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 morning was bitterly cold. As cold as any day of midwinter in Ponyville. And this was indoors, in a room, with the fire burning a compressed peat bale. Any sense of privacy or personal space had been abandoned at some point during the night, and everypony had moved into one big pile, pressed against one another out of sheer necessity. There were not even any blankets.

Bucky resolved to make a few changes this day. It was time haul back a few rocks, make a few sofas and couches, some blankets, a better mattress or two, and a few simple creature comforts.

The damp condensation on the walls had frozen into patches of ice.

There was a low growl from within the pile that was unmistakably Derpy’s. No doubt she had just noticed what Bucky had noticed, and that was that Sparkler was entwined with Rising Star in quite an intimate embrace. Bucky really hoped that Derpy didn’t move suddenly. His potato sack was pressed against her delightfully warm wings, and they were the only thing keeping his most delicate area from the bitter biting cold.

It was at some point during his bleary examination of the grim morning situation that he noticed the figure by the window.

“Have you been there all night?” Bucky asked the colt.

“I promised wee Piña that I would keep watch over her while she slept and keep the wolves away,” the colt replied, his teeth chattering faintly. “I have kept to my oath.”

“You… you there, look, just get over here with us and get warmed!” Bucky insisted, his voice full of exasperation. He hadn’t been aware that somepony had slipped away from the pile during the night. “At least stand by the fire!”

“The fire offers little warmth,” the colt replied.

“Look, just get over here, now!” Bucky commanded angrily, rapidly losing his patience with this whole situation.

The colt walked over, stiff legged, but not out of a sense of challenge. It simply had trouble moving. Berry reached out and pulled him into an embrace, and she began to shiver when the colt’s cold body pressed against her own.

“You don’t have any feathers for insulation,” Berry muttered, sounding Berry miserable about everything.

“You stood watch all night over my foals?” Bucky asked incredulously.

“It was the right thing to do. I was being groomed for good manners and compliancy, so when the sweeps happened, I might be able to grow up and guard Princess Luna. Many of us do. I wanted to see what I was made of,” the colt said, now shivering violently as the warmth from Berry’s embrace began to seep into his body.

“You’ll make a fine sentinel someday, but for now, you are a colt. You pull a stunt like this again and I will work your backside over,” Berry threatened. “I mean it. No sitting for a week!”

“Yes ma’am,” the colt replied through now chattering teeth.

“You watched my foals,” Derpy said as she yawned.

“Sentinel,” Bucky stated. “If ever a name has been earned, it would be that one.”

“What?” Berry asked.

“I am calling him Sentinel,” Bucky replied.

The colt did not reply, but buried his head against Berry Punch and made odd grunting gasps.

“It suits him,” Derpy agreed.

“I think he’s crying,” Berry said, her face pinched with concern.

“Damnit, it is cold in here!” Sparkler hissed.

“Sparkler!” Derpy scolded.

“Colder than a windigo’s teat,” Rising Star stated poetically.

“It sure is,” Bucky agreed. “And your grave is going to be even colder if you keep spooning belly to belly with my Sparkler. Do I make myself clear?”

“As sheet ice,” Rising Star returned, rolling over and curling into a miserable ball.

“I have an overprotective daddy,” Sparkler announced in a matter-of-fact voice. “This is awesome. I don’t know how to react.”

“There are no words for how much I love you right now Bucky,” Derpy mumbled dreamily. She raised her tail and farted, once, twice, and then thrice. And nopony seemed to mind. It was warm.

“Is my pee gonna freeze?”

Piña’s voice came from somewhere beneath Derpy, it was muffled and somewhat smothered. It was the sort of innocent question that only a foal could ask.

“That is a very good question.”

Dinky’s voice also emerged from under her mother, and both of the foals were extremely grateful for the broody nesting pegasus for once, even if it meant being squished under the over-motherly mare.

“I understand now why herds developed,” Bucky grumbled.

“And that is?” asked Berry.

“To stay warm,” Bucky returned.

“At this point, Thistle would be welcomed as another warm body,” Berry quipped.

“Berry… you… me… later… scuffle,” Derpy huffed. “I can’t feel my ears.”

“This is Equestria without the Princesses,” Bucky stated. “This is life outside of Equestria, and for many of the ponies all around the world.”

“This might be bad for you, but this is normal for me,” the colt, now named Sentinel, muttered as he huddled against Berry for warmth.

“I wonder what is for breakfast,” Berry said and then yawned.

“Probably oatmeal or pease-porridge. I might even get some that is hot today,” Sentinel said hopefully. “Thank you by the way.”

“For what?” Berry asked.

“Being kind to me. Giving me a name. Taking me in. Keg Smasher has been very generous to me, I cannot fault him. I cannot understand why strangers would be so good to me,” Sentinel said.

“Bucky is a good pony, and so are all of the rest of us,” Sparkler said.

“I need a squire,” Bucky mused to himself.

“What?” Berry asked. “Are you serious?”

“Sentinel is already assigned as my errand runner, which is part of a squire’s many tasks. I need somepony to help me with my day to day affairs here, keep an eye on my family, and to assist me with whatever Keg Smasher is bound to ask of me eventually,” Bucky explained.

“You are serious,” Berry said.

“Sentinel, can you read or write?” Bucky asked.

“Only a little,” Sentinel confessed.

“I can’t have an illiterate squire. That will not do,” Bucky said. “Sparkler, Rising Star, I have a task for you. Help Sentinel become literate.”

“How? Rising Star asked. “With what? Do you see any books? Paper? Pens?”

Bucky sighed in exasperation. “Use sticks in the dirt. Use charcoal on flat stone. I will make some ink and paper if necessary. I am sure there are books somewhere around here, and I know we brought a few. They’re in the trunk.”

“It will give us something to do,” Sparkler said to Rising Star.

“We are going to be here for a while,” Bucky said. “The issues with Thistle are not going to be resolved overnight. We are all going to do our part to help out around here. These ponies need us.”

“I am low born, I-”

“Sentinel, Keg Smasher was born of a prostitute. I descend from the blood of ancient royalty. These things do not matter,” Bucky interrupted. “You stood watch all night because you made a promise to a foal. You took that seriously. I meant what I said. I will need a squire.”

“I will serve,” Sentinel said, pulling his head away from Berry and looking directly at Bucky.

“So the new Armiger of Clan Pickled takes a squire,” Berry said, giving the colt a squeeze. “Derpy, you had better get used to being called a Dame.”

“What’s a dame? I always thought it was a harassing word for a lady pony,” Derpy uttered in confusion.

“Well, with Sir Buckminster here taking his job seriously, we are probably going to be called ‘Dame’ or ‘Lady’ by folk around here,” Berry explained.

Bucky raised his eyebrow and glared at Berry Punch.

“Look, I wasn’t trying to tease for once. I didn’t call you Lord Buckminster because I know you hate that. Give me a little bit of credit,” Berry responded. “And this might be very hard for both of you to understand, but these little titles can give ponies hope. They want to believe that somepony is out there, championing their cause for justice. Keg Smasher seems well loved, even if he did end the previous Laird’s rule with a bloodbath. I don’t like it at all, but pomp and circumstance has its place.”

“You just continue to keep surprising me Berry Punch,” Bucky said, completely flabberghasted.

“I worked very hard to improve myself and make myself a worthy wife for some lucky pony,” Berry said in a small voice.

“I am a lucky pony,” Bucky replied.

The peat bale in the fireplace burned low, and the sun began to shine through the window. There was no warmth yet, but there was the promise of warmth.

“Let us take care of the biology goes into the bucket shuffle and start the day,” Bucky announced.

 

 

Breakfast was pease-porridge, which was every bit as awful as it sounded. Some of the ponies called it brosemeal, or peasemeal brose. The only thing to go on it was butter. Dried carlin peas, ground into a fine meal, and then boiled to a pasty consistency.

The only pony that seemed to enjoy it was Sentinel, who was quite thrilled simply because it was hot.

Warm food was nice. The entire castle was cold and damp.

There was no coffee. There was no tea. There was no orange juice, or apple juice, or grape juice. There was no white sugar, nor was there brown sugar. There was no maple syrup.

Bucky suffered a painful reminder of how his life was, back when he had eaten for sustenance and little else. Out of all of his family, he was the most prepared for this. Dinky and Piña were taking it hard, Piña actually crying a bit as she ate, while Dinky dutifully shoveled it in and stared blankly ahead.

Moving the rocks proved to be a far more difficult task when the time finally came. Bucky’s horn smoked and fizzled, sending off showers of sparks. Things that took considerable magical effort caused the alarming reaction.

Moving the rocks themselves caused many ponies to gasp. Strong unicorns were rare on the Isles. Most unicorns were taken during the sweeps, usually only leaving behind the type ones and occasionally a type two, usually because they were well hidden.

The rocks provided the raw molecular mass needed to transmute them into useful things. A pair of wide ugly grey sofas. A large thick mattress, complete with sheets and blankets. Bucky had considered a second mattress, but it was just too cold to break everypony up into two piles. A privacy barrier had been transmuted and stood near the bucket. Several cushions had been transmuted. The first mattress Bucky had made was turned into a pile of pillows. A low table was transmuted, because tables were useful for all sorts of things.

By noon, Bucky was ready to collapse from exhaustion. His horn was slightly charred, covered in black soot. It arced and made sizzling noises periodically, even though he was done casting.

A crowd of curious ponies stood outside their door, trying to peer inside whenever the door opened, hoping to catch a glimpse of the display of finery.

Berry felt guilty about having it when she knew that the others did not, but she said nothing.

Derpy had to sling Bucky over Berry Punch’s back to haul him to the dining hall for lunch. Both mares worried. Bucky’s magic wasn’t acting right, and he had completely depleted himself to make his family a bit more comfortable.

Lunch was leftover pease-porridge and fried corn and oat cakes. Derpy actually had to feed Bucky, as he had become so unresponsive. After a large meal, he had perked up considerably, but had a headache.

Sentinel took every chance he could get to let the ponies around him know that he had a name.

Keg Smasher had stopped by in the afternoon to look at the remodeled room. He seemed impressed, more so about Bucky’s magic than the actual furnishings. Keg Smasher took the announcement about Sentinel’s squirehood very seriously, patted the colt on the head with a wing, and addressed him by name. Before departing, he gave one very serious salute and expected one in return.

Sentinel became aware that his world has just changed considerably, and now he had a very unfamiliar social circle to adjust to. Where before he was an orphan that had made himself useful, now he not only had a name, but a title, and he had been drawn into a very mature position that adults around him were going to expect a great deal more from him because of his status change. Sentinel realised that he had respect now, a tentative social agreement that he had no idea how to cultivate or maintain. The colt was terrified and quite unsettled, and it had been Keg Smasher’s salute that had pushed him over into fear and uncertainty.

All of this because of a promise to a foal he barely knew, he had only desired to bring a little comfort and security, something he often wished for his own situation. His mind was troubled as he slipped into a deep dark sleep, finally shutting out the daylight which had always bothered him.

After a bit of a nap, Bucky announced that he intended to to go the lake (or the loch in the local parlance) to visit Thistle, which completely destroyed the peaceful afternoon.

 

Author's Note:

And the colt has his name. Alas, he has no cutie mark. He is currently experiencing a sociological bomb. A major change in status, rank, and social standing, and all that goes with that.

Is it right to have comfort when so many of those around you don't?

We get to see Bucky slipping into practice to protect his fillies from overly curious colts later.

 
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