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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“This is worrisome.” Lugus looked down and read the dispatch once more and then looked up at Violet. “What is a sewer lurker?”

“A sewer lurker can be any number of creatures to start with, but being down the sewer mutates them. Careless alchemists pour their failures down the toilet instead of following proper disposal methods. Companies dump toxic waste down into the sewer, much of it magical in nature. The things that live down in the sewer mutate over time. Some of them are benign and are mostly harmless. Other things become sewer lurkers and gain a taste for pony flesh,” Violet replied.

“The Raptors were chosen for their small size… wait, how will I join them?” Lugus asked.

Violet’s eyes narrowed. “Lugus, do not be stupid. It does not become you.”

“They will need leadership. Ripple is still on medical leave. I am too big…” Lugus’ words trailed off and then he looked at Violet, who was nodding at him. “Sentinel is still small and will be useful in the dark confines of a sewer tunnel.”

“You will need to leave for Baltimare at once. Once you arrive in Baltimare, the Raptors will be getting all manner of emergency vaccinations as a means of disease prevention. The Raptors will be dosed with drugs to protect them from the magical contaminants of the sewer. There are quite a number of alchemical plants in Baltimare, so anything could be down in the sewer. Much of the city was damaged back during the hurricane, and no doubt all kinds of sludge and goop went down into the drains and sewers. This is a class five threat, so you are cleared for magical munitions.” Violet looked Lugus in the eye. “Try not to blow up the city.”

“I will inform Sentinel at once and we will begin preparations to leave,” Lugus said.

 

 

Feeling anxious, Sentinel left the box with the hats in Dinky’s room, along with a note explaining his reasons, voicing his pride, and expressing his love. He drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and wished that he would be here in pony to give it to her, but he had to go and Dinky was still in school.

He wished that he could see Dinky’s face when she saw the hats, but that did not seem possible. He had his duties, a task had been laid out for him that he alone was well suited for, and he was needed.

In that moment, Sentinel understood his father’s pain, having to be away and missing things. Missing out on magical moments. Sniffling, Sentinel rubbed his eyes with his foreleg and pulled himself together.

He gave one final glance to the box, sniffled a few more times, and then he turned and left the room, his expression one of bitter resolve. His life would be spent in service and Sentinel knew it was best to make peace with these moments now.

 

 

Celestia’s private guest room was almost how Sunset Shimmer remembered it. She had spent so much time here as a foal. When she had been good, when she had behaved, she had been allowed to stay here, to sleep here in this room of luxury. Pacing back and forth, Sunset Shimmer waited.

There was a photo of Twilight Sparkle over the mantle. She was a foal and the picture had been taken in this room. Moving closer, Sunset Shimmer could see text upon the picture frame, burned into the wood.

“All of my hopes, fulfilled,” Sunset Shimmer read to herself. She heaved a pained sigh, closed her eyes, and once more wished that she could escape her past. Her whole body felt heavy with regret as she stepped away from the picture in the ornate wooden frame.

She hung her head and held back stinging tears, her eyelids blinking with rapid movement as she tried to make the burning pain go away. She felt pressure in her sinuses as the tears backed up, and she shook her head, wishing that the past didn’t hurt so much.

Heading towards a chair so she could sit down, Sunset Shimmer saw another frame on the small table that sat between the chair and the bed. She sat down in the chair, held her breath for a moment, and turned the picture frame around so that she might see who was in this one. She lifted it up so that she might see it better.

She saw herself. She was a foal, still so small, and she was wearing a holiday wreath on her head like a crown. She had a big beaming smile, and Sunset Shimmer had trouble recognising the foal she saw in the picture. She had been so happy. Sunset’s vision blurred over with tears and she was unable to see the photo or the text on the picture frame. She blinked, trying to clear her vision, but it was no use. She felt tears streaming down her cheeks.

She only had a faint memory of when this picture had been taken. She had placed the wreath over her head and had proclaimed herself the Princess of Hearth’s Warming. Princess Celestia had taken a photo to commemorate the occasion.

Sunset Shimmer turned her head away and wiped her eyes. She blinked several times, trying to clear her vision. She had to squint to read the flowing script burned into the wood. Her lips trembling, Sunset Shimmer read aloud.

“I have never given up hope in this one.”

The picture almost fell when Sunset Shimmer’s telekinesis faltered. The wooden frame shook as Sunset Shimmer set it down upon the table. Unable to help herself, Sunset Shimmer began to weep and she let out a screeching cry of pain.

 

 

The Raptors began to assemble in front of the armory, which was connected to the foundry. Gear was checked. Straps and buckles were adjusted. Armor was secured. Inside the armory, packs were already loaded down with supplies and various bits of kit that they might need. Heavy crossbows had been approved for this mission.

Others had gathered to watch the Raptors make ready, including a griffoness named Gormlaith. Beside her, an older grizzled looking griffon stood watch. Little cubs looked up at the adults with wide eyed wonder.

Lugus stood apart from the Raptors, Yew Wood and Peekaboo close by. Yew Wood was wearing heavy saddlebags and a broad grin was on her face. Peekaboo, overcome with excitement, ran around in circles, chasing her own tail.

Berry Punch, Thistle, and Belisama stood together, ready to see Sentinel off.

“Your father should be here for this,” Thistle said in a low voice.

“No, mother, please, he needs sleep. He has work that he must do this night.” Sentinel looked up at Thistle with pleading eyes. “Do not wake him. Let him sleep.”

“Sentinel, I don’t know what to do with you sometimes.” Berry Punch leaned down her head and kissed the colt on his cheek. She moved her head around to look Sentinel in the eye and stood snoot to snoot with the colt. “Don’t do anything stupid. I don’t want you coming home all torn up. Do you understand me?”

Blinking, Sentinel nodded and looked into Berry’s eyes.

“Sentinel, good luck.” Belisama lifted her head high and opened her beak wide. “That goes for you too, all of you. Good luck Raptors!”

The Raptors, hearing their queen’s voice, all turned and gave jaunty salutes.

“Sentinel, are you going to be able to fly that far? That’s a long way for a colt… that’s a long way for an adult pegasus,” Berry asked.

“I’ll be fine. I’ve been training. I have good endurance,” Sentinel replied.

 

 

“My apologies that I took so long,” Princess Celestia said as she came into through the door, carrying a tray with tea. “I started to come in earlier, but I heard you crying. I thought I would give you a moment and I went and fixed tea.”

The white alicorn moved through the room and set the tea tray down upon a coffee table set in front of a low oversized sofa. She looked over at Sunset Shimmer and made an inviting gesture before she sat down upon the sofa. She reclined on her side, stretching out her full length upon the sofa.

“Are you okay?” Celestia asked after she was comfortable.

“I just… I just had a moment where my past became a little too painful,” Sunset Shimmer replied, making an honest admission as she came over and sat down on the chair beside the sofa.

Looking at the tea set, Sunset Shimmer smiled. It was a ridiculous tea set, the cups and the teapot were covered in little trains, and the little trains all had cargo of tea cakes, cookies, and little sandwiches loaded on the cars. It was something that Celestia often brought out to cheer Sunset Shimmer up when Sunset had been little.

Seeing it made Sunset Shimmer ache. “I smashed this in anger… I wanted to hurt you...”

“I fixed it. A little magic made it right. One of the teacups seems to have mysterious dribble when you go to drink from it, but I can never tell which one,” Celestia said in a low voice.

“I suppose you know why I am here.” Sunset Shimmer watched as Princess Celestia poured tea into the teacups.

“Oh, I have a few guesses.” The corner of Celestia’s mouth twitched.

Sunset Shimmer lifted up a teacup and held it front of her muzzle. After a moment of thought, she got right to the point. “Why did you do it?”

Celestia’s face was as impassive and immovable as the marble that she resembled. “I had to make certain that the public trusts Buckminster. He can be… intimidating. And now freed, I feared for a certain amount of backlash. There are many who hate him. I worried over the accusations that could be made and the fear mongering that might happen. I wanted the public to see that I love him and I trust him. That I am behind him.”

“And that’s it?” Sunset Shimmer asked, turning to look Celestia in the eye.

“Of course not.” Celestia lifted up a teacup, held it up to her muzzle, and sniffed.

“Well?” Sunset Shimmer gave Celestia a pleading gaze.

Celestia’s stony demeanour softened and emotion became visible upon her face. “As I was doing it, I realised that I could give Buckminster something that I know he craves. An extended sense of family. My sister sees into his dreams and she feels his pain. His sense of loneliness. He has his wives and his foals, but that is not enough to fill the emptiness in his heart. So… I gave him you. I gave him me. I gave him what he dreams of and desires. Both of you are cousins, but now, there is something else there. A stronger bond. It is between you and Buckminster how you wish to define it. I am content to be his aunt, and your aunt as well.” Celestia paused for a moment and her eyes glittered. “I never stopped loving you.”

Sunset Shimmer felt her eyes welling up once more.

“I am so proud of you. You took the alicorn amulet and you broke its terrible power. You had the means to achieve the dream you once wanted, and you rejected it. You turned away. You faced the worst sort of temptation. I knew I was right to place my hopes in you.”

Sunset Shimmer took a sip of tea and she felt the tea dribble down her chin and onto her chest. She pulled her cup away and looked down at her darkened, dampened pelt.

“Oh dear… you seemed to have received the cup with the dribble.” Celestia’s face held the ghost of a smile and her voice was filled with repressed giggles. “My dear, precious Sunset Shimmer, are you okay?”

Still on the verge of tears, but now smiling, Sunset Shimmer looked at Celestia. “I’m fine. Just covered in tea, that’s all. I seem to recall that this happened frequently as a foal and you struggled to teach me to steady my telekinesis.”

“It is good to know that some things never change, my beloved foal…”

 

 

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