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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177. 177 (The Darkness is vanquished and the Isles Arc approaches its end)

The dark passage was pierced by the green glow of Bucky’s spotlight. The ground beneath his hooves hummed and vibrated. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of bodies just behind him, but Bucky knew that the worst was still ahead, somewhere down in the depths.

“They’re dying  you know… I blew a hole right through the bottom of that worthless ship. Even now, my wolves prowl the inside, killing as they go. The defenders die one by one. And soon, very soon, I think I will have enough energy to send off a second blast. If I adjust my aim, I do believe I can bring it down.”

Bucky hoped the voice was goading him. He pressed onwards, not bothering to reply.

“Most of your foals and your pathetic herd died screaming. But I have special plans for your student and the one you call Harper. She’s more powerful than you realise. But you can’t see what I can see. You are still in that pathetic mortal body. Don’t worry grandson, I plan to remedy that soon!”

Forcing himself to stay calm, Bucky made himself take deep breaths and maintain his slow and steady pace. Running or rushing forward would be careless, and would take too much energy. He began to hate the low power mode of his armor though. The magical drain was minimal, but the pace was unbearable.

“The cross eyed grey pegasus was the first to die… the banshee got her. She died from fear. And that filthy mud pony that you actually enjoy sticking your stubby little dick in, she died, her foals were ripped from her belly, and then devoured.”

So this is what going mad feels like Bucky thought to himself. He choked back his replies, determined to remain silent. Bon Bon had lectured him thoroughly about his temper before the sun had set, and her gentle but forceful words echoed in his ears even now.

“Sentinel died begging for his life like a coward.”

One hoof in front of the other Bucky thought to himself. Now he knew the voice was lying, Sentinel was suicidally fearless when it came to the defense of others. He had seen that just the other day. He thought of the warm hug that Sentinel had given him before he had donned his armor. Sentinel's hugs were rare, special, infrequent enough that they were treasured when they happened.

“And that whiny little milksop mud pony foal, her constant whining has finally ceased.”

“Daddy, you are probably going to have to do bad things again to get through this. Just do whatever you have to so you can come home to us. I don’t care what you have to do or how bad it is, nopony will ever convince me that you are a bad pony. Just be careful, okay?”Bucky recalled Pina’s final words to him as the sun was beginning to set and she was being dragged off to Lyra’s warded fortress within the bowels of the ship.

Apparently frustrated by the lack of response, the voice fell silent.

 

 

Bucky came to a vast underground grotto and heard the yelping of wolves. The chamber was dimly lit, illuminated by several crystal spires. There were several bitches in here, and many wolf pups in pens. A couple of crude golems prowled the room.

After studying the room for a few minutes, Bucky realised that this chamber was a breeding pit. This was where new wolves were born and then corrupted as they matured. Nothing moved to attack him, the golems seemed uninterested and the bitches appeared to be spellbound.

The golems really were extremely crude, poorly made, and the enchantments appeared to be decaying. They were made of shoddily carved wood, walked bipedally, and seemed to have no real awareness. They were clearly the sort of golems a dedicated type two might create if they could summon enough skill. Bucky set them ablaze, igniting the wood with a simple ignition cantrip. The golems had no defensive enchantments. After looking around, Bucky flashed his sunstone eyes on his armor, setting the bitches and some of the wolf pups on fire. The rest he burned using his magic. It didn’t take much to make them blaze.

He turned his attention to the crystal spires, examining them carefully. One glowed with an eerie black illumination. It was small, shorter than Bucky’s withers, and it throbbed with a horrible power. Bucky could feel the magical radiation in the air through his horn, and even though he had only been here a few minutes, he could feel the shadow essence in his body growing stronger.

Knowing it was foolish, knowing it was wrong, he basked in the dark glow of the crystal, and he could feel the shadow magic within him growing stronger as his body drank in the dark energy. It gave him strength. His vision improved in the dark room, and the faint light seemed brighter.

It was killing off his solar nature by degrees, working rapidly on him because of the fact that he was already so heavily touched by shadow, and Bucky somehow knew that he would be stronger now in the dark, and weaker in the light. He could feel it. As the darkness settled in around him, the aches and pains in his hind legs eased. The nagging fatigue he felt was fading now, and he felt stronger.

He wanted nothing more than to stand by this crystal shard forever. Realising that he was losing too much of himself to shadow, Bucky kicked out and struck the shard, making a fine spiderweb of cracks appear. The cracks grew and spread, and eventually, the crystal went dark, a swirling vortex of shadow leaking out of it.

The darkness was comforting now. Soothing. He dimmed his eyelight, not needing so much illumination now. He went to work shattering the other crystals, kicking them with a steel covered hoof. These crystals exploded violently when damaged, but Bucky wasn’t bothered by the explosions.

The crystals gone, the only light in the room was the faint blue-green glow from Bucky’s armor, the spellweave that held the armor sections together, and the faint green glow from his visor. Bucky found that he could see everything in the room with perfect detail in the dim light.

Bucky could not see it, but a powerful dusky ambience now emanated from his armor, a writhing mass of shadow, the same sort of wispy tendrils of darkness that he had seen coming from Sentinel when the colt shadow dived.

 

 

Only darkness was ahead, and Bucky continued down into the depths. There were stairs carved into the rock here, and rusting iron mounts on the walls that held globes of magical light. The globes were still there, but had long since gone dark. Bucky took the stairs carefully, not wanting to tumble down the long flight of stairs in a suit of heavy plate mail.

As he walked down the stairs, he thought about the final lesson he had given Dinky, standing on the deck in the late afternoon sun, holding her close and spending a final bit of time instructing her as both her father and her teacher. This lesson was about sacrifices, and acceptable losses. Those with great power have great obligations, and sometimes, a job had to be done because nopony else could. Sometimes the jobs were unpleasant, sometimes they were dangerous, and at other times, they were fatal, but the job still had to be done. Dinky had looked at him, tearfully nodding and telling him she understood.

To be completely truthful, Bucky did not expect to climb back up these steps, and he made peace with that fact as he made his way down. He was surprisingly calm for a pony walking to his own death. Bucky had one trump card that he knew he could play. He could make this mountain his tomb, bringing down the entire mountain upon his own head and bring about his enemy’s ruin as he did so.

He entered another chamber, this one small and illuminated by many large crystal spires. He peered around, trying to figure out what he was looking at. In the back of the chamber, he saw a brightly glowing crystal spire that swirled with shadows, and near the base of the crystal, he saw the dried, desiccated, now mummified body of a unicorn with a broken horn.

Inside of the crystal spire that towered over the shrivelled remains, he saw a ghostly figure swimming through the swirling shadow.

“Greetings. I’ve been waiting for you to show up. I see you’ve been drawing shadow from one of my marvelous crystals. Feels good, does it not?”

“I didn’t come here to talk,” Bucky snarled.

“No, you foolishly came here so I could bleed you dry and add your magic to my own. And then perhaps, I will finally be ready to create a new body, one made of infernal shadow, and I will be free to ascend to godhood.”

“Not if I can help it,” Bucky said.

“Go ahead. Do your worst. I will do nothing to stop you.”

Taking the invitation at face value, Bucky let go with a massive telekinetic blast. He let go of thousands of tons of force, cutting loose with a good sized burst of power.

Bucky blinked, and inside of his helmet, his mouth dropped open in shock. Nothing had happened. There was no damage. Nothing in the chamber was disturbed except for the mummified remains upon the floor, which were now a pile of dried bits blown into a corner.

“That was helpful Buckminster. A few more of those and I will be ready to ascend. Please, help your dear old grandfather.”

Bucky snarled. “It appears we are at an impasse.”

“You idiot! I feed on harmony magic! What do you think I’ve been drawing off of these wretched mud ponies that infest these isles? They do not have much magic, but they do have magic, and I’ve been down here slowly drawing it away from them. A pity I could not have done this in Canterlot, drawing magic from these dirty draft animals makes me feel soiled.”

For the lack of anything more useful to do, Bucky conjured whiskey from his cask and had a few swallows. He had come so far, endured so much, and now, there was nothing he could do. He hated the realisation he had reached, but he understood that, perhaps, it was time to bring the mountain down upon both of them.

“Tsk tsk, suicide Buckminster, really?”

Now, Bucky felt really peeved, not wanting this thing inside of his head.

“Well, it appears you are no longer any use to me. You refuse to feed me willingly, so it is time for you to be humbled and taught a lesson. You are a terrible grandfoal!”

As the voice spoke, a tremendous black blast flew from the crystal in the back of the room, hurtled through the room, and struck Bucky directly, sending him flying into the wall with terrific force. There was a loud thunderclap that reverberated through the chamber.

It took a few moments for Bucky to come to his senses. He was laying on his side, and everything hurt. All of his previous encounters with pain seemed pleasant to what he was enduring right now. He could see several bits and pieces of his armor scattered around him. He looked down at his own left foreleg, and saw that his hoof and fetlock was hanging on by a few meaty strands, the cannon bone had been shattered and the jagged ends were visible, exposed, and full of agony as he could feel the sensation of air blowing over exposed bone.

And, as Bucky realised, his blood was flooding the chamber around him, spurting out of his leg in time to the rhythmic pumping of his heart.

“Disappointing really. I actually expected something from you. A fight perhaps. Some form of entertainment. Instead, you lie there, bleeding to death upon my floor, your armor useless, and your life now measured in minutes. Any last words Buckminster?”

“You fail to understand something. Unlike other ponies, I am not full of sunshine and rainbows,” Bucky spat, coughing out blood as he did so. “I AM FULL OF DARKNESS AND PAIN!”

He dug deep into his own pain and hatred, reaching down into the very essence of his being, and let go with a massive blast of dark magic. There was a dull roar and a muffled explosion.

When the dust cleared, cracks were visible and spreading along the crystal spire that held his great grandfather’s life force.

“And whiskey,” Bucky muttered. “Can’t forget the whiskey.”

“You fool! Do you know what you have done?”

“DIE!” Bucky cried in a wet wheezing shout. Bucky could hear blood sloshing around inside of his helmet. Around him, his armor was slowly reforming and pulling itself together.

Several crystals exploded violently, and one of the larger bursts sent Bucky’s body flying again, his body only partially armored this time. He slammed into an outcropping of rock and then fell for a good twenty feet, slamming into the floor.

The chamber went mostly dark, there was a faint light coming from near the main crystal near the back. The only sounds in the chamber was Bucky’s wet whistling wheeze and something liquid dripping to the floor, which was Bucky’s blood.

Bucky cast a simple spell, trying to detect magic of any sort, and something in the back of the chamber glowed brightly. He gave it a tug with telekinesis, too weak to do much of anything else, and it tore free from the magical machinery it was bound to. After Bucky pulled it to him, he saw it was an egg. A phoenix egg, or had it been at one time. Now, it radiated a bone chilling cold and the once orange shell had turned blue.

Now struggling to think, Bucky realised this was the start of it all, it had been used as a battery, much like a potato could be used to provide power. His grandfather had used the endless supply of harmony magic that would trickle from the phoenix egg to power his crystal soulstone. He gently set the egg down near his visor so he could watch the swirling patterns of blue on the shell.

He was dying. He could feel it. His heart felt too slow. His horn sparked, and he couldn’t seem to draw up enough magic to do anything meaningful. He needed to stop the bleeding somehow. He sent out a red flare, not that he expected it to do him much good, but at least his body would be recovered. He watched at the red ball of magic took off up the stairs, and he gave it mental instructions to find Lugus.

 

 

 

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