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.


36. Chapter 36

Blinking, Rye Mash stood shivering in the freezing night air, looking down at the corpses in the snow. A dozen guards, a mix of griffons, diamond dogs, and a lone minotaur had been watching the slave gate. Starjammer had killed them all, but had done so at a cost to himself. The unicorn was now a bit fatigued, a bit peckish, and would need a little rest to be at peak fighting form, should a rescue be required.

The clock was ticking, an unknown clock. If other guards came along to relieve these guards, the companions would be discovered. The plan was a fragile one, fraught with danger, and no doubt, there were a million ways this could go wrong. If it did go wrong, it might mean death for the companions, or worse. There were worse things than dying.

The snow fell sideways and the wind let out a mournful howl as Woe Betide checked the bodies for weapons, trinkets, jewelry, and other valuables. The others were busy, distracted, preparing themselves for what was certain to be a difficult task. No one noticed when the filly pulled a small two shot derringer off of the body of the minotaur, a small concealed pistol tucked away in a deep breast pocket of the minotaur’s heavy greatcoat. She slipped the two shot derringer into her saddlebags, along with a tiny, shiny steel tube of black powder, a circular container of lead shot, and a small leather pouch filled with things like wadding.

Woe also relieved his corpse of his rings, one of which had a green gemstone the size of a pony’s tooth. Smiling to herself, she moved on to another corpse just as Rye Mash and Starjammer began to have themselves a look at the gate.



“Be careful.” Rye Mash heard Starjammer’s soft-spoken words in his ear and he shivered, but it wasn’t from the intense cold. Rye turned just as he felt himself being seized in magic and pulled towards Starjammer, who had an intense look of worry in his eye. A second later, Rye felt Starjammer’s lips on his.

The kiss started out slow, almost shy, and then became something else entirely. With the intensity and fire it contained, the kiss became indistinguishable from the kiss of a mare, it just became a kiss, a loving, worried kiss from a pony wishing to show affection and care. It took Rye’s breath away and made his knees tremble. He tried kissing back, but he lacked the experience and the willpower to assert any dominance. It was all he could do to remain upright and he allowed the kiss to continue to happen to him.

Starjammer pulled away with a slobbery slurp and for one confusing moment, Rye could only see Starjammer as a mare, a mare whose heart threatened to break from worry. It was the eyes, or perhaps the expression upon Starjammer’s face, Rye couldn’t tell.

“I’ll come back to you,” Rye managed to whisper as the falling snow clung to his now damp muzzle. The wind made his wet nose and lips sting. He glanced at Mousy, then at Starjammer, and saw Starjammer looking at Mousy, that same look of worry in his eyes.

As Rye stood there, trying to figure the confusing situation out, Starjammer pulled Mousy in for a quick kiss, and then a crushing hug. Something was whispered into Mousy’s ear, but Rye could not hear it over the screaming demon wind. There was another kiss, this time Starjammer pressed his muzzle against the side of Mousy’s face, just below her ear. This kiss lingered, with Starjammer’s eyes closed, and Rye saw Mousy’s lips moving, but he did not hear what was being said.

The two ponies pulled themselves apart and Rye Mash made himself ready. They had wasted enough time. He looked at his companions; Woe was ready to go, she looked eager, Skeeter was keeping a wary eye on the woods around them, and Mousy was composing herself after the moment of intense affection with Starjammer.

“Let’s move,” Rye said as he turned to face the gate.



The passage was narrow, wide enough for two ponies to walk side by side, or for a narrow wagon to be pulled. The floor, dirt, was rutted, wagons had passed through here, or carts, or whatever it was that the slavers used for transport. This tunnel had been dug out of the mountain. The walls were rough hewn, crude, and lacked any sort of finish.

Rye had no way of knowing if Bloody Velvet’s aversion spell was working. The plan had changed a little at the last minute, and Velvet had stayed with the ship. It had been Starjammer who had come along to take out the camp—no doubt so he could say goodbye in his own special way.

The passage began to slope upwards and began to curve a bit. Rye crept forwards, his hooves almost silent, Bloody Velvet had done a bit more than just an aversion spell. The group moved as one, Rye and Mousy walking abreast up front, with Skeeter and Woe also walking abreast in the rear.

Woe, who had shorter legs, did an admirable job of keeping up. She trotted double time, looking pleased with herself, her small saddlebags flapping against her sides a whole lot less now that they were loaded down with valuables. She had shinies, trinkets, baubles, a veritable fortune of ill gotten gains looted off of the bodies of the dead. The dead, being dead, had no need for treasures any longer, but Woe certainly did.

It wasn’t long until the companions came to the first of several gates they would encounter. Woe went to work as Rye Mash stood guard. Beyond the gate, there was a fork in the passage. The left passage continued to the prison, the right passage veered off into a processing area, a series of rooms where slaves could be checked for contraband and examined after a day of labour. There were also rooms for the guards at the outside gate to rest in, eat, and get warm.

This was also the place where it got dangerous. If there were guards in the rooms ahead, there was bound to be a scuffle. Woe popped the lock on the gate and it swung open, creaking, squealing, and Rye Mash gritted his teeth together.

Saying nothing, Mousy moved ahead, slipped into the shadows, and then was gone. Rye stood, not quite believing what he had just seen, refusing to believe that Mousy had just vanished. He stood, his ears straining, knowing that Mousy was probably doing her thing—being sneaky. He just wished that she had given him some sort of warning.

He stood, frazzled, worried, waiting, listening for sounds of trouble, ready to draw iron and start shooting. He peered into the darkness of the passage ahead, not knowing what to expect. Seconds began to feel like minutes, and minutes like hours. He looked down at Woe, who was studying the locking mechanism. He felt some pride for her, making the most of this time, and hoped that he would remember to mention this to Bloody Velvet.

Mousy appeared just as suddenly as she had vanished, stepping out of the shadows with a wide grin. Rye looked at her, feeling relieved, and very glad to see her. He saw her take a deep breath, her sides expanding, and he listened, knowing that Mousy had a very soft whisper.

“Two guards,” Mousy reported in a low voice, “and one of them sleeps with Madam Cognac. The other looks like he’s sick or something, he’s all snotty. He can’t hardly breathe.”

“What do we do?” Skeeter asked.

In reply, Rye Mash drew his hanger sword and strode forward, ready to do what needed to be done. He saw the pained look upon Skeeter’s face, but he also saw understanding. There was no way they could leave two guards behind them as they progressed further in. He saw Skeeter nod.

Rye walked down the passage, his head low, his eyes open for treachery or danger. Mousy moved beside him. The pair passed through an open door together and into a series of rooms. There were cells against the far wall, a table covered in playing cards, a few chairs that had seen better days, and an open door that Mousy gestured towards.

Moving with swift assurance, Rye passed through the open doorway and into the sleeping quarters. Just inside the door there was a bed with a sleeping diamond dog, a bottle clutched in his paws. He let out little whimpers as he slept. Lifting his head, Rye looked at the other bed that had an occupant at the other end of the room, another diamond dog, whose laboured snuffles filled Rye’s ears.

“Throats, Rye,” Mousy said in a voice that held no trace of emotion, “if you do it quick and clean, there’ll be no screaming.”

Rye nodded, gripped his hanger in his telekinesis, a grimace appeared upon his muzzle, and with a swift, smooth movement, he jammed the hanger right below the sleeping diamond dog’s jowls.

There was a wet gurgle as the diamond dog’s eyes flew open and the creature clutched its throat, the bottle that it had been holding rolling out of the bed. Mousy caught it in her fetlocks and set it down upon another bed before it could smash and make noise. A geyser of blood sprayed from the diamond dog’s throat as Rye pulled his sword free, turning the wall beside the bed crimson. It kicked and thrashed a bit, all while making wet, whooshing sounds, but Rye saw none of it. He was creeping along to the second bed, his bloodied sword held out in front of him.

Again, he struck, swift and silent, plunging the broad tip of his hanger into the sleeping creature’s neck. He stepped back, all too aware that blood sprayed, and then sidestepped when a jet of scarlet liquid surprised him with some real distance. The second diamond dog clawed at its neck as it too, slowly died. Rye did nothing to aid their passing as they bled out, wide eyed, making wet, gurgling, almost silent whimpers of pain.

He turned and saw Skeeter in the doorway. The pegasus looked grim, his eyes were narrowed, and for a moment, their eyes locked together. Rye felt a brief twinge of shame, but the feeling passed. Rye hoped that Skeeter understood the necessity of what had taken place, and why this had to happen.

Woe Betide shoved her way past Skeeter and began to loot the trunks at the end of each bed. Rye watched her, glanced at Mousy, and then at Skeeter. After a moment, he looked at Woe again and watched as the filly dug around.

“I don’t know if we have time for looting,” Rye said in a low whisper.

Saying nothing in reply, Woe lifted up a keyring with several heavy keys. She jangled them to make her point, and then continued looting the trunk she had opened. She pulled out a curved, wicked looking dagger, which she tucked beneath the strap of her saddlebags, a small bottle of whiskey, which she also tucked away, and a collection of neat, clean bandannas, which also disappeared.

“I think I’m good to go,” Woe said in a squeaky whisper. “There’s a lot to loot here though, it’s shame to leave it all behind.”

Mousy gave an enthusiastic nod and then looked around at the unlooted trunks. There could be all kinds of treasures hidden away. The earth pony heaved a sigh, wishing there was more time for plundering. She blinked when a final burbling gurgle came out of one of the diamond dogs, and turned to look as the creature went still.

After some twitching, the second one went still as well. Rye felt pleased with how everything was turning out. It was time to go. He looked at his companions, wiped his bloody sword clean upon a blanket, sniffed once, and then in a low whisper, he announced, “Come on, all of you, it is time to go…”





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