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 next few days onboard the ship were days of quiet reflection and loving bonding, as well as one day completely lost to a hangover, where the most exciting thing done was crawling out of bed to reach the toilet. The aftermath of the epic bender did have one comedic consequence though. Berry Punch had awoken the next afternoon staring a cyclopean entity right in the eye, and it had been Berry happy to see her.

When land had been spotted, it had been Sparkler that had given a cheer, Eventually, they docked, disembarked, and then stood trying to take it all in. The family and their few possessions were loaded into a waiting wagon pulled by two big earth ponies, and then carried through a large city built around the harbour.

The city was the first sign of something being terribly wrong. The city was filthy. The ponies were dirty. Dung lay in the gutters of the street. The air reeked of urine and worse. There were surprisingly few foals running around. Coal dust and soot covered everything, leaving it dingy black and grey. Not many of the buildings had glass. The stench was eye watering and made the nostrils burn.

Derpy’s only reaction to the absolute destitution and poverty all around her was to begin weeping and clutch all of her foals close. Bucky and Berry both tried to console her, but the grey mare would not be comforted. The reality of the possibility of spending the rest of their lives here began to sink in.

Near the edge of town where the cobblestones ended, the roads turned into cesspits of filth, runoff from the town, deep feculent muck that squelched and slurped rudely at the legs of the earth ponies and the wagon wheels. Their progress became tedious and slow as the two ponies struggled to pull the wagon free of the filth and reach the soft dirt country lanes that lay outside the city.

None of Berry Punch’s words had properly prepared them for their experience. It was simply unbelievable until it was seen, and then it became something you wished you didn’t know.

Eventually, they reached the soft dusty roads outside of the city, and their pace picked up. The city and its stench faded behind them. Dinky and Piña sat in quiet shock. Up to this point in their lives, they had believed the world to be a good and happy place. That illusion was now gone, and they were forced to deal with the reality that the world had some very unhappy places. More than anything, both of them wanted to go home now, back to Ponyville, back to someplace clean and wholesome.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

The wagon rolled through pastoral farmland, rolling green fields, and the sight was a balm to the eyes after the horror of the city. Little stone cottages with sod roofs dotted the landscape. Tall oak trees stood in rows, some of them containing giant gourds nestled in the stouch branches, tucked away into solid sturdy crotches and forks.

The giant gourds were very much like birdhouses, except that the occasional pegasus flew out of them, off to do errands or somesuch. Some of the pegasi population hung out in trees, watching over the earth ponies and their stone cottages below, wary weathered eyes watching for any sign of danger.

As they continued down the dirt lane, they passed a funeral, a group of ponies getting ready to bury the departed, something small that was wrapped in a bloodied blanket.

“These lands ain’t safe,” one earth pony wagon puller said to the other in a thick accent, shaking his head and flicking his tail.

“Wonder if it was those thrice cursed wolves,” the other replied, watching the funeral as he pulled past.

“Not much left to bury by the looks of it. Something ate the poor thing,” the first said in reply, a hint of anger in his voice.

Dinky began to sniffle upon hearing the words and hid her head under her mother’s wing, she was shaking and quite afraid.

“Be warned, you lot, terrible wee beasties roam these islands. Foul things. They look like wolves. Howl like wolves. They ain’t exactly wolves though. More shadow than anything. They feed on fear as well as flesh. They’ll snatch any foal left unattended after the sun sets. You’ll be safe in the castle, but always make sure to be indoors and off of the moors before the sun goes down. These beasties ain’t natural,” the second pony warned.

“There are also giant eagles. Always keep an eye pointed upwards during the day. Usually, they stick to the coastlands, but occasionally, the sea does not provide and they go looking for pony flesh. Be warned,” the first pony added.

“Thank you,” Bucky replied, now looking upwards.  

Piña had joined Dinky, her head now hidden under Derpy’s other wing, trembling, and quite afraid. Berry Punch looked sullen and worried. She gently stroked her sibling, trying to comfort her and soothe away her fear.

After what felt like hours, a lake came into view, a vast wood, and beside the lake a large fortress-like castle stood guard over the surrounding countryside. Tall towers, thick walls, solidly built and well defended no doubt. A small village lay sprawled around the castle. The air stank of smoke and worse.

As they neared the outskirts of the village around the castle, they saw another funeral. Two larger bodies covered in shrouds were being committed to the earth. A group of mares stood crying nearby, and a small herd of foals huddled beneath their legs. There was no stallion among their number any longer.

“More wolves?” Bucky asked.

Neither pony pulling the wagon replied, but one had nodded and the wagon continued ever onwards. They moved through the village and the sour smell of dirty ponies and sewage assailed their nostrils.

 

 

The courtyard was large and full of soldiers. They stood at attention, and it was obvious they were on display for guests. Their armor shone with a mirror finish, their coats were glossy, and the soldiers consisted of all three tribes. Every single one of them looked hard boiled and ready for violence. Some had missing eyes. Some had missing ears. One pegasus was missing a wing.

Berry Punch rose solemnly when the wagon halted and saluted them, which the soldiers returned, honest looks of appreciation upon their faces. They had a thankless job, and at least one pony had showed them the proper respect  they were due.

“Keg Smasher approaches!” somepony shouted.

Bucky and his herd, now on the ground and out of the wagon, gathered together, turned, and watched as the largest pegasus they had ever seen approached. Tall, hard looking, his barrel as broad as a wine cask, legs like tree trunks, Keg Smasher was intimidating. He was grinning hugely, revealing several missing teeth, and there was a near manic gleam in his eyes.

“Welcome to my humble home,” he greeted, only the faintest hint of an accent in his voice. “I’ve heard so much about you all from the big dame Celestia.”

“Thank you for having us,” Bucky said, easily slipping into courtly manners. “We are most appreciative of you having us as guests in your home directly and for the trust you have placed upon us.”

“Aye… Lord  Buckminster,” Keg Smasher replied, raising an eyebrow and perking his ears forward. His wings fluffed slightly and his head was raised as high as possible.  

“The title is completely unnecessary. I’ve- Look, I let that part of me go. The only title I crave any longer is ‘father’ and nothing else,” Bucky answered.

“Good lad,” Keg Smasher grunted, his posture relaxing. His head dropped a bit, his wings settled, and he seemed more relaxed somehow. “I like being a father too. I have me a dozen wives. And a whole bunch of little foals I love to roll around on the floor with.”

On the outside, Bucky did not react. He remained as impassive as a statue. On the inside however, he recoiled, his mind having trouble the notion of a dozen mares. He had trouble keeping up with Derpy and Berry Punch.

“Look, I want to get right to the point. What is it that you want from Berry Punch and by extension, us? I’d like to know. Right now if possible. The sooner we know what we are dealing with, the sooner we can sort this out and we can go home,” Bucky insisted.

“A bit hasty you are there lad,” Keg Smasher replied. “I was going to give you a few days to get settled in before dropping that on you.”

“Now is good. I am pleased with now. I am settled,” Bucky stated in a very authoritative voice that made Keg Smasher scowl.

Berry Punch tensed. This was not the meeting between Bucky and the Laird that she wanted. While Bucky had eschewed the title of Lord, he was still acting very much as though he was in charge, and challenging Keg Smasher’s authority. She cast her eyes to Derpy, who also looked a little flustered, the mare had her feathers puffed out, trying to look much larger than she really was. Berry flinched internally as she realised that Derpy had slipped into a challenge posture, legs stiff, head high, wings fluffed, and her teeth slightly bared. Berry hoped that this did not end in violence, but it certainly seemed possible. Keg Smasher challenging Derpy’s mate had set the grey pegasus mare off, and she was ready to try and give a good thrashing. Her tail twitched aggressively and she made little grunts as she breathed. Berry began to worry.

“Go fetch my sweet wee Thistle, and no damn lollygagging!” Keg Smasher barked.

Bucky felt his muscles tense and something nagged at the back of his mind. Why would Keg Smasher be fetching a pony?

“What I want is simple. I am more than willing to sit down and attend the peace talk, and sign my name for a fair treaty this time, but I want something in return. I want you to take one more pony into your herd. I want Berry Punch to look after her,” Keg Smasher explained.

“What?” Berry Punch asked.

“Huh?” Derpy harrumphed. A low growl slipped from deep in her throat afterwards.

“I beg your pardon?” Bucky said, moving to a much more defensive posture.

“I want you to take another mare into your herd. I need her looked after,” Keg Smasher said, all traces of his smile gone.

“Why?” Bucky inquired.

“Because she is special to me, and I need her protected,” Keg Smasher answered without explaining anything.

“Is that her?” Derpy gasped, looking at a filly being led to them. She was a pale blue colour, and her mane and tail looked like seaweed. Not hair, but actual strands of seaweed, broad flat strands of what appeared to be green living plants. “That is no mare!”

“Yes she is,” Keg Smasher insisted, now sounding annoyed. “And yes, that is her.”

“No! She’s Sparkler’s age! She is as young as I was when I had Dinky,” Derpy gasped in astonishment. “No!”

“Old enough to breed makes you a mare,” Keg Smasher replied, looking somewhat angry now, his face was as dark as a stormcloud.

“She is my age,” Sparkler said in hurt tones.

“She is with foal,” Keg Smasher growled.

Silence fell upon the group, nopony saying anything anymore. Thistle stared at them curiously, still looking hopeful. Keg Smasher looked annoyed and angry. Berry Punch looked confused. Derpy was angry and continued to become more so. Dinky and Piña huddled under Derpy’s legs, worried about everything around them. Bucky looked thoughtful. Sparkler leaned against Rising Star and looked frightened. Rising Star looked shocked and his mouth hung open.

“Why us? Why is this so important? Explain why we are necessary. Perhaps if we know more, we will be receptive as to why this needs to take place,” Bucky said.

“You can’t be serious,” Derpy hissed.

“Be calm my little storm cloud,” Bucky soothed.

“No!” the grey mare growled, all of the short little hairs along her back rising. “I have no intention of being calm!”

Keg Smasher looked at Thistle, who nodded slightly.

“Well, you see, Thistle isn’t a pony. Well, not exactly. She is, but she isn’t. She is a kelpie. On land, she is a pony, but in fresh water she grows a tail and swims. And her kind are almost gone. She is a rare prize of mine, something I treasure a great deal. Something very dear to my heart. The little rabble rouser you see over there, she snuck off to the mainland and got herself in trouble. She was taken advantage of. Once she became of breeding age, she’s made it her mission to try get fat with foal, so she skedaddled off to the mainland, got sweet talked into thinking she was married, taken advantage of, and then abandoned,” Keg Smasher explained. He took a deep breath. “And then came home heart broken and begging my forgiveness. She wants to leave these isles and live on the mainland more than anything. So, I need a group that can help her raise her foals, I need her to have a good husband and a fine group of fellow-wives that will look after her, and keep her safe. She is darn near the last of her kind. The mainland isn’t known for being to welcoming of herds, but here you are. A herd. With a powerful and dangerous unicorn, a hard assed pegasus that clearly wants to murder me in front of my own troops, and Berry Punch, the Warmonger of Ponyville.”

“I see,” Bucky said. “And what if we refused?”

“Well then, the war goes on, and you lot get to live here forever,” Keg Smasher replied with a huff that made his cheeks bulge out.

“Look, you must understand, she is very, very young,” Bucky said, trying to appeal to Keg Smasher’s reason. “There is no way Princess Celestia would agree to this sort of marriage back on the mainland. There are laws… look, fillies do get pregnant, but to openly marry one, I would be committing a crime…”

“Princess Celestia knows and approves. So does Princess Twilight Sparkle, one Princess Luna, who thinks this is a marvelous idea, and one Princess Cadance, who believes that this wee treasure of mine could be loved and cherished by all of you and know a happiness like no other,” Keg Smasher replied in a smug overbearing voice.

Bucky sighed.

“All you gotta do to go home is marry my little wee pretty thing. And you can leave at any time,” Keg Smasher said enticingly.

“So you would let this war continue if we said no?” Berry said snidely.

“Forever!” Keg Smasher shouted. “I’m tired of having my hoof forced into giving away everything I have at somepony else’s whim! This time, by damn, I will have something in return for what I have to offer!”

“I understand,” Bucky replied, causing the entire group to fall silent.

“You can’t be serious!” Derpy said after a few moments. She reached out and gave Bucky a painful pinching nip with her teeth, causing him to yelp.

“Look, I am just saying I understand his position, I am not agreeing to anything, not yet,” Bucky explained.

“Not ever!” Derpy growled. She reached out and nipped Bucky again, and this time he cried out in pain.

“Look, I know you are upset, but biting the dung out of me isn’t helping!” Bucky scolded, glaring at his mate.

Derpy hung her head in shame, but continued to bare her teeth.

“Look, pretty pegasus mare, try to see it my way. Thistle is nearly extinct as a species. There are no male kelpies. Only females. She needs to have a lot of foals to even have a small chance of having another kelpie. Only female foals have a chance of being a kelpie, and there is only a small chance of having all of the ideal conditions met. I need her protected. And before me, I have a unicorn that held off an entire damn town of ponies to keep two foals safe, a half crazed warmongering mare that set off this conflict as a mad display of love and affection, and then there is you, you angry little thundercloud, who is already trying to protect her from all harm and you don’t even know her,” Keg Smasher said in a gentle soft voice. “And lass, please stop biting him. I can see those welts from here. You’re going to feel bad about those later.”

Derpy’s anger changed to confusion. “What you say does make a little sense, but I am too flustered to understand a lot of words right now,” she admitted. “And Bucky is a good husband and a father… but she is too young. Too young. She is Sparkler’s age.”

“What if Rising Star and I were married and took her in?” Sparkler asked.

“No!” Derpy said, her wings flaring out and her legs twitching. “Sparkler, no! I forbid it!” Derpy protested, her tail swishing. Sparkler hurried away from her mother, out of nipping range. She had never seen her mother quite like this before.

“No lass, I am sorry, but I don’t know much about you or your lad. While I am sure you are both fine ponies, and you are probably a damn good pony considering your mother, I just don’t think you can protect what I value most. No offense, sweet lass, but you are very kind to offer,” Keg Smasher replied graciously.

“I understand,” Sparkler said. “You must love her a great deal. Are you her father?”

“No, but I am her caretaker. I promised her mother I would see her married,” Keg Smasher answered.

“What happened to her mother?” Rising Star asked.

Keg Smasher drooped, his proud stance completely gone. With a loud thud, his backside hit the cobblestones in the courtyard. “Unpleasant business that. When the sweeps took place, Thistle’s mother took Thistle and hid themselves in the bottom of the loch. All of her other foals were rounded up and taken. She had to make an impossible decision. She chose to save Thistle and keep her in the one place where they could not be found. After the unpleasant business was over and she found out that every single of one of her foals had been taken, she was never the same. About a year later, she threw herself into the sea. Salt water is lethal to kelpies,” Keg Smasher explained, looking grief stricken and sad.

“Bastards,” Berry hissed.

“Come here,” Bucky said to Thistle.

“What are you doing?” Derpy demanded, baring her teeth.

“Look, please, be calm,” Bucky said, nuzzling the aggravated snorting pegasus, hoping she would not bite him again.

Thistle approached the group, her head low, casting nervous glances at Derpy, worried about the agressive mare.

“I make no promises about marriage, but I will give you a fair chance to get to know us, to speak with us, to spend time with us. I do not agree with this. You are young… and I don’t know how to deal with that,” Bucky said, looking Thistle in the eye.

“I’m not that young!” Thistle snapped. “I’m having a foal, which means I am no longer a foal!” The flustered filly calmed slightly. “Do you think I’m pretty?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.

Bucky backed away, caught completely off guard. Thistle stepped forward. “I am very direct in what I want. Does that bother you? I have obligations. I am almost the last of my kind. I need to get started as young as possible and have as many foals as possible so that there is some chance of keeping what I am alive for just a little longer. I don’t care how it happens, or what I have to endure, or that it might hurt me, or any of those things. All I care about is that somepony ruts me every chance I have so that I can squirt out a foal, and hope that the foal is female, and a kelpie. I will be your slave. I will look after all of your other foals. I will be your housemaid. I will do anything you ask of me and more. All I ask in return is that you rut me regularly and keep me fat with foal,” Thistle offered.

Bucky could see her teeth. The kelpie had fangs. It unnerved him and made him shudder. Her breath reeked of fish. Her mane did in fact look like weeds. She didn’t have hair at all, but actual plants. He spotted a budding bloom in her tangle of weeds just behind her ear, the faint pink of the bloom just beginning to show through the green casing.

“This is crazy,” Berry Punch muttered.

“This can’t be happening.” Derpy whimpered. “I need to have a quiet place to settle down  before something bad happens. I keep biting my husband.”

“I can show you to your quarters. I am keeping you in the castle where it is safe,” Keg Smasher said. “Follow me.”

 

 

There was a large room. And that was it. There was a pile of hay in the corner, fresh hay. There was a fireplace that burned bales of compressed peat. And nothing else.

“Where will be my foals be staying?” Derpy asked, her breathing heavy and uneven.

“Why, here of course, with you,” Keg Smasher said, looking confused.

“What about privacy?” Derpy asked.

Keg Smasher looked terribly confused for a moment and then broke into a grin. “You don’t rut in front of your foals!” he bellowed. “Hah! How is a foal supposed to know what is important in life if you don’t let them watch how you live yours? My foals, all of the wee little buggers, sleep in a pile with my wives and I. Most of them don’t even wake up when the activities commence. Little fillies learn what is important from watching, little colts learn what is expected of them, and everypony understands where they come from and the essence of what is important in life. Making more ponies!”

“UGH!” Derpy grunted, closing her eyes. She pushed past Keg Smasher looking disgusted and quite angry. She stomped into the room, settled into the hay, pulled Dinky and Piny closer to her, covered them with her wings, and settled in.

“I wouldn’t bother her any further. She’s nesting,” Bucky whispered.

“I see that lad, and something about her scares the piss outta me,” Keg Smasher breathed in a low voice. “There are pegasi, and then there are pegasi,” he added. “Oh, speaking of pegasi…”

Keg Smasher gave a loud whistle that echoed down the hallway and then stood patiently waiting.

“Pegasi?” Bucky asked.

“I am assigning you an errand colt,” Keg Smasher replied.

“Errand colt?” Bucky asked. “What is his name?”

“Oh, he doesn’t have a name. Just say ‘lad.’ That is what that word is for after all. All the nameless ones.”

“No name?” Berry asked.

“Well, he is an orphan. He earns his keep running messages, doing errands, fetching things, grabbing buckets of water, all that stuff. He is being groomed for good manners. He would probably have been taken in the next sweep, but now, thanks to you Berry Punch, there are no more sweeps. So I don’t know what else to do with him,” Keg Smasher explained.

“No more sweeps,” Berry muttered, her tone one of relief. “No more sweeps?”

“No. Celestia said no more sweeps. The treaty is broken. The sweeps are over. Never again,” Keg Smasher replied, sounding pleased.

Berry Punch stood in shock for a moment, silent, and then exploded into tears. She stood, looking very confused, looking around, sobbing and bawling, and then she ran into the room, piled into the hay with Derpy, and continued to cry her eyes out.

“A lot of us had the same reaction,” Keg Smasher whispered quietly. “Myself included. Damnable treaty is no more. No more sweeps, no more penalty taxes, no more interfering. When we sign the new peace treaty, there will be no concessions offered. Just a signature of peace.”

Bucky nodded, peering through the door at his mares, both of whom were now crying. He felt awful.

“Ah, here he is. He stays a little sleepy during the day, but he’s a good lad. Earnest. Hard worker,” Keg Smasher said.

“That’s a lunar pegasus!” Bucky exclaimed.

“Yeah, we have a few. His mother was solar and his father was lunar. Both died fighting those damnable wolves,” Keg Smasher grumbled.

“You called?” the colt asked.

The lunar pegasus colt was a few years older than Dinky and considerably larger. His pelt was sooty dirty brown, and his wings were a dark dusky blue. His mane and tail was the colour of old rust, a dark dingy reddish brown.

“You are to look after these ponies. Run their errands, fetch them whatever they ask for, look after their littlest foals, and make yourself useful. Can I trust you to do that?” Keg Smasher asked.

“Yes sir. Of course sir. Anything you ask of me sir. I am eager to serve,” the colt replied, bowing slightly.

“Good lad,” Keg Smasher praised. “I’ll leave you two to get to know one another,” he said to Bucky, turning to leave. “Dinner is in a few hours. I’ll be sending somepony to collect you.”

And with that, Keg Smasher was gone, spreading his massive wings and taking off, flying down the wide hallway.

“Hello,” Bucky said to the colt. “I don’t know what to call you.”

“Well, I will answer to most anything. Most just say ‘lad’ or ‘laddie’ but some say ‘you there’ or ‘fang face’ so… really, anything,” the colt responded.

“Well, I can’t have you going around unnamed,” Bucky said.

The colt shrugged.

“Are you supposed to stay with me?” Bucky asked.

The colt nodded.

“I guess that makes it easier to give you errands or give you messages to take,” Bucky reasoned. “Look, I have no plans to treat you badly or anything. I’d imagine you are a bit scared right now.”

The colt heaved a sigh of relief and sat down, looking up at Bucky with wide yellow slitted eyes, his ears folded back against his skull.

“I’ve never seen a lunar pegasus up close before,” Sparkler said slowly.

“Thank you,” the colt said.

“For what?” Sparkler asked.

“For not calling me a bat pony. It is disrespectful,” the colt answered.

Sparkler nodded and looked at Rising Star, who was also studying the colt.

The colt yawned, exposing a mouth full of sharp teeth and long fangs.

“Would you like a nap?” Bucky asked.

“No sir,” the colt replied, “I am on duty. I await your orders.”

“Well, I am going to into my room, I am going to settle into that pile of hay, and then I am going to get some rest before the big dinner that is planned for later. Come settle in with us,” Bucky invited.

“Yes sir,” the colt responded.

Bucky sighed. Some serious adjustments were going to have to be made to adapt to life here on the Isles. He had no idea what to do about Thistle. Or the nameless colt. Derpy was an emotional mess. Berry wasn’t much better at the moment. Sparkler and Rising Star both looked like they were in shock.

Bucky realised that he was the only one holding all of the pieces together, and that scared him more than just a little bit.

Sparkler and Rising Star moved into the room, the colt followed, and Bucky trailed along after them, closing the door behind him.

Derpy was settled in the hay with Berry, their necks entwined, they were laying chest to chest, necks wrapped around, heads resting on each other’s withers. The foals were under Derpy’s wings. Sparkler lay down close to Derpy, and Rising Star settled in a short distance away, looking quite shocked about sleeping in hay. The unnamed colt stood, unsure and a little afraid, looking at the group. Bucky planted a hoof on the colt’s backside and shoved him closer to Berry Punch, where he settled in and layed down, not too far away from the plum coloured mare.

Bucky went to the window and looked out, staring out at the village below, the woods nearby, and the rolling green fields. He turned and faced his family, and his errand colt. “One moment,” he said, his voice low. His horn flashed and he easily levitated the lot of them. The hay was compressed into a ball, and the ball flashed, becoming a large wide mattress. It was thin, and not very fancy, but the simple transmutation spell had done its job. Turning a rock into a tuxedo was not very practical, but rearranging the molecules in a pile of hay into a mattress was useful. He gently lowered the ponies back down to the mattress and stood gazing at them, all of them now quite wide eyed and stunned.

“I’ll make a better one later when I have more to work with,” Bucky promised, rubbing his head, which now hurt. His horn smoked and felt hot. He noticed the smoke coming from his horn and felt mildly concerned. “Sorry there are no sheets,” he added.

“That was amazing,” the colt gasped, his bat like wings flaring outwards slightly.

“That was something,” Piña agreed.

“That was deep magic,” Dinky said. “I could feel it. Made my teeth tingle.”

“Yes Dinky, that was deep magic. You'll be able to do this someday if you study hard and dedicate yourself,” Bucky replied to his foal. “Now settle in, and have a nap.”

Bucky settled himself in next to Derpy and Berry, easing himself down on to the mattress, and then he planted a kiss on each of his mares. “We will endure this,” he promised.

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and began to calm himself.

 

 

 

 

Author's Note:

And now, a super sized chapter to get you started for the Shetland Isles arc.

 
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