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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Lugus, being a large creature, could not use chairs like most of his fellow griffons and ponies. Instead, he sat down upon the floor, and was still taller than those who sat in chairs, being long in body, as long as a lion. With his talons, he stuffed a whole cricket taco into his beak, sans vegetables, with only a little cilantro as well as onion for flavour, and crunched it up. He went to work making another one, spooning crickets onto a thick piece of flatbread. Being such a large creature, it took an awe inspiring amount of food to keep him fed.

“It is time for the Raptors to make a name for themselves,” Bucky said around a mouthful of food. “They’ll be good examples to the others who have volunteered. Still not certain how I feel about my little griffons going to war. We are too few and there will be deaths. I don’t like this.”

“They wish to fight.” Lugus added a little lime juice to his cricket taco and some white crumbled cheese. “They want to defend their home. For many of them, this is their first time feeling patriotism. Funny that they call Equestria home and they wish to defend it.”

“I want them kept out of actual battle as much as possible. Unicorns are dangerous up close, spells lose a lot of punch at a distance. The further they are, the safer they are. Use their natural sharpshooter abilities,” Bucky said, thinking aloud.

“Bucky, I am going.”

Pausing just as he was about to take a bite, Bucky’s eyes abandoned his delicious cricket taco and looked over at Belisama. He blinked a few times, his nostrils flared, and then he set his taco down upon his plate. “What?”

“I have made up my mind, I’m going.” Belisama began to tremble and she looked her husband in the eye, fighting the urge to avert her gaze.

“No. Absolutely not.” Bucky shook his head and became aware that Lugus was staring at him. He raised his talons to Lugus to silence him.

“You… you… you don’t own me,” Belisama said in a strained squeak. “I am a free griffoness, and while I love and respect you, you… you… you can’t… you can’t tell me what to do. I have given you a cub, I have warmed your bed, I have given you my body, and I have loved you, and make no mistake, I am going to war with you.”

“Bandua needs her mother—”

“Magpie is capable of looking after Bandua.” Belisama, trembling, folded her forelegs over her girth and sat up a little straighter. “I am one of the best sharpshooters you have. Ask Lugus. Either with that fancy crossbow you gave me or a rifle. You just got done saying that the further the griffons are from the unicorns, that the safer they will be. Give us rifles and we will kill from the horizon, and I will lead them.”

“Queen Belisama, there is also the respect given to a leader that leads her subjects into battle,” Lugus said in a soft voice, ignoring the icy death stare that Bucky was giving him.

“Sombra fell because he sent his family away. He had no one there with him when he needed them most. Nopony, nobirdy that he trusted. I will not allow you to make that same mistake,” Belisama said in a commanding voice that was now free of her former stammering and fear. “Where you go I will follow. I belong with you. Your foes are my foes. Princess Celestia told me that sometimes, one life can change the world. I keep thinking that if just one of Sombra’s wives had stayed with him, remained at his side, we might live in a very different world right now. I cannot live with myself if I abandon you now when you need me the most.”

Slumping down in his chair, Bucky sighed in defeat. He picked up his taco, nibbled on it a bit, but no longer felt very hungry. He looked over at Belisama, noted her heavy breathing, and could see the fear that she was feeling. No doubt, her little heart was thumping in her chest. She had grown, she had changed so much, and Bucky felt a swell of love for her.

“I suppose I shall have to lead by example and resort to using guns. I detest guns, but the griffons will need a good example of trigger discipline in the field,” Lugus said after he swallowed a whole cricket taco.

“Yes Lugus, they will. I have been modifying the twenty millimetre hand cannon that we found. Also have made a variety of custom twenty millimetre shells, all of them fantastically lethal.” Bucky, feeling his hunger return, took a big bite and savoured the taste of spicy crickets.

“Modifications?” Lugus asked.

“Improved rangefinder sights… spell jar shells. You’ll be able to launch a shell into a cluster of enemies from quite some distance away. Some of the griffon alchemists have been working on powdered poison joke shells.” Bucky looked at Belisama, who had fluffed out. “You do good work.”

Lugus shook his head. “This conflict is going to be horrifying…”

 

 

“Bell, honey, daddy is trying to work,” Bucky said as he bounced Bell Heather in his forelegs. He kissed her on her cheek, gave her a squeeze, and then looked at Myrmidon Charassare. “Do you understand what is expected of you?”

“Of course sir,” Charassare replied. The big Myrmidon smiled, a rare sight, and his eyes locked on Bell Heather. “My job is to make certain that little foals like that one have a future… and get to live in a world that is safe for them.”

“Sorry for the distraction. She’s teething and she’s fussy and she just wants her daddy.” Bucky gave his foal another squeeze, knowing that he would be leaving her soon.

“Foalsitting the Shadowbolts is a very important task,” Luna said in a stern voice. “I do not want you feeling slighted or cheated out of combat. There will be plenty of combat for you. But the Shadowbolts are going to need an experienced handler when we send them out into the field.”

Charassare bowed his head. “Mistress, I understand the necessity. If others wish to grumble, I will beat some understanding into them. The Shadowbolts are an untested weapon, and you need eyes that you can trust to look over them, to see if they are fit for war. I understand the unique privilege that I have been given, and I respect your decision.”

“You big,” Harper said as she walked between Charassare’s armored legs with her head craned upwards. “Metal.” The foal knocked on Charassare’s armor with her hoof, banging away and producing a metallic clanging sound.

“You have an admirer, Charassare.” Luna grinned at the Myrmidon as he looked down at the teeny, tiny foal standing between his hooves.

“Hello, Princess Harper—”

“No, don’t call her that, she’ll get very silly, she has funny ideas about what a princess is,” Bucky said, holding Bell Heather in one foreleg while he waved his talons at Charassare. “She starts putting on airs with her stuffed animals and starts calling herself the ‘Storm Princess’ and this is all Luna’s fault.”

“It is not!” Luna’s angry retort startled Erebus and caused the colt to snort. “Charassare, do you see the sort of insolence I have to deal with?”

Ignoring his Mistress, Charassare remained focused on Harper, who had been joined by Sukari. The timid zebra foal had come out of hiding, and was now pressed against Harper’s side. Lowering his head in a slow cautious manner, Charassare said, “Princess Sukari… see, I’m not so scary.”

“This is a highly irregular war counsel, I apologise,” Bucky said, feeling a little sheepish as he watched the armored Myrmidon interacting with his foals. “I’m leaving them soon and I don’t have the heart to send them away.”

Charassare lifted his head and looked at Bucky. “Master, this is a good reminder of why I fight. More war counsels should have foals present. It puts things into perspective.” The scarred face of the Myrmidon peered out from beneath his open visored helmet and a fang filled smile became visible.

“Charassare, you do know that royal titles are not inherited, correct?” Luna asked.

“Mistress, I do not care. What harm is there with titles of affection?” Charassare replied. He looked up at Luna. “What harm is there in calling your colt Prince Erebus?”

“We do not want a sense of entitlement.” Luna glanced over at Erebus, who was dozing off on a cushion. “We do not want them growing up with the expectation that they are owed special treatment or a title or that they are somehow above everypony else.”

“I understand, Mistress,” Charassare replied. The big Myrmidon heaved a sigh. “To return to required discussion, I have an idea that I would like to share.”

“Oh?” Bucky looked up from staring into Bell Heather’s eyes.

“We have a number of fresh Myrmidons that have passed training, but are not truly battle tested. I wish to have them learn some humility and teamwork. Rather than place them into the thick of the fighting, I have an idea that involves the griffons.”

“I think I know where this is going.” Luna’s eyes narrowed. “There are no steadier fliers than gliding lunar pegasi and your ability to hover is second to none.”

“Yes, Mistress, this is true. Snipers need a steady platform for shooting. If a griffon has to hover, all that movement is bound to cause some degree of inaccuracy. But if they can remain still and allow somepony else to hover and keep them relatively steady, I do believe they will be far better sharpshooters.”

“I like this idea,” Bucky said as he bounced Bell Heather in his embrace.

“Many Myrmidons will protest being used as mounts.” Shaking her head, Luna’s ears tilted back a little. “There will be some resentment within the ranks.”

“Hence the need to learn humility,” Charassare said. “To be honest, we Myrmidons do have blind spots and we tend to have some weaknesses when dealing with unicorns. Their magic is a good counter for our strength. Having to fight both unicorns and pegasi at the same time makes things difficult for us. Having a companion to watch our backs in the air and deal with unicorns while we deal with enemy pegasi will be of a tremendous advantage, at least, that is my opinion.”

“So the idea is to stay out of reach of the unicorns and their spells, which keeps both you and the griffons safe, and if pegasi come to flush you out, the means are there to deal with that threat as well. This is a sound plan. I have been worried sick about keeping my griffons safe… we are too few in number.” Bucky’s eyes narrowed and a cunning expression overtook his face. “We could even load you down with bombs and high powered explosive ordnance  for the griffons to drop on your enemies down below.”

Luna, feeling a new sense of enthusiasm, began to nod. “We could do the same with unicorns… mount griffons upon them… defensive specialists. If all they had to do was focus on keeping a shield up, they could conserve energy and keep their shields up longer if they didn’t have to focus on offense. A mounted griffon could provide a blistering offense with one of those lever action rifles.”

“It would certainly give us an advantage.” Bucky looked at Luna and then at Charassare, his eyes glittering with an almost feral cunning. “The mirror travelers would have to focus upon both defense and offense, which they can do, but they will exhaust themselves quickly.”

“This is a significant tactical advantage.” Charassare’s smile turned into a wide grin, revealing even more jagged teeth. And then, the smile vanished and his face became stern. “If this works out as well as we hope, that is. Pioneering new tactics is fine and good, but having them work out in the field is another.”

Stroking Bell Heather’s neck as she snuffled, Bucky said, “Which brings up something I wish to discuss… there are those who wish to become citizens of Equestria and are willing to fight for us. I say we use them in this conflict. Service guarantees citizenship…”

 

 

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