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


570. 570

The couch was occupied by none but himself. Laying in the pony loaf position, Bucky watched everything around him. Some of the little griffons were making music, still trying to make the magic happen. What the magic was, well, it was anypony or anybirdy’s guess, but they had been told they would know it when it happened. Broom and Door were sitting in the middle of the flock of griffons, and Broom was holding Sprocket.

Thistle was on the floor and trying to get Sukari to play patty cake, but the zebra appeared to be overwhelmed. Sukari just layed there on her back, staring upwards at Thistle and doing nothing much at all.

Lugus was with Celestia, Raven, and Violet, and the card game did not appear to be going well for Lugus, who was hunched over the table and looking out of sorts. Lugus, a warrior, chopped the heads off of things he didn’t like, or stood up against impossible odds, or battled banshees. Sometimes, in his off hours, he juggled foals. Cards, and all of the nuances of whatever card game he was playing, appeared to be lost on Lugus. Celestia had a gracious smile, Raven looked rather smug, and Violet was grinning with open malice in such a way that any treacherous griffon might have been proud of.

“She and I have a lot in common.”

Bucky blinked, almost startled. He turned his head. Boadicea had crept up on him. He had been warned about that. She was sitting on the floor not too far away. In the warm room, she was still wearing a cloak, her hood was up, and she was wearing a scarf that looked new; perhaps it had been just knitted.

“The little zebra… I do not know her name, forgive me.”

“Sukari…” Bucky was still trying to get used to the strange word.

“Sukari.” Boadicea repeated the name and her shiny black eyes closed for a moment. When they re-opened, they were narrowed, almost slits. “She and I aren’t so very different. Expectations.”

Feeling intrigued, Bucky gave the griffoness cub his full attention. “Do go on.”

“I can’t think of the word for it, but I was made to believe a whole bunch of stuff. Growing up in the sand, I took a lot of beatings. Hard heavy discipline. And every day I was told stuff. Over time, it was easier to do and say the things they wanted from me than it was to take a beating. And I just sort of went along with whatever was expected of me… then I came to the Shetlands. I came here and saw the war up close… I saw what the ponies were doing… I saw the heads on pikes… and some of those heads were griffons I knew.” Boadicea fell silent and her feathers fluffed out.

Extending his right foreleg, Bucky patted Boadicea on the shoulder.

“It confirmed everything I had been told, or at least I thought it did. When I was taken, when I was captured, I saw my head on a pike. And I figured I wouldn’t make it easy for them.” Boadicea looked over at the zebra foal. “Now we’re both scared, just trying to figure out what is going to happen next, not knowing what is going to happen next because we’ve been made to believe that the worst is going to happen.”

Bucky turned his head and looked at Sukari.

“I know what we do to them,” Boadicea said. “And I am ashamed that I know it.”

One tiny hoof raised, a timid feeble gesture, and Bucky’s whole body tensed as he watched as Sukari pressed her hoof against Thistle’s.

“I was never a part of that… what they did… making the captures, the profligates, making them submissive. Teaching them the way of things. I was always told that it was a temporary measure, something that was regrettable but had to be done for the survival of all. That there would be time to be kind later, but for now, we needed the grass eaters to know their place and labour. We branded them and then we did to them what we did to ourselves. Strip what made them what they were away and make them fall in line. After we had won the war and we were the rightful rulers of this planet, we would have time to be kind and at that point, they would be born knowing their place and this cruelty would be unneeded.” Boadicea swallowed. “Life in the sand was hard. Nasty. All of this was justified as survival. I was told that ponies and zebras were born lazy, like all other profligates, and we had to give them a work ethic for their own good. The greater good… the survival of all.”

“And what do you think of this now?” Bucky asked.

Boadicea shrugged. “I don’t know. Sounds like so much dung. I had a lot of free time… just sitting in my cell and thinking about life. There was nothing else to do but plan and plot my escape or my revenge. Or think about my life up to this point.”

“Do you really believe that such a little zebra foal needs a stronger work ethic?” Bucky asked in a very low voice.

There was a soft click from Boadicea’s beak. She stared, looking at the tiny zebra. With her beak closed, in a voice every bit as soft as Bucky’s, she replied, “Little yearlings like that… they don’t know their own strength. They get tied to a mine cart and they stand there and cry. That gets nothing done. So they are whipped. And each day they are tied to a cart and whipped until they go. After a time, they are tied to a cart and there is no need to whip them. You tie them to the cart and they go… and go… and keep going until they drop over from exhaustion hours later. After what is called ‘honest work’ is achieved, they are scooped up by the keepers, hauled back to the reward pens, and given a measure of grain and water. They wake up, they get food, they get water, they might get a kind word, and they are tied to a mine cart again. The keepers believe that we must teach them this at the youngest age possible for the sake of kindness. It is much harder for the adults to submit and reach the point of honest work. It isn’t about how many rocks you haul, it is more about you hauling rocks. The yearlings can’t pull a big cart, but a whole bunch of little carts with just a few nuggets or rocks will also eventually get the job done.”

His skin crawling with revulsion, Bucky looked at Sukari. “If you tied her to a cart…”

“She might go. I don’t know anything about her.” Boadicea bowed her head down, her face hidden under her hood. She pulled her cloak around her tighter.

It took Bucky a moment to realise the griffoness was crying. He saw eyes… the others were looking at him. He saw raised eyebrows, raised crests, worried looks, looks of concern.

And then there was Lugus, whose expression was blank.

All Bucky could register in his mind was that a cub was crying… something young and hurt. Using both his magic and his forelegs, he grabbed Boadicea. She squawked, startled, and tried to get free. Bucky, never one to be denied, wrapped his forelegs around her and used his magic to make her go still. She kicked, squawked, peeped, yowled, and even growled.

And then, Boadicea went still, collapsing into Bucky as she began to weep.



“Would you like some chocolate covered crickets? Or maybe some salted caramels with toasted coconut and mealworms?” Bucky gave Boadicea a little squeeze. Using his magic, he lifted her cloak and wiped at her eyes.

“Ask Lugus if I am allowed.” Boadicea bowed her head down and shivered.

“See… it doesn’t quite work that way. Lugus is my second in command. While he holds a mind boggling amount of authority that he wants nothing to do with, it does not change the fact that I am in charge. So I am offering you a little something to make you feel better.” With a pop, a plastic container appeared.

With another pop, the lid was pried off of the plastic container and Bucky reached in with his talons. Not looking at what he was grabbing, he pulled out a salted caramel with toasted coconut and golden brown toasted to perfection mealworms.

“Are you gonna eat this or what?” Bucky asked. “See, I can’t eat one until you eat one, there are rules here… and I really want one.”

Boadicea’s beak opened, either to protest or to accept food, Bucky didn’t care; he tossed the treat in and then reached into the container to grab another treat for himself.

“Mmm.” Boadicea’s beak closed and the cub melted down as she held the candy in her beak. Shivering, pressed up against Bucky, without realising what she was doing, she wrapped one foreleg around him and pulled herself closer.

“See, I can make you loyal. I can make you do the work I want you to do. And make no mistake, I am making plans for you. I can make you do everything I request that you do and I can do it without resorting to the lash,” Bucky said around a mouthful of dark chocolate and cricket legs. He lifted up another candy, a cricket this time, and offered it to Boadicea. “Never allow any griffon smaller than you to come to harm… serve me. Do my bidding. Protect all of those smaller and weaker than yourself. It is such a simple thing… really. You will get your honour back. And you will get this… a chocolate covered cricket.”

Boadicea’s eyes narrowed.

“This chocolate covered cricket is figurative. This is symbolic of what I have to offer. You’ll get a lot more than this, I assure you. All I ask from you is honest work. All you have to give me.” Bucky gave the cub a squeeze and waved the candied bug in front of her beak, not caring that Lugus was giving him a peculiar stare.

“Are you saying I am a profligate?” Boadicea’s eyes never left the treat as it moved back and forth in front of her beak.

“Nothing of the sort… I am offering you fair exchange for your loyalty and your service.” Bucky heard the cub’s stomach rumble as the treat was held in a tantalising position in front of her beak.

“All that I have, all that I am, it is yours. I offer you my fealty, my oath, and my word as a hunter. My life for you if necessary.” Boadicea bowed her head.

Reaching out, Bucky lifted her head and tossed the treat in to her beak. “We do things in a different way. We can’t always make things right, but we do work very hard to make things fair. Look after all of the things I hold precious and dear to me.”



Celestia, reaching out, patted Lugus on the shoulder with her hoof. “See, I told you.”

Lugus fluffed out and his tail swished from side to side. He stared at Bucky and Boadicea on the couch together. Bucky was sitting up and Boadicea was clinging to him. He looked at the pair, feeling a funny emotion that he could not name, and then he looked at Celestia.

“But the importance of feeling as though she worked for it...” Lugus said, his words trailing off as he did not know how to finish his sentence.

Celestia gave Lugus a warm sunny smile. “Oh, I do believe that she feels that she has worked for it. Bucky has given her the option to spend the rest of her life working for it. He gave her the choice. She has accepted I do believe. Sometimes a little reward while you are working is a good motivator. Not all rewards or compensation must come at the end.”

“But if the reward is given, what will motivate one to keep going, to keep striving until the task is completed?” Lugus asked.

“Dedication to a cause,” Raven replied.

“The feeling, the need to be part of something greater,” Violet replied.

Lugus set his cards down. “This is like paying an artisan for their craft before it is finished and flies in the face of all I know.”

“You don’t pay them all at once… you pay a little here, a little there, and then you pay them again when they are done.” Raven shrugged. “Bills have to be paid. Food must be purchased. There is something that always needs to be done.”

“He is offering her service and she has done nothing to prove her worthiness, her loyalty, of if she is even fit for his service,” Lugus said in a low whisper. “She has not earned this.”

The large white alicorn sat up and became serious. “When a pony joins the guard, they are just the common pony off of the street. They have done no great things, achieved no great victories, done absolutely nothing worth mentioning. They are just common ponies. But they join the guard and some of them rise through the ranks. By joining the guard, they are given a chance to prove themselves. This is no different… Bucky is offering her a chance to prove herself and earn her honour.”

“This is wrong… honour must be earned first, one must be proven to be trustworthy, honourable, loyal, worthy of service, and then after much sacrifice and evidence of virtue, only then should one be offered what she was just given.” Lugus, looking unsettled, slumped down in his chair.

“But if a pony never joins the guard, it becomes so much more difficult to prove themselves as a soldier, does it not?” Celestia asked.

Blinking, Lugus’s crest rose. His beak clacked as he tried to process what Celestia was saying. He looked over at Bucky and then his head swiveled back to look at Celestia. “Bucky never joined the guard. He fought in a terrible campaign and bloodied himself. Now he is recognised as Knight Commandant, Admiral of the Endless Fleet. He fought in a war, proved himself, and was given a position.” Lugus’ talons flexed. “Or Keg Smasher… Prince Keg Smasher… Knight Protector of the United Isles and High General of Equestria. These titles have meaning because of the pounds of flesh these two have offered.”

“Both Buckminster and Keg Smasher rose to their positions because of their efforts, there is no denying that, but a common grunt could do the same by joining the guard. Bucky isn’t giving her prestige, or rank, or anything spectacular, just a chance to prove herself.” Raven leaned forward over the table, reached up, and scratched her slender neck with her hoof.

“But he is giving her the prestige by allowing her to serve him directly.” Lugus shook his head.

“I don’t understand this,” Violet said. She looked down at the partially eaten scone on the table, lifted it up, stuffed it into her mouth, and began to chew.

“To put it in your guard terms, she is not in the guard and learning what she needs to know from a well meaning buck sergeant. She has joined the guard and is now reporting directly to a member of the Triumvirate, bypassing all other ranks and positions.” Lugus, agitated, was running out of words to try and make the ponies at the table around him try to understand his position.

“I think I understand what Lugus is driving at,” Celestia said, her eyes narrowing and her muzzle taking on a few wrinkles of concentration. “You think that she needs more time serving at the bottom before being able to serve your king directly.”

“Yes.” Lugus nodded.

“Oh… so like an unproven secretary that joins a company and immediately reports to the CEO rather than start in the typing pool or the mailroom like everypony else… I get it now… yeah, that might bother me just a little I suppose.” Raven said. “These exchanges are always so fascinating… I think this is the best part of spending time with you Lugus… you never give up your position, you stubbornly stick to your point of view, and eventually we reach moments like this one.”

“I…” Lugus paused, reached up, smoothed back his crest with his left talons, and then he took a deep breath. “I want what is best for her. I must confess, in the short time I have known her, she has impressed me. She is smart, even by hunter standards. She is worthy of her corvid heritage, worthy of the black beak and black feathers, she is clearly a hunter that was meant to hunt by mind, not by might—”

“Lugus, I beg your pardon for interrupting, but would you mind explaining?” Raven asked.

“She is a hunter with crow or raven markings. She is smart… whip smart. Other hunters might be like hawks… or eagles… even owls. How many crows do you know that are savage hunters? They live, they survive by cunning… they are clever like Bucky is clever, those corvid types. She shows signs of possessing a brilliant mind but I doubt she will ever be strong and full of endurance. She needs to be in school. She needs to be learning. It is my hope that Bucky will have her attend school. She can read and write. She is clever, witty, and she can be charming. I want what is best for her.”

“You sound like a concerned father.” Celestia’s voice held the faintest trace of teasing.

“So what if I do?” Lugus said, cocking his head sideways in a most avian sort of way.

“Would you like to be?” Celestia asked, her teasing tone now gone and her manner blunt.

“What?” Lugus stared for a moment, blinked, and every feather on his neck poofed out.

“She is going to need a guardian because of her age. Or a parent. You are worried that she is now too close to the top and that she needs more instruction. You want her to be in school. You clearly want what is best for her. She needs somebirdy to teach her how to be a proper griffon and to teach her the new way of doing things. There is a whole lot to teach her. So why not you?” Celestia allowed herself a smug smile. “I figured I would let you keep talking about how you knew what was best for her until you gave me enough rope to hang you with.”

“You are treacherous. I have been tricked.” Lugus’ crest rose.

“This was Bucky’s idea. He mentioned it to me only in passing.” Celestia looked over at Bucky, who was sitting on the couch and sharing his bugs with a flock of gathered griffons.

Lugus’ head snapped all the way around and he glared at Bucky for a moment before returning his eyes to Celestia. “Is there no end to his treachery? I am his friend… yet he conspires against me.”

“Boadicea is still considered a prisoner of war. Right now, she is a capture. We have a few options. We get her a parent or a guardian and we naturalise her, or we raise her as a ward of our military forces until such a time that she reaches the age of reason and accountability. Upon reaching that age, we place her on trial and determine if she should be made to suffer for what she has done or if she is be pardoned and set free. Equestrian military law is a mess and we are trying to fix everything right now… Bucky however, has a different set of laws available. The law of his spoken word as king of the griffons. Bucky wants Boadicea to have a parent or a guardian and for her to be naturalised as a citizen of the Hippogriff Lunar Commonwealth Republic.”

“The what?” Lugus gave Celestia a blank stare.

“He hasn’t told you yet?” Raven asked.

“No.” Lugus, feeling confused, began to tap one of his talons upon the table.

“When we had to sign the papers to make the United Isles Treaty, we needed a name for the griffon empire. Tannis chose a name for his, the Hippogriff Solar Commonwealth Republic, and Bucky followed Tannis’ brilliant lead, agreeing that the merging of the two cultures was vital to the survival of the griffon race. This was before we left.” Violet poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher sitting on the table. Her horn flared for a moment and a few ice cubes appeared in the water. “Hippo and griff… not exactly a hippogriff, but a merger of the two cultures. Tannis was very animated about it from what I was told.”

“I strongly suspect that it was Agnetha who came up with the name and she wants her husband to look competent and clever. They do so much to help one another. Such a strong spirit of cooperation,” Celestia said, gazing off into space as she thought of home.

Raven offered Lugus an officious smile. “So Bucky wants Boadicea to have a parent or guardian of some kind. Somebirdy that will do what is best for her. Somebirdy who will apologise to her for slamming her head down onto the stone floor and making her bleed. Somebirdy who will spend the rest of his life serving as her protector as restitution for making her bleed all over the place—”

“Enough! I get it… I have been set up for subtle punishment and correction for the wrong I have committed!” Lugus’ wings flared out from his sides and he slapped his talons down upon the table. “I know when I have been outflanked and there is no hope in winning the battle. I surrender.” Defeated, Lugus settled into a sulk.

“Ah, politics and subtle machinations,” Celestia said in a breezy sigh.

“I just so happen to have the papers right here with me,” Raven said as she lifted her satchel beside her chair from up off of the floor. “I’ll need your signature in a few spots. I have two papers… father or guardian?”

Drumming his talons upon the table, Lugus glanced over at Boadicea and then rolled his eyes. “What is Yew going to do to me?”

“Depends. What happens if she finds out that you slammed her adoptive daughter’s head into the stone floor and made her bleed?” Violet grinned a horrible smile, a vindictive smile as she watched Raven pull papers from her satchel. Violet, in this moment, was Bucky’s secretary and there could be no doubt. She was brimming with sadistic glee.

Lugus’ eyes went wide with fear. He sat up, drawing himself to his full height. Every feather, which had been fluffed out, now went limp, causing much of Lugus’ visual mass to vanish, making him look much smaller.

“Yew doesn’t need to know. Make this easy on yourself Lugus, and do the right thing.” Violet, still grinning a horrible grin, pushed a pen in front of Lugus. “I would offer a Boadicea a bribe of some sort… purchase her silence and hope that she never tells Yew. Yew is a dirty fighter. I’ve watched her have a go with Ripple.”

“Give me the papers that will make me her father,” Lugus snapped through a closed beak. His tail, which had been swishing, was now limp against the floor.

“You got off light.” Celestia leaned over and placed her muzzle close to Lugus’ head. “I mean, this is a terrible punishment, but you got off light. I expect good things from Boadicea.”

“I will not disappoint you, your Majesty.” Hissing, Lugus snatched up the pen in his talons and looked down at the papers that Raven was setting in front of him. “I will do the right thing and I will serve.”

“Lugus…” Celestia smiled.

“Yes?” Lugus looked at Celestia, one eye squinted, the other wide.

“There is something I want from you…”

“Majesty, as one of your knights, I can refuse you nothing.”

“I want family photos… and I want to see her looking happy…”

“I will do as I am bid. I can refuse you nothing.”

Reaching out her wing, Celestia gave Lugus a soft pat as he signed the papers.



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