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 don’t understand what is going on,” Bucky said, shaking his head slowly. “We saw the beams… I mean, we all saw them. Lyra cast her spell and now they are gone. Did he hide them somehow?” he asked, turning around to look at Lyra.

“There are a few possibilities,” Lyra replied nervously. “The most obvious one is that it severed the links once it realised what I have done. The other possibility is that it hid them somehow, but I doubt that. That would require tremendous amounts of energy, and they vanished far too soon after being revealed for this to be likely.”

“Can he reconnect?” Bucky inquired, his face pinched in concentration.

“I can’t say for certain, but my gut says no. To create the ethereal bridge you have to physically go to the location to create the magical wormhole. You might be able to do it over a short distance, but that would defeat the purpose of an ethereal bridge, and that is distance. No Bucky, he… it is withdrawing. I think it wants to force your hoof in battle. He’s wasting no more resources and no doubt preparing for your arrival,” Lyra said in a worried frightened voice. “I feel panicky Bon Bon, help me.”

Bucky watched as the earth pony and the unicorn clung to one another. He turned to look at Deadspin. “Deadspin, send messengers to Keg Smasher. Send out scouts to each island and search every cave, turn over every rock. If the links are severed, and I believe Lyra is correct, there should be no danger. I hope… anyways, we shouldn’t waste time and effort hunting them down. We will deal with the ruins after I deal with the master of the wolves under the mountain.”

“There were three beams and I still have the general directions in mind,” Deadspin reported.

“Pegasi are marvelous creatures,” Bucky murmured.

“Why thank you sir,” Deadspin said, saluting as he did so.

“So what do we do now?” Sour Mash inquired.

“We are currently over the Isle of Wheat and the Hydra Teeth are right ahead of us. We pull back to a secure distance and we spend one more night in preparation,” Bucky replied.

“So… why don’t we attack during the daylight hours?” Deadspin questioned.

“Tempting,” Bucky said. “Very tempting to to do just that. But then the caves would be full of wolves and who knows what else and I would have to fight my way in, battling for every inch taken. As much as it bothers me to say this, I don’t think I could do that alone. I would get tired and worn down eventually. No, we have to attack at night and I will try to lure them out of their lair. We then proceed to dump every spell jar we have upon them and thin out their numbers. I am positive that every corrupted shadow creature has been withdrawn to guard the lair. We probably face numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands.”

“How could thousands of creatures exist? I mean, food,” Sour Mash inquired.

“They don’t actually need to eat flesh,” Bucky answered. “They can eat flesh, but they don’t actually need it to survive. They just need to feed on fear. Sort of like changelings I suppose. When they eat a pony they aren’t doing it for the meat, they are doing it because it scares other ponies.”

“Well that explains why there can be so many,” Sour Mash said, looking thoughtful. “Wait, if they are ALL on the Isle of Groats right now, howling and scaring ponies, how bad is it? It must be unbearable, the fear and the cold. I bet it has never been this bad,” she added in a fear-filled whimper of concern.

Bucky grimaced but did not respond, knowing that Sour Mash had to be right. The master of the wolves was probably making a last ditch effort to draw as much energy as possible now that his batteries were gone. Ponies could die from extreme fright, they were simple creatures, and Bucky understood this on some deep instinctual level. Fear travels fast through the herd. When the sun set, the wolves would go out in force. They would howl, they would invade homes, they would be out in force, killing and scaring ponies, probably like they had never done before, trying to make a last ditch effort for their master.

“Bucky?” Derpy asked in concern. The grey pegasus mare looked a bit sleepy, being awake during the midday. She reached out with a wing and stroked Bucky’s side.

“We attack tonight. Prepare everything. Leave some orbs for Canterlot, we might need them, hard to say, but get everything you can up on deck and prepare for tonight. Secure the foals and Thistle in Lyra’s special room. It is small and cramped, but I am taking no chances. The rest of the ship is no doubt secured, I trust in Lyra’s spellwork, but it was Lyra’s idea to make the room, so this is for her peace of mind as much as it is my own. Everypony make your preparations for battle tonight. More than anything I want to put all of you out of harm’s way, but I can’t do this on my own,” Bucky said, looking around and meeting the eyes of the ponies he trusted most.

“I was born for this, and have spent every day of my life training for a time such as this one,” Deadspin said solemnly. “Sour Mash and I will prepare our troops.”

 

 

“Are you sure you are going to be safe?” Piña asked in a wavering voice that sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

“Piña, love, as much as I want to, I can’t promise that I will be coming back. Which is why I wanted to spend a little time with all my foals,” Bucky said.

He looked around him, surrounded by his foals, he looked upon each of them in turn, feeling them pressed up against him. Sentinel, who was stoic but slipping, Piña, whose eyes were glassy, and Dinky, who made no attempt to hold back the tears. Lyra was close by, holding Harper close, and Moonbow sat near the bed, an outsider looking in, trying to understand what was going on.

“Sentinel, if I fall, if I do not return, you are to make sure that my girls have worthy loves later on in life. It will be your duty to protect them, to look after them, and do what needs to be done,” Bucky instructed.

“No…” Sentinel replied, his voice pleading. “Don’t talk like that.”

“Sentinel, please, do as I ask,” Bucky whispered.

“Of course father, I will do as you ask. I am grateful for your trust,” Sentinel whimpered.

There was a pained cry from Ripple, who was sitting near Derpy, suddenly not sure about her place in herd. She fled from Derpy’s side and dove onto the bed, crashing into the pony pile with reckless abandon. She squeezed Sentinel and then she hugged Bucky, but said nothing. She wiped her eyes with her wings and settled in beside her father and pulled Piña close to her.

“Bucky, I know how important this is, but you need to try and get some sleep. All of you, stay with your father. Spend a little time with him. Treasure every moment,” Berry said in a strained voice, giving up her own happiness and need to be near Bucky so Piña and the others could have what might be Bucky’s final time spent with them. She wanted to be with Bucky, to feel him against her, to feel him insideof her, but she didn’t want to take this time away from the little ones she held dear. She leaned on Derpy, knowing that Derpy must be feeling the much the same.

Looking upon her young, Derpy felt conflicted. She wanted to push them away and cling to Bucky, and she hated the selfish feeling she kept having. Instead, she settled for climbing up on the bed and settling down near them, close to them pressing up against Ripple instead. She kissed Ripple affectionately, and then settled in, choosing to stay quiet so nopony would hear the strain in her voice. She watched as Berry Punch settled in beside her, and she gave a kiss to Berry as well.

Not knowing what else to do, Thistle piled into the bed and joined the others, settling in with Berry and Derpy, pressing her face into Berry’s side to finally release the bitter tears she had been holding back this entire time. The sobs were painful and wracked her spine, causing her back to ache fiercely.

“It is good that all of us have come together during this time,” Bon Bon said in a low gentle voice as she climbed up into the bed and then made a gesture for Moonbow to come to her. She embraced the lunar pegasus filly who crept in beside her and held her close. “This is all we have in life. Each other. And we don’t know how much time we have. Bad things happen in life, and we are not promised another day. So we need to make each moment matter. This is why we shouldn’t squabble with each other. This is why we should remind each other each and every day why we love each other, what we mean to one another, and what we feel towards each other in our herd.”

Rising Star shoved Loch Skimmer onto the bed and then followed as Sparkler climbed in. The bed was crowded now, and Rising Star grunted as Loch Skimmer flopped down on top of him. “What is it with pegasi and their failure to understand personal space,” he muttered.

Holding Harper in a bubble, Lyra climbed into bed and settled in near Bon Bon.

 

 

The grey expanse stretched endlessly all around him. Bucky wasn’t even aware that he had slipped off into slumber, but it must have happened at some point. Two figures stood nearby, looking nervous. Bucky didn’t even have a chance to say anything before the smaller of the figures slammed into him and hugged him fiercely.

“So now you know,” Sombra said.

“How much do you know?” Bucky asked.

“Only a little. And what I do know, I am forbidden to say,” Sombra replied.

“I understand,” Bucky said in grim acceptance.

“He was sick Bucky, the shadow, it corrupted him. It is not his fault. It came to him at an early age. Like it did you. But Celestia didn’t protect him, he wasn’t a very strong unicorn but he was so ambitious, she didn’t think-”

“That’s enough Platinum,” Sombra gently interrupted.

Princess Platinum fell silent and then sat down next to Bucky after releasing him. She looked him over, touching him several times. She prodded his ribs, his too thin legs, and his bony neck. A look of dreadful worry spread over her features.

“I have faith in your abilities,” Sombra said reassuringly. “You have endured so far. You have done so much. Just a little longer, and this terrible test will be over.”

“I’ve spoken to Celestia, I’ve wanted to tell her of the good you have done, but the master of this place will not allow it. She knows very little of what is happening. But she does now know that you are in mortal peril and that you face a trial that few could imagine. No one knows the outcome, but you have become the subject of many wagers-”

“Platinum, please, we will be punished again if you keep speaking on these issues,” Sombra urged, cutting Platinum off.

“About our last conversation… I was wrong Buckminster,” Platinum said, falling silent and unable to say anything else about the subject. She looked at Sombra and made a little gesture with her dainty hoof.

Sombra gave a knowing nod, turned his gaze from Platinum, and focused on Bucky. “A time will come when Sentinel will truly prove worthy as your heir. For good or for ill, certain entities have taken an interest in him. We can say very little, but he will be given a chance to prove himself. Once this is over Buckminster, you must prepare him for an interesting life. He has drawn the attention of many powerful entities. Already, various parties are busy squabbling over the future of your foals,” Sombra said in a low rumbling voice.

“Sentinel and his foals will long guard your foals and their foals, I was eavesdropping again when I was out on the astral plane being clever and-”

“Platinum!” Sombra scolded.

“I CANNOT HELP IT!” Platinum shrieked. “I want to give Buckminster some measure of hope!”

There was an ominous rumble from somewhere far off in the distance, and both Sombra and Platinum began to tremble. What sounded like a thunderstorm came rolling in, and the grey around them darkened. Platinum lifted her head and regained her composure, refusing to be threatened.

“Bucky,” Platinum said, dropping all sense of formality. “Don’t be brave. Be clever. Just between the three of us, you are not terribly bright all things considered. You blunder through everything you encounter. You are like one of those steam driven contraptions that move on tracks…”

“Trains,” Sombra offered.

“...yes, that is it, a train. Hit your trouble like a train! And that might be enough for now, but you must try to change your ways later,” Platinum said in an urgent voice. “You are quite bright in some aspects, but overall, you tend to be painfully dull witted, and at some point, this will be your undoing.”

“Ugh, everypony keeps telling me how stupid I am lately,” Bucky grumbled.

“Well, we all love you and worry about you,” Platinum said sweetly, still ignoring the darkened expanse all around  them.

“When all else fails Buckminster, go with your strength,” Sombra advised.

Platinum wrapped her forelegs around Bucky’s neck and hugged him again, and after embracing him for a moment, kissed him softly. “Try not to dwell too much on what victory will cost you,” she whispered. “You will endure-”

There was another rumble of ill omen and Bucky felt himself being swept away as he heard Platinum shrieking and begging. She was still saying something, but he couldn’t make it what it was over the thunderous sound all around him as he was expelled from this plane of existence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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