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.


5. Chapter 5

Rye frowned as he stared down at the miscellaneous scraps of paper before him. There were dozens and dozens of them. The captain was trusting him with them, and that made Rye feel pretty good about himself. These scraps of paper were valuable. Irreplaceable. They told a story. They explained something. And he was determined to find out what that something was.

The past several days had been filled with lessons of all kinds. Some shooting, which had ceased because Bloody Velvet didn’t want him to burn through his supplies, a few lessons in practical combat magic, some time spent learning what was expected from him as a cabin colt, and a full tour of the ship. He was expected to know every inch of it. The Whalefish was a large vessel with a crew of over fifty. It was powered by steam. It had once burned coal but had since been upgraded with arcano-tech boilers so it was harder to track in cloud cover.

He had copied the scraps over to several sheets of paper and had begun to circle words that kept reappearing over and over, hoping to spot patterns. The code was devious. There were no easy three letter words to spot, and that concerned him. He had however discovered many instances of a six letter word that kept reappearing and he suspected that three letter words might be represented by six letters, two letters for each actual letter in the word to throw off the codebreakers. There were variations to be found in the six letter word that kept reappearing, but it was close enough that it made Rye suspicious.

There was a knock and then the door was thrown open. “On deck now, we’re hunting a ship,” Spyglass said, sticking his head in the door.

Rye carefully tucked his papers away and folded the desk. He was already armed. At Bloody Velvet’s advice, he slept with his harness on and his pistols secured on his body. His shotgun was tucked away in a sheath that ran the length of his body.

He emerged upon deck a few moments later and saw the crew looking grim. Bloody Velvet was concentrating and her horn glowed with eye burning intensity. Rye took his place at the captain's side and looked down to eye his kit, hoping that he had properly tucked away his gear.

“Stay silent,” Spyglass whispered. “Velvet has made us invisible, which is quite a feat for a unicorn. We’re moving in to board the ship. Looks to be of griffon make. Probably a slave ship,” the captain said, giving Rye the rundown on the situation.

Rye could feel the tension in the air and in his muscles. He pulled out one of his pistols, glanced it at, looking it over nervously. He slid it back into its holster and then pulled the second, also giving it a once over. He could fire and reload three times in one minute, which Bloody Velvet had been mildly impressed with. A crack gunslinger could load and fire five times in a minute, which left Rye something to work for. He hoped that he could perform under pressure. His tongue felt dry and it clung to the roof of his mouth.

The clouds parted and he saw the griffon ship. It was a bit larger than The Whalefish but did not look to be as well armed. He spied cannons peeking out the sides. Small guns. And they seemed to be completely oblivious about the ship creeping up on them.

“Steady,” Spyglass said, eyeing his nervous crew.

A terrible stench was in the air. Rye’s nose crinkled. It smelled of piss and crap, and even worse. The unicorn gagged and felt sick. He looked at Spyglass and the pegasus was holding an orange spiked with cloves up to his nose with one wing.

The harpoon guns were ready, and the cables were carefully greased in their spools.

“Remember, do not damage the gasbag. We have prisoners still below. If there are slaves, we have no room to keep them, so we will need to tow the ship,” Spyglass commanded.

Rye could hear gagging as the stench settled over the rest of the crew. He could hear muttering and the words “slave stench” were being said over and over in a low murmur from the crowd.

“I am going to carry you over and drop you on deck,” Spyglass warned as he looked sternly at Rye Mash. “I expect for you to prove yourself today,” he said.

“Of course sir,” Rye replied nervously.

They were right up along side of the other ship now, just a few yards away. Rye felt a twinge of panic, worried that the ships might collide. Tension roiled through his guts and Rye feared that he was going to piss himself and make himself look like a coward.

“Break cover!” Spyglass shouted. “Board!” he commanded.

There was a thunderous roar as the harpoon guns were fired, securing the ships together. Pegasi took to the air and swarmed the other ship. Cannons were not used out of fear of harming what was bound to be in the ship’s hold. Amid all the chaos, Rye felt himself being lifted by Spyglass.

As they crossed between ships and Rye realised that he was thousands of feet up in the air, he pissed himself. He could feel the hot liquid running down his back legs and it mirrored the hot shame coursing through his body.

He found himself dropped on deck next to a very confused griffon who stared at him hatefully. He saw a pistol being pulled from a sash the griffon wore. Rye cleared leather faster, aimed, and shot. It was practically point blank range.

The griffon’s head vanished quite suddenly and Rye felt something hot and wet cover his face. He didn’t have time to register what it was, he was already loading the pistol even as he was pulling out the second one. There were screams all around him. Pegasi and griffons were locked in battle, ancient enemies filled with ancient hatred. Griffons considered pegasi foals quite a delicacy, or so Rye had been told by a pegasus crewmember one night on deck.

Rye forced his legs to move and he plowed into the fray. He shot a griffon in the back and watched as it fell. His ears rang. He heard the clang of steel. There was so much screaming. Some sort of hot liquid splashed upon his side. He reloaded as he moved.

He heard a familiar voice and turned his head. Skeeter was pinned beneath a griffon and the pegasus was trying to fend off slashing blows from the griffon’s claws with his front hooves. Skeeter’s face was bloody and one cheek was torn open.

Rye raised his pistol, aimed for the griffon’s eye, and fired.

The bullet struck the griffon in the beak, tearing away the beak and ripping most of his face off, causing the griffon to gurgle and struggle to draw breath. Skeeter shoved the griffon away and looked at Rye. Skeeter was on his feet in a second and was at Rye’s side.

The griffon, now missing his beak, died slowly from blood loss and choking.

Rye was already reloading. Skeeter was at his side now, and the two ponies watched one another’s backs as they began to move through the fray. The battle on the deck was already ending, over almost as quickly as it had begun. Rye slipped in a puddle of blood and nearly lost his footing. Skeeter steadied him with a wing and Rye smiled at his friend. Poor Skeeter was in no condition to smile. The pegasus’ cheek was torn open and his molars were visible.

Rye looked around for something to shoot. There was nothing. The deck was secured. A few griffons were being executed by Spyglass after trying to surrender. Rye watched in shocked horror as their heads were crushed beneath Spyglass’ hoof one by one.

“We still have to secure the rest of the ship. The captain will have likely fortified himself down below,” Bloody Velvet snarled. Two guns floated near her head as she spoke. Both were still smoking, but looked loaded and ready to go.

“You going to be alright?” Rye asked the pegasus at his side.

Skeeter nodded but made no effort to speak. Blood trickled down the side of his face.

“I can probably stitch that up if you will let me,” Rye offered. “I learned how to sew so I could make repairs to my master’s clothing,” he explained. Rye spat. The word “master” left a bad taste in his mouth.

Skeeter looked afraid but nodded.

“Rye, I need you. Your work isn’t done. You are coming with Bloody Velvet and I below decks. We need to root out the captain and kill that buggering son of a bitch,” Spyglass said.

“Aye aye,” Rye said.

The captain raised an eyebrow and stared at the colt. “Aye aye? Really? Have you heard even one of my crewmembers say that even once?” Spyglass asked.

The colt shook his head “no” sheepishly but said nothing.

Spyglass looked at the pegasus beside Rye and scowled. “That looks bad. Somepony get some cloth and apply pressure. We need to get the bleeding to stop,” the captain ordered.

“I can probably stitch it up later,” Rye offered.

“You think you can do that?” Spyglass asked.

“I can sew, how hard can it be?” Rye answered.

“Somebody see that the pegasus is looked after. Gather the wounded together and make sure they are cared for and given the respect they deserved. Young Mister Rye Mash will be sewing them all up later,” Spyglass announced.

“Let’s get this over with,” Bloody Velvet barked. She was twitching alarmingly. “I’m getting a headache. I need rest. All of this magic use is wearing me down,” she grumbled. She was having trouble walking on her jerky legs.

Spyglass kicked open the door and carefully peered inside, hoping that nobody would blow his head off when he did. It was dark. The lamps had been extinguished.

“Take point Velvet,” Spyglass ordered.

“No, sir, she’s not well, let me take point,” Rye offered. He cast one final glance at his friend Skeeter and then peered into the darkness. He lit his horn and tried to look resolute.

Spyglass looked at Rye thoughtfully and then turned to Velvet. Velvet gave a nod to the captain and the corner of her mouth tugged upwards, causing her face to contort.

“Very well. Rye, would you please lead the way,” Spyglass commanded.

Rye pulled out his shotgun and slipped through the door. There was a narrow hallway with a door on each side and then some stairs leading down. He peered around him carefully, remembering a story about booby traps. He had no intention of being a booby. He saw no wires, no string, nothing like what he had heard in the story from the three legged pegasus. He touched the floor with his magic and pressed downwards. Perhaps he was being too paranoid.

“You can never be too paranoid,” Bloody Velvet announced.

Rye wanted to look at her and ask her how she knew what he was thinking, but getting distracted now was a bad idea. He made a mental note to ask her later.

“Better you don’t ask me about it at all,” Bloody Velvet suggested.

Rye bit down on his lip in frustration and pressed onwards, moving forward slowly and cautiously. Bloody Velvet was right behind him and Captain Spyglass brought up the rear. He checked the stairs before stepping, looking for holes in the walls, tell tale signs of some kind of booby trap. There were none. He took the stairs slowly, cautiously advancing. Finally, at the bottom, he saw a four way crossing. Behind him was the stairs, to his left was a hallway, ahead of him was a long hallway ending in an ornate door, and on his right was short hallway and more stairs.

A door opened on the left and a griffon stepped out, holding a pistol in his claws. Without even thinking Rye pointed the shotgun he was holding in his magic and fired. The sound was deafening in the narrow confines. The blast blew off one of the griffon’s forelegs and left him with a face full of nails.

Bloody Velvet strangled the griffon with her magic and finished him off.

“The captain will likely be behind that door. Barricaded no doubt. And probably very well armed,” Spyglass said as he stepped into the right hallway and took cover behind a corner. Rye joined him and Bloody Velvet went left, stepping over the remains of the griffon.

“I’ve never been so afraid in my whole life,” Rye muttered. “Even when you captured me and I was stuffed into a barrel.”

“Hold steady Rye,” Spyglass said in a calm whisper.

“I’m okay, just saying that I am scared out of my mind,” Rye explained.

Spyglass nodded. “When this is all over it will probably settle in on you what you’ve done. Keep your nerve,” the pegasus said. “My lovely Velvet, would you so kindly open the door?” Spyglass requested.

The door was ripped from its hinges and a thunderous blast filled the hallway. Rye looked around at all of the new holes in the walls. There were lead pellets everywhere. He gulped and was glad he had taken cover around the corner.

“He’ll have a second gun and maybe a few more. Don’t ever rush a cornered captain,” Spyglass instructed. “Just sit tight and give me time to think.”

Rye fiddled with his gear and began to reload his own shotgun. When he was finished, he looked at the tin of wadding and had an idea. He kept his kit clean and orderly, and had polished the metal box to an almost mirror finish. Holding it in his magic, he levitated it out past the corner and used it to peer into the captain’s quarters. He saw no sign of the captain, who was probably behind cover. He peered over at Velvet who was shaking quite badly. Her guns were still steady in her magic though.

“I have an idea,” Rye said in a very low whisper. He pulled out his pistols and held them at ready with his magic. “I need you to toss that body into the hallway,” Rye instructed.

Velvet shrugged, not understanding what Rye was about to do, but complied. She hoisted up the body in her magic and tossed it into the hallway. It bounced off the wall with a loud thump.

Looking into his mirrored metal box, Rye saw a flash of white pop up. Both pistols swiveled into position and fired. Rye had used the reflection to aim. There were three gunshots. Two from Rye and one from the trapped griffon.

There was a loud scream from the captain’s quarters. Unbeknownst to Rye, he had missed with one shot, but the other had scored a hit, the lead ball lodging into griffon’s front left shoulder.

“You miserable bastard!” the griffon screamed. “You shot me… I am going to eat your damn eyes and kill you!”

“You are so very lucky that you have witnesses to confirm that you made that shot,” Spyglass said. “Remind me to buy you a drink sometime. Meanwhile, we wait for him to bleed a bit,” the pegasus said as he settled himself against the wall and made himself comfortable.

“Oh by the old gods it hurts,” the griffon moaned. “You bastard!” he swore.

“He’s a whiner,” Velvet hissed in the dim hallway. “I hate the ones that whine as they die. Big tough slaver dies whining!” she shouted.

“Shut your cock sucking hole!” the griffon snarled.

“I am going to kill him,” Rye announced. “That sort of language is intolerable,” he spat. “To speak to a lady in such a fashion… unthinkable!”

“You’ve upset my cabin colt,” Spyglass shouted. “Now he is insufferably chivalrous,” the captain complained as he rolled his eyes.

Rye glared at his captain, one eyebrow raised. His reloaded guns hovered in the air before him.

“Don’t look at me like that Rye, if you heard Bloody Velvet go off on one of her sweary streaks your ears would burn off,” Spyglass insisted.

Rye continued to eye his floating tin, trying to see into the captain’s quarters. “She is still a lady,” Rye muttered in protest.

“Ugh, I hate waiting on dying griffons. This is more unpleasant than the stinky green dribble from an infected dick,” Velvet spat.

Rye blinked a few times, unable to take in what he had just heard.

“I’m not dying,” the griffon cried out in protest.

Rye moved his shotgun along the floor, trying to maneuver it down the hall. He watched the reflection in the polished tin carefully. There was no sign of the griffon. The shotgun was a mere inch off of the floor and creeping down the hallway. Rye was struggling to hold it up at this distance and the further it got the heavier it felt. The griffon, when he had been visible, had looked like he had popped out from the right and Rye turned his shotgun towards the right side of the door, intending to levitate it in and fire once it cleared the door. He hoped for a lucky shot. Reaching the doorway, Rye hurried the gun forward, turned it a bit more to the right, and fired.

“AAAAAaaaargh you motherplucker!” the griffon cried in a high pitched voice.  

Rye smirked as he pulled his shotgun back to him. He could hear the griffon gagging in pain.

“You bastard son of a bastard!” the griffon cursed in a screechy voice.

“I think you did it,” Spyglass said as he looked at Rye. “Velvet, you okay?”

“My magic is about gone and I don’t feel well,” she admitted. “Heaving that body took more out of me than I thought it would. Holding the invisibility spell was taxing. I am having an off day.”

“Just hold on Velvet. We’re about done here I think. Once this bugger dies, I think Rye and I can finish clearing below decks. I doubt there is anybody else left down here,” Spyglass said reassuringly.

There was a gurgling sound from the captain’s cabin followed by silence.

“See anything?” Spyglass asked.

“Just a large puddle of blood in the doorway,” Rye answered. “And it grows ever larger.”

“I’ll go check,” Spyglass said. The pegasus was on his hooves in a second, carefully peered around the corner, and then slowly walked down the hall squeezed against the wall, trying to make himself less a target. He reached the room and carefully peered around the door frame.

“Oh… oh my… oh that looks unpleasant,” Spyglass said. The pegasus, a hardened captain with many years of experience, gagged and turned away from what he saw.

“What happened?” Bloody Velvet asked.

“The griffon was shot in the groin. There are nails everywhere,” Spyglass replied. “Oh I can’t look at that, that’s ugly,” the pegasus said as he wiped his face with his wing.

Rye felt a little queasy but also immensely proud of himself.

“Oh what a mess. I need fresh air. Just when I thought I’d seen it all,” Spyglass muttered. “Velvet, let’s get you secured. I need some air. And a drink. Or three. Rye Mash… I don’t know what to say to you. I feel wrong praising you for what you have done. Ugh.”

“Can I keep his guns?” Rye asked.

The pegasus raised his head and peered down the hallway at Rye Mash, who was now visible, having stepped out from around the corner. The captain raised his eyebrow. “Most ponies in your situation would be inquiring about a share of the captains coin collection or his finery. You ask for his irons,” Spyglass stated.

Velvet stood on wobbling legs. “You can never be too good looking, too rich, or too well armed,” she said in a trembling voice. “And out of those three, I respect a pony who desires the last.”

“Secure his firearms Mister Mash. If that is all you ask for, then I am happy to oblige you. Velvet, allow me to get you above decks. You do not look well my dear,” Spyglass said. “You did well Rye, I am impressed. I have an eye for talent and I knew when I saw you that you had a fierce spark of destiny about you,” Spyglass said to Rye as they stood together in the hall.

Rye gave a nod and a grin to his captain.

“I am going to get her comfortable. I will return as soon as I am able. Do not go exploring below the decks just yet. Secure the captain’s quarters. Once I have returned, you and I will finish poking our snoots around down here and we will secure the slave hold. Brace yourself, it is bound to be unpleasant,” Spyglass said.

Rye nodded. “Yes sir. I will secure the captain’s quarters and stay put sir,” he acknowledged.


Author's Note:

I told you this might be bloody...

Feedback is appreciated on the issue if this actually needs a gore tag. I wanted violence and action, but not too much gore because I know it turns people away from a story.

Let me know if I missed any typos.

Also, feedback on the action chapter is appreciated!

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