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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After a few gentle knocks, Luna let herself into Bucky’s cabin. It was small but well appointed. She looked around, saw Bucky on the bed, and then sat down in a large comfortable chair. Bucky was reading and Luna saw him look up from his book to look at her.

“Does this ship even have a name?”

Luna shook her head. “No. This ship does not yet have a name. This is still technically a prototype. The best of what technology and magic have to offer. It was designed by Zaph Zeppelin, a lone earth pony born into a family of famous airship constructing unicorns. He is currently the pride of the family. Not a unicorn, but invented a new type of magic that allows zeppelins to travel at high speeds. Had to explain his idea to his family. He had to bring them around to his way of thinking.”

“You sound proud.”

“Oh, I am.” Luna’s ears perked. She heard something, but couldn’t tell what it was.

“Wondering what that sound is?” Bucky asked. His voice was little more than a whisper.

Nodding, Luna leaned forward. “What is that?”

“That is the sound of Belisama purring. Griffons purr when they are happy. Who knew?”

Blinking, eyelids fluttering like butterflies caught in the breeze, feeling confused, Luna shook her head. “Griffons do not purr. I have lived for an exceptional length of time and I have never heard a griffon purring.”

“I heard it the first time when she went to sleep after she had given herself to me. Did you ever stop to think that the griffons became so miserable after the loss of their purpose that they forgot how to purr?”

Unable to come up with a reasonable reply, Luna lapsed into silence as she thought about Bucky’s words. She settled down deeper into her chair, thinking about what Bucky had said, and for a moment, she thought of Erebus, who was off asleep in her cabin.

“So… how is it we can fly so fast?” Bucky asked.

Snapped out of her distracted state, Luna refocused her attention on Bucky. “Huh? Oh… fast…” Luna took a deep breath and then in a hushed whisper said, “The gasbag is slightly less than real. When the higher speeds are desired, the gasbag phase-shifts slightly. There is over a whole acre of fabric up there and that has a lot of drag. The cabin has been streamlined so it slips through the atmosphere with ease.”

“The cabin remains solid due to technical reasons I suppose,” Bucky said.

“Too many materials and too much mass to phase-shift. Plus, there was a problem with the living suddenly dropping through the floors.” Luna scowled and rolled her eyes. “There are other problems with this ship and its design, the fuel source being the chief complaint.”

“Are we burning butterfly farts or something?” Bucky asked.

Smiling, Luna settled into her chair and rested her head upon the arm. “To operate the phase-shift, we require raw liquid mana. A lot of arcano-tech relies upon a trickle charge from ley line gatherers. The technology to do this though can only produce a small amount of power though. So to fuel this craft, we have to milk unicorns. There are concerns that it could be seen as exploitative, even though the unicorns are willing and are paid very well.”

“That’s not what I hear.”

Feeling annoyed, Luna’s smile turned downwards into a frown. “The prisons are different. They are paying off a debt to society. Many of the unicorns there have committed crimes of a magical nature. They are not harmed and the extraction allows them to pay for their misdeeds.”

“Look, I understand what you are doing and what is being done, but the average common pony if they hear about this is going to take issue.”

After a moment of careful consideration, Luna’s frown pressed into a straight line.

“All things considered though, this is an impressive craft. We’ll be traveling almost five thousand miles in the span of about thirty to thirty two hours. The Scorned Mare would take one hundred and twenty five to one hundred and fifty hours to make the same trip. That is quite some difference. What a marvelous age we enter. A week of travel in a day.”

Belisama rolled over and made a faint yowling sound in her sleep.

Her horn flaring, Luna made a shushing sound and Belisama drifted back into deeper slumber. Luna’s ears relaxed and began to droop somewhat. “The Shadowbolt Initiative is off to a good start. There are many promising candidates. I have begun the construction of the transformation lab in Hidden Hollow Fortress. I will be needing your help soon.”

Bucky nodded and closed his book.

“Two recent finds have proved useful. The first is an earth pony mushroom farmer with three legs. I was thinking that we should help him with that… anyhow, he is quite good at cultivating mushrooms of all kinds… including toxic varieties that will be of some use to us and our endeavours. His name is Black Briar. Like Fever Cure, another recent find of mine, Black Briar is a skilled alchemist,” Luna said as one ear perked back up, listening for the sounds of a fussy Erebus.

“And the other?” Bucky asked.

“The other is a rescue from an illegal pit fighting operation. I am not sure what he is exactly… he’s a pony… or at least part pony anyway. I have a suspicion that he is part diamond dog. He doesn’t have hooves… he has paws and he sort of looks rather… lupine. He’s as strong as most of the male lunar pegasi, intelligent enough to work with, displays a fair bit of cunning, and appears to be quite durable. He is called Moonless Night. For having been ill-treated for most of his life, he is rather kind and gentle. Protective of young. I have already been testing him in dreams, placing him into various scenarios to see how he will react. I like what I see so far.” Luna’s ear dropped, going limp once more when Luna was satisfied that Erebus was still asleep.

“This is what we should have been doing all along… taking the fringe elements of society, finding redeemable qualities, and then searching for a way to make them useful,” Bucky said.

Luna felt her eyelids growing heavy. It had been a long day. The chair she was curled up in was comfortable and soft. “All the information about the Shadowbolt Initiative has been left with Violet.”

“I will review it.”

Feeling relaxed, Luna allowed her eyes to close. She sighed, trying to think of something to say, some reason to open her eyes and keep talking, but nothing came to mind. Without meaning to do so, Luna drifted off into slumber.

 

 

Lifting his head from his book, Bucky’s ears perked. Luna’s cabin was just next door. He heard a soft cry. More of a test cry by Bucky’s reasoning, the sound a foal makes to check and see if any adults were listening before they decided to just let rip and cry with abandon. There was another snuffling cry, this one a little louder than the first.

Luna was still sleeping, curled up in the chair beside the bed.

Slipping out of the bed, Bucky took careful steps over the wooden floor, open the door, took several quiet steps down the hall, went into Luna’s cabin, and retrieved Erebus. Lifting the foal in his magic, Bucky smiled at the big colt.

“Somepony needs a diaper change…”

Looking around the room, Bucky soon found the supplies he needed. He laid out a blanket upon the bed, lay Erebus down upon it, pulled out a few scrubbing wipes (extra absorbent!), set them aside, readied a fresh diaper, and then he prepared himself.

At least he was a unicorn. Earth ponies and pegasi had to do this with manipulation shoes and sometimes their own lips. Berry Punch and Bon Bon were far braver ponies than he was. He had waded through a flood of blood and entrails, but there was no way he was changing a diaper with his mouth.

When Bucky pulled open the diaper, two things happened; the containment that held back most of the appalling stench failed, which almost took Bucky to the floor, and cold air hit Erebus’ once warmed flesh. The colt let out a high pitched squeal. So sharp and piercing was the sound that Bucky had to grit his teeth to endure it. The distinctive sound was unique to lunar pegasi; Bucky had heard a similar sound come from Sentinel on a few occasions.

“I’m sorry little one… I know it’s cold in here, I’ll get you cleaned up and warm in just a moment,” Bucky said, hoping to soothe the now fussy colt.

He went to work trying to get Erebus cleaned up and then realised the futility of trying to scrub the mess out of Erebus’ thick pelt. Snorting with frustration, Bucky scrubbed a little harder and then realised that he was going to have to get creative with his magic or get Erebus into a bath. Erebus was a real mess, his dock and the base of his tail was caked with filth. Bucky groaned.

“You know, there are many who call you a monster but they never see you in these moments. I wish the world could see what I have been watching for the past few minutes.”

Cringing, Bucky did not turn around. Luna’s voice sounded sleepy and amused.

“You will never get him cleaned. Here, allow me to carry him into the shower. He loves getting a shower, I think he likes the warm water. You were very kind to take care of him while I was sleeping.”

Slumping, saying nothing, Bucky admitted defeat and stepped aside.

“Oh do not look so glum. I know you would have cleaned him up eventually,” Luna said.

He moved over a little more and watched as Luna lifted Erebus, holding him in a faint blue glow. Bucky’s ears fell backwards as Erebus’ cries became ear-destroying shrieks.

“He sees mama and now he’s hungry.”

Luna’s voice was almost inaudible over the sound of the colt crying and Bucky had to strain to hear it. Luna departed, walking out the door, leaving Bucky alone in the room. Bucky could hear Erebus’ cries as Luna carried him down the hall to the shower.

Now alone, Bucky made himself busy, cleaning everything so Luna’s life was a little easier. When everything was clean, Bucky turned off the light and vacated the room.

 

 

Belisama watched as the sky went racing by with her beak pressed up against the glass. Below her, clouds went shooting past at impossible speeds. There was no sound, no audible indicator of flight, only the silent passing of clouds.

Sighing, Belisama felt a moment of loneliness. Bucky was asleep, the crew was quiet as well as reserved, and there was no one to talk to.

“Hello Belisama.”

The griffoness pulled her beak away from the window and turned her head around backwards to look at Scorch. Much to her disappointment, Scorch did not seem bothered by the almost boneless appearance of her head being twisted around. She cocked her head, turning her earhole towards Scorch so that she might hear better. “Hi.”

“Has Bucky spoken with you yet?” Scorch asked.

Belisama immediately recalled the night before and laying in bed next to Bucky. “We spoke briefly. I assume you are speaking of the need to get more griffons interested in music?” As Belisama was watching, Scorch shifted, warped, he shimmered for a moment like heat rising up off of a rock, and then he turned into a large warrior sized griffon.

Scorch lay down upon the floor. “Well, there are other things as well…”

Nodding, Belisama turned the rest of her body around while keeping her eyes locked on Scorch, moving with a fluid feline movement. She settled her body down upon the cushioned bench, never once taking her eyes off of Scorch. “I know… we spoke for a while. I was tired, I fell asleep.”

“Have you ever heard of Odin?”

For a long moment, Belisama racked her brain, trying to remember where she had heard that name before. “Yes I have… for a brief time, he was king of Muninn. I was still a cub. Odin was poisoned.”

“I am sure there are many griffons named Odin. Loki as well. The Odin I speak of is quite special. I sort of accidentally created him by giving the griffons magic,” Scorch said.

Belisama was too stunned to say anything. She sat still, silent, and waited for Scorch to continue. She crossed one front leg over another and kicked her hind legs out to get comfortable.

“Odin was a griffon… a little griffon like you. He had magic. He had music magic, something that in time, the practitioners would become known as skalds among the griffons. At this time, all griffons were little griffons… small curious little creatures full of pranks, mischief, and art. So one day, Odin happened to meet the most beautiful griffoness he had ever seen. As I recall, she looked a bit like you… oh you are adorable when you fluff out like that… where was I? Oh yes, he meets a beautiful griffoness and he attempts to woo her with sweet words and his lyre. Odin really liked making little cubs, but there was one thing he liked even more. Wooing.”

Belisama rolled her eyes and giggled when Scorch paused for a moment.

“This griffoness, she acts as though she is not impressed. This drives Odin crazy. He cannot believe he is being rejected. He’s desperate. He’s never used his magic before in his attempts to woo, always relying upon his own talent instead. So he breaks into the most perverse and bawdy song you could imagine. He croons his love to the griffoness, sings his heart out to her, and he uses his magic in the hopes that he might get her in the mood.”

“So what happened?” Belisama asked when Scorch paused once more.

“The griffoness falls for his charms. Anybirdy that can sing a song that perverted, that bawdy, that is clearly somebirdy that knows how to have a good time. They drink wine, they sing to one another, and this griffoness, she realises that while Odin wanted to woo her, he was not in a hurry to do her. He serenades her all night long under the moon. He has her heart but he keeps singing. Eventually, they do what griffons do and they keep doing it until the sun finally rises. But after the sun rises, that is when Odin’s story really begins.”

Feeling curious, Belisama leaned her head forward. “Don’t drag it out, just tell me!”

“The griffoness reveals her true self. Her name is Erato, and she is a minor demiurge, one of nine fabled Muses. This particular Muse has a love for erotic poetry and song. She also happened to love the lyre, her own favoured instrument. She is impressed with Odin. He could have had his way with her but he chose to keep playing music and serenading her to make the moment sweeter. Erato, who felt just a little bit infatuated with Odin, shares just a tiny bit of herself with him. A little piece of her divine essence. She believes that Odin made the world a more beautiful place. They fall in love, true real love mind you, and they have a few cubs… and all is happy for a time.”

Noticing the sad expression creeping over Scorch’s face, Belisama felt her belly begin to prickle. Her tail twitched and she felt a strange pang of some sort of emotion, but she did not know what it was. “Something bad happened…”

“The Chaos War took place. Erato rose up to defend the world, using her music to inspire others in battle. Just before the alicorns and their terrible loss, Erato was struck down. She was rendered mortal with terrible magics, her immortality stripped away, and then as the battle raged, she was run through with a spear by a diamond dog that did not know what he was taking away from the world. But not all of her was gone… a little tiny spark of her remained in Odin. He kept the music they shared alive, and in turn, the music kept him alive. Near the end of the Chaos War, Odin was betrayed by those he loved and trusted, it made him bitter, resentful, it almost made him hate, but held on to the love he had for Erato, the muse he had met and serenaded under the moon. He kept her music alive, her memory, and he never stopped loving his muse. The griffon skalds sang of his love, how it kept him from hatred, and that tiny little spark of Erato continues to exist in this world. It is a fragile thing, and Odin is nearly dead now, a terrible state of affairs for an immortal to be in.”

Wiping her eyes, Belisama tried to rid herself of her tears. “That’s tragic.”

“It is.” Scorch’s words of agreement sounded a little raspy.

“How can I help make this better?” Belisama asked.

“I’m glad you asked me that… to start, you can assume a very seductive pose so a few griffon sculptors can make a nice statue of you. All of Erato’s statues have long since been destroyed, smashed by griffons and other chaotic agents who want her legacy to die. Afterwards, you are going to command your subjects to construct a mead hall. I’ll show you how to build it. The statue goes into the mead hall and the building will be used for drinking, making music, and wooing. Romantic wooing.” Scorch paused and waggled his eyebrows up and down rapidly. “In time, the building should become sanctified and will become a shrine. Odin will draw power from this shrine… hopefully he’ll get some strength back. Perhaps… perhaps griffons will rediscover their musical gifts and skalds will roam the world once more… and maybe, Odin will make a full recovery. He clings to life so that he might keep that little spark of Erato alive.”

Flexing her talons, Belisama felt something swell within her heart. “I’ll do everything I can to help.”

“Good… good… make music… serenade Bucky. Get him in that mead hall and caterwaul a bit of romantic music in his direction,” Scorch said.

“Did you just make a pun?” Belisama asked.

“I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I might incriminate myself…”

 

 

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