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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Embarrassing moment or no, Bucky was glad to see Luna. He squirmed and shifted, trying to hide the fact that the blanket had an unsettling rise in it. When Luna had arrived for her late afternoon visit, Berry Punch and Derpy had been giving him a quite a show. It had been enough to leave him a little excited and get his blood pumping. Berry Punch had fled the room giggling while Derpy was holding her ground.

Luna looked tired as she settled into the chair beside the bed.

“How is Moonbow?” Derpy asked.

“She is well. She dealt with her first ordeal, the one that weeds out the weak. She is now one of my foals, no matter what happens next, she has earned the right to call me mother,” Luna answered in a mournful drawn out voice.

“If you really want me to go I will,” Derpy offered. “I just wanted to find out about my missing foal. I’m worried. I am glad she has endured.”

“Stay. Keep Buckminster happy,” Luna said with a hoof gesture.

“I have to look after what I am responsible for,” Derpy said in a very serious voice.

“Indeed,” Luna said, turning her head to look at Derpy directly. “There are very few ponies I would trust to keep the life of another.”

“So what am I learning about today?” Bucky questioned. “Practical augmentation?”

“Yes,” Luna replied. “Something that should be effortless for you. How to enchant your body. I will be giving you some very powerful spell books for you to study. You will make your body functional again.”

“That will be nice,” Bucky said.

“Buckminster, do you remember just after you replaced your horn and you took Piña to the beach with you? The long walk? You did so on your bad legs and it never slowed you down,” Luna said. “I’ve studied this in your mind… you’ve cast spells without even knowing that you have done so. Or something has cast spells for you.”

“I do remember that. And yes, the thought has crossed my mind. I went off for a long walk that day and my legs never seemed to bother me,” Bucky said, his face contorting with concentration.

“It is possible to cast a type of featherlight spell upon your own body. It is very difficult to do, something only the most skilled of enchanters have a chance of pulling off, but practical augmentations do exist. Making your body light to allow for long distance walking without effort. Making your skin as hard as steel. Making your body work with impossible strength. Augmentation spells improve the self and allow for all kinds of useful abilities,” Luna explained.

“I suppose a lot of these are combat oriented,” Bucky observed.

“Well of course. If, for example, my sister, who is wont to do something like this, was fighting some big hairy smelly demon that was immune to harmonious magic, she would have to go hoof to claw with it. She would make her skin as hard as steel. She would increase her strength. She would increase her body mass considerably. Using the right spells upon herself, she could attack the infernal horror. She could slam into it moving twenty times the speed of sound while her body weighed fifty thousand tons. The collision would be terrific. The demon would never survive the initial impact. After that, it would be a matter of making sure the heart was destroyed. If it was the nearly immortal type, there would be the task of gathering its essence and hauling it off to Tartarus. This is how my sister and I win fights against powerful harmonious magic immune monsters,” Luna instructed.

“What about Tirek?” Bucky asked.

“Discord required a means to redeem himself I suppose,” Luna replied. “Tirek was made off limits. Do not ask me the reasons why.”

“So Bucky could use magic to make his body move again,” Derpy said, her face now looking hopeful, a soft smile spreading over her lips.

“Your husband is probably the greatest enchanter and transmuter of our era. I have no doubt that he could use these body enchantments and self transmutations,” Luna responded.

“So I make myself feather light and then I don’t need to worry about the strain upon my legs. What if a strong wind comes along?” Bucky asked.

“You make sure you have a sticky hooves cantrip active,” Luna sighed. “Buckminster, I worry about you. That is a first year cantrip…”

“I never claimed to be smart,” Bucky grumbled.

“You dipped your hooves in ink and then walked along the ceiling during your first year. My sister loves telling this story,” Luna said, rolling her eyes as she spoke.

“I came around the corner and there she was. Standing on the ceiling right in front of me. She looked angry. I knew I was in trouble,” Bucky said.

“It didn’t stop you from booping my sister’s nose with an inky hoof, you defiant little miscreant,” Luna said with the faintest hint of laughter in her voice.

“Bad foal!” Derpy scolded. She shot Bucky a meaningful glare. “There had never be little inky hoof prints on our ceiling!”

“Popcorn,” Bucky said, smiling as he recalled a fond memory.

 

 

The sensation of fear was almost overwhelming. Moonbow followed along behind the big male that she did not know. She was not hobbled and was free to walk without restriction. She was still sore from her night in the chapel. She was confused, not knowing her place in the new world. And she was terrified because she did not know what was about to happen.

The moon was high in the sky as they drew near some hidden grove, and she could see lights up ahead of her. It had to be near midnight. Her belly growled, now painfully empty once again. The big male was silent, offering no comfort or helpful words to her, and she wished he would say something.

More than anything, Moonbow wished that she could see and hear Sentinel.

She stepped through the trees and saw an open expanse before her. There were a large number of lunar pegasi. None were wearing armor, they were all wearing heavy black cloaks. They looked shapeless, and this somehow made the whole situation far more terrifying.

Ahead of her was a wooden platform, a raised dais lit with torches that burned with sickly looking green flames. She followed the wordless instruction to go up the stairs and she stood in the middle of the dais where a copy of the Mistress’ destiny mark was etched upon the floor. She trembled. There were three lunar pegasi sitting at a table before her, all of them cloaked. Their eyes glittered in the green light, almost luminescent within their hoods.

“Sit,” one commanded, a female with a raspy voice.

“Now we determine your measure,” the second said, this one male.

“Tell us, little female, are you a good pony?” the third one asked, this one female.

Sitting down, Moonbow thought about her answer carefully. She was honourable. She did not flee from battle. She had endured the long night in the chapel. She was careful around foals, never stepping on them or kicking them by accident. She was always true to her word. She was dutiful, devoted, and dedicated. She was honest and spoke her mind. She had pledged her entire existence to Sentinel and his father’s tribe.

“No, I am not a good pony,” Moonbow said in a low voice that cracked with emotion.

She became aware of many eyes looking at her now. The three ponies at the table. She could feel eyes looking at her from all sides, she could feel them staring, their gaze burning into her back. She began to wonder if she was worthy of even being a Myrmidon.

“If you are not a good pony, then why would you endure a night in the chapel?” the raspy voiced female snapped. “What motivates you towards our ranks? Pride? Vanity perhaps?”

“I wish to hold myself accountable. I desire to live in service of others,” Moonbow said plainly. Her eyes remained downcast and she stared at the inky blackness around the moon etched into wooden planks.

“You have answered wisely little female. Many make their first mistake upon the spot where you are sitting. It never goes well for them. By your own admission this council finds you guilty. You have been tried in a court of your betters, and you are lacking. We sentence you to a life of servitude, so that you might be made better,” the male announced.

“Now tell us, which is better to strive for? Muscle or wisdom?” the second female inquired.

“Wisdom,” Moonbow said without hesitation. “Living by muscle destroyed my colony. We’re all dead. I am one of the last of my colony.”

The raspy voiced female made a sad sound and leaned forward. “The path of wisdom can only be found through great suffering. Are you willing to suffer little one?”

Moonbow raised her head and looked at the trio defiantly. “Do your worst,” she spat, thinking of how fearless Sentinel could be.

“Very well. At your command, we shall do our worst. Prepare the gauntlet!” the male shouted as he lifted his head high.

“The walk of trust lies ahead little female. Many never reach its end,” the second female warned, shaking her head within her hood.

Gulping, Moonbow struggled to find her courage. She turned her head and saw two long lines of lunar pegasi, and a narrow path between them. Each pegasus was holding a cane in their grasping digit. It took a moment, but she realised that she was going to walk down that narrow path. She began to tremble as she rose to her hooves.

“You can quit now,” the female with the raspy voice said.

Shaking her head no, Moonbow slowly trotted over to the gauntlet, ready to accept her fate. This would probably hurt, but she could endure pain. Or so she hoped. She gritted her teeth and approached. She saw Grimglammer and Shadowguard. They were the first pair she would encounter, and she recognised their faces in their hoods.

“Begin the walk of trust!” a voice shouted.

Taking a deep breath, Moonbow took her first few steps into the gauntlet. She heard a swishing sound and braced herself. There was a light tap upon her backside, followed by another. The second one had a bit more force to it and she jerked a bit from fear. She wondered if Grimglammer and Shadowguard were going easy on her. She heard more swishing and felt blows raining down upon her. Some stung just a little bit, but it wasn’t serious pain.

Her nerves were getting the better of her though. She was waiting for it to become painful. With each swish, she clinched up and jerked. Her movements became more and more unsteady.

And then finally, there was a single painful blow upon her croup just as she visibly flinched. She lost control of herself. Another painful lash came down upon her spine and she nearly bolted. As she lost control, the blows hurt more and more.

Moonbow came to the sudden realisation that she was the cause of the blows.

She froze in place, trying to gather her willpower and her thoughts. As she stood there, unmoving, a single blow came down right upon the tender place where her dock connected to her croup, a place still tender from the clamp and the abuse she had endured in the chapel.

Moonbow screamed out and nearly took off running. Her mind warned her that if she did bolt, she would never make it to the end of the gauntlet. The pain in her backside was blinding as she forced herself to walk forward slowly with slow careful steps. A second blow came down in the same spot as the first, which made her scream bloody murder once again, and now her dock felt as though it had its own heartbeat. Fire burned down her tail and up her spine. She felt nauseous from pain. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to lift her tail to defecate ever again.

As she walked forward with slow measured steps, the painful blows subsided, finally becoming light swats again, little taps that barely stung. She controlled her fear and her nervous responses. She didn’t allow herself to jerk or flinch. She remained still and she focused on placing one hoof in front of the other. She came to the understanding that she could trust them not to hurt her just so long as she did what was expected of her.

Finally, after what felt like an hour’s march, she exited the gauntlet. Ahead of her she saw Luna, and off in the distance was another alicorn that she had seen before but she could not remember the name of, she was a dark dusky purple in the silver moonlight.

“Have you gained wisdom?” Luna inquired in a solemn voice.

“Yes mother,” Moonbow replied in a trembling voice.

“You remembered our previous lesson. I am pleased with you,” Luna announced.

“Thank you mother,” Moonbow said.

“You can quit now,” Luna said. “Failure of the next trial means your death. Most never survive the next trial. You can leave now, we will return you to Sentinel, and you can live a life of easy comfort.”

“I would rather die,” Moonbow said defiantly.

“Very well then my foal. Come with me and I shall take you to what might very well be your death,” Luna commanded.

The dark blue alicorn took off at a steady pace and Moonbow followed. Ahead, she could see a large pool of water in a vast stone basin. As they approached, her breath was caught in her throat. The pool was full of stars and the moon was reflected upon its surface.

As she drew near though and stood at its edge, her rapture turned to horror. She could see down into starry water and see white bones just a few steps in. She saw even more several yards in. There were bones strewn all over the bottom of the reflective pool.

“This water is special. It will know your heart. It will know your resolve. If you falter for even a second, you will sink below the surface and you will never draw another breath ever again. Most are not worthy. Keep your eyes focused on what is most important to you,” Luna instructed.

Moonbow stood at the edge of the pool and peered down at the bones. She poked the water with her hoof and then watched the ripples. “How do I walk upon water?” she asked.

Luna let out a patient sigh. “This pool was created by a unicorn named Sombra, my most devoted and loyal friend before he fell into shadow. This pool is one of his many great enchantments. He created it with his brother Star Swirl. To cross the water, one must simply focus on what is important to them.”

Moonbow swallowed. She took a long look at the many skeletons in the water. Most were lunar pegasi, but she saw a few unicorn skulls in there as well. The water clearly had a story to tell and the bones were mute witnesses. She took a deep breath, poked the water once more with her hoof, and then studied the ripples. She looked up at the moon above her and thought about Sentinel. He prayed to the moon. She had sat with him while he had done it. She took her first step and felt her hoof strike something hard as stone.

She wanted to look down and see herself standing upon the water, but a voice inside of her head screamed at her to keep her eyes focused on the moon. She did not look down, but kept her eyes skywards as she trotted out over the water. She tried not to think about the beauty of the water below her, how it was filled with stars and the moon. And bones. So many bones.

“Mother moon, guide my heart,” she whispered, repeating the words she had heard Sentinel once say. She swallowed. She didn’t know if she was almost done or not. She thought about checking... certainly one little glance to see how far she had come couldn’t hurt anything.

She snorted. That sort of thinking would get her killed. She ignored the nagging need to look down. To look away. She could almost feel something tugging on her head now. Her throbbing dock thudded painfully and oddly enough, the pain helped her focus.

She let out a cry of alarm as she stumbled, sheer terror flooded through her being as she pitched forward. She regretted only one thing as she plummeted to her death… that she had not pounced Sentinel one last time.

Her face smashed into the grass and she shrieked as her emotions overcame her. She crawled forward upon her belly to be away from the mirror pool full of bones. She began to sob uncontrollably as she sucked in painful breath after painful breath. She lay in the cool slightly damp grass and was thankful to be alive.

“You lived,” Luna stated.

Moonbow looked up at Luna. She sniffled as she continued to sob.

“You remained focused. Had you looked down or taken your eyes off of the moon even once, you would have died, pulled down into depths. Your flesh would have burned away most painfully and your bones would have joined the others,” Luna explained.

“Mother!” Moonbow wailed, still filled with terror.

“Good foal…”  

 

 

 

 

 

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