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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The dawn approached, and with it, Griffonholm. Huginn and Muninn awaited ahead in the distance, and Bucky’s thoughts were curiously more about saving the griffons rather than exterminating them. More than anything, he wanted to believe that there could be good griffons like Lugus in the world, which would make the world a better place.

A part of him desperately wanted to hold on to that ideal as he approached the griffon homeland. Other parts of him were entirely ready to finish what Sombra had started.

There were no ships coming to greet them, nothing at all came to escort them into griffon airspace, and Bucky felt a growing sense of concern. He yawned, having slept very little, while he trusted The Scorned Mare to keep him safe, he wanted to be awake as they drew near to the seat of the griffon’s power.

There was a bitter acrid smell that hung heavy in the air, even out over the open ocean. It burned the nostrils and it was very difficult to see the stars, the sky was hazy and filled with eye watering smog. Bucky caught a whiff of rotten eggs and heard the tap tap tap of claws upon the wooden deck.

“Smells like home.”

Bucky did not turn to look at his companion, but continued to peer ahead. “Good morning Lugus. Sleep well?”

“No, my chief, I did not. I fretted most of the night. Yew Wood became quite annoyed with me and I had to appease her,” Lugus answered. The big griffon sat down, reached out one set of talons, grabbed Bucky, pulled him closer, and gave him a sort of awkward half hug.

“Lugus?” Bucky inquired as he was being gently squeezed.

“Yew Wood demanded that I be more affectionate of you and to show you rather than tell you how much I appreciate you as my friend,” Lugus explained, hearing the question in Bucky’s voice. After an increasingly awkward moment, Lugus let go of Bucky, and then scooted away to offer a bit of personal space. The big griffon began to drum his claws nervously upon the deck, producing a staccato rhythm of tapping sounds.

“I trust you with my foals, that is a lot coming from me Lugus… I hope you understand that,” Bucky said in a low husky voice, still staring upwards at the dim stars that could only barely be seen.

“I know… and your trust is my most valued treasure. My chief, if things go badly here, I will make sure that you have the means to make an exit… I want you to be safe… I am trusting you with my foal. If something happens, please, be a good father to Peekaboo and look after Yew Wood. They are very dear to me,” Lugus said hesitantly, his voice uncertain, his beak clicking together from nervousness.

“To paraphrase my pegasus wife, the tribe looks after its own. Harper and Peekaboo are sisters for all intents and purposes. If things go badly, I assure you, Yew Wood and Peekaboo will be looked after. I know that you will do the same for me if something happens,” Bucky responded.

“Of course I would… but my chief… it would be my failing if something happened to you… it would mean that I did not get you to safety… I… I… you are not to put your life at risk for me, it is my sworn duty to do it for you… the tribe needs its chief, it is a matter of priority… I cannot even… I do not have your vision…” Lugus stammered nervously.

“We both know and understand where our duties will eventually take us Lugus. I’m halfway there already and I know you know that,” Bucky said in a harsh whisper.

“Yes my chief,” Lugus said, bowing his head.

“So if something happens, and I order you to get my family to safety, I need to know that you will follow those orders,” Bucky continued.

“Of course I would, my chief,” Lugus replied dejectedly, scooting closer to Bucky and looming over him protectively.

“We can die gloriously and that’s easy for both of us. I think we both hold a beautiful death as some sort of noble ideal. I need to know that you will live in my stead if it comes down to it,” Bucky stated.

“I can… I will… I will not fail you,” Lugus vowed as the dawn broke on the horizon, the first golden rays of light appearing, turning the distant edge of the world various shades of pinks, purples, and soft shades of blue.

The pair watched the sun rising into the hazy smoggy sky, both of them now silent, the time for words over. Lugus scooted beside Bucky and both sat near the rail, an odd looking pair of companions, both of them desperately hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.

 

 

Muninn loomed in the distance. The castle was on an island, a massive plateau of rock jutting up out of the ocean, sheer cliff faces on all sides that was at least one hundred feet high or higher. The castle was built on a cliff, and a town sprawled out from its edges. It looked a bit like Ponyville, lots of thatched roofs and architecture with thick exposed wooden beams. The castle had a massive stone bridge that spanned the channel, and on the other side of the channel was Huginn castle. The thatched roofs were brown and grey from ash and grit that fell like snowflakes from the black clouds that loomed overhead.

Huginn castle almost mirrored the design of Muninn castle, and it too was built onto the cliff face. Spreading out like a cancerous growth from its walls was the city of Huginn. Most of the buildings were concrete, plain, unadorned, utilitarian and practical. Apartment buildings existed in tightly packed clusters, some of the buildings a good ten stories tall. The clusters existed around factories, factories with tall black smokestacks that belched forth black smoke. Everything in the city was covered in soot, dirt, grit, and grime.

Open sewer vents lie gaping in the cliff wall and the filth from the city poured directly into the ocean waters. Industrial runoff and waste flowed endlessly into the ocean, and the seawater looked brown and sludgy all around the coastline.

The land surrounding Huginn was utterly devoid of trees or green fields. In the distance was a vast shipyard, the largest that Bucky had ever seen, and airships were being constructed by an army of workers. Near the city, several mountains of piled coal awaited to be burnt in the many steam power plants and factories. Mountains of iron ore sat waiting to be smelt into steel.

The land was a nightmare of industry. Bucky’s only comparison was Baltimare, a city he had occasionally visited, since his family had one of their ancestral houses there. Baltimare had many factories, but nothing like this. Equestrian society tried to exist with nature, and while things like pollution happened, great effort was now expanded to clean up and reduce the impact of the pollution, though Bucky understood that such efforts had not always been the case. When Equestria had first industrialised, a lot of damage had been done to the land and harsh lessons had to be learned.

The land was dead and nothing would grow here for a very long time.

 

 

A small airship approached, bearing the banner of Muninn. It had no weapons and was clearly a means of transport. Bucky watched it with interest, wondering if somebirdy had finally decided to greet them. He had everybody gathered on deck, which made him quite uncomfortable, and Twilight, as well as her friends, all huddled together looking nervous. Rarity’s alabaster pelt had already turned a sooty grey and she was protesting in whiny whispers that the abysmal air would be the death of her. Spike, always Rarity’s friend, was busy trying to comfort the distraught mare, but his efforts did nothing to quiet her protests.

Lugus paced the deck, his axe strapped across his back. Beside him, Flash Sentry kept pace with him, wearing armor. Not the ceremonial gold armor of a guard, but the functional light steel field plate favoured by the pegasi who worked in the long range reconnaissance patrol and messenger divisions. The armor was well polished and clearly well cared for, but it was also full of gouges, dings, a few dents, and some of the edges had been notched. It was armor that had seen action. The one thing it was free of was rust.

Standing beside Bucky, Ripple and Sentinel fidgeted, with Ripple snorting occasionally and sneezing because of the filthy air. Ripple’s eyes watered and she watched the approaching airship, every muscle in her lithe body twitching in anticipation of something happening. Sentinel was calm, cool, and collected.

“Buckminster… you are not wearing your crown… your circlet!” Twilight shouted, realising that something was missing. Her wings fluttered nervously and she calmed a bit when Rainbow Dash stroked her.

“Oh… that. I knew I was forgetting something at home. Sentinel, how could you let me forget such an important thing at home?” Bucky responded, his gaze moving from Twilight to Sentinel.

“What? Father, er, Master, your squire was not aware that it was his responsibility to keep track of your regalia of office,” Sentinel replied, looking quite nervous for a moment, until he saw his father smiling a lopsided smile. The lunar pegasus colt gave Bucky a petulant sulky stare that lasted for only a second and then faded away, a brief glance of foalish anger.

“Hey, leave my colt alone,” Bon Bon grumbled. “You scared the poor little guy to death, shame on you Bucky,” she scolded.

“Where is Yew?” Bucky inquired, his gaze turning back towards the approaching airship. “Is she belowdecks with the foals?”

“Yes she is, sir,” Ripple replied.

“Good deal,” Bucky grunted. “Look alive ponies, we have griffons in the air.”

 

 

The two griffons were medium sized, neither of them as large as Lugus. One was wearing heavy armor, the other wearing light armor and a crowned helm. Both were clearly nervous, their movements jerky, their armor clanking as they moved.

“I am Prince Tannis, son of King Tanner, He Who Makes the Drums of War,” the griffon with the crowned helm said, introducing himself. “While my father does make the drums of war, do not let his name fool you, he does indeed desire peace.”

The griffon took off his helm, a sign of respect and trust, something Lugus had spent a great deal of time educating Bucky about.

“I see there is no delegation from Huginn,” Bucky observed out loud.

“King Fleshrender… he did not think you were worth greeting. I offer my most sincere apologies, but not on his behalf,” Tannis responded. “He is a disrespectful oaf.”

“This is Princess Twilight Sparkle, She Who Discovered the Magic of Friendship,” Bucky said, introducing Twilight as she came forward, making a gesture towards her with his stump.

“And this is War Chieftain Buckminster Bitters, Bane of the Undead and Shadow, also the Lord of Winter,” Twilight said, announcing her well practiced line of introduction. The corner of her eye twitched and her ears flapped in the breeze.

“I do not know King Fleshrender,” Lugus bluntly interjected.

“The previous king, whose name died with him, was… deposed by Fleshrender, who took the throne. The previous king was weak, had grown fat, and was unable to protect his own interests. I know of you, Lugus of Huginn, The Boar Slayer, and also the Killer of Wyverns. It is my distinct pleasure to finally meet you, though there will be many who will not celebrate your return,” Tannis said, stepping towards Lugus and completely ignoring the warning squawk of his companion guard. He extended his talons to Lugus, and waited expectantly.

Looking down at the offered talons, Lugus extended his own, and together, they locked talons to confirm trust. A after a brief shake, they disengaged and backed away from one another.

“Prince Tannis, it pains me to inform you that I can offer no fealty to my homeland. I have sworn an oath to my chieftain, and as such, my loyalties exist solely with him. I can only offer you my decency,” Lugus said, bowing his head low.

“Your decency is all I require, as I desire the trust of your chieftain,” Tannis replied, bowing his own head. “I know of your criminal status. I will do all I can to protect you, but my power is limited due to… circumstances within the empire. For the record, I do not believe you to be a criminal,” the smaller griffon said to the larger.

“I would like to resolve things peacefully,” Bucky announced.

“Yes, we are here to procure peace,” Twilight added.

“I would like peace, but I fear your mission here is futile,” Tannis stated, his crest rising as he lifted his head high. “Fleshrender has ignited the fires of hatred in many a griffon heart, and he promises a return to former glories. He is a butcher.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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