt his rage boiling up again, and the muscles in his stomach quivered. He thought about Byron’s disgusting magic touching Mousy and his frogs began to sweat. It was the only thing he could think of that was worse than somepony trying to take his guns away.

“I understand,” Bloody Velvet said as she stretched her neck out and bumped her snoot against Rye’s. “Had I been there with you, I might have even told you to kill the incorrigible bastard.” Velvet pulled away, but her eyes remained on Rye. “The whole town is on alert. There are guards and patrols everywhere. I’m not sure what we can do now.”

“This is a good thing,” Rye said in a low voice.

“How is this good thing? Do tell, Mister Mash.” A stern expression returned to Velvet’s face. “The town is swarming with armed guards. How are we going to get into the prison? What options did you leave us?”

“If the guards are all out on the town, they’re not in the prison.” Mousy stepped forwards and brushed up against Rye’s side, a growing feeling of affection and attraction welling in her breast. “We’ve learned quite a bit from the prisoners. There is a back entrance to the prison, the slave gate. It’s further down the mountain… but just a ways. It’ll be guarded, but if we can dispose of the guards, we might be able to sneak inside the prison through the slave gate. The tunnel is not overly guarded and it goes right into the heart of the prison.”

“Hmm.” Bloody Velvet eyed Mousy and then her gaze turned back to Rye.

“Doctor Lapin is in the prison… he went soft and showed too much sympathy for the slaves. He was supposed to geld them, spay them, treat their wounds, and do things like surgically hobble them… and he did for a time. He suffered pangs of conscience and refused to bring harm to his patients. He’s locked away and they’ve been torturing him.” Rye gritted his teeth for a moment and wondered how he would say the rest of his budding plan without Bloody Velvet gelding him.

Bloody Velvet sat down on the floor, reached up, and rubbed her convulsing cheek with the side of her fetlock. She heaved a weary sigh and then closed her eyes. Captain Spyglass had left her in charge. This was her call. She thought about pulling out, fleeing this place, but that would mean dealing with Princess Celestia. Velvet was curious as to why they needed Lapin and what he had to do with Stella.

“To get inside of the prison, we’re going to need a small, stealthy group,” Mousy began, saying what needed to be said. “We’ll need Rye and his guns of course. I plan to go because we’ll need somepony sneaky… we’ll also need somepony to deal with locks. There are several locked gates along the way—”

“You want to drag Woe into this?” Bloody Velvet’s eyes opened and her baleful gaze once more locked onto Rye and Mousy.

“Well, she’s being trained for this,” Rye replied.

“But we can’t have you and Starjammer going.” Mousy, seeing murder in Bloody Velvet’s eyes, took a step backwards and gave the unicorn mare a submissive smile, her ears drooped, and her tail tucked between her legs.

“And why not?” Bloody Velvet asked in a cold voice.

Rye Mash replied, “If something goes wrong we’ll need a rescue. You and Starjammer could level the castle, no doubt. There aren’t many unicorns on the side of the slavers. Oh, there’s a few, but they’re not very powerful. Byron was probably the most powerful unicorn they had, but he’s dead.”

“Kerpow… shotgun blast… right to the potato sack.” Mousy’s lips puckered and she made a popping sound, then her eyes went wide and her ears stood up. “Rye actually pressed his shotgun right up against Lord High and Mighty’s crotch and pulled the trigger. Brass and lead went right up Lord High and Mighty’s bunghole. Blew his tail clean off.”

“Oh… that’s ghastly…” Bloody Velvet cringed and shook her head.

“Funny you say that, Byron thought that Rye was pretty ghastly too.” Mousy turned and looked at Rye. “I think he’s handsome. He made me feel special.”

Bloody Velvet reached up and began to rub her temple. “Back on subject… do you think you can sneak inside and get Doctor Lapin and then get back out?” Velvet closed her eyes again, feeling a headache coming on. “Can you keep Woe safe? I’ve become very fond of her, I have. I miss my own foals that I left back at home.”

Rye felt as though he had just been kicked in the stomach. He had forgotten that Bloody Velvet had once had a family before taking up life on an airship. She had once had a husband… foals… a life… wealth. She had once had everything. Of course she would be fond of Woe—even if Woe wasn’t exactly the cuddly, adorable type of foal. She was crude, crass, vulgar, and had a mouth dirtier than a chimney.

“It’s going to be dangerous,” Mousy said in a low voice, “and it is even more dangerous to make promises you have no way of knowing if you can keep.”

Bloody Velvet heaved a sigh, opened her eyes, and stared at the earth pony. Mousy’s ear was still a bit bloody from earlier. Mousy was canny, smart, far smarter than Bloody had first guessed, and if Velvet had to trust something, she could trust in Mousy’s cunning. Rye was shaping up to be a killer, but Mousy was ruthless. Together… Bloody Velvet could not help but feel that they would make quite a pair.

“So we go to this back gate and I’ll take out the guards before they have a chance to alert anyone. I’ll give you, Mousy, and Woe an aversion spell to make you a little less noticeable. You’ll go inside and rescue Doctor Lapin.” Bloody Velvet cleared her throat. “Rye, this goes without saying, but we can’t hold all of the prisoners on this ship. I know this is a hard thing to have to do, but you can’t rescue everypony that you find. You can’t save them.”

Rye nodded. “I know.”

“And Spyglass is going to have kittens because of the ones you did rescue… I don’t know where we’ll put them. I guess we’ll have to sail back to Sable Blanc. He’s probably going to lecture you, Rye.” Bloody Velvet gave Rye a wry smile.

“I’m due for a lecture anyway,” Rye replied.

“We’ll sort out more of the plan later. For now, you two should get something to eat. It’s going to be a long night.” Bloody Velvet stood up on trembling legs and her gaze fell upon Rye. “I expect you to be just as protective of Woe as you are of Mousy. Today, you killed a pony just for touching your mare. If somepony, or something brings harm to Woe, I want you to do what you do best. Murderise the lot of them. No mercy, Rye. Just hot lead and plenty of it.”

There was no mirth in Velvet’s words, no trace of jest, Rye Mash could only detect the sincere, heartfelt words of a mother asking for her foal to be looked after. He felt his guts clench and the muscles in his back tensed. He nodded. The back of his mind began to wonder what sort of messed up family was being formed here and what his part in it was.

“Come on, Rye, let’s go get something to eat,” Mousy said as she bumped up against her husband.

 

 

The common room was a bit crowded, but everypony was managing. Many of the rescued slaves lay upon the floor. Some had showered, others were waiting. Rye sat in a chair in the corner, sipping hot tea, while eating bread, butter, and jam. The soft sound of sobbing could be heard and it tugged upon his heartstrings. Some of the mares he had rescued had foals… foals that they might never see again. The rescue had brought freedom, but it had also brought heartbreak.

He gnawed his bread, butter, and jam, his heart hardening, but still aching, realising that no matter what he did, or how hard he tried, he could not make things right. He had saved these ponies and zebras from a terrible fate, but he had also separated mothers from their foals. There would be no going back for them, no happy reunions, and Rye saw no way of rescuing the foals from the prison without freeing the entire prison and killing every last slaver in Alpin.

It was depressing, reaching the conclusion that there was very little that one could do to change things or make things better. His eyes glanced around the room, his flinty, almost sulky stare lingering upon those he had saved. He saw many grateful eyes looking back at him. Woe was going around the room and asking if anypony wanted more hot food and drink.

“Rye…”

Turning, Rye found himself almost face to face with Skeeter.

“You ain’t going without me—”

“Oh no, Skeeter, I’m not putting you in danger.” Rye shook his head and his expression became apologetic. “I’m sorry, but there is no way you are coming along with me.”

“Captain Spyglass charged me with keeping you safe and staying with you. Also, I’m your friend. I’m coming with you and that’s final. Besides, you might need a flyer.” Skeeter’s ears perked forwards in a bold, aggressive manner, and the blue pegasus let out a cantankerous snort.

Skeeter brought up a very good point. Rye might need a flier. Rye agonised over the decision, he was already putting Mousy and Woe at risk, something he already felt bad about. He looked at Skeeter and realised that there would be no telling the pegasus no.

“Be ready to go, Skeeter. We’re going under the cover of night.” Rye felt a sinking feeling even as he spoke the words. “No matter what, you stay close to me and we’ll try to stay out of trouble together, okay?”

“Okay.” Skeeter nodded and then gave his friend a smile.

Looking for an excuse to stay silent, Rye Mash jammed an entire slice of bread, butter, and jam into his mouth and began to chew as a growing feeling of worry began to fill him. Getting inside of the prison was going to be hard—getting back out of a prison—prisons were meant to keep prisoners inside.

This was going to be a rough night.

 

 

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