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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It was only a few hours before the evening and Bucky watched his family interact. Moonbow had been made welcome, and now the filly was rapidly trying to find her place within the herd. He felt two lips press against his cheek and turned to look at Derpy, who was sprawled out beside him.

“It is good you got a little bit of sleep,” Derpy whispered into Bucky’s ear. “And you did good today. Remind me to give you the special “good husband” hug sometime.”

Bucky smiled and shifted his weight, leaning up against his solid matriarch. He listened to the conversations floating around the room as he nuzzled and snoot-bumped the pegasus.

“...and she can turn into a willow wisp,” Sentinel said.

“Will o’ the Wisp,” Berry Punch corrected. “Will o’ Wisp. A fae spirit. I’ve heard lots of stories about them and the ponies of the isles have told stories about them for the past one thousand years. Now I wonder if they were seeing a lunar pegasus in shadow form. There have long been stories of helpful wisps leading ponies out of danger, lighting their way, and leading little lost foals back home.”

Bucky pondered Berry’s words. Fate had given him a powerful and meaningful herd, Luna had hinted at that. He thought about Moonbow’s ability to become a Will o’ the Wisp and what Berry said about wisps leading ponies back who had lost their way.

“...not going to catch Bucky’s fish forever. He’s just a very busy pony,” Thistle said.

Bucky smiled. He was a very busy pony. He had just done his part to help secure the future of the lunar pegasi and he felt that he had proven himself a worthy father today. The happy grey pegasus beside him confirmed his beliefs. He could smell her happiness with him, and that made him feel good. He had expected a few slaps, but this was so much better.

“...my tribe, the males bring us food and we allow them to breed with us,” Moonbow explained in low voice that somehow carried over the various titters and giggles heard around the room. “Females never get their own food. We are too busy fighting, protecting, and guarding our males as they work to please us.”

“I like these ideas,” Thistle said as she gave Bucky a very straightforward look. Her serious face melted as she began to giggle. “Actually, I’d rather bring him fish than go out and fight his battles.”

“Sentinel has the right cutie mark for his species then,” Berry stated, suddenly understanding a whole lot more about Sentinel. “A fish cutie mark makes a lot more sense when you think about the males being the hunters and providers.”

“His mark makes him very desirable,” Moonbow agreed. “A fish bringer is better than a deer bringer. Deer bringers can get gored. Too much risk and danger for the deer hunters. Makes the females jumpy when they go out hunting. I find his fish mark very desirable.”

“Did you get a chance to give everypony a proper goodbye?” Derpy asked.

Moonbow nodded. “Yes matriarch. Even the males.”

Derpy sighed and looked at Bucky with one raised eyebrow. “You know, I suddenly feel really bad about all of the times I said “mare business” to you,” she whispered to Bucky.

“My little brother is betrothed,” Ripple sighed. “You had better be good to her Sentinel, or I will box your ears. And you Moonbow, you had better give my little brother the respect he deserves, or there is going to be a scuffle.”

Moonbow’s ears folded back and she went into a submissive slouch, still trying to find her spot in the female hierarchy of this herd. She looked pleadingly at Ripple but said nothing.

“I don’t like this,” Lyra whined. “I was just getting used to being a mother. I was just starting to think of Sentinel as my foal. And now this happens,” she said, her face sinking into a pout.

“Little colts and fillies grow up Lyra,” Bon Bon said patiently.

“I am still your foal,” Sentinel said in a pained voice. “And now you have another on-oomph!”

Sentinel’s words were cut off as Lyra hauled him close with her magic and then began to squeeze him to her as she cried. Recent events and stress had simply been too much upon her and her mommy hormones.

“Sentinel found himself such a pretty filly,” Bon Bon said with a sniffle. “Such a beautiful silver mane.”

Moonbow blushed and then covered her face with her wings. She flopped down upon the floor and went limp, not at all used to such open affection and soft words.

“I feel a lot safer,” Piña said to anypony that would listen.

“I do too,” Dinky agreed. “There are two of them now. Monsters look out.”

 

 

Deadspin prowled the deck with Sour Mash and Bunny on his heels, walking on either side of him. The pegasi propelling the craft were in good practice and there was a tailwind. They were flying as they soared over the ocean.

They were heading to an isle known as Dragonmaw Island. There was a little flat patch of land in the center, and the entire isle was surround on all sides by jagged crags, stony outcroppings, ridges, and gullies. Nothing had been heard from the isle for a while and the worst was feared.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Lyra said. “There is something wrong on the isle ahead of us,” she insisted. “I sense hostile magic. Very hostile magic. We should gain altitude and keep ourselves up high and out of reach if possible.”

“Skyward lift!” Deadspin bellowed.

“HEAD SKYWARD YOU BIRDBRAINS!” Sour Mash hollered, her voice impossible to ignore.

Deadspin smiled at his earth pony wife. She had a voice made for command. He loved everything about her, but he was especially proud of her voice. Even if she could get a bit deafening when he was on her back or they were belly to belly.

“Will you be able to drop from this height?” Derpy asked her husband.

“I could drop from where there is no air at the top of the sky,” Bucky replied in a cold mechanical voice. “Would leave quite a crater though. Hmm, I could use my impact like a bomb.”

“Bucky, be careful. Be methodical. Be the sort of calculating bastard I know you can be,” Lyra begged. “I don’t like what I am sensing. There is shadow here, and something else. I don’t like it, it makes my skin crawl and I can see little things in the corners of my vision and there are whispering sounds in my ears when I focus on it.”

“Thank you Lyra. I promise to be careful… and thorough,” Bucky replied to his nervous unicorn wife.

“Prepare flaming ordinance!” Bunny shouted. “We’re dealing with mostly bare rock and scrub. Nopony cares if it burns!”

Sparkler lifted a rack of spell jars that glowed orange and were carefully marked as “fire” on the labels. She placed them on the mount made just for holding the rack and secured them. “Ordinance ready!” Sparkler reported.

“Oh hey, the extra glowy orange ones… I filled those!” Rising Star said excitedly.

“Extra super burny flaming ordinance ready!” Sparkler repeated, correcting her earlier announcement.

There was a loud caw of laughter from Quartermaster Bunny, who delighted in her job.

“We’re too far up for me to see if we are over the island,” Deadspin reported. “Too dark.”

Bucky stomped over the rail and peered down. “We’re here,” he announced. “Will you be able to see me?” he inquired.

“My eyes are sharp sir and the night is clear. The glow you give off will be visible. So long as I have a clear line of sight, we will follow overhead,” Deadspin answered. “Full stop!” he barked.

The ship slowed and then went almost still, still being pushed around slightly by the wind. The pegasi pushers compensated, becoming better and better at their jobs as time went on.

“I love you all. I mean that. All of you. Guard my foals and what I hold dear,” Bucky said as he tossed himself over the edge.

 

 

Bucky braced his legs and tried to enjoy the freefall. He counted slowly, methodically, being the accountant that he used to be as he plummeted. His armor was well made and he trusted it. It would take some serious magic to even begin to undo its enchantments and protections.

One thousand thirty two… one thousand thirty three Bucky counted to himself.

At thirty three, he impacted into the ground. A thirty three second drop before crashing into the earth. There was an explosive blast all around him from the impact. Sealed inside of his armor, he felt nothing, it was like stepping out of bed.

A tiny floating golden lyre appeared near his head. It strummed for a moment, and the heard a familiar voice.

“Ahead of you lies gloom, so go and seal its doom, to guide you to your fight, just follow the big spotlight,” Lyra’s voice singsonged, coming from the lyre.

Bucky loved his clever unicorn mare. She had found a means to communicate, even if was in the form of a terrible song. As a fellow unicorn, he understood the weird constraints of how some spells worked.

“And now I must go and shut my trap, ‘cause our sweet  little Harper just took a crap.”

Bucky smiled inside of his helmet, feeling much better about the dirty work ahead of him. He took off at a slow steady pace, following the spotlight that occasionally flashed down ahead of him. Walking in low power mode was slow and tedious, but necessary. There was something here that frightened Lyra, and he didn’t know what he was facing. He conjured a swallow of whiskey from the keg secured upon his croup and pressed onwards.

There were no howls, but Bucky could sense them. Large numbers, just ahead. He found it odd that there were no howls. He was starting to feel an odd feeling in his horn, a new tingling that worried him.

Suddenly, the world went completely dark around him and he was buried in shadow. Not sure of the numbers he was facing, and not happy about the strange feeling he was getting in his horn, he sent up a flare.

 

 

“FLARE!” Sour Mash bellowed. “LOCATION?”

“I have eyes on Bucky, but he looks dim. It is like there is a hole in the night all around him. It is dark. Really dark!” Deadspin reported.

Rising Star came forward with a half dozen of the extra burny orbs held in his magic. He peered over the edge and stared downwards, and it took him a moment to see the dim figure of Bucky far below. “He’s mobbed by something!” Rising Star shouted. “Hold on Bucky!”

Rising Star released the spell jars over the side, given them a final magical nudge to guide them to their target.

 

 

The world exploded into fire and shrieks all around Bucky. His armor protected him from the fiery blasts. There was a savage roar as the world ignited, both from the flames and from something else. Still on fire, Bucky whirled around, trying to see what was attacking him. There were wolves, so many wolves, but there was something else.

He heard another roar and whipped around again, finally seeing a towering figure that blazed brightly as it stood over him. A massive shadow bear loomed above him, waving its forelegs around as it burned.

Something had corrupted the bear Bucky realised. He launched himself at the burning bear, and slammed into it sideways, knocking it over backwards. He stomped down upon its guts, trying to ram his hooves into the soft tissues of its entrails. He ignored the burning wolves attempting to gnaw on him and slamming into his armor. They were killing themselves in their mindless attempts to bring him down.

He felt a hoof sink in deep into the bears guts and heard a fierce roar of pain. He twisted his leg around, using his claws to rend the creature’s insides, shredding it from within. The bear rolled and Bucky found himself falling over, and he thudded down onto his side. The bear was mindless in its corrupted fury and clearly was not slowed down by pain. The bear rose up on its hind legs again.

Bucky rose to his hooves and then launched himself at the bear again. He was tempted to use magic, to call forth some spell to finish his task, but that would be wasteful. He could kill claw to claw and conserve magic.

He slammed into the giant bear, punching and kicking with his front hooves, and bowled the big beast over. He slammed one hoof down upon the bear’s skull repeatedly, turning it into a lumpy paste filled with bits of splintered skull.

Long after the bear had stopped moving, Bucky continued punching, his foreleg moving like a piston with each blow. Finally, he stopped.

The wolves had burned and the big shadow bear was no more. Around him, the scrub grass was on fire and the light was illuminated by the flames. Bucky took a deep breath and steadied his nerves. His work was not yet done.

He illuminated his visor with his sunstone eye and shone the green spotlight around him. He saw a ravine up ahead through the trees, a narrow crack in a stone ridge. He felt a chill when he looked in that direction, and he moved off in his slow steady mechanical gait to investigate.

 

 

After moving through the crack he found himself in a narrow ravine with steep sides. He could sense more wolves coming, but he did not care. Something terrible was hidden in the dark ahead, and he could sense it.

He took another gulp of whiskey that he conjured from his keg.

He was aware he was being hunted, he just didn’t care. As the wolves rushed around him, Bucky sent up a flare, choosing to save his magic for whatever was ahead. The wolves were swarming him now, swirling all around him, gnashing teeth and furious shadowy forms.

He continued to ignore them until the fire rained down, and then he took a bit of personal satisfaction in watching them all burn. They shrieked and howled as they sizzled and popped. Bucky felt no sympathy for them all. He supposed that he should feel some. The wolves never asked to be corrupted and turned to evil. They were part of the natural order too. But try as he might, Bucky could not muster any feeling of pity for the wolves.

 

 

The crack ahead of him filled him with a sense of dread. It would take him underground. There would be no sending up a flare to call for bombs. Bucky would be alone in the dark. The feeble voice that was Bucky’s sense of preservation implored him turn back, to run away, to not enter the dark abyssal depths of the crack. The voice was too weak for Bucky to hear now. He pushed his way through the dark crack and found himself in a sharply descending passageway.

The green light from his visor led the way, his sunstone eye proving its value and making itself worth the agony of implanting it. The green light was easy on his eyes and illuminated everything.

The passage was steep and narrow, but large enough for a bear to crawl out of Bucky realised. Ahead of him was more darkness, and he watched his step, knowing that some yawning chasm could appear in a moment. If he fell, he could teleport himself to safety, but it would be draining.

Finally, he saw a sickly yellow glow up ahead, and Bucky picked up his pace. He readied his magic, something felt wrong. This was a place full of magical sickness. A faint gibbering cry escaped from Bucky’s lips. What was left of his equinity suffered in this place. He could feel an ache in his bones and a dull thudding in his brain.

He rounded the corner and stepped into a cavern. Ahead of him, he saw piles of dead bodies, dead ponies, all brought here to this abattoir of horrors. Some had been hung on jagged stone outcroppings and flayed. After looking around and taking it all in, including a massive crystal spire in the middle of the grotto, he saw something that he wished he had never seen.

There was a unicorn colt that was about the same size as Sentinel. Looking at it, it was clear that it was dead. There was an exposed ribcage on one side. It glowed with the sickly yellow glow that the crystal emanated.

It was also moving around and it turned to stare at Bucky with empty eye sockets.

Bucky inhaled sharply as he looked upon the unbelievable unimaginable scene, and then to his terror, the unicorn foal’s horn began to glow. It was impossible for the dead to cast spells as far as Bucky knew. He braced himself for a magical battle with a foe that should not exist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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