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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Baltimare. The winter here seemed a bit milder than in Ponyville. There was not as much snow, but there was a dense, heavy fog that blanketed everything and a freezing drizzle left everything coated in ice. The sun was now rising up over Horseshoe Bay, Sentinel could feel it, but he could not see it, the fog was just too thick to be able to see more than ten paces.

For a moment, Sentinel envied Yew Wood and Peekaboo, who were warm and snug in a nice, comfortable hotel room with room service and electric heat. Lugus would be returning there to wait in the lap of luxury, as soon as the group had dropped down into the sewer.

Sentinel tried to ignore the stinging pain in his plot where he had been injected with every available biological and alchemical protection available. It hurt to walk and there were goose egg sized lumps protruding from both of his buttocks.

“So… what is the plan, exactly?” Kiara asked as the group walked through the streets together.

Sentinel became aware that Lugus was looking at him and waiting for an answer. The colt felt his muscles twitch from nervousness, and he licked his lips as his nervousness overtook him. “I have given that a lot of thought actually. The plan is, we stay together as a group. We will not be able to cover as much ground, but there will be safety in numbers. We are all flying creatures and we will be at a disadvantage down in the sewer. If we engage something, some of us form a protective barrier while the rest of us fire at will with crossbows.” Much to Sentinel’s relief, he saw Lugus nodding. “Also, Loki… no fire. Sewer gasses can be volatile.”

“Like I care, I can’t burn,” was Loki’s snide rejoinder.  

“There are reports of tentacles coming up and out of storm drains to snatch foals,” Lugus said, his beak clicking at the end of his sentence to punctuate his words. The big griffon’s crest rose. “All of you are foal sized, give or take, so be careful.”

“Sir, permission to use Loki as bait in front of a storm drain, sir,” Freyja barked, an act made all the more interesting because she was feline.

Lugus shook his head and rolled his eyes as he walked. “Denied.” The big griffon suppressed a chuckle and his neck feathers ruffled.

“That’s actually a good idea.” Loki glanced at Freyja as he walked. “We should listen to her… her idea has merit. It might speed things up.”

“There are hundreds, maybe thousands of storm drains in the gutters of this city. And the creature might be lurking at any one of them. It would be foolish to be waiting at just one of them. As it is there are about twenty three hundred kilometres of sewer under Baltimare and thankfully only about eleven hundred kilometres of those pipes are large enough for you to fit into. We know that the sewer lurker is good sized… eye witnesses have seen it, but the reports vary wildly,” Lugus said in a calm voice as the Raptors continued to walk through the fog and the freezing drizzle.

“We could be here for months hunting this thing.” Callum’s wings fluttered at his side. “How many miles is that?”

Sentinel stopped mid step, blinked, and realised he was unable to answer. After a moment, he resumed walking, and lamented his terrible and disappointing math skills.

“About seven hundred,” Angry Angus replied in low growl. “Do you know how impossible this is? Even if we somehow cover twenty miles in a day, this lurker thing could double back into an area we’ve already checked. It could be anywhere.”

“We are so beaked.” Gofannon kicked at the cobblestones. “I have a pregnant pegasus at home that needs me.”

“Such is the price of duty,” Flench said to Gofannon.

“Easy for you to say, Flench, you screw anything that walks or has a pulse. I’m committed.” Gofannon’s feathers ruffled. “Sorry… I shouldn’t have said that.”

Flench did not reply.

“No offense to anybirdy, but I gotta know… how does a tiny dicked griffon satisfy a pony?” Shaquah asked in a voice that seemed to echo through the fog.

“Oh, ponies are very grippy… it is like they have prehensile twats,” Flench replied.

“Do you mind?” Sentinel turned and glared at the pudgy griffon.

“Sorry sir.” Flench fired off a salute with his wing.

“I can make Helia happy. It takes patience, being attentive, and a little hard work.” Gofannon glanced at Sentinel and hoped that he had not upset the colt. “Actually being in love helps. I’m not having a go at her just to scratch an itch. I want to express how much I love her.”

“That’s better,” Sentinel grumbled as he marched over the icy cobblestones.

“Makes you think about Lugus and—”

“Brigid, I will crush you into broken, busted birdy bits, do not test my patience.” Lugus’ crest rose and his tail twitched in irritation.

“My apologies, sir. I meant no disrespect. I only meant to imply that you clearly love your mate and that there is ample evidence of your gentle nature… sir.”

Branwen lifted her head and her crest rose. “I’m freakin’ out over here… seven hundred miles of tunnel ain’t no small thing… and there is eleven of us… twelve with Sentinel. Down in the sewer with something that has tentacles and probably wants to violate our cute little kitty cat assholes. Don’t any of you read comic books?”

Grunion squawked and lept into the air. “That’s too kinky for me. I think I want to go home!”

 

 

The passageway had a few inches of fetid water at the bottom. The scent of rotting vegetation tickled Sentinel’s nose. He peered around, the faint light from the grate up above providing a little light. Behind him, Raptors dropped down one by one in the sewer.

The passage was circular, a yard high and a yard wide.

Off in the distance, Sentinel could hear water dripping. Or, at least, liquid dripping. Sentinel sniffed, a deep inhale, and was overwhelmed by too many scents. His sense of smell would be almost useless down here.

“Raptors, lights please,” Sentinel commanded in a soft voice that somehow carried well through the tunnel.

Several Raptors pulled out small glass globes, tapped them twice with a talon, and then placed them into a netted pocket that hung from their doublets. The sewer filled with a warm, almost comforting yellow light.

It was cold enough down here to see one’s breath.

“Loki, I want you up here in the front with me. Wing Corporal Gofannon, you are the only griffon I trust enough to know how important it is to bring up the rear. The rest of you, form ranks in the middle. Those of you capable of walking in a bipedal stance, be ready to rise up and unleash fury with crossbows. The rest of you keep those with the crossbows safe.

“Sir, yes sir, I will watch our backs, sir,” Gofannon replied as he snapped off a salute with his wing.

Not knowing which direction to go, Sentinel went forward, down the passage, which sloped somewhat. He knew that everything ran downwards towards the ocean and everything poured into the sea.

“Everybirdy watch your assholes,” Loki said in a low hissy voice. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Yes… everbirdy watch everybirdy elses’ arseholes,” Sentinel commanded, a faint Shetlands’ lilt coming into his voice. “Remember, anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice and there ain’t no dead like good and dead. You see something with tentacles, you start shooting and you don’t stop.”

 

 

The sound of running water somewhere made it very difficult to hear anything. Sentinel moved ahead with Loki by his side. Loki walked in a bipedal stance with his left talons resting upon Sentinel’s back and his heavy crossbow was held in his right talons. The rest of the Raptors also walked two by two, with Brigid and Gofannon bringing up the rear.

As the group continued down the passage, Sentinel saw an iron ponyhole cover above him. At least there were plenty of places to get out, if the need to escape was bad enough to require it. Any full sized pony coming down here would have to crawl upon their belly to get through the tunnel.

The Raptors were quiet as they traveled down the long length of sewer together. Sentinel used his keen eyesight as well as his echolocation to see and hear what was ahead. He took several steps, stopped, scanned ahead, took several more steps, stopped, and then would scan ahead. Progress was slow and cautious.

After about twenty minutes of walking, the group came to a three way intersection. One passage led upwards, just like the passageway behind them, and one passage led downwards. Sentinel paused and sniffed. Something smelled bad in the passage that led downwards. The sound of running water rose up to greet them.

After a long moment of hesitation, Sentinel chose to go down.

 

 

The angle of this passage was a fair bit steeper than the previous one. Sentinel walked with his head low and his ears perked. It was difficult to hear anything with the sound of running water that grew louder with each step.

It was darker down here, and Sentinel could not see any ponyhole covers overhead. The passage beneath him was slick with slimy leaves and soggy detritus. Water trickled down the tunnel, dirty water that was thick with disgusting sediment.

“Where are the vermin?” Loki asked in a low raspy voice.

Sentinel froze and felt every single hair on his back stand up. They had encountered no rats. No roaches. No bugs. No mice. There was nothing down here. Nothing at all. The full weight of Loki’s words settled over Sentinel’s withers and threatened to crush him.

“Loki is right… there’s not even any dead rats or dead roaches. This sewer is devoid of life of any sort,” Branwen said. The griffoness’ white legs were filthy and grey from her trek through the sewer.

“Well… things are now exciting.” Loki patted Sentinel on the back and then looked back at the rest of the Raptors. “Something down here must be awful hungry. All the rats are gone. The roaches seem to have vanished. So now, whatever it is, is having to resort to snatching ponies from off the streets and dragging them down here into the depths.”

“Oh feck everything, we’re beaked,” Gofannon said and then he let out a frustrated squawk. “When Loki says things are exciting, things are just plain beaked.”

“We are so screwed.” Angus fluffed out and somehow managed to look more than twice his usual size. “I’ve been dragging my balls through the sewer and now I’m going to get eaten.”

“Probably,” Loki said in a smug voice.

“Oh, screw you, Loki, you damnable psychopath!” Angus snapped.

“No. I have given my heart to Gormlaith and my soul belongs to Odin. My asshole is not up for grabs,” Loki replied.

“Shut up you cat brained twits!” Sentinel commanded. Sentinel snarled and the group fell silent. He cocked his head and strained to listen, even though listening wouldn’t do him much good with the sounds of running water. “We move ahead, forward, slow and steady.”

After a short distance, group came to a well, a large wide passage that dropped straight down. Many tunnels fed into the well, and Sentinel could see brackish water pouring from some entrances. The bottom was not visible, but was shrouded in what appeared to be impenetrable darkness.

A nauseating stench wafted up out of the well and caused Sentinel’s nostrils to crinkle.

“We’re going to have to fly down and begin exploring some of the other tunnels. Those of you with lights will need to light the way for the others. I have echolocation, so try not to worry about me. My kind were made to fly in caves,” Sentinel said as he peered downwards. “Stay together. That is an order. Violate that order at your own peril.”

 

 

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