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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“I know we’ve been preparing, but I still can’t believe we’re going to do this,” Berry Punch said as she watched a team of pegasi overhead hauling The Scorned Mare through the sky. They swarmed the sides and the rear while flapping their wings and slowly moved the ship through the air. They were getting good at quick moves and maneuvers, halting suddenly and shifting directions.

“They’re still working on the harnesses the pegasi will wear for the long trip back to Canterlot,” Derpy said absentmindedly. “We’re going home soon Berry… I’m scared. We could be leaving for home in a week or two if all goes well.”

“I’m scared too,” Berry admitted.

“I’ve always wanted to live on the mainland, but now I am scared to leave,” Thistle confessed. “I have my family here. My herd. My tribe. I am really happy with what I have. All of this talk of trouble when you go home. What about me and our foal? I don’t want Bucky in trouble, I need a husband and our foal needs a father,” the kelpie said in distressed tones.

“I’m worried about whatever is controlling the wolves being a stronger foe than Bucky anticipated. Bucky, as strong as he is, has limits. There is only so much he can do,” Berry said.

“Daddy doesn’t fully know his own limits,” Piña stated in a small voice, butting in to the adult conversation.

Derpy, Berry, and Thistle exchanged a three way glance, a knowing look that spoke volumes without saying a single word, the sort of look only those very close to one another could possibly give to each other and know exactly what is being said in silence.

Dinky sat in the grass saying nothing, using a small brush on Peekaboo’s mane. Dinky understood the price of power and the balance of power now, perhaps better than most adults who would never truly know what it feels like to take the first steps towards omnipresence. Dinky had been everywhere on the isle all at once, it had stretched out her mind and left it a little thin. She understood her father’s pain, perhaps more than most of her mothers did, with the exception of Lyra.

Things had changed between Dinky and Lyra. There was now a quiet sense of understanding now.

“Think we will see him?” Piña asked.

“Maybe. He’s been strutting around in that armor more and more, giving ponies something to look at. The ponies deserve to see their champion,” Berry Punch replied.

“I wish that Ripple wasn’t so busy,” Dinky said, finally saying something.

“Ripple is busy developing her natural talents,” Derpy replied.

“Natural talents for violence,” Dinky said despondently.

“Some ponies are fated to keep other ponies safe. Ripple has a powerful gift. More is expected of her because of her skill. She’s like you Dinky. There is no end, no limit to what she can do now that she has us behind her, supporting her and helping her to live up to her potential,” Berry explained.

“She’s happier now,” Piña stated. “I mean, since she’s starting beating on stuff and getting her anger out, she’s actually been a lot happier… cheerful like our big sister Loch is cheerful.”

“See, that’s a good thing,” Derpy said. “You can’t bottle up that kind of anger. It poisons you.”

“My anger poisoned me. I can remember feeling the bugs sometimes. Under my skin. And I keep having dreams,” Dinky said in a dull voice. “I was so angry. It was so easy to slip into darkness. Daddy hardly had to nudge me. I wanted to go into darkness. It was like standing at the top of the slide and wanting to go down. I was so angry. Angry about everything. Thankfully, daddy has been teaching me better things to do with my anger when he has a few spare moments,” the unicorn foal stated.

“Anger can be a powerful motivator for change,” Berry agreed.

“I am going to use my anger to change the world, even if the world doesn’t want to be changed,” Dinky announced.

 

 

“Well, the voice is fixed I think. I might still sound a little funny and a bit metallic, but the scary piss yourself in fright voice should only come out now when I use the Voice inside of the helmet. It seems like it was all or nothing. I was so hoping to have two levels of intimidation to use,” Bucky said to his working companions.

Crush snorted and gave a nod of approval as he pointed at the helmet.

“Yeah, I know you didn’t like the old voice, it was a bad idea, it was impractical,” Bucky admitted. “Now stop saying “I told you so” because there are horseshoes to make and much to do.”

The big earth pony made a flapping sound with his lips before going back to work.

“The hook-axe is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Lugus stated as he looked upon the massive weapon that lie upon a rack. It was still in the state of construction. Dull black metal just like Bucky’s armor. It was a fearsome weapon of intimidation.

“Don’t touch just yet, it would be bad if you did,” Bucky warned.

“I know,” Lugus said, still staring at the axe.

“I still need to work on Ripple’s shoes,” Bucky sighed.

“You need a break. You’ve been at this non stop for the past several days and up all night filling spell jars,” Rising Star stated.

“Well, it needs to be done. You’re worn out after a day in the forge, Sparkler is worn out after a day of getting the horseapples kicked out of her by Sour Mash, Dinky is still having trouble concentrating for any length of time, and Lyra can’t cast spells without turning her teat milk into water,” Bucky grumbled.

“You are nothing but bones. You are getting thinner,” Lugus said in worry.

“Yeah, no comments about how I’m not fit for a meal or something,” Bucky mumbled.

“A meal implies something to eat. You are bones,” Lugus spat.

Bucky glared up at the much larger griffon, his lip curling back into a snarl.

“I am becoming increasingly fascinated by your facial expressions. I like this one,” Lugus stated as he reached out and touched Bucky’s face, poking at the corner of the stallion’s lip curling scowl. “This expression suggests anger with a hint of annoyance. Perhaps ire.”

Bucky nodded slowly.

Lugus pinched Bucky’s cheek. “Such soft squishy faces. I like them all a great deal.”

Bucky growled in annoyance and pulled himself free of Lugus’ grasp. He reached up and rubbed his cheek. “That is so annoying when you do that,” he grumbled.

“But your face and all it can do. It is like living clay,” Lugus said in his own defense.

“I swear Lugus, if anything else did that to me… I would turn them into a small rodent… and maybe let Sentinel eat them,” Bucky groused.

“Fire roasted rat is delicious,” Lugus stated.

Every pony in the smithy turned to look at the griffon in disgust and Lugus’ crest raised. His feathers fluffed out and the big griffon tried to smooth them down with his talons. He clacked his beak together and ignored the stares. Bucky was giving him an odd questioning look.

“Bucky, you know nothing. You should try fire roasted rat. Sentinel would probably enjoy it a great deal,” Lugus said dismissively.

“Sentinel loves hunting rodents but I think he likes them raw,” Bucky said in a low voice. “He’s offered to share a rat with me.”

There was a gurgling gagging sound from Rising Star and the colt swallowed loudly, trying to gulp down his need to feel sick.

“Today I plan to hunt later. I have finished my kit. If I bring down a deer, would you, Thistle, and Sentinel like to try some?” Lugus inquired invitingly.

Bucky raised his eyebrow, and could feel the numbed spot just under his ear offering a bit of resistance, the paralysed spot from where he had banged his head into the wall long ago in what seemed like another life. “Sure, why not. I will trust the meat you offer,” he said.

“Your wife… the kelpie, Thistle… she has taught you honour for your food,” Lugus stated. It was not a question.

“Yes. Almost every day when she catches fish for me, they usually come with some kind of lecture she has thought up and I am forced to endure as I eat the fish that she has caught,” Bucky replied.

“She is a good mate. She will give you strong young with honourable ideals,” Lugus said. “I want to go fishing. I need to construct a bow and fishing arrows.”

Bucky nodded and went back to work, his horn igniting as he began to burn in yet another glyph onto his armor. There was too much to do to keep standing around in idle chatter.

 

 

Ripple focused her mind and her balance, easily standing now on her front right hoof. Her wings were tucked into her sides, both of her hind legs were held together and formed a straight line from her body, and her left front leg was tucked against her barrel. She was as straight as pole as she stood on one hoof.

“You must be like your namesake, you must flow like water,” Knocker instructed. “And you must not think in limits. When you strike, when you lash out, you must not think of moving your hoof from one place to another in a line or a curve. Simply focus on your hoof existing in one spot and then existing in another. Do not tarry in the spaces in between where your hoof is and where you want to strike, this is the path of the slow strikers. Will your hoof to be where you want it. Do not move it, will it to another location,” the old stallion said hypnotically.

Ripple did not respond. She ignored the sweat trickling down her sides. She ignored the burning pain in the muscles of her right front leg. She blocked out the stabbing cramp in her front right shoulder.

“Focus on your danger sense. We pegasi can fly through the storm. We do not fear the lightning. If you think about avoiding the danger, the danger will find you. We are creatures of instinct. We know of the lightning before it happens. We are creatures of precognition my student,” Knocker explained.

Ripple felt something in her mind screaming out and she exploded into action. With a flurry of movement, she cartwheeled away, flipped through the air, and landed on her left front hoof a short distance away. She turned her head. Where she had been standing was Knocker’s raised hoof. He would have bruised her ribs again if she had failed and possibly gave her a few lumps to meditate on.

“You are my best student. Who would have thought it would have been a filly?” Knocker said with a lopsided smile. “I would have never thought a filly capable. But here you are, and here I am,” he said.

Ripple felt something in her mind screaming again and she sprang away. A second later, there was a flurry of blows that seemed to be coming at her from all possible directions. She flowed away from them, blocking some of them that got too close, her hooves moving in a blur. She was impossibly fast, moving with super-equine speed. She did not focus on lashing out as she had seen one of her fellow students attempt to do with Knocker, she focused entirely upon defense.

She didn’t want a skull fracture like the last now failed student.

Ripple was rocked back on her hind hooves while her front legs moved to block the incoming assaults. Her wings were out for balance. Her mind told her the real assault was coming, this was merely a warm up. She flipped away, somersaulting backwards, springing from her hindhooves to her forehooves then to her hindhooves to her forehooves over and over until she stood in a braced position on her hindhooves with her forelegs crossed before her in a defiant gesture and her teacher stood a short distance away.

“You are a marvelous creature,” Knocker whispered. “You were made for death. You are slender supple destruction with delicate beautiful wings.”

Ripple blushed but kept up her guard. Master Knocker was not above using flattery as a weapon. She had seen that when he had beaten another student into a bloody pile of pain.

The old pegasus dropped down on all fours, flexed his wings, folded them, and then went into a relaxed posture. “Be at ease Ripple. I have no further desire to test you. I do want you to continue your meditations. Think of those you love, how you can defend them, and what will become of them should you fail. Our time grows short. You must go into battle. Do not shame me! You are my prized pupil and I wish that we had a lifetime where I might teach you all I know. I have given you what you need and the tools to keep learning on your own should you wish to do so. I have others that I need to beat wisdom into, please excuse me.”

“Thank you,” Ripple said as she dropped down on all fours.

Knocker moved slowly towards Ripple, his head low and his posture radiating harmlessness. He stood near the filly, looking into her eyes. “I mean what I said. You have a great gift. I was a foolish old stallion thinking that only males could have such a gift. With you, I was also a student and we have learned together. Seek out further training. Always test yourself. Hone your skills. Some pegasi fly above the storm, for safety away from the lightning, other pegasi fly through the storm and do not fear it. I am a better teacher for having you as my student, and you have been my best student. Your raw potential is endless Ripple. Seek the center of the storm, therein lies wisdom,” Knocker instructed. He leaned in and carefully kissed the filly upon her cheek, knowing full well the danger of doing so, but choosing to do it anyway.

Ripple felt the soft kiss and felt confused, Bucky was the only other male pony that kissed her like that. Her gaze dropped down to the ground and she backed away, unsure of what she felt. “Thank you sir, I will spend the rest of my life trying to be worthy of the gifts you have given me,” she said, trying to think of how Sentinel might reply to this situation.

“Be true to the way of the Storm Seekers,” Knocker instructed. “And protect your tribe.”

 

 

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