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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The wind howled enough to make the whole house shudder. Not long ago, Cadance had awoken most of the house with her shrieking, yet another nightmare, something that was happening more and more. It was getting to the point where Bucky was getting worried enough about it, enough to speak to Luna about the issue.

The day had been long. After coming home for the hospital, it took plenty of time and effort to get Derpy into the bed and make her stay there. Harper kept having accidental discharges, leaving the foal in the most miserable state. Bittersweet had been zapped several times and Harper now cried even before the discharges happened, aware that she was hurting those she loved and adored.

And now, it was proving to be a long night as well. Bon Bon and Lyra were upstairs, tucking little foals back into bed and trying to calm them. Cadance had powerful lungs and when she was scared, she let everypony know it.

Bucky held her close, trying to get her to go to sleep, rocking back and forth in the rocking chair. Cadance snuffled and hiccuped, not wanting to go back to sleep, but it was a battle she was losing as she kept nodding off. Harper had already fallen back to sleep.

The hinges on the door creaked, a faint sound, and Bucky turned to see who had entered the nursery. Sentinel crept through the doorway, not making a sound, and then moved around the room, sniffing as he went.

“Sentinel, it has been a long day, you should be asleep,” Bucky said, worried enough already about his wives and his foals. “I understand that it is difficult for us to sleep at night because of our natures, but I am going to need your help tomorrow… I need you well rested.”

Lifting his head, Sentinel turned to look at his father. “I understand. I promise I’ll be well rested. Father… I want to find out what is scaring Cadance so badly.”

“Foals have bad dreams, such is life,” Bucky replied.

“Still, father, I would like to know.” Sentinel sat down upon the floor near the rocking chair and peered at the tiny foal his father was holding.

“I’ll admit, I’m worried enough that I’ve thought about telling Luna.” Bucky realised that Sentinel had grown at some point. He seemed larger somehow. His colt was getting bigger. Growing older. “Sentinel, if you want to go in there, I won’t stop you. Luna tells me that you are gaining skill and confidence. I’m not so good at dream walking.”

“Luna says you don’t take your abilities seriously enough and she grows frustrated with you,” Sentinel said, his eyes flashing in the faint light that came from the hall.

“That’s just not true.” Bucky held back his frustration, not wishing to take it out on Sentinel. “I have so many demands upon my time… I am needed in so many places. Luna has me doing so many tasks… I just had to go to Vanhoover to take care of business there. There just isn’t time to study and Luna expects too much from me.”

“I know father… there are a lot of demands placed upon me as well, but you still require good grades from me in school. So I understand…”

It took a moment, but Bucky realised that what he heard was as close as Sentinel would come to complaining. He felt a twinge of guilt. He did expect a great deal from Sentinel. He pulled a blanket from off a shelf using his magic and then covered himself and Cadance. The foal was almost asleep now, but still fighting to keep her eyes open.

In her crib, Harper farted, causing Sentinel to turn and blink. After a moment, his nostrils crinkled. Sentinel turned and looked at his father once more.

“Too much cinnamon and applesauce,” Sentinel said, keeping voice low and soft.

Shaking his head, Bucky closed his eyes. “Sentinel, it horrifies me that you can tell what Harper had for dinner after smelling her farts.” He opened his eyes and looked down at Sentinel. In his embrace, Cadance slipped into slumber. “Be ready Sentinel. When she starts dreaming, get in there and start having a look around.”

 

 

The city around him was not a place that Sentinel had ever been, but he knew which city it was. The Crystal Empire. He had seen plenty of pictures in books. He looked around and felt his hackles rising.

Something was off about this place. Something was here that did not belong here.

In the distance, alarms were sounding and all around him ponies were fleeing, running away from something, trying to take shelter. The smell of smoke was in the air. To avoid the stampede, Sentinel took wing. This was a dream, the rules were different here. Flying wasn’t so much wing strength as it was force of will.

Gaining altitude, Sentinel saw something that unnerved him. In the distance, swooping in over the city, a large dragon was attacking. There were flames and fire everywhere. Sentinel could smell charred flesh and so many other things. He looked around him, trying to figure out what was happening, trying to orient himself and gain familiarity with his surroundings.

There were unicorns and pegasi attacking other ponies. Sentinel realised he was in the middle of a battle. A lump formed in his throat. Feeling desperate, he began to search the skies for Cadance, knowing all too well what was about to happen, and soon, if it hadn’t happened already.

This was a dream… the rules were different here. Luna kept stressing that fact with every lesson. Sentinel wondered what he could do. Almost in a state of panic, Sentinel began to feel the first prickles of fear as he realised that he was not alone here, there was somethingelse.

A pink streak flew overhead, trailing a pink contrail behind it.

Cadance!

Her horn crackled with unimaginable power as she moved in defense of her subjects. Sentinel could feel it, it radiated off of her, and he realised that her final actions that day had been fueled by love, perhaps the strongest form of love there was, the kind where you are willing to lay down your life for another.

“NO!” Sentinel cried as he went streaking off after Cadance.

The dragon banked, rolled, and then dove to meet Cadance in the air. A bubble of pink light formed around Cadance. Sentinel watched in horror as the dragon belched out a cloud of flame and roasted the ponies still out in the streets below it.

There was an angry screech from Cadance.

Unable to look away, Sentinel watched as the dragon’s breath and Cadance’s spell collided. He saw Cadance burn, consumed in flames, but he did not see the dragon die. Something had changed. Cadance was still alive somehow. He watched as she plummeted to the earth, still burning.

“You can do nothing! Now watch as I destroy everything you love!” the dragon roared.

Sentinel heard Cadance let out a pitiful sounding wail of agony. Red crept into his vision. He felt his muscles twitching. A strange copper taste filled his mouth.

“WHATEVER YOU ARE YOU DON’T HURT MY SISTER!”

Streaking forward, Sentinel accelerated at impossible speeds, moving towards the dragon. Only Sentinel knew it wasn’t a dragon. It was something else, something playing around with Cadance’s memories, something that was feeding off of her fear.

The dragon whirled around, its tail lashing out. There was a thunderous crack as it struck Sentinel and sent the lunar pegasus flying. The dragon began to laugh, a sound that seemed as though it came from some horrible abyssal plane.

Sentinel smashed through a building, then another, and then a third. Everything hurt. As he kept reminding himself, the rules were different here. Buried under rubble, his body felt crushed. Sentinel couldn’t remember ever feeling this much pain, ever. Even when Sombra had burned him… that pain was nothing compared to what he felt now.

The pain was fuel for his rage. Shaking himself, Sentinel pushed his way up out of the rubble, spread his wings, and took flight, heading straight for the dragon. Sentinel reminded himself that this was a dream and this was a reality based upon the force of will. Fighting here was different.

When Sentinel broke the sound barrier, the windows around him shattered. The buildings in his wake rippled and shook. The pavement below him bunched up like a loose carpet. Sentinel stuck his front hooves out and believed himself to be invulnerable just as he slammed into the side of the dragon.

The collision was terrific; Sentinel struck with enough force that he broke reality. The world around him shattered. The buildings broke apart and fell away. The ground below him broke open. The dragon flew apart into meaty bits, still bound by the last vestiges of what passed as rules in this realm.

Sentinel hovered in a black void. There was nothing here now, nothing at all. Sentinel closed his eyes and concentrated, trying to push his rage back, knowing the time for rage was over. In his mind, he focused upon a mental image of the moon.

When he opened his eyes, there was a moon upon the horizon. Stars lit up the black void. Sentinel looked around. He could still sense… something.

“Show yourself! Don’t make me hunt you!”

In front of Sentinel, darkness swirled and took shape. Something almost pony-like formed, hovering in the void. It was black, had wings, and stunk of sulphur. Its eyes were two glowing red coals and it’s hooves were made of fire.

Sentinel was not fooled by what he saw. “So this is how you want to look. Too much of a coward to show your real form? If you had any sort of real power at all, you would have crushed me… I broke through your illusion, you damned imp!”

The creature hissed, burning sparks shot from its mouth, but it kept its distance from Sentinel. The two predators eyed one another, sizing each other up, each waiting for the other to do something.

“No one hurts my sisters! Now get out of here! Don’t you come back! I’ll be waiting if you do… and Luna might be waiting with me! If you come back here and try to feed ever again, I will have my father conjure you up out of Tartarus so I can rip you limb from limb myself!”

“Our time is coming!” the imp replied, its voice a demonic screeching hiss.

“If you want a fight, I could arrange to have the fight brought to you… tell me, what happens when a demon dies in Tartarus?”

The imp made no reply, it only bared its teeth, growled, and then it vanished, leaving Sentinel all alone in the void. Closing his eyes, Sentinel focused himself, concentrating, trying to bring all of his senses under control. He could no longer feel the intruding presence. He was alone here. When he opened his eyes, he was back in the nursery, but still in the dream.

“Cadance?” Sentinel sniffed, he could smell her, sense her, and he wondered where she was. She was hiding. He could smell fear. As he looked around, the full realisation that Cadance had been reliving her death over and over settled into his mind.

Sentinel shivered.

“Cadance, come on out, it’s gone, it can’t hurt you. Big brother has chased it away,” Sentinel said in a soft voice, hoping to coax Cadance out. Mental fatigue began to manifest; warping reality was difficult, tiring, and Sentinel still had much to learn.

There was a fearful snuffling and muted sobbing. Sentinel’s ears perked. He moved towards the crib, dropped down to his belly, and peered underneath. He found Cadance. She had pushed herself into the corner and was cowering.

“Cadance, it’s me… I promise. This isn’t a trick,” Sentinel said. He heaved a sigh and resigned himself to waiting. “Come on Cadance… I’m your brother… I read you stories and let you drool all over me.”

The alicorn foal did nothing to come out from her hiding place.

Coming to the conclusion that there was nothing he could do, Sentinel decided it was best for him to leave. He looked at Cadance. “I’m going to leave now. I hate leaving you all alone like this, but I don’t want to try and grab you, which might scare you. So I’m going. I’ll tell father what happened. Hopefully, when I pop out, I’ll take the remnants of this dream with me.”

Cadance, still in the corner, continued her muffled sobbing.

“When you wake up, I’ll be right beside you… I promise…”

 

 

 

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