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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9. Chapter 9

Rye Mash roamed the streets of Tradewinds, feeling confused and alone. Skeeter had returned to the ship with Crab and was no doubt safely secured away in his hammock. He looked much better. Spyglass had apparently vanished after stepping out of the door, leaving Crab all by himself to wait.

He roamed the markets, thinking as he trotted, and mindful of any threats around him. He was well armed. Multiple pistols and two shotguns. He was aware of the stares of other equines as he moved through the crowd. He heard murmurs about his mark from various passersby.

He smelled strange smells, saw strange ponies, and took in all of the differences all around him. He passed a stall where a zebra was selling what appeared to be roasted beetle grubs on a stick. Rye shied away from the stall but still relished the experience of seeing something new. He passed another stall where a zebra was pan roasting crickets over a fire.

As he passed a narrow alleyway, a zebra mare lifted her tail as he passed by. He kept going, but had trouble tearing his eyes away.

Smaller airships hovered over the street, tethered to towers and buildings, and it looked as though some where used as living spaces. Others were basically rowboats with gasbags and were used to carry passengers above the busy streets, away from the filth and the crowds.

“You there!”

Rye halted as a unicorn approached him.

“Mercenary?” the unicorn asked.

“Something like that. I am not offering my services. I am currently engaged,” Rye replied.

“I need work,” the unicorn said.

Rye smiled. Spyglass was looking for unicorns. “What made you think I was a mercenary?” Rye inquired politely.

The unicorn shrugged and pointed at Rye’s mark.

“Oh, well, I see. I guess maybe it is rather obvious,” Rye said. “You don’t mind serving on an airship?” he asked.

The unicorn looked thoughtful for a moment and his muzzle scrunched. Finally, he shook his head no. “Would give me a chance to study,” the unicorn muttered.

“What do you study?” Rye questioned.

“Everything,” the unicorn replied.

“Mind if I get your name? So that way, when I introduce you to Spyglass, I will have a name to give him?” Rye asked.

“Starjammer,” the unicorn said absentmindedly.

“Starjammer?” Rye said.

Starjammer nodded but said nothing.

“You don’t say much, do you?” Rye asked.

Starjammer shook his head no but said nothing in reply.

“So where are you from?” Rye inquired politely.

“Canterlot,” Starjammer answered.

“I’m from there are well… do you have a house?” Rye asked.

“Avarice,” Starjammer mumbled.

Rye jerked his head back. “Oh,” he gasped. “That might be an issue.”

“No issue,” Starjammer said.

“It might be… House Avarice is sort of Spyglass’ sworn enemies I think,” Rye explained.

“I’m a fugitive,” Starjammer said in mild annoyance.

“A fugitive?” Rye asked.

“Yes,” Starjammer replied.

“What did you do?” Rye inquired curiously.

“Patricide. Matricide. Fratricide,” Starjammer said casually. “In that order,” he added in what seemed like a loquacious burst of verbosity.

“Oh… oh I see,” Rye gasped. “Might I ask why?”

“Sure,” Starjammer answered.

“Why?” Rye asked.

“I felt like it,” Starjammer said.

“I see,” Rye said. “So, uh, any reason why you felt like it?”

“Slavery rubs me wrong,” Starjammer groused.

“Uh, well then. I think Spyglass will be happy to meet you. I’ll, uh, save you the trouble of having to talk to him and I will just tell him all of this if that is alright with you,” Rye offered.

Starjammer nodded with said nothing in reply.

“So, do you have any gear that needs to be gathered or luggage?” Rye inquired.

The other unicorn shook his head no.

“I am going to continue to explore the city for a bit. I’ll be heading back eventually. Don’t mind a bit of poking around do you?” Rye asked.

Starjammer shrugged noncommittally and said nothing.

“Know where a gunsmith is?” Rye asked.

Starjammer actually smiled for a moment as he nodded his head yes.

 

 

Rye stared at the guns on display. The shop was long and narrow, and various racks lined the walls. It stunk of black powder and gun oil. And Rye fell in love over and over with everything he saw. Pistols of all shapes and sizes. Rifles. Shotguns. There were crossbows too, but Rye had no interest in those.

“A pony with a gun talent.”

Rye turned and looked at the griffon speaking to him.

“My name is Augustus,” the griffon said. “And you… you are going to be a good customer,” the griffon stated in a pleased sounding voice.

“Nice shop,” Rye said politely.

“Thanks,” Augustus replied. “You are well kitted out. I see some fine pistols.”

Giving a nod in reply, Rye Mash continued to look at the various guns in the rack. He saw quite a number of double barreled pistols, but nothing quite like his four barreled pistol.

“You know, I sell more than just guns in here,” Augustus announced.

“Oh?” Rye inquired hopefully.

The griffon reached down below a counter and pulled up a large book. “Gunsmithing. How to make guns. How to modify guns. Practical gun designs,” Augustus said as he set the book down on the counter.

“How much?” Rye asked. “I have some different coins that I could pay you.”

“I’ll grab a scale. Four measures worth of silver or one small measure worth of gold. Which is a steal really, I am practically giving this book away. I am hoping that you will be generous in return…” Augustus answered.

“What do you want?” Rye questioned.

“When you make something, I’d like a chance to study it,” the griffon said boldly.

“I am not sure how I feel about that,” Rye said.

“I’ll give you the book for free. With a mark like that, I know you’ll be coming up with something worthwhile,” Augustus stated.

“That’s tempting,” Rye admitted.

“Good trade,” Starjammer said. “Ideas. Worth more than gold.”

Rye blinked at the unicorn’s outburst of words.

“We’re trading ideas. I wrote this book. I’m giving you ideas. I am asking for a few in return,” Augustus said.

“Deal,” Rye answered. “Now, about that long barreled pistol with the telescope looking thing mounted on it, can you explain to me what that is?”

 

 

The pair emerged from the shop a short time later and Rye had a new pistol tucked into his harness. Blackened ebony wood, blued metal barrel, and a brass scope. The pistol had a different barrel than the others Rye had, it had metal grooves that the griffon called “rifling” which would make the fired shot far more accurate. It also used a different bullet than the standard lead ball, this bullet was flat on one side and elongated a bit, making it look like an egg with a flat spot.

The book was tucked away safely in a saddlebag.

“Why guns?” Starjammer asked.

“I don’t have a lot of magic,” Rye replied. “With a gun, I am a free pony. What I say matters. I am no longer a slave or a subject,” he explained.

“Type two?” Starjammer inquired.

Rye nodded. “Yes,” he stated. “You?”

“Three,” Starjammer replied.

Both ponies ears perked as they heard a shriek in the distance, down in an dirty looking alleyway between two buildings. Rye began to move forward, and then felt a magical tug on him.

“Better not,” Starjammer advised.

“But somepony is being hurt,” Rye said frantically.

“Maybe,” Starjammer said. “Or trap.”

“I’m going,” Rye said as pulled out a pistol. He couldn’t help but notice that Starjammer was rolling his eyes. Rye stomped forward and pulled out a second pistol, the matched brace that Velvet had given him. He turned around the corner of the alleyway, not sure what to expect.

He heard Starjammer behind him as he charged down the shadowy alleyway, pistols drawn. There was another scream from up ahead a panicked shrill scream that made something deep within Rye come to life.

It made him murderous.

He lept over trash and filth, old fish bones, and broken shards of pottery. As he continued, approaching yet another corner where there was an alleyway intersecting an alleyway behind the buildings, he heard a wet meaty sounding thud.

He came around the corner just in time to watch a griffon swinging a small filly around by her hind leg and her head approached the bricks with alarming speed.

Inches before colliding with the wall again, the filly froze in midair. The griffon looked very startled. It was the last look he made as Rye Mash pulled both triggers simultaneously. Both shots connected and the griffon’s suddenly headless body was hurled backwards by the impact.

“Nice shot,” Starjammer said succinctly.

The filly remained in mid air and Starjammer pulled the filly to him. She was dazed and unresponsive. The unicorn began to look her over. She was a little unicorn.

Rye took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves. He began to reload his pistols, and as he was doing so, there was several loud pops all around him as several more unicorns winked into existence.

“We heard gunfire,” one of the unicorns announced.

“Don’t move or face obliteration,” another unicorn warned.

“That filly was just screaming and nopony helped her,” Rye said coldly, wondering how fast he could clear leather.

“Fillies scream all the time. Gunfire is a bit more important,” one of the unicorns replied.

“That griffon was swinging her into the wall,” Rye said, both guns now loaded.

“Probably wanted her horn and magical organs,” one of the unicorns muttered.

“Sick bastard,” another agreed.

“There is a thriving black market trade,” yet another explained.

“So am I in trouble?” Rye asked. He counted six unicorns. He cast a glance at Starjammer.

“Everything seems pretty cut and dry here. Dead griffon, some worthless orphan, two do-gooders. I’m going to leave this be. Reporting this would be too much paperwork,” a unicorn said in annoyance.

“I saw nothing,” another agreed.

“Please sir, no more accidental discharges within the city. Accidents happen, but be more careful in the future,” a unicorn warned.

“Wait, what of the orphan?” Rye asked.

“Leave her,” the unicorn suggested before winking away.

The others also winked away, until they were all gone, leaving Rye and Starjammer alone in the alley. The pair looked at one another and Rye kept his guns out and at the ready. He didn’t feel comfortable in the alley.

“What do we do?” Rye asked of his companion.

Starjammer shrugged and began to walk away with the filly held in his magic.

“Yeah, right, getting out of the alley is probably wise,” Rye said. “Wait, I actually know a few healers.”

 

 

“Been busy,” Clotho muttered.

“We can help the foal,” Atropos offered. “Not her time anyway,” she grumbled.

“Interesting companion,” Lachesis muttered, looking at Starjammer as she spoke.

“Funny that both of you should meet,” Clotho said as she gently prodded the foal.

“Little one? Can you hear me? Atropos inquired.

The foal squirmed but seemed unconscious.

“Missing an eye already, how sad,” Lachesis said.

“We can’t heal that,” Clotho stated.

The zebra, the earth pony, and the unicorn went to work, each one doing their part. The unicorn stitched carefully, sewing back a flap of scalp that had split open. The others were mashing up something in a mortar together. The foal made a couple of muffled cries even though she appeared to be unconscious.

“What is this going to cost me?” Rye asked.

“One day we will call in your debt,” Atropos answered.

“Some sick bastard was going to cut off her horn and sell it. Her magical bits too. Please tell me that you fine ladies would never engage in such a trade,” Rye said, seeking reassurance.

“We take only what is offered freely,” Clotho stated.

“I don’t know what to do with the filly,” Rye said to the three mares. “She’s an orphan. I’d feel bad just dumping her back out on the street after all of this,” he stated.

“Why? She’s an orphan. And there are hundreds just like her on the streets outside. Why bother saving just one?” Lachesis inquired as she smashed something with her hoof.

“That’s a good question, I don’t have an answer,” Rye answered.

“She’s mine,” Starjammer announced.

“What?” Rye asked.

“Apprentice,” Starjammer muttered.

“I don’t know how Spyglass might feel about that,” Rye stated.

“She will make you a fine apprentice,” Atropos announced.

“In a little while, she should wake up. Meanwhile, who wants tea?” Clotho inquired.

 

 

 

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