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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Bucky prowled the deck, looking over the day guard. The Scorned Mare soared towards a new cluster of islands and the sun was directly overhead. There was blue-green ocean below. There was no more sleep to be had and there was nopony that Bucky felt close enough to talk to. It was just him and his thoughts.

He was alone with his thoughts, trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle.

He suspected that whomever was behind the wolves had to be a member of House Bitters, or had been when they were still a pony. Lyra was right on that account. There was no equinity left in his foe. Bucky worried how much of his equinity was left in him. It was a troubling thought. He knew he was breaking down. He was becoming numb inside, his feelings becoming dull and dead.

House Bitters had its own rogue’s gallery, the family members that were never talked about. So many had been carted off to asylums. Madness was a common problem. There had been quite a bit of inbreeding over the years to keep the bloodline as pure as possible, breeding only with other members of Platinum’s bloodline. Bucky’s own father had broke with tradition and had married his mother, Primrose Propers. It had been done with Goldflake’s blessing, Goldflake being the head of all of the various houses of Avarice.

His father’s father, also named Buckminster Bitters, had married his first cousin, which was rumoured to also be his half sister due to a little adultery that was never discussed. Buckminster’s father’s father had gone a little crazy after his father had apparently spontaneously combusted one day. They found his charred corpse in the study. He had been named Buckminster Bitters as well. Being the anal retentive obsessive compulsive types that they were, they stuck with what worked. The name was inherited, along with all of the prestige that came along with it. Bucky felt that he would be glad to break with tradition.

Spontaneous combustion happened. So did suicide. One of the many hazards of being a Canterlot unicorn. It was a fine thin line to walk and the pressures were many.

What Bucky wanted more than anything right now, was a cup of tea. Or coffee. Anything hot, calming, and flavourful. He could feel it in his throat, the desire, the need for something soothing that was not hard liquor. He turned his face towards the wind and felt his mane blow back. He closed his eye and allowed himself to get lost in the moment, feeling the sun and the wind on his face. There was a salty tang in the air.

His serenity was rudely interrupted by the thought of whatever it was he was fighting planning for his next visit. Bucky wasn’t particularly skilled in abjuration or stripping away defenses. He had never intended his talent to be used for war. He had merely wanted to unravel the mysteries of what was possible, enchantment and transmutation had allowed him to do that.

He was going to need Lyra. He hoped that she could include a few spells inside of spell jars that would help him break down defenses, or that she could teach him how to shatter shields and protective wards. Lyra might have played second fiddle as a spellbreaker to Twilight Sparkle, but Lyra was second fiddle to Twilight Sparkle which meant that Bucky could ask for no finer teacher. There was also the fact that Lyra had created a shield which had even kept him contained. He thought of that night and how Lyra had subdued him and his magic.

“You should be sleeping.”

Bucky nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of Derpy’s voice. It was the voice of an irritated mother who had just found her foal out of bed and prowling about the house. Quite without meaning to do so, he turned around and looked at her guiltily.

“I can’t sleep,” Bucky whimpered in a strained voice.

“I know, but Bucky, you need sleep,” Derpy said.

“This is almost over. Maybe when my mind is at ease,” Bucky replied.

“Come back to bed. Berry Punch is waiting. She’s full to bursting with milk and Harper is sound asleep. Let Berry comfort you,” Derpy said in a gentle enticing voice.

Bucky did not reply, but he did rise and begin to make his way to the cabin door, a pegasus just behind him prodding him along.

 

 

“Tonight, we will be over these cluster of islands here,” Deadspin said as he pointed to the map with his wing. “We’ve already had scouts return with information. No howls. The isles are warm at night. No trace of bitter cold. Whatever might have been here has retreated, possibly pulled back. We’re hearing reports from several outer isles of the same thing. Isle o’ Groats is reporting that the nights are bitterly cold again and the fear has returned. So the battlefield has changed. We’ll do a flyover so Lady Lyra can check, but I don’t think we are going to find anything.”

Lyra yawned and peered off towards where the sun would soon be setting. “Well if the battlefield has changed, we need to change. We keep up our flyovers but we should hurry back to the Isle of Groats and bring the battle back to whatever is holed up there.”

“We have to make sure there are no more crystal spires,” Bucky said.

“I agree. I plan to spend tonight studying the shard you brought back. Bucky, it is filled with necromantic energies. I am positive it is a shadow battery,” Lyra stated. “There is also weird mental magic. Some kind of mind control magic residue. I can hear it whispering to me when I touch it with my magic.”

“I need to be able to do something about the shields,” Bucky said to Lyra.

“I know. We’ll work on that. There are hundreds of empty spell jars still and I plan to give you a crash course in practical spell breaking. I am not sure how well you will do though Bucky. It is all about magical finesse, not brute force,” Lyra replied.

Bucky gave his unicorn wife a sour look.

“Hey, don’t you look at me like that you half a horse! You run around practically screaming “BUCKY SMASH!” as you crush things and smash things and slam things using only the raw brute force of your telekinesis. I remember stories of what you did to the schoolyard slide back in Ponyville. You made a big tower by smashing rocks together! Let’s face it, you are a one trick pony!” Lyra retorted, not liking the sour look she was getting. “I love you and you need to hear the truth. You can’t brute force everything!”

“Yes I can,” Bucky stubbornly argued in a low subdued voice. “And I have lots of tricks.” He thought about the accusations that Princess Platinum had leveled at him, calling him a brute. He felt righteously indignant that anypony would dare judge him.

“Yeah. You are a master enchanter. How do you use it? You make armor. And then, “BUCKY SMASH!” as you run around crushing and kicking things to death. You make bombs to blow your enemies to bits. Don’t get me wrong, it is practical and it gets the job done, but all you do is brute force everything, pummeling things into submission. You are as subtle as a whorse’s queef!” Lyra retorted, snorting several times to punctuate her words.

Bucky sulked in silence, glaring at Lyra.

“I love you so much, sometimes I can’t stand it,” Lyra admitted. “But you are so thick headed.”

“That crystal shard… is it dangerous?” Lugus inquired, gently butting into the conversation.

“I have it set up in a containment field and a resized repurposed spell jar. I had to wrap it in a null field to make it behave. It will be safe to study, and once I understand it, I intend to destroy it,” Lyra answered. “We’re dealing with another master level enchanter. Something that understands the subtle uses of magic.”

Bucky scowled and his head dropped even lower. He did not shrug away when Lyra kissed him on the cheek, but his glowering did intensify.

“To be fair, Bucky is still young. Given enough time, I have no doubt that he will become the greatest enchanter of our age. I am sure he will learn to be subtle someday,” Lyra said as she prodded Bucky with her hoof.

“I am calling for rest and relaxation tonight,” Berry Punch said. “We’ll post guards, but if there is determined to be no threat, I say pull up to a safe altitude and let the foals out on the deck. Let them see the the moon, the stars, and Luna’s sacred night. And no dressing up as Bucky Buckethead tonight.”

“I agree,” Lugus quipped, his beak clacking together for emphasis. “Our chief looks awful. If he was food, I would not eat him. He appears to be living carrion.”

The ponies on the deck stared at Lugus, a silence falling upon them all. It was broken by Lyra, who burst out laughing, clutching her stomach with one hoof as she threw back her head and guffawed.

“Oh thanks Lugus… I feel so flattered,” Bucky replied snidely.

 

 

The night air was cold at this altitude and the air was a little thin. The pegasi were fine, but the others had to breathe a little deeper. The breeze was salty and smelled of the ocean, even this high up. They drifted through the dark, clouds above and below them, and swaths of clear sky all around them.

Sentinel sat on the deck, looking up at the moon, Moonbow sitting beside him, the pair close together and sitting in silence. The magical lights had been dimmed and the offensive capabilities turned off to keep the lunar pegasi from harm on the odd event that anything might happen. Moonbow, much larger and shaggier than Sentinel, kept moving a little closer, until she was pressed up against his side so they could keep warm together. She was a creature of instincts, and her instincts were to keep the smaller males around her protected. Sentinel triggered those instincts. To an observer, it looked like budding affection.

Sour Mash was telling a story to Dinky and Piña, a scary story about banshees that left both of the foals clinging tightly to one another and shivering in the cold night air. Sour Mash was an excellent storyteller and several of the adults had gathered around to listen. Sour Mash was also quite good at making “wooo wooo” noises to emphasise her story at key points. She sat on her haunches, waving her front hooves around, explaining with slow drawn out words how banshees would scream to paralyse their victims and then suck the life out of them, slurping it right out like soup from a bowl.

Lyra was off in a far corner studying, Bon Bon near her side, and Lugus stood watch near both of them, eyeing the crystal shard nervously. Bon Bon occasionally spoke to Lugus, and it was clear to any on deck that might be watching that the two of them were slowly becoming acquainted.

Berry Punch lay on a cushion, covered in a blanket, with Harper nestled against her belly. Derpy stood guard over them, the pegasus looking fierce. As serene as it might be, she was taking no chances. Yew Wood sat nearby, and Peekaboo was clinging to Yew Wood’s leg.

Ripple, on guard and on duty, walked the outer edges of the deck with several other pegasi. She was wearing her war shoes and they clicked softly with every step. Her mane whipped in the breeze and her tail billowed out behind her. She was solemn, she was serious, and even though she hadn’t told anypony, she wanted a fight. She was tired of living in fear. Now, she wanted things to fear her. Not her fellow ponies though, and Ripple was beginning to think of the fine line she would have to walk to be a protector of her species.

Rising Star, Sparkler, and Loch Skimmer sat off alone, talking quietly to one another, sharing their hopes, their dreams, and their shared desires for the future. Loch Skimmer quietly confessed to the ears of her mates that while she did not mind continuing her education, she wanted a foal as soon as possible, telling Rising Star in quiet urgent tones that she had needs, powerful needs, and that she was ready for them to start their family as soon as this was all over.

Bucky sat on the prow of the ship, looking out towards the stars. He occasionally turned to watch the others, and then he would resume his star gazing. As he sat, he thought about the flayed bodies he had found, some skinned, some missing bits and pieces, and he wondered why. He wished he had given more attention to those details. Were they missing hooves? Wings? The assorted magical parts that different ponies had? Bucky did not know. He silently cursed himself for his lax behaviour, his emotional shock he had felt, and how it might have caused him to miss important details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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