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 bottom of the well was filled with bones and old carcasses. Sentinel could see that many of them were pony bones, and this filled him with feelings of concern. The group stood on a service ledge that was about twenty feet above the bottom. Below them was a mass of filth, bones, trash, and other debris and water drained out somewhere below the metal grate where the filth was collected. As the Raptors stood huddled in a group together, Sentinel heard a faint beeping sound.

“What is that sound that is going to get us killed?” Loki asked, saying what everybirdy was thinking.

Kiara clutched at her armor, her right talons feeling around her doublet, and after a moment, she reached down inside of her armor. She pulled out a small wand like device, a short fat shaft of wood with several crystals growing off the end. The crystals flashed with each beep. There were several knobs on the handle.

“What is that?” Callum asked.

“Thaumaturgical something or other… I wasn’t paying attention—”

“Kiara, you cat brain!” Sentinel barked. He bared his fangs in frustration.

“It detects magic.” Kiara fiddled with a switch and the device went silent, but the crystals still flashed. “I’m sorry… when Violet gave me this, I was distracted by all of the other shinies, I couldn’t help it… please forgive—”

“You are forgiven. I understand that there are some things that just can’t be helped.” Sentinel scowled and his eyes narrowed as he stared at the device. “But you still screwed up. Expect to pay for this later!”

“There were so many pretties…”

“Corvids!” Loki fluffed out and his crest rose.

“This detects magic. As magic gets closer, I guess it will get louder. Or flash more. It’s flashing brighter when I point it in that direction,” Kiara said as she pointed off towards a large opening just across from them that emptied out into the well. The griffoness angled it up, then down, and then right at the entrance. The crystals flashed blue when she pointed across from where the group was situated.

“So… we have something that will help us navigate seven hundred miles of sewer.” Flench heaved a sigh of frustration. “Great. That makes everything better.”

“We have magical munitions and other things that we were given. Was anybirdy else given something important?” Sentinel asked.

“I have a water breathing bomb.” Freyja patted a pocket on her doublet. “This right here will save us. I paid attention and was not distracted by shinies. If it looks like we are going to drown, if I shatter this glass ball, we’ll all be able to breathe like fish.”

“I have several ampules of healing compounds that came from Sun Mother’s daughter,” Brigid said.

“I wonder what will happen if we follow this thaumaturgical detector thingy. It’s flashing more. I think something magical is moving towards us.” Kiara held up the wand like device and stared at the crystals.

“Eyes forward,” Sentinel commanded as he turned and stared at the entrance just across from them. “We need lights. Two of you, in the air and fly over there near the entrance. See if it is safe before we fly over. We’ll start investigating that tunnel.”

 

 

The Raptors moved forward and the wand that Kiara carried continued to flash with greater and greater intensity. Sentinel led the way with Loki by his side, with Gofannon and Brigid bringing up the rear. This sewer passage was wider and was egg shaped. It appeared to be very old and made out of hardened clay.

“It smells pretty bad down here… like rotten meat… but worse.” Loki, who had his left talons upon Sentinel’s back, peered ahead into the darkness. “And there are all these bones littering the tunnel. Lots of pony bones and other things. I guess when a bunch of liquid comes through here, the passage will be washed clean and all the bones will get pushed into the well that is behind us.”

“I think you are right, Loki,” Sentinel replied as he stepped over a rather small pony skull.

“We have incoming,” Kiara hissed in warning.

Sentinel froze and lowered his head. Beside him, Loki brought his crossbow to bear, resting the stock against his shoulder and sighting down the length. The Raptors peered ahead, all of them straining to see beyond the light radius.

“I have a shot!” Callum cried out as he fired. In the darkness ahead, there was a strange croaking squeak.

“Damn, Callum, how did you see your target?” Loki asked as he peered ahead.

“I dunno… good eyes I guess,” Callum replied. The dove like griffon twitched. “I have to keep Freyja safe. She’s all I have.”

“Touching.” Loki’s voice dripped with sarcasm as he moved forward, his crossbow aimed downwards and ahead. In the dim light, Loki studied what Callum had shot. “What in Tartarus is this thing?”

The rest of the Raptors moved forward and Sentinel had himself a good look. It appeared to be rat like… but not rat like. It had rat like features, but it also had scales. It had a long tail and from the middle of its back, two tentacles grew. The creature was only about a foot and a half long.

“It’s like Gummy, Pinkie Pie’s alligator,” Callum said as he stared down at the creature. He yanked his quarrel free and shuddered in revulsion.

Nodding, Sentinel, who said nothing, agreed with Callum. It looked like it was part rat and part alligator. With tentacles. It didn’t appear to be very big or very dangerous. A troubling thought lurked in the back of Sentinel’s mind.

“You know, that thing right there is not big enough to snatch a foal… and the magical detector doohickey is still flashing,” Angus said in a low voice, pointing at Kiara’s wand with one extended talon finger.

“Well, the corpse is magical, but I get your point.” Kiara held the device up. “This is one of many. We are so, so very screwed. Do you know how many eggs an alligator can lay?”

“Eh… we have Callum. Lovey Dovey has proven himself useful. Good eyes… and look at that shot. He put his shot right into the thing’s friggin’ eye… and he did it outside of the light radius.” Loki looked down at the corpse and saw some sort of slime was oozing from the tentacles. “Do not touch the body as you pass. I don’t think you’d like it.”

“We keep moving forward. Gofannon, mind our backsides,” Sentinel commanded.

 

 

The stench grew worse. Sentinel was feeling sickened now from the malodorous funk and he couldn’t imagine how bad it must have been for the rest of the Raptors. He started to think of all the things he could have done different, like studying a map of the sewers before coming down here. Checking to see what equipment his Raptors had been given. There was a laundry list of mistakes made, and Sentinel was determined to never make these mistakes again, if possible.

Discord had once said that chaos was like herding cats. Sentinel came to the realisation, he was leading cats. Griffons were not at all like ponies. And not all griffons were like Lugus. The Raptors weren’t raised as warriors, or soldiers, all of them save one had been slaves. Loki, he was also a slave, but had been trained as a pit fighter and an assassin. Teaching them to be independent thinkers was hard, but teaching them to think together as a group was going to prove harder. Getting them to follow his method of thinking was almost an impossibility.

The sound of running water was behind them now, and Sentinel could hear a little better. He peered ahead into the darkness as the Raptors crept forward, and Loki’s talons upon his back was reassuring, to say the least.

“Something is coming. This thingy is getting blinky,” Kiara warned in a low whisper.

The group halted. Loki raised his crossbow. Sentinel’s ears perked as he strained to hear the incoming danger. There were several faint muffled clicks as crossbow safeties were killed and the crossbows were made ready to fire.

“Steady…” Sentinel’s command was said in a smooth, assured voice that held back the fear that the others were feeling and steadied trembling talons.

There was hissing sound in the darkness in front of them, and then a whooshing sound. There was a sizzling crackle and then Sentinel felt something agonising burning through his pelt on his chest. His legs wobbled and had trouble moving. He dropped like a stone into the litter of bones in the bottom of the passageway.

Somebirdy threw a light globe ahead; the glass tinked and plinked as it bounced off of the walls and the floor of the passage. And then, the Raptors saw it. Over a yard long, low slung, and hideous. The weird alligator rat surged forward, tentacles waving. One of the tentacles whipped and a searing blob of goo was hurled at the Raptors.

It caught Shaquah on her shoulder; part of the ooze dribbled onto her bare and exposed foreleg. The griffoness went limp and fell down. She lay unmoving amongst the bones littering the passage.

As all of this happened, a flurry of quarrels slammed into the lurker and it let out a pained, keening cry that echoed through the tunnels. After a moment, other keening cries could be heard.

Already, Sentinel was recovering. He rose, growling, his legs trembling. The paralytic compounds in the acidic blob had slowed him down, but had not rendered him helpless. He flared out his wings, offering some cover for the Raptors to stay safe behind.

Once again, it was Callum who scored the killing shot as the griffon lodged a quarrel into the creature’s eye. Several bolts had bounced off of the lurker, which had thick, scaly, armored patches over its hide.

“See to Shaquah,” Sentinel commanded once the lurker stopped moving. He didn’t feel so good, but he ignored it.

“She’s alive,” Branwen said as she lifted Shaquah’s head.

“Paralytic goo,” Loki said. “Two shots. Might be one for each tentacle. If one of those tentacles touches you, could be fatal. Commander, you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Sentinel replied. He gave himself a shake and looked at the spot where the acidic goo had hit him, just below his neck, on his chest. His pelt was burned away and the skin was blistered, red, and oozing.

“Shaquah is bad. The goo burned away her doublet and it has pitted her armor. It melted some of the steel. Her foreleg and shoulder looks really awful,” Branwen said in a worried voice. “Brigid, I need one of those ampules of changeling spit.”

Brigid fished out a small glass vial that was sealed with wax and passed it to Branwen. Holding it up to the light, Branwen looked at the goo, saw that it glowed with a light of its own, and then with her thumb claw, she pierced the wax seal. She poured the entire ampule over Shaquah’s gruesome wound.

“Sentinel, we should patch that up,” Grunion said, making a helpful suggestion as he pointed at the still sizzling wound on Sentinel’s chest.

“No.” Sentinel shook his head. “I’m fine. The rest of you are far more fragile. Supplies are limited.”

“Shaquah, are you okay?” Brigid asked in a low voice filled with concern.

“Can’t move,” Shaquah replied in a hoarse, pained whisper.

“Strap her on my back,” Sentinel commanded.

“Commander, what is the plan? What are we doing now?” Gofannon asked as more keening and screeching filled the tunnels. “I think our retreat is cut off.”

“Do we keep fighting?” Freyja asked.

Sentinel did not reply. He tried to weigh his options as he ignored the agonising chemical burn on his chest. He had other lives to think about than just his own. He felt Shaquah’s weight settle over his spine and straps were cinched around his body, securing her in place. He felt a burning sense of shame, knowing that he had failed. He had gone into this ill prepared. The shame, the pain of failure, it hurt more than the raw flesh on his chest.

“Be prepared to fight. Start heading back, slow and steady, we are retreating and working our way back topside. If any of us fall along the way, snatch them up and we must keep moving. No pointless heroics. We’re all getting out of this together. Either we all get out or none of us get out, do I make myself clear?” Sentinel looked at the Raptors and his ears perked as the sound of the keening drew closer.

“Raptors, let’s go,” Gofannon said in a subdued voice as he made a gesture back in the direction they had come. “You heard the commander. No pointless heroics. Get a move on!”

 

 

 

 

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