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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4. Chapter 4

The dawn was cold and grey. Rye Mash stared out over the rear of the ship. He had awoken quite early, freezing cold and able to see his breath. He had covered himself with the blanket during the night, but had neglected to wrap it around himself, not thinking that he was exposed from below because of the now hated hammock. He was sore all over from shivering and stiff from the cold.

His balls felt like raisins, not that he would ever admit such an uncouth thing out loud where other ponies might hear. It was so cold that they had retreated to warmer places and Rye was thankful that his tail covered up his embarrassment.

He stomped his hooves as his teeth chattered. His nostrils stung and he could feel what felt like pinpricks on his ears. Crewmembers bustled around him, seemingly unaffected by the cold. Most of them were pegasi, and he supposed that pegasi had some sort of natural cold resistance, living up in the clouds as most of them did.

“You’ll get used to it.”

Rye felt relief when he heard Bloody Velvet’s voice. He had been here early and was waiting on her, which he hoped was a good sign. She came into view a moment later, seemingly unaffected by the cold. Her breath was visible and steam wafted from off of her back. She was carrying a small wooden trunk in her magic.

“Everything in this wooden trunk is for you. Everything you need. Two pistols, a shotgun, and various supplies. Top of the line stuff. The very latest in muzzleloading technology,” she announced. “The griffon we took them from was a noble. He had good gear. Didn’t help him as he died screaming.”

Rye stared at the mare and stood there with his teeth chattering.

“I like pistols. While I use magic, I find that a couple of guns are really handy in combat. Allows me to conserve energy. Mine are currently in my quarters, but I can call them to me at a moment’s notice. You are probably not as magically gifted, so use the body harness in the trunk. It can be adjusted to fit you. It has holsters for the pistols and a sheath for the shotgun. I must warn you though, it is made from leather,” Bloody Velvet said in a loud clear voice that echoed weirdly through the clouds all around them.

“Leather?” said Rye in disgust.

“I know, it is awful, but I assure you, you will need it. The harness will hold your whole kit. The pepper shaker full of black powder, a tin full of wadding, one pouch full of lead balls for the pistols and one pouch full of nails for the shotgun,” the unicorn mare explained.

“Nails?” Rye inquired, his eyes going wide.

“I like nails. There are also little lead pellets you can make, there is a press for them inside of the trunk, but they are a pain to produce. I prefer nails for that ‘I am going to mess up your pretty face’ effect that nails have,” she said. She paused for a moment. “Well, all shotguns will mess up a pretty face, but nails send a message to your enemies. Psychological factors and all that,” Bloody Velvet said.

The unicorn colt was absolutely horrified.

“It isn’t enough just to shoot somebody. Where you shoot them is important. And what you shoot them with,” Bloody Velvet explained to the stunned colt standing before her. She raised her eyebrow. “Is this sinking in?” she inquired.

Rye nodded.

“Very good. I am going to show you how to load a pistol. And then you are going to load the other pistol after I show you. If you don’t get it right, don’t worry. We will go over this again and again until you get it right. And you want to get it right. Because if you get it wrong, the gun could explode. And that would be bad for you,” Bloody Velvet warned.

Rye’s eyes went even wider at the mare’s words and he resolved to pay attention. The last thing he wanted was his gun exploding anywhere near him. Especially a gun full of nails. His imagination became a bit overactive and he shuddered in disgust. He tried to push the horrible thoughts out of his mind.

He watched the unicorn mare as she opened the trunk and pulled out one of pistols. It was large. Much larger than Rye expected. Not so much a pistol as a small cannon, or so he thought. The hole in the barrel was larger than a grape. She lifted it in her magic and held it before his eyes. He peered down at it. The grips were made of rosewood and the metal parts were shiny and looked like silver.

“Pay attention. Always make sure the gun is unloaded before you begin and that it is half cocked. Like so,” Bloody Velvet said. She pulled back the hammer until it made a click. “And this is the ramrod,” she said, pulling a long thin metal rod out from under the barrel of the pistol. “You will note that it has a mark right here,” she said, highlighting the notch with her magic. “When you insert it into the muzzle, if the end of the muzzle lines up with the notch, the gun is unloaded. If this line extends past the end of the muzzle, the gun is loaded. Got that?”

“Yes ma’am,” Rye said. “I want to make sure the notch lines up,” he repeated.

“Good colt,” Velvet praised.

“What are those other marks for?” he asked.

“Ah, clever colt,” Velvet said in her loud clear voice. “This one tells you if the gun has a powder load, and this mark here lets you know about the wadded ball positions. This way you will always know the situation at the bottom of the barrel. Like if somebody loads your guns for you, or starts to do so and goes off because of a distraction,” Velvet explained.

“So never let somepony else load my guns for me and always, always check my marks just in case I get distracted or something,” Rye noted.

Velvet nodded. “You are entirely too clever,” she said warmly.

Rye smiled and felt a little bit warmer. Velvet was too hard of a pony to give out false praise and he felt rather good that he had impressed her.

“Always check the lock and trigger alignment. Sometimes they need adjusting. I will show you the finer points of this later in a very well lit environment. We will have to disassemble the pistol a bit to do this properly,” Velvet said, showing him the mechanisms. “Also, check your cap seat. You need this right here to fire the gun. It wears down over time and will need to be replaced. I will show you how to do that later. With me so far?”

“Yes ma’am,” Rye answered.

“Okay, here we go. First off, lubricate your barrel. This little vial here can be daubed onto a bit of wadding and then the barrel is swabbed. Not too much or you will gum up the ignition source,” Velvet warned. She demonstrated, holding the pistol pointing straight up and swabbing the barrel with a single sheet of wadding.

Rye watched her carefully and committed the process to memory. He felt that his meticulous nature would be useful here.

“And then you take your pepper shaker, pop off this bit here, and then you carefully pour the powder into this little measurer. Once you do that, you pour the powder down the barrel of the pistol,” Velvet instructed. “Give it a few taps to settle the powder. Real easy to do with magic. Tap tap!” she chirped in a cheerful voice.

“Got it,” Rye acknowledged.

“Now comes the shot. You grab a bullet, drop it in, and then you use this rod to tamp it down. Gently. The lead is soft. You don’t want to deform the bullet and have it lodged inside of your barrel, trust me,” she said as she shook her head. “Seen it happen. Messy. Blew off a griffon’s claw. Somebody was careless. Don’t let it happen to you.”

Rye nodded.

“This mark will let you know that the bullet is seated,” Velvet explained as she showed him what to look for. “Never stab violently, but short gentle prodding, just like making love to a mare. A firm thrust followed by holding it in place to seat your load.”

Rye’s blood was suddenly far too warm inside of his body and the cold air ceased to bother him at all. He felt overheated and began to sweat.

“Oh… oh my. You’re an innocent little colt, aren’t you?” she asked. “No, don’t bother saying anything that might embarrass us both,” Velvet suggested. The corner of her mouth began to twitch slightly.

Rye could not tell if it was from repressed laughter or a nervous tic. Her symptoms didn’t seem as bad this morning. He became painfully aware of the fact that his balls had thawed out and he could feel the cold on his now overheated thin and wrinkled skin back there.

Bloody Velvet giggled and then continued. “Gentle prodding. Gentle. Now add a bit of wadding to secure your shot in the barrel. Tamp that down. Again, do so gently. Never slam your ramrod down. Now, the gun is loaded,” Bloody Velvet announced.

Rye looked at the pistol and then at Velvet, his cheeks still on fire.

“Now, we seat a cap right here. Griffons need a priming tool, but we can just use magic to seat the cap on the nipple. Secure the safety, and pull the hammer back to full cock. You are done, the gun is loaded, You are free to secure the pistol back into its holster until you need it. Just pull it out, flip the safety, point, aim, and shoot,” Velvet said.

“I think I got it,” Rye said.

“Don’t tell me, show me,” Velvet said, looking down at the other gun secured in the trunk. “Think you can do everything I just showed you?” she asked.

Rye nodded but said nothing. He concentrated and lifted the gun in his magic. He closed his eyes and thought about everything Bloody Velvet had shown him. He pulled the hammer out to half lock. He then opened his eyes and inserted the rod down into the barrel of the gun to check which mark he aligned with. The pistol was empty. He took a single sheet of wadding, daubed it with the oil vial, and then slid it down the barrel. He carefully lifted the pepper shaker and measured out a bit of powder. He then poured it down the barrel. He tapped the pistol three times using his magic. He lifted a ball and inserted it into the end of the barrel, took the rod, and then carefully and gently tamped it down, feeling his cheeks ignite once again as he did so. He pressed down firmly but gently and he felt the ball and powder compress as he did so. He pulled the rod out and then stuffed some wadding down the barrel. He secured a cap over the nipple, feeling a wave of heat wash over him as he completed this step, he then engaged the safety, and then he pulled the hammer back to full cock.

“Well done. Not one single mistake. I am honestly impressed,” Velvet said. “Now we can fire them. After that, we reload them. And fire them again. And once I am sure you have the whole process down, we will begin with the shotgun. Do not expect breakfast. I want to see you hungry and suffering while we do this so I know you can do it under a stressful situation,” Bloody Velvet stated in a harsh voice.

“I understand ma’am,” Rye replied.

Bloody Velvet’s horn flashed and off of the rear of the ship, a small bullseye target presented itself. “I want you to shoot that. Don’t worry if you can’t hit it the first few times,” she commanded. “You have two shots before you have to reload, make them count. Now to shoot, lift the gun in your magic, hold it in front of your face, and try to look down the barrel. You will see some notches. Line them up. You want the notches lined up over the target. When you think you got it, pull the trigger back with your magic. Good luck.”

Rye carefully lifted the gun up to eye level, peered down the sights, carefully lined up the notches, understanding what he needed to do now that he saw what Bloody Velvet was talking about, and carefully took aim.

He pulled the trigger. There was a flash and a roar followed by the smell of rotten eggs. The target flashed red and disappeared.

Bloody Velvet stood there, one eye wide, the other eye narrowed and her eyelid twitching slightly. The ear over her twitching eye flicked a few times. “Bloody balls,” the mare swore.

“I thought it was okay to miss,” Rye cried out in alarm.

“You didn’t miss,” Velvet snapped. “You hit it. Dead on.” The mare turned to look at Rye and studied him carefully. “Well no bloody wonder. Look at you now. Something is different.”

Rye stared at the mare. “Did I blow off my eyebrows?” he asked. “I blew off my eyebrows and now I look like an inept cretin don’t I?”

Velvet laughed riotously in reply. “No, but you should have a look at your own arse,” she suggested. She laughed some more. “Spyglass is going to piss himself when he finds out about this.”

Rye jerked his head around, trying to see what was so funny. He couldn’t see anything out of place.

Bloody Velvet moved to his side and whacked him solidly on his backside.

“Ow!” he cried, staring at where she had struck him. He gasped. “I have a mark now,” he said in a low voice.

“That you do,” Velvet agreed.

There was a pair of crossed pistols now upon his backside, smaller versions of the pistols that Velvet had given him. He blinked a few times, trying to take in what he was looking at.

“A pony with a firearms talent. First time I’ve ever seen that,” Bloody Velvet said. “Well, you just increased your value a great deal Rye Mash. When Spyglass hears about this he is going to be very pleased that he convinced you to be in his employ.”

“I have a mark,” Rye said again. He continued to stare at his own backside. “I have a meaning for my life. A purpose. I have a reason to exist,” he said in an excited tone.

“Yeah you do,” Velvet replied. “Too bad when other folk meet you, the purpose for their own life is going to end.”

Rye felt a cold chill at Bloody Velvet’s words and the implications of what she said.

“Oh, don’t look so glum. We all have to serve a purpose. Your purpose is to put an end to those awful sorts that rob other beings of their potential. That’s what slavery is you know. Theft of life. A robbery of purpose. With a mark like that, you are going to go places Rye. Now come on. I want to you keep shooting and reloading until I feel that you are comfortable with the process. And congratulations on your mark,” Velvet said in cheerful tones.

Rye managed to give Velvet a halfhearted smile, the joy of having his mark now faded, the sobering knowledge of what his mark represented settling into his mind.

 

Author's Note:

I am having entirely too much fun writing Bloody Velvet.

A fine lady always minds her nails.

Let me know if I made any boo-boos.

 
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