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 herd quietly recovered together, each pony clinging to somepony else. With each passing moment, they felt their strength recovering. A guard stopped by to check on them, and then he departed, not looking well himself. Bucky conjured water and they began to clean one another up as Bucky removed the mess from the floor.

Quite some time later the door opened and Derpy entered the room. She grunted with every step and Thistle was sprawled out limply on her back. In her mouth was a basket full of fish. Derpy made her way to the bed and then carefully eased Thistle off of her back and down onto the bed with the others. She set down the basket and shook herself, flaring out her wings and stretching them a bit.

“She’s worried about her foal,” Derpy said nervously, and it was clear from looking at the pegasus mare’s face that she was now worried about her own.

“The sickness is just a reaction to the dark magic,” Bucky said reassuringly as Bon Bon pulled Thistle close and began to rub the kelpie with her hooves. Thistle responded almost immediately, and as Bucky watched, seemed to perk up from Bon Bon’s touch. Bucky’s observations were all going into a vast mental file. The touch of earth ponies seemed to help ease off the effects of dark magic assaults among the many things the touch of an earth pony seemed capable of doing.

The strategic part of Bucky’s mind saw Bon Bon and Berry Punch as powerful assets.

The rest of Bucky loved them dearly and treasured earth ponies for their solid and dependable natures. Bon Bon and Berry were almost fully recovered while the others were still struggling to fend off nausea and trying to push the feeling of horror from their minds.

Using his magic, Bucky pulled Thistle into his embrace with Lyra, and the two mares clung to one another as he held them both. Bon Bon rubbed Thistle’s belly, which seemed to sooth Thistle’s fears.

“Dinky… I hate to ask you… but I need you. We’re not going to take this lying down. As soon as you feel as though you have recovered, you and I are going to commune… and very bad things are going to happen...” Bucky said haltingly.

“You’re going to need me,” Lyra groaned. “I think I can use some of my detection magic… I can maybe detect shadow… if we can find nearby dens… I know what you are planning to do. I have a perfect sense of direction once I want to find something,” she added in between heaving gasps. Her stomach was cramping and her teats were hurting. She felt too full of milk.

“An exchange of pleasantries seems appropriate,” Sentinel heaved as he pulled Piña closer to him. Piña was miserable and welcomed Sentinel’s embrace. He could feel her as she buried her face into his thick shaggy pelt.

“Can we push past its defenses and into the Hydra Teeth?” Bucky asked.

“Maybe. I hurt it Bucky… it has been weakened now, whatever it is. I could feel it in my mind Bucky… it was male… I think… at one point but no longer. It has changed. Moved on. It felt so very wrong as it touched me,” Lyra replied.

“Do you know where it is?” Bucky inquired in a low voice.

“I think I do, and even if I don’t, I could trace the spell back to its origins. It was careless Bucky… it thought it could take me and make me kill Harper and Bon Bon… hurt those I love… hurt you,” Lyra responded as she brushed her face up against Thistle.

Dinky, finally mustering up enough gumption to reply, sat up. Her eyes were red and bloodshot, and she looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. She wobbled as she sat up. She reached out with one hoof and placed it upon Sentinel to steady herself. “Whatever it takes,” she moaned as she rubbed her head with her other hoof.

“Why isn’t Bucky sick?” Thistle asked.

“Dark magic takes a contest of wills,” Lyra said weakly. “Dark magic is all about imposing your will upon another. Which is why it is useful against things like demons and other fell creatures. Certain very powerful entities can resist harmony magic, or are even immune to it, like very powerful demons. But hit them with dark magic and overcome their will to resist, and you can hurt them. You have to have a stronger will than they have,” she explained as she held Thistle.

“I also suspect that Bucky is a bit darker than whatever is hiding in the mountains,” Berry said, stating exactly what was on her mind. Her comment was met with silence, and nopony responded. “I dunno about the rest of you, but I appreciate Bucky’s darker parts. As an earth pony, I respect a pony willing to get his hooves dirty,” she said, breaking the silence she created. “And things are going to get filthy,” Berry muttered as an afterthought spoken out loud.

“I am well aware of Bucky’s darkness,” Derpy said in a low voice. “I know what sort of magic he used to keep Dinky and Piña safe that day in Ponyville. But I’d like to focus on Bucky’s happiness, he deserves it,” the pegasus added.

“As much as I don’t want any part of this, if Bucky is going to strike back, then I am going to be a part of it. We started this together and I will see this through to its end,” Sparkler said as she lifted her head away from the bed. “I don’t have much to contribute other than the presence of my mind,” she offered.

“I’m in this as well…” Rising Star announced.

“Get yourselves together then. We’ll need to eat something first. And then we are going to do terrible things,” Bucky said in a cold voice as he held both Lyra and Thistle. He kissed them both, and then reached down to stroke Thistle’s belly.

 

 

Five unicorns gathered in the grass and settled down together. They were all quiet and solemn. A short distance away, a group of other ponies had gathered to watch over them, including a very nervous and upset Keg Smasher. Thrasher, Keg Smasher’s loyal assistant was beside him, while Wrecker glanced around nervously, not liking the direction things had gone. A group of mostly earth pony mares sat around Wrecker, each of them looking quite sour.

Some of the unicorns from the mainland were watching, all of them quite frantic, none of them had ever experienced anything like this, they had already heard rumours about what Bucky was capable of, and of the things he had done. The tales of the undead walking the earth had unnerved them.

A very large griffon sat nearby, carefully sharpening his beak with a stone and filing the tips of his claws into points. He was every bit as massive as Keg Smasher and he was terrifying to look at. Beside him sat a tiny pegasus filly that he occasionally stroked affectionately, consoling the still upset foal. Several of the more frightened shipwreck survivors sat close to the griffon, looking befuddled and confused. They had endured so much tragedy already and this only made things worse.

Sour Mash and Deadspin stood guard together, watching over their brigades. Keg Smasher had given the order to expect anything, and there were terrified whispers that an army of the undead would descend upon them at any moment, so the guard was out in force. The two brigades intermingled and the stallions and mares watched over one another protectively, forming tight ranks together. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the mares held the line with the stallions, the first regiment of its kind for centuries, as even in mainland Equestria the guard were all male. They were clustered tightly around the rest of Bucky’s family, a fortress of flesh and fury.

Bucky looked at his group of unicorns and his expression grew grim. “We are about to do bad things for the right reasons. I don’t know if I have prepared you enough for this. I hope that I have, but I am worried. We’re about to do the sorts of things that there might be more consequences for when we go home… and after giving it a lot of thought, I am not sure that I can ask you to do this. So I am telling you now, if you want to back out, do so. Lyra and I are committed to this course of action. She and I have a means to return fire so to speak, and Dinky, I am not sure I want you to endure this… or either of you for that matter,” Bucky said to his group.

“Don’t you dare send me away!” Dinky snarled. “He made Piña sick… I want blood!”

Bucky closed his remaining eye and lowered his head, saddened to see such a change come over Dinky. “I figured that is how you’d feel.”

“If I don’t have a future at home, I have a future here,” Rising Star said. “So I fear nothing. I have my wives and I don’t need anything else.”

Sparkler leaned over and kissed Rising Star affectionately before speaking her mind. She cleared her throat and then she looked at Bucky. “He’s right. We can always choose exile. I could spend the rest of my life here if I have to. I’d like to go home, but really, home is wherever my herd gathers,” she said in a raspy emotional voice.

Lyra looked over at Bon Bon, who was difficult to see because she was surrounded by the guard. She tried to see Berry Punch, who she knew was looking after Harper. She really wanted to see Harper, but the little foal was not visible. She gulped, finding it hard to swallow, and tried to crush down her rising feeling of panic. Now was not the time for panic, she needed to do her part for her herd. Every pony had a part, some function in the herd, and she understood that her role was very much the same as Bucky’s, to defend them from the threats they had no means to fight.

“A unicorn to light my way, a pegasus to watch over me, and an earth pony to shoulder my heavy burdens,” Bucky said mostly to himself in a low whisper. He knew that Sentinel prayed to Luna by speaking to her moon, other ponies prayed to the sun, Bucky himself had never been much for prayer, but now found himself in an odd position where he felt the need to say something. He thought about looking up at the sun to say something for a moment, but halted when he realised how much it would burn his eye. He had forgotten his goggles in the chaos. No, he no longer belonged in the sun, and he wasn’t sure how Celestia was going to deal with him after everything he had done. Exile was certainly an option, if he was lucky.

In the end, Bucky could only think of one pony he could talk to that would understand. “Sombra,” he muttered to himself. “I hope I am worthy as your heir. I hope my enemies piss themselves when they hear my name,” he grumbled. Bucky pondered on the ridiculousness of it all. Nopony would ever be scared of a name like Bucky he thought to himself. A brief mad sounding maniacal laugh spilled from Bucky’s lips, which turned into a frightful cackle as Bucky reflected upon the insanity of the situation.

“Bucky… you’re scaring me,” Lyra warned. “You know what they say about cackling and our kind…”

Sparkler shivered suddenly without understanding why.

“Let’s do this,” Bucky said as he lifted his head. “No turning back now, let it be known that when it came down to moral purity or fighting to win, I chose to go to Tartarus,” he growled.

 

 

The crowd watched, most of them not understanding what was going on. Bucky hovered in place, now high above the ground, and four unicorns moved in orbit around him. They were all connected by shimmering ribbons of raw magic. Bucky’s horn burned with black fire, as did Lyra’s, while the other three were ignited with harmonious auras.

Many in the crowd grew skittish, instinctually fearful of dark magic. They huddled together and sought comfort with one another.

Derpy watched, her heart in her throat, she had seen powerful magical displays before, like when they had built the tower, but this felt wrong somehow. She clung to Berry Punch and Thistle, and she could feel Bon Bon hugging her from behind. Derpy leaned back into Bon Bon’s embrace.

And then, the pegasus mare felt her heart break. As she watched, Dinky’s magical aura changed, going from her usual purple colour to a frightening black glow as black flames wreathed her horn. She cried out a wordless cry, a mournful sound that only a mother could make, and she felt Bon Bon’s grip tighten upon her. She clenched her eyes shut, unable to look any longer. She did not see Dinky open her eyes, which were now glowing a baleful shade of crimson and the whites filled with a pestilent shade of noxious green. She did not see that Dinky’s face was filled with ecstatic gleeful hatred. Thankfully, Derpy was spared this terrible sight.

The air crackled with raw energy and motes of raw magic floated around the coven of unicorns. The grass beneath them withered and died as they drew magic up from out of the earth.

Several ponies cried out in panic as the skies above them filled with a buzzing thrumming swarm of something. These were not bees, nor were they any sort of bug anypony might recognise. These were foul abominations, unnatural things, what had been conjured was corrupted and warped by powerful dark magic. What had been summoned could only be described as creeping death by those unlucky enough to have witnessed the birth of this Tartarus-spawned swarm.

The swarm grew larger and larger, becoming a seething black mass that buzzed over the coven of unicorns. The buzzing became a deafening roar and the swarm divided. Several masses flew off in all directions, with one mass heading right for the Hydra Teeth. Other smaller swarms headed off in other directions, each of them moving on an unerring course towards the hiding places of the hated wolves.

Dinky understood now what Sentinel meant when he said he could see in all directions while he was in shadow form. She was the swarm now. She was the collective, the hive mind, she was everything all at once. With Bucky’s will surging through her mind, Dinky became one with creeping death as it zoomed out in different directions. She could see everything all around her. She could see in all directions. Her swarm knew where to go, given direction by Lyra’s magical influence.

When part of the swarm hit the Hydra Teeth, Dinky felt resistance in her mind. Her vision from that section of the swarm dimmed, but did not die. Not this time. The nightmare insects flew into crags and canyons, followed trails of bones and rot, until they finally came to a dark crevasse.

The other swarms were finding the secret hiding places of the wolves. A den under the roots of some giant tree. Caves. An old abandoned stone cottage down in the cellar. The swarm struck, seeking flesh.

As her swarm entered the dark crack in the mountains, Dinky’s vision broke, but her swarm endured. Even if she could not see them any more, she knew that they would do their job, going into the very heart of the darkness upon these isles.

In the other places, the swarm fell upon the sleeping wolves and began to gnaw upon flesh. The wolves awoke and began to thrash about, clawing and biting at themselves, trying to make the terrible nightmarish insects stop devouring them. Dinky could see and feel it all, and she reveled in her power. The wolves fled their dens, running out into the sunlight, and Dinky saw them burst into flames. Hundreds of wolves were dying and Dinky could see them all as they struggled. Her swarm began to wink out, each one of the nightmare insects was capable of only a few bites or stings before vanishing, going back into the aether, returning from wherever they had been conjured from. Dinky understood that the nightmarish insects came from another place, a place where the wicked were punished.

Tartarus. The word loomed in Dinky’s thoughts.

It was the last thing Dinky thought about before her mind went blank and she slipped off into comfortable warm darkness.

 

 

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