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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Princess Luna seemed exceptionally pleased when she came bursting through the door with Lugus right behind her. She moved with grace and dignity, her wings spreading slightly in a display of dominance and being pleased. Even with her joyful demeanour, her face looked tired and pinched. Bucky was forced to wonder when Luna had slept last. Alicorns, even immortal alicorns, needed sleep.

Beside him, Derpy awoke with a snort and a sharp peal of flatulence, which made the corner of Luna’s mouth curl upwards for the briefest second. Bucky felt a moment of relief when he thought about Luna being the Element of Laughter.

“Princess,” Derpy said in an embarrassed tone while trying to pull herself together. She smacked her lips together a few times and then pulled herself into a modest position, rolling over on the bed and then sitting up.

Bucky sighed. He had been enjoying the view of the sprawled out pegasus sleeping on her back with her teats pointed up at the ceiling. Derpy was starting to show in her pregnancy, but only slightly. She had been exquisitely beautiful slumbering beside him, her straw coloured mane spilling over her face and all around her neck.

He could hear other ponies gathering around the door, the sounds of many hooves clicking all in one place as the herd drew together at the door but did not enter.

“I come bearing news. The ponies have spoken, they want their knight back. As of this moment, your knighthood has been reinstated, along with a small promotion to Knight Major,” Luna announced. She beamed, looking immensely pleased. “And you are not to serve these ponies alone. Lugus, the ponies have spoken. You are to join Buckminster in his duties. I am recognising your knighthood and giving you all of the duties and privileges of being an Equestrian knight,” the princess added as she turned and spoke to Lugus.

Lugus looked stunned for a moment, and then bowed his head. “I will do as you bid,” he said in a low soft voice.

“You will do as the ponies bid. They are going to sponsor you. The farmers will feed your family and will soon be providing a stipend so you will have a few bits for spending. I fear you will never become wealthy doing this job,” Luna said in a solemn voice.

“This is not a job you do for coin,” Lugus replied, bowing his head further. “This is a job you do because it must be done, and the reward is honour.”

“The nobles and their many armigers seemed to have forgotten that. Save one,” Luna said, turning her head towards Bucky. “Buckminster, I know you have a squire… Lugus, you will need to find a squire. A knight must have a squire.”

“Actually, I have been meaning to talk to Lugus about that,” Sentinel said, shoving his way through the crowd of larger ponies and making his way to Luna’s side. “I’ve been wanting to talk to Lugus about this, but then everything happened and I wasn’t even sure if I was a squire anymore after what happened to father so I never said anything. Everything got so dark for a time… Ripple would make a fine squire.”

“A female?” Luna said in surprise.

The room fell silent for a moment, and every eye in the room turned towards Luna. The room was filled with the many sounds that accompany uncomfortable silences. Breathing. The sounds of tails swishing. The wet sound of somepony smacking their lips or licking them nervously.

“I am not against the idea of a female squire,” Luna said, trying to dispel everypony’s concern. “It is just that, to my knowledge, there has never been a female squire or knight in Equestria’s long history. The Myrmidons are probably the closest thing that we have to knights anymore… and having both genders has worked out surprisingly well.”

“Ripple is a Dragoon and she is combat tested. She is young and still needs training. I need training. Ripple’s destiny mark shows that her future is going to be filled with all sorts of glorious violence and honourable combat. Or maybe less than honourable combat. I’ve heard a few unfounded rumours that Ripple has been known to engage in less than acceptable places to land her strikes,” Sentinel said, his face darkening as he neared the end of his words.

“Where is Ripple?” Luna inquired.

“My sweet little Ripple is off with Rising Star and his other wives, meeting with his parents,” Bon Bon replied, standing just outside the door.

“Lugus, would you be willing to talk to her?” Luna asked.

“I would be honoured to speak with her. Ripple is a noble soul. She understands sacrifice,” Lugus replied.

“Finally, I did something important!” Sentinel shouted. “About bloody time.” He stood in place for a moment, his eyes closed, and his face scrunched up in a moment of jumbled emotions. His eyes opened and he bolted for Moonbow,  upon reaching her, he planted a kiss on her cheek. Realising what he had just done, he backed away, looking somewhat embarrassed, his wings fluttering nervously. “I don’t know what came over me. I suppose I have learned things from my father.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Moonbow said in a low voice.

“Alright, if you could, everypony out. I need to speak with Buckminster alone,” Luna announced. She gave an apologetic half smile to every pony as they began to file out the door. Derpy, after jumping off of the bed, was the last pony to leave.

Luna shut the door and then turned to look at Bucky.

“Luna, I don’t think I can handle anything overly traumatic,” Bucky said, turning his head slightly to focus on Luna.

Luna crossed the room, moving gracefully, effortlessly, and made her way to a chair that was in Bucky’s field of vision. She climbed into the chair and spread out comfortably, not looking at all like a dignified princess. “No worries nephew. And no calling me “Mistress” for now. This is a small private magic lesson between family,” she announced, settling into the chair.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Bucky settled back into his pillows, relaxing and making himself comfortable once more. “I can focus harmony magic again. Sort of. I am still having trouble. I have to think about my family and what I love to get it to happen,” he explained.

Luna nodded in reply and then began her lesson as she turned to look directly at Bucky. “There are several schools of magic, all of them very different from one another. Harmony magic, common to most unicorns, is the most common source of channeled magic. The power of the cosmos channeled through the body and the horn,” Luna began. “But you already know that.”

“Yes, I do,” Bucky acknowledged.

“And there is dark magic. Which we do not actually know very much about. My sister knows a fair bit about it, she studied it for a time, but she did not like how it made her feel. Personally, I have a great deal of trouble making dark magic work. If I had a weakness in magic, it is my inability to cast dark magic. Oh I can squeeze off a few spells, but it drains me and leaves me feeling very unsettled,” Luna said, making a gesture with her hoof to emphasise her words.

“As I recall, you mastered shadow magic,” Bucky said.

“Umbramancy,” Luna said in reply. “It is how I patrol the dreamscape. Shadow magic, where light and dark magic work together in harmony. It is neither dark or light. It is the fine balance of the two opposites and it is what I do best. It is how I heal minds, gently correct the wicked to make them regret their evil ways, and how I spook ponies back into the light. Very few unicorns ever have shadow magic. Sombra did. Mostly, the practitioners are lunar pegasi. Like little Sentinel. He is bursting with potential. I haven’t met his like in ages. Probably before I was banished. You are going to have to learn how to use umbramancy and when I teach you, I will be teaching Sentinel as well. I am claiming both of you as my students.”

“Sentinel stopped Sombra’s shadow from taking over my mind,” Bucky said.

“I am well aware of what Sentinel did. He stopped a monster far worse than what you faced in the darkness under the mountain. Sombra’s fell shadow would have claimed your body and your destiny, he would have ascended, and he would have become the alicorn of war. Draw your own conclusion from there,” Luna replied.

“I am all too aware of what Sentinel prevented,” Bucky said in a pained whisper.

“Back to the subject at hoof, you have a monumental task ahead of you. Celestia was a gentle teacher. I am not,” Luna stated plainly. “I get results.”

“I understand,” Bucky acknowledged.

“And there still more types of magic. Do you know what they are?” Luna inquired.

“The only ones I can think about right now that are major types are chaos, healing, and necromancy,” Bucky answered.

“Yes,” Luna replied. “Healing and necromancy, the two opposing forces of balance. What do you know of healing magic Buckminster?”

“Very little. I know it is something you must be born with and it is incredibly rare,” Bucky replied. He shifted his stump on the pillow beside him and his lip twitched from an itch he could feel under the skin.

“Actually, if I might enlighten you, healing magic is more common than most ponies realise,” Luna said in a low voice. “But the practitioners are so incredibly rare.”

“Why?” Bucky asked.

“Pain Buckminster. When healing magic is performed, the healer has to experience the pain of what caused the injury. So when they close up a cut or heal a broken leg, they get to experience the sensations of pain that caused those injuries. Very few ponies develop their gifts and those that do charge an obscene amount of coin for it,” Luna explained.

“That sounds awful,” Bucky grumbled.

“You would make a good healer if you had the gift. You have this casual disregard for your body that stupifies me,” Luna stated.

“What about necromancy?” Bucky asked.

“Ah, necromancy,” Luna mused. “It looks identical to dark magic when it is being cast, but it is actually very different. Almost any unicorn can do it. It can heal, but it can also harm. It can be used to regrow limbs and heal the body… but as it is being used, it leaves open a magical rift between this realm and Tartarus. As the caster continues to focus the magic, dark things slip out, released into this world to run free. When very powerful spells are cast, very dangerous entities tend to slip out and escape. And then my sister and I are forced to round them up and drag them back to Tartarus. Some of them cannot be killed. Others can. Their evil never truly goes away, you can kill the body and slay the lesser demons, but the evil itself oozes back into Tartarus and eventually something absorbs it and becomes a little stronger. The demons are constantly at war with one another down there, each trying to absorb one another and all of them vying to be the strongest.”

“I had no idea,” Bucky breathed.

“That every time you channel necromancy you allow demons to slip into the world?” Luna replied, raising an eyebrow as she spoke. “This is why we are so harsh on necromancy. It is the unforgivable sin of magic.”

“Under the mountain… he… his ascension… he…” Bucky stammered, trying to find the right words.

“Many of the demons in Tartarus used to be ponies,” Luna said in a pained voice, understanding what Bucky was trying to express. “There are other forms of ascension Buckminster. Not all of them are good. Not all become alicorns. Some become other things.”

“So he would have become some horrible shadow demon,” Bucky said.

“Yes, in time. He was close. And there would have been no stopping him by the usual mortal agencies. My sister and I would have had to subdue him and place him in the prison constructed for his kind. My sister became the gatekeeper of that place after slaying the previous gatekeeper who had become corrupt and wicked. It is one of the many duties she is tasked with. She is the warden, and she has the power to incarcerate those who are sufficiently wicked,” Luna explained.

“But Celestia is not the master of Tartarus,” Bucky said.

“Not exactly. She just has power over the gate,” Luna replied.

“How did she get this power?” Bucky inquired.

“A time will come when one demon or some horrible entity will consume all of the other evils to be found, both on earth and in Tartarus. Celestia has been tasked with slaying that evil when it finally comes to power. She is weakened now after the thousand years she has endured alone… I cannot speak of certain things… but my sister has been left weakened and there is a lot more at stake than most mortals will ever begin to understand. These were a thousand years she should have been drawing strength and preparing for the inevitable conflict,” Luna said in a worried voice. “But my downfall placed everything out of balance.”

“So every act of necromancy allows demons to escape from Tartarus, come out here to feed upon the fears and hatreds of the sapient races, eventually they get returned to Tartarus, now stronger, and then the denizens of Tartarus squabble and fight with one another, consuming that power and getting stronger and stronger. The demons are really nothing more than shadow wolves, out to collect energy and bring it home. It is exactly what I have just endured, only on a cosmic scale,” Bucky said in a slow measured voice. “And ponies who resort to necromancy might just want simple things like healing without the cost of pain.”

“Your ability to assess your enemy is amazing… you do realise that is part of your divine nature…”

 

 

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