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 snow made a satisfying crunch underhoof as Bucky made his way to the school. The winter break was in effect, but there were still students and staff members at the school, students who did not have a home to go home to, and staff members for whom the school was their home. From where he was, Bucky could see neither the school nor the farmhouse, all that could be seen was white flakes and darkness, even though Bucky’s senses told him that it was daytime.

The howling wind shrieked, almost as if it was frustrated that it could bring Bucky no harm, no discomfort, it could do nothing against the Lord of Winter. This storm was his doing.

As Bucky approached the doors to the school, they opened and a tall figure came out.

In moments, Bucky felt himself picked up and thrown over the tall figure’s shoulder as though he was a sack of potatoes. Bucky tried to protest, but his words fell on deaf ears.

“Students should not be outside! You’re so lucky I saw you!”

Now indoors, Bucky was set down upon his hooves. Craning his head back, he looked up at a very tall minotaur, grateful that she was so attentive, but annoyed that he had been treated like a foal.

“Oh… I’m sorry, sir… I thought you were one of the students,” the minotaur said.

Try as he might, Bucky could not remember her name. He shook himself off and allowed the black hood to fall back from his head. “You are forgiven… miss...”

“My name is Tuli, sir,” the minotaur said. “And this is Cobalt. He is not one of your instructors, but he was given permission to volunteer during the holiday by Cheerilee.”

“And Cobalt is?” Bucky asked.

The minotaur gave Bucky a bashful smile and clapped her large hands together as she looked down at the blue earth pony by her side. “He’s my husband. We were just married.”

“Wonderful,” Bucky said as he looked over at Cobalt, who had himself a very goofy looking grin. This was the sort of thing Bucky hoped that his instructors would do. “How are my students? Any trouble getting them from the dormitory towers to the school?”

Standing up straight, Tuli became serious and she looked down at Bucky, giving him his focus. “There has been some trouble,” Tuli replied. She reached up with her left hand and began to rub her right bicep. “Blitz, the diamond dog, he has begun escorting the students back and forth. His diamond dog students have been helping. Also, quite a number of your griffons have taken it upon themselves to help out. Each student is accounted for and Magpie does regular headcounts. So does Twilight Velvet and Night Light.” Tuli paused for a moment, closed her eyes, and recalled every bit of relevant information that she could. “Daylight Shadow is working on a tracking spell for each student. A few of them want to wander off without telling anyone. Which is why I thought that perhaps you were one of the students… you are kinda small…”

His eyes narrowing, Bucky continued to stare upwards at the tall minotaur.

“With all due respect… sir, I made an error upon the side of caution,” Tuli said.

“You are doing a fine job,” Bucky replied. He glanced over at Cobalt. “And what do you do? I’m guessing you are getting a bit of time off work?”

“I work in the copyright office as a clerk,” Cobalt replied. “Currently, the office is closed. Not for the holiday, but because of the weather. They actually wanted us to work on Hearth’s Warming, the smarmy bastards.”

Chuckling, Bucky was glad that the weather was having the desired effect. “So you do copyright work… do you like it?”

“Um, well, you see, I’m a clerk. I’m not a lawyer, or even highly trained… in the morning, I get a big box of papers. And then all day long I pull out one of the papers, stamp it, mark it as received, and then I place it into another box… after that, I don’t know what happens to the papers” Cobalt looked up at Tuli and then back at Bucky. “It was a job. I took it. I’d like to find another.”

“Anything you are skilled at?” Bucky asked.

“For most of my adult life, I’ve been a clerk,” Cobalt replied.

Bucky nodded. “Speak to my second in command, Violet Velvet. She is in need of worthy assistants. She tolerates no stupidity, no foolishness, and she expects results. She also pays well and makes sure that those in my employ are well cared for. If you work hard, she will see that you are properly compensated.”

“Thank you… thank you… I will speak to her the first chance I get,” Cobalt said, a broad grin spreading over his face.

“After the holidays.” For a moment, Bucky thought of Dirtbound, one of Violet’s errand runners and couriers. The young colt was beginning to show a lot of promise. “If you will excuse me, I’d like to go check upon my students.”

 

 

The cafeteria was full of students. There was food set out. There were a surprising number of griffons here; it seemed that the little griffons were glad to have something to look after. In the corner, a group of students were sitting and laying around a grizzled old griffon who appeared to be telling a story. Bucky peered at the griffon, not recognising the griffon right away.

And then, all of a sudden, Bucky knew who the griffon was.

He opened his mouth, ready to call out Odin’s name, but nothing happened. Standing there, Bucky tried again, but as before, no words came out. Bucky, having encountered this magic before, knew it was hopeless to keep trying.

“That’s Alfadir. He’s good with foals and cubs. They love his stories. He showed up yesterday. Magpie allowed him to stay… he insisted upon earning his keep.”

Bucky turned to look at the mare that had just spoken. He saw Twilight Velvet.

“Alfadir, you say?” Bucky asked.

“Strange name, but he is a charming fellow. Cultured, polite, gentle, says please and thank you. Still don’t know how he just showed up in the middle of the blizzard like he did, but Magpie said that turning him away would be murder.”

“Oh, griffons are full of surprises.” Bucky smiled at Twilight Velvet. The mare looked radiant. She was happy, and for this, Bucky was glad. It made Twilight Sparkle’s life easier knowing that her mother was happy. Feeling satisfied, he looked over at Odin. The old griffon looked a bit better. He also looked different, but Bucky could not determine what it was that was different about him. The old griffon was waving his talons about and his wings were flared out. Little foals and little cubs were entranced. One little zebra filly had her eyes covered and she was trembling. An older foal was trying to comfort the smaller zebra. It took Bucky a moment to recognise the foal. Little Slip. He turned once more to face Twilight Velvet. “How is Little Slip doing?”

Twilight Velvet’s muzzle scrunched, becoming wrinkled. “She is adjusting. She sees Doctor Mawu regularly. She is starting to smile, but you don’t see it often. She shows off a fake smile often enough, but I can see right through that. She has friends but still has some issues connecting.”

“So… progress?”

Nodding, Twilight Velvet replied, “Of a sort.”

“—so Grogar, the eeeeevil necromancer goat, he raised an army of the dead and he crushed his foes. The world became a darker and darker place. Hope flickered and died… there seemed to be no stopping Grogar—”

Raising an eyebrow, Bucky took interest in the story that Odin was telling, but felt a little concerned about the effect it might have upon little foals and cubs. He looked at Twilight Velvet and wondered what she thought of the story.

“—the world needed heroes… many tried and many died. Ponies, griffons, minotaurs, diamond dogs, one by one the heroes fell, overcome by the darkness. And then a group of heroes came along… these were different than the heroes that had come before. These heroes worked together. There was a big minotaur blacksmith who was also a warrior. There was a griffoness, she was an archer. There was a zebra, she was a powerful healer and alchemist and she made salves that protected her and her friends from the dead. There was a blind unicorn and his noble companion, a diamond dog. And even though history has forgotten her, there was also a naga—”

“What’s a naga?”

“Well, a naga… a naga is a snake creature with a funny head… sort of like a minotaur but without the horns or the snout. Kind of like a diamond dog, but no floppy ears. Hard to say what sort of head it is, but it is a head. Just a strange one.”

Bucky became aware that the old griffon was staring at him and that was when he realised that Odin had both of his eyes. Only… he didn’t. Bucky blinked and the second eye was gone. When he blinked again, the second eye had returned.

“Are you sure this is a true story?”

“Oh, it’s true… so anyways, these companions, who had been on many adventures together, got word that Grogar’s darkness was spreading. The companions began to plan—”

“Is this story just to drive home the point that we all need to work together if we want to defeat the evil in the world?”

Bucky was forced to choke back a laugh but it escaped out through his nose as a snort. The old griffon looked annoyed, irritated, it was body language that Bucky was only just beginning to understand.

“Shut up and let him tell the story!”

“Don’t tell me to shut up!”

“Shut up, both of you!”

For a moment, it seemed as though there would be trouble, but then the group quieted down. For this, Bucky was grateful. He could hear Twilight Velvet, still beside him, laughing.

“Foals will be foals,” Twilight Velvet said as she trotted off to look after other foals and cubs in the room.

“—the world will always need heroes… I wonder if there are any would be heroes here in this school—”

If Bucky had his way, there would be. He looked around the room, taking note of his students. They were learning a new way here at the Founder’s Forge. A new way of thinking. A new approach to life. They were learning to work together with other tribes… other species.

Blinking, Bucky could feel another headache coming on. There was a feeling of pressure just behind his eyes. Perhaps he had laughed too hard at Sentinel’s botched attempt at humour. Perhaps it was stress. The sounds in the room now seemed far too loud.

Closing his eyes, Bucky held them shut for a moment. Sometimes, it helped.

When Bucky opened his eyes, he was standing in a very different room. The foals around him were now the stuff of nightmares. He took a step back as he looked around. Little faces with no eyelids, no lips, no ears. Little faces that had been chewed on by rats. He closed his eyes again, squeezing them shut, trying to make this hallucination go away.

When his eyes opened, the nightmare persisted.

Whimpering, Bucky shook his head. “No…”

“In the end, you will fail them…”

The voice was haunting and familiar. Bucky shook his head once more, not wanting to hear the voice that he knew far too well.

“You cannot save them… who will save them from you?”

Dark shadows began to fill the room. The foals and cubs turned on Bucky. Lidless eyes stared at him. Lipless grins were on every little face.

“You fear what you know you will become… this fear gives me strength…”

The shadows coalesced, taking on substance and form. Two eyes glowing appeared. A booming chuckle filled the room. A glowing red horn took shape. The dark form grew larger, looming over Bucky.

“You cannot stop what you are becoming. You cannot change what will be. Now there are others with my blood, I can hear it calling out to me… weak helpless little things that will be so easy to claim once I have the strength…”

“No… no… you’re just a shadow… you have no strength! Go away!” Bucky could feel his knees wobbling. He was having trouble standing up.

“Your fear sustains me… so long as you fear what shall become, I shall gain strength from you… either way, you cannot prevent what will happen!”

“I will never submit!”

“THEN DIE!”

The shadows surged forward. A swarm of shadow tendrils slithered over Bucky’s skin. He could feel them forcing their way up his nose, under his eyelids, forcing their way into his mouth, the shadows were finding a way in. He felt something sliding down his ear.

Bucky heard the howling of wolves and felt his blood run cold. He could smell them, hear them, he could feel them all around him once more. Teeth sank into his flesh.

There was a flash of light and Bucky was blinded.

“BEGONE!”

The voice was thunderous, full of fury.

The shadows around Bucky retreated. The wolves were little more than illusion, but the pain was real. Blinking, Bucky tried to see the figure approaching him, but he could not. A dazzling light burned Bucky’s eyes.

Bucky’s legs gave way and his chin smashed into the floor. He tasted blood and saw stars. The pressure inside of his head increased, becoming too much to bear, and then Bucky knew nothing else as he slipped away, lost in the currents of his own inner darkness.

 

 

 

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