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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Screaming.

Why must there always be screaming?

Struggling to come to wakefulness, Bucky pulled his body up from the dark depths of sleep, and as he came to consciousness, he felt panic. Like a swimmer coming up to the surface of the water, he came to reality with a gasp, followed by a sharp blow to his chin that left him seeing stars and tasting the coppery tang of blood in his mouth as his lip was split open by his own fang. Ignoring the pain, he lifted his head and saw Berry Punch next to him, flailing around in the dark, and now, the others in the bed were waking up as well.

Risking another kick, Bucky grabbed Berry Punch by the neck and pulled her close, his bloodied lips drew near to her ear, and then he felt her grab on to his body and pull him closer.

She was always the stronger between the two of them.

“Berry… speak to me, are you alright?” Bucky asked.

He waited for a reply, he could feel her drawing in a few shuddering breaths. She was sweaty, shivering, beneath her silken pelt her skin felt clammy. He could feel the dampness in the sheets around her. Her mane was sticking to her face.

“Wolves,” Berry said.

Bucky saw Derpy’s silhouette in the dark; she was crawling over Berry Punch and then dropping down right on top of her. The others were piling in now as well. Lyra, Bon Bon, and Belisama were all coming closer.

The only one not here was Thistle, who was in the lake.

“There were wolves and they were chasing me… they kept nipping me, biting me, but not killing me. The twins were about to drop, I kept trying to hold them in, to get away, but then I couldn’t run anymore… I couldn’t stop the birth… the wolves grabbed one when it was halfway out and then ripped it apart… I couldn’t stop them…” Falling silent, Berry Punch pressed her face into Bucky’s neck and Bucky could feel her moist breath soaking into his pelt as she panted.

Swallowing, Bucky cleared the blood from his mouth and then drew a deep breath himself. He didn’t know what to say, or even how to express what he was feeling.

Her voice little more than a hushed whisper, Lyra said, “There are no wolves.”

His ears perking, Bucky could hear Derpy kissing the back of Berry’s head. The small lamp on the bedside table came on, the electric light was warm, soft, and yellow. Bucky could see Bon Bon sitting up now, balanced on her haunches, and she was rubbing Berry’s belly.

“I did this to you.”

Berry’s words were guilty, softly spoken, and muffled from being said into Bucky’s neck. Feeling confused, Bucky struggled to understand what it was that Berry Punch was trying to say.

“I started this… I was so madly in love with you… the kind of love that makes you crazy in the head and the hate I felt towards your parents was equal to the love I felt for you… and I really love you...”

Hearing Berry Punch pause, Bucky drew in a deep breath and waited for her to continue.

“There was too much crazy in my head and it all just sort of spilled out that day. I thought about everything… you… my clan history… I thought about everything that made me what I was and then I thought I’d make me a statement. So I went and did what I did and I made all of this happen… the war, the collapse… and you. Because of what I did, you ran headfirst into everything that has made you what you are now and it is all my fault.”

Bucky felt every single word being spoken into his windpipe and he could feel tears soaking into his pelt. He blinked, his own eye now stinging with tears, and he struggled to find words to comfort Berry, to tell her that this wasn’t her fault.

Drawing in a deep breath and focusing her wide golden eyes upon the distraught earth pony mare, Lyra said, “Berry, if not the Shetlands, then Bucky would have ran into his fate somewhere else. This was inescapable. This isn’t your fault. If it wasn’t you, then something else would have brought this about.”

Outside of the field of his vision, Bucky heard the clack of a beak as Belisama yawned.

“As rough as it sounds, this worked out for the best. If you hadn’t have done what you did, then Bucky might have gone off to face danger in some other part of the world, come back as he is now, the Shetlands might not have been liberated, and the noble houses might still be in charge… Berry Punch, as bad as everything was, it worked out for the best,” Bon Bon said as she continued to rub Berry Punch’s rounded belly.

All around him, Bucky could hear the sounds of breathing. Some heavy, some not, and Berry Punch’s own breathing was still hitching, almost a sob, and he could tell that the earth pony mare was struggling not to break down and start bawling.

Drawing in a deep breath, Bucky gave Berry a loving squeeze. “I do not regret anything that has happened.”

“I do…”

 

 

Feeling dull and out of sorts, Berry Punch tossed down the newspaper and then snorted in disgust. She had awoke this morning in a bad mood after the nightmare last night, and she was now feeling guilty about being so cranky, which she knew was affecting the others. She had been short tempered since waking.

“Something upsetting?” Bucky asked.

Holding back her need to shout, Berry nodded.

“What is it?”

Lifting up her coffee cup, Berry took a sip, swallowed, took another sip, held it in her mouth for a moment, swallowed, and then looked at her husband. “An attack on herd marriages and how it is going to destroy society by creating a minority out of one particular tribe.”

“Unicorn supremacy group?” Bucky asked as he stirred honey into his tea and then added a slice of dehydrated crystalised lemon.

Staring sullenly at the newspaper for a moment, Berry shook her head. “No, this is an earth pony that is advocating for monogamy.” After she fell silent, Berry Punch heard Bucky snort and then she felt a smile threatening to come creeping out, a smile she was in no mood for.

“Let me guess… this earth pony… he’s saying that earth ponies have an obligation for responsible breeding and keeping their numbers reasonable?” Bucky asked.

Nodding, Berry Punch’s ears folded back a bit.

“Well he’s right. All earth ponies are sex crazed maniacs.”

Bucky’s words were said in a dull flat monotone, an almost perfect delivery. To most listeners, they would never know that Bucky was joking, and Berry Punch bit her lip as Bucky’s dry humour threatened to destroy her bad mood. The implications of a unicorn saying those words did not escape Berry Punch.

“I hope Ripple will be okay.”

Turning to look at Derpy, Berry Punch reached out and patted the grey pegasus mare that had just voiced her concerns. “Ripple will be fine… she has her Raptors and Lugus is with her. Mama bird, you have to let your babies leave the nest sometimes.”

Berry Punch could see Derpy’s lower lip quivering and one ear twitched.

A worried whine escaped Derpy’s lips, and then Derpy closed her bad eye to focus on Berry Punch. “But she’s so little and still so skinny… and these are wyverns. I’m worried about my little Ripple.”

“This is turning out to be some day. I keep having nightmares and I woke up in a snit, Derpy is going to be worried sick until her missing baby bird comes home, Belisama is sore all over, and I feel guilty for giving my husband a fat lip.” Setting down her coffee cup with a thump and a splash, Berry Punch then folded her forelegs over her barrel and slumped down in her chair. “Feck mornings.”

 

 

The ruined skyscraper offered a good vantage point to both halves of the city of Fillydelphia. The building had been gutted by fire, but the steel and concrete structure still stood tall. A narrow river ran through the city, dividing it in two, and currently only one half was populated.

By ponies anyway.

The other half of the city, which was mostly ruins, was now inhabited by all manner of critters, beasts, and even monsters.

Standing upon the roof, Ripple was surrounded by her Raptors, who all kept watch in different directions. Off by himself, Lugus was sitting and looking out over the pony populated side of the city. The flight here had been long, made troublesome by high winds, and now the group was having a rest before getting down to the ugly task of hunting wyverns.

The sharp-eyed filly could feel the ruined hulk of the building she stood upon rock when the wind gusted. Her short light blue mane was tugged by the breeze.

Looking over at Shaquah, Ripple turned her whole body about to address the griffoness. “How is our ordnance?”

Ripple watched as the griffon rose and saluted.

“All magical ordnance accounted for. We have several spell jars for general use, detonative quarrels for the crossbows, and many sling jar bullets if we need them,” Shaquah said as she sat up, balanced upon her haunches.

His tail twitching, Loki peered off into the distance and made a gesture for Ripple to come closer to him, waving his talons in a come-over-here motion.

Stepping closer to the griffon with questionable sanity, Ripple peered ahead, trying to see whatever it was that Loki might be looking at. “What is it Loki?”

Reaching out with his talons, Loki grabbed Ripple’s ear, pulled her head down lower, and then pushed it off at an angle. “There. See it? Something has chewed away the metal on the sides of that building, chewing away those support struts where there used to be windows… what do you think it might be that would need a bigger entrance into an old building?”

Suddenly seeing what Loki was describing, Ripple grinned wickedly and gave Loki an appreciative hoof-prod. “Good news Raptors… I think I see our nest. Right near the river too.”

“Squire Ripple!”

Nearly jumping out of her skin, Ripple turned to look at Lugus, who approached. She saw that he had his axe, a massive longbow that had to be over six feet in length, and a quiver of long thick arrows. Reflexively, she snapped to attention, whipped out a wing, and saluted.

“We will split the wyverns up. I will take one while you and the Raptors take the second. This means I am trusting you to look after each other while I will be busy—”

“Who will look after you, sir?”

“Private Loki, do not interrupt me… Raptors, be careful. I am trusting you with my squire. Do not fail me,” Lugus said. The big griffon fluffed to almost twice his usual size and glared down at the much smaller Raptors, his eyes narrowed fiercely, and his talons dug into the ruined roof of the building they were roosting upon.

Ripple could see that Lugus was in one of those moods. Smiling, she looked over at her instructor and gave a nod. “Sir, I’ll be fine, sir.” She watched, waited, studying Lugus for his reaction. She saw his crest rise and his beak open.

His posture relaxing a little Lugus turned to look directly at his squire. “Squire Ripple, you are very dear to me. Do be careful. Plus, your father would do things to me that are worse than death if you come to harm. Please think of me when minding your own safety.”

Spreading her wings out, Ripple felt a surge of pride jolt through her body. “Okay Raptors, listen up! We’re gonna need a strategy before we head out and begin the hunt! Now is the time to run your beaks!”

 

 

 

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