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 shone down and there was an unmistakable sense of elation in the air. It was like the first day of spring after a particularly harsh and brutal winter, just knowing that the worst was over. After a bit of lunch and a short nap, Bucky had donned his armor after having to plead with Crush to get into the smithy to retrieve it.

The lower power mode allowed him to move with very little mana expenditure at all, but he was slow. He walked with practical mechanical efficiency. He had done much to silence the armor both inside and out, the sound dampening spells were now working. Walking over stone no longer produced metallic thumps.

Regular walking worked well, but any variation took serious effort. Walking on three legs required lot of concentration. The armor wanted to use the fourth leg. It was almost like wearing a golem around him that was semi-autonomous. The black glass visor blocked out sunlight and ultraviolet rays, protecting him and his faint shadow nature. He felt stronger in the suit, like he felt when it was night time. With a bit of enchanting, he planned to use the glass in the visor as a means of focus for his eyelight, turning the beam into a high powered well focused spotlight by shining it through the visor. That would take photon manipulation though, and that was tough work.

“Okay Bucky… that boulder up ahead. Dig your hind legs in. Use those claws for traction. Launch your self at it, turn your head away, and strike it with your front shoulder. Use your armor’s mass and momentum as a weapon,” Lugus instructed as he circled overhead. The large griffon seemed to be in a good mood. “And once you hit the boulder, the very moment you land and your hooves hit the ground, whirl around and strike it with your rear hips or your tail. This is the follow through. A staggered opponent can be knocked over this way,” the griffon explained as he made elaborate gestures with his talons.

“Got it,” Bucky replied in a hollow mechanical voice.

Bucky picked up speed, crouched low, dug in his hind hooves and claws, and then launched himself in a clumsy leap attack. He soared forwards, his forelegs tucked under his body, and he turned his head at the last moment. He struck the boulder with terrific force, enough to shatter several small pieces loose, and when he landed, he turned about suddenly, causing his tail to slam into the boulder, which worked loose a few more pieces of stone.

“That was not awful,” Lugus stated in a flat unimpressed voice.

“It felt clumsy. My body is so much larger now. And things don’t move the way they should. Walking and running seem to be fine, my armor is practically self aware when it comes to that, but this took a complex series of moves,” Bucky replied.

“I know nothing of what you speak. This self powered armor baffles me. I would rather have a suit of steel plate that I power,” Lugus said as he circled a dozen feet overhead.

Bucky backed off from the boulder, moving quite some distance away from it, turned around, pawed the earth, braced himself, and then launched himself once again. He soared majestically, flying in an arc, but this time, he did not turn away his head or slam into the big stone with his shoulder. Whipping himself around mid air, he slammed the rock with his tail as he went zipping past and then landed on the ground with a thud.

Bucky could not help but notice that Lugus looked impressed.

“That was an improvement. You should try that again. And keep doing it,” Lugus suggested.

“I wonder if I can do that griffon move where I latch my front claws into something and use my hind claws to tear its guts out,” Bucky said, expressing his curiousity.

“All big cats do that, it really is not so much a griffon thing. It is an instinct,” Lugus stated.

“Sentinel does it when he is attacking a big fish. He’ll hug his forelegs around his prey and then kick the stuffing out of it with his hind hooves,” Bucky said as he moved away from the boulder.

“I like Sentinel. He understands honour, or at least tries to do so. He will grow up to become a great pony. Perhaps he will be a knight like us,” Lugus stated. “This time, as you run past, don’t leap, stand on your front legs, swivel around, and tail smash.”

“Coming to terms with being a knight and running away from your duties?” Bucky asked as he bent and flexed his legs.

“Trying to. I did not fail my king, my king failed me. I have been thinking lately about my knighthood and what it means to me. I do not know what I am sometimes,” Lugus admitted.

“I was born to my position and I had always believed it worthless. Then my eyes opened a bit and I saw it from another perspective, and then I saw it as unicorn injustice. And then, I came here to this place, and I gained wisdom. Or I think I did. I still have moments of doubt, but I do see the hope that it has brought to the ponies here. A born knight come to rescue them from darkness,” Bucky said in his mechanical voice.

“We have those born to knighthood in my homeland. Most do not deserve it. Very wealthy sons of the high nobility and kings. Most are drunkards and rapists. And they use their authority to kill those who dare speak of them as drunkards or rapists,” Lugus replied.

“Mmm, I like drinking, but I am too much of a wooer and a screwer to be a rapist,” Bucky grunted as he charged. He surged forwards, his legs pumping like pistons, and as he neared the stone, he braced his front legs into the ground, pivoted on them, swung his tail mightily…

And missed completely.

 

“Well nuts,” Bucky growled as he recovered, getting all four hooves back down upon the ground. “As for rapists,” he muttered. “We have laws back in Equestria that prohibit some unicorns from being tried as rapists… well in special circumstances. There are still laws on the books that allow highborn unicorn nobles the right of primae noctis with earth ponies and pegasi, and under very special circumstance, other unicorns,” he finished.

“We call it droit de ravage and I find it abhorrent,” Lugus said, snapping his beak together when he was done speaking to emphasise his point. “One of the many reasons why I did not look back as I fled.”

Bucky was circling the rock now, walking with a stiff mechanical gait, swinging his tail from side to side and trying to get a feel for how his body moved. “Be the knight you were meant to be with me Lugus, I cannot change the world alone,” Bucky asked.

“You are my chief, I will do as you ask,” Lugus replied.

Bucky wound himself up and let go, smashing his tail into the stone and busting a large chunk free. He struck again, reversed his tail slap and broke off more stone. “When I go home, I intend to make certain things right. I guess some of my work is done for me, from what I’ve heard about the collapse, but when I get done it is my plan to completely destroy the Canterlot way of life,” Bucky growled from within his helmet. “I didn’t just make this armor for battling shadow wolves and their master, I made this armor to do battle with other unicorns if it comes down to it. Still working out the finer points of how to bring down thousands of unicorns without harming them.”

“This is why I will follow you into Tartarus if necessary. Not only do you plan to bring down thousands of unicorns, but you intend to do it without harming them. Simply taking on thousands of unicorns in battle was not challenge enough for Bucky Bitters,” Lugus said in an amused voice.

“With the way my life is turning out, a trip into Tartarus might become a reality,” Bucky stated in an angry bitter voice. He turned his backside towards the stone and bucked out with his hind legs, delivering an explosive impact to the boulder. It cracked in half and seemed to offer up a stony silent admission of defeat. “We need another stone.”

 

 

Keg Smasher watched as the griffons worked to make bows. There were wood shavings everywhere. A call had gone out for every available pegasus feather that could be offered to make fletchings for arrows.

He felt that integrating the griffons into the guard had been a good move. Already, there were mares in the guard, and that more than anything else was creating change upon the isles. And now, griffons. Keg Smasher felt a silent sense of pride. Equestria, for all of its greatness, had only males in its guard and Celestia had stated that she would never allow griffons into the ranks.

The isles were actually somewhat more socially progressive than mainland Equestria, and that made Keg Smasher feel pretty good about himself.

Airborne archers would be a great tactical advantage and would keep his ponies safe.

He heard the fluttering of wings and saw a grey blur in the corner of his vision. He turned to see a smiling grey pegasus. “Where are your foals?” Keg Smasher asked good naturedly.

“With Berry Punch and Thistle. Dinky is practicing magic and getting ready for the big fight,” Derpy replied as she settled in next to Keg Smasher. “How are you? How is your cracked hoof?”

“I am still recovering, I can’t lie. Still having trouble walking on my hoof, but I only have three legs now. Don’t have much of a choice,” Keg Smasher answered. “Any day now, there is going to be a call to fight and take back the night.”

“I know,” Derpy said. “Bucky wants us to try and move to a more nocturnal pattern of sleep within the next few days.”

“I’ve called off active full body contact training to give my troops time to heal up and be well rested. There was quite a cheer when I did that,” Keg Smasher stated.

“I could imagine,” Derpy said in reply.

“Your daughter Sparkler, I am told she has turned into quite a scrapper. Sour Mash and the others have not gone easy on her. I suspect that when she takes on her stone form, she is going to be a formidable defensive juggernaut. I’d like to see her in battle, but I will not be there,” Keg Smasher said sadly.

“It actually brings me comfort as a mother to know that my daughter is trained to take care of herself and she has the defensive abilities that she does,” Derpy said as she reached out and stroked Keg Smasher with a wingtip to comfort him.

“Every mother’s dream is having her daughter safe, free from danger, violence, and rape,” Keg Smasher said bluntly.

“Yeah,” Derpy replied in a soft strained voice.

“Eh, sorry lass, I find my words growing blunter and blunter as I grow old,” Keg Smasher apologised.

“But it is true,” Derpy said in return. “Every mother wants that. Or I would hope. There are bad mothers and I would very much like to kick them.” Derpy thought about one bad mother particular that she wouldn’t mind kicking into a greasy spot on the ground.

“Deadspin says that Sparkler is a brute. She’s a lot like us pegasi. We turn hard in battle when our blood boils and she can turn to stone. She’s just as solid as we are, all she needs is wings. She even acts like a pegasus Deadspin tells me. Make her mad and she goes stiff legged,” Keg Smasher said with a chuckle.

Derpy thought about how badly Sparkler wanted to be a pegasus at one point in her life and she smiled, realising in some small way, Sparkler had her wish granted. Sparkler was growing into a secure, mature, self confident young mare, and Derpy could feel herself filling with pride. Quite without realising it, her barrel puffed out, she threw out her chest, spread her wings slightly, held her head high, and looked very much like a proud pegasus parent.

“I can see why Buckminster loves you. If you will forgive me for being so forward, you are beautiful when you allow yourself moments like these,” Keg Smasher said to the puffed out pegasus beside him.

Derpy let out a small gasp but she did not deflate.

“We are pegasi. We were made to strut. It is in our nature. Once, when I still lived on the mainland, I saw a peacock. I watched it for quite some time. I decided that I wanted to be a peacock. I was still a young colt you see… so I became a peacock,” Keg Smasher said as he smiled.

“What happened? I mean after you tried being a peacock?” Derpy asked.

“I got noble ideas. My strutting made my head big. Other pegasi got sick of my strutting and tried to beat me down a bit, I was entirely too successful with the fillies. I discovered I was good at violence. I started getting big dreams. And then, I decided that it was time to really strut my stuff,” Keg Smasher answered. “So I came here, to this place, to find my ancestral roots. I found a nightmare. I gathered others loyal to me and we hid inside of kegs. We were delivered to a wedding feast that the current laird was having. I popped up out of my keg along with all of the others, and together, we slew every noble in the castle. I beat the laird to death in front of his own wives, and then I killed them too. I knew what they had done and the sort of mares they were. The laird was lucky they hadn’t poisoned him like some of them had poisoned the previous laird, if rumours were to be believed,” he explained.

“Oh… that’s awful,” Derpy said as she scowled.

“We had to completely eliminate the noble families, all of them, and start over. Every last member,” Keg Smasher said regretfully. “You know, if you ever want to see any real social change in Equestria, some of you might have to gather together and do the same. I know Bucky wants to see the end of his own House. And he’d be right to kill every last one of those worms. I know he won’t do it, but he’d be right to do it if he did. Would be bloody ironic, House Avarice all slain by one of their own armigers. Wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it either, I mean, it is his right by birth to kill ponies for their crimes. He could just sit back once the last body falls and invoke his right for retribution. The big dame Celestia and the little dame Luna wouldn’t be able to do anything about it but give him a hateful look. If they prosecuted him regardless, they’d look like bloody hypocrites for not prosecuting House Avarice during these long thousand years for the crimes they’ve committed.”

Derpy nodded, only partially understanding what was being said. “Putting Bucky on trial for slaughtering his own house would make them look bad, when they should have put House Avarice on trial for all for the things they have done,” she said, rolling the thought around inside of her mind.

“Yes. If House Avarice can exercise its birthrights why can’t Bucky? It would be seen as selective enforcement of the law. All of this is wasting our breath though. Bucky swore that he’d never bring harm to another pony,” Keg Smasher grumbled. “And while I respect him for it, I can’t help but feel that he is wasting a fine opportunity.”

“I hate to say this, I mean, I really hate to say this, but I think I agree with you. Does that make me a terrible wife? I do kind of wish that Bucky would just kill them all. I know that he could. At the same time, I can’t bear to think what so many acts of killing would do to him… I feel awful for even saying it now,” Derpy said fretfully. “He doesn’t sleep well anymore. He jumps out of his skin at the slightest sounds. I worry for him.”

“For the rest of your life, you are going to have a burden. No doubt, once all of this is over, Bucky is going to be hurt in the sorts of places where most ponies can’t see. He’s already something of a cripple. I get the feeling that this is going to finish him off and the inside is going to match the outside. And it is going to fall upon you, being the strong pegasus you are, to carry him for the rest of his life,” Keg Smasher said solemnly.

“I can carry him. I will carry him if it comes down to that, and I will never complain, not after what he has done for me and everything he has given me and so many others… this is going to break him, isn’t it?” Derpy replied.

“I fear so lass… I fear so.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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