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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Feeling the foal at her teats snuffling against her as it nursed, Derpy felt something of a headrush as a flood of prolactin and oxytocin were released through her body, creating the beginning of a bond between her and the foal that she would soon call her own. The grey mare looked at her husband, who had said very little since his return, he was now wrapped in a blanket and being fawned over by Bon Bon. Turning her head, she looked at the strange unicorn, the earth pony, and the zebra sitting in her living room. The big white stallion had politely departed.

“I don’t understand what just happened,” Berry Punch said in a low confused voice, looking around the room at the various ponies who were sitting around and appearing to be just as confused as she was.

“Celestia figured out how to raise a pony into being a minor alicorn. She did so with Twilight and Cadance. It takes considerably more when one takes the next step into immortality,” the zebra said, explaining nothing of consequence.

“Bucky, are you okay?” Bon Bon whispered into Bucky’s ear.

“No… I can still feel the tip of the hook pressing into my bones,” Bucky murmured in reply as Bon Bon continued to try to make him feel better.

Closing her eyes, Derpy felt an unknown pain go through her heart. Her hind leg twitched as the foal continued to suckle. Opening her eyes, she looked over at her husband. “Will he recover from this?”

“Love involves sacrifice. The manifestation of her nature into the test required Bucky to endure the very worst sorts of things. Will he recover? That is difficult to say. In many aspects, he has been made stronger. He thought of you, you know, while he was enduring the second trial. It was his family that restored his hope and gave him strength,” the unicorn sister said in a soft voice.

“A lot of wagers were placed upon that outcome. Most expected your husband to draw upon his vast reserves of rage, of hatred, of that which fuels his dark magic. It is what was expected of him. That he chose love, hope, the gentle things, that was unexpected,” the zebra sister stated, her gaze falling up Bucky and a thoughtful expression settling over her face. “A lot of things lost their wagers.”

“It would have been easier had he drawn upon his rage and his hatred. He would have been out of there sooner and probably would have walked away with no lasting reminders like he has now. After a while… the feeling becomes permanent,” the earth pony sister said. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh. “We have company.”

A moment later, there was a loud pop outside, the sound of teleportation just outside the front door. Before there was even a knock, Lyra pulled the door open. A white head entered.

“I felt a powerful disturbance… I was worried that Buckminster might have done something foolish… I… you,” Celestia said when she saw the three sisters.

“Buckminster has indeed done something foolish,” the unicorn sister replied.

“Dawn Star…” Bucky gasped in a pained voice.

“How do you know that name? Tell me, tell me at once this instant!” Celestia demanded, looking around the room. Her eyes fell upon Cadance and she began to stumble forward. “How?”

“Sister, we have much to tell you, if you will listen. Are you ready to finally reconcile? Father turned you against us, are you willing to listen to reason once more? He killed her. It was not some dragon or a few travelers from behind a mirror, those were merely agents. It is exactly as we said it would be. Look upon the letters we have sent you. Did we not say that this would happen?” the unicorn sister said in a soft voice.

“I want to know everything that has happened… I want to know why Buckminster knows my name… I am ready to listen,” Celestia said, bowing her head. She dropped down to the floor beside Derpy and laid close to the nursing mare.

“We understand why you turned upon us… you wanted to appease him. You hoped that by getting in his good graces he would turn away and spare us all. But make no mistake, it was he that killed what you have raised into the light,” the earth pony said in a soft but firm voice.

“He is actively undoing the effort you have expended and the work you have done all while he whispers promise of love and fairness to you if you will only do his will. Twilight was supposed to have been the first to fall, sent to her death by you, and then Cadance, thus removing any credible threat that War had. Buckminster has thwarted both of these deaths with our help,” the zebra said, looking at Celestia.

“I have made mistakes,” Celestia said as she lowered her head and drew near Cadance. “it is very hard to resist him. He… he does things to my mind.” Moving hesitantly, Celestia nuzzled the soft pink foal and then jerked her head back when Derpy whickered. “I am sorry if I am intruding upon something private,” she apologised.

Stretching out her neck, Derpy softly nuzzled Celestia upon her neck to let her know that everything was alright.

“We have discovered that our father’s treachery goes farther than we all previously believed. He has whispered in the ear of the one called the Night Stallion, an alicorn from a dead world. Father is hedging his bets. If Buckminster will not destroy this world, father believes he might have found a replacement with the Night Stallion,” the earth pony sister said in a soft but angry voice.

“Even while father whispers sweet words in your ear on how much he loves you and how precious you are to him, he is busy plotting your murder with those who would destroy this world,” the unicorn sister revealed in acidic tones. “Father knows how to undo you… rest assured, you can die.”

“Please, sisters, I beg for your mercy and forgiveness, please, tell me everything. I am willing to listen… I want to know,” Celestia pleaded in wounded tones. “Is there some hope of saving my subjects?”

 

 

“...and so Buckminster will remain her guardian. If some of the agents that father has secured try anything, they will be moving against Father’s own creation of War,” the unicorn sister said to a very troubled looking Celestia. “We all know what happens if one moves against War. It is never pretty. War takes things personally… War has issues with those who would dare bring conflict against him, his family, or those he loves.”

Looking down upon the now sleeping Cadance, Celestia drew in a deep breath and tried to internalise everything she had just been told. Her eyes moved towards Bucky, who was laying in a mostly asleep stupour. He knew. Knowing that he knew made Celestia feel a terrible pain. He had seen. She felt a piercing pain in her own side as she looked at him, thinking of Clotho’s words, knowing that Bucky knew the hopeless horror of the hook, being left to hang like some common animal being slaughtered by a sadistic butcher, over and over, an endless nightmare of castration and evisceration. Over a decade he endured down there, Celestia thought to herself. He did not break, somehow he held on to his hope. She shivered, thinking about how once each day Bucky had been ritualistically slaughtered, and the torture had lasted for over ten years in Tartarus time.

“I feel sick,” Celestia announced, suddenly rising to her hooves. She stumbled and staggered out of the living room, smacked into the wall, and then went careening down the hallway towards the bathroom.

 

 

“Sisters, please forgive me,” Celestia said, bowing her head.

“There is nothing to forgive. We have never stopped loving you,” Atropos replied.

“He stood by you, you know. He could do nothing to save you, but he stood by you the entire time. He never flinched. He never faltered. He stood near you during those final terrible moments. He watched the light fade from both of your eyes, knowing that he could do nothing to save you or comfort you. Sister, please, do not cry, these words are not to hurt you, but I offer them as evidence of his devotion. You have inspired his love and deepest affections. Were he not so willing to obediently follow you and protect you, he might have turned away and all would have been lost,” Clotho said to Celestia.

“Take these events as evidence that you have done something right,” said Lachesis in a soft loving voice.

“I will try to make amends for what I have done,” Celestia promised, sniffling, a snot bubble protruding from her nose in a very un-princesslike manner.

“Prepare your defenses. He will make an attempt upon Twilight Sparkle, make no mistake. Events and coincidences will conspire against her. Twilight Sparkle is the only one who can strike down the Night Stallion. The Night Stallion is the one foe that War has no chance of defeating, even if he ascends and breaks his vows, the Night Stallion still might win. The Night Stallion is the unstoppable enemy. Only Twilight Sparkle will have the means to put an end to him. Magic is the ultimate trump card. It can overcome coincidences, defy probability, and overcome impossible statistical odds,” Atropos said, offering a warning to her sister.

“Tell Luna everything. Explain everything. Spare no detail. She must know,” Clotho commanded, her tone gentle.

“I have to know… if Twilight Sparkle dies… if she dies like Cadance did, if she dies for the sake of her friends, her magic, will she ascend?” Celestia questioned, looking apprehensive and hurt, her eyes filled with a terrible pain.

“Somepony will have to endure fetching her. But yes, she holds that potential and we have seen it as one of her possible ends,” Atropos answered, her eyes narrowing.

“Would you send Buckminster after her as well?” Clotho inquired, raising her eyebrow. “He would go willingly you know, he would never question his duty. For all of our brother’s good qualities, he is a simple minded dullard.”

“She is very much like a daughter to me… I would go after her myself,” Celestia whispered, looking Clotho in the eye.

 

 

Unable to stop the steady trickle of tears, Celestia watched over Bucky as he slept, a small pink foal curled up at his side. With each whimper he made in his sleep, Celestia felt her whole body jerk, painful spasms that make her whole body tense up. She watched as Derpy paced back and forth through the living room, guarding her husband’s body as he slumbered upon the sofa where he had been placed.

The Fates were gone, having quietly slipped away.

“I couldn’t think of a better father or protector,” Celestia whispered in a voice as soft as a breeze through flowers. “Or better mothers. Cadance will grow strong. The love she gets from you will make her powerful.”

“Good,” Derpy murmured, her wings fluttering as she paced in agitation.

“I do not know how to even begin… to tell Shining Armor. He is going to be crushed. He has lost Cadance and his foals,” Celestia whispered sadly.

“He still has Cadance,” Berry Punch whispered in reply.

“Shining Armor will almost be fifty when Cadance turns twenty. At some point, Cadance will regain an adult body, but she will stop aging. This is going to hurt him so much. I… I…” Celestia fell silent, her whispered words dying upon her lips.

“Love will find a way?" Berry Punch said in a low voice, looking hopeful.

“Perhaps,” Celestia acknowledged in a faint breathy utterance. “I need to go home. I need to be with Tourmaline.”

“Go be with the rest of your family. The family you have here will await your return,” Berry Punch whispered, offering a smile to Celestia.

“Thank you… that means more than you realise,” Celestia responded, closing her eyes and wiping them with her wings. “Please, make sure that Buckminster gets all of the love and attention he can stand. He deserves it. I know what he has suffered through. There are no words to explain it. Time runs differently in Tartarus. He has known a suffering that mortals only know at the end of their lives, when punishment is due. There are going to be more scars.”

“You’ve been upon the butcher’s hook, haven’t you?” Berry Punch inquired, her expression darkening and her eyes narrowing.

Her lips pulling back in a rictus of pain, Celestia nodded. “Yes. Once. I had to go into Tartarus and retrieve something. I have passed through the three archways. The first test is different for each and every being that passes through. They must endure a terrible truth, something that will test their conviction, their will, their devotion, they must see something terrible through until its completion. Some event, or a task, something harrowing. The second test is always facing hopelessness. Luna and I both have endured that test. It shames me to admit that Luna pulled herself free before I did, but she also succumbed to her darker nature for strength. She freed herself through rage and resentment.”

“And what of the third test?” Berry Punch asked, looking curious.

Celestia paused, thinking back to the guardian spirit that had posed as a demon to ask her what she might give in theory. She took a deep breath. “I said I would be willing to sacrifice all I had, including my sister, whom I love,” Celestia admitted in a hitching voice. She silently thought of her sister’s fall into darkness, becoming Nightmare Moon, and the long thousand years of waiting.

“I can’t imagine myself in that situation,” Berry Punch muttered, her ears drooping.

 

 

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