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


540. 540

As The Scorned Mare soared past Canterlot, Bucky paced the deck, looking over at the city as they flew by. The cold was brutal; life threatening even, but Bucky did not mind. Bucky was the cold. The deck was iced over and empty. No one, nopony, nobirdy was on deck with him.

In the distance, sitting in their moorings, Bucky saw several warships docked in the Canterlot shipyards. There was fighting to the far south, down near Saddle Arabia and beyond, the mirror travelers were busy trying to gain a hoofhold. Far to the utter east, the mirror travelers fought with dragons, trying to claim territory from the ancient wyrms.

But as Celestia and Luna had assured Bucky, most of the known civilised world knew peace. A peace that the world had not seen for eons, if the sisters were to be believed. Even though Bucky had no reason not to believe them, he still doubted. There was conflict in the world, he could feel it, even if the feeling had become weak. It was like a chilly draft that was almost unnoticeable as it blew through a room, not something that was just felt, but also evidenced by papers rustling or pegasus feathers being ruffled.

Ice encrusted Bucky’s horn and mane, icicles hung from his sideburns.

He knew that he was not supposed to be alone for any length of time, but Bucky needed a bit of time to himself. Saying goodbye was hard. Above him, the rigging creaked in the cold. Below him, the deck planks were iced over.

His mane, now frozen over in wind whipped spikes, stuck out in all directions. Bucky felt the first prickle of fear, the creeping cold that existed on the inside. He shivered. His ears perked as he heard the squeaking of rats, it was difficult to hear over the dull roar of the wind, but it was there.

Turning towards the door that led belowdecks, Bucky realised it was time go inside. He felt the cold. Not the cold of winter, but Sombra’s cold, the chilling influence that haunted him and would not go away. It was time to find warmth.



Free to be herself, away from prying eyes, and enjoying the feeling of privacy, Celestia crossed her eyes and made a silly face at Cadance, who burbled and giggled. There was nopony to judge her, no loose lipped guards, there was only the cozy cabin, a few mares, and some foals. As Cadance giggled, Celestia pressed her snoot into Bell Heather’s neck and inhaled, drawing in the foal’s scent, glad to be smelling the scent of new foal.

“Equestria has one more kelpie,” Thistle said as she crept closer to the bed where Celestia was sprawled out with the foals.

“And it is a most adorable little kelpie… you did a fine job Thistle,” Celestia replied as she lifted up her head and looked at Thistle.

Raven, sitting in a chair and nursing a steaming teacup, looked over at the large white alicorn and the two small foals. Her mane was down, spilling around her face and neck, and by letting her mane down, she acknowledged that she was getting a break.

Unsure of the protocol of jumping into her own bed while Celestia was laying on it, Berry Punch threw herself down on the edge of the mattress, pulled up her legs beneath her, and got comfortable.

Seeing Berry Punch getting comfortable, Thistle followed Berry’s lead and did the same, climbing into the bed, crawling on her belly, moving towards her foal, and then she folded her legs beneath her once Bell Heather was within nosing distance.

The door to the cabin opened and Bucky entered, still covered in ice. He paused in the doorway, looking around, meeting each eye in turn, and then as he stood there, shook himself off as he grinned a sheepish grin.

“Where is Belisama?” Bucky asked.

“She is with Magpie.” Berry Punch, seeing Bucky covered in ice, felt annoyed with her husband. She frowned. “So Magpie is the new royal nanny now.”

“I trust her with my griffons, there is no reason not to trust her with my foals,” Bucky replied as he moved towards the bed. He jumped up and then lay down beside Berry. “When I told her she started crying. She was quite overcome. She grabbed me, started squeezing me, and thanked me. Then she got upset with herself for forgetting her place and hoisting her king around like a sack of potatoes.”

“I guess this works out, since Bittersweet is family now and she is going to start teaching soon,” Berry said, rolling over on her side and kicking her legs out, stretching them to full length.

“Where is Violet?” Bucky asked.

“In her cabin I think. I don’t know,” Berry replied. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason… I just want to know that everypony and everybirdy is okay.” Turning his head, Bucky looked at Celestia and then at Cadance. “You have my foals. Both of them. If you have two of something, you should share them.”

“Which one do you want?” Celestia asked, the corners of mouth curling into a teasing smile.

His nostrils flaring, Bucky’s ears perked forward, the tufted tips pointing at Celestia. “It isn’t a matter of which one I love more… why don’t you just give me one. It doesn’t matter which one.”

The white alicorn’s eyebrow raised. “Are you trying to get me to reveal which one I love least?”

“How did this get complicated?” Thistle asked.

Berry Punch rolled her eyes. “Unicorns. Alicorns included. Silly creatures, the lot of them.”

Cadance, taking matters into her own hooves, rolled over, her wings flapping with effort, and began to crawl towards her father. “Daddy!”

“Well, that settles that. Now we’ll never know.” Celestia reached out her wing and patted Cadance on the bottom as the foal crawled across the bed towards Bucky.

Upon reaching Bucky, Cadance sat down, balanced herself on her haunches, raised her right foreleg, and steadied herself with her left foreleg. Reaching out, she booped Bucky on the snoot.

“Boop.” Cadance, whose face was quite serious during this moment, looked at her father, watching and waiting for his reaction.

Bucky, the moment that Cadance’s hoof touched his snoot, fell over on his side and went limp, his ears flopping over.

Having felled her father, Cadance wasted no time creeping forward, crawling over Bucky’s face, slobbering all over him, and went right her father’s ears, biting onto one and chewing on it, tugging and pulling, behaving very much like a little pegasus.

“That might be the most adorable thing I have ever seen.” Raven, staring over the edge of her teacup, felt her eyes go watery at the sight.

“Mmmnum?” Cadance asked, her mouth full of ear.

“Cadance, darling, how many times has your auntie told you not to talk with your mouth full?” Celestia watched as Cadance continued to pull and tug on Bucky’s ear until one of her own ears brushed up against Bucky’s horn.

The alicorn foal yanked her head way, her ear twitching. She looked at Bucky’s jagged horn and her eyes narrowed. “Ooh ooooh ooooh!” She crawled over Bucky’s face, one of her hind hooves stepping on his lip, and then crawled along her father’s neck. When she was a safe distance away, Cadance stuck out her tongue and blew a raspberry at Bucky’s horn.

Bucky yawned, which caused Cadance to yawn as well, which in turn caused most of the other ponies in the room to yawn, a most curious effect of social contagion. When one social animal sees another yawning, the desire to yawn becomes irresistible.

“I hate to be a party pooper, but I am actually tired. Sleepy even. I hope nopony minds if I take a nap,” Bucky said in a low voice. “Cadance, is it naptime?”

Cadance, hearing the word naptime, fell over with a thump. She lay still, with all four legs sticking up in the air. She closed her eyes, holding them shut for a few moments, and then opened them to narrowed slits to see if anypony else was napping.

When Cadance saw the others were still awake, she grunted in frustration.

“I suppose it is time for me to go,” Celestia said, lifting up Bell Heather and passing the foal over to Thistle. “Thank you for having me with you.” The white alicorn eased herself off of the bed, got to her legs, and rose up to her full height, the tip of her horn almost hitting the ceiling.

Raven, following Celestia’s lead, rose up out of her chair, her teacup held in her magic, and she stretched her legs while she waited for Celestia to depart.

“Buckminster, it is good that you are getting some rest.” Celestia tilted her head off to one side to look at Berry Punch. “I suppose you will be staying with him?”

The earth pony yawned and wiggled closer to Bucky. “A nap sounds good. The twins have been kicking me in my giblets all morning. If I could, I’d go and stand them in the corner like I do Piña when she’s been bad.”

Bucky, who already had his eyes closed, said, “Piña is perfect. She’s never bad.”

“Not long ago Piña called Dinky shite for brains and the other day she called her uncle Barley a greasy fart stain,” Berry replied.

Trying to choke back a laugh, Celestia failed and it came out as a series of snorts.

“See, even Celestia thinks it is funny,” Bucky said, his words coming out as a drowsy mumble.

Beside him, Cadance let out an angry sounding nicker.

“No I do not. There is nothing funny about that. In fact, I am cancelling all of Tourmaline’s future play dates with your foals,” Celestia said, engaging in a mighty struggle to keep a straight face.

“Berry Punch… you called me a greasy fart stain. Piña learned that from you.” Bucky kicked out his hind legs, trying to get comfortable, and wiggled his hindquarters around so he wasn’t laying on his own tail, which pulled on his dock and made him uncomfortable.

“Oh shut up.” Berry lifted her head, glared at Bucky for a moment through narrowed eyes, and then stuck out her tongue.

“The scariest part about this whole trip is the fact that I’m the mature one,” Thistle said, shaking her head as she cradled Bell Heather between her forelegs.



Belisama placed her talons into the small of her back, rubbed with her knuckles, and closed her eyes. Her crest rose when she felt something inside of her move. She stopped, freezing in place for a moment, and then she set aside the autoharp propped up against her body.

Around her, other griffons were still playing music, a jaunty collection of guitars, banjos, and other stringed instruments. The music stopped and the griffons looked at their queen.

“Is it time?” one of the females asked.

Belisama shook her head, rubbed her stomach, and closed her eyes.

“Are you okay?” the female asked.

Belisama nodded.

Violet, who was watching all of this, slid from her cushion, rose up to her hooves, and came over to stand beside Belisama. “What’s happening?”

Belisama opened her eyes and looked up at Violet. “Back pain. Just a little back pain. It isn’t that bad. Some days it has been much worse than this.”

Saying nothing, Violet lifted Belisama in her magic, flopped down upon Belisama’s cushion, and then dropped the griffoness against her side. Violet then curled up around Belisama and rested her head upon the cushion. With a flick of her dock, Violet covered Belisama’s hind legs with her tail.

“The warmth feels good,” Belisama said, leaning against Violet. “Thank you.”

“Bucky would swat me with a newspaper if something happened to you or his cub,” Violet replied in a low voice. “I don’t want anything setting him on edge.”

Two male griffons, lounging on a cushion together, spooning in the open, looked at their queen in concern. Spanner had his crest up and he clung to Lugnut, while Lugnut had his head cocked sideways. Reaching out his talons, Lugnut grabbed Sprocket, his cub, and pulled her closer, while Cog escaped and went scrambling off, her claws clicking on the wooden floorboards.

Cog didn’t get very far, she was snatched up by another female griffon, who grabbed her, pulled her close, and subdued her with a wing tickle.

“Odin wants us to make music… so make music,” Belisama said, making a strumming motion with her talons. “We’ve spent the day working, our work is done, so now it is time to sing and make merry.”



It was late, sometime close to midnight. Celestia moved down the hall in a brisk trot. As she hurried, she heard more screaming. Reaching Bucky’s door, she didn’t bother knocking, but opened the door and walked in just in time to hear another blood curdling scream of terror.

In the dim light of the room, she looked around. Thistle was hunched on the corner of the bed, looking terrified. Belisama clung to Thistle. Berry was holding Bucky and trying to shush him. In the corner, in her crib, Cadance was shrieking, a deafening wail.

Bell Heather also cried, but lacked the volume that Cadance was capable of.

Celestia could see Berry Punch’s frantic expression of fear and panic.

“He was dreaming about the hook… I heard him say something about the rats crawling around inside of him.”

Bucky, thrashing in Berry Punch’s grasp, flung himself to the edge of the bed and vomited all over the floor and then lay there, heaving and struggling for air as vomit dribbled from his nostrils.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Berry Punch shook her head. “Will somepony please quiet Cadance!”

Celestia, stepping into action, hoisted both Cadance and Bell Heather from their crib and then dropped them into the bed, where Thistle and Belisama both went to work trying to quiet them. Using a bit of magic that every head of a school should know, Celestia made the vomit vanish, disappearing to wherever it was that vanished vomit went.

Reaching out with her mind, she conjured up a soft cloth, got it wet, and then began to scrub Bucky’s face while he squirmed like a foal, trying to get away from Celestia and her ministrations.

“H-h-h-hook.” Bucky’s words were a stammer, spoken through chattering teeth as Celestia scrubbed his face.

Berry Punch wrapped her foreleg around Bucky’s neck, trying to get him to hold still. “He’s freezing. I’ve never felt him this cold. It’s like he’s dead.”

“Don’t say that!” Thistle cried, sounding almost hysterical.

Cadance let out an ear piercing wail and struggled in Belisama’s embrace.

“Rats inside… rats eating me… crawling out,” Bucky said, spittle flying from his lips.

Her lips pursed together, Celestia wiped away the spittle. The cloth vanished, whisked off to the laundry. Celestia fired off another useful spell, this one to rid the room of the sour vomit smell.

Cadance shrieked again and this time, the light bulb in the lamp beside the bed shattered, plunging the room into darkness and causing Thistle to cry out in pain.

A warm golden glow from Celestia’s horn lit the room. Saying nothing, she shoved Bucky and Berry Punch aside before she crawled into bed with them. Using her well cushioned backside, she wiggled in, pushing and shoving until she had her own space. Pulling every pony and the griffoness in the bed close, Celestia wrapped her wings around them, her head held high in the darkness, keeping the shadows away.

A pacifier popped into existence and Celestia stuffed it into Cadance’s mouth.

Spitting the pacifier out, Cadance wailed again, kicking and thrashing.

Pulling Cadance from Belisama’s embrace, Celestia then dropped Cadance beside Bucky and hoped for the best.

“I heard screaming.”

In the doorway stood Tourmaline. She was not wearing her glasses or her disguise.

“Come here Tourmaline,” Celestia said in a firm voice, glad that Cadance was starting to quiet. “Get into this bed with us. There’s room.”

Stumbling, Tourmaline made her way to the bed, climbed up, and then tried to not step on anypony or anybirdy as she hunted for a spot to lay down. She let out a startled cry when she felt cold metal clamp around her leg. Frightened but not hurt, Tourmaline fell down into Bucky’s embrace.

“Don’t let them get me…”

“Mama I can feel something crawling around inside of him!”

Celestia, fearing the worst, gritted her teeth, realising this was no mere nightmare. “CLOSE YOUR EYES!”

Waiting for a moment, hoping that eyes were indeed closed, Celestia settled her wings over Cadance and the others, trying to shield them.

“Mama something is chewing on his insides!”

BEGONE!” Celestia’s horn flared as bright as the sun and the shadows retreated from the room. For a moment, there was no darkness, no dark shadow, the room was cleansed in warmth and light.

After waiting for a moment, Celestia asked, “Tourmaline… is it gone?”

Opening her eyes and lifting up her head, Tourmaline looked around, her insectoid eyes glittering in the golden light from Celestia’s horn. She tilted her head for a moment and ran her foreleg along Bucky’s neck.

“Tourmaline… tell me, is it gone?” Celestia repeated.

“I don’t feel anything… he’s just cold. The cold hurts me, mama.” Tourmaline’s voice was a frightened squeak.

“Is everyone okay? Is anyone blinded?” Celestia asked.

“I’m good,” Berry Punch said, pulling her face away from Bucky’s ribs. She blinked a few times. “I had my face pressed up against Bucky and my eyes closed. I still saw the light.”

“I’m good,” Thistle said, reaching up to rub her eyes.

Belisama, who was under Celestia’s wing, had her own wings wrapped around her head. Her voice was muffled when she said, “Is Cadance and Bell Heather okay?”

“I covered Bell with my body… I don’t know about Cadance,” Thistle replied.

Cadance, still crying but not wailing and shrieking, clung to Bucky’s neck. Celestia lifted her wing and looked at Cadance, hoping her eyes were okay. Bucky was panting and his eyes were open. His mouth was pulled back in a rictus of pain, exposing his teeth.

“Bucky?” Celestia stroked him with her wing.

“It hurts.” Bucky’s voice was a low shrill whine.

“Mama, he’s freezing.” Tourmaline reached out, patted Bucky, and then touched Cadance. “She’s so scared right now.”

Celestia became aware of little eyes peering at them through the door. A crowd had gathered. Nervous, scared herself, Celestia took a deep breath. “He’s fine. He had a nightmare. Please, give us some time alone. I am sorry, I know you are all worried, but we need time.”

After giving the crowd one last moment to peer in, Celestia closed the door with her magic and locked it. She took another deep breath.

Knowing what Bucky was, knowing about his well hidden nature, Celestia began to radiate heat, warming the cabin and warming Bucky. She looked at Berry Punch. “You know what your husband needs.”

Berry Punch’s ears pinned back and her eyes narrowed. “But you’re here and Tourmaline is here. This is awkward enough.”

“I can explain it to Tourmaline and Bucky has a need. Would you deny him?” Celestia softened the glow of her horn and took a deep breath, trying to restore calm within herself. She and Luna had gone though many bitter arguments about telling Bucky’s family about Bucky’s disease.

Bucky’s curse.

Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, hearing Luna’s words within her head. Luna, who had already told Sentinel the truth and then flaunted it that she had been right, Sentinel still loved his father, uncaring about his father’s condition.

Umbral sanguisuge.

Sombra’s fell shadow was using Bucky’s own curse against him, digging in, making it worse, bringing out Bucky’s own vampiric nature, agitating his disease, his curse, the horrible affliction that Sombra’s fell shadow had left behind, staining Bucky’s soul.

There was no stopping what had already begun. There was no way to stop what Bucky was becoming. There was only finding ways to appease it, to ease the symptoms of affliction without making it somehow worse. Celestia gritted her teeth, determined to keep Bucky from slipping further into darkness, or worse, succumbing to his curse in the worst way, becoming like Sombra and draining the lives of others to extend his own.

“Look, Berry, I know this is awkward, I know this might be embarrassing, but I am asking you to give Bucky what he needs… some comfort. We both love him, and neither one of us want to see him suffer.” Celestia’s words were soft, gentle, a suggestive whisper, revealing none of her inner turmoil.

Reaching out her wing, Celestia pulled Tourmaline away from Bucky, ignoring Tourmaline’s feeble struggles to hold on, and she situated Tourmaline away from Bucky, placing Tourmaline on the other side of her body. Turning her head and looking away, Celestia waited.

After what seemed like a short eternity, Celestia heard the sounds of suckling, which made her blood run cold. A shiver crept from her dock and traveled up her spine. She was forced to bury her feelings of revulsion, reminding herself how much she loved Bucky. A little milk was better than the alternative; blood, or even absorbing the life force of another, drawing it out in ethereal form, becoming shadow and preying on your victims from the inside.

Umbral sanguisuge...  shadow leach. The words haunted Celestia’s mind.

Celestia, the embodiment of the sun, could not wait for the thawing of spring so the hunt could begin for Sombra’s remains. She hoped that Bucky would endure. She began to fear it would take a concerted effort.

“Mama, I feel funny, something feels off mama, I—”

“Hush Tourmaline, not now. I will explain later. Try to go back to sleep,” Celestia said.

Spring was a long ways away.



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