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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At least somepony was nice enough to make sure that he had lunch. Bucky sat in the dining hall scarfing down as much food as he could. There was leftovers from breakfast and lunch and a small cask of mead had been brought to him.

He was so empty that the alcohol could take no immediate effect upon him. He could feel his stomach converting food into energy almost as quickly as he could take it in. As he continued to gobble down enough food to feed several ponies, he had himself a troubling thought. Going on a magical rampage wearing a suit of enchanted armor was going to require a lot of food. He had experienced this thought before several times, but now it settled into his mind uncomfortably. A bit of teleporting with his own body mass wasn’t too bad, but wearing several hundred pounds of armor was going to deplete him quickly. Even if he lightened his armor like he did The Scorned Mare, he still had the molecular mass to deal with and magical molecular reassembly every time he winked.  

He thought about it as he chewed. Alcohol was good source of easily consumed calories and if he was using magic constantly, he could stave off the effects of inebriation. Unicorns could get drunk if they wanted to, and so could alicorns as Bucky recalled, thinking of Barley and Luna. He made a few mental notes. It might just be a beer and whiskey fueled rampage that drove the wolves from the isles.

Sombra’s suggestion of strong drink made more and more sense. Bucky whipped his head around and looked at his hops cutie mark for a moment. He wasn’t sure if it was irony or not, but it almost made sense in a perverted sort of way that a unicorn warrior would have such a mark. Extreme magic took fuel, and alcohol was an exceptionally good fuel. He brought his head back around and eyed the food before  him, selecting his next target.

He took out a dozen fried oatcakes in mere moments, and then guzzled down half of the cask of mead in one go. He belched and let go a sound that would make Sparkler cheer in appreciation. There was a sound that would never be welcomed in a library. For a brief moment, Bucky was thankful that he was not the Scholar.

There was leftover corn, turnip, and potato chowder. He lifted the large wooden bowl to his lips and guzzled, swallowing the creamy broth and chewing the vegetable bits.

“I’m practically a pegasus,” Bucky muttered to himself, his mouth still full, something he would have never done even just a few months ago. He let go of another frightful resonating belch that echoed through the dining hall. “Or an earth pony I suppose.”

“Do you need anything else sir?” a skittish looking serving filly asked.

Bucky looked at the filly. She looked to be older than Sparkler, on the cusp of actual marehood. She was of solid earth pony stock and was looking at him with some small concern, worried that she would fail to please.

Or, Bucky realised, be asked to satisfy other appetites. He didn’t know how to put the filly at ease or explain to her that he wasn’t that sort of noble. Instead, he went for an entirely different approach. He couldn’t tell why the filly seemed so skittish.

“There is lot of cheese and butter here. The chowder is fantastic. I’ve seen a few goats, the occasional cow, and even a few sheep, but there doesn’t seem to be enough dairy animals here to keep up with the sheer amounts of butter and cheese ponies eat. By the way, the gratin potatoes were fantastic lass, you tell whomever cooked them that they did a good job,” Bucky said in what he hoped were friendly but not too friendly tones.

“That would be my mother sir,” the filly said with a blush.

“Your mother made the gratin potatoes? She did a wonderful job,” Bucky replied.

“She also helps to make the butter and the cheese,” the filly chirped happily.

“So, she’s a great cook, she knows how to churn butter, and she can make good cheese? She’s a treasure. So where does all the milk come from?” Bucky asked.

“My mother. And many of the other kitchen staff mares,” the filly answered cheerfully.

Bucky looked down at his chowder bowl and then his eye looked up at the filly.

“Being a milk mare means a comfortable life. If your milk makes the grade, it means a comfortable life of working in the kitchens and being fed the best food so you can make the best milk. My mother has high hopes for me, making good milk runs in our bloodline. I hope that I get a milk bucket mark just like my mother’s and my grandmare’s,” the filly explained.

Bucky lifted his bowl and guzzled down the rest of the chowder. A small part of his brain screamed that he had just learned too much and consuming the rest of the chowder was folly. He didn’t care. Why was it okay to drink cows milk or goats milk but pony milk was somehow taboo? His brain implored him to stop thinking about this line of reasoning. He taunted his brain that milk was milk, and it all came from teats. Delightful life giving teats. Drinking cows milk or goats milk was milk meant for another species. At least pony milk was meant for ponies. His brain fought back the only way that it could under the mental onslaught. His higher processes shut down and all he was left with was various mental images of the teats of those he loved. Berry’s were small and firm. Thistle’s were growing and soft… and oh so inviting. Derpy’s pointed in different directions… He looked down at his foreleg and thought of Bon Bon. He immediately pushed that troubling thought from his mind. Forbidden teats and forbidden nethers were a no no.

He wiped his muzzle and looked up at the filly. “I wish you the best of luck miss, and you tell your mother that Bucky says thank you,” he stated.

The filly squirmed and blushed. “I just need to find a good husband,” she said suggestively. “I’m under Keg Smasher’s protection until just the right husband can be found. Keg Smasher values his cheese and I am a worthwhile asset,” she said with a bit of a titter as she looked at Bucky shyly.

It was time to go.

“Well thank you again miss. I am almost done here. And I am a very busy pony,” Bucky said to the filly. He smiled at her one last time, lifted the cask, emptied it, scarfed down a few remaining morsels, and then rose from the table. He wondered if the filly knew what had happened to Keg Smasher.

As he departed, the filly gave him a final nervous but fetching smile.

 

 

Piña flipped the page to Starjammer’s Shadow Bestiary and cursed Starjammer’s name. He might have been a brilliant unicorn, but she was growing to hate his books. She had just read almost a hundred pages that could be summed up in just a few short words, that corrupted shadow creatures tended to have necromantic bites and drained life from their victims, giving them strength in return and healing their wounds if they had any. The more they bit, the stronger they became, until they were truly formidable foes.

The earth pony scowled and looked up from the book. Her ears splayed out sideways as she thought about everything she had read. Corrupted shadows fed on thaumaturgical energy as well as life energy, which made them magic stealers. Starjammer mentioned in his book that enterprising unicorns had used corrupted shadow creatures to gather needed magical energy and then siphoned it off to power magical experiments and arcano-tech contraptions.

Piña turned as the hum from Dinky’s horn intensified. A single fly buzzed around Dinky’s head, surrounded by a magic nimbus. Piña smiled, feeling pleased. She returned to her study.

“What are you girls up to?”

Piña nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard her father’s voice. “Not mischief!” she said defensively. The earth pony foal looked up and saw Bucky. “I was reading and doing some thinking,” Piña explained.

Dinky managed to keep her concentration and held her control over the fly. She was lost in her own world at the moment, completely unaware that Bucky was near.

“Ripple is sleeping,” Piña said in a low voice. “She lifted us up here on the deck of the ship and we stowed away inside the cabin. It is nice in here,” Piña said.

“I was wondering how you girls managed to get up inside of here on your own. I was worried about you. You slipped off and didn’t tell any adults,” Bucky said.

Piña squirmed. “We’re safe. We are with Ripple,” she said a small guilty voice. “I think I understand what the wolves are doing,” Piña said. She watched as Bucky’s demeanour changed suddenly. Where he seemed mildly upset before, his eye now blazed with a curious intensity and he sat down. Piña felt her mouth go dry.

Bucky settled himself on to the mattress next to Piña, sitting first, and then sprawling out on his belly. Piña felt herself being tugged away from her book and she found herself in Bucky’s warm embrace, one foreleg wrapped around her and holding her close. Piña settled against Bucky’s chest and pressed her snoot into his neck for a moment, glad that he wasn’t angry.

“So what are the wolves doing Piña?” Bucky inquired.

“Being earth ponies,” Piña replied.

“I don’t understand,” Bucky said. “Can you explain it?” he asked.

Piña pursed her lips together and further settled into Bucky’s embrace. She could feel his heart beating as her back pressed into his chest. All of Piña’s fears and worries melted away. “The shadow wolves are harvesters. They go out and collect energy from the ponies they attack. The book says that they can collect energy. And that unicorns can collect this energy from the wolves. Now, I don’t know a whole lot about harvesting, but I am an earth pony and I get hunches. If the wolves are collecting magical energy, they are probably bringing it back to some place where it is being collected, since new wolves keep being made. But since the attacks keep getting worse and worse, they are probably getting stronger and stronger, and with this much harvesting, there has to be a lot of surplus,” Piña explained.

Piña squirmed and giggled as she felt a kiss on her ear.

“So the wolves are bringing back what they harvest like earth ponies returning to a barn,” Bucky said. “And whatever they don’t use to make more wolves, they are gathering up and storing it away some how?”

Piña nodded, feeling a little bit nervous now and hoping that her father would take her seriously. “It is just a guess,” she squeaked.

“It is a very good guess Piña, and I think you might be on to something,” Bucky said soothingly.

Piña relaxed in her father’s embrace, taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh of relief. “Nopony ever takes us earth ponies seriously,” she whispered. “I don’t understand why. We have good minds. We can think. Smart Cookie was one one of the Founders. But nopony ever takes us seriously,” Piña muttered.

“I do,” Bucky said. He kissed Piña again and gave her a squeeze. “You keep studying. I am in need of a nap. I had a very difficult morning Piña,” he whispered.

As Piña watched, Ripple was gently lifted from her spot and brought closer. Bucky settled the pegasus filly beside him and Piña reluctantly slipped free of his embrace. She returned to her book and looked over at Bucky, who had lowered his head to the bed. He looked very tired.

As Piña returned to her book, she could hear a faint wheezing snore coming from Bucky as he slipped into slumber. She dragged her book over and leaned up against his other side. She flipped through several pages and then the book fell open to an illustration of something called a “shadow battery.” It was a crystal column infused with raw magic, heavily ensorcelled by the strongest forms of enchantment, and when connected by something called an “ethereal bridge” to a unicorn, it could give the unicorn a vast reserve of external power so that they would not tire so quickly from prolonged spell use. Piña read the description carefully several times. She had come to her conclusion before reaching this page and she felt a small sense of pride.

At the bottom of the page it stated that the shadow battery was created by a unicorn named Sombra. Piña shivered in horror, now all too familiar with that name, the boogeypony himself.

 

 

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