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 past few days had been a blur. Bucky kept drinking to dull the pain, and then relied upon communing with his fellow unicorns to remove the adverse effects of the alcohol. Communing was rapidly becoming his favourite way of teaching. He could share his thoughts directly, his feelings, show his experiences. Dinky was already learning a level of mastery far beyond what any filly her age should be capable of. Sparker and Rising Star were already exploring the limits of what type twos were capable of, and were hungry for more.

Which is what Bucky wanted. He had the means to offer more, and would do so in time, when he felt that they were the most open and receptive to what he had planned.

His empty eye socket felt dry and itchy behind his bandages.

The maimed stallion watched his family playing in the cold water of the loch with his remaining eye. They were bathing, or trying to, braving the cold water just to feel clean again. Thistle was in mer-pony form, swimming around them, and keeping the foals to the shallows. The water became deep quite suddenly past a certain point.

More than anything. Bucky wanted revenge. It was a petty feeling, something that should have been beneath him, but his eye was gone forever, and the memory of having something chewing on him was a nightmare that haunted his waking mind. The knowledge that something had torn a bite free from him and swallowed a part of him incensed the unicorn and stoked the fires of his hatred.  The emotion was raw and unpleasant, and it made him shudder as he took a drink of wine.

Another memory tugged at Bucky’s mind. The corpses of the wolves. Horrible things that had been dragged back to the castle, hung on hooks in the central courtyard, and left on display. Some of them had been torn in half, ripped to pieces. Others were burnt to a crisp. There were dozens of bodies that had been brought back, and Bucky had carefully studied them all.

The corpses that were not burnt were grey and unnatural looking, drained of colour, and even the internal flesh was almost colourless. Magic lingered about them, unnatural magic that had warped them and made them what they were. Bucky had determined that after several moments of careful study. Dark magic.

It had been much to Bucky’s surprise that he had found a book about creatures corrupted with dark magic tucked into the trunk they had brought. A book he had not placed there, meaning that somepony had tucked it into the trunk, which was an intriguing thought. Somepony must have known about what he would face upon the Isles and had tried to prepare him. Bucky had several guesses, but his primary suspect was a large white alicorn.

The pegasi were out over the deep part of the loch, using nets to pull fish out of the water, flying in a carefully orchestrated dance. Bucky watched Sparkler, who was watching the group with a look of concern upon her face. Sparkler’s friend Loch Skimmer was out there with the group of fishers.

Derpy looked oddly swanlike in the water, or perhaps a duck. All four legs were below the waterline, leaving only her body above it. She swam in little circles, her tail streaming out behind her.  Derpy was far more graceful in the water than she as in the air, and Bucky wondered if it had something to do with her cutie mark. Water droplets on her wings glistened like diamonds in the sun and Bucky felt a lustful longing as he watched her.

But the same could be said for both of his wives. His gaze fell upon Berry. She was busy scrubbing Piña, using her hoof to try and scrape away filth. As she scrubbed, her muscles rippled and moved under her taut pelt, and the water churned around her as she moved.

The water looked cool and inviting.

Bucky could take it no more. He knew he needed to keep his head out of the water due to his eye socket still healing, but the rest of him needed a bath. Using his magic, he ripped away the many bandages all around his body as he rose, and then he wobbled down to the water on trembling legs.

Piña shrieked a cry of alarm and then buried her face into Berry’s ribs. Sparkler choked, but did not cry out. Rising Star’s teeth were gritted together. Dinky burst into tears but said nothing. Berry sat down in the water with a splash, and clung to her sister, her eyes wide with horror. Sentinel looked pained but said nothing.

“Just be careful, let me help you.”

The words came from Derpy, her eyes glistening with tears, but the grey pegasus contained her emotions. She splashed through the water, moving towards Bucky, trying to not look at him directly.

Thistle remained silent, not knowing what to say. She swam closer to Berry Punch and wrapped a foreleg over Berry’s withers.

Bucky turned his head and looked over the left side of his body. His cauterised wounds looked pretty bad, but did seem to be healing well. He couldn’t see what the other side of his body looked like, he couldn’t turn his head well enough.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky apologised. “I didn’t mean to upset the foals,” he added.

“They’re strong foals,” Derpy said, meeting her husband at the water’s edge. “Careful now, you aren’t used to not having depth perception. Feel your way down with your hoof, and I will catch you if you stumble, but it might hurt if I do.”

Derpy stood, her wings extended, ready and waiting to catch Bucky if he stumbled. He took a cautious step downward, stumbled only slightly, found his footing, and then eased himself into the cold water.

Bucky sighed as the water cooled and soothed the hot feverish places where he had been sealed shut by burning hot iron. He pushed himself out to deeper water, standing shoulder deep, and then simply stood there, not moving, and keeping his head held up out of the water.

“That looks pretty awful,” Berry said softly. “But I don’t love you any less. I don’t care what you look like.” Berry paused for a moment. “Piña, please don’t cry. Sometimes bad things happen to good ponies,” Berry said, trying to sooth her sister.

“You were lucky,” Thistle said. “Scars are attractive on a mate. At least, I believe so. There is something appealing about a pony that you know can keep you safe, a fighter, not a talker.”

“I have to agree with Thistle,” Derpy agreed.

“It is one thing to hear a pony talk about keeping foals and other ponies safe, it is a different matter entirely to see the evidence of it,” Berry explained. “I find it desirable as well.”

“It is healing well,” Derpy said, gently planting a kiss on an area that wasn’t covered in seared scar tissue. She touched Bucky with her wing, drizzling water over his back, dipped her wing in the water again, and then dribbled even more water over her mate. She continued her action of trickling water over Bucky’s back, soaking him down thoroughly, and Bucky moaned as the cool water soaked into his pelt and cooled his still burning skin.

“May I help you?” Thistle asked Derpy, not wanting to intrude upon what appeared to be a very intimate moment.

“How can you help?” Derpy asked.

“Can I show you?” Thistle replied.

The grey pegasus mare nodded and Thistle moved swiftly through the shallows. She floated near Bucky, her fish tail swishing in the water, and she began to move her forehooves in a circle, her eyes closed and a look of concentration upon her face.

The water around her began to move, and then a round pillar of water began to rise from the surface. It moved slowly, causing every pony who observed it to gasp, and Thistle delighted in her water-shaping. She moved the mass of water near Bucky, where it loomed over his barrel, and then the tension holding the water broke, spilling a sizable mass of water over his back, causing Bucky to gasp. Bucky was thoroughly drenched now.

“That’s amazing,” Berry Punch breathed. “Kelpie magic.”

“Oh please do that again,” Bucky begged.

Thistle did not reply, but another mass of water began to rise. It took the shape of Thistle, resembling her head and neck, and it moved with beauty and grace. It loomed over Bucky for a moment, and then the water lost its shape, spilling out over Bucky’s back once again, the cold water washing over his skin and sluicing away dirt and grime.

“Thank you Thistle,” Derpy said.

The two ponies locked eyes for a moment, Derpy closing one eye to look at Thistle directly, and there seemed to be some unspoken communication between them. Thistle looked very serious and solemn, and after a moment, she nodded slightly.

“It is my place to look after the one that will look after my needs someday. How could I do any less?” Thistle asked.

Bucky’s quick mind caught the implication of Thistle’s words. The one that will look after… he repeated in his mind. He cast a glance at Derpy.

“Shut up. Not one word. Mare business,” Derpy stated. “Not stallion business. I wouldn’t be so rude to stick my snoot into any private arrangements between you and Barley,” the mare announced, cutting Bucky’s words off.

Bucky remained silent. He moved himself to shallower water, circled around a few times, he then folded his legs, easing himself down into the rocky shallows and laying down in the water. He sighed with contentment as he settled in and tried to get comfortable.

Dinky approached slowly, looking apprehensive, and when she was near, sat down in the shallows near her father, looking concerned. “I know it hurts… how bad is it?” she asked.

“Bad enough to motivate me,” Bucky replied.

Dinky looked confused. “I don’t understand.”

“I am going to exterminate every wolf on these isles,” Bucky explained.

“How?” asked Dinky as Piña settled in beside her and leaned on her.

“I am forming a plan Dinks. A big plan. As you already know just a little tiny bit about,” Bucky answered.

“They hurt you so badly, if this happened to me, I would be too afraid to fight back,” Dinky admitted.

“Don’t say that Dinky. You have real strength. You are still a foal, so these things are bound to be scary, but do not underestimate what you are capable of,” Bucky instructed, leaning his head down a bit and planting a kiss on Dinky’s nose. He then kissed Piña, who whimpered at his touch.

“Piña, don’t be troubled,” Bucky soothed.

“Pina’s heart is far too gentle for these wretched isles,” Berry muttered. “I worry her heart will harden during our stay here.”

Rising Star settled into deeper water until only his nose, his eyes, and his horn was visible. He let out a contented sigh and watched Sparkler.

Derpy resumed her swimming, keeping an eye on her foals, and enjoying her time in the water. It wasn’t a bubble bath, but it would have to do until they were home. She watched Sentinel, who was out in the deep water, feeling mildly concerned. He kept diving under the water and re-emerging several minutes later, and Derpy did not understand what he was doing.

“I want to go home,” Piña whined.

“I know Piña,” Bucky replied. “But even if we could leave right now, I wouldn’t leave because I have unfinished business here.” Bucky planted another kiss on Piña, kissing her cheek this time. “I hope you can understand, but I am committed to a task here. I have ponies to protect. For the first time in my life, my title as an armiger means something. Back home, being born a knight is entirely meaningless, but here, here I get to make it mean whatever I want it to mean. Do you understand?”

Piña nodded. “I think I do. A knight needs monsters if he is going to be a knight. Just don’t get hurt any more. Doesn’t a knight need shining armor?” asked Piña, wiping her nose with her foreleg.

“Yes my foal, a knight needs armor,” Bucky answered, a faint smile on his lips.

“Are you going to make some armor?” Piña asked.

“That is my plan,” Bucky admitted.

“So no more getting hurt?” Piña questioned.

“If my plan works,” Bucky replied.

“You are going to do WHAT?” Berry gasped in astonishment.

“Bucky, what are you planning?” Derpy demanded.

“I plan to show these wolves what a small group of dedicated and well educated unicorns can do. I am going to show these ponies that somepony cares about their troubles,” Bucky announced.

“But the wolves can pass through solid objects. How would armor help?” Berry queried, her tone Berry panicked. “I am not insulting your intelligence, but I do hope you have a plan to deal with that fact.”

“I do,” said Bucky, turning his left eye to stare Berry, but not not elaborating.

“You… you… I love you in ways that there are no words to express,” gasped Berry as she shook her head. “You are utterly mad. You BELONG in the pickle barrel with the rest of us,” she insisted. “If I wasn’t already having your foals, I’d want to have them right now.”

Bucky managed to give a weak chuckle.

“I don’t know if I want you doing this,” Derpy interjected. “I can’t bear to see you get hurt any more.”

“This time I plan to use my head before doing anything. I don’t intend to get hurt again,” Bucky replied. “I don’t plan on giving them a chance to hurt me.”

“I guess I have to trust you,” said Derpy with a tremor in her voice.

“No more carelessness. I do things my way now. Slow and cautious. Methodical,” Bucky stated. “I want to watch Dinky and Piña grow up.”

There was a cry from out on the water and everypony turned their heads. Sentinel had a long fish flapping in his mouth, and he was swimming back to shore with his catch.

“Yuck!” Piña cried. “He’s gonna eat that.”

 

 

Bucky looked around the room. It was mostly empty, only a few things had been stored in here. It would have to do for a workshop and a laboratory. There was a squeak from somewhere as Bucky’s horn light flared, and Sentinel took off hunting.

The room was dusty and full of cobwebs.

Sentinel growled, spread his wings, pounced, and there was a shrill squeal of rodent terror. A second later, the lunar pegasus colt was slurping a tail through his lips while looking very pleased with himself.

“Good work Squire Sentinel,” Bucky praised.

“This one was juicy,” Sentinel announced.

“I am sure it was,” replied Bucky in dry tones. “We are going to do great things here,” he added. “Meaningful things. This room is as good as any other. It was nice of Keg Smasher to provide it.”

“Plus, there are snacks,” Sentinel mentioned as his ears perked, hoping for more squeaking or scurrying sounds.

“Sentinel, do you trust me?” Bucky asked.

“Of course sir, with my life,” Sentinel answered.

“Because I am going to need something from you… but I will not take it unless you give it freely,” Bucky stated.

“What is it that you need sir?” Sentinel asked nervously.

“Some of your shadow essence. You can shadow dive, like all of your kind can, correct?” Bucky responded.

“Yes sir, I can… will this hurt sir?” Sentinel asked.

“No, I promise you, I will do nothing that will cause serious harm to you,” Bucky returned.

“I see… what do you need my shadow essence for, and will it weaken me?” Sentinel questioned.

“I am going to need to infuse a number of things with raw shadow essence so that the shadow wolves can’t phase through them. Make a solid barrier against shadow. And no, it shouldn’t weaken you. You draw strength from the dark. You might feel a little fatigue maybe, but time spent in a dark room will restore your essence. I understand that this is an extreme request,” Bucky explained.

“These are extreme times,” Sentinel replied. “I will do whatever I can to contribute. I am your squire, and you work for the good of these ponies. I would be a terrible squire if I was remiss in my duties.”

“Thank you,” Bucky said.

“Don’t mention it,” Sentinel returned.

“And everything I plan to do begins here, in this room,” the unicorn announced. “The war begins here. Once we clear it out and turn it into a proper place for magical research and experimentation, we take the first few cautious steps towards reclaiming the Isles. And I can’t do this without you.”

“I am honoured sir,” Sentinel responded.

The colt’s ears perked and his head jerked sharply off to one side. He sprang away, landed with a clatter behind a stack of wooden crates, and there was another scream of rodent agony, followed by the crunching of bones.

There was a loud belch from behind the crates.

“It is going to be dinner time soon,” Bucky announced. “I hope you didn’t spoil your appetite. You’ve been quite the hunter today.”

“I was very lucky today,” Sentinel agreed. “The fish earlier, one small rat, one giant rat, actually, I am not sure if I am going to have room for dinner,” Sentinel admitted.

“Just try not to eat rats in front of Derpy. She… she would take it badly,” Bucky stated. “She is starting to become very attached to you Sentinel, and watching you eat rats would trigger her need to mother you and do what is best for you. I suspect that in her mind, eating rats would be bad for you.”

“I understand sir,” Sentinel replied.

Bucky backed out the room slowly, the pain in his legs making him wince with each step. Sentinel followed. After the colt was in the hall with him, Bucky closed the door and magically locked it.

 

 

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