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 stared at his armor case. The dull black armor was visible and he shivered as he recalled painful memories of descending down under the mountain. He suffered a flashback, a vision of his own severed leg extending from his sundered armor and lying in a pool of his own blood.

“Buckminster, focus.”

He snapped to attention at the sound of Luna’s voice and looked at her.

“How do I help you put this on?” Luna inquired.

“I just need to place the helmet on my head,” Bucky answered. “Once it comes into contact with my horn, the rest of the plates will slide into place. I’ll need to be out of bed though.”

“I understand. I will hold you up,” Luna offered.

“Am I… am I still an armiger?” Bucky questioned.

“Do you still have armiger status?” Luna responded. “Yes. For good or for ill, you still have that power. For now. Do not count on having it for long.”

“I understand,” Bucky whispered.

“Plotting revenge?” Luna asked in a low voice as she lifted Bucky out of bed and suspended him in the air.

“Luna, I swore I would never bring harm to another pony ever again,” Bucky wheezed.

“I will hold you to that,” Luna said.

“Please… do,” Bucky gasped, his voice raspy.

“You sound like you are in pain,” Luna said, her voice full of concern.

“It doesn’t matter,” Bucky said. “My magic functions better when I am free of the drugs. I am still having trouble making harmony magic happen.”

“What now?” Luna asked.

“The helmet if you please,” Bucky instructed.

Bucky watched as the helmet lifted in the soft glow of Luna’s magic and the room went dark for a moment as it was slipped over his head. He could feel the metal sliding around his horn. And then, he felt the sweet tingle of magic coursing through his body. He felt the armored plates sliding into place and the magic field suspending him in mid air, securing him inside of an armored womb. He felt himself set down upon his steel hooves and his armor quivered, making a faint clank.

“And you say you are completely suspended inside of there? No weight on your joints or metal pinching you? No weight on your stump?” Luna inquired.

“I am fine,” Bucky said in a low mechanical growl, his wheezing making a dreadful sound as he breathed.

“That is so intimidating,” Luna murmured. “So dark and melodramatic. You have a sense of style that I can appreciate.”

“Thank you. Have you seen Freezerburn?” Bucky said in reply, wondering where his phoenix was.

“He was last spotted terrorising the north wing of the castle and my sister actually gave chase to him to try and stop him from being a public menace,” Luna answered. “I found it highly amusing, much to my sister’s dismay.”

“Amusing?” Bucky questioned.

“You know, it always surprises ponies, but at one time, I was the bearer of the Element of Laughter, along with Loyalty and Honesty. And watching a corrupted phoenix playfully scaring ponies is funny,” Luna replied.

“So I take it that Celestia was Kindness, Generousity, and Magic,” Bucky said, trying to flex his mental muscles and prepare for the coming storm. “Loyalty…” he muttered inside of his helmet.

“Yes Buckminster, I was the Element of Loyalty, and I will always provide for those who remain true to me. Are you my devoted servant?” Luna inquired.

“From now until my death, Mistress,” Bucky vowed, his voice a low mechanical thrum.

“Mistress?” Luna said in a tone of faint disbelief. “You, a prince, call me Mistress?”

“I would be your slave if it would have my family spared,” Bucky said, turning his head to study Luna. “You and I both know I have useful talents and Equestria lies in ruins. You have been in my mind. You have seen every dark corner. You know what I am capable of and what I willing to do. You know that I will do anything and that there is no end to what I am willing to embrace for their sakes. Celestia has her ponies, her champions that are full of sunshine and rainbows. I am full of darkness and pain. You and I both know I no longer belong in their world. I belong in yours.”

For a long moment, Luna listened to the wheezing sounds coming from Bucky’s armor. Her face was solemn and serious. “You deserve better,” she murmured in a sad voice.

 

 

The great hall was full of ponies. Guards. Alicorns. Reporters. Former nobles of House Avarice. Bucky saw his herd and his tribe. He saw Keg Smasher and did a double take. Keg Smasher was standing on four legs and had both wings now, whole of body once again. Bucky was silently grateful for Keg Smasher’s restoration. He saw Lugus raise a wing in salute, Sentinel by his side saluting as well.

He followed Luna, walking just behind her, on her heels just as Sombra had once done. There were gasps as he entered the great hall, and many flashbulbs went off as reporters snapped photographs.

And then he saw her.

His heart in his throat, he wanted to run over and comfort her. Celestia didn’t look well. She looked thin and pinched. Her eyes were glassy and bloodshot. She was missing patches of hair from her pelt and there were ragged still healing scars all over her body. She looked grief stricken and full of torment. He could see the anguish upon her face, and it broke his heart. He was glad his helmet hid his tears, and he did his best to cry silently, knowing his helmet would amplify his sobs. All that could be heard was a damp sounding wheeze.

Following Luna, Bucky was led to his family and instructed to stand guard.

“At this point, signing this treaty is a mere formality. You have no house. You have no standing. All of you are paupers and there is no war. This is a document for the history books to show that your power was broken and by signing this treaty, your demise will be documented,” Celestia announced in a loud clear voice.

Most of the gathered members of the House of Avarice hung their heads, but a few remained defiant. Bucky saw there was no magic inhibitors except upon a few. He saw shackles and hobbles around their legs. He saw that his mother was one of the few who held their heads high and proud.

The knowledge of how to cast a necromantic death spell lept into Bucky’s mind. He grinned a ghoulish grin that none could see.

“This sheet of paper is your end. Will the heads of your respective houses come forward please,” Celestia said.

Several ponies came forward, representing the various houses that made up House Avarice. Chains clanked as the unicorns stumbled forwards towards the table.

“Does anypony have anything meaningful to say before this is signed?” Celestia asked.

Bucky did not see Derpy nervously licking her lips or the sudden nervous hitching of her barrel. With her in his blind side, he did not see the nervous flutter of her wings. He did not see her until after she had stepped forward.

“This paper is full of words. Words that will not even be remembered by most ponies,” Derpy said nervously, looking around the room. Her wings fluttered and her steps were slow. “These words won’t fix anything. These words will not make the hurt go away. And if they are not remembered, what good do they do? What purpose do they serve?”

The room was silent except for the pop of a few flashbulbs as reporters snapped pictures of the grey pegasus who was now standing in the middle of the room near the table.

“A hug can go a long way towards saying you are really truly sorry… trust me, I know, I am a mom,” Derpy said as she sat down on her haunches, spread her wings slightly and extended one foreleg out in an inviting gesture. And then, she laughed. A warm genuine laugh that filled the room with life.

The room fell into a dumbfound silence that was absolutely deafening, and Derpy was still laughing, a soft faint laughter that was completely disarming.

A single stallion moved forward towards Derpy, an older stallion that Bucky recognised as Goldflake, the head of all the houses that made up House Avarice.

“Come on, don’t be shy, we can show them all how to make things better,” Derpy said with a chuckle and her eyes glittered with merriment.

“Stay away from her!” Bucky growled, his voice a terrifying mechanical whine from inside of his helmet. Black flames lept to life around his horn and ponies in the room began to scream. The temperature of the room dropped suddenly and everypony could see their breath.

“You touch her, you harm one golden hair in her mane, and I will kill you,” Bucky warned. “I have one pure thing left in my life. I will not allow you to taint it with your touch. You corrupt everything you come into contact with.”

Bucky’s armor writhed with black tendrils of shadow creeping along the surface as it drew power from Bucky’s corrupted mana. It was a fear inducing sight and a stampede broke out, many ponies fleeing from the room. A few brave reporters remained, knowing they were going to get the story of their lives. Members of House Avarice screamed and panicked, shackled and unable to run, trapped in a room with what was clearly a murderous psychopath full of dark magic.

“Bucky, don’t do anything foolish,” Rising Star begged.

“Give the word father, and I will join you,” Sparkler said, getting a dark look from Rising Star for her words. She stepped forward and her horn flared. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” she growled. Her whole body trembled and her face spasmed terribly.

Goldflake remained still, frozen in place.

“Bucky, your vow,” Bon Bon said, wishing she could touch Bucky to calm him. But he was encased in his armor and out of her reach. She moved close, moving into his field of vision, smiling but her face showed fear.

“I should kill all of you for what you have done. And who could stop me? I could invoke my right as an armiger right now and send all of you to the death that you all so rightfully deserve,” Bucky snarled.

“Buckminster… not like this, please, not like this,” Celestia said in a pleading voice. “Let this end. I am begging you. Not in front of your foals.”

“He’s just angry, and rightfully so. A lot of bad things have happened. And you know what? I am still pretty angry too… but what is anger going to do for me? The fighting has to stop sometime,” Derpy said, still laughing, but now sounding a little nervous. She made a gesture with her foreleg, beckoning Goldflake to come closer.

The stallion moved forward, staring at Bucky as he did so, clearly terrified. He sat down upon the floor a few feet away from Derpy, closed his eyes, and summoned his courage. He stood back up and took the last few steps towards the giggling mare. He sat down in front of her and the pair embraced.

“He is very protective of you,” Goldflake said.

“He protects what is his,” Derpy said, all too aware of Bucky standing behind her, fuming in a murderous rage.

“I betrayed my own house,” Goldflake confessed to the mare still hugging him. “I sent out the ledgers and leaked all the papers that led to our downfall.”

“Do you feel better about it?” Derpy asked in a motherly voice.

“No, I still feel pretty ashamed about everything,” Goldflake admitted.

“Are you sorry?” Derpy asked as she squeezed the old stallion.

“Very much so,” Goldflake confessed, a few tears now rolling down his cheeks.

“Are you ashamed of what you have done?” Derpy asked, stroking the back of the stallions neck and trying to soothe him.

“I am so terribly ashamed… I even told Platinum I was ashamed… she kept tormenting me,” Goldflake said as he began to sob pitifully, collapsing against Derpy completely.

Unable to bear another creature in pain, Derpy wrapped her wings around the crying pony and squeezed him warmly. “You really are sorry,” Derpy whispered.

“How can you tell? I tried to tell Celestia I was sorry…” Goldflake whimpered.

“A mother knows,” Derpy said, patting the pony she was hugging on the back and trying to soothe him to make his hurt go away.

After several moments of odd quiet with Bucky looming over both of them, Goldflake lifted his head. “I think I am ready to sign the paper now and take what is coming to me,” he said in a shuddering voice. He pulled away from Derpy slowly, rising up on wobbling rickety knees. He gazed at Bucky for a moment, staring into Bucky’s darkened glass visor. “You are the only one of us that ever amounted to anything good. Don’t mess that up.”

“What is to be done with them?” Bucky demanded.

“They are going to be banished to the Hinterlands. A lawless place. Many nobles have already been shipped there,” Celestia said in a ragged nervous voice.

“I am suspending judgment upon this one,” Bucky announced. “He gets to live out the rest of his days in relative peace. I am invoking my right as armiger. Let him spend the rest of his days in a small cottage somewhere and make sure there is a painting of Princess Platinum hanging up inside of it.”

“Very well, I shall grant clemency at your command,” Celestia said in a voice that was filled with relief. She watched as Goldflake moved towards the table and then signed the paper.

“As for the rest of you…” Bucky growled.

The room was filled with gasps. A few ponies from House Bitters actually pushed Bucky’s mother and father forward, hoping he would take his wrath out upon them. Primrose Propers and Buckminster Bitters Senior stared at their son in horror and shock, both of them clearly quite terrified and stunned that their own house would shove them out to expose them like this.

Dark energy crackled along Bucky’s horn and screams came from around the room. The temperature dropped even more and ice began to frost the windows. “KNEEL!” Bucky commanded.

One by one, as if being pressed down by some invisible crushing force, the rest of the members of House Avarice dropped down to the front knees and groveled face down before Bucky. A few resisted, or tried, before some unseen force finally drove them down.

“King Sombra had a way of dealing with traitorous unicorns. Useless unicorns. As his son, so do I,” Bucky hissed.

A panicked cry went out among the kneeling unicorns and one by one they began to writhe in fear as a dark shadow entered their minds. Black crystals began to sprout from their horns, long black protruding spikes that glowed with dark energy. Several screamed in fright and a few fainted.

“Never again will any of you know magic. This is your curse. You will live out your days in the Hinterlands with nothing to aid you. I suspect most of you will become food. I will see all of you in Tartarus!” Bucky said, his voice a demonic growl.

“You’ve turned us into earth ponies!” Primrose shouted.

“NO! YOU DON’T GET TO BE EARTH PONIES! EARTH PONIES SERVE A USEFUL PURPOSE! YOU ARE NOTHING! YOU HAVE NO USEFUL PURPOSE! YOU ARE MEAT UNFIT TO EAT!” Bucky shouted, his voice causing all of the windows in the room to shatter and the flashbulbs in the cameras to explode, and he wasn’t even using the royal Voice.

The room flooded with the released urine of most of the House of Avarice, who suddenly lost control of their bladders, and a few lost control of their bowels. Humiliation as well as fear was now visible on their faces as they all kneeled before the terrible armored figure that held them in his thrall.

The dark energy slowly retreated from Bucky’s horn and he slowly backed away from the cowering mass of misery that was spread on the floor before him, left wallowing in their own filth.

“Sign the paper,” Bucky commanded. “I have lived to see the end of my own house. None of you will ever know magic ever again, and none of you will ever have foals. Your treachery and deceit ends with you. I have ensured that.”

Whimpers and weeping began to take over the subdued masses as Bucky’s words settled into their fear addled minds.

Looking around, Berry Punch tried to locate any foals in the group, and came to a dreadful conclusion. Bucky was among the last foals born to his bloodline. As she studied the group, she saw a couple of younger stallions and mares that were about Bucky’s age, but she saw no colts or fillies. The whole house was being exiled, and if there were any colts or fillies, they would be sent off as well. As a member of Clan Pickled, she figured she should feel exalted about seeing the end of House Avarice, but instead she just felt empty inside.

“Sign the papers,” Luna commanded. “All of you have an airship to catch. It is the last touch of civilisation that any of you will likely experience. We want you gone. You are lucky that my devoted student has let you live.”

Keg Smasher watched as the paper was signed. Many ponies stood there stupidly trying to lift the pen in their magic until it dawned upon them that they had no magic, and then they had to go through the humiliation of signing by writing with their mouths, which was beneath them. Tears of humiliation and shame fell down their cheeks as they picked up the slobbery pen and accepted their fate.

When the last signature was signed, the room fell silent, save for the sound of weeping.

Celestia felt a rush of relief and while her face remained expressionless, she beamed inwardly, having finally saw the final sign that she had been waiting and hoping for since everything had started.

She looked upon Derpy, knew she had witnessed an act of laughter, and the briefest nod from her sister confirmed what she already knew to be true. She looked at Buckminster and hoped that he wasn’t too far gone, and that he still had the strength to endure his trial. Her champion might have stumbled, but she believed that he could still be redeemed.

All of the signs she had hoped to see, all of the signs she was looking for had been found. An act of generousity during a birthday party that seemed so long ago. An act of kindness when Dinky had reached out to Diamond Tiara, an enemy by all accounts, trying to offer comfort after Diamond Tiara had been injured and Dinky had been the cause. An act of questionable honesty by Berry Punch, which had been the cause of this entire conflict and had caused all of the terrible truth to come out and many dark secrets to be dragged out into the light. An incredible act of loyalty, enduring through impossible odds to keep a foal safe after a spell gone horribly wrong, which ended with great suffering upon poor Buckminster who had to pay the price for his loyalty. The act of laughter, which she had just witnessed, the bubbly pegasus that Buckminster so loved being a true inspiration and role model for all, A mother’s simple love and laughter which had brought some love and light to a dark and terrible time. As for magic, all of the evidence Celestia needed for magic was plainly visible.

Equestria finally had its Guardian to pair up with its Scholar. The Knight and the Librarian.

Still showing no trace of emotion, Celestia rejoiced, and it gave her strength for the dark time that still lay ahead. She turned and studied Buckminster, wishing she could see his face. She wanted to run to him, to comfort him, but now was not the time. Not yet, she knew that he had to endure just a little while longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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