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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Hearing the sounds of many claws on stone and the rustling of feathers, Bucky allowed himself a smile. It had taken long enough. Trying to make small talk with the griffoness cub had proved impossible.

Much to Bucky’s surprise, it was Magpie leading the gaggle of griffons. He moved to intercept her, to say a few things about the situation and give her a warning, but before he could say anything he was shoved aside by the somewhat larger hunter griffoness that was now his nanny.

Magpie, having reached the cub, began to examine her. Magpie was fearless. Reaching out, she grabbed the cub by the beak and begin looking her over, checking her face, and then poking her side with a talon, angling the pointy tip of her claw away.

“Which one of you did this?” Magpie squawked as she pulled the cub’s head forward for a closer look. She let go of the cub, which Bucky still held immobilised with magic. “This is fresh. Who did this? Tell me now!”

Bucky pointed a single talon at Lugus.

There was a flurry of feathers and squawking as Magpie launched herself at Lugus, slapping him with her wings and saying the most vile sort of things that you would never want your nanny saying around your offspring, the worst of which was a very colourful command containing vivid detail, telling Lugus to go and self-fornicate after a painful act of self castration and then eating his own balls.

Where ponies were herd animals and disputes were settled in very different sorts of ways, griffons were feline and avian. Hissing and yowling filled the room, most of which came from Magpie. Lugus, being the stoic that he was, blocked some of it with a raised foreleg but did nothing to fight back.

The griffoness cub stared at the violence with wide eyes.

“Really, we are a big happy family… this is just a squabble… I hope,” Bucky said.

 

“That’s enough of that,” Belisama said.

Magpie halted in mid swing, her wing inches from Lugus’ face. She pulled back, bowing her head, and backed away from Lugus. She folded in her wings and reaching up with her talons, smoothed back her crest.

Surrounded by the other little griffons, Belisama sat up on her haunches.

Sensing opportunity, Bucky seized the moment. He pointed at Belisama. “Your queen,” he said to the cub.

“She’s a slave griffon—”

“Ahah! Well now… the truth comes out.” Bucky reached out and smoothed back some of Magpie’s wing feathers with his right hoof. “She is a slave no longer… we call them artist griffons… or little griffons.” He pointed at one of the males. “I call this one Lugnut. Beside him is Spanner. Both of them are fabulously gay. That is Sprocket and this one is Cog. Those adorable little cubs are Lugnut and Spanner’s cubs.” Bucky pointed to each in turn.

He sprung forward and snatched up a griffoness with his magic. “This one is fat and fluffy because she is so well fed. Look at her. She’s adorable.” Reaching out his talons, he gave the griffoness a tickle on her ribs, which made her explode with laughter. When he set her down, she scurried off and hid behind Belisama.

Approaching Belisama, Bucky smoothed out the feathers on the side of her face. “And this is my wife… Belisama, whom I love dearly. She had just a cub, Bandua. Our cub. Bandua is wrapped up and tucked away in this shawl.”

“I…” the cub said and then fell silent.

“As you might notice, Belisama is about half my size. Which means I had to be very careful with her while we made Bandua. She is very dear to me, I would never want to hurt her.” Taking what he knew was a calculated risk, Bucky released the griffoness cub.

Realising she was free, her wings unfurled and she flexed her talons, revelling in the ability to move her body once more.

The little griffons all moved around Bucky, pressing in, forming a tight group around him and Belisama. Little beaks opened. Crests raised. Little talons clenched and feathers fluffed out.

The cub froze, realising she was in terrible danger of being ripped to pieces. She saw it in their eyes. They were afraid, but this was not the good sort of fear, the sort of fear that kept them in line. This was the fear that made them dangerous and unpredictable. She looked at the lone hunter griffon in the room, Magpie. There was a long dagger held in her talons, a cruel looking danger with a barbed tip. A gut puller.

She made sure to sit very still, afraid to even breathe.

There was a faint scraping of steel as the dagger was put away, back into whatever secret sheath that Magpie kept it tucked away in.

“Bandua represents the hopes and dreams of our kind… you had best be on your best behaviour, little cub.” Magpie cocked her head, watched, and waited.

“I don’t understand any of this,” the cub said in a fear filled voice.

Lugus, sitting in the corner, began to chortle.

“You invaded Griffonholm… you murdered us by the tens of thousands. We gave you hospitality… you led us away into slavery… you were the terrible butcher that slaughtered our kings as they begged and pleaded for their lives…”

“Minotaur shit!” one of the little griffons said, stepping forward. “Since when do hunter griffons beg for anything? Your honour wouldn’t allow it… you… you… you…” the little griffon grabbed ahold of Bucky, clinging to Bucky’s talons, squeezing them and looking very afraid. “You… you’re stupid!” When the last word left his beak, he hid his face into Bucky’s ribs and trembled, his courage exhausted.

“Stupid!” several griffons repeated, pressing tighter together as they spoke.

“Cat-brain!”

“Eater of sand treats!”

“Hey… that’s enough of that,” Bucky said in a voice that almost cracked. He pressed his lips together and his nostrils quivered as his barrel began to heave.

“You are unfit to hunt rats!”

Lugus’ laughter echoed throughout the cellar.

“String chasing ninny!”

“Okay, that’s enough, there is no need to be ugly. She’s a cub!” Magpie said, chiding the little griffons while waggling her talons at them. She turned to look at the cub. “Would you like some food?”

“You were going to stab me a moment ago,” the cub replied in a low nervous squeak.

“I wanted to make it very clear that I will not allow Bandua to be harmed. I’m her nanny.” Magpie took a step closer to the cub. “I take my job very seriously. Bucky didn’t have to spare me, but he did. He has been very good to me and I care about him a great deal.”

Feeling shrewd, Bucky felt a smug sense of satisfaction in knowing that the cub felt overwhelmed and was taken off guard. Months of being in a cell had left her vulnerable.  He could see it, the panic in her eyes, the tiny pinprick pupils, the way she trembled. The griffons loyal to Keg Smasher were suspect and far too martial, so of course she wouldn’t trust them. But these griffons… these griffons, the ones she called ‘slave’ griffons, the words coming from her own beak, these had been enough to batter down her defenses.

“I am your king. You are my subject. More importantly, you are a cub. That puts us in a very special relationship. I am responsible for you as your king. You are going to eat now,” Bucky said as he rose to his hooves and began to approach the table. “You are nothing but bones and you have patches of fur falling out. You are going to eat. You are going to get a bath, because by the stars, you stink… and you are going to behave yourself little cub. Am I clear?”

“You are not my king,” the cub said, her eyes blazing with defiance once more.

All around Bucky, he heard the fluttering of wings as the little griffons flapped around, placing food upon the table. He grinned, showing fangs. “You just made my evening. You see, there is nothing I find more satisfying then feeding my foals. Bathing them. Making sure they are full, well fed, and clean. It can be a challenge sometimes, Harper tested my patience… you know what?”

“What?” The cub gulped, feeling very afraid all of a sudden without being able to explain why. There was something maniacal and terrible about the unicorn in front of her.

You are no Harper…

In the corner, Lugus fell over, laughing fit to split. He clutched his sides as he rolled upon the dirty floor, his guffaws filling the room with echoed laughter.

“I need somebirdy to go upstairs and begin to run a bath. Get the water boiling.” Bucky paused and looked at the cub. “Oh, not to worry. We won’t boil you. I’ll add cold water until it is pleasant before I dunk you in there. I wish Bon Bon was here. She’d scrub your skin off and if you sassed her, she’d probably paddle you with the scrubbing brush, because Bon Bon don’t take no guff. She’s paddled me with a scrubbing brush for being a bad pony.” Bucky’s eyes narrowed and his Taint filled eye oozed purple mist. It gleamed with a frightening crazy intensity.

“Did we mention that our king is mad?” a little griffoness said as she picked up and hugged Cog, squeezing the tiny cub.

“Who else makes slaves his chosen subjects,” another said.

Lugus was wheezing now, struggling to breathe.

Fearing a fate worse than death, the cub let out a frightened squawk. “I’ll be a good cub!”

Bucky lunged forward, coming snoot to beak. “Give me your word.”

“I give you my word!”

Shaking his head, Bucky frowned. “Not good enough. Swear on your honour as a hunter griffon. Do it, or so help me, before the night is over, I will dress you in whatever pyjamas I can find, I will tie little pink ribbons all over your body, and I will read you stories as I tuck you into bed!”

The cub shrieked, a wordless sound of terror. She jerked back away from Bucky, almost tipping her chair over, and she screamed bloody murder when Bucky grabbed her to keep her from falling over. Reaching up, she wrapped her talons around Bucky’s talons and squeezed.

“Swear it!” Bucky demanded.

“I’ll be a good cub! I’ll behave! I swear on my honour as a hunter!”

Taking a step back, Bucky smiled. “You’re going to need a guardian. Somebirdy to keep track of you, keep an eye on you, and make sure that you don’t get into to much trouble as we try to straighten you out and get your head screwed on straight.”

The cub was terrified. Bucky could see that she was on the verge of breaking down. Overwhelming her had been a wonderful idea. He waited, silent, saying nothing, allowing her own fear to continue to wear her down.

“I just want to see the sky again,” the cub said in a small voice. “It’s been months. They clipped my wings so I couldn’t escape.”

“Nope. No sky for you. Not until you’ve earned it.” Bucky felt a tug on his talons.

“I want to be around other griffons… I’m alone,” the cub said.

“And you will continue to be alone until you have earned my trust. You’re going back into your cell after you’ve had dinner and your bath. It will give you time to think about being a good cub.”

“No…” The cub’s eyes were filling with tears. She glanced at the food on the table.

“Tell me your name.” Bucky looked the cub in the eyes. She was shaking now.

The cub shook her head.

“My name is Bucky… now come on, tell me your name. If you don’t, I’ll just use my magic to go inside your head and find out what it is anyway,” Bucky said.

The cub’s eyes went wide. “If I tell you my name, will you let me sleep someplace soft and warm tonight?”  

“You fail to understand bargaining. See, I can just take whatever it is I want from you. If I want your name, I can make you tell me your name. You dropped down from the ceiling and ambushed my best friend. You’ve been a very naughty cub. And now, you are trying to bargain with me.” Bucky’s horn glowed with a soft blue-green light. “I guess it is time to just take what I want from you… I will see that you are fed, that you get a bath, and that you are placed back in your cell when all of this is said and done because a cub that drops down from the ceiling to ambush my best friend can’t be trusted—”

“My name is Boadicea!”

“Very good… now we are getting somewhere. And how old are you?” Bucky asked, his horn dimming.

“I’m a scout. I’m capable of taking care of myself.”

“See, we started to make progress, and then you got stubborn. You must really like sleeping in that cold cell with no fire and no warm place to snuggle down.” Bucky looked the cub in the eye and continued to stare her down, beating down her will.

“I am nine.”

Bucky nodded. “Noted. One very capable, very deadly nine year old hunter griffoness. Who is also a cub and is scared shiteless about going back into her cell and is crying because she wants to see the sky again.”

“I’m not crying,” Boadicea said as she wiped her eyes with her wings.

“You are going to need somebirdy to make sure that you behave when and if I decide to let you out of your cell.” Bucky noted that the cub was no longer looking him in the eye, but kept glancing towards Magpie.

He turned to look at Magpie. “Hmm… Nope. Magpie is my nanny. She’s gonna be busy looking after all of my little ones. I have a better idea.”

“Who?” Boadicea asked.

“Lugus.”

The big griffon stopped laughing.

The little griffoness cub quailed from terror.

“Eh, what was that? What was that I just heard, my king?” Lugus asked.

Magpie burst out into raucous laughter, pointing a talon at Lugus as she threw back her head and howled from mirth.

“Boadicea, you are going to sit down and have a nice meal. Afterwards, Magpie is going to give you a bath. And when that is done, Lugus, you are going to sit down with Boadicea here, you are going to be civil to one another, and you are going to apologise for cracking her head into the stone floor and making her bleed. As for you my little cub, you are going to apologise to Lugus for trying to ambush him, for calling him a ‘blood traitor’ and when everything is said and done, Lugus is going to tell me if you were being sincere, which will help me make up my mind where you are sleeping tonight.”

“But he hates me… I said awful things… he’ll say bad things just so I have to sleep in the cell again and—”

“You are not endearing yourself to Lugus right now,” Bucky said, cutting the griffoness cub off. “You are insulting his honour by making these assumptions about his character. He already looks very cross with you.”

“Maybe it would be better if I just stayed in my cell. I’ve done bad things. Nopony or nobirdy trusts me… I’ve had to keep doing bad things because I knew that no one would trust me after I was caught and I killed a few ponies and griffons and I just wanted to be free again.”

Reaching up, Bucky wiped at Boadicea's eyes with his soft fetlock. “You survived a war. Bad things happened on both sides. You were scared for your own life and you made some terrible mistakes. Now you think you have to keep making those mistakes because it probably feels like you have nothing left to hope for, nothing left to look forward to, nothing but that cell and confinement for the rest of your days… right?”

Boadicea nodded. “I was trapped…”

“I know,” Bucky said.

“They put me in chains and beat me because I was just trying to protect myself. They clipped my wings.”

“I know.”

“I never wanted to be a scout.”

“You didn’t?”

Boadicea blinked away tears. “It was join the army or become a breeder… what else was I supposed to do?”

“You had nothing but bad choices and you ended up here. Are you willing to earn your freedom again?” Bucky asked.

“What do I have to do?” Boadicea asked.

“Well, you start by apologising to Lugus. After that, you work to earn the respect and trust of Lugus and I. Maybe get to know your new queen. Maybe teach yourself to never say the words ‘slave griffon’ ever again. Stop trying to be a tough little hunter for a while and try being a cub once more,” Bucky replied.

“But he hates me,” Boadicea said in a low shuddering whisper. “He’s a warrior… I’m a hunter and that makes us—”

“Both griffons,” Bucky said in a firm voice.

Boadicea bowed her head.

“You are in a world of shite right now, little birdy. You have no idea how much trouble you are in and what your future might be. Right now, your best bet would to gain Lugus’ trust, be his friend, and get him to see some potential in you… otherwise, after all of the trouble you have caused, you are going to be in a cell for a very long time. So choose now. Servitude until you earn your freedom, or you answer for the deaths you’ve made happen by staring at the same four walls for a very long time.”

Boadicea looked at Lugus and saw that he was staring at her. She glanced over at her cell. She looked at the food on the table. “You are my king. I will do what you ask of me.”

“Good cub. That’s a good start. Don’t feck this up. Don’t try to escape. Don’t be stupid.”

 

 

 

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