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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As they moved across the base, Bucky did two things. First, he kept a shield up around himself and his companions, and second, he cleaned the rifle for Belisama using a simple cleaning spell.

“Stay close to me. I can’t protect you if you are outside of my shield bubble, and I don’t want either of you getting hurt,” Bucky commanded as he gave the rifle back to Belisama. “And you… you and I are going to have a long talk about what you have done Belisama. I am not angry, but there will be words about this.”

“You had better not scold her,” Lugus warned.

“Lugus, I am not sure you have a say in this,” Bucky warned.

“You appointed me as their defender. That means defending them from all threats, including you,” Lugus argued, his crest rising. “Belisama did something brave and her courage should be commended, even if I don’t agree with what she has done. She might have defied you, but in doing so, she has proven her worth.”

“Lugus, you astound me on occasion,” Bucky stated, turning his head to look at his large friend. “But this is why I keep you around I suppose.”

“A good master is hard to come by,” Belisama said in a low voice.

“Stop calling me master!” Bucky demanded.

“Buckminster, the title is one that is given to you out of respect, devotion, and trust. She has given you the entirety of her life with a verbal contract. It is our way. It is a word, one word, that says everything she feels about you… before you reject her you need to think about the one you call Mistress and why you do it,” Lugus chided, coming dangerously close to scolding Bucky.

“That… that’s different,” Bucky retorted.

“How?” Belisama asked, half flying half hovering near Bucky’s head. “There is one you call Mistress? Master is a much better master than I thought, master knows what it means to be a servant.”

“I am actually a slave,” Bucky admitted as they walked through the flaming wreckage of several large wooden buildings. “That is why I have that brand.”

“Master is owned by another?” Belisama asked. “Bon Bon did not tell me of this.”

“Long story, but yes, I am property,” Bucky admitted.

“Then I have chosen wisely. A king who has known slavery is a wise king. When the others find out about this they will rejoice and celebrate. We finally have a king who knows of our pain,” Belisama said as she peered around watchfully, the rifle raised and ready.

“His keeper, his owner, is the kindest creature you will ever meet, and she was trusted with his care and keeping,” Lugus explained as they walked.

Inside of his helmet, Bucky scowled, this was not turning out in his favour at all. There would be no living this down or escaping their devotion now, and he knew that telling Belisama to be quiet about it would do him no good. Bucky had a nagging dreadful fear that this would only make his subjects even more fanatical in their devotion. This was shaping up to be just awful.

The sharp crack of rifle fire filled the air, followed by second shot.

“I missed,” Belisama hissed as she activated the lever and made ready to fire.

Bucky felt a small bit of concern when a bullet thudded off of his blue-green spell bubble. His shields were never all that good, but should be adequate for stopping bullets. Or so he hoped. He would never forgive himself otherwise. He peered ahead, marveling at Belisama’s eyesight and talon-eye coordination. There were dark shapes in the distance and flashes of gunfire. Dozens of bullets bounced off of Bucky’s shields and he redoubled his efforts.

There was a bright flash followed by a deafening roar. Bucky panicked as something very large passed overhead, something he wasn’t sure he could stop. He concentrated every ounce of his will into creating the strongest shields possible and continued to move forward slowly, ready to attempt to grab something with his telekinesis if necessary.

“Oh my he’s a big one, I’ve already shot him once,” Belisama muttered as she took aim again, peering down the long scope. There was a loud crack. “No, this is worrisome. I have shot him twice now, he’s got a big gun. And he keeps ducking around the corner of that building.”

Again, Bucky felt something big pass entirely too close, this time near Lugus.

“I am going to teleport forwards and leave both of you here,” Bucky said, making ready. “You will be shielded. I am going to kill this ars-”

There was sharp report of rifle fire that cut off Bucky’s words, and a self satisfied squawk from Belisama.

“You brained him. From here. I am impressed,” Lugus announced.

Belisama did not reply, but was busy taking aim as a volley of return fire bounced off of Bucky’s shield. The little griffoness seemed to be enjoying herself immensely, and Bucky found himself strangely attracted to her bloodlust, a most peculiar sensation, given that his other wives really didn’t have bloodlust.

“DIE MOTHERPLUCKER!” Belisama screamed, getting into the spirit of things. “NO MORE! NEVER AGAIN!” She fired several times, and then the rifle went click. She fumbled around in the bag she had around her neck, and then let out an angry screech.

“No more bullets?” Bucky inquired.

“No more bullets,” Belisama admitted in a sad voice.

“Do you feel better?” Bucky asked as a bullet bounced off his shields.

“No, master, I do not,” Belisama answered. “Killing did not soothe the hurting places where my sister’s memory remains.”

“It never does… it only leaves things feeling more empty,” Bucky said, once again moving forward slowly, advancing on the resistance in the distance who kept shooting. Some were flying forward to greet them and Bucky felt a brief moment of pity as Lugus rose up into the air and drew his axe.

When the first griffon was in range, Lugus hurled his axe with a fierce overhead chopping motion. It flew straight and true, turning over in the air, and a second later, struck the first griffon with enough force to make him explode into meaty bits, scraps of fur, and feathers. With a flash, the axe vanished and returned to Lugus’ grasp.

“Master, do you think they will have more bullets?” Belisama asked as Lugus once again took aim and made ready to kill another griffon.

 

 

The hand cannon was very large and scary looking. It lay on the ground next to a very large hunter griffon, a hunter griffon who was missing most of his head. Bucky eyed the weapon and then lifted it reverently, appreciating the deadly design.

“It fires bullets bigger around than cherries,” Bucky said, having no other reference. “The recoil must be immense,” he added as he lifted a big brass shell. The shell was was quarter of a foot long and felt as though it weighed over a pound. Over a pound of brass, powder, and lead. “Lugus?” Bucky offered, extending the weapon out to his friend.

“I loathe guns,” Lugus hissed, his eyes narrowing.

“So use it only when necessary. I am certain you will be a better shot than the previous owner. If I gave this to Belisama, the recoil would knock her out of the air,” Bucky reasoned.

Snarling, Lugus took the gun, stuffed it under his harness, and then began looting the big shells from the dead griffon. As he was doing this, Bucky moved forward, having finally crossed the valley floor and reached the other side. There were several intact wooden buildings here, and Bucky took no chances, keeping his guard and his shields up around his companions. Belisama was checking the bodies of the fallen griffons and fishing out magazines for Bucky’s rifle.

Bucky pushed his way into a wooden building that seemed unoccupied. He peered around, saw a lot of beds, a few tables, some chairs, and it occurred to him that the building could be looted. The mattresses and such would be useful in the freighter to make it just a little more comfortable. There was a phonograph and a collection of records sitting in a box.

The walls were covered in crazy.

Incomprehensible garble covered the walls, bits of text and drawn pictures, ranting raving script that mentioned strange voices, flashing lights, and bugs crawling around inside the shafts of some poor griffon’s feathers. Everything else in the bunkhouse seemed perfectly homey, comfortable, what you would expect in a soldier’s barracks, but the walls concerned Bucky. The walls were evidence of something insidious in the psyche of the griffons.

Seeing a fridge in the corner, Bucky moved through the barracks, worried at what he might find inside of the fridge. Severed heads? Foals? Some other unspeakable horror? He didn’t want to open the door, but he was unable to resist looking. Bracing himself, he pulled the door open...

And much to his relief saw a fridge full of beer. The bottles were made of green glass and had a picture of a smiling minotaur on them, holding his thumb up. On the bottom shelf there were a few bottles of wine, zebra wine. He pulled open the freezer, wondering what might be in there, and immediately wished he hadn’t.

He slammed the door and really wished that he hadn’t opened the freezer. The severed head staring back at him still had its eyes open. Bucky had let his mental guard down after discovering the beer and wine.

“Gah!” Bucky gasped, backing away from the fridge and knocking over the table.

“Bucky?”

“I’m okay Lugus… just saw something… no Lugus, I am not okay,” Bucky admitted.

The big griffon entered the barracks, Belisama darting in right beside him. He looked around, his sharp ears listening to the sounds of Bucky’s heavy breathing inside of his armor. Lugus felt a sharp twinge of concern.

“It still had the eyes Lugus… it looked at me. It freaked me out a bit… I hate to admit it, but there are still things that bother me apparently… feeling kinda panicked Lugus!” Bucky stammered. “It was a foal Lugus, and it looked a lot like Dinky.”

Lugus strained his ears, trying to identify the strange sound coming from inside of Bucky’s armor. He was worried for a moment that Bucky was getting sick inside of his armor, which would be bad, Bucky could drown from such an act, but after a moment, it was apparent that Bucky was sobbing.

“It looked like Dinky.”

“Hold yourself together my friend,” Lugus said, offering quiet reassurance.

A loud shuddering sob escaped from Bucky’s armor and Belisama didn’t know what to do. She landed on Bucky’s armored back, settling herself down carefully, trying to not bang her cast on the armor plating. She steadied herself with her right talons while holding the rifle in her left talons.

Lugus stared at the walls, taking in all the written testament to madness all around him. Looking up, he even saw words and pictures scribbled all over the ceiling, each word, each picture, each bit of graffiti evidence of the madness of his species. He snatched a pillow case from off the bed, made his way to the fridge, opened the freezer door, looked inside for a moment, let out an angry screech, and then he laid the pillow case over the severed head so it wouldn’t stare out at any who opened the freezer.

Opening the fridge, he looked inside, grabbed a beer, pulled off the cap using his beak, sat down, and poured the entire bottle down into his gullet. He set the bottle down upon the top of the fridge, belched, and then turned around to look at his companions.

“That was unpleasant,” Lugus said. “It did look like Dinky. I miss her.”

“I had my eyes closed,” Belisama admitted, still sitting on Bucky’s back.

Bucky’s sobs made an odd sound as they came out through his helmet, and his head hung low. He stood, unmoving, unable to speak, consumed by the emotion of the past few days, the severed head of the foal shattering all of his internal walls.

“I have never seen a king cry before,” Belisama stated. “It makes me feel very humbled and very small.”

“Let it out my friend. There is much to do, but it can wait. We seem to be safe for the time being,” Lugus said, looking around the room and peering out the window. “The Scorned Mare is calm and quiet, so there is nothing attacking her. If there are any remnants, they are hiding or fleeing. Take some time to compose yourself and we will go look for the food stores.”

“Mast… uh, my friend,” Belisama whispered in a low uncomfortable voice. “I am only a little griffoness, but I would do anything to protect your foals. Please my friend, try to pull yourself together. I can’t bear to see you like this and I have no means to touch you or comfort you, not that it is my place to do so.”

“Thank you Belisama,” Bucky sobbed, his voice a strangled wheeze.

 

 

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