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


31. 31

“Berry, can you tell me a story?” Bucky asked as a new canister was secured to his feeding tube. “I’m feeling jittery and out of sorts,” he added, his voice dry and wavery.

“I can do that,” Berry said, settling back into the loveseat, a glass of soft cider close by. “What did you want to hear a story about?” the earth pony mare asked, having just returned not too long ago from attending to the beer brewing.

Derpy shifted her weight slightly, moving somewhat to a new position, keeping Bucky covered with a wing and a protective leg. She was yawning and sleepy, and hadn’t slept well, torn between a need for sleep and being protective.

Instincts were still hard on equines.

“Well, considering us, I wanted to hear more about herds, and what happened,” Bucky answered, feeling quite warm and secure, partially covered by an over protective pegasus mare who wanted to sit on him like he was an egg, and she had said so on more than one occasion.

“I’m gonna go get Dinky and Piña for this,” Sparkler said, leaving the room suddenly.

Berry waited, taking sip of cider, looking thoughtful and rather melancholy. She thought about dark times and dark days, when society had nearly come apart.

Sparkler returned with two foals, and two adult mares, who all barged into the bedroom, making Derpy snort loudly and fluff out her feathers, making the mare look larger than she really was.

Sparkler settled carefully on the bed, laying on the corner, legs folded beneath her belly. The two foals climbed into the loveseat with Berry. Lyra and Bon Bon grabbed large cushions from a pile in the corner and then sat on the floor, near the large wooden cabinet, Lyra looking eager.

Derpy, still feeling flustered somewhat by outsiders in her nest, close to her injured flockmate, continued to make a few snorting sounds as she moved to cover Bucky a little more, and a faint growl could be heard.

Nopony took offense, there was a moment of inter-tribal understanding, Derpy was just doing what she had to in order to feel comfortable.

“Well,” said Berry, settling in, and clearing her throat a little, “a long time ago, there were herds. But we already knew that. And problems arose. The problems mostly came, at least as I understand it, from the unicorns in the upper levels of society, and the troubles trickled down to other levels of society, in particular it hit the pegasi clans hard.” Berry took a deep breath, rubbed her barrel with a hoof, and then pulled Piña close for a hug. “Marriage and war have a lot in common. You move to declare your intentions, you establish the rules of engagement, you set some standards that both sides try to follow. There are proclamations to be made, and there are some things you just don’t do, in love or war. At one point, love and war broke down in our society,” Berry said, now hugging Dinky as well.

“After Luna was gone, the greater houses became power hungry and dangerous, Celestia being alone, her power and influence weakened. There was lots of squabbling, but not outright war, there had not been war for a while, and everypony wanted to keep that. But there was a war happening, a dirty war, undeclared with no terms, no rules of engagement. Within the herds of the greater houses, the mares, all of which came from different houses, began to squabble and fight among one another as the political games began to intensify. At first, it was just squabbling. Lo and behold, the real trouble started when mares began to die from mysterious illnesses. Many suspected magic, poison, dirty underhoofed dealings. A new form of war was happening, and it was the worst sort of war,” Berry explained.

Berry looked sad for a moment, raising her eyes to the ceiling, pulling the two foals she loved closer. “Eventually, some pony did the unthinkable, and some mare poisoned the foals of another mare, a fellow wife mare, within the sacred herd structure. Hard to say who did it first, history being what it is, but after that, it was open season. There was a black and dirty war going on inside the houses themselves, with no rules, no terms of engagement, no means to cry truce or sue for peace. Mare killing mare, mare killing foal, and in many instances, siblings killing siblings. The nobles, never ones to do their dirty work for themselves, enlisted their trusted pegasi guards to protect them… And maybe do a little skullduggery for them. Soon enough, the pegasi herds suffered the same problem, and the inviolate trust of the herd structure and the ability to trust other mares, your fellow wives, with your own foals was gone. Society fell apart, griffons began to encroach, the borders shrank, the houses were all too busy dealing with inside the house warfare to band together and deal with threats to Equestria. It all came to a gristly conclusion when the Matron Mare of House Avarice magically compelled her husband to kill all of his other wives and his own foals he had had with them. She used an obedience spell, and he was powerless to resist her. Celestia was forced to lop his head off for his crimes, and the Matron’s head as well. Word has it she didn’t want to lop his head off, but had her hoof forced if she wanted to have any sort of standing army left to protect her remaining loyal subjects,” Berry spoke, her voice strong and melodical somehow, Berry feeling very much like the bards in her long family history.

“After that, Celestia wrote a new law. No more marriages with mixed houses. If a herd was to be established, it was to be done with sisters. A stallion was free to marry all the sisters he wanted. Celestia figured that sisters would look after one another. She created the “Sisterhooves Social” to help foster a feeling of unity and stem the bloody warfare going on behind closed doors. It seemed to help for a while, but it really became a case of ponies learning how to hide their violence better and new ways to dispose of bodies, like using transmutation spells to turn them into candy and feeding them to orphans, if the stories are to be believed,” Berry said, holding Dinky and Piña as they shuddered from her story, clinging ever tighter to Berry. “Important to note, most of the earth ponies took no part in this, they were working too hard to engage in this bloody business and trying not to starve or get eaten by griffons. The various clan structures used this as an argument saying it was time for the noble houses to go, especially the greater houses. The entire nation moved ever closer to actual war, right out in the streets. War, like marriage, must be declared, and ponies were gearing up for a big ol’ party to that end. The war between the Royal Pony Sisters had spread, infecting both wives and sisters of noble houses, spreading strife and dissension. Finally, in one heated quill stroke, Celestia signed a divorce treaty for all the noble houses, dissolving all marriages in the upper through lower nobility, and got rid of herd marriage all together, trying to keep the country from being torn apart. She declared a state of monogamy, insisting that it was the only way to stop all the horrible fighting and treachery.”

“Wow,” Lyra said.

“It stabilised the upper levels of society, but it completely destroyed the earth pony way of life,” Bon Bon said, her voice soft and thoughtful. “Farms needed large families, numbers, to throw at a task or a problem and wear it down.”

“So why not just outlaw herd marriages among unicorns?” Sparkler asked.

“Because that would be a horribly tribalist thing to do Sparkler,” Lyra said patiently. “Telling one tribe no but allowing the other two tribes to continue.”

“I guess you’re right Lyra, still feels wrong somehow,” Sparkler said.

“Yeah it does,” Lyra agreed.

“No easy answers I suppose,” Bon Bon said, looking pensive and sad.

“It gets worse,” Berry continued.

“How does it get worse?” Sparkler asked.

“A large army of jilted mares realised the odds were against them ever finding a decent marriage. Just too many mares, not enough stallions. They formed a coalition. That coalition eventually became an army. That army threatened war. It all came to a big head, popping like some stinky boil. To stave off war, Celestia was forced to break off a part of her own kingdom, and she gave a patch of land to the jilted mares, who formed the city of Fillydelphia, which was more than just a clever play on words for a name. It was literally the city of fillies, young females mostly who had no chance of ever finding a mate. They became their own city state, a republic allowed to exist on the Equestrian borders,” Berry answered, looking at Sparkler, and then taking a long drink of cider.

“How does a city survive without new foals for the population?” Sparkler asked, looking concerned.

“Fillydelphia became a community of foalnappers. They moved into surrounding territories, snatching up and stealing foals, they sent out agents into the world at large, gathering up orphans, the unloved, and the unwatched from the unwary. They had a manic need to get as many foals as possible. Because they took in and cared for so many orphans, Celestia was forced to turn a blind eye to the other foalnappings that took place. She was far too weak and powerless at that point, and something had to be done with the orphans left behind by all the interfamilial warfare and killings. Some say that the tradition continues to this day and they point to Fillydelphia’s many orphanariums and how full they stay. Many a mother has claimed to lost their foal to Fillydelphia’s overzealous foal protective services for no reason at all, and many of Equestria’s orphans find their way to Fillydelphia, in one way or another,” Berry replied, looking agitated. “The old wounds still hurt. Marriage of all sorts is hated in Fillydelphia, and it is a city that is still mostly made up of mares. The offspring of the jilted mares remain jilted, hating stallions, hating marriage, hating traditional family structures. I feel bad for them.”

“Awful,” Bon Bon said.

“I mean, I personally am not into stallions, I think everypony knows which way I swing, but I don’t go around hating them or trying to tear down families. Sweet Cheeks and I are family and we want family… stuff,” Lyra said, shrugging, not sure how to end her statement.

“I guess at some point, Fillydelphia was absorbed by Equestria again,” Sparkler said.

“Which leaves us and what we're edging into,” Derpy said, her head now resting on Bucky’s shoulder, rising and falling with his breathing.

“Yeah, us,” Berry agreed. “And our little forming herd. And the terrible mess it is bound to cause.”

“It's tragic and funny that Lyra and I can have our marriage recognised and accepted but herd marriage remains a social taboo. But I can remember when our marriage would have been a social taboo,” Bon Bon said, casting her eyes downward.

“Herd marriage became synonymous with ‘foal murdering’ and other fun words of that nature,” Lyra said, scowling. “You say it now, and it still makes ponies cringe. Well, sometimes. Things are getting better I suppose.”

“I just want mommy to be happy. And I want a daddy,” Dinky said, snuggling into Berry. “Another mommy might be nice too, I don’t think you can have too many of those,” she added, her voice muffled from her speaking into Berry’s pelt.

Berry visibly melted, her ears sagging downwards, her face going soft and drooping, and she squeezed the two foals in her grasp.

“I’ll share,” Piña said, pulling Dinky closer.

“Huh. Well. I can’t look at that,” Lyra announced. “Sweet Cheeks, my eyes are going to melt out of my skull in a minute, be a dear and fetch a bucket.”

“There’s a bedpan,” Berry replied helpfully.

“Shh, my egg is sleeping,” Derpy said in a hushed whisper, her head still on his shoulder, her wing wrapped over his body, and her ears remained perked.


Author's Note:

And there we go. I promised that Berry would reveal more about the herd structures and their history.

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