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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Lugus watched as the tiny red flare danced around his head, bouncing around enthusiastically and zooming about back and forth. He peered down over the side of the ship and saw nothing. They shone the big spotlight down, but there was no sign of Bucky.

“I am going down there,” Lugus stated in flat voice. When he spoke the red flare popped out of existence in a shower of sparks.

“We are under orders to stay on board,” Deadspin said.

“Maybe so. but I am going down there,” Lugus said, repeating his intent.

“I am going with you,” Sparkler said.

“No. You are not. Stay put filly,” Lugus said, turning to stare at Sparkler.

“You can’t stop me,” Sparkler said. “If there is trouble down there, nothing can hurt me. You are soft and squishy Lugus. Don’t make me thump you to prove it.”

Lugus puffed out nervously, his feathers making him look much larger than he really was. He glared at Sparkler.

“Buck Sergeant Sparkler, you are to escort Lugus in the cave and keep him safe. You are also charged with bringing Knight Captain Buckminster back to us,” Deadspin commanded.

There was some grumbling around the group gathered on the deck.

“Is it actually over?” Berry asked in a dull deadened voice.

“It isn’t even midnight yet… everything feels so calm,” Lyra said in a flat monotone.

“The air feels so warm,” Ripple said. She turned around and looked at her mark once again, scarcely believing it was there. A bright red horseshoe surrounded by silver stars and crescent moons. It was a combat mark, or, as Rising Star had said upon seeing it, “a cutie mark for knocking stuff the feck out.”

“I will carry you down,” Lugus said. “Grab spell jars. We do not know what we face. How can we be sure it was Bucky who sent up the flare?”

“Be careful Sparkler,” Derpy said, stepping forward, Dinky still on her back. Both of them looked exhausted.

Sparkler grabbed a dozen spell jars in her magic and stood ready near the rail. Lugus snatched her around the middle, his long talons completely wrapping around her barrel, and he effortlessly lifted her in one set of talons. His beak clicked nervously and he looked around him.

“We shall return,” Lugus said, leaping from the railing, causing Sparkler to let out a loud squeal of fright.

 

 

They landed in the passageway after Lugus had carried Sparkler over the burning pile of bodies at the entrance. The pair looked at one another for a moment, and then Sparkler threw her forelegs around Lugus’ neck and squeezed. Then, they turned to face the darkness together.

Sparkler’s horn lit the way and a glow emanated from Lugus’ axe as they made their way into the depths. Sparkler set a brisk pace, and Lugus followed just behind her. The smell of charred bodies invaded their nostrils and Sparkler began to realise that she was afraid of the dark. Her horn flared a little brighter, and she held up the spell jars before her, their faint light illuminating the way.

Eventually, they came to the breeding pit and found the mess that Bucky had left behind, both of them in shock at what they saw, Sparkler was careful stepping through the mess, and she tried to not step on any of the scattered charred bodies.

On the stairs that seemed to stretch forever, they both caught a whiff of something truly awful, something rotten and terrible. Something foul lurked below. They hurried, not knowing what they would find.

 

 

Sparkler was the one who saw him first, and she ran to his side, her hooves splashing in some sort of liquid. She realised it was blood when she shone the light upon it, and then she realised it was Bucky’s blood. She screamed in terror and nearly fainted.

Lugus rushed over and immediately began to access the situation. He kneeled down. “Are you alive, friend?”

“Leg… bleeding…”

“We need to get the bleeding to stop,” Lugus said. He began to look around for something to use as a tourniquet, to tie around Bucky’s leg. There was nothing.

“Sparkler, can you burn him shut?” Lugus asked.

“Oh that’s horrible!” Sparkler cried.

“But can you do it? He is dying. Maybe already too far gone,” Lugus said in a calm voice.

“I’m not good at stuff like that… wait, the alcohol. Douse his leg and I will ignite that,” Sparkler said, feeling sickened at the thought of what she was about to do.

“This is too much blood for a leg wound,” Lugus said in a low whisper, mostly to himself as he worked open the spigot on the cask located on the back of Bucky’s armor. “Catch it in your magic. There is no cup.”

Sparkler did as she was told, and caught up a sizeable portion of whiskey in a magic bubble. It dribbled everywhere, her fields were not very good at holding liquids. She doused Bucky’s leg, which made her father jerk. She took this as a good sign. And then, hating herself even as she did it, she ignited the whiskey and set Bucky’s leg on fire, which caused Bucky to let out a wet raspy yelp.

“I hear a sucking chest wound,” Lugus said, his beak grinding against itself in worry.

“En… en… enact emergency protocols. Follow Lugus,” Bucky said in a weak wheeze. His armor began to pull itself together from around the room, and sealed him inside. “When we… when we return, tell your mother… Sparkler tell her to say those three words I love to hear…” Bucky commanded haltingly, and then fell silent as his armor slowly rose up to its hooves.

“He’s walking on a stump!” Sparkler shouted.

“No he isn’t, he is floating inside of his armor. Grab that egg he was staring at and let’s go,” Lugus said in a nervous pained voice. There was no light inside of Bucky’s visor and the magical aura on his armor was especially dim. Lugus waved his talons in front of Bucky’s visor and there was no response.

“The egg is freezing cold,” Sparkler said. “It is difficult to hold it in my magic.”

Lugus slowly walked towards the stairs, and noticed Bucky moving slowly after him, his movements especially slow and jerky. “He isn’t walking right,” Lugus said.

Sparkler again led the way, holding the egg a fair distance away from her, it was too cold to get near her. She looked around the grotto, wondering what took place here, her eyes lingering over the dark room one last time, and then she took off up the stairs.

Lugus had to carefully nudge Bucky’s armor a few times as Bucky mounted the stairs, the armored unicorn’s steel hooves failed to move with any sort of coordination at all. It was going to be a long trip up.

 

 

On board the deck of The Scorned Mare, Rising Star gently lowered Bucky’s armor down to the deck after lifting it on board the ship. Bucky did not move, nor did he respond to anything being said to him.

“He said to say the three words he loves to hear from you,” Sparkler said to her mother, the poor pegasus looking absolutely beside herself with worry. She gently placed the egg down in a rack that was empty of spell jars and focused on her father.

Derpy stepped forward and then leaned in close to Bucky’s helmet. “I love you,” she said in a strained voice that cracked with emotion.

There was a loud hiss and the magic aura around Bucky’s armor grew dimmer and dimmer, until it was gone completely. With a clunk, the armor powered down and began to fall away from his body. What Derpy saw made her puke, spilling out the contents of her stomach.

Blood began to spill onto the deck, dribbling out of Bucky’s armor, and it was Lugus that caught his body before he fell over. The big griffon gently lowered Bucky down and began to pull away armor panels. Behind him, he heard the sounds of retching from several ponies who could not bear what they saw.

The stump of Bucky’s left leg was still bleeding, but it had been slowed down. Just behind his left shoulder though, there was a terrible gash in Bucky’s side, exposing several ribs, and raw red glistening flesh was exposed, along with peeks of Bucky’s pulsating insides.

“We have to fix this,” Lugus commanded. “We need to begin by removing the rest of the bone from the joint. Then we need to seal it shut with burning. We need to stop the bleeding from the gash in his side.”

Lyra stepped forward and looked at Rising Star. “I’ll remove the rest of the bone, you burn it shut. Gently. Not too much fire. I dunno if I can do this!” Lyra cried. She began to sob as she settled down near Bucky’s side, and then she dry heaved a few times, gagging when she saw the wounds.

Lugus placed his head over Bucky’s ribs, trying to stay away from the open gash. “His heart is very weak but it is beating. We need to hurry.”

“Do it Lyra,” Derpy commanded, wiping her lips with her wing.

The exposed bone jutting from Bucky’s leg vanished into nothingness and then there was a poof of fire. The blood stopped trickling and then Rising Star turned to examine Bucky’s side.

“I don’t know if I should burn that,” Rising Star said.

“The bleeding has to stop,” Lugus said.

Rising Star scrunched his muzzle with concentration and closely looked at the wound. His horn ignited, but instead of a poof of fire, a thin red beam came out from his horn tip. He drew a fine line down several locations, closed several bleeding openings, and then lifted his head. “I didn’t want to burn the bones. We need to bandage it.”

“This is good work,” Lugus said. “Such fine detail,” he added as he studied the wound.

“We need to get cleaned up and in bed,” Lyra said. She kneeled down close to Bucky, lifted his head, and gently opened his remaining left eye to check on him. She screamed and nearly dropped Bucky’s head on the deck at what she saw.

“What’s wrong?” Derpy asked.

“His eye!” Lyra whimpered.

“Show me,” Derpy demanded.

Lyra carefully turned Bucky’s head around again and opened his left eye. The sclera was a sickly green and the iris had turned crimson. As they watched, a purplish haze began to drift away from his open eye. “But he isn’t using any dark magic right now, this shouldn’t be happening,” Lyra whined. “Something is wrong!”

Berry Punch staggered forward, looking quite frazzled, bits of vomit still on her muzzle. “We’ll worry about that later. Get him cleaned up, get that wound bandaged, and then get him in bed. After that, let us leave this place.”

Lyra closed his eye and the drifting purple haze slowly vanished. She gently laid his head down and waited for somepony to bring some water, sitting in a daze. She heard Harper crying and wanted more than anything to hold her foal.

 

 

“Think he’ll live?” Berry asked in a low whisper.

Derpy nodded, but said nothing. She was glued to Bucky, who was laying on his uninjured side, and Derpy was pressed up against his spine. She gently nuzzled him with her snoot, snorting into his mane, which always gave him the shivers and made him react.

Only now, he wasn’t responding.

“Once again, he did what needed to be done and paid for it with his body,” Berry said as she scooted a little closer to Derpy. She looked at Thistle, who had cried herself to sleep quite some time ago. “It’ll be dawn soon.”

As Berry watched, the tears finally came for Derpy, who began to sob silently. Berry pressed the side of her face up against Derpy’s neck and the old friends pressed together, leaning on each other, knowing that they would get through this somehow.

Bon Bon awoke, lifting her head and looking around blearily. She looked at Derpy and Berry, and gave them both a sad smile, trying to comfort them.

All of them took consolation in the fact that the nightmare was over.

 

 

 

 

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