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 Scorned Mare seemed almost empty. The little griffons were off doing whatever little griffons did when Bucky wasn't looking. Bucky wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He strode down the hall, his hooves dragging, the sound of his own hooves on the floor boards forming a staccato rhythm with the thudding in his head.

He came to a halt outside of Violet’s door. The mare, who was approaching middle age, refused to live without modern conveniences like electricity and plumbing. After wincing for a moment, trying to clear his head, Bucky knocked.

There was no reply. He knocked again after waiting for a moment.

Still no reply.

Feeling only a twinge of guilt, Bucky pulled down on the latch and opened the door. The cabin was empty. He stood in the doorway, looking in, and there was no sign of his assistant. The mare that kept everything running. The mare that was supposed to tell him what he needed to do today.

Pulling the door shut with a soft click, Bucky turned and headed down the hall. He went down to the next door and knocked. Raven’s door. He waited, making funny faces that nopony saw to cope with his pain, and there was no reply. Cringing, Bucky opened the door, ready to apologise for disturbing Raven… and the room was empty.

He departed down the hall, turned left at the intersection, went down the short hall, and went down the stairs to the cabins that were below his own, the cabins with the large windows that faced out towards the rear of the ship. Celestia had insisted on plenty of natural light.

At the bottom of the stairs, Bucky froze.

It smelled like ponies screwing down here. It clung to his nostrils; the scent was thick and strong in the air. Musky. Mare musk. Bucky sniffed, inhaling, filling his lungs, not even aware that he was doing so. Instincts were a difficult thing to deny.

He took a single step, his hooves going silent as his shadow nature manifested in the dim hallway. Taking a deep breath, Bucky became an aspect of the darkness, the only evidence of his passing was a faint outline of his body on the wall beside him. He did this unaware of his own action, his desire for stealth pulling him down into the darkness.

On the wall, the faint outline of Bucky’s shadow moved forward, there was no sound, no trace of his passing. The dim lights of the hall flickered as living darkness began to overtake them. The shadowy outline of Bucky was lost in the darkness.

From Celestia’s cabin, he heard giggling.

He heard sounds.

After a moment of recovery, Bucky’s only thoughts were of Tourmaline. Where was she and who was watching her? Panic made every nerve in his body scream in agony. If Celestia was busy, and it was clear that Celestia was busy, where had Tourmaline gone?

Frightened, worried, feeling the sort of fear that only a parent or an adult concerned about the very small and the very helpless, Bucky delved deep into his willpower, locked on to Tourmaline’s faint magical signature, ignored the thudding in his head to gather his focus, and then he shadow winked, not wanting to give himself away just outside of Celestia’s door.

 

 

Standing in the snow, Bucky looked around him, his panic almost causing him to slip into a frenzy. His talons flexed in the snow. What would Tourmaline be doing out here in the snow with nopony watching her?

“Help help… up more!”

Bucky whirled around, hearing Tourmaline’s voice. A large hulking figure was holding her, lifting her up high. Bucky took a deep breath, trying to shove down his panic. He drew a ragged shuddering breath.

It was Lugus. Bucky realised that he had almost disintegrated Lugus. He took another deep breath. He watched as Tourmaline stabbed an icicle into the head of a snowpony, turning it into a unicorn. Still panting, he fell over in the snow.

“Hi Bucky… you feeling okay?” Tourmaline asked as Lugus set her down on the ground.

Taking another deep breath, this one a painful wheeze, Bucky nodded. “I’m fine. I sort of worried because I couldn’t find you… you scared me.”

“Bucky, you don’t look well,” Violet said, drawing nearer.

Raven, standing beside Violet, looked down at Bucky. “You are supposed to be relaxing. Now go back inside, get warm, and don’t make us tell Celestia that you’ve been out here in the snow having a panic attack.”

Feeling very confused, Bucky looked at Violet and Raven. He started to speak, but his words came out in a stammer. “B-b-b-but both of you are—”

“Both of us are what?” Violet asked, cutting Bucky off mid-sentence.

Bucky blinked. “Never mind. I made a mistake. All of this has been a mistake.”

“You’ve been under a lot of stress Bucky… it is easy to make mistakes in your condition,” Violet said in a soft voice full of concern.

“You seem surprised to see us,” Raven said.

“I thought you were… well nevermind what I was thinking, I thought you were someplace else. I found your cabins empty and I… well… nevermind… just never mind, I made a lot of mistaken assumptions. I’m going inside. Clearly I am not well.” Bucky took another deep breath and rubbed his eyes.

“Bucky, go rest. It is okay to let down your guard here. Just go rest, have a nice time, spend time with your foals, and stop worrying.” Violet stepped forward and gave Bucky a smile. “We’re right here, looking after Tourmaline. That’s why we are not in our cabins.”

“Yeah… we’ve been out here this whole time… it’s not like we can be in two places at once,” Raven said in a teasing voice. She laughed and gave Violet a nudge.

“I’m going inside,” Bucky said as he trudged off in the snow. “Maybe have something warm to drink… some tea… yes, tea would be nice.”

 

 

“You look out of sorts.”

Bucky lifted his head. The voice was gruff, raspy, full of gravel. “Lord Wrecker?”

“Nuh uh, lad, Vice Governor Wrecker now, and don’t you forget it.”

Relief. A familiar voice. The voice of a friend. Somepony he knew.

Blinking, Bucky turned to look at the pegasus in the doorway. Wrecker was covered in a cloak. His withered scarred muzzle was visible. “How have you been? I didn’t see you last night.”

“I kept to myself. Kept myself warm in a bed full of earth ponies. Needed rest. Heading out today. Some of the fleet is departing now that there has been a little rest and relaxation.”

“No fighting I hope… looking after the plague victims?” Bucky asked.

“No.” Wrecker did not elaborate.

“So something unpleasant I guess.” Bucky looked at the pegasus and felt concern.

“We have a vessel that has been converted into a prison ship. We’re heading over to Fancy and Germaney. We’re going to be picking up some trouble makers, shipping them back here, and then there is going to be a trial. Gonna be bad business… they’re already guilty and this is just a formality.”

“I see.” Bucky peered at Wrecker. “Do you have to kill them?”

Wrecker peered back at Bucky. “Yes. Honestly, hauling them back here is a waste of time. We should just kill them and be done with it, but there has to be records. It has to be written down in some little book… what they did… their names… the evidence of their guilt—”

“There has been so much killing… so many of the guilty have already been killed. Must we be butchers? Can there be no mercy?” Bucky looked into Wrecker’s diminished visage, hoping to find some spark of gentle equinity.

“Majesty, I beg yer pardon, but there has been too much mercy. The fact that these… monsters still draw breath, still drink water, and still eat food is a thrice damned travesty!” Wrecker was spitting he was so angry and his remaining wing fluttered beneath his cloak.

“What did they do?” Bucky asked.

Wrecker glared, his thin scarred lip peeling back from his crooked teeth in a sneer. “They were operating a mine. A mercury mine… they were using captured zebras and ponies as miners and cart pullers. Do you know what mercury does—”

“I know full well what mercury does.” Bucky stared at Wrecker. “See that the prisoners are brought here and placed on trial. We must do the right thing, even if our enemy does not. I would rather cast them into the sea and drowned, but it would reflect poorly upon us if that happened.

“Sir… there were foals that we recovered from that mine… most of them still died even after everything we did to help them… a trial at this point—”

“IS ENTIRELY NECESSARY!” Bucky panting, shook his head. Seething with anger, he gritted his teeth for a moment. “There has been enough butchery for now. We have far more dangerous enemies to contend with. We must show the world what happens in these instances. I will make sure that the press comes here in droves. The Shetlands are an inaccessible place, but if need be, I will pay for their transport out of my own coffers. We make this a very public trial and we show the world how we deal with those who would do such despicable acts. We take every word they speak in their own defense and we let the world hear it. We let the public listen to everything, read every word spoken in the courts.”

Wrecker snapped to attention, his face stern and grim. “Do you promise?”

“Yes, I promise I will make this as public as possible. I give you my word. If I must, I will ship them up here myself in The Scorned Mare. But we must do the right thing… whatever the right thing is. Sometimes, I just don’t know anymore.”

“Sometimes, I don’t know what the right thing is either. I will tell the troops of your promise. It will lift their spirits and brighten their moods. Most of them aren’t happy about this. Especially the griffons…” Beneath his hood, one of Wrecker’s ears flickered.

“What about the griffons?” Bucky asked.

“There’s a lot of hatred in the griffons… I mean, real murderous hatred. We have ourselves some trouble here. The griffons here… our griffons, they have a real hatred of their own kind. I’m worried about keeping them in line on this trip,” Wrecker replied.

“I’ll go and talk to them myself,” Bucky said.

“Aye… you do that. I’ll feel better if you do that. You being one of their kings and all.” Wrecker looked at Bucky. “Speaking of griffons… watch out for the demon Tartarus spawn cat we keep in the cellar. She’ll kill you just as soon as look at you.”

“I'll be careful,” Bucky promised.

 

 

The dining hall was still closed, still being cleaned. Bucky entered into a smaller common room and stood in the doorway. There were a number of ponies, griffons, zebras, and even a minotaur packed into the room. The room’s primary purpose was a nursery.

A large quilt was spread over the stone floor. A number of foals were playing on it, some were napping, and one of those foals was Bucky’s. Cadance was sitting on her haunches, looking somehow majestic and regal on a cushion. Her wings were spread out just a bit, enough to look important, and there was something solemn about her expression as she looked at the other foals.

Trotting through the room, Bucky never took his eyes off of Cadance. He came to where Thistle was laying down, nosed her, sat down beside her, and then had a better look at Cadance.

“What is she doing?” Bucky asked.

“Berry Punch says that Cadance is being an alicorn… she’s watching over her subjects and keeping them safe,” Thistle replied.

Bucky nodded. “Oh.”

“I have no idea how Berry Punch came to that conclusion.” Thistle reached out and stroked Bucky’s hind leg. She felt it quiver beneath her touch.

“Berry… she just knows these things. I’ve learned to trust her instincts.” Bucky flopped over, coming to rest against Thistle, mindful not to land upon her leg. “Where is Berry?”

“With Magpie, making googly eyes at Bandua most likely. Belisama is sleeping.” Thistle cleared her throat. “Bucky?”

“Yes? What do you want, love?” Bucky replied.

“I want to see my old loch… I want to take Bell with me. But I need your help. It’s cold out there,” Thistle said in a low voice. “I was hoping you could use your magic to keep us warm.”

“I can do that. You don’t plan on going for a swim, do you?” Bucky looked over at the kelpie beside him. He wanted to say something perverted, let Thistle know that he had plenty of ways to keep her warm.

“Oh no… I hadn’t planned on it. I just… I guess I just wanted to say goodbye.”

 

 

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