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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Surrounded by his family, Bucky remained inconsolable, filled with a fearful apprehension of what might happen now that Love was gone. He felt Cadance’s loss keenly. He could feel that something in the world had changed, some vague imperceptible force had been altered somewhat.

A late evening edition of the paper gave the news in detail, but Bucky did not read, he did not look, he remained curled up in a miserable lump in his bed, surrounded by those he loved, holding his foals, and spending a great deal of time cuddling with Harper and Peekaboo.

Lyra was the one who had moored The Scorned Mare and then tethered The Albatross. She made sure everything was properly stowed away and that the ships were secure.

Rarity and Coco took home the stowaways, making sure they were returned to worried parents. They had not taken the news well either, word had spread quickly throughout the ship when Bucky had hurried home.

 

 

“Celestia said she was too much of a pegasus for her own good,” Bucky whispered, a haunted look upon his face as he stared dully at the wall. “I can’t stop thinking about those words. It’s killing me.”

Closing her eyes, feeling her husband’s pain, Derpy scooted a little closer to him and covered his body with her wing. “A good pegasus will do anything to protect those they love. Cadance was a good pegasus. She might have become an alicorn, but deep down inside, she was still a pegasus where it mattered.”

“Would you have done the same?” Berry asked in a muted voice, her cheek pressed against Bucky’s neck. The earth pony rubbed her hooves against Bucky’s belly and barrel, trying to soothe him and bring him some comfort.

“Without thinking about it,” Derpy replied in a wavering breathy utterance.

The small windup clock on the shelf near the bed struck midnight, the hand moving one notch precisely and marking the midnight hour. The house was quiet. The foals were all asleep. The bed was full, there was a slumbering kelpie and a griffoness, one grief stricken unicorn, one morose earth pony, and one sorrowful pegasus. Lyra and Bon Bon were sleeping in the nursery, looking after Harper who was having tummy troubles.

The house was disturbed by a knock at the door while the hands still showed midnight.

 

 

The visitors were not ponies that Bucky expected to see, yet here they were, standing in his entryway, gawking around his house, looking at his wives, and completely unphased about Cadance’s death.

One earth pony, one zebra with a brown hoof, and one unicorn.

“We need to go,” the earth pony announced after having a look around.

“Our time grows short,” the zebra said, looking at Bucky.

“And you must come with us,” the unicorn stated as she looked at Derpy.

“Sorry… I don’t even know how to introduce you,” Bucky said an apologetic tones.

“We are his sisters… in the larger scheme of things,” the zebra said.

“I remember you,” Berry murmured, looking at the trio. “It feels more like a dream. You gave me that potion that saved Bucky’s life… you told me to pour it into the wound in his side.”

“We did,” the unicorn said.

“Which leads us to today,” the zebra stated.

“We promised you a reward, my brother. A meaningful reward in exchange for your word. Are you ready to receive it?” the earth pony questioned.

“Right now, I really don’t care about any rewards… I just want to be left alone,” Bucky replied, shaking his head. “I’m tired. I just lost somepony dear to me. And the world now hangs in a precarious balance.”

“We must move. You are coming with us to collect your reward. Love is not yet lost, but will be if we do not hurry,” the zebra said in a soft voice.

“What?” Bucky asked, his mouth hanging open.

“Our mutual enemy has killed her. I am sure you can figure out why. He has manipulated events to make you stronger after you lost so much of yourself after Griffonholm. We saw this coming. We anticipated this act. We knew what our parent would do. We weren’t sure when or how, but we saw this coming. We have made deals. Struck bargains. And now, we must go to claim her… and you must claim your reward for all of your devotion and service,” the unicorn said in a cheerful voice.

“What must I do?” Bucky inquired. “I’ll do anything, anything at all for her.”

“Come with us,” the earth pony said, beckoning towards the door with her hoof.

Stepping out the door, Bucky saw a tall white stallion. The door was shut behind him and the three Fates gathered around him, herding him along. Death walked with them, and after a short walk, the fates stopped in an open patch of lawn.

“I am very sorry,” Thanatos apologised, looking a little sad.

“For what?” Bucky asked, now feeling confused and a bit worried as the fates circled around him, pouring what appeared to be chalk or salt upon the ground. Bucky couldn’t be certain. “What’s going on?”

“To get Cadance back, you’re going to have to go on trial in Tartarus. And to endure this trial, well, you have to be dead,” Thanatos said in a soft voice as he pressed his hoof into Bucky’s chest.

Feeling his heart stop beating, Bucky fell over into the grass, gasping for air, struggling as the life slowly left his body. No matter how hard he tried, he could not draw breath. White spots danced before his vision. Agonising pain filled him and he once again felt the pain of death go through him.

“Don’t worry, your family will see none of this,” the earth pony promised.

“Just a bare spot in the grass,” the zebra said.

“We’ll be with you,” Thanatos promised as Bucky clawed at the grass with his talons.

The world slowly went black as Bucky’s vision dimmed.

 

 

“Brother?”

Opening his eyes, Bucky drew in a deep breath. Bucky realised he could see out of both eyes again. He felt wings against his sides. He felt powerful and strong, whole of body. He rose up to his hooves and looked around, he was on a stone dais and there were flames all around him. Next to him were four alicorns. Three of them had the same cutie mark, a big ball of twine.

Thanatos’ cutie mark was a rather wilted looking petunia that had slumped over and died.

“She is there. Beyond those three arches. If you listen carefully you can hear her cry. She is a foal now, very much like a newborn, a helpless infant. We are not allowed to reach her, but you can. We must warn you, these trials will be most unpleasant. Good luck,” Thanatos said in a soft voice.

Straining his ears, Bucky could indeed hear the faint cries of a foal in distress. He could see a cradle on another dais off in the distance, rising up out of the flames. There was a stone walkway leading from this dais to the next dais, and there were three stone archways along the path.

“Hang on Cadance, I’m coming!” Bucky shouted. He spread his wings, flapped them a few times, and found that he had no lift.

“You cannot fly here,” one of the alicorn sisters said.

“The first trial is the trial of endurance. One of us will go with you,” another sister said.

Trotting off towards the arch, Bucky wasted no time. He heard hoofbeats behind him but he did not turn to look. As he approached the arch, it began to glow softly. The path in front of him shimmered and flames surged along each side of the walkway.

“I am Clotho, your sister. I had hoped to spare you the torment of knowing my name, but what you are about to endure will be far worse than the knowledge of who I am,” the alicorn said. “You know me as an earth pony.”

“So I just walk through the arch? What will happen?” Bucky questioned, stomping his hooves impatiently. He raised his head high and his black mane spilled down his neck.

“The worst thing you can imagine… you must endure the truth,” Clotho answered as Bucky stepped into the archway. She watched him vanish and then stepped in to the archway behind him, disappearing as well.

 

 

The first thing that Bucky noticed was that the sky didn’t look right. It was an odd colour, almost green, and the sun and the moon moved around crazily overhead, not really moving, but vibrating oddly, moving in a binary orbit around one another.

There was a large encampment of creatures. Looking around, Bucky saw griffons. Minotaurs. Pig like creatures. Diamond Dogs. There was a massive camp that seemed to stretch off for miles. Fires burned and the air was filled with smoke.

There was also the sounds of equine misery.

Alicorns. There were alicorns all around. Small alicorns, lesser alicorns like Twilight Sparkle had been before she had grown. They were in pens, bound, all of them strangely subdued, their eyes vacant and blank. There were hundreds. Maybe thousands. Bucky could not tell for certain as he moved among them, looking around and trying to take it all in. All around him, they cried, doing nothing to rescue themselves, all of them seeming broken and defeated.

He froze when he saw two very familiar looking alicorns. One was white, the other blue, and there could be no mistaking who they were. They were awake and aware. Their horns were sheathed in some kind of metal. They were shackled and bound, chained to a stone platform in the middle of this encampment full of tents and predatory creatures.

Nearby, there were two adults who kicked and struggled furiously against their bonds, trying to reach the two foals on the platform. They were chained, shackled, and their horns sheathed. Their coats were flecked with with froth, sweating from their struggles.

“These are our father’s children,” Clotho said in a soft voice. “You can do nothing to help them. You cannot stop what you are about to witness, it has already happened.”

“What happened here?” Bucky asked, looking around.

“Victory,” Clotho answered, looking sad.

“Victory?” Bucky questioned.

“The Chaos War is drawing to a close. Our father created the alicorns, creatures made in his image. They were made to restore the balance. Creatures from other realms, other planes, they became involved. Deals were made. Bargains were struck. Powerful magic was used. You stand here during the time of the victory feast,” Clotho explained.

Sucking in a deep breath, Bucky growled.

“This is also where we rebel against our father. This is where we defy him. This is where we broke the rules. This is the point where everything goes wrong. This is the point where father wanted to wipe the slate clean and start over, knowing that he had failed. He was heartbroken after seeing the children he had created in his own image be defiled in such a way and his power broken. He suffered defeat here. He was busy fighting his own battle, one he very nearly lost,” Clotho said, touching Bucky with her wing.

Not too far away, a horn blew and drums began beating.

“Brother, if at any time you wish for this to end, if you close your eyes and tell yourself that you cannot bear it, the trial will end and you will have failed,” Clotho warned, looking over at Bucky with wide concerned eyes.

An enormous diamond dog approached the two alicorns who were still kicking and fighting, a massive mace held in his hand. The drums beat slow and steady. Pig creatures oinked. A massive roar came out from the creatures all around the camp.

The diamond dog licked his lips. He grabbed the mare, who struggled against him, his fingers wrapping around her throat. He threw her down to the ground and when she tried to get up, he struck a glancing blow to the side of her head with his mace.

The mare flailed and kicked feebly as the chained stallion thrashed against his bonds. Bucky heard the two foals crying out for their mother. He felt a terrible pain his chest. Their voices were far too familiar. Younger maybe, squeaky, more foalish, but familiar.

The diamond dog threw himself down upon the mare’s back and then tried to force her legs open. She resisted, kicking and rolling around, trying to crawl away. Reaching around with one large hand, he grabbed one hind leg, gave it a sharp yank, and there was the terrible snapping sound of bone. Reaching around with his other hand, he did the same with the other hind leg, preventing the mare from closing her legs together.

As Bucky watched, the diamond dog began a savage assault upon the mare, clamping his teeth upon the back of her neck and forcing himself in, brutally ripping her open. The mare’s screams filled the camp. Overhead, the sun flickered oddly. The two fillies on the stone platform were screaming now, begging for their mama. Bucky could hear the mare cry with each torturing thrust from the diamond dog that was assaulting her.

More horns blared. The tempo of the drums increased. The camp around him descended into an orgy of sex and violence. Alicorns of all ages and sizes were taken, brutalised, used for sexual gratification, tortured, and some were even being eaten while they kicked feebly, making half hearted attempts to stave off their attackers and devourers.

On the stone platform, two little fillies were forced to watch the rape and the slaughter of the whole of their species, the extinction of their tribe.

 

 

Hours passed. Bucky could not tell how long. He somehow guarded his mind from thinking unwanted thoughts and he forced himself to take this all in. He watched everything, hiding his eyes from nothing, standing near the two fillies that he knew so well, knowing he could not protect them, but taking comfort from remaining near them.

The brutish predatory races changed as Bucky watched. Some of the griffons became larger… Lugus sized. The minotaurs grew larger and more musclebound. Diamond dogs became altered, their tails becoming more like clubs and maces.

Still others suffered through more terrifying changes.

As the orgy of sex and death continued, demons were summoned using ancient blood rights. These demons merged with some of the creatures… and they changed. Some became horrid parodies of themselves. Others became grotesque monsters.

A few became a jumbled collection of body parts, which looked an awful lot like Discord.

Foals and adults alike were violated, eaten, their bones carelessly thrown into a fire after being picked clean and gnawed upon. The stallion and the mare both were gone now, both had been violated, broken, savaged, their rape and torture had lasted for hours and those that violated them grew into some of the most hideous monstrosities imaginable.

 

 

Gnashing his teeth, Bucky wondered how much more he could endure. The frenzy had died down. The camp had gone quiet, almost solemn. The drums had died. Overhead, the sun flickered, sometimes going dark for several minutes at a time.

He realised that he had observed the birth of the draconequus… somehow, he knew that they resembled the invaders from some other realm, reborn in their mismatched invaders’ image, just as the alicorns had been made in the creator’s image.

Two of them, the largest and most powerful, now approached the stone platform where the two little fillies were chained, staring in wide eyed shock. They clung to one another. The blue one seemed defiant.

“Dawn, whatever you do, you must not scream, be brave Dawn,” the blue one whimpered in a low terrified voice.

“I’m so afraid... Evening, I love you,” the white one said.

Knowing full well what was about to happen, Bucky braced himself for the worst, unsure if he could bear this, and knowing that if his will broke, Cadance was lost to him forever.

“You get away from her!” Evening cried as a draconequus approached. “I’ll kill you if you touch her! You stay back! I am Princess Evening Star and I-”

The foal was cut off with a powerful backhand that sent her sprawling down to the stone. The draconequus tore her chains free from the anchors, gripped her by her hind legs, swung her overhead, and then dashed her head down upon the stone.

Princess Evening Star’s head became lumpy and somewhat lopsided. She kicked and twitched feebly as her sister screamed. The draconequus threw her down upon her back and yanked her legs open. He looked at the other draconequus and nodded. He then threw himself down upon the foal beneath him eagerly.

“Dawn Star,” Evening gurgled, her words barely understandable as she was crushed beneath the bulk of the draconequus on top of her.

The white alicorn filly’s screams turned into frenzied gurgled cries as a massive diamond dog hand wrapped around her throat, pushed her down to the stone, and then the creature made out of chaos eased himself down on top of her writhing and kicking body.

Somehow, Bucky forced his eyes to stay open as the pain that his creator had felt flooded though his body, a pain beyond all mortal comprehension as his creation had been defiled, everything that had once been good and pure, made to save the world, was now being corrupted to destroy it.

As the terrible assault of the two fillies continued, their draconequus attackers continued to grow in size and power, becoming terrible creatures of nightmare.

 

 

The camp was empty. The host of creatures had fled. The bodies of the two princesses had not been devoured for whatever reason, but were left impaled on spikes as grim totems, gristly reminders of what had taken place.

The air was filled with the stench of sex and death.

Standing, unable to do anything but stare at the two skewered fillies and their horribly maimed and disfigured bodies, Bucky remained silent as Clotho stood beside him, looking sad. He felt her wing upon his back and he moved a little closer to be with her.

As the pair stood as silent witnesses, four ponies moved into the camp. Four alicorns, but different alicorns. Larger. Taller. They moved among the bones and the partially devoured bodies of the dead. One was tall and pale, the others were three sisters who all shared the same cutie mark.

“So it has come to pass just as I have said it would,” one sister said.

“Atropos, I wish our father had listened to you. You tried to tell him this would happen. He was arrogant and said that chaos was too disorganised to pose a credible threat,” another sister said, looking at the first.

“Father was a fool, Lachesis!” Atropos snapped.

“He plans to destroy everything now… now that creation has been defiled and the cosmos has been broken,” Clotho said, looking grief stricken.

“He can’t! There are too many lives!” Lachesis protested.

Moving away from his sisters, Thanatos stepped over bones and the remains of corpses. He carefully avoided still smouldering fires and stepped around puddles of blood and semen. He approached the bodies of the two sisters, a sad look upon his muzzle.

“Thanatos, what are you doing? I know what you are planning! DO NOT!” Atropos warned, looking fearfully at her brother.

“Shut up Morta,” Thanatos retorted.

“Don’t call me that!” Atropos shouted.

“Thanatos, do not… it is forbidden… they have suffered so much. You cannot help them,” Clotho pleaded in a gentle voice.

“But I can. We can. If father will not help, then we must,” Thanatos said, steeling his resolve and staring at the two sisters. He carefully lifted them away from the spikes using his magic and then laid their bodies out upon the stone.

“This will mean punishment. Banishment. On this world with all of those monsters now roaming around,” Lachesis said, looking fearful. “He will send you to Tartarus.”

“I don’t care,” Thanatos said as he began to wipe away blood and semen from the two small broken bodies using his wings.

“We will need allies,” Atropos said.

“Scorch has promised to come if we call,” Clotho said. “And there are others.”

“If we do this, we are damned. He will never forgive us,” Lachesis said as she approached Thanatos and the two bodies he stood over. “Creation rebelled against him. His own creations turned upon him. The predatory races that were meant to be protectors instead turned upon those they were created to protect. Father hates those who turn on him.”

“If we are going to get into trouble, let us make it a trouble worth getting into,” Atropos suggested. “I say we steal away Light and Darkness from his interstellar nursery. They can help restore the cosmos if we give them bodies.”

“We have our own blood rites,” Clotho murmured, looking sad but defiant.

“We can restore the alicorns,” Lachesis said, looking skyward at the dying sun.

“Light and Darkness will not be able to restore the cosmos for a very long time. They will have to grow and learn to use their power,” Atropos said.

“So we teach the unicorns how to move the sun. Give them a little divine spark and they can hold things together until these two are ready,” Thanatos said, gently kissing the bloody cheek of the white filly.

“I will begin to bind those who have died,” Atropos said, her eyes closing as her body glowed with a nimbus of white light.

“I will create new fates,” Clotho said, her horn blazing with a blinding intensity.

“And I will draw in Light and Darkness,” Lachesis said as she closed her eyes and began to concentrate.

The pale white stallion lifted the two foals in his magic, his face locked in a grimace of pain as he healed their injuries and restored their bodies. So much harm had been done, so much damage, that it was impossible to make them whole again.

As Bucky watched, the two foals shrank away and became infant sized.

The blue one screamed first, followed by the white one. Thanatos gently laid them down upon the stone and lifted his head, snorting defiantly.

A black rift opened overhead, appearing above Thanatos. Black lightning streamed out and struck the pale alicorn stallion, and he began to scream. Flesh boiled away from his bones and his screams became gurgled cries of anguish.

His sisters, absorbed in their tasks, could do nothing to save him.

Thanatos became a standing skeleton, now stripped of all flesh. He wobbled away on meatless legs, his wing bones flapping. Blue flames appeared in his empty eye sockets.

All around Bucky, strange energy swirled. Shapes rose up out of the ground. Spectral forms rose up out of discarded bones, the spirits of the departed and desecrated alicorns. They swarmed towards the two sisters and the tormented ghosts lept into their bodies. Hundreds, maybe thousands, but more than Bucky could count.

Both infant sisters took on a strange glow. Above them, two glowing orbs of energy appeared, one glowed with the golden light of the sun, the other was black but still somehow seemed to radiate light. The golden orb of light settled into the white foal, while the darkness settled into the other.

Clotho came forward, looking exhausted, her ears were drooping from fatigue. She looked down at the white filly, a tired smile upon her muzzle. “I will call you Celestia. Perhaps one day you will repair the cosmic machinery.” Turning her head, she looked at the blue foal. “And you… I will call you Luna. You will protect this world from the terrors that have been released into the night.”

“In time, there will be others,” Lachesis said, looking hopeful. “If we can defy father long enough and keep the world from ending.”

“They are strong… they are filled with the vengeful spirits of the dead. The dead will lend their strength to make sure that their defilers will answer for their crimes,” Atropos said, looking at her brother with a sad expression. “I hope the cost is worth it. Our brother has been given a terrible curse for our defiance.”

“I am fine,” Thanatos said in a strangely disembodied voice. “I can deal with this pain.”

The foals were crying now, hungry cries, the sound of foals wanting to be fed.

It was music to Bucky’s ears.

 

 

Bucky suddenly found himself on the other side of the arch. He looked around, blinking, everything he had just seen fresh in his mind. Somehow, he had endured. Not once did he close his eyes and wish for it to go away. He felt empty, drained, depleted.

The truth had not set him free.

Bitter, filled with rage, a new flame burned within Bucky, a new spirit of defiance.

He stomped towards the next archway, determined to get Cadance back at any cost. Lifting his head high, Bucky drew in a deep breath. “Hang on Cadance! I’m coming!”

Almost at a run, Bucky charged through the arch.

 

 

He was immediately grabbed by something, something with claws and they dug into his skin, tearing cruelly at him. Bucky tried to use his magic, but nothing happened. He felt a clawed hand close around his throat, and then he felt clawed fingers seizing around one of his wings.

With a forceful yank, one wing was ripped free from the socket. Biting back a scream, Bucky snarled instead and he lashed out, biting with his fangs.

Which snapped on empty air.

Again, he felt fingers squeezing his remaining wing. This time, there was no yank, but there was a slow steady pull. Try as he might, Bucky could not hold back his scream this time as the pain increased to unbearable levels. He kicked feebly, trying to fight, trying to struggle, but it was hopeless.

After several agonising minutes, the wing was slowly ripped free, and Bucky screamed himself hoarse as each tendon, each ligament, each muscle, and the bone finally gave way.

The demon holding him stomped off and Bucky struggled to remain awake and aware.

There was a sudden blinding pain as his body was viciously rammed down upon a hook, it pierced his side and he felt the sharp metal point slamming into his pelvis from the inside. He hung there from the hook, feebly kicking, and he saw the demon’s clawed hand rising to his exposed belly.

A terrible ripping pain started in his balls and ever so slowly worked down to his breastbone. He felt his insides shift, there was an odd sensation, and then Bucky realised he was staring down at his own glistening and pulsating entrails. A string of drool dribbled from his lip as he pondered his own organs.

He gasped a few last times and then the blackness overtook him.

 

 

Filled with agony, Bucky awoke. He looked up feebly, barely able to move his head. He was still hanging by the hook. It had pierced his side and he could feel the sharp metal point pressing against  his pelvis. There was no way to make the terrible pain and pressure ease off.

Magic failed him. There was nothing he could do.

Bucky realised that his situation was hopeless. He was trapped on this hook. He heard footsteps and he wiggled, feeling helpless and afraid. He saw a big shadowy hand in his vision and a moment later, he felt a terrible pain as his scrotum was torn off, followed by being disemboweled once more.

With a wet slurping sound, he watched his own guts spill out upon the floor once again.

 

 

Hearing footsteps, Bucky quietly waited, hanging on his hook. He didn’t know how many times this had happened. Hundreds of times. Maybe thousands. There was nothing he could do. He had failed Cadance. She was alone, left in the bowels of Tartarus, and he had failed her.

Try as he might, he could not stop the tears as his torturer approached. His magic had failed him. He had no strength. There was nothing he could do. There was only pain and hanging on this hook. Bucky slowly began to realise that he might be here for thousands of years, and he felt his spirit crushed under the weight of that knowledge.

One wing was ripped off, then the other.

Once more, he was gelded and his guts were ripped open. He was able to look at his own entrails with a casual disinterest now. At least he had these moments of blackness where there was no pain, no suffering. He welcomed the blackness when it took him.

 

 

Hanging from his hook, Bucky struggled. Cadance needed him. His brain held fevered thoughts. She was depending upon him. He thought about how he loved her. He thought about his own foals. He thought about his wives. How long had he been gone? He could no longer tell. Time had lost all meaning in this place. A second might as well be an eon.

Reaching deep, Bucky discovered he still had hope. It was a tiny fragile thing, a spark, something he was not aware he still had. He closed his eyes and thought of Derpy, her warm body, and how happy Derpy would be to have another foal, especially if she knew the trouble that Bucky had to endure to get said foal. Derpy understood appreciation.

He thought of Cadance warm and safe in Derpy’s embrace.

His eyes opened when he heard the flapping footsteps once more.

In his horn, Bucky felt it, the faint tingle of magic. He focused on what gave him strength, trying to drive away his despair and his hopelessness. He lifted his head and saw his torturer.

Crackling blue-green harmony magic spewed from Bucky’s horn and the demon disintegrated, flying apart into ash. Not knowing how long he had until another demon might arrive, Bucky tried to make his brain work, trying to figure out how to get off his hook.

He tried to teleport and failed. Lifting his head, he angled his horn at the chain, closed his eyes, and made the magic happen once more. The chain broke and Bucky tumbled to the floor, landing on the hook, which was pushed deeper into his side.

Gritting his teeth and screaming, Bucky slowly pulled the hook out and then tossed it away, shoving it away from him with both front forehooves. He tried to stand and failed.

Unable to stand, unable to walk, Bucky began to pull himself towards the door on the other side of the room, crawling along the floor, trailing blood behind him, He felt himself growing weaker, his strength failing him.

And then, Bucky saw a familiar figure by the door.

“Sombra, help me!” Bucky begged in an agonised wheeze.

“I cannot. You must keep moving. Move damn you! The jailers are coming. If they return before you make it to this door, you will be placed back upon that hook again. NOW MOVE!” Sombra commanded. “If you fail to reach Cadance you condemn the whole world!”

Crawling, his hooves scrabbling over the stone, Bucky pulled his body towards Sombra and the door. He bit down upon his lip, dug in deep, and then gave everything he had left. He squirmed over the floor, his tail now caked with his own blood as it was dragged through the blood he trailed behind him.

“Hang on Cadance, I’m coming!”

Finally, one hoof passed through the doorway.

 

 

Bucky found himself whole of body and unharmed. He stood on the stone path and ahead of him was the final arch. He could hear Cadance crying now, steady wails of a foal wanting comfort. His wings flared out and his body tensed. The second test had been brutal, but he had somehow endured.

Finding a feeling of hope had almost been impossible.

Feeling strong, Bucky galloped for the final arch.

 

 

There was a cradle in the center of the room and in the cradle was a crying pink alicorn foal. Beside her was a large indescribably ugly demon. It stared at Bucky, unmoving, not reacting, and the room had a strange calm feeling.

“Give her to me. Don’t make me destroy you,” Bucky demanded.

“Do your worst if you will. You cannot destroy me. If you want her, you must barter.” the demon explained in a calm patient voice. “And no being clever. No unwanted family members. I don’t accept those.”

“What you do you want? You need but ask. Anything… my life for hers,” Bucky offered.

“Intriguing,” the demon said.

“Fair trade. I ask that she be returned to the land of the living. You can keep me,” Bucky said, moving towards the crib, his eyes locked on the demon beside it.

“Offering one’s own life is so commonplace though,” the demon said, sounding bored.

“She is mine by right… I was told she is my reward. I want what I’ve came for,” Bucky said, now becoming angry.

“Theoretically speaking, what would you give for her? Colour me curious,” the demon questioned, standing there calmly as Bucky now stood over the crib.

“I have already offered my life… everything I am… everything I will be,” Bucky stammered.

“Perfect. Everything you will be. Give me that,” the demon demanded.

“Fine, take it, I don’t care, just release Cadance,” Bucky agreed.

The demon shifted, changing shape, and it became a tall skeletal alicorn. It stood there for a moment and then the illusion of flesh covered the bones.

“Our deal is binding,” Thanatos said. “I am the master of this particular patch of torment. I lay claim on your good word,” he added, a silver shackle appearing mid-air.

One end was clamped around Bucky’s leg and the other was secured to Cadance. Once both ends were clamped, it vanished, poofing into nothingness.

“She is now immortal. She is the embodiment of love. She died, giving her life for others, and there is no greater love than that. She also had somepony who loved her enough to endure the trial of truth and the trial of hopelessness. This trial is all about getting what you deserve and then living with it,” Thanatos explained.

“I don’t understand,” Bucky said in a low confused voice.

“Know this, your fate is now connected with hers. If you ascend, if you ever become the alicorn of war, her immortality is lost and she dies immediately. You will murder what you love if you ascend,” Thanatos answered.

“I’ll never ascend!” Bucky shouted defiantly.

“Then War shall live in service of Love. She will need a guardian. You. She is your reward for keeping your word to the Fates. You are not to relinquish your position as her guardian for any reason. She must be kept safe. She is immortal, but awful things could be done to her if she fell into the clutches of those who would do her harm. She will grow like any other foal. She will require a great deal of love and care. It is my opinion that a large herd is the ideal situation for her to be raised in. A lack of love will stunt her growth and magical development,” Thanatos said, looking down at Bucky.

“Thank you… thank you for giving her back. I am in your service,” Bucky said, looking at Thanatos. “I saw what happened. I saw your curse. I saw when you helped to create Celestia and Luna.”

“I had to give up my flesh to offer immortality. I am not the sole provider, but I like to think that the immortals I raise and elevate to positions of power are a benefit to the world,” Thanatos responded.

“Cadance, I came for you just like I said I would,” Bucky said, looking down into the crib.

“It is time for you to go,” Thanatos stated.

 

 

Drawing in a painful ragged breath, Bucky writhed in the grass. The sun was dawning. Beside him in the grass, a pink alicorn foal squealed and shrieked, not happy about being cold.

The three sisters looked at Bucky as he recovered from being dead.

“She is hungry. She is newly born. You should get her inside and allow her to feed,” Clotho said in a gentle voice. “Might I recommend a little milk from all three tribes to get her started?”

Pulling Cadance close to him, Bucky gently gave her a squeeze and kissed her upon the head. He closed his eye, remembering everything that had happened, and he could still feel the terrible pressure of the steel hook pressing against his pelvis. He shuddered. He wasn’t sure if that pain would ever go away.

Holding Cadance made everything worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

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