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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“I can’t do as you have asked… he hates me…”

Lugus, reaching the end of his patience, gave Boadicea a rough shove, sending the cub sprawling. Aware that Bucky was watching, but not caring if Bucky might get irritated, Lugus growled and raised his wing in a threatening gesture. “Do it now or you will get a thrashing, do not test my patience little one. Cowardice does not become you.”

Boadicea, who feared that Lugus might make good on his threat, collected herself up from off the ground. During her bath last night, large patches of her clumped and matted fur had fallen out. Feathers had been scrubbed free. She looked as awful as she felt. She looked up at the big pegasus, blinked, and then ducked her head low in submission.

“Bucky… what have you done to my Tartarus tabby?” Keg Smasher asked. The big pegasus looked worried and his ears were perked forward.

There was no reply.

Gulping, her throat feeling far too dry, Boadicea crawled forward, feeling very vulnerable, exposed, and ugly. “I have come to beg for your forgiveness and to apologise. I know you are very busy and that this is a special day. Just a moment of your time is all I ask.”

Keg Smasher dropped his head down low and eyed the griffoness cub as she flattened herself out on her belly before him. “Well then… do go on.”

“I killed some of your soldiers… I was scared… when they captured me I was very afraid and I did not want to be captured… I had heard stories… and I had seen the heads on pikes—”

“Perhaps that was wrong o’ me… I’m right sorry you saw that lass… mistakes were made on both sides,” Keg Smasher said.

“I didn’t want my head on a pike… I was so scared… I’m sorry… I was asked to surrender and I just couldn’t.” Boadicea closed her eyes and squeezed her talons into fists.

“It was war, lass… there was a whole lot of killing.” Not knowing what else to do or say, Keg Smasher stood there.

“I’m sorry that I stabbed you—”

“All is forgiven lass.” Keg Smasher’s voice was kind.

“I’m sorry that I set you on fire—”

“Aye, that was a real shocker, I wasn’t expectin’ that,” Keg Smasher said in a low voice.

“I’m sorry I pissed on you… that was dishonourable of me…”

“Lass, you are not the first pissed off female to piss on me… I could tell ye a story and it involves yer king...”

In the background, Bucky sniggered.

“I was a very poor example of an honourable griffon prisoner. I had an opportunity to show you that we are an honourable species with a proud and noble martial history, and I squandered an opportunity for me to grow, build character, and prove to you that my species are worthy foes. I acted like a cub and I have shamed myself. I have made myself look bad and I have brought shame upon all my kind…  I beg—” Boadicea choked on her words and let out a pained squawk. It took several tries before she could speak again. “I beg you for your forgiveness and for you to take pity upon me. I was a foolish cub and I did very stupid things.”

“Damnit, what have you lot done to my Tartarus tabby? For feck’s sake, she’s bloody crying… Lugus, you shriveled arsehole, did you beat her or something?” Keg Smasher demanded as he stared at the giant griffon, one of the few creatures that were even larger than Keg Smasher was.

“He talked some sense into me… his words hurt more than any beating. I was a bad cub and I was chastised.” Laying on the floor, Boadicea began to weep.

No one moved to comfort her.

“Lass, I forgive you…” Keg Smasher’s voice held the hint of pain as he looked down at the bawling cub.

“Why did... you... spare me?” Boadicea asked between sobs.

Keg Smasher lifted his head up high. “Lass, you were canny, you showed signs of having a mind… the others… the others were sick in the head. Not right. They were all mad… barmy… bloody feckin’ lunatics… they had themselves a sickness and they had to be put down.”

“Why do... we go... crazy?” Boadicea asked, still sobbing as she curled into a little patchy looking ball of misery.

Bucky, stepping forward, moved with surprising speed as he approached Boadicea’s side. “You’re aware of this madness? This sickness?”

Boadicea hiccuped. She lay there, curled up, shivering with both emotion and from the cold. After a few minutes of sobbing, she pulled herself together. Keeping her eyes squeezed shut, she said, “They stopped caring about their honour. They did not clean themselves. They became filthy. They had no thought or reason. They forgot how to read, how to write, and music no longer soothed them. They became beasts, some of them.”

“You are aware of this problem? Why didn’t you say something when we spoke last night after your bath?” Bucky asked, looking more than a little irritated.

“To admit such a weakness is to bring shame upon us all,” Boadicea replied as she broke down into more sobbing. Her beak clacked and clattered as she shivered with violent force.

Lugus sighed. “We do not admit to weakness, sickness, or anything that might make it appear that we are at a disadvantage. This has been our undoing. Our species has almost gone extinct because of this stupidity.”

“Will somepony get this poor cub a blanket?” Keg Smasher said, looking around with one arched eyebrow.

“I suppose she has earned a blanket,” Lugus said in a low hissy voice. “And her breakfast. I will see that she is well fed.”

 

 

Pacing, Bucky looked at Keg Smasher. “Do you think they will arrive? Today is the day after all… I’m worried, they should have been here yesterday.”

“Weather is bad. Some big storms have blown in. They’ll either be here today or we’ll do this tomorrow.” Keg Smasher sighed and his face became downcast. “I feel bad for her Bucky, it makes my bleedin’ heart ache like a rotten tooth.”

“She stabbed you. She set you on fire… and other things apparently.” Bucky looked at his friend and could see Keg Smasher’s pain.

“Eh, those things happen. I’ve been stabbed before and no doubt I’ll be stabbed again. Ye know full well what I’m talking about… what I’m feeling right now is worse than a stabbin’ cause it hurts down in the cockles of me heart. I dinnae like it.”

Bucky snorted.

“Don’tcha snort at me ye scrawny git or I’ll have ye tossed out the damned window.”

Laughing, Bucky looked at the window and then back at Keg Smasher. “She’s a pitiful little mess. She’ll clean up well. I think what she needs is some time spent as a cub. She probably won’t get it, but I still think it will be good for her. In time, I think she will heal up from this and be okay.”

“So tell me, oh great Pompous Pontificatin’ Prince Prissy Pants, did you heal up from all of this? Are ye okay? Are ye better? Are any of us really okay, or we just big goofy clowns that laugh and say ‘feck all’ to show that we are okay while we’re really cryin’ like wee bairns on the inside?” Keg Smasher sat down and stretched out his left wing. “Last I heard, ye were having yerself a bit of a nervous breakdown. Ye hung some arsehole city officials off of a roof and after they shat themselves in terror, ye dropped them. Nasty thing to do to a pony… think they wake up at night, scared, sweating, drowning in freshly pissed beds, having themselves a terrible dream about some pissed off cyclops with one glowing eye come to claim their souls? Ye think in time, they’ll heal up from that and be okay?”

“Fair point, friend, fair point.” Bucky reached up and adjusted the wolf headed torque that wrapped around his neck.

“I ain’t better… I still remember the wolves Bucky… and I remember getting torn up and facing the undead. They healed my body, and I’m thankful for that, but my mind ain’t been the same. It is like I have a splinter in my brain and it just keeps working its way in deeper rather than coming back up to the surface. And then the griffons came. It started off as a few hunting parties… scouts. We’ve had that kind of trouble before… but then it became an invasion… it got bloody. You weren’t here calling down the fires o’ the sun and burning away our enemies… we fought with muscle and sinew… they had guns. The first few engagements were slaughters. We were real glad to see the zebras arrive… so thanks for that, I guess.”

“It wasn’t any easier on me Keg… be careful what you say,” Bucky said in a low whisper.

“Aye lad… I’m sorry. But we ain’t okay. No amount of time is gonna fix what’s wrong with us, you and I. We’ve killed so much and so often that we’ve broke our equine natures.  As for her, as for yer new wee cubby, for as long as she lives, she is gonna remember every horrible thing that happened here.”

“Horrible things happened everywhere.” Bucky hung his head and stared down at his own talons. One of them began to tap on the floor.

“The lunar pegasi of these isles are no more. The last of them fought fang and hoof to defend us all. Sentinel and Moonbow are the last of them, that and any that Luna keeps. We took some serious losses.”

“I’m sorry.” Bucky felt a strange pain, something so deep inside that for a moment, he worried that it might be his soul aching.

“I don’t want ye to be sorry… I want ye to tell wee Sentinel and Moonbow that they have a duty to send some of their foals back to these isles.”

“I will do that.” Bucky wondered how he would break this news to Sentinel. Sentinel would act okay, being the little stoic that he was, but Bucky knew that Sentinel would not be okay.

“Bucky, I don’t know how to tell Celestia… or Thistle—”

“Tell them what?” Bucky asked, interrupting.

“Bucky… what few kelpies we had… and there weren’t many left, let me tell you, I think the griffons found them on the isolated islands where they lived. The griffons had captured a fair number of the outer islands. When we reclaimed them, we found that the lochs had been fouled. Poisoned. I think they’re gone Bucky. I’ve sent parties out to look for them.”

His ears drooping, Bucky’s talons clenched into a tight metallic fist.

“Look after my wee kelpie…”

“I will,” Bucky said in a low whisper.

“Look after the wee cub too… she deserves better than she got.”

“Her future is entirely up to her and the choices she makes. She got to sleep in a warm bed last night… don’t tell Lugus I said anything, but she ended up leaving her bed and crawling into bed with him. Lugus gave me quite an earful this morning, shouting about how wrong it was that a cub her age had crawled into bed with him and that everybirdy would get the wrong idea if they heard about what happened. He doesn’t want his honour besmirched. He didn’t kick her out of his bed though.”

“Lugus is a good sort.” Keg Smasher heaved a sigh, the sort of sigh that could only come from creatures his size.

“Keg?”

“Yes Bucky?”

“What do we do if there is no more war or conflict in this world? What if it finally ends? What would we do if peace finally happened? What becomes of ponies like us?” Bucky asked.

“Easy lad… we take a millstone, tie it around our murderous necks, and we take the last vestiges of war down to the bottom of the sea with us. But since this world will never know peace, we ain’t gotta worry,” Keg Smasher replied.

 

 

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