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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Twilight Sparkle, using magic unique to her as an alicorn, brought up a large projection map of the surrounding area. All of Ponyville became visible. Then, slowly, one by one, areas surrounding Ponyville came into view. The White Tail Woods stood out in high relief, individual trees even standing out from the projection, and a number of blinking red map markers became visible. Rambling Rock Ridge came into high relief next, then the Ghastly Gorge, and finally the Froggy Bottom Bogg.

“We can dismiss any caves in the Froggy Bottom Bogg,” Twilight Sparkle announced as she looked at her projections.

“Most likely because they would be filled with water and or dangerous swamp creatures,” Bucky said, cottoning on to Twilight Sparkle’s reasoning. “Rambling Rock Ridge is also highly unlikely… for reasons known to Twilight Sparkle and I.”

“Indeed,” Twilight said, looking around nervously. “Let’s just leave it at that,” she suggested as she thought about Hidden Hollow Fortress and how Luna was excavating a massive underground complex out that way.

“Ghastly Gorge is unlikely because of the quarray eels that live in the caves there. Too many hostile predators and flying through that location is best done by stunt fliers like Rainbow Dash,” Bucky reasoned, looking over the map projection.

“The Everfree seems unlikely. So that leaves the White Tail Woods,” Twilight announced.

“That does seem to be the logical place to begin looking,” Flash Sentry agreed, looking around at the posse that had formed. He knew that the griffons did not have flight licenses, but now was not the time to pick nits. He looked at Sparkler and gave her a sheepish smile.

Sparkler, seeing Flash Sentry smile, smiled back. “You know Flash, I wanted to avoid going to my father to make this work… but technically, I was not the one who went to my father… so good job. I owe you a drink, I think.” The purple pink filly quivered slightly, one ear moving in a spastic pattern.

The map projection showed an enlarged section of the White Tail Woods, zooming in relevant points of interest. “There,” Twilight said, pointing with her wing. "There is the logging camp. There are a few caves around there, and those seem unlikely. The loggers might take notice.”

“Princess Luna and the lunar guardsponies patrol these woods and keep them free of monsters so ponies can get lumber, maple syrup, truffles, and other resources out of the wood. So any of these caves are good spots. The White Tail Woods are relatively safe, you might meet the occasional timber wolf, but I do believe our suspect could deal with one of those,” Bucky said as he studied the map. “There,” he stated, pointing with one extended talon finger.

“Why there?” Twilight asked, looking at the spot Bucky had selected.

“Readily available access to fresh water due to a number of streams, a protective ridge, and there are a large number of geothermal hot springs in the area. If he’s lucky, he’s found a cave with a geothermal spring inside of it, which would keep the cave rather warm and well heated,” Bucky explained patiently.

Carefully considering Bucky’s words, Twilight Sparkle studied the map. There were several dozen caves in just that one small area, the ground was primarily limestone and there was an aqueduct deep underground. “We begin our search there. Hitch up Flash. You and I will pull the sky wagon. We do this by the book. We go in, we hit hard and fast, and we try to keep the foals safe. Sparkler… I understand your hesitation to do so, but I would prefer if you petrified him to keep this simple. He will be of no threat and we can haul him back in the sky wagon along with the foals.”

“I understand and I see the wisdom in your suggestion. If I have a clear shot, he’s becoming a place for pigeons to poop on,” Sparkler responded, raising one hoof in salute. “I would like to make it known however that under normal circumstances, I refuse to use my magic on ponies, not unless I absolutely have to.”

“I will focus on shielding the foals,” Twilight stated, looking around at her group. “If he proves wiley… if for example, he uses anti-magic countermeasures, Ripple, you and your Raptors are free and clear to do whatever to subdue him. Sentinel, we’ll likely be fighting underground. Use your shadow magic. Flash Sentry, help me with the foals,” the alicorn instructed in a patient voice.

“And what about me?” Bucky asked, looking over at Twilight with his eyebrow raised.

“I know how you feel about hurting ponies. You’re along if something goes incredibly wrong. I trust that you will do what you do best, make things up as you go. I know that you will keep us safe… you’ve shown that you have remarkable restraint in dealing with a hostile situation,” Twilight Sparkle replied, looking at Bucky and thinking about the ambush in the griffon guest room. She trusted Bucky and his magic implicitly, warlock or no.

“Let’s move and make good use of the daylight we have left,” Flash Sentry commanded, looking around at the group. He hadn’t expected this. He had figured that he and Sparkler were going to have to go at this the hard way. This certainly made things easier.

“Flash Sentry,” Sparkler called out to the orange pegasus.

“Yes?” Flash Sentry asked in reply.

“I found me a good day watch commander. You just keep doing what you’re doing,” Sparkler praised, looking at Flash Sentry as she spoke.

 

 

The wagon was parked along the top of the ridge, where there were no trees. The massive shelf of protruding stone was covered in moss and a bit of scrub that had grown in the cracks. The posse moved down along the ridge, working their way along, walking through the woods that were ablaze with autumn, the trees all various shades of golds, oranges, yellows, and reds. The griffons flitted from tree to tree, moving silently, and Ripple moved with them, also darting from tree to tree with the group, hovering nearby while they all gathered together before moving off to the next tree, led by Grunion and Loki.

Moving somewhat ahead of the group, Sentinel moved with nose to the ground, snatching up and eating bugs, slugs, and other delicious edibles as he moved along. The forest was alive with various scents and his nose tingled with each new smell he picked up. The lunar pegasus was in his element as a hunter. This was what his unique species was made to do. As he walked, his wings flapped a bit, and when he caught a new scent, they’d extend outwards in excitement.

They drew near their first cave, the group moving cautiously together, Flash Sentry moving nearer to Sentinel as the colt led the way, and Sentinel began sniffing all around the ground, his head moving from side to side as he tried to take in every scent he could.

Finally, Sentinel lifted his head. “No ponies,” he reported, a ribbon of drool dribbling off of his chin from his excitement.

 

 

The next cave was under a stone overhang, somewhere up ahead. The ground around them was littered with debris. The air was filled with the faint scent of rotten eggs. Several hot springs gurgled around them, and the posse passed by a large bubbling boiling pool.

The Raptors were falling into a pattern now, their movements becoming far more coordinated as they slipped from tree to tree, Ripple darting after them. So agile was the pegasus filly that she was able to stand on narrow branches, perfectly balanced, all four hooves delicately resting together, or even just standing on one hoof for the sake of showing off.

“Ripple moves like Rainbow Dash flies,” Flash Sentry remarked in a soft voice as he marched with the group through the trees.

“She sure does,” Twilight Sparkle agreed as she watched the filly balancing on one front hoof, standing on a narrow branch, Ripple’s wings quivering with excitement. “Sentinel sure does drool a lot when he gets excited.”

“You have no idea,” Sparkler responded in disgust. “Never, under any circumstances, come near him when there is ice cream nearby. My little brother almost killed Bon Bon. She slipped and fell in a puddle of drool because of Sentinel.”

“I couldn’t help it,” Sentinel whimpered, lifting his head and looking back at Sparkler, a long string of saliva trailing from his bottom lip. “She said she still loves me.”

“Funny observation… Sentinel has very greasy drool. It is actually quite slippery and slick. Berry Punch came up with a theory that it allows lunar pegasi to slip in and out of stone cracks and narrow passages in the caves they like to live in. If they are going into a tight space, they could just slobber all over themselves and then slip and slide through just about anything.” Sparkler said to Twilight Sparkle.

“Oh yuck… that’s fascinating… Flash, remind me to get a sample of Sentinel’s slobber, so I can study it later. I wonder if a good coating of lunar pegasus slobber might help a solar pegasus fly faster due to less friction,” Twilight Sparkle instructed, her inner thoughts manifesting into spoken words as she talked. “Maybe Rainbow Dash would be willing to get slippery and slick with me and we can test drag coefficients with one another.”

Shuddering violently, Flash Sentry immediately tried to make himself forget that his wife had just uttered those horrible words. He shook his head as he marched, realising just how different his lunar cousins were.

“I don’t understand something,” Sparkler announced.

“What’s that Sparkler?” Flash Sentry inquired.

“He had a wagon. He couldn’t pull it out here,” Sparkler stated.

Taking a few moments to consider Sparkler’s words, Flash Sentry pursed his lips together and had himself a good think. After a few moments, his face brightened. “He probably hauls the wagon to a well hidden supply cache, unloads everything, hides or ditches the wagon, and then flies things back from his supply cache as he needs them.”

“Seems reasonable,” Sparkler responded, pondering Flash Sentry’s words.

 

 

Several more caves in the general area brought nothing but disappointment. The Raptors were now moving almost as a single entity, they traversed the trees, swiftly, silently, clinging to trunks and limbs while waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. This was their element, the little griffons had evolved to be arboreal predators, their smaller wingspans allowed them to move through densely wooded locations in a way their larger cousins simply could not.

It was Callum that brought the group to a halt, showing off several broken branches. He moved quietly, pointing to places were branches had been broken off, creating a narrow corridor through the densely packed trees. An aerial pathway had been created, this was a landing strip of sorts, something made to allow a flying creature to land. The posse was near a cave, and Sentinel moved ahead with his nose pressed down to the leaf-strewn ground with the Raptors now moving directly overhead to cover him and keep him safe.

Halting at the cave entrance, Sentinel lifted his head and nodded. “Pony smell,” he said, slobbering with excitement, more drool trickling from his chin. He dropped his head back down and continued to sniff. He paced around the entrance, moving around in a circle. “Smells like mostly unicorns and pegasi.”

“You can smell the difference between tribes?” Ripple whispered, looking at her brother with wide eyed awe.

“Earth ponies, unicorns, pegasi, they all smell different,” Sentinel explained in a low voice.

“Remember, by the book,” Twilight Sparkle said in a low voice as the posse slowly crept into the cave, the Raptors leading the way and Sentinel falling back with Bucky. She looked over at Flash Sentry and then at Sparkler, who stood on either side of her, gave a nod, and then smiled as she continued ahead.

 

 

The cave narrowed for a time. It was damp, slightly humid, and very warm. The air was filled with a pleasant heat, a soothing heat that crept into the skin and made a pony feel warm and comfortable. Bucky created a faint light, a soft light that had a short radius. Sentinel had moved nearer to the front, leading through the darkness with his echolocation, which he kept at a frequency that normal ponies could not hear.

After traveling though the dark passage for a while, they saw a warm orange light up ahead. The group paused, allowing their eyes to adjust to the change of light levels. The griffons crouched and began moving like the predatory felines that they were. The group surged forward as one.

Ahead, on a pile of straw, a tan pegasus raised his head and let out a startled cry of surprise, which was cut off by a strangled gurgle as he turned to stone. He was petrified with his mouth open and his eyes wide with surprise.

“Well, that went by the book,” Twilight Sparkle announced, looking pleased.

“That’s it? This feels anticlimactic,” Flash Sentry grumbled.

“It’s over?” Sentinel asked.

“No,” Bucky said, his light flaring brightly, revealing a crude large wooden stockade gate. “No, our work is only beginning,” he announced as fearful whimpers began to fill the cavern.

 

 

“Nineteen foals Bucky… what are we going to do with them all?” Twilight Sparkle asked.

“Leave them in the care of Fancy Pants and Fleur Dis Lee. I don’t know,” Bucky answered in a pained voice. “The three earth pony foals are going to need to be placed in the hospital for an extended stay.”

“It’s terrible,” Twilight muttered.

“It is going to be a long night for me,” Bucky announced in a weary voice. “The pegasus will need to be interrogated.”

“Bucky… I’ve seen what you’ve done to the others. It’s monstrous,” Twilight said in a tone of disapproval. “You’ve done something irreparable to their brains. You’ve made them foals. Bucky, they cry if the guards turn the lights off. I mean they cry like little foals… they're all so afraid of the dark. Luna and the guards call their prison ‘The Nursery’ because of how those prisoners act. They walk around asking for hugs and they keep seeking out some kind of reassurance that the things in the dark won’t gobble them up. The pegasus whose brain you scrambled begged Luna for a stuffed animal he could hug and not feel so scared… he wanted a stuffy… a stuffy, Bucky, how could you do that to them?”

“Did Luna get him a stuffy?” Bucky asked, looking very serious.

“No! What you did was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen… of course Luna didn’t get them a stuffed doll,” Twilight snapped.

Sighing, Bucky’s head slumped. “She should get them a stuffy. It will make things easier. I guess I am going to have to have a talk with her while I’m in Canterlot,” he grumbled. He looked at Twilight and gave a soft smile. “Things went well. I have to say, I’m proud of Sparkler. She and Flash Sentry both are proving to be promising and capable.”

“Things ended so quickly,” Twilight Sparkle stated. “I’m glad that Sparkler can be trusted with her petrification spell. She could have zapped our culprit the other night, but she acted defensively and two foals were kept safe. It’s good she doesn’t go using her magic unless she absolutely has to. Make sure your daughter gets some kind of special reward Bucky.”

“I shall,” Bucky promised.

“Bucky, please, for my own peace of mind, give me your word that you will never do what you did to those mirror travelers on Equestrian ponies,” Twilight Sparkle requested, looking Bucky in the eye as she spoke.

“You have my word,” Bucky replied.

 

 

 

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