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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Over the skies of Ponyville, Sentinel was met by Thunderlane. Behind him, Thunderlane had several pegasi. Behind Sentinel was a large flock of griffons. Neither one of them knew it, it was the beginning of an army.

“Thunderlane, Ponyville calls for help, and I have answered,” Sentinel said.

“Things look pretty bad. We can’t be everywhere at once,” Thunderlane said. “Do you have a plan?”

Sentinel nodded. “We need to evacuate every house, every building, gather up every foal, and we need to secure the foals in the largest building. Probably town hall. Then I will need every able bodied pony there is to form a defense.”

“We’re going to listen to him?” a pegasus asked.

“He’s a colt,” another said.

“He is a squire and he’s been schooled in tactics. He’s also a proven officer who has seen battle… so shut up,” Thunderlane said. The charcoal black pegasus, who had served on the Ponyville militia, had been spoiling for a good fight, but not among his own fellow ponies. “BEGIN CLEARING THE OUTER HOUSES AND GETTING THOSE PONIES TO TOWN HALL!”

“I need unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasi. Tonight, we all have our part to play.” Sentinel looked down, his sharp eyes taking in details. “We’re going to need big fires burning… there… there… there… and there.” Sentinel pointed with his hoof. Burn whatever we can get. Raptors?”

“Just us sir, we’re all you got,” Freyja replied.

Sentinel looked at Freyja and Callum. Callum was the calm, steady sort, something Sentinel appreciated a great deal. “Private Freyja, Private Callum… you are to go with Thunderlane and gather up as much of the Ponyville police department as possible. We will need them for their leadership and because the community trusts them.”

The griffons raised their talons in salute, broke away from the griffon flock, and flew to Thunderlane’s side.

“WE NEED TO ESTABLISH CONTROL!” Sentinel commanded. “Now move!”

 

 

“Students…. students, I need you to listen to me, I know you are scared, but I want those of you with strong voices to sing… just think about how some of you are comforted by your mother’s lullabies,” Written Sound said as he looked over the huddled students.

A tiny earth pony came forward, her head held high. “We can sing, can’t we Rowanne?” Garnet Targe said.

Rowanne, the always silent griffoness, nodded.

“I know it is past Hearth’s Warming, but I thought we’d sing Hearth’s Warming carols. Those are songs about being together… and we need that right now,” Written Sound said.

 

 

Lifting his crossbow, Bartleby took careful aim, lining up his shot, his eye locked on a pair of red eyes lurking in the darkness. He pulled the trigger and the red eyes vanished.

“Nice shot,” Trixie said to the griffon riding on her back.

Reaching down, Bartleby patted Trixie on the neck. “I’m not a very good shot yet, but tonight I am going to get a lot of practice.”

Looking around at the others around them, there were a fair number of ponies with griffon riders, following what Trixie felt to be their example. Armed with crossbows, the mounted cavalry worked well together to keep both mounts and their riders safe. The griffons were free to take shots without fear of being overwhelmed, and ponies had somebirdy to watch over them.

“Why aren’t they attacking?” a little griffoness asked.

Grisabella tapped her mace upon the dirty grey snow. “Building up numbers… letting us feel fear… that last wave was thousands… we held them off. I’m betting that, right now, those vermin are swarming, gathering up their numbers, and when the time is right, they'll come at us hard.”

“We’ll be ready for them,” Rising Star said. A dozen glass spheres orbited his head.

Around the defenders, spider golems scurried, all of them blazing like beacons, lighting everything in a cold silver light.

Pacing back and forth, snorting, stomping around, Ripple waited. She hated waiting. And she worried. Loki was missing, last known to be heading off to visit the Apples. Ripple worried about the the farms and farmers that she was certain was under siege right now. And most of all, Ripple worried about Canterlot, high up on top of the spire of rock.

A massive thunderstorm loomed over Canterlot; flashes of fire and explosions could be seen from all the way down here. It seemed that Canterlot was also under invasion. There would be no help tonight, no reinforcement. If they were overrun by rats, and it seemed possible, it would mean their end.

Ripple thought of Bittersweet, now inside the school, safe for the moment. She did not want to meet her end, but she was prepared for it.

“Red eyes moving in the darkness… I think they’re making a move! Brace yourselves!”

 

 

Lifting a glass of water, Loki poured it down his beak. The nips and bites on his legs burned but he did his best to ignore him. The kitchen was alive with the rustling of vermin. Red eyes moved beneath the stove and any other place there was shadow.

“Why aren’t they attacking?” Cheerilee asked. The mare was now on the table, huddled together with Granny Smith and Apple Bloom.

“They’ve watched what has happened to the first few waves… now they gather numbers and hope to swarm us,” Loki replied.

Big Mac, his legs a bloody mess, stood snorting like some horrible steam powered contraption. Everything important to the big stallion was sitting on the table. In pain, knowing that the bites carried some terrible disease, Big Mac said nothing.

“When they come, back to back… I’ll try to keep them off of your hind legs and keep them from tearing out your groin,” Loki said in a soft calm voice.

The big red stallion nodded.

“I’ve never been so scared in all my life.” Apple Bloom wrapped a foreleg around her grandmother and buried her face into Granny Smith’s ribs.

The old mare tapped her cast iron skillet on the table. “We’ll get through this, don’t you worry, Apple Bloom.”

 

 

“Form a perimeter!” Sentinel made a gesture to a group of earth ponies. “Form lines that stretch from fire to fire. Stand shoulder to shoulder! The pegasi and the earth ponies need to form a front line of defense so the unicorns can be protected.

The thousands of ponies of Ponyville were all clustered together. The refugees, once seen as outsiders, were now Ponyville ponies as they all formed ranks and made walls of living meat and sinew.

“I think another wave is coming!” a hovering pegasus reported.

“Confirmed! We have incoming!”

Dropping down to the ground and standing on the front line, Sentinel braced himself. On either side of him there were ponies he didn’t know. One pegasus mare and one earth pony stallion.

“OH STARS! LOOK AT THAT!”

A moving tide of darkness and red eyes spilled through the city streets, pouring like vile liquid, moving in a disturbing flow towards city hall. An uncountable number of rats formed a river of vermin.

“STEADY!” Sentinel barked. The colt was terrified. The moving swarm of rats had to be taller than most ponies as it approached. “Unicorns! Fire! Make every shot count!” Sentinel commanded.

Sentinel watched as spells arced overhead. The incoming flood of rats caught fire, lightning crackled through the black seething mass, but the swarm was not stopped. Sentinel braced himself, knowing he was about to be in the fight of his life.

Lyra was busy securing city hall and Lyra needed time.

Sentinel gave thought to his mothers… Berry was here… Lyra… Bon Bon… Thistle. He had to keep them safe. They were all part of the inner defense, the last line of defenders for the foals secured in city hall.

The black tide hit the outer ranks. Sentinel began kicking and stomping, trying to hold back the rush of bodies. He felt teeth sinking into his legs. He was almost buried in rats.

His wings buzzing, Thunderlane swooped down, lightning crackling along his feathers as he built up a massive charge. He skimmed over the black mass, his hooves glowing, and let go of massive static discharge.

Many rats ignited.

Spells exploded all around Sentinel as he kicked and stomped, almost buried by rats. The earth pony and the pegasus beside him stood with him, refusing to give ground.

“Unicorns! Be ready with extinguishers!”

Several griffons swooped down over the rear of the incoming time of vermin, pouring lamp oil as they flew overhead. One griffon dropped a burning brand. With a whoosh the rats ignited and began to burn.

With the majority of the enemy blazing, the battle turned in favour of the defenders. The rats were pushed back, the outer perimeter pushing their attackers back into the burning bodies. There was a cheer as the ponies realised they were winning this battle.

A glittering bubble appeared around city hall. A massive glowing golden lyre sat on top of it, and it began to play music, music that brought comfort and relief to the defenders. Fear began to subside. The lyre’s light blazed and drove back shadow.

Sentinel, bloodied, battered, blinking with surprise that he was still alive, looked around him. Some of the outer perimeter had fallen. The bodies were being dragged back towards city hall. He didn’t know if they were alive or dead.

“I don’t know if we can survive another rush like that one,” an earth pony mare said.

The last of the rats were pushed back by a wall of earth ponies working together, forcing them back towards the blazing bodies being consumed by fire.

Way off in the distance, fires could be seen blazing in the Whitetail Wood. It seemed that the ponies living there were under siege as well. Sentinel, overwhelmed by all of this, reminded himself of his officer’s oath and his duties. His obligations.

“Something real bad is happening up in Canterlot,” a pegasus said, looking up at the city on top of the mountain.

“We need Twilight Sparkle!”

“No! We need one another… we must stick together!” Thunderlane said in a booming voice to the crowd. “This night is just getting started. The clock approaches nine. Tonight, we prove ourselves.”

“We need more lamp oil. That was a good tactic. We might burn down some buildings, but that is a small price to pay. When next they come, I want you griffons to do a strafing run while they are a good distance from us. By the time they reach us, I want as many of them burning as possible,” Sentinel said in as loud of a voice he could muster.

“And you unicorns can weaken the remainder. The outer defenders will keep you safe so you can hurl spells,” Thunderlane said, hovering over Sentinel.

“Prepare! They come in waves… they are building in number right now, so we need to make ready for them!”

 

 

The clock on the wall struck eleven. Big Mac, looking winded, leaned against the wall, his sides heaving. The floor of the kitchen squelched with every step. The dead rats were piled deep. The smell was nauseating.

The last wave had made it to the kitchen table and had scurried up the table’s legs.

Granny Smith’s cast iron skillet was now bloodied.

Loki, taking a break, sat on the edge of the table, bandaging his leg with an old towel.

Apple Bloom, armed with her own skillet, clutched it in a tight grasp of her fetlock. “It’s not even midnight… we’re not going to make it.”

“Hush your mouth, Bloom.” Big Mac looked at his sister with a worried expression.

“Loki?” Cheerilee’s voice was filled with panic.

“What?”

“Loki… do you think you can fly?” Cheerilee asked.

“Of course… but why would I want to?”

“Do you think you could fly with Apple Bloom? Get her someplace safe? One of us has to live and carry on.” A tear slid down Cheerilee’s cheek.

A fearful whimper came from Apple Bloom, but no words.

“If it comes to that, I will.” Loki looked over at the big red stallion. “How you holding up?”

“I’m managing. I still got a lot of fight left.”

“I’m sure you do,” Loki replied as he tied a knot and cinched it tight. “Cheerilee… if the worst happens… and I have to take Apple Bloom…”

“Yes Loki?”

“I have some poisons here with me… if you drink them, you will die quickly and with no pain. It is a better end that having rats chew their way through your insides… they’ll come for you and your foal and it will be awful.”

Rubbing her belly, Cheerilee let out a fearful squeak.

Loki set down several small glass vials upon the table. “It’ll be real easy to smash the glass with your teeth. A few drops will do you.”

Her eyes wide with horror, Cheerilee looked down at the glass vials and contemplated how she might end.

 

 

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