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.


7. Chapter 7

As they made their way towards the Sea of Grass, several more zebras and a pony died. It bothered Rye Mash a great deal. They had been rescued. They had been fed. They had been looked after. And they had still died. The past few days were stressful on the young unicorn.

He was rapidly coming to terms with being a killer. His feelings fluctuated, at times feeling a twinge of pain over what he had done, and at other times, he seethed with silent rage as he watched the slaves continue to suffer, even after their captors were gone.

Male griffons had barbed penises, as was common to most feline species, and they left behind terrible wounds upon their rape victims. Many of the slaves, both male and female, suffered from these horrific wounds. It was an all to easy way to break their spirits.

The griffon ship was being towed behind them, and the crew had gone over it from top to bottom several times. Several hidden compartments had been found. A cache of gold and silver bars had been discovered in a hidden cubby.

The ship had also become a morgue, with several zebra bodies stored on board. The survivors wanted their fallen kin brought home.

The unicorn felt a great deal of excitement knowing that he would soon see the Sea of Grass.



“Well be in the city of Tradewinds soon.”

Rye Mash turned to look at Bloody Velvet. She didn’t look well. One leg trembled non stop, forcing her to stand on three legs because she could not place any weight on the trembling leg.

“Tradewinds is a nice little port city. Full of zebras and ponies. Quite a few unicorns there and there is a school for magic. Ships stop there to take on fresh water and supplies, and one of the major roads across the Sea of Grass begins in Tradewinds. Hopefully, the zebras we drop off there will make it home. We’ve also decided to drop off the imprisoned crew there. We’ll no longer be taking them with us when we go to Trottingham,” Velvet said, the corner of her mouth jerking as she spoke.

“Sounds like a nice place,” Rye commented.

“I’ll be getting you a spellbook,” Velvet announced. “Free of charge. Consider it a gift, for defending my honour and preserving my dignity as a lady,” she explained.

Rye blushed. “I was just doing the right thing,” he muttered.

“Which is why I am doing this to say thank you. I have lived among scoundrels for too long, it was nice to see some gentility again,” Velvet stated in a soft voice. “So, dealing with the boredom?”

“I suppose,” Rye replied. “One day I was fighting for my life, and then things far less exciting happened.”

Velvet laughed.

“One of the freed slaves asked for me to marry her…” Rye admitted in a low voice. “I felt bad for her. She’s worried that she will be taken as a slave again. Little earth pony lass. Not much she can do to defend herself I suppose. She cried her eyes out when I told her no.”

“It happens all of the time,” Velvet said. “They get taken as slaves, they get beaten a few times or worse, and then they want to marry the first decent stallion they meet after rescue. The crewmembers get proposals all of the time. Some of them even accept and settle down with a nice mare that spends the rest of her life showing them her gratitude. I suppose it is a happy ending. Of sorts anyway. Marriage is an awful institution.”

Rye pondered Velvet’s words and could not come up with any sort of reply. He fell silent and stared out over the rail. The whole conversation made him feel uncomfortable, but he could not say why.

“So how did you know what I was thinking?” Rye asked, finally getting up the courage to do so and hoping to change the subject.

Velvet sighed. “Come on, don’t make me explain it,’ she groaned in annoyance.

“I am actually ignorant about the subject, I’d like to know,” Rye replied.

Velvet gave Rye a sour look. “You might have noticed my mark… A big black starburst surrounded by a few smaller silver stars. I have no idea what it means, but it showed up after I learned that I could occasionally peek into other ponies minds. I can also traverse the astral plane. This is how I accidentally discovered Celestia’s personal pocket plane,” Velvet explained. “More of curse than anything. Sometimes I see the worst things. Like the thoughts of certain stallions and the things they want to do to me.”

Rye bit his lip.

“Look, I know that you find me attractive. I know that you find me very very attractive. But I also know that you do everything you can to think of me in a respectful manner,” Velvet said, now staring out into the distance herself, unable to look at Rye directly. “Very difficult to be friends with anypony that tries to say one thing but thinks another. I don’t want to tell you more about me and how I work because it will only complicate things between us and we need to have a professional working relationship.”

Rye heard hoofsteps behind him, turned, and saw Skeeter. His face was still swollen and the area around the stitches looked puffy and tight. His mouth was far too swollen to try and talk.

“Skeeter, you feeling alright?” Rye asked.

The pegasus nodded slowly.

“Able to eat? Get some soup down?” Rye inquired.

Skeeter shrugged.

“You need to eat if you want to heal,” Rye said in a worried voice.

“Really good of you to stitch him up like that,” Velvet remarked. “Going to leave one remarkable scar, but will still be better than leaving the wound as it was,” she added.

“Have you tried turning your head off to one side to keep your soup away from your stitched cheek?” Rye asked.

Skeeter’s eyes widened and he shook his head no.

“Skeeter, I worry about you sometimes,” Rye muttered.

“Pegasi. Part bird, part pony, head full of clouds,” Velvet quipped.

Skeeter looked at the unicorn and blinked.

Velvet’s eyes narrowed and her lips pressed together in a tight line. She said nothing, but Rye assumed that she was aware of something Skeeter was thinking.

“Look, I don’t want my two friends fighting,” Rye insisted as he stepped in between the two of them. He gave Velvet a pleading look. “And you shouldn’t make fun of pegasi or earth ponies… you wouldn’t want them making fun of you as a unicorn, seeing as how you have the shivers and all.”

Velvet relaxed her stance and Rye took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out in a gasp.

“I remember my mama,” Rye said in a low voice. “But only just barely. She was a pegasus. I remember her covering me with her wing and I felt so safe. I remember when I was taken… she put up a fight. She didn’t want her foal taken. They… she…” the colt fell silent.

“I’m sorry,” Velvet said. “The sweeps are ugly business. And I suppose I shouldn’t make fun of pegasi.”

Skeeter nodded, touched his friend with a wing, and Rye found himself feeling a bit better.

“Would you like to go home Rye? Occasionally, we stop by the Shetlands,” Velvet offered.

“I don’t know. Part of me does. I’d love to go home. The other part of me never wants to plant my hooves there ever again,” Rye confessed.

“If you don’t know what to do, make this ship your home. I have, and I think I am better for it,” Velvet suggested.



Tradewinds rose up in the distance as they drifted downwards. They had made good time, a strong tailwind behind them, and the crew was excited. It looked as though much of Tradewinds was made of shaped stone, which was the favoured method of unicorn construction. There were several towers that loomed over the city. There was a harbour for ships and Rye could see several airships moored to a squat tower.

There was a lighthouse that stood at the entrance to the harbour, but it wasn’t any old lighthouse. It was giant stone unicorn and a faint light could be seen shining from its horn. At night, it was probably an impressive sight.

This was a city of equines, and it had endured for countless centuries, even with griffon and the occasional minotaur aggression. Velvet called it “the gateway to Equestria” because a lot of refugees from the Sea of Grass secured passage here and traveled to the new land. Trade ships also headed north, to griffon territories, south to the minotaurs, and further east into the Sea of Grass, past the sea of grass was the Forevergreen Jungles.

As Rye watched the city loom closer, he was jostled by another pony. He turned to say something, to offer a polite exchange, and saw the largest pony he had ever seen, other than Princess Celestia.

“Sorry bout that, I didn’t see you down there,” the giant said sheepishly.

“It is okay… you are a big pony,” Rye commented, looking upwards.

The stallion was large, had a red coloured pelt, and was made from muscle. His mark was a basket of apples and his mane was the colour of autumn wheat. His hooves had to be as large as Rye’s head.

“My name is Crab. Crab Apple,” the stallion offered.

“Pleased to meet you, I am Rye Mash,” Rye replied politely. Manners were important in a world full of large things that could crush you. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before on deck.”

Crab grinned sheepishly. “I stay below decks to avoid trouble. I’m signed on as crew, but I don’t fight. Fighting is wrong. I’m a porter. When we dock, I’ll be loaded down with cargo and I will move some stuff off of the ship and then move stuff onto the ship, and then I’ll stay aboard the ship because I don’t want to waste my money,” Crab explained.

“Saving up for something?” Rye inquired.

“Back home in Equestria, my family just settled in a new town called Ponyville. I took on a job to get us some money. We’re poor, but we’re honest. And I wanted to make sure that we would never have to worry about money again so we could focus on farming,” Crab answered.

“Farming is a good honest life,” Rye said appreciatively. “We all need to eat,” he added as he looked upwards. Crab was smiling down at him and Rye hoped that he had made a new friend.

“Ah, Mister Mash, I see you have met our gentle giant Crab. I should have known that you two would get along with one another,” Spyglass said as he approached the pair.

“Sir,” Crab said to his captain with a bow of his head.

“We’ll be docking soonish. A few words of warning if I may. Don’t pick fights, not that you would. The school here sends out its students to police the town. Ponies and other beings trade here because it is safe to do so. If you disrupt the peace, bad things will happen. That said, keep your firearms and your wits about you. There are others foolish enough and desperate enough to try things like robbery, and you will need to deal with them until the local constables arrive. Oh, and you will want this,” Spyglass said as he tossed a small sack at Rye with his wing.

Rye caught the sack with his magic and hefted it. It clanked and felt heavy. He secured it in a pouch that hung from his harness.

“A bit of a bonus in there for good work and stepping in as the ship’s medic. All pay is based on merit. If you want more, do more. Unlike other captains, I actually pay my crew when they do things outside of their normal scope of duties. Isn’t that right Mister Apple?” Spyglass stated.

“Yes sir,” Crab replied. “I get paid very well for being one of the guards who keeps an eye on the ship when we are in port,” the stallion said with a smile.

“Be careful Rye. Keep Skeeter close. Speaking of which, where is he?” Spyglass asked as he looked around.

“I don’t think he’s well sir. He was hot and his face is swollen. Last I saw him, he was in his hammock. He just wanted to sleep sir,” Rye answered.

Spyglass looked concerned. “Mister Mash, Crab, I must ask that both of you come with me. I might need you,” Spyglass ordered.

The captain turned and went off towards the door that led below decks, and both Crab and Rye followed after him.



The sleeping quarter that Rye moved through held sixteen ponies, eight on each side of a divider, and Skeeter’s bunk was in the rear corner. Spyglass moved to the pegasus’ hammock and prodded the sleeper gently.

“Skeeter?” Spyglass asked.

The pegasus opened his eyes. They were glassy. Spyglass peered at the younger pegasus. “You don’t look well. Forgive me,” Spyglass asked. With a quick sudden movement, he placed a hoof against Skeeter’s sundered cheek and applied pressure, which made Skeeter scream bloody murder.

As the captain pulled his hoof away, a dribble of pus oozed from the wound. It had a greenish yellow tint. “Oh bugger,” the captain hissed. He leaned in and sniffed. His face contorted in disgust and he touched the whimpering pegasus with one wing gently.

“New plan. Once we dock, Crab, I am going to need you to carry our friend here to a healer. I know of one. Not too far from the docks. You can return to the ship and perform your duties as a porter afterwards. Rye, you are to stay with Skeeter. I will go with you and pay for the healer, but I cannot stay. There are matters here that I must attend. A captain is only as good as his crew, and one of mine is sick.

“I didn’t know it was this bad sir,” Rye said guiltily. “I helped him eat just this morning. He didn’t have much of an appetite. He just wanted to lay down and get some sleep. I thought the rest would do him good.”

“Rye, you didn’t know… calm yourself. I do not blame you. Rot happens,” Spyglass said in a low voice full of concern. “Come on, let’s get him secured over Crab’s back.”

Rye looked at the hammocks all around him and then looked up at Crab, who had to duck his head in the tight quarters. “Forgive me for asking, but how do you sleep in a hammock?” Rye inquired as he moved to help Spyglass move Skeeter.

“I don’t,” Crab replied. “I sleep on a cargo net.”


Author's Note:

Next chapter, the city of Tradewinds, which is going to become a major location in this story.

Let me know if I missed any mistakes.

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