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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Bucky’s ears perked when he heard a knock upon the door to the room he was sharing with his wives. Seeing that everypony else was busy, he pulled himself up from his cushion on the floor, arched his back to get a kink out, and then went to the door. Once there, he pulled it open.

“Well, hello,” Bucky said to Celestia.

The much taller mare lowered her head down to Bucky’s eye level and Celestia came snoot to snoot with Bucky. “How is Harper?”

Bucky’s ears rotated forwards as he sensed that Celestia’s real purpose here was not to inquire about Harper. “Harper is fine, she suffers from a sensitive stomach, regular bouts of colic, and the transition over to solid foods has been rough on her.” Of course, Bucky said nothing about loose runny stools. Celestia only needed to know so much.

“Look Bucky, while I was here, I wanted to talk to you about tomorrow. It is not going to be a formal event. I do not want you to panic, get cold hooves, and then go off to play hide and go seek in the castle like you did during your coronation. There will be no long speeches, no need for pomp and circumstance, and all you need to do is make it snow.”

His lips pressing together to form a straight line, Bucky nodded. “I’ll try to behave but I make no promises or solemn oaths.”

Celestia sighed. “I suppose that will have to do.” She would have to take whatever it was she could get. She gave Bucky a wry smile.

“I suspect that the real source of any trouble might be Dinky.” Bucky’s lips formed a crooked smirking smile as he spoke. He felt a rush of pride when he saw Celestia’s eyes widen.

“Dinky has impressive magical abilities, I must say.” Celestia paused and considered her next words, hoping to say just the right thing. “You have done well as a teacher. I have so many students in my own school with raw magical ability but so few are able to exploit their gifts to its full potential.”

“By herself Dinky is a force to be reckoned with, but when she and Piña pull the books out together, watch out. They never fail to impress me,” Bucky said as he looked over his shoulder at Derpy, who was at this moment cuddling with Dinky.

“You sound so proud.”

Bucky turned his head back around and looked Celestia in the eye. “I am.”

“I should be going. I promised Tourmaline I would read her a story before bed,” Celestia said. She paused for a moment, looked thoughtful, and then her eyes narrowed. “Oh, I was supposed to tell you, Sentinel and Ripple will be out late with Luna. They are in the astronomy tower getting a lesson in command while looking at the stars.”

“Two more that I am so very proud of…”

 

 

Thoughtful, his mind filled with thoughts he knew he would have some trouble expressing, Sentinel looked first at Ripple and then over at Luna, who was busy trying to calm Erebus. Ripple was peeping through the telescope that Luna had set up. The night was cold and clear, the sky was filled with a million stars that twinkled overhead.

If Sentinel was a little older and had a bit more understanding, he would have known he was facing an existential crisis. Instead, he was younger and felt overwhelmed by everything expected from him.

Sighing, Sentinel prepared himself for getting out everything that was on his mind. “Luna?”

Luna, who was tucking a blanket around Erebus, lifted her head to look at Sentinel. “Yes?”

Licking his lips, Sentinel tried to dispel his nervousness, something he always felt around Luna. “Luna, there is something I don’t understand.”

Her teal eyes blinking, Luna’s ears perked forwards. “And that is?”

Sentinel took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out a little at a time. “Why us?”

With a shake of her head, Luna acknowledged Sentinel’s question. “I do not understand.”

“I’m not sure I understand either,” Sentinel replied. He took another deep breath. “We’re being groomed as officers. We’re being trained for leadership. We have this big bright future ahead of us and I don’t understand why we have it. I keep thinking it is because of my father and his importance in the bigger scheme of things. Had he not come to the Shetlands, I might have had a very different life. I might have come to the mainland for guard training, I might not. But would I have ended up here, talking to you like I am right now?” Sentinel took another deep breath and felt his stomach churn as Ripple turned to look at him. “And Ripple… she would have been some farmer’s wife, spitting out foals and her own needs would have been irrelevant. She wouldn’t be some great future military commander, she would… she would have had an unpleasant future. She might not have even got her cutie mark. A lot of ponies on the isles never get their cutie marks. They just stay blank because their potential is never realised as they live their dreary existence, surviving but not living.”

“Sentinel, darling, the world is a cruel place. A horrid place and it is bitterly unfair. Potential tends to get noticed, those destined for greatness tend to rise into positions that they are meant to fill, but this does not always happen. In this instance, you and Ripple both were drawn to Buckminster because of his destiny, his fate, and the way he seems to draw in those most suitable to his cause. So yes, in a sense, you are here because of him. Is it a peculiar twist of fate? Or did all of this happen because it was meant to happen? Who can say… had Buckminster never gone to the isles, Sentinel, you might have joined the guard and rose through the ranks, but yes, things might have been different. As for Ripple, I do not know what to say. Sometimes, potential gets lost, gets wasted, goes unnoticed because the situation required to bring it forth never happens. Ripple had to face the wolves, she had to see combat, she had to be immersed in brutality before her potential was realised,” Luna said as she dropped her gaze down to look at Erebus. Without realising it, her face became sorrowful as she thought of the future that Erebus might have faced without her.

“I love what I do and I love leading my Raptors, but I love my family even more… I don’t even want to imagine how my life might be without all of those I love… Sparkler, Rising Star… Bittersweet. I suppose I could live without a bright future in the military, I could live without my combat prowess, but I can’t live without those I love. If I’ve learned anything from the pony I call my father, it is that my strength comes from those I love and those I fight for,” Ripple said as she looked first at Luna and then at Sentinel. “Killing and fighting is a fine calling, but without something to balance out the death and violence, one tends to become empty and cold inside as the death and violence tends to wear down one’s sense of self. My herd is my counterbalance.”

Luna tucked Erebus into the shawl hanging around her neck, glad to have his reassuring weight hanging from her once more. The little colt was starting to settle down and become calm once more now that he was swaddled and held close. Luna thought about Ripple’s words, about Sentinel’s introspection, and the realisation that the two ponies that she was grooming for leadership had fine minds that were their true strength.

“Ripple and I are very different ponies… she’s so confident… she’ll gladly throw herself into a fight and she loves what she does. She never thinks about stuff like this. She has this amazing sense of focus. Meanwhile, I distract myself, I overthink everything, and whenever a fight happens, whenever I’ve had to kill something, I’ve always felt like I failed, as though I’ve made a mistake and something went wrong. I find myself second guessing everything I do and wondering if I could have done something to make things happen differently. And I think about stuff like what I just asked, if I even belong in this position of leadership… do I deserve it or am I being groomed for it just because of who I am and my relationship with my father. It makes me feel so much doubt.” When he was done speaking, Sentinel stared down at the floor and refused to meet the gaze of Luna and Ripple. His ears drooped down to the sides of his face and he slumped over, feeling crushed by the weight of his own thoughts.

“Little brother, your hesitance to get into a scrap is something I depend on,” Ripple said as she rose from where she was sitting to go over to Sentinel. When she reached his side, she sat down beside him.

“What do you mean?” Sentinel asked.

Ripple’s ears pinned back against her skull. She hadn’t expected this question or having to explain her reasoning. She became aware of Luna staring at her, Luna’s piercing gaze was distracting and made it difficult to think. Nervous, she puckered her lips and made popping sounds as she tried to think of what to say.

“I don’t understand.” Sentinel lifted his head and looked at Ripple, feeling somewhat annoyed by her nervous habit of making pop pop noises with her lips.

“Sentinel, little brother, if I have one weakness, it is that I am too eager to jump into a fight. I like fighting and if I had my way, it would probably be my only option for dealing with almost anything. I don’t always put a lot of thought into what I do and tend to live in the moment when things start to happen. While this is an asset, to some degree, it is also a liability. You tend to be cautious, to think things out, and you tend to want to avoid violence if possible. And they say that lunar pegasi are super-brutes,” Ripple replied, adding a tiny touch of sarcasm at the end.

Confusion was the only thing that Sentinel felt in response. “Oh.”

“By myself, I would probably become another Commander Hothead. By yourself, you might get a reputation as being overcautious and indecisive, but together, we balance each other out. And we listened to one another because we have respect for each other. We’re friends as well as siblings. Which means our strongest asset that we can apply for our future is our relationship, and to safeguard our future, we must make sure that our relationship remains solid,” Ripple continued.

“I see.” Sentinel felt a little less confused. He offered up a nervous smile to Ripple.

“This is why I am grooming both of you for positions of command and leadership,” Luna said as she looked at Sentinel and Ripple. She watched as Ripple wrapped a wing around Sentinel and pulled him close, nudging his glasses askew, and kissing him on the cheek. “Too many of my commanders are in the positions they serve in for their own glory and look out only for their own needs. They bicker and fight and jockey for position. Our military has been left fractured and weakened, which concerns me greatly.”

“Won’t the formation of the Triumvirate help? I mean, you’ve silenced so many of the dissenting voices and solidified the leadership between the three of you and all of you share the same goals, views, and desires,” Sentinel asked.

Raising one foreleg, Luna rocked Erebus back and forth. “We have, but we have also lost a lot of experience. Buckminster, for all of his ability, is not particularly well schooled in command. Buckminster, for all of his impeccable sense of order, is random and chaotic, potentially his greatest asset in war, as no one knows exactly what he will do next. Keg Smasher, for all of his ability, is overrun with responsibilities. To be honest, we sit in a precarious position. New leadership will come in time. Already there are those with so much promise, but they need time to grow up and gain skill.”

“Father told me to sit down and think about everything the enemy would expect for you to do, make a list, and then find a solution that is not on that list,” Ripple said.

Luna sighed as Erebus gurgled. “Well organised chaos, the very worst kind.”

Sentinel’s ears stood up. “No one expected dragons to attack Labyrinthia. The papers speculated airship bombardment from the upper atmosphere, away from the reach of the guns. There was even speculation about father and his various orbs of compulsion and the horror he might unleash upon the minotaurs… the words ‘rape bombs’ were used several times. Everyone was expecting more of the same. Some even said that my father would use the sun to scorch Labyrinthia off of the map.”

Shaking her head, Luna continued to rock Erebus, hoping he would sleep. “In the end, we did none of those things. What we did was so shocking, so terrifying, that now the entire civilised world is scurrying to make peace. Diamond Dog kingdoms that have long been a disruption to trade stability and world peace are now lining up and begging Celestia for some kind of peace agreement and the assurance of goodwill. The entire world is sending diplomats to the Solar Court. No one wants to face the wrath of the Lunar Court. Even the dragons are sending diplomats to reaffirm the old treaties and agreements that they stay on their half of the world and we stay on ours.”

“So it took one horrible act to bring the world to a state of peace?” Ripple asked.

“For a time,” Luna replied, her voice sad. “In time though, the horror will fade, the memory will soften, and war will be made once more. There will be those who foolishly attempt to wage war, believing that we will not respond with total destruction yet again. History has many examples of various species being brought to the very brink of extinction and then forgetting their history lessons once they become strong again.”

Clearing his throat, Sentinel thought of one example. “Sombra and the griffons.”

“I had a hoof in that myself,” Luna replied.

“I hope that in our lifetime, we never have to do that. I mean, I like fighting, don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather have a career that is marked by a long history of peace and prosperity. When I go down in the history books, I want to be remembered as a peacemaker, not as a destroyer.” Ripple’s words were soft, only a little above a whisper, and spoken from her heart.

“I wonder how father will be remembered,” Sentinel said after listening to Ripple’s words.

Her teal eyes glittering in the faint light, Luna stared at Sentinel. “Much of how your father will be remembered will be determined by you Sentinel. If you want him remembered for what he is, tell the world about him as a father. As a husband. As a family pony. You have a talent for writing. Already the papers write too many negative things about him. The world does not see a devoted father that stays up all night trying to soothe a foal with colic. The world does not see the patient educator that spends hours trying to figure out ways to take complex subjects and break them down so that foals might understand them. They do not see a husband that loves his wives and his family. The world sees a warlock… the world sees the creator of the ‘rape bomb’ that has become so feared. The world sees the destroyer of Griffonholm and the ruination of Labyrinthia.”

“Father took the blame for destroying Griffonholm without complaint,” Ripple said.

Sentinel nodded. “All to protect Twilight Sparkle’s reputation as a peaceful diplomat. I sometimes wonder how much of history has been altered because of these agreements.”

Luna chuckled. “Almost all of it…”

 

 

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