The Chase

Bucky Bitters struggles to escape the airborne affections of Derpy Hooves after a chance encounter caused them to bump noses together. His real mistake was trying to comfort the mare after the snoot-bump. Little does the poor stallion realise that their meeting was only the prologue to a journey that will change not only his life, but the lives around him forever.

This story is a sequel to The Catch

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The late afternoon sun caused shadows to lengthen and Bucky’s concerns to deepen. Keg Smasher had not returned, and evening was approaching slowly but surely. Wheatberry seemed perfectly content to stay with them and did not seem the least bit concerned about her father’s absence.

Bucky’s concerns were many. Ripple was in considerable pain from flying and was now a curled up ball of misery next to Sentinel, who was also suffering. The two suffered in silence together. Loch Skimmer’s leg was bothering her. While she had not bumped it during takeoff or landing, the flight seemed to have jostled her leg around a bit and now she was in something of a sour mood. Bucky suspected there might be other reasons for her sour mood.

Both Lyra and Bon Bon were watching him hungrily. This was a cause for alarm because Bucky honestly loved both of them and did not wish to do anything that all three of them would regret later.

With family came tension, with tension came stress, and with stress came the need for release. Bucky had spent most of his life learning to hold everything in, and while that still had its place, even some valuable uses, Bucky was learning to let everything out.

He thought about Sombra’s advice for living. Strong drink and hot mareflesh. Evading was also important. Bucky pondered the advice as he tried to push the worry from his mind. He was distracted by a giggle from Loch Skimmer. Rising Star was apparently trying to make her feel better and had whispered something into her ear.

“Berry! Not in front of the foals!”

Bucky’s ears perked at Derpy’s outburst and his head turned toward the sound. Thistle looked very flustered and she was panting heavily. Berry looked entirely too pleased with herself, and Derpy looked more than a little flustered. She was fanning herself with her wing. He didn’t know what had just happened exactly, but knowing what Berry was capable of, it was probably something Berry naughty.

There was a series of popping sounds and Bucky felt himself become startled. He relaxed after a moment, seeing that it was only popcorn. There was a large jar of it that had been sent in the care trunk and Dinky was popping popcorn for Wheatberry.

A loud squeal of alarm actually caused Bucky’s horn to ignite reflexively and his head turned sharply, only to see that Sparkler had her mouth full of water and she was squirting Piña. He made himself calm and told himself that there was no danger here in their room. Feeling bad for Piña, and still having a considerable amount of magic ready to go, Bucky conjured a small rain cloud over Sparkler’s head and locked it in over her horn.

As he turned his head away to look at Sentinel, he could hear Sparkler crying out about being drenched. He could hear Sparkler’s frantic protests as she attempted to dismiss the rain cloud. He saw Sentinel give him an odd look that he could not make out.

“Who summoned the rain cloud?” Sparkler demanded to know. “Dinky?!”

Bucky swallowed his laughter and gave Sentinel a gentle prod. He saw Sentinel shaking a bit and felt concerned, until he realised that Sentinel was  trying not to laugh. The colt’s serious mien had been shattered.

“I didn’t do it! Sparky, no tickles! Ugh, it is raining on me now, it keeps following you!”

Bucky heard a faint snickering coming from Ripple as he turned to look at the fracas between siblings. He tweaked the cloud slightly and the rain changed to snowflakes. The fracas continued unabated and Bucky sighed.

“Snowflakes!”

“Hey, wait a minute…”

“I can’t make snow clouds Sparkler.”

There was riotous laughter from all over the room and Sparkler sat in the middle of it all with a growing blanket of white flakes on her mane and pelt. She shook the flakes from her head and shivered.

“You have no idea how good this feels right now,” Sparkler muttered. “Ah, that’s actually really nice,” she gasped.

“Bucky, snow is getting everywhere!” Derpy protested.

“Eh, the flakes melt and one of the unicorns can make the water go away,” Berry said dismissively.

“I can understand how awesome this is because I know how hard clouds are to control,” Dinky said, looking up at the cloud in appreciation. “I want to know how you locked it in place over her horn though,” the unicorn filly added.

“Magical signatures,” Bucky said, explaining nothing. He figured it was best to make Dinky work for it. Plus, explaining this in front of Dinky’s mother might earn him a dirty look, and Bucky was learning to evade.

“It will go away, right?” Sparkler asked.

“Well, a cloud that sized could keep pulling moisture in from the air around it and could just keep going,” Lyra explained.

“I think I’ll keep it for a while,” Sparkler said as she gazed upwards at the cloud.

Little Wheatberry was having the time of her life and hoped that the fun would never end as she watched the snow fall and munched on popcorn. She was going to have a story to tell to her mama.

 

 

Bucky was sitting in the dining hall eating dinner when he felt the sun slip below the horizon, the peculiar sensation in his horn letting him know that darkness now claimed the land around him. With the dark came fear, as there was still no sign of Keg Smasher.

The first howls of the evening could be heard outside, and Bucky slammed his hoof down upon the table in frustration. He wasn’t very strong, and the sound wasn’t very loud, but the emotion that it expressed was clear.

There were a lot of worried ponies, and many of them were turning towards Bucky, looking for some sort of reassurance. Bucky felt all too aware of the looks and slumped down where he was sitting.

Berry Punch was making sure that Wheatberry ate a well rounded meal, and the foal squealed in protest, wanting to eat nothing more than hot buttery peas. Bucky sympathised. Hot buttered peas were delicious, but growing foals needed more than buttery peas. He cast a glance at Ripple, who was tearing into a pile of beets. Ripple had been the very first pony that Bucky had ever seen or known who suffered from malnutrition, and it was something that had changed him profoundly.

Sparkler ate the way she always ate, with gusto and enthusiasm, her food getting a light dusting of snow as she gobbled it down. She had named the cloud “Poofy” and called it her boon companion.

As Bucky continued to eat, a pegasus entered into the hall through the smaller doors in the rear rather than the larger double doors that was the main entryway. The pegasus approached him nervously.

The pegasus stood near where Bucky sat, saying nothing, but standing at attention after snapping a salute with his wing. He stared at Bucky expectantly.

“If there is something to be said, say it,” Bucky said in frustration.

“One does not address their superiours unless spoken to sir,” the pegasus stated as he gave Bucky a fearful look.

“Do you have something to tell me?” Bucky asked.

“Lord Buckminster, as of delivery of this message, you are now in charge of this castle and these isles until such a time that you are relieved,” the pegasus said nervously.

“What the feck?” Bucky shouted in reply. “I demand to know what is going on!”

“Lord Buckminster, Laird Keg Smasher had to go and deal with a wolf attack on another island. One of our larger villages fell prey to the wolves’ predations. We’ve never dealt with an attack like this one. Laird Keg Smasher went there to re-secure the area. We do not know why he has not returned, and there have been no further communications,” the pegasus explained.

Bucky reeled from the information and he felt light headed and faint. Now was not the time to succumb to panic though. He steeled his nerves and a hard glint flickered in his remaining eye. He looked to Wheatberry, who seemed oblivious to everything.

“What if Keg Smasher does not return?” Bucky asked in a low voice.

“Lord Buckminster, you would become Laird Buckminster and you would be responsible for our safety and well being,” the pegasus answered in a trembling voice.

Bucky closed his eye and tried to collect himself.

“Sir, I know how much you value your time with your family, but the other nobles are going to want some reassurance. After you finish your meal, I must request that you situate yourself in the throne room and make plans for what comes next,” the pegasus requested.

“What comes next?” Bucky inquired, all too aware that there were too many eyes to count now looking at him. Had he been able to count them, it would have came out to an odd number given the unfortunate circumstances and the many missing eyes.

“We must operate under the assumption that Keg Smasher is not returning and make plans to keep your ponies safe. He said that he would return before sundown and he has not done so,” the pegasus responded.

Bucky gritted his teeth. He noticed that the pegasus had not said Laird Keg Smasher with his last address. It filled him with dread.

“I am with you sir.”

Sentinel’s voice cut through his inner turmoil like a knife. Bucky opened his eye and looked at his colt, who was sitting a short distance away.

“I will assist you,” Sentinel stated in a somewhat groggy voice, looking Bucky in the eye and perking his ears forward.

Bucky thought about dismissing Sentinel and sending him to bed for much needed rest, but then he realised that if he did that, it would cause him more pain than his burns. Bucky nodded.

“I will be assigning the most loyal guards I know near your door,” the pegasus said in a low voice.

Bucky looked at the pegasus in confusion. “Guards?” he asked.

“Lord Buckminster sir, it is mere a precaution. Others will be jealous of what you have and there might be those who move to take it from you. Keg Smasher laid out a careful bit of planning. I am one of the few that Keg Smasher trusted with his plans, and I do hope that I prove worthy of your trust sir,” the pegasus explained.

“What is your name?” Bucky asked.

“I am called Thrasher,” the pegasus answered.

Bucky felt a puzzling sense of calm overtaking him. He looked around the table at his family. “Rising Star, you are to keep them safe. I am trusting you with their security,” Bucky instructed. He saw the colt nod and was pleased to see a look of grim determination settle over Rising Star’s face.

“I am coming with you,” Berry said.

“Alright Berry,” Bucky replied.

“No, you listen here, you are going to need me if things get complicated. I’m a Shetland pony… wait, did you just agree?” Berry said in a confused voice.

Bucky nodded. “I am going to need your ability to read other ponies,” Bucky stated.

“Rising Star isn’t the only pony who can keep our family safe,” Sparkler said, a faint hint of anger in her voice.

Bucky dismissed the cloud over Sparkler’s head with a mental flick and looked at Sparkler. “Sparkler, you are in charge of keeping Wheatberry at your side at all times. You are to keep her safe, secure, and happy. You are not to let her be more a leg’s length from you at any time, do you understand me?” Bucky commanded.

Sparkler nodded, her moment of anger now gone, understanding just how serious her task was. She moved closer to Berry and the foal. Once settled, she gave Wheatberry a friendly pat.

“We’re coming with you,” Bon Bon said.

“I’d prefer that Lyra stayed to guard the family,” Bucky said.

“Rising Star and Sparkler are formidable defenders. We have no doubt about their abilities. While we should trust Thrasher’s selected guards, I would feel better if we protected our own. So Lyra and I are coming with you and Berry,” Bon Bon explained.

“I am more than capable of defending myself,” Bucky said, but even as he spoke his words softened as Bon Bon gave him the stinkeye. Bon Bon’s disappointment was one of the few things that Bucky truly feared.

“You swore an oath to never bring harm to one of your fellow ponies,” Bon Bon growled. “And we are going to hold you to that oath. Lyra is under no such compunction. Should there be trouble, I know that Lyra will gleefully render our foes into greasy piles of ash,” Bon Bon said in a loud clear voice.

Lyra nodded. “Yup, because I am feeling frustrated,” she muttered. She lifted her mug of wine, chugged it down, and then slammed the mug down on the table. Her golden eyes glanced around the room, meeting as many eyes as possible.

Bucky nodded slowly and turned to look at Thrasher. “Give me some time and we will collect in the throne room as soon as I am ready,” he said.

 

Author's Note:

I am almost positive that a few typos escaped my notice, so let me know where they are so that I might exterminate them.

If you pay attention, we can really begin to see the herd dynamics at work here.

Next chapter... Bucky gets a taste of authority, something he does not want.

 
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