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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8. Chapter 8

The city of Tradewinds was somehow even more impressive than Canterlot. The towers of Canterlot were tall and straight. Tradewinds was bulbous. Round protrusions extended from the stone towers, individual little homes that all shared a tower to conserve space, Spyglass had explained as they walked. There were open air markets and all manner of beings could be seen. Ponies of all tribes, griffons, minotaurs, zebras, Rye saw a strange snake like creature with an odd head that Spyglass called a “naga” and so many others.

There was entirely too much to take in and Rye felt overwhelmed.

Crab didn’t seem to be doing much better.

“I don’t like big cities… they spook me,” Crab admitted as he skittishly drew closer to Rye.

“Just stay close Crab, I’ll keep you safe,” Rye said reassuringly. He noticed that Spyglass was looking at him as he spoke but he said nothing else.

The group moved quickly through the streets, the crowds parting to make way for the massive earth pony. Crab had no idea that most of the residents were afraid of him, he was far too afraid of them to notice. More than anything, Crab wanted to bolt back to the ship where it was quiet and he could hear his own thoughts.

“We’re almost there,” Spyglass said as he turned a corner and let the group down a dead end street. At the end of the street was a large squarish stone building that reeked strange smells.

Spyglass pushed the door open and beckoned the others inside.

 

 

“We can fix this,” a zebra said in a soft voice with a funny accent.

“Who did the stitching? This is rather good work,” an earth pony commented.

“Don’t be afraid, we will dull your pain,” a unicorn said soothingly to Skeeter, who was laying on a wooden table.

“Rye here did the stitching,” Spyglass bragged in a prideful voice.

“How long have you been doing this?” the earth pony inquired.

“I, uh, well ma’am, I sort of learned to do it as I went that day,” Rye replied.

The earth pony pursed her lips together and looked at the unicorn and then the zebra. The zebra gave a faint nod and the unicorn looked at Rye.

“Would you like a job here? With us? We could make it worth your while… we will pay you… and we have other ways to compensate a handsome colt like you,” the earth pony purred as she advanced on Rye.

Rye backed away from the forward earth pony until his backside hit the wall, the earth pony matching his every step and staying in his face. She brazenly kissed the unicorn colt on the cheek and Rye began to stammer wordlessly.

“Rye, I do believe the lady made you a proposition,” Spyglass said in a flat neutral voice.

“Uh, I am flattered, but my services are currently secured ma’am,” Rye squeaked.

“Oh, that’s a real shame… we needed somepony who could stitch… and you could provide unicorn seed for our studies,” the earth pony said sadly.

Rye turned a bright crimson and he thought he was going to swallow his tongue. Just when he thought it was safe to breathe again, the earth pony kissed his cheek once more.

“Our offer remains open should you change your mind… or maybe we could just secure some of your seed?” the earth pony said in a searing hot whisper.

“Oooh my miss… you are very straight forward,” Rye observed nervously.

“I am an earth pony… I have no use for subtlety,” she replied in a breathy whisper on Rye’s cheek. “Just… hard plowing of my fertile field. I have a stone in the furrow that needs to be worked loose.”

“I would be most grateful if you ignored me and looked after my friend. I am very worried about Skeeter,” Rye murmured nervously.  

The earth pony backed away and her demeanour changed. “This one is a tough nut to crack Spyglass. Where did you find him? I’m sorry, I gave it everything I had,” she said as she turned away in frustration and took her place beside the others around the table.

“You… you…” Rye stammered as he pointed a hoof at Spyglass. “You were testing me!”

“Well, my last cabin colt took them up on their offer, as did the one before, and several other potential hopefuls that I have added to my crew, hoping to add them in my inner circle,” Spyglass said with a shrug. “Some turned out okay, but most have had to go overboard,” the pegasus muttered.

“Is Skeeter going to be okay?” Rye asked as he shuddered and shook himself, trying to ease his frustrated feelings.

“He’ll be fine,” the unicorn said. “We need to drain his face though. He’s going under from the sleeping potion as we speak,” she reported.

“You’re not into other colts are you? I mean, it is fine if you are, I am a very open minded pegasus and I am well ahead of how most others feel about this issue,” Spyglass inquired. “I believe in social progress!”

“What? Wait… I… no! Look, Lace Collar kept making passes at me and I kept turning him away… I was always worried he was going to force me,” Rye said. He froze moments after the last words left his mouth when he realised what he had blurted out.

“Rye, you have nothing to fear, those words will not leave this room. Will they Crab?”

The big earth pony looked down at his captain. “My lips are sealed as always sir,” Crab responded.

With a sigh of relief, Rye Mash settled into silence. He crossed the room, avoiding the brazen earth pony in the middle, and settled himself on a cushioned chair. The two ponies and the zebra were busy working their craft and there was a strange bitter smelling purple powder that wafted through the air above Skeeter.

“These really are remarkable stitches,” the unicorn praised. “Spyglass, I hope you have done the honourable thing and paid the poor colt a few extra coins.”

“Young Mister Mash is just as good at creating wounds as he is stitching them up. I paid him quite well, didn’t I Rye?” Spyglass answered reassuringly.

“I have a very fat coin purse,” Rye agreed.

“Don’t spend your coins securing comfort in the ale halls. There is an annoying case of the drip going around. You wouldn’t want to catch that,” the zebra warned.

“The drip?” Rye asked. “Securing comfort?”

“Securing the services of a common prostitute… and the drip is probably one of the many diseases you can catch around here,” Spyglass said in disgust.

“My offer still stands. I am clean and willing,” the earth pony offered.

“Oh no, for all I know, this is just part of the test, you just scratch your own itch,” Rye retorted.

“Damnit,” the earth pony swore. “I was in the mood for a little hunt the radish,” she muttered.

“I… uh, intriguing as it might be, I don’t even want to know what that means,” Rye said as he settled himself into the chair and made himself comfortable.

“It means,” the zebra began helpfully.

“That you shove your snoot into her fertile earth and root around until you find her radish,” the unicorn finished.

“UGH I SAID I DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW!” Rye shouted as Spyglass began to guffaw.

“I helped a filly find her radish,” Crab said shyly but with a hint of pride.

“Oh?” Spyglass asked. “Who was the lucky filly?”

“My cousin,” Crab said bashfully.

“Egads,” Spyglass said dryly. He shuddered and flapped his wings as he stomped his hooves a few times.

Crab seemed utterly oblivious to his captain’s discomfort and stood there smiling, his eyes closed, obviously enjoying a pleasant memory. “I’m gonna go home and marry her I think,” the stallion said dreamily.

The unicorn stepped away from the table, went to a bookshelf, pulled down a book with wooden covers, and presented it to Rye. “Read this as you wait. Look at the diagrams. It will help you,” she said pleasantly before leaving Rye with the book and returning to the table to continue her work.

The zebra was mashing something in a stone mortar with a hoof stained a brownish green and humming to herself as she worked. Whatever it was she was mashing smelled spicy and exotic. The earth pony was busy chewing on something and then spitting small pieces into the zebra’s mortar.

“Earth pony saliva has been shown to have many useful properties,” the zebra said in conversational tones as she worked. “And pegasus spit is good for waterproofing,” she added.

“What does unicorn spit do?” Rye asked.

The zebra shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve studied it, but I haven’t yet discovered any results,” she admitted.

“And unicorn seed?” Rye asked hesitantly.

“Oh, I’ve found a use for that,” the zebra said cheerfully.

“I am not sure I want to know,” Rye said.

“Spunk from different stallions have different sorts of properties,” the zebra explained, ignoring Rye’s concerns. “Earth pony seed can cause mares to go into season and become fertile with repeated rutting. Pegasi seed is very strange. I haven’t found a good use for it, but it does not freeze. I might mix it into a potion to see it will help the drinker resist cold magic,” the zebra said.

“Potions?” Rye asked.

“We sell them to the students and the locals all the time. We never tell them what goes into them. What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” the unicorn said sweetly.

“Ugh,” gagged Rye. “So, uh, what about unicorn spunk?” he asked timidly.

“Oh, it has strong aphrodisiac properties and we can brew a potion from it that, well, while it isn’t a love potion, it does have a way of relaxing the standards of any mare or stallion that drinks it and makes them very very excited and ready to go,” the earth pony said.

“And you know this how?” Rye asked.

“Oh, we get to experiment on students that do poorly, we also use mice, rats, and a number of other animals,” the unicorn said.

“You know, somehow, I never did learn your names,” Rye said.

“Oh, we do not usually give out our names,” the trio said as one.

Rye felt a little creeped out by the reply, with all of them speaking at once. “I insist,” he said nervously. “Especially after the earth pony tried to seduce me.”

“To know our names is to know suffering,” the three of them said in unison.

“Crab, step outside if you will. Just outside the door and wait with me if you will,” Spyglass commanded.

The big earth pony didn’t have to be told twice. He stepped outside the door and Spyglass followed with him.  The door closed behind them.

“Are you sure you want to know?” they all asked in unison.

Rye was scared now, but he felt that he had to know. Perhaps this was another test and Spyglass was still having a go at him. He swallowed, licked his lips nervously, and took a deep breath. “I would like to know your names ladies,” he said as calmly as possible.

There were three sad sounding sighs from the mares.

“I am Clotho,” the earth pony said.

“I am Lachesis,” the zebra said.

“And I am Atropos,” the unicorn announced. “But there are those who call me “Morta” instead,” she added cryptically.

Clotho cleared her throat. “Tradewinds is a very peculiar place Mister Mash. This place has many travelers and traders of every sort pass through this city. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told just what sort of folk travel through here and do business here,” the earth pony said softly.

“We already knew that you would pass your test,” Lachesis said.

“And we knew that you would insist on knowing our names,” Atropos said.

“You were born to suffer,” Clotho said sadly.

“I refuse to believe that,” Rye said defiantly.

The three mares all laughed. “You will be defiant until the very end,” the three said together.

“Keep the book, you will need it after the choice that you have made,” Atropos said.

“We knew you would, but we still hoped that you wouldn’t. Occasionally, there are those who steer their fate away for whatever reason. But you have embraced yours. Your mark suits you, death dealer,” Lachesis said in a sad voice.

“Death dealer?” Rye asked nervously.

“What else can come from a mark such as that? You are no agent of harmony. You are one of mine,” Atropos said in a chilling voice.

“I don’t understand,” Rye said. “Is this a joke? Is Spyglass testing me?” he asked.

“This is no joke, but you are being tested,” Lachesis replied.

“By who?” Rye asked.

“By the Fates,” the three mares said together with a mad cackle.

 

 

Author's Note:

So... does anybody know who the earth pony, the unicorn, and the zebra are?

 
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