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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40. Chapter 40

In between sips of tea, Rye Mash divided the plundered wealth stolen from Lord Byron Bitters with the plan to help the rescued slaves get a fresh new start in Sable Blanc. It had been a long night for him, he felt no better, but he kept telling himself that he could make up for what he had done by being generous.

He had no need for Byron’s stolen wealth, but he did plan to keep the tea set and the tea. Everything else was being divided up so it could be distributed to those who needed it. If he was going to be remembered as a murderous psychopath, he was going to be remembered as a kind, generous murderous psychopath.

As he worked, he watched Mousy and Woe play checkers. They did not have troubled sleep. Woe had no guilty conscience whatsoever about anything she had done, and had even stated as much. Mousy justified it as evildoers getting what they deserve. A part of Rye envied them, but another part of him pitied them.

He had grown up with a certain amount of privilege as an indentured servant. He was valuable, and as such, he had been protected. He hadn’t been raised on the savage streets. Woe was a one eyed survivor of Tradewinds and Mousy… Mousy hadn’t said too much about her past just yet, but she was a hard one. She had her own moral code that she followed, and she had no issue with the deserving getting what was coming to them.

But who was to say what somepony else deserved?

As Rye took a sip of tea, Captain Spyglass sat down at the table across from Rye and it was obvious that his captain looked a little irritated. Rye lowered his teacup to the table, leaned forwards, and did his best to look attentive.

“Determining your wealth?” Spyglass asked.

“I plan to give this away to those we rescued,” Rye replied.

The pegasus looked a little surprised and his ears stood up straight. “This would give a pony a good fresh start.” Spyglass’s ears leaned forwards a bit. “I am proud of you for what you did and what you are doing. I’ll admit, I was a little frustrated when I had first heard about what you had done, rescuing ponies was not part of the plan, but everything is working out.”

Rye nodded, lifted up his teacup, emptied it, and then set it down.

“We’ll be departing soon and heading back to Tradewinds. There are things we’ll need to take care of before we head east into the Forgotten Wastes.” Captain Spyglass’ face contorted with worry. “We’ll have to deal with dragons and I’m not sure how we’ll broker safe passage just yet. Princess Celestia also wants us to hurry east now. She is heading back to Equestria soon. She said that she is working on a means of communication so she can stay in touch with us.”

Again, Rye nodded to acknowledge that he heard his captain.

“Rye, I’ve already talked with Bloody Velvet and I wanted to talk to you before I made any decisions. I’ve been in contact with the Broker and a few others. Rye… I’m thinking about selling off The Whalefish and The Apogee, purchasing a new, modern ship, and then letting most of the crew go. They didn’t sign on for this and it is not fair to them to pressgang them into something this dangerous. We still have a considerable bit of wealth to help us purchase a new vessel.”

“I am assuming there is a new ship in Tradewinds?” Rye asked. He watched Spyglass give a slow nod and Rye felt a twinge of sadness. He liked The Apogee.

“The shipbuilders in Tradewinds are dying to get their hooves on the latest in modern design. The Apogee is a technological marvel. We can get a good deal.” Spyglass slumped down in his chair. “I shall miss The Whalefish as I have grown quite fond of it. It is not my first ship, but she was a good, serviceable vessel.”

“Will there be enough of a crew to manage everything?” Rye asked.

“Starjammer knows a surprising amount about engines and the maintenance of an airship. I cannot get any information out of him as to how or why he knows.” A momentary look of irritation passed over Spyglass’ face. “He is also more than capable of loading a dozen cannons all at once and then firing them. His magic is powerful.” The pegasus heaved a sigh. “Rye, I’d rather not put any more lives at risk than I absolutely have to. We’re going into considerable danger. While my crew is a hard lot, most of them are sailors, not soldiers.”

“At least we have a surgeon,” Rye Mash said as he began to wipe his teacup out with a soft, clean cloth. His magic was a little shaky, but he was managing. “When do you want to leave?”

“I plan to let much of the crew go here in Sable Blanc. This is a safe city for them. We’ll fly with a skeleton crew to Tradewinds, trade the two ships for a new zebra fighting ship, and then we shall head east.” Spyglass leaned forwards. “That is, if you are agreeable to this plan, Rye Mash.”

“My lot is with you, Captain Spyglass. For better or for worse, I will follow you.”

“I thought so,” Spyglass replied. “Rye Mash, you are no longer my cabin colt. I am promoting you to Master Gunner. You will be my new pony at arms. Speak with Bloody Velvet, she will fill you in and let you know what your new duties are.”

“But we need a cabin colt.” Rye grinned, feeling happy.

“Oh, I have somepony in mind. A filly actually. Woe is going to be my new cabin filly. Bloody seems to think that some responsibility will be good for her.” Spyglass cleared his throat. “I understand that she set others on fire during the last engagement.”

“She throws rocks too,” Rye replied, his grin vanishing. “Woe Betide will do a fine job, I think.” Rye paused and in a low voice, he asked his captain, “Do you plan to keep Oola? I have grown fond of her.”

“I have spoken with Oola Roo. She plans to stay with us. Starjammer has been showing her how to clean and load the cannons and other tasks. She’s strong, Rye, real strong. She’s earth pony strong. We are fortunate to have her. She is also quite loyal to you for saving her.” Captain Spyglass sat up straight and a weary sigh escaped his lips. “There is much to do and I must be going.”

 

 

Bloody Velvet’s lip curled back from her teeth as she looked at her apprentice, Woe Betide. She took a deep breath and made ready to let Woe have it, but in a low whisper so she wouldn’t wake Rye, who was sleeping on a sofa. “Woe… stop that… he’s finally asleep. Now stop trying to light his farts on fire, everything will backdraft and you’ll set his tail ablaze.”

Giggling, Woe Betide took off at a loping run and fled from Bloody Velvet’s scathing glare of disapproval. In mere moments, Woe was gone, leaving Bloody to fume all alone. Bloody Velvet, shaking her head, thought about how Woe just wasn’t right in the head, and as she did so, she covered Rye with a heavy, coarse woollen blanket.

She felt bad for Rye and his tender conscience. Bloody Velvet’s own conscience had met an untimely end years ago, it was drug out and summarily executed. Woe had the cold bloodedness that only the very young who had never learned right or wrong could have. Starjammer… the less said about Starjammer the better. Starjammer had fled and gone abroad for good reason. Out of the whole murderous crew, Rye still had some shred of innocence and Bloody Velvet hoped that it would survive somehow, even though she knew the odds were against it.

She looked around the room to make sure she was alone, and after seeing that she was in fact, all alone, she lowered her head so she could give Rye an affectionate kiss with the hopes that a little love might help him sleep better.

 

 

Lifting his head from his now immaculate wing, Skeeter, who had been preening himself in the midmorning sun, had himself a good long look at Prism Gem, the one winged pegasus. He did not find himself repulsed by the fact that she had one wing, and by the same token, he hoped that she did not find his face hideous.

It was, however, difficult to talk to a one winged pegasus. How did one exchange social pleasantries? A wingspan display seemed inappropriate and a bit rude, as did fluffing out one’s plumage to show interest. It might be taken wrong or might make Prism Gem miss what she had once had.

She had the most marvellous rainbow coloured mane and tail, which caused Skeeter to think about all sorts of things, chief among them was little sky blue foals with rainbow manes and tails. Being a pegasus, there was no point in beating around the cloud, there was only getting right down to business. With his messed up face and her missing wing, they might not be able to strut their stuff and put on dazzling displays, but Skeeter suspected that they would have fantastic looking offspring that would cause no end of envy in all those who looked upon them.

But there was one little issue, one dreadful, horrible little issue, and that was getting to know Prism Gem. Skeeter, for all of his charms, didn’t know how to approach her. He watched with keen interest as she preened her own remaining wing while soaking up the sun.

He decided to talk to her. Talking to her would have to be a good start. He couldn’t do a plumage display, he couldn’t strut up to her with his wings spread to invite her to check out his wingspan, (and oh goody, he had himself a wingspan and you know what that means on a stallion, wink wink,  nudge nudge) and all of the usual ways of getting a filly pegasus’ attention seemed out.

Keeping his wings at his sides, Skeeter puffed out his barrel and fluffed out his chest scruffle, an act of invitation to let a receptive female know that it was okay to come along and bury her muzzle in said chest scruffle. He hiked up his tail a bit and did everything he could to make himself look bigger, everything but flaring out his wings or fluffing his feathers.

He let out a snort to show that he had powerful lungs, the sort of big, oversized and powerful lungs one needed for flight. He tossed his head to get his mane out of his eyes and then, Skeeter strutted, ruined face or no.

Much to his relief and to his pleasure as well, Prism Gem took notice. He saw her one wing fluttering at her side. Her ears pinned back for a moment and then perked to stand up straight. So far, everything was going well. Skeeter took a deep breath and hoped he wouldn’t screw up something as simple as talking.

“So… you have special blood?” Skeeter asked, going with the only thing he could think of. He watched Prism with eager anticipation, hoping that she would continue to show interest.

“It seems I do,” Prism Gem replied. Her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. “Doctor Lapin was trying to figure out the mystery of blood. He was using the slaves to try and figure out why sometimes blood transfusions worked and why sometimes, they didn’t.”

“I see.” Skeeter’s interest was genuine. He moved a little and his wingpits felt hot and sweaty. His body posture shifted from one of dominance to one of curiousity and his ears splayed out sideways as his head cocked off to one side.

“Through trial and error, he discovered that my blood can go into any other pony and not cause them to become sick and weak. He started studying it beneath a microscope and doing tests and he hopes to understand the hows and the whys of everything so he can save lives.” Prism Gem raised her eyebrow and took a little step closer to Skeeter.

“Does it bother you that he was experimenting on slaves?” Skeeter asked.

Prism Gem’s face showed anger for a moment, but then her expression softened. “It did. But then I saw that his work was worthy… his work could save all kinds of lives in the future. He has this idea about blood types, Skeeter. Certain creatures have certain blood types and if you match them, they’ll be fine and they can share blood. Other blood types are incompatible. Some very special ponies have blood types that go with any other type.”

“Like you,” Skeeter replied as he lowered his haunches down to the deck and sat down. Much to his delight, Prism Gem was eyeing his inviting chest scruffle. “You sound smart.”

The pegasus filly blushed, her pink face becoming a good bit pinker. She stood, eyes blinking, and her remaining wing flapped against her side. “I am smart,” she said in a coy whisper, “when I was younger, I was schooled to read and write.” She turned her body and pointed at her cutie mark, which was a notebook and a pen. “I’m quite good at taking dictation. Thankfully, the wing I have left is my writing wing. Doctor Lapin finds my talent invaluable.”

“I like smart fillies,” Skeeter said, being as direct as possible. There was, after all, no point in beating around the cloud. He saw Prism turn pink once more and her ears rose and fell as she became flustered. “Dumb fillies, you have to put something in their mouth to keep them occupied, but you…”—Skeeter gave Prism his most alluring smile—“I could listen to you talk all day. You might have to put something in my mouth to keep me busy.”

There was a sharp gasp from Prism when she heard Skeeter’s bold statement. Her wing extended from her side and she began to fan herself. Her hooves tapped upon the wooden deck and she gave Skeeter a nervous smile.

“You don’t seem too stupid,” Prism said in a low voice that was a little husky. “Do… do you want to know more about Doctor Lapin’s work?”

Skeeter nodded. “Like I said, I could listen to you talk all day…”

 

 

 

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