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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Rubbing his chin, Scorpan gave Celestia a quizzical look. “So let me get this straight. You don’t think Dusk Chaser escaped, you think he was set free but allowed to think that he escaped so he could defect to our side.” The massive gargoyle pulled his hand away from his chin and made a sweeping gesture. “Dusk Chaser had the immortal essence of the mirror reality’s Nightmare Moon trapped inside of his head, but he didn’t know it was in there. So he was released with the intention that somepony would probe his mind and release Nightmare Moon from her prison. The obvious targets for infection would be Princess Luna or perhaps a Myrmidon, but Bucky was the first one in there.”

“Yes.” Princess Celestia gave a weary nod.

Scorpan, looking into Princess Celestia’s red, bleary eyes, heaved a sigh like a blacksmith’s bellows compressing. “This is some dirty fighting. This is the kind of trickery my brother would do.” The gargoyle folded his arms over his chest. “So what do we do now?”

“I wish I knew. The Nightmare entity that drove Luna to madness preyed upon her fears, her desires, everything that made her what she is as a pony… it wanted to bring about eternal night so that Luna would rule forever. It promised Luna that,” Celestia replied.

“So… Nightmare Winter.” Scorpan scowled and his fangs became visible. “It preys upon Bucky’s need to protect, to defend. It preys upon Bucky’s strong ties to family… I guess it offers Bucky a means to stay with his loved ones? What?”

Closing her eyes, Celestia nodded.

“So this becomes that Hearth’s Warming Eve that never ends. A long cold winter that never ends, that keeps families indoors, safe, secure, and together, while this Nightmare parasite feeds off of Bucky—”

“Scorpan, this is not a joke,” Celestia said.

“I wasn’t joking.” Scorpan unfolded his arms from his chest and held his massive, meaty hand out to Celestia. “I was being serious. I’ve read Luna’s writings… if the ponies were afraid of the dark, they would have no choice but to turn to her to protect them, to worship and adore her, placating her so that she would keep the terrible things in the dark away. And all that worshipping and adoration would feed this Nightmare parasite thing.”

“We do not know if they are the same sort of entity, but your speculation seems reasonable if we assume that they are similar,” Celestia said.

Crossing the room, Scorpan placed his hand upon Celestia’s neck. “Speaking of similarities, whatever this thing is, it knows how to kill you. Whatever it is we do, we need to do it soon, before this thing gains enough power to be a threat.”

“This is a master stroke by our enemies.” Odin lifted his head high, a tiny griffon in a room full of giants. “If this took over Luna, we might have had to ask the mirror travelers for help… they have experience in beating it. We might have had no choice but to turn to them for aid. If it had infected Celestia, I can only imagine the sort of nightmare scenario we might be facing. If we had to put Celestia down, we would have to turn to the Night Stallion with the hopes that he could keep the celestial machinery running so that we might live. With Twilight or Bucky, one of our greatest champions are removed from the fight.”

“I marvel at your insight into treachery, tiny griffon.” Scorpan looked down at Odin, bowed, and then brought himself back up to his full height. “So what is our next move? If this is an immortal entity, how do we kill it? How do we stop Bucky? More importantly, how do we stop Bucky in such a way that he doesn’t sprout wings and destroy us all?”

“We pull him away from his family. We try to explain things to him. We try to reason with him and see who or what we are dealing with.” Celestia’s face darkened and her eyes became sorrowful. “I do not know what to do next. If we pull it out of him, where does it go next? I do not think pulling it out of him will be an easy feat. As much as it pains me to say this, Bucky might have to remain as this creature’s prison and we may need to drag him to Tartarus, if we can subdue him.”

“There is a whole lot of ifs, possiblies, and maybes here. I don’t much care for this.” Scorpan shook his head and his wings unfurled as he began to stretch them out. “The worst part of this whole mess is, Bucky strikes me as the sort that would understand the need to cut him down for the greater good.”

“I don’t want you going,” Odin said, looking up at Celestia.

“No, I am going. If somepony must take Bucky down, it should be somepony that loves him.” Celestia began to gnaw upon her lip, biting down until she almost drew blood, and then she let go before she chewed through her lip. “Send word to Discord. His magic might be useful. Gather up our most powerful Myrmidons. Send word to Scorch and make certain that Scorch understands that Bucky must not catch wind of what we are doing.”

“Are we really going to kill him?” Odin asked.

“If we must. It is my hope to subdue him. If we can subdue him—”

“He’ll be dragged off to Tartarus… so this doesn’t end well for Bucky,” Odin sat down and his whole body slumped.

“The Elements of Harmony have gone back to their source. I doubt that they will come forth if called. The world is in a better state of balance now, and the Elements are not as needed.” Celestia’s head dropped and her ears splayed out. “It would be easier if we could just purge this taint from Bucky with the Elements of Harmony.”

“But they are dormant until the world enters into a state of chaos so terrible that they are needed. Understood.” Odin began to drum his talons on the floor. “There has to be a different way.”

“Do we risk putting everyone and everything in the world at risk for just one pony that we love?” Celestia asked.

Odin thought about saying “Maybe” in reply but remained silent.

“If we kill him, she jumps free and goes to something else. So killing him is a bad idea and a last resort. We should avoid that. Taking him alive is our best bet,” Scorpan said.

Taking a deep breath, Celestia thought of her fight with Nightmare Moon. “He will be immensely powerful. I could not defeat my sister when the Nightmare had her. It took the Elements of Harmony to banish her to the moon and lock her away. When Nightmare Moon came back, she banished me into my sun and it took Twilight Sparkle and the Elements of Harmony to free me.”

“So we hit hard and fast before he has a chance to smite us.” Scorpan could see the agony on Celestia’s face. “I’m sorry—”

“Do not be sorry!” Celestia snapped. “Let us assemble and then go and do what must be done…”

 

 

“—that might actually explain a few weird feelings I’ve been having lately,” Bucky said as he looked at the stern and sad faces all around him. “What happens next?”

Relieved, but still feeling crushed, Celestia felt a lump rising up in her throat as she thought about what must be done next. “Bucky, this entity must be contained. We are dealing with it now, thankfully we figured all of this out before there was real threat, but something has to act as a prison for this thing.”

“I see.” Bucky blinked. He dropped his head and his ears went limp. “Do what must be done. I understand and I bear you no malice.”

“There has to be another way,” Twilight Sparkle said in a strangled voice as she stepped forwards. Twilight Sparkle looked at her friends, then at Bucky, and then at Princess Celestia.

“The Tree did not yield its Elements, just as I predicted.” Celestia gave a sad sigh and shook her head. “Our Elements of Harmony are meant to bring balance and restore order. Right now, things are well balanced. The world is a harmonious place.”

“Tell my family that I love them. Come, let’s do what must be done, whatever that is. I’m feeling a peculiar sense of hatred right now and I don’t like it,” Bucky said.

“Don’t you want to say goodbye?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“And see them crying? Hear them weeping? And allow whatever is inside of me to feed on that and gain more power? No, I think not. It is better this way,” Bucky replied.

“This is wrong,” Pinkie Pie said as she gave a pleading look to those around her. “Can’t we do something?”

“What can we do?” Rarity asked.

“We have to do what is best for other ponies… and everyone else too,” Applejack said.

“Applejack even tried bucking the Element Tree… nothing happened.” Rainbow Dash shook her head. “So what happens to Bucky?”

Celestia’s wings drooped at her sides. “I think our best solution is to use his body as a prison and we take him to Tartarus—”

“No!” Twilight shouted, stomping her hoof. “NO NO NO!”

“Twilight, be reasonable,” Bucky said in a low voice.

“How can you be so calm about this?” Twilight demanded. She watched as Bucky shrugged but said nothing. A raw, seething fury boiled inside of her and Twilight Sparkle tried to swallow the lump in her throat.

“I’ll take his place—”

“No, Rarity, there will be no taking my place,” Bucky said, the first hints of anger appearing in his voice. “You have obligations—”

“And so do you!” Rarity snapped in a very curt and unladylike reply.

“I appreciate the thought, but I will not allow that to happen,” Bucky said. He looked up at Celestia. “Let’s get this over with. I will go to Tartarus in the manner of my own choosing—”

“Now look here, you pompous, foul tempered, discourteous, foul tempered brute, you are not the only unicorn with a noble sense of self sacrifice! I know what it means to give up a part of yourself or even all of yourself!” Tears streamed down Rarity’s cheeks.

Sniffling, Pinkie Pie placed a foreleg around Rarity’s neck and pulled her friend closer. She kissed Rarity’s cheek, gave the unicorn a reassuring squeeze, and then squeezed her eyes shut, unable to watch whatever was going to happen next. “You said foul tempered twice…”

Celestia’s horn ignited and then glowed as bright as the sun. A rift appeared. Celestia stared into the rift, beyond it was blackness. She drew in a deep, shuddering breath and then turned to look at Bucky.

“What’s that?” Applejack asked.

“A special portal into Tartarus,” Twilight Sparkle replied to Applejack. “It is a certain type of one way portal. Once something is banished through one of those, it is almost impossible to escape.”

“But things like Tirek do escape.” Applejack’s eyes narrowed and she looked at Bucky.

“It’s better this way,” Bucky said as he closed his eyes and hung his head.

“Come Bucky, being the Gatekeeper, I will walk you through. I will try to at least make certain that you are comfortable and I will do everything within my power to make certain you are treated well.” Reaching out her wing, Celestia prodded Bucky on the backside.

“NO!”

“Fluttershy, dearest, this temper does not become you,” Discord said as he placed his paw upon Fluttershy, who hovered beside him. The yellow no-longer-quite-a-pegasus trembled with rage.

“You’re killing him!” Fluttershy screamed. She shook her head. “No, this is worse than death… he’s sick… you don’t put sick ponies in the ground! You heal them! Somehow!”

“Fluttershy, please try to calm down,” Celestia said.

“NO!” Fluttershy roared. She made a gesture with her paw and the portal to Tartarus snapped shut with an almost deafening pop. She made another gesture and Celestia went flying, tumbling end over end, and the alicorn landed in the snow quite some distance away. Fluttershy covered her mouth with her paw and a pained expression filled her eyes. “I’m sorry… I can’t control my power just yet… you’ll be okay I hope!”

“Fluttershy, what are you doing?” Twilight asked as her horn ignited.

“Don’t cross me, Twilight Sparkle,” Fluttershy warned. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.”

In the distance, Celestia was getting up on her hooves. Scorch stood at her side and Scorpan had his sword drawn. Heifer Aestus stood with her hands clenched into fists.

Bucky stood in the snow looking bewildered, not knowing what to do.

Fluttershy looked around, realising that the group had divided. Celestia had quite a collection of protectors gathered around her. Twilight Sparkle had her friends around her. Fluttershy turned and looked at the only one still next to her. “Discord, help me. I have an idea but I can’t do this on my own.”

“Fluttershy, dearest, we’re going to spend a very long time as statues…”

“I don’t care,” Fluttershy replied. There was a flash and Twilight Sparkle vanished, along with Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack.

“I was starting to believe that the draconequus among us could be trusted,” Celestia said in an angry, gritty voice. “I had hoped that we could all live in peace. I see that I was mistaken.” All around her, the snow was melting.

Discord, knowing there was about to be trouble, snapped his talons. Celestia’s horn vanished. At least he and Fluttershy would be pretty statues together. And then, just when he thought that things were going his way, Celestia’s horn began growing back. It was a neat trick, and this wasn’t what had happened last time he had taken her horn away.

When Bucky’s horn ignited, Fluttershy sneezed at Bucky. Right away, Bucky was overcome by sneezing, and his magic fizzled out, rendering him helpless.

Scorch reached out and grabbed Celestia around the middle, pulling her close. “No!” he cried, trying to hold the alicorn. “Now is not a time for anger… there are too many lives at risk here… this is a misunderstanding and we can sort this out later—”

“Traitor!” Scorpan lunged at Scorch with his sword held over his head.

Seeing the massive gargoyle coming right at him, Scorch snapped his fingers and the gargoyle vanished. Celestia blazed to life, becoming a torrent of living flame in his embrace. Her horn had grown back and now glowed with a furious intensity.

“Discord, help me,” Fluttershy commanded as she advanced on Bucky, who lay in the snow, overcome by a powerful sneezing fit that left him helpless.

“What are we doing?” Discord asked.

Fluttershy rubbed her large, rounded stomach. “Making a baby.”

“Here? In the middle of battle? Kinky!” Discord lunged forwards and began to cackle.

When she reached Bucky’s side, Fluttershy kneeled down in the soggy, slushy snow. She took Bucky’s head into her forelegs, cradling it to her barrel as the poor pony continued to sneeze. “I’m very sorry Bucky, I know you’ll forgive me later, because you’re a good pony.”

Discord dropped his long serpentine form down to the ground and placed his lion paw upon Bucky. “So, dearest Fluttershy, I guess your plan is to pull this thing out of him, and put it into something else, but what?”

Reaching down, Fluttershy rubbed Bucky’s nose, and he stopped sneezing. “Bucky, I need you to make a tiny foal sized body out of ice for me, can you do that?”

A short distance away, Celestia ceased to struggle and her flames extinguished. She remained in Scorch’s embrace, and Scorch refused to let go of her. Scorch stroked Celestia’s neck and tried to calm her.

“What are they doing?” Celestia whispered.

“I have no idea,” Scorch replied.

“Bucky, I hate to even ask you, but I am going to need a teeny, tiny smidgen of your life… it is for a good cause,” Fluttershy said in a soothing, soft voice, the very voice of kindness itself. She saw Bucky nod. “Discord, I’m gonna need you rip him open and pull out whatever is inside of him, along with our little troublemaker. Be gentle!”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Discord replied.

“I don’t want to be ripped open,” Bucky said as he made a feeble defense of his own body. He didn’t have much strength after sneezing almost one hundred times in a row.

“Don’t be a big baby, you’re giving birth,” Fluttershy said as she booped Bucky on the nose. She watched as Discord pulled Bucky open, creating a rift in Bucky’s chest. Inside, there was blackness and snow, along with a curious lack of organs.

Discord reached his talons inside of the rift and began to dig around. Discord squinted, stuck out his tongue, and shook his head. “Nope, too squishy. Not that either, that’s too warm. That’s too big, that has to be Bucky’s moral outrage, it’s almost as big as his auntie Celery’s.” Discord pulled what appeared to be a sapling out of Bucky. “Here’s the stick he used to have up his ass.” Discord tossed it over his shoulder and it landed in the snow with a thud.

The draconequus made a disgusted face. “I think I just touched Bucky’s self loathing, it was like a pile full of noodles mixed with runny pudding… yuck!” Discord kept digging, rummaging around, and his tongue flopped around as he shook his head. “She’s hiding in here… somewhere!”

“Discord, stop fooling around, this is serious,” Fluttershy said, her soft expression becoming stern.

“Ahah! I found it,” Discord said as he yanked out something black and amorphous from the rift in Bucky’s chest. It pulsated with a weird black illumination. “We’re gonna need something to remedy this… this is pure, concentrated hatred.”

“It wants love and affection. It’s very, very sick and it needs affection. That is what is craves.” Fluttershy’s brows furrowed. Fluttershy snapped her paw and one very surprised looking Cadance popped into existence.

“Hello Cadance,” Discord said to the alicorn foal. “It is so nice to see you before I get banished into the abyssal planes in the bottom of Tartarus.”

“We need a little love. Cadance, do you mind if we took some?” Fluttershy asked.

Wide eyed, confused, Cadance nodded.

“Thank you,” Fluttershy said. Reaching out her paw, she began to snatch the little hearts that drifted in Cadance’s ethereal mane, pulling them away and placing them in a little pile on Bucky. The pile had an odd glow about it.

“What strange magic is this?” Odin asked as he crept a little closer.

“Draconequus magic… something Discord could have done if he had known kindness,” Fluttershy replied. She looked down at the small foal made out of ice. It wasn’t Bucky’s best work, but it would have to do. “Discord, if you please…”

Picking up the ice-foal, Discord held it up in front of his face. He stuffed the amorphous black mass in there. Reaching down, he snatched up the pile of hearts from Cadance’s mane, careful to get every last single one, and stuffed those inside of the ice-foal. His eyes narrowed and his lips pulled back from his lone fang that protruded from his mouth. “Needs something.”

The draconequus drifted upwards and then began to float towards Celestia, scratching his head. “Life is more than that animus and love,” he muttered to himself. When he reached Celestia, he looked the white alicorn in the eye.

Extending his talon, he pointed at the ice-foal. “She’s cold. I guess you were right. The sun is the source of all life. May I?” Discord raised one eyebrow.

Celestia, who was still in Scorch’s arms, nodded, but found that she could not speak. She whimpered when Discord touched her, but his touch was soft, gentle, even affectionate. Celestia was overcome with guilt for thinking that Discord had betrayed her yet again.

When Discord pulled his paw away, it glowed with a fierce light. He stuffed that into the ice-foal and began to drift back towards Fluttershy, an almost manic grin upon his face.

Reaching out, Fluttershy took the ice foal from Discord into a gentle embrace. She hugged it for a moment, her eyes closing, and a warm smile spread over her face. After a minute lost in a hug, she opened her eyes and looked down at Bucky, who lay in the snow, looking very, very confused.

“Kiss her,” Fluttershy commanded.

Not knowing what else to do, Bucky did so.

Fluttershy held the ice-foal out to Cadance, who also kissed her. Then, Fluttershy hugged the foal to her barrel once more. Bowing her head, Fluttershy kissed the ice-foal. There was a brilliant flash of light, and then a shrill cry was heard.

“Oh, she’s very precious,” Fluttershy said as she snuggled the foal in her forearms.

Discord floated over to have a look at the crying foal that Fluttershy was holding. Reaching out his talons, he went to tickle the foal beneath her chin. As his talon tip touched the foal, her head snapped out, chomped down upon his talon, and with a jerk, she tore Discord’s talon finger clean off.

“Oh… she’s cranky.” Fluttershy began to coo to the foal, rocking her, and trying to comfort her.

“Young lady, you are lucky that it’s growing back!” Discord said, shaking his regenerating stump at the foal.

“She just needs some kindness and a bit of love and affection, just like Discord. I’m going to take her home now. She’s cold and probably hungry. You can apologise to me later.” Fluttershy snapped her paw and vanished.

“What just happened?” Celestia asked, rediscovering her voice.

Discord shrugged, snapped his talons, and vanished.

“I want some kind of explanation!” Celestia shouted at the empty air.

 

 

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