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 felt funny not having a cast on her leg. Loch Skimmer stuck her leg out and wiggled it. It felt too light and most of her pelt had been rubbed off. Whatever it was they had cleaned her bare flesh with stung her skin and left it feeling cold.

“Don’t put all of your weight on it. Just a little of your weight. Be careful, the bone has healed well. Whomever did that set the bone almost perfectly. You shouldn’t have any problems with it at all. In time, you will be able to run and do all the normal things a fine filly like yourself would enjoy doing,” the doctor said.

“Thanks,” Loch said, still flexing her leg.

The doctor looked up at Cadance. “Actually, we should examine them all. If you would, have them brought to us one or two at a time so we can run a full battery of tests and give them exams,” the mare requested.

“Consider it done,” Cadance said.

“Just a few more tests to do,” the doctor said to Loch Skimmer, smiling gently as she did so.

“What sort of tests?” Ripple asked, feeling concerned.

 

 

“Buckminster, don’t move, there is some kind of monster perched at the end of your bed!”

Opening his eye and wiggling, Bucky struggled to wake up. He looked around wildly, and saw no monsters. He did see Freezerburn, who had somehow found him. The phoenix was preening his wings and looking smug and self satisfied.

“Freezerburn, how did you get in here?” Bucky said in a dry raspy voice.

“That… is your friend?” Discord asked. “Do you know what kind of hideous monster that is? That is a corrupted phoenix. It is death on blue wings!”

The phoenix squawked indignantly, took off from the foot of the bed, landed on Discord’s bed, and began to pace along the blanket.

“It’s coming for my eyes!” Discord cried in alarm.

“Discord, stop being a goof,” Bucky muttered.

“It’s terrifying!” Discord said, his head scooting over his pillow.

Bucky waited and listened, and sure enough, he heard Discord go silent for a moment, his body going still. He heard the sound of Discord’s breathing become regular and steady, and the sounds of his weak struggles faded.

“Oh that’s kinda nice. Much better than eyeball eating,” Discord said as he heaved a contented sigh.

 

 

The shaking would not stop. Not with all of the stress. Sparkler took a deep breath and tried to make her body go still. A lot had been done in the early morning hours, and now, she was sitting in a small room in the hospital wing of Canterlot Castle.

“I’m scared Rising,” Sparkler admitted. “Worried about Loch and Ripple.”

“I know,” Rising Star admitted.

“Worried about us,” Sparkler said.

“Bucky said he had a plan to protect us,” Rising Star said.

“He can’t even do anything right now but lay there,” Sparkler said bitterly. “Rising, if it came down to it, do you think we could fight our way free and help the others?”

“Do you think we would get very far? Would it help us? Would it help Bucky?” Rising Star replied, looking at his wife with some concern. “We would only prove them right, that we were dangerous monsters. Now is the time to settle into place and wait things out.”

“Since when did you become so mature and dependable?” Sparkler asked.

“Since Crush the earth pony pointed out that I had found myself and showed me the measure of a stallion. Bucky had been quietly showing me by example, Crush had to explain it to me. Now you listen to me Sparkler, and you listen well. Don’t do anything rash,” Rising Star replied.

“Crush is mute,” Sparkler said, shaking her head in confusion.

“Crush had a lot to say if you listened,” Rising Star retorted.

Not knowing what else to say, Sparkler fell silent and her eyes roamed over the room. There was an eye chart, jars full of cotton balls, as well as a poster announcing that sexually transmitted infections were the silent killer among the guards and every bit as insidious as any foreign invader.

 

 

Luna warily eyed the phoenix that was staring at her. The pair watched one another, neither moving, each trying to size the other up. Luna had been quite surprised to come into the room and discover the large and surprisingly predatory phoenix sitting on Bucky’s horn and preening itself.

“Long story,” Bucky said.

“One worth telling,” Luna stated, looking at the bird. “At another time though.”

“This isn’t a social visit I take it,” Bucky grumbled.

Fluffing out her wings, Luna shook her head and approached Bucky’s bedside. She noted the bottles of ginger ale and the wrappers of a few treats at bedside. “Do you want anything?”

“No, just my family,” Bucky said, struggling to lift his head.

“I wish I could give you what you wish. In time. For right now though, there are things that need to be done,” Luna answered. “We need to discuss a few things,” she added, casting a simple silence barrier around the bed.

“Some answers?” “Bucky stated.

“Yes,” Luna responded. “Like your eye, which I know you have been asking about. The condition is called Taint. It happens when your body’s natural mana reserves become corrupted by dark magic. Normally, when casting dark magic, you summon forth the energy and then use emotion to corrupt the energy into dark energy. The body’s natural mana remains harmonious.”

“So I am producing dark mana naturally?” Bucky inquired.

“Yes… you were always a quick one,” Luna said, clucking her tongue lightly to punctuate her words. “The issue here is, now you must learn to free your mana from corruption if you want to cast harmony magic. Dark magic will now come easily to you. This condition is complicated and unknown really. Most unicorns die from it, because it is deadly poison to the body. You should be dead really, there was only one other unicorn in history who survived the Taint and grew strong from it,” she explained.

“Sombra,” Bucky said.

Princess Luna looked terribly sad for a moment. “I see so much of him in you Buckminster, I… I loved him like a brother. We went into Tartarus together. He was so loyal. He followed me, always my shadow, always just slightly behind me on my heels, always so dutiful, so diligent, always faithful… until he changed.”

“I know. I have his memories. Every day a few more of them surface,” Bucky said, looking Luna in the eye. He could see that her eyes were tearing over. “I would follow you into Tartarus. Cadance too. I understand what you fight now, and how the world fell into decay without you. I have been made aware of a great many things.”

“Would you Buckminster? Would you willingly follow me into Tartarus? Do I have your oath?” Luna said, her voice very insistent and pleading.

“I give you my word as a knight, and not just for you, but for all of you. Even Celestia, I understand what she must do, and she is right for doing it,” Bucky answered.

Looking unsettled, Luna stepped away from the bed, her eyes closing and an expression of pain flooding her face. “We should discuss more relevant issues. Like your health. The stress and everything that has happened has taken a toll on your body. Buckminster, I know how you feel about ascension, so I will not even discuss that option with you. We dare not use healing magic because that might trigger the change. It would heal you, restoring you to what you were meant to be, which is an alicorn. You have the spark of the divine inside of you now.”

Bucky nodded weakly.

“We need to have you up and moving for the treaty. After some heated debate, my sister and I have decided to place you inside of your armor and then trust you to be on your best behaviour. I know you will do everything I command of you, including taking it off when it comes time to do so. It will restore your mobility and allow you to function. I must admit, the design is impressive. I have never seen its like. It has also been shadow infused, which means it will bond with your nature. I am not sure how you did that,” Luna said as she studied Bucky’s face, looking for some of expression feeling.

“I changed under the mountain,” Bucky said in a raspy wheeze. “Perhaps my armor did as well,” he added.

“We have so much to talk about involving your changes. The Taint. Other issues. You are going to need to learn how to use your new magic. But all of this will have to come at another time,” Luna said, her eyebrows raising in concern.  “The doctors tell me you are malnourished. You have worms. You have stomach parasites, which have been sapping your strength. Your family probably has them as well, but with your heavy magic usage, it is a wonder you haven’t killed yourself. The doctors tell me they cannot figure out how you are even alive. The Taint is a particularly virulent toxin. They are going to begin the processes of fixing what they can the hard way, without using healing magic. I have made it clear that they are to respect your wishes.”

“Thank you,” Bucky said gratefully.

“I must go. There is much to do,” Luna said regretfully.

“Tell Celestia… tell her I am sorry and I wish to see her,” Bucky whispered.

Luna gave a faint nod, turned, and headed for the door.

 

 

Holding her close, Rising Star tried to comfort his crying wife. He had his leg around her, and he kissed her neck softly, gently pressing his snoot against her, trying to let her know that it was going to be okay somehow. He wanted to cry himself, but was somehow holding it all together. Bucky was gone, and Bucky was usually the one who held things together. Rising Star realised he had to step up now and fill Bucky’s shoes somehow.

“The condition is called Shivers. It is a neurological condition, a type of palsy. It is aggravated by stress and other factors. It grows worse over time, and is a surprisingly common problem in unicorns. At one time not all that long ago, it was untreatable, but now we have a variety of medications which fix the problem. The medication is really quite good, but sometimes it can take a while to find the right pill to ease the problem. The good news is, there is a pill for every type of case, and no case goes untreated,” the doctor explained.

“Any time there is good news, there is bad news,” Rising Star said, eyeing the doctor.

“Yes, there are a few side effects. One major one and a few minor ones that are of no real concern at all, the little side effects are all easy to deal with,” the doctor replied.

“And what is the major side effect?” Rising Star inquired in a clipped voice, wishing the doctor would just be out with it.

“Well, that is a delicate issue and one that should be discussed car-”

“Out with it!” Rising Star demanded.

“Sterility. The medication causes sterility. Not right away, but after about a year of taking it, give or take, it causes permanent sterility,” the doctor said in a halting voice.

“So I get to go on shaking and have foals, or I get to stop shaking and never have foals,” Sparkler whimpered.

Rising Star actually lifted Sparkler out of her chair and cradled her in his forelegs, holding her close and clutching her body tightly. He buried his face into her mane, he could feel the sobs increasing, and feel her twitching muscles convulsed, as though they were reacting to the bad news.

“I understand you are in a herd marriage,” the doctor said sheepishly.

“Yes,” Rising Star growled, his voice a clear warning that this was a delicate issue.

“We can extract eggs… we can store them. We can do amazing things now… one of your other wives could be a surrogate mother. There are ways to still have a happy ending from this,” the doctor said, reaching out and touching Sparkler with her hoof.

“Really?” Sparkler sniffled, her barrel hitching. “I could still have foals?”

“There are ways,” the doctor offered, offering up a hopeful smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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