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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“Father?”

Bucky awoke somewhat, aware of Sparkler’s voice. It was bitterly cold in the room, and Sparkler was sitting near his head, shivering. He looked up at her with his left eye, and saw her horn was faintly lit.

“Sparky?” he replied groggily.

“I was having a nightmare, it scared me,” the filly said, leaning down and speaking softly into Bucky’s ear.

Even with his sleep addled mind, Bucky came to the realisation that Sparkler had come to him, and not to Derpy. It was a thought that bothered him faintly.

“He was beating her, and I couldn’t make it stop,” Sparkler whimpered. “And then other things happened. Bad things, and I was forced to watch.”

Bucky peered around, looking at the piles of ponies around him. Berry was on his left side, Derpy was on his right, he knew the foals were with Derpy, and Sparkler’s herd had their own pile under their own blanket.

“Come here Sparky,” Berry said groggily, she stood up, letting a flood of freezing cold air under the blanket. She pulled Sparkler under her, and then laid down on top of her, squashing her into the bed. Sparkler did not protest as Berry squeezed her.

“I didn’t mean to wake everypony up,” Sparkler whispered.

“I think it is just us,” Bucky replied quietly.

Sparkler shivered under Berry, grateful to be comforted by the mare she loved. She cried softly, the tears finally coming, and she pressed her face into Berry’s foreleg. “I hate this place,” Sparkler sobbed.

“Then make it better,” Berry whispered into Sparkler’s ear.

“I failed them, I should have trusted in my family, and I didn’t. And somepony got hurt. I am a terrible alpha,” Sparkler cried softly. “I failed to keep them safe… my herdmate has a broken leg and it is my fault… mine… how do I keep them safe father?”

“You focus on building a bond with them, and I will focus on keeping you safe,” Bucky whispered as he leaned down and kissed the wounded filly that he called his own. “And don’t make the same mistake twice.”

“I feel so ashamed, I can’t bear to be in my own skin right now,” Sparkler confessed.

“I am not ashamed of you Sparkler. You did something very brave, you took a leap of faith. So what if you stumbled a bit, the point is, you took that leap,” Berry whispered into Sparkler’s ear. She kissed the ear that she spoke into and then gave a loving nuzzle to the filly’s cheek, wiping away tears with her snoot. “Our failures are what make us great, not our successes. When we get things right on the first try, we learn nothing of value. It is only when we screw up repeatedly that we learn stuff. Trust me, I know, I’ve spent my whole life learning things the hard way.”

“And Rising Star must love you a great deal to agree to this, so look at the good to be found,” Bucky encouraged. He suffered a sharp stabbing pain in his eye socket and his head felt swimmy. The cold was biting into the dried out and taut flesh inside of his eye socket. His head wobbled on his neck and he saw Berry shoot him a worried glance. “Just hurts sometimes,” he whimpered, laying his head down and waiting for the pain to pass.

Sparkler continued to sob quietly as the ponies around her continued to slumber. Berry’s forelegs were soon completely soaked, but Berry did not mind. “Keg Smasher said her father might challenge the marriage if we don’t consummate it… I don’t want Loch Skimmer to be traumatised any more than she already is, she and Rising Star barely know one another,” Sparkler said in a sobbing heaving whisper.

“If he challenges it I will freeze him solid and kick him into shattered chunks,” Bucky replied in a wavering pain filled whisper. “Nopony threatens what is mine. Make no mistake, Loch Skimmer and Ripple are now mine.”

“That makes me feel better,” Sparkler murmured from beneath Berry.

“Nothing threatens my fillies or my colts,” Bucky muttered, still sounding woozy from pain.

“Killing him wouldn’t solve much, but it would make me feel better,” Berry admitted.

“I kicked him in the potato sack,” Sparkler sniffled.

“Good girl,” Berry whispered.

“Father unloaded several hundred pounds of force onto his face and sent him flying,” the still sniffling filly added. “He cried like a foal.”

“I matched the amount of force used to wound Loch Skimmer,” Bucky explained in an unsteady whisper.

Berry nodded in dark and then resumed her nuzzling, trying to comfort Sparkler. She could feel Sparkler’s barrel beneath her, still hitching and expanding greatly as she heaved deep breaths as her emotions flooded out from her eyes.

 

 

“I see the moon, the moon sees me

shining through the leaves of the old oak tree

Oh, let the light that shines on me

shine on the one I love.

Over the mountain, over the sea,

back where my heart is longing to be

Oh, let the light that shines on me

shine on the one I love.

I hear the lark, the lark hears me

singing from the leaves of the old oak tree

Oh, let the lark that sings to me

sing to the one I love,

Over the mountains, over the sea

back where my heart is longing to be

Oh, let the lark that sings to me

sing to the one I love.”

 

Berry’s voice was gentle and melodic, and halfway through her song Bucky fell into slumber with a soft snort. She felt Sparkler going limp beneath her as she sang faintly into Sparkler’s ear, her gentle song lulling the troubled filly into sleep.

Finally, everypony around her was asleep, and Berry drifted off into slumber as well, still piled atop Sparkler, feeling warm, safe, and secure. Even the wolves howling outside couldn’t bother her as she drifted off into a contented sleep, surrounded by those she loved, and those she would soon learn to love.

 

 

The skies were grey and threatened rain, a wild natural storm blowing in off the sea. The morning was cold and bleak, unusually chilly feeling for a summer morning, unless you were an inhabitant of the isles, and then it still felt pretty warm. As with everything else, it was all about perspectives.

The crowd in the courtyard was immense, and it was packed wall to wall with ponies. Everypony had been gathered. The ones that didn’t fit in the courtyard stood on the ramparts and the walls. Others stood on top of roofs. Still more were packed all inside the gate entrance, and every face looked curious about what was about to happen.

The Laird was about to make an announcement.

Bucky sat on the raised platform reserved for the local nobles, of which there were a few, all of them looking very much like soldiers, ponies that had earned their place and position. All of them were covered in scars, and many were missing bits and pieces of their bodies. It was disturbing to Derpy just how well Bucky fit in with his new peers. All of them looked grim and hard faced, the ones that still had whole faces. There were a few that were only a mass of scars, including Bucky, who had one half of his face mutilated, still hidden under bandages.

Nothing was given on the isles, everything was earned.

At the other end of the platform, Loch Skimmer’s father was chained to a post, blindfolded and bound.

Keg Smasher stood nearby, his breath visible in the cold. In the grey light, he was an imposing figure, impossibly large by pony standards, even larger than many lunar pegasi, who were considered huge. Even the second largest pegasi in attendance was only half of Keg Smasher’s immense bulk. Keg Smasher began to pace over the platform, walking to and fro, flexing his albatross like wingspan as he did so. He was still covered in fresh cauterisation marks and part of his sunburned skin had began to peel.

“Things must change,” Keg Smasher bellowed over the sound of the crowd. “The old ways need to go… we live in a different time now. We have a future we need to make. We have an impossible task ahead of us, and we need every able bodied pony we have to do it. To this end…”

Keg Smasher paused and looked out over the crowd, meeting the eyes of several ponies. He then turned his head and looked at his collection of nobles.

“To this end we can no longer afford to lose able bodied ponies to needless cruelty. I ain’t saying you can’t set your foals straight, but there is a big difference between a stinging slap and breaking a leg. To this end, injuring a foal, or family member, be that a mare or a stallion, will be met with harsh punishment. This sort of shite ends today,” Keg Smasher announced.

There was a loud rush of sound from the crowd, astonished cries, and a few angry protests.

“SHUT YOUR HOLES!” Keg Smasher commanded in a loud shout.

The crowd quieted somewhat, now a low dull roar.

“Today, an example is going to be made. Yes, I understand that what I am about to do is going to cause grievous injury and will go against my own goals, but the example must be made,” as he spoke, he pulled a long cat o’ nine tails out from a chest sitting on the raised platform and held it in his wing. The ends fell to the ground with a collection of thumps.

“For the crime of permanently scarring such a beautiful face with a mark that will never go away, two lashes,” Keg Smasher bellowed.

“NO!” Loch Skimmer begged. “NO! PLEASE!” She was sitting between Sparkler and Rising Star, her front leg in a sling tied around her neck. Tears were falling down her face now, and she shot a glance to her mothers who were sitting in the front, near the raised platform, all of them looking terrified.

“You wretched piece of shite, how it must shame you to hear your own filly beg for mercy on your behalf after what you did to her,” Keg Smasher snarled. “For the crime of breaking her leg, five lashes!”

The crowd fell dreadfully silent and guards moved to take position on the front of the raised platform. A silent crowd was never good.

“Buckminster!” Keg Smasher shouted. “I want you over here!”

Bucky rose. “What do you want?” he asked.

“For your failure to adequately punish this filly beater for harming one of your herd members, you are to deliver the punishment,” Keg Smasher demanded.

“No,” Bucky stated flatly.

“No?” Keg Smasher asked. “That wasn’t a question. That was an ORDER! If you don’t punish him, then I crush his head under my hoof.”

“I can stop you,” Bucky said in a low voice.

“You could lad. You could kill me. But who will look after these ponies? Because if you try to stop me, I will make you kill me,” Keg Smasher announced. “This is for the good of everypony. Nothing here will change unless brute force is applied. You know it too, which is why you are scowling right now. In the future, we can enact gentle measures, once there is a new generation born to appreciate them. But for now, we have to speak a language these ponies of this generation will understand.”

Bucky snarled wordlessly.

“Bucky, my love, listen to me,” Berry begged. “I know this will be awful, but this needs to be done… not for vengeance, but to give ponies something to be afraid of so they don’t do this again. Keg Smasher is right, an example needs to be made.”

“Derpy?” Bucky asked, turning to somepony else he loved and trusted.

Derpy dropped her gaze to the platform and her ears drooped to the sides of her face. “He harmed a foal. A foal. And a lesson must be taught that this is not alright. I don’t like the punishment, but I agree that it needs to be done. It is going to be awful, but if one pony has to take a flogging to prevent other ponies from being beaten or seriously hurt, that seems like a fair exchange,” Derpy said.

“Thistle?” Bucky asked, looking at the kelpie.

“You are asking me?” she replied.

“Yes,” Bucky answered. “If you are to be a part of this herd, I want to see if you are mature enough to be a worthy member.”

Thistle was silent for a moment before answering, her face thoughtful. “Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good,” she said softly. “I understand this better than most ponies. I know what I have had to endure for a cause greater than my own life.”

“I am sure you do understand Thistle, thank you,” Bucky acknowledged. He turned his head to Sparkler. “Sparkler?” he asked.

“If I was asked I would do it myself,” Sparkler spat, fresh tears now running down her face.

“Rising Star?” Bucky asked, turning his left eye upon the colt.

“I hope it kills him,” Rising Star growled. “What I saw in Loch Skimmer’s eyes last night when she was tied down to the table haunts me. Tying down a pegasus… I don’t know what hurt her worse,” He gently wrapped a leg around Loch Skimmer’s withers and glared at the pegasus chained to the post.

“Loch Skimmer?” Bucky asked finally, looking into the filly’s eyes.

She said nothing, but leaned on Rising Star while she wept. She closed her eyes and Sparkler gently leaned up against her. After a long painful moment, the filly nodded her head but said nothing. Ripple buried her face unto Sparkler’s side and howled.

Bucky heaved a sigh of resignation and looked at the crowd, who was staring at him expectantly, and still frighteningly quiet. He turned to look at Keg Smasher, who was waiting patiently. The chained pegasus wasn’t going anywhere, and Keg Smasher was in no big hurry.

Bucky walked forward, stiff legged, his head held high. He snatched the whip from Keg Smasher and recoiled in horror as he took it into his magic. It was leather, made from the skin of some creature. It felt wrong in his magical grip.

He realised that Sentinel was standing beside him, looking solemn and serious. “Go sit with the others,” Bucky instructed.

“No sir, I cannot,” Sentinel replied. “I am to remain at your side during times of trouble, and this is trouble.”

Bucky heaved another sigh and nodded his head slightly in acceptance. He hefted the whip in his magic, getting a feel for it. It was leather, long, and had nine ends, each end having a tiny lead ball at the end. There was dried blood on the braided leather, it flaked, crackled free, and then drifted to the platform below.

“I personally do not agree with this, but I accept that it is necessary,” Bucky announced. “Prepare yourself you wretch. I hope all of you watch this and understand your fate if you abuse your foals. Or use them as trade goods. As a father, I cannot imagine doing something to harm my own foals. Or my mares. I would never in good conscience harm one hair on their bodies. They are my everything. My reason for living. The reason I draw breath. I worship them and would die for them without question or hesitation.”

There was a hushed murmur in the crowd.

Bucky swished the whip in the air a few times, getting a feel for it. He took an experimental lash in a direction where nopony was standing, and there was a supersonic crack that made the chained pegasus cry in alarm.

He stood in silence, dreading what he must do next.

Swiftly and suddenly, he lashed the cat o’ nine tails forward and it connected with the chained pegasus. There was a gibbering cry of pain and the bound pegasus thrashed against his bonds, trying to be free. Several feathers fell to the platform and several drops of blood trickled down.

One.

He hurled the whip again, and it thundercracked against the stallion, splitting flesh and opening fresh wounds over the pegasus’ back. One wing now hung at an odd angle.

Two.

The whip sprang forward once again, several of the ends wrapping around the stallion’s hind legs and biting deep. The pony threw himself weakly against his bonds and howled for mercy, his voice a ragged scream.

Three.

This time some of the tails landed on his withers and wrapped around the base of his neck and his chest. The pegasus went limp in his bonds, whimpering now, and unable to speak.

Four.

Some of the heads came down upon the stallion’s spine, and more feathers were torn from the bound wings as the other heads tore deep into the flesh of the pegasus’ wings.

Five.

The crowd cried out as the whip connected upon the stallion’s croup and some of the heads tore into the side of the hip, ripping away some of the stallion’s mark.

Six.

The crowd had turned away now from the bloody mess, and even Bucky could no longer look at what he was doing. When he brought down the lash this time, it sent spatters of blood flying all the way out to the wall as it traveled through the air. It connected with a terrifying “CRACK!”and Bucky winced, unable to look at the damage done.

Seven.

Bucky tossed the bloody scourge down upon  the platform and looked at Keg Smasher. “Has justice been properly applied?” he asked.

“Aye, I think it has,” Keg Smasher agreed. “And to everypony present, this could be you. Don’t think I won't do it!”

Bucky strode towards his family, feeling strangely numb, unable to comprehend what he had just done. It was an unimaginable act of cruelty, and even as he walked, he could feel it changing him profoundly. “Never again,” he muttered to himself. “Never again… I will not bring harm to my fellow ponies ever again,” he swore. This one act of violence was rippling through his brain, and his entire psychology shifted as he tried to take in exactly what he had done.

“Keg Smasher, never ask me to do that again, or else I will take my family and we will go… I do not care about the long term consequences. If Equestria will not take us, we will go to other lands and this war can rage forever for all I care. I swear upon my mares and my foals that I will never harm one of my fellow ponies ever again. Do I make myself clear?” Bucky said as he stormed across the platform.

“As the waters in the loch,” Keg Smasher replied. “And I will do as you ask, since you have done as I have asked. I will never ask you to do this again and no conditions or threats of coercion will be applied.”

Bucky looked at his foals, the little ones, Dinky and Piña had their faces buried under Derpy’s wings. They trembled and there was a wet puddle under Piña that made Bucky feel ashamed of what he had done.

“Take up Loch Skimmer and the little ones. We are leaving,” Bucky announced. “Let us be away from this horrible place.”

 

 

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