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 rapping upon the door made everypony look up. Bucky lowered his book and peered at the door, his horn glowing in a blue-green aura, Flash Sentry was on his hooves, and Lugus flexed his talons. Paying attention to none of this, Twilight Sparkle pulled the door open with her telekinesis.

A griffon guard looked into the room, he was nervous, and at the sight of Bucky, the griffon began to tremble, his poorly fitting armor clanking.

“I have a message from Prince Tannis,” the griffon reported. “He wants to meet with you, but not all of you. He desires a small intimate meeting before the official talks begin tomorrow. He has requested the presence of Princess Twilight Sparkle and War Chief Buckminster Bitters. You may bring one guard. He is trusting you with his safety.”

“I do not like this,” Lugus said right away, causing the guard to cringe.

“Lugus, I want you to stay here and look after everypony else. Squire Ripple, you are coming with us. Flash, you are to let no one through this door while we are gone. Do not fail me,” Bucky instructed, his voice low but commanding.

“Just a question, but why Ripple and not Lugus as a guard?” Applejack inquired, looking curiously at Bucky.

“Lugus’ large size would be a detriment in close quarters fighting,” Bucky replied, his words blunt, direct, and to the point.

Nodding, Lugus silently agreed.

“And no offense to Flash Sentry, but I know that Dragoon Ripple is combat tested,” Bucky continued.

“No offense taken,” Flash Sentry announced.

“Well, let’s go I suppose. Let’s go and do what we were sent here to do and make a good honest effort for peace,” Twilight Sparkle said as she made her way to the door.

“Yes… let’s do that,” Bucky agreed, a faint hint of icy sarcasm in his voice.

Landing on the floor with enough force to make her war shoes clatter and throw sparks, Ripple obediently followed along behind Bucky and Twilight, scowling, her eyes darting around looking for any sign of treachery.

 

 

The chambers of Prince Tannis were rather spartan and not what Bucky expected. There were no windows, it was a small secure room with one entrance, and the door was heavy and solid. There was a bed, a small table, a few chairs, Prince Tannis, and two female griffons that Bucky did not know. Bucky slowly realised the lack of windows were for the sake of safety.

The prince was not wearing his armor and Bucky took this as sign of total trust.

“Greetings… might I call you Twilight and Buckminster in this more relaxed setting?” Tannis inquired as he stood near the table and bowed his head slightly in respect as his guests stood near the door.

“I am agreeable to that,” Twilight replied, offering up a smile.

“I prefer it,” Bucky stated, lifting his head as he strode forward to take a seat at the table. He moved with a steady sense of confidence, something he did not have in his old life.

“This is Agnetha,” Tannis introduced. “I desire her talons in a permanent contract. Our fathers are trying to work out an agreement. This is her chaperone, which she does not need… I will not touch my beloved Agnetha until certain things are… fixed. I desire to go to Equestria and have a certain surgery done so we can both be happy.”

Drawing near the table, Twilight sat down in a chair and made herself comfortable. She peered around, studying Agnetha and her chaperone, and then she turned to look at Tannis, who was visibly happy and practically bubbling over with good mood.

“I am one of Fleshrender’s daughters… I do not hold my father’s ideals,” Agnetha said in a low frightened voice. “Nor do I wish to be interrogated of his doings.”

“So what do the both of you want from us?” Bucky inquired, getting right to the point as he sat down in a chair.

Looking a bit perturbed, Tannis helped Agnetha take a seat at the table and then sat down himself. He reached up and smoothed down his crest, stilled his fluttering wings, and then he gazed longingly at Agnetha. “I desire to step back from the brink of extinction. I know which way the wind is blowing. The population of Muninn is now almost non existent. Most griffons have crossed the bridge and gone to Huginn, and the balance of power has shifted here in Griffonholm. King Fleshrender makes promises of glory. He has united the war chiefs under his banner. He has taken all of the villages and towns left in Griffonholm, emptied them of griffons, and relocated them in Huginn, to live in those abysmal apartment complexes that he claims are the future.”

“This kind of industrialisation can’t be sustained,” Twilight Sparkle said, shaking her head gently as she spoke.

“I do not know his final plan, but I have suspicions that he is eyeing the Hinterlands… or even lands farther south… to seize them and claim them as our own. I suspect he does not plan to stay,” Tannis said in a low pained voice. “It wasn’t always this bad. I mean, for all of my life, I remember smog and pollution, but under Fleshrender’s rule, he has… he has… there are no words for what he has done.”

“He is preparing for some kind of great leap forward and sacrificing the land,” Bucky interjected coolly, looking around the table and meeting each eye.

“My father is going to be angry with me for having this meeting, but I am willing to risk his wrath to do the right thing,” Tannis admitted, looking apprehensive and tense.

We want to do the right thing for our kind,” Agnetha corrected, reaching out and poking Tannis with her folded knuckle.

Furrowing her brow, Twilight took on a thoughtful look of concentration, her ears perking forwards. “I don’t understand… why do you have two seats of government? Two cities? I understand have two kings, because we have Celestia and Luna in Equestria… but I do not understand the social dynamic at work here.”

Sighing, Tannis looked sorrowful. His beak opened as though he was going to answer, and then he fell silent, his words dying in his throat. He tried several times to offer an answer, and failed each time, falling silent.

“We strove for balance,” Agnetha replied, speaking for Tannis. “Well, we did at one time anyway. Huginn was for the warriors. The fighters. The knights. Those who exemplified our warrior ideals. Muninn was for the artisans. The armor makers. The stone workers. The artists, the poets, the singers of songs, and our noble skalds who kept our history and our stories alive. The skalds, who buried the dead with honour. The skalds who are now gone from our once great society. We have nobirdy to sing to us warnings about our past mistakes.”

“That’s awful,” Twilight breathed, looking quite distressed.

“It is worse than you know… the skalds had magic. We had magic at one time. They did magic with song and verse, the stories say they could heal wounds, cure poisons, and soothe the battle sickness of the mind, easing the bloodlust of our warriors after battle. But as we slipped further and further into savagery and barbarity, we turned away from our skalds… our magicians… those who kept us well,” Agnetha explained.

“So the music died completely and your species went mad?” Bucky inquired, mincing no words and speaking bluntly.

“Yes!” Tannis shouted, banging his clenched talons down upon the table in frustration and rage, his crest rising, the feathers along his neck fluffing out to dissipate heat as his anger increased.

“You would be correct in that assumption… I am the liaison to this castle,” Agnetha said in a low demure voice. “I have spent my time here wisely, studying our history. I am not very important to my father… he believes that he insults me by dispatching me to live with the soft sniveling artists on the island of Muninn. And I continue to let him believe that I am insulted.”

“Clever birdy,” Bucky mused, a faint chuckle escaping his throat as he raised his eyebrow and looked at Agnetha with a wry smile.

Her crest raising high, Agnetha blinked at Bucky. “Why thank you… you are very kind to say so. You are a shameless flatterer.”

“I think I am starting to see the problem here,” Twilight groaned, covering her face with one folded fetlock. The alicorn sighed deeply, rubbed her nasal bridge, and flexed her wings slightly.

“Things are no longer harmonious,” Bucky stated, finishing Twilight’s interjection.

“If ever there was an argument on why we need artists and musicians in society, why we need the arts and culture, one only needs to look outside at Huginn,” Agnetha said, her eyes darting between Twilight and Bucky.

“I agree completely. I mean, I live in a library for crying out loud. And you can always spot the ponies who don’t read as much as they should or spend time doing artistic activities,” Twilight said, still rubbing her nasal bridge. “My sinuses are killing me.”

“I understand a little about both of you. Princess Celestia calls you both the Scholar and the Guardian. You are a librarian and you are a knight… this is balance for your kind, correct?” Tannis questioned, his eyes shifting from Twilight to Bucky.

“Yes,” Twilight replied. “I suppose it is. The librarians and the artists need those to protect them and make sure that art flourishes. The warriors need somepony to protect.”

Grunting wordlessly, Bucky nodded. He cast a glance over his shoulder and looked at Ripple, who stood near the door, her eyes wide and her ears perked. He peered at the chaperone, who had pulled out knitting needles and was now knitting and minding her own business.

“I want this to work. I need this to work. I have plans for the people of Muninn… I need time at least… and I am hoping that you can buy me time during this period of diplomacy…” Tannis murmured in a low voice.

“Why do you need time?” Twilight asked, lowering her foreleg away from her face to look clearly at Tannis.

“I have long been talking with the remaining griffons of Muninn that I know desire change and who want nothing to do with Huginn and the path of war… I want to take the griffons still loyal to my cause and be away with them, hopefully to Equestria. I want to trust my father, and I do trust my father… but I am not sure I trust him completely. He seeks to placate Fleshrender… this place is dead. Even the ocean is dying and we have to fly farther and farther out to find enough fish. I refuse to eat anything but fish… I do not trust the meat here,” Tannis explained in a low whisper.

“So you do not intend to stay?” Bucky inquired, leaning over the table and his voice gaining a hard edge as he focused his attention upon Tannis.

“Only a madbirdy would stay in this place,” Tannis answered. “The alchemists say the ground is poisoned with mercury and so is the water. Everything is full of lead. The foul toxins that fill our air, our soil, and our water… all of it causes madness and insanity. This place can’t be saved. If we continue to live here, we will all go mad. I spend a lot of coin procuring purgative elixirs from Tradewinds to keep myself, Agnetha, and those followers I know are most loyal to me free from the poisons that plague our land. My father… I fear he is succumbing to the toxins all around us which is why I do not trust him completely.”

“Oh dear,” Twilight muttered, looking quite frightened.

“Why doesn’t your father take any of those elixirs?” Bucky inquired.

“He says they are full of zebra mind control magic, and as such, they are forbidden,” Tannis replied, his voice a fearful wavering whisper that came from deep within his throat.

“Oh shite,” Bucky swore.

There was a hostile clucking sound from Agnetha’s chaperone and a loud click of a beak snapping shut in anger. The irate griffoness narrowed her eyes at Bucky and glared at him furiously, practically daring him to swear again.

Bucky, being Bucky, paid the griffon nanny no attention. After being wing slapped by an irate alicorn, Bucky was rather unimpressed by the hostilities of a griffon chaperone.

“Buckminster…” Twilight stated in a frightened voice.

“Yes Twilight?” Bucky responded.

“Would you hate me if I changed our mission prerogatives and turned this into a rescue mission?” Twilight Sparkle questioned, her voice trembling.

“No,” Bucky replied. “I would be quite relieved if you did.”

“Tannis, Agnetha, I want you to listen to me carefully… you have friends now, and we are here to help…”

 

 

 

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