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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“Cadance doesn’t have a belly button,” Sentinel observed in low whisper as he watched Cadance’s diaper being changed by Berry Punch, who looked Berry disgusted by the mess the Empress had left behind.

“You’re right… she doesn’t,” Berry Punch agreed as she stopped what she was doing and looked down. “Cadance no longer has a belly button.”

“I wonder if Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have belly buttons,” Sentinel said, pondering something that was suddenly of great interest to him. He looked at Cadance curiously, feeling an odd sense of brotherly protective urge as he gazed at her.

“You should ask them,” Berry Punch suggested as she continued to ponder Cadance’s lack of a navel. “Hmm Cadance… mama still loves you even though you’re a bit of a weirdo.”

“It sounds strange to hear you refer to yourself as her mother,” Sentinel said in a low voice as he reached out and gently stroked Cadance with his central knuckle.

Cocking her head to one side, Berry Punch looked at Sentinel curiously. “What else would I be?” she asked as she finished changing Cadance’s diaper. “She nurses at my teats. I change her diaper. I wipe her dirty little backside and clean snot away from her nose. Speaking of soiled backsides… I’ve even scrubbed your dirty little backside after you had yourself a bad case of the green apple splatters.”

Sentinel’s ears pinned back against his skull as he backed away from Berry Punch and he grinned sheepishly. “And that is why I call you my mother… I suppose… I guess… mother,” he stammered nervously.

“It’s good to see you smile Sentinel. You should smile more,” Berry said as she closed up the fresh diaper. Lifting Cadance in the crook of her foreleg, she picked Cadance up off of the changing table, walked over to the crib on three legs, and then, standing on her hind legs, lowered Cadance into the crib. “She should hopefully sleep for a few hours… and then it will be time for the late night wailing.”

“Princess Luna says that ponies are instinctively afraid of the dark,” Sentinel remarked as he moved closer to the crib. Peekaboo was already sleeping, Harper was drifting off but struggling to keep her eyes open, and Cadance was yawning. “Maybe the nighttime scares her.”

“Maybe,” Berry Punch agreed. “If she cries, maybe tonight I can console her. Seems that only Derpy or your father can get her to stop crying. That’s frustrating for all of us. Means that two ponies never get a break.”

“Yew Wood says that they’re going to make Peekaboo start sleeping in a regular bed… I bet she’ll be lonely,” Sentinel whispered as he stood next to the crib.

“Peekaboo is a big foal now… she doesn’t wear diapers, she can feed herself, she talks, it is time for her to be treated like as more than an infant. Come spring, she’ll be a yearling. I remember Piña becoming a yearling. She wouldn’t shut up. She was always talking and asking questions. Now Piña is all grown up and is such a big little foal. Over just the course of one summer she grew up and got all independent and stopped needing her big sister so much,” Berry Punch said as her eyes began to mist over. She sat down on the floor, balanced on her haunches, reached out, grabbed Sentinel, and then squeezed him hard enough to nearly knock the wind out of him.

 

 

As the midnight hour approached, a crowd gathered. Griffons and griffonesses came from all over the farm to gather around a carefully stacked pile of logs and wood. Magpie sat nearby, several little griffon cubs scattered around her, all of them huddled together for protection from the cold as they peeped mournfully, having lost one of their caretakers. Not far away, Lugus sat, looming over the crowd with his immense size, beside him sat Yew Wood, the pegasus mare the griffons claimed as one of their own number, her terrible scars and the loss of her eye making her a figure worthy of respect as well as admiration among them.

On top of the pyre, Whitewing’s corpse was laid out carefully and she had been given a comfortable place to rest her old greyed head. Each feather had been carefully preened, her body had been laid out with as much respect, love, and devotion as could be mustered. Her talons were folded atop one another and held over her girth. Her beak had been carefully buffed and shined.

Wearing his black cloak, Bucky sat in the middle of them, Belisama at his side.

Parting the crowd as they passed, Lugnut and Spanner approached Bucky, Spanner walking on three legs as he clutched a small box held close to his body with his right talons. They approached with their heads low, reverently, Ripple, as well as her Raptors, all of them arranged around Bucky, all saluted when Lugnut and Spanner sat down in the dead grass in front of Bucky.

“Who would have thought our best king would not be a griffon? Who would have thought that the king that brought us back to the old ways would not be one of us? Yet he is one of us inside, where perhaps it matters most. This day we have laboured in the forge, preparing for this night’s ceremony,” Lugnut said in a soft but clear voice. He made a gesture at Spanner as he looked up at Bucky.

Spanner opened the box and inside were two circlets, each of them gleaming silver in the faint light. Small, simple, a basic design, but there was no mistaking that these were symbols of office, vestments of leadership, and the gathered griffons all looked hopeful that Bucky would accept them.

“These are simple and unadorned. They are nothing more than a simple silver circlet and nothing else… but we ask that you wear this, at least for the funeral this night. We understand if you do not wish to wear it regularly, but we wish to see our king as our king, and our queen as our queen during special occasions. It means a great deal to us,” Spanner stated in a solemn voice.

Reaching into the box, Lugnut took the larger of the two circlets out, holding it reverently, he balanced upon his haunches, and then held it out to Bucky with both talons. Bowing his head low, Bucky allowed the circlet to be placed over head, not a word was spoken, but his ears splayed sideways the moment the precious metal was laid upon his head.

That done, he reached into the opened box once more, took up the smaller of the two circlets, and then placed it upon Belisama, who already had her head down and was waiting.

“Gather close little ones… my name is Thorne… tonight, we pass Whitewing into memory and return her to the stars,” a griffoness said as she looked down at the cubs and then out at the gathered flock. “With her, she will take all those we have lost in Griffonholm, taking them back to the sky so that they might know rest.”

Torches were lit and several griffons now held them, the fire flickered and made the gathered shadows all around them dance.

“Long ago, before we had cities, we had tribes, and in these tribes, we had ponies among our number. These are but memories to us, an old time, a dream time, a time forgotten almost to all. The unicorns were our shamans, our lorekeepers, they guarded our dreams and kept our memories. It is said that the unicorns taught us how to write words and keep memories alive through written texts. We once called the pegasi brothers and sisters and we shared our skies with them. Ancient stories even suggest that we gave our pony brethren wings, that the hippogriffs that were once the revered symbol of our unity and our mutual trust became the pegasi, who are said to come from the hippogriff offspring of two tribes that came together for survival,” Thorne said as she looked into the eyes of each of the griffon cubs gathered around Magpie.

Hearing Thorne’s words, Bucky knew when that ancient unity had been broken.

The small griffoness sat up straight on her hind haunches and raised her front talons skyward. “With this death we are reminded of life… and that we are obligated to make more of it. Once more, we find ourselves among our pony brethren and our tribes have once more merged. But where are the hippogriffs? The symbols of our unity? Let this death remind you of your responsibilities.”

Picking up and holding one of the smallest cubs, Magpie gave it a squeeze.

“The old stories say that a pact once existed between us, that the ponies would mind the land, taming it so that we might have a safe place to teach our young to hunt, and that we would mind the skies, keeping away our mutual foes, our ancient enemies, the wyrms and other things that preyed upon us both. And with each death, with each loss, we came together to make life,” Thorne continued as she waved her talons over her head, making motions towards the stars overhead.

“Once more, we mind the sky and the ponies keep the land,” Lugus said as he moved forward and then sat down beside Thorne. “Our enemies might have changed, but make no mistake, we have enemies. The ponies have secured the land, giving us a place to raise our young in safety… what will we give them in return?” the giant griffon asked.

“Guardians to protect their sky!” Loki squawked.

“We can get started on that right away!” Freyja shouted as she looked at Callum with hungry predatory eyes, which caused the dove like griffon to freeze in place and then his crest rose in alarm.

“Give her back to the sky!” Thorne shouted, her words causing griffons to scramble away from the pyre. “Give her back to the sky so that she might be our messenger! This sky is ours and we protect what is ours!”

As Thorne spoke, torches were thrown upon the pyre. It burst into flames, the oil soaked wood blazing with furious intensity. Within moments, the entire pile was engulfed, the flames licking up the sides of the stacked logs.

Two new visitors joined the funeral, circling overhead as the flames rose up into the sky. Philomena and Freezerburn came out of their hollow tree to pay their respects as the dead griffoness was returned to the sky. Trailing flames behind them as they circled, one red-orange and the other blue, they light up the night sky, two flying firebrands that illuminated the darkness and drove away the darkness of the night.

Reaching out, Bucky pulled Belisama close to him. He kissed her upon her head, above her eyes, and he felt her small warm body against his own. She was soft downy feathers and velvet, warmth against the chill night air, and much to his surprise, he felt her turn in his grasp to embrace him. Her plaster cast bumped lightly up against his metallic talons.

As Whitewing’s body was consumed by the roaring flames, the griffons gathered and came together. In the flickering firelight, mated pairs stood near one another, small prides stood together, and as Bucky looked around, he was filled with hope. He saw families watching the flickering flames. One hundred and some odd number of griffons and a few ponies now among their number. Not even realising they had arrived, he saw Sunset Shimmer and Trixie sitting on either side of Bartleby, both of them looked sorrowful, and each of them had a foreleg around the smaller griffon between them.

The pyre popped, it fizzled, and cinders rose upwards into the night sky, blazing brightly as they were born aloft upon the updrafts of hot air. The fire roared now, a fierce sound, and many griffons sat, completely entranced by the flames.

This was not a body being neatly disposed in a crematorium, or a corpse committed back to the earth, this was flesh being consumed by fire, in the open, on top of a big pile of wood for all to see. These were ancient funerary rites, an old practice rarely seen or observed in the modern age in which they lived. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air, the smell of smoke, it was an experience that left an impression upon all of the senses.

“Never forget what we are!” Thorne shouted to the gathered griffons and griffonesses.

 

 

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