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 it neared midnight, Bucky realised that they would arrive in Canterlot by noon. The past few days of flight were largely uneventful, a quiet reflective time where everyone had spent a lot of time thinking about everything that had taken place. Bucky, having recovered enough of his mobility to hobble around again, was now free to roam the ship at night, stumbling down the halls clumsily looking for some means to pass the time.

He made his way into the large common room and dining area of The Scorned Mare and as he stepped through the door, many small avian heads turned to look at him, little eyes filled with outright adoration peering at him intently as he entered.

Quickly sizing up the room, his own gaze fell upon a group of griffons he was glad to see. He smiled, lurched forward unsteadily, and after a few shaky steps, sat down upon his haunches beside them on the floor, where two cubs played together on a blanket.

“Lugnut… Spanner… how goes fatherhood?” Bucky inquired.

Spanner, looking proud, looked at Bucky for a whole minute before averting his gaze and staring at the floor. “I think they like us… the first day was difficult but now they are trusting us.”

Both cubs turned to look at Bucky, the slightly larger one peeping at him curiously, her eyes wide and somewhat fearful. The smaller one buried her face into the chest of her larger sister and tried to hide, causing Bucky to inhale sharply as he watched the emotion evoking sight.

“Have you named them?” Bucky questioned, his eye never leaving the cubs.

“They work together and are very close. We’ve named them Sprocket and Cog,” Lugnut answered as he reached out and touched his mate affectionately. “Magpie the nanny has been most helpful, but I don’t think she likes us.”

“It will take time,” Bucky sighed, shaking his head slightly. “I remember you two… I remember that… I remember that day in the nursery,” he said in a shuddering voice, strong emotion overtaking him as he spoke.

“My king? You don’t look well… are you alright? Should we fetch one of your wives?” Spanner questioned, worry evident in his eyes and his raised crest.

“I… had to do something terrible… I had no other choice… I… I… I didn’t want to do it… but what they had done… what they did… it wasn’t their fault… they were made to do it, but that didn’t change the fact that they killed and consumed so willingly… they were so young… I looked each one in the eye and apologised as I put them down… I made it painless… I tried to make it-” Bucky paused, shaking his head, he felt a pair of talons holding his front leg, gently pressing down upon him, a soft touch. He looked down and saw Lugnut trying to comfort him.

“Forgive me my king… but you looked distressed,” Lugnut said as he pulled his talons away and averted his eyes.

“I still see their faces,” Bucky admitted. “I paralysed them all so they wouldn’t run. I had to make them stop screaming… I couldn’t bear it… they knew what was coming but couldn’t run from it or escape it… I could smell their fear.”

With a pained look in his eyes, Lugnut slumped down, his eyes closing. “You did what needed to be done my king,” he said in a soft whisper as more little griffons and griffonesses crowded around Bucky.

“None of us hate you for what you did,” Spanner said, his eyes darting up to look at Bucky for a moment. “We know what happened. We’ve all talked about it and word has spread. What you did was mercy. Eating things that talk makes you mad… makes you have thought-sickness and you want to eat even more things that talk… some sort of horrible compulsion.”

“Some of the bigger griffons thought it made them strong,” a griffoness said, looking grief stricken as she spoke. “It made them fearless and made them want to kill. It made them fierce. Only a coward or a dove would reject becoming fearless and fierce.”

“I’ve never seen a king cry before,” a young griffoness said as she reached out and grabbed onto her friend beside her. “I don’t know how to feel.”

“I’m sorry… you probably shouldn’t see me like this,” Bucky apologised. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s nice to know that you have feelings for us,” a griffon said, cautiously approaching Bucky and sitting down just a short distance away.

“It is only right to feel bad about what happened, but it needed to be done,” a griffoness said as she too, moved closer.

With a grunt, Bucky flopped down upon the blanket near Sprocket and Cog, his head coming to rest near the two small cubs, both of whom peered at him curiously as he laid there miserably. The larger, brave and far more curious, pushed her sibling back and cautiously approached Bucky, which made the griffons gathered around gasp and make surprised peeps.

Extending her talons, the griffon cub touched Bucky on the nose, she then moved closer, and with a slow careful wave, tried to fan away the purple mist drifting from his eye.

“Sprocket is very brave,” Lugnut whispered.

“I don’t think there is anything for her to be afraid of,” a griffoness stated. “We are in no danger from our kings.”

“No… no do not touch his bandages,” Spanner said, keeping an eye on his cub, reaching out to push her talons away from the white gauze around Bucky’s scalp.

“How old are they?” Bucky asked.

“Nanny Magpie says they are almost six months. Born in early spring. They are little hoot owls, they like being awake all night,” Lugnut replied as he watched Sprocket touch Bucky’s horn and jerk her talons back in shock.

“Cold!” Sprocket chirped, pressing her talons into her fuzzy pelt to get warm.

“Yes,” Bucky responded. “My horn is always cold. It leaches heat from the surrounding environment.”

Cog, joining her sister, clutched her sister’s foreleg in her talons and stared at Bucky up close, her curiousity evident in her wide unblinking stare.

“It has been a long time for any of us to have willingly trusted our young around one of our kings,” an older griffoness said in a quavering voice. “Fleshrender would drag those not loyal to him, or not loyal enough to him, and devour their young before them… he was a terrible king.”

“Which is why I killed him. Slowly, and in much pain, without mercy,” Bucky said in a pained reply, his voice thick with emotion. He felt a tickle as one of the cubs grabbed a talonful of his mane, gave a tug, and climbed up onto his withers to sit on his back. “We are going to be in Canterlot soon… it won’t be long now. All of you will have a new home and you will not need to live in fear. You will be free to come and go as you please. I still need a dedicated army of griffons for my plans, but none of you are required to stay with me. There are griffons in Equestria that I know will help you get settled,” he announced as the second cub began to climb up beside her sister. “Your lives are your own.”

 

 

In the early morning sun, the distant floating fortress class airship was impressive. Over two hundred feet in length and bristling with electro-cannons. It drifted slowly through the clouds and approached The Scorned Mare. The massive vessel was blue steel with a black gasbag. On the side of the gasbag was a crescent moon and one single pegasus wing extending from the inside curve.

“We have incoming!” Ripple shouted, peering off into the sky. “Alicorns incoming!”

“Oh nuts… they came to greet us,” Bucky grumbled, leaning back into his chair, the exhaustion of the long night suddenly hitting him like a runaway wagon.

“Clear the main deck!” Ripple barked, her sharp command sending griffons scurrying off of the main deck and up the stairs, where they huddled around Bucky on the poop deck. “Sun and Moon incoming! Raptors, if you disappoint me, I will beat you like a drum!”

“Oh shite are those Myrmidons?” Bucky swore, leaning forward slightly in his chair. “Somebody go find Twilight Sparkle and get her on deck! Fetch Tannis and Agnetha too!”

Princess Luna came in first, being a faster flier than her sister. She landed upon the deck gracefully, folding in her wings while still in the air and then landing on her hooves with a fluid motion, immediately trotting towards Bucky and not wasting any time.

She paused as came up the stairs when she saw the griffons around Bucky’s chair. Behind her, Celestia and the Myrmidons were landing. Smiling, Princess Luna bowed her head slightly to the griffons as she stood there trying to take in the sight of the griffons and their king.

“Permission to approach your king,” Luna said politely, looking around at the griffons, all of whom scattered when she spoke, scampering and scurrying away. Now frowning, Luna sighed. This was not the first meeting she had hoped for. Moving swiftly, she approached Bucky, wasting no time. The Night Princess immediately recognised the cloak and knew its origin, but said nothing as she pulled back the hood to look at Bucky, scowling when she saw the bandages.

“It seems the king was crowned,” Luna said angrily, the smell of ozone filling the air. “Are you okay Buckminster? I have been worried sick!”

“Hi Luna,” Bucky said casually, somewhat uncomfortable that Luna’s face was less than an inch from his own, and he saw her teal eyes blazing with an irate fury that he hoped was not directed at him.

“I am certain you must have your reasons for not contacting us, but my sister and I have both been worried sick. We have read the news reports. Are you okay?” Luna said in a shockingly loud voice that made Bucky’s ears ring.

“I’m okay,” Bucky said softly as Luna kissed one cheek and then the other.

“That cloak!”

“Later sister, now is not the time,” Luna said when she heard Celestia’s words.

“Buckminster, how are you feeling? Where is Twilight? Is Twilight okay? I do not see Twilight… where is she?” Celestia inquired frantically as she approached Bucky.

Unable to stop himself, Bucky began to laugh a bit, a laugh that was dangerously close to a cackle, as he realised that there was so much to explain. Unable to hold back, the laugh became a bit of a guffaw, and Bucky struggled to pull himself together under Celestia’s withering gaze.

“So many griffons…” Luna murmured, looking around the deck. “Hello!” she greeted, ignoring Bucky’s chuckles. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen any of the little griffons… they are so adorable!” Luna crowed.

“Luna… sister, contain yourself,” Celestia said sternly. “Buckminster, if you are done laughing about whatever it is you find so funny, I would really like for you to begin explaining what has been going on and why Luna is obligated to send a battleship to assist the Sea of Grass fleet.”

“I’ve been wanting to send out battleships to do something,” Luna huffed, turning around to face her sister. “We have them, we should use them!”

“Luna, now is not the time,” Celestia said patiently.

“Oh, now is the time,” Bucky stated, looking up at Celestia. “Twilight and I have completed our diplomatic mission and the Sea of Grass is finally recognised as our equals. Now that House Avarice is out of the way, true equality between our two nations has been achieved. We are now obligated to protect each other’s interests, and I would expect the Tri-Empire alliance to be growing soon.”

“Tri-Empire?” Celestia inquired, a confused expression.

“Equestria, Sea of Grass, and the griffon empire,” Bucky explained.

“Yes… there is much to talk about concerning that,” Celestia responded, taking a deep breath. “I must say I am actually quite pleased with how that turned out, it made my breakfast memorable reading that in the newspaper. At least something can be salvaged from whatever it was that happened over there.”

“I can’t tell if you are being serious or sarcastic,” Bucky remarked, looking Celestia in the eye, a scowl spreading over his muzzle.

“No, Buckminster… I was being serious. If the griffons must have a king, I would rather it be you… I hope you didn’t give them too much trouble during your coronation,” Celestia responded in a solemn voice. “I know how you feel about rule and it brings me comfort to know that the griffons will finally know a kind monarch.”

“Princess Celestia…”

Turning sharply, Celestia saw Twilight and her heart immediately lept up into her throat. She saw the missing section of mane, the half healed blisters and scarring, and she saw just how much taller Twilight now was, noting that she was the size of Luna. “My most faithful student… Twilight,” Celestia breathed in an barely audible utterance. “Twilight, how are you? Are you okay?”

“I got married…”

 

 

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