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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“While I am gone, here are all of the things that need looking after, the most important being the investigation in Baltimare with Fever Cure and Mask.” Twilight Sparkle slid a folder over the table to Sunset Shimmer.

Raising an eyebrow, Bucky looked at Twilight Sparkle, his face becoming quite unpleasant as his anger manifested. “What do you mean when you say gone?”

Twilight Sparkle’s head swiveled and she regarded Bucky with a calm stare. “My fellow Elements of Harmony and I are going—”

“Oh no you are not!” Bucky said, speaking with far more vehemence than usual.

“—to serve upon the hospital frigate Sol Sempiternus. The ship will remain back, far away from enemy lines. Our last trip to Fancy made a huge difference, lifting the spirits of many. Bucky, the Elements of Harmony are needed more than ever.”

Reaching out, Sunset Shimmer patted Bucky and then turned to Twilight. “Don’t mind him, he’s just a little on edge. When I told him that I thought about going, he lost his marbles. You should have heard him.”

“I’m a big filly, Bucky, I can look after myself if I need to,” Twilight said, her tone both gentle and teasing. “Fluttershy and Discord are coming along. They are immensely powerful and along with my magic, we should be able to take care of ourselves.” Twilight felt bad when she saw Bucky trembling with rage, but knew there wasn’t much she could do about it. “Sunset, we expect trouble while Bucky and I are away. Be creative in your defenses if something happens and seek help. There is help. We have a fair number of domestic threats here at home.” Twilight Sparkle cleared her throat. “I have authorised Trixie to assist you in any matters involving the Black Cloaks, and Bartleby as well.”

“Thank you, Twilight,” Sunset Shimmer replied, a soft smile spreading upon her lips. “The Great and Powerful Trixie will be most pleased to hear that she is allowed to help the Great and Powerful Black Cloaks.”

“I am leaving some of my golems at home to assist you, should you need them.” Bucky looked at his student, took a deep breath, and tried to calm down. He rubbed his face with his talons, and then felt his talons pulled away by magic. He looked and saw that Twilight’s horn was lit.

“Stop that, you’re still growing in scales. Leave them be, your skin is all rashy and irritated.” Twilight lifted her bottle of fruit punch soda. “Ponyville’s university grove should be completed while I am gone. It will be strange to return home and see that the trees have been given windows and doors. I wonder what else will be different upon my return.”

“Equestria,” Sunset Shimmer said in a low voice. “With the draft announced, able bodied colts and fillies are going to discover a new way to spend their teenage years. Young adults are going to be hoof picked for their potential. And then shipped away on frigates to the Shetlands, where a terrible future of nothing to do awaits them… that is if you read the papers. The ones who do not die from boredom will die in this great conflict of ours.”

“Bah, we’re not sending them to this war… we’re preparing for future conflicts. And mark my words, there will be future conflicts.” Scowling, Bucky began to drum his talon fingers upon the table.

“Master, you are so grumpy. What am I to do with you?” Sunset Shimmer asked.

“Bah!” Bucky lifted his talons and made a dismissive gesture at his apprentice.

“I can see where Lunacy gets her crankiness—”

“Don’t make jokes about that!” Bucky snapped, looking at Twilight, who was smirking.

 

 

Almost unblinking, Sentinel watched as Belisama cleaned and oiled her pair of revolvers. Huginn and Muninn had been forged by Scorch himself out of some strange black-blue metal that had come from Tartarus. Sentinel hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but his hearing was a little too good. There was the subtle implication that the guns were supernatural and Odin himself was quite proud of his dual ravens, as he called them.

Huginn was somewhat larger, the barrel longer, and a scope had been mounted upon the top of the revolver. It was a big weapon, at least by Belisama’s standards, somehow the griffoness seemed even smaller when holding it. Muninn was smaller, had a stubbier barrel, and seemed made for rapid fire shooting along with a quicker draw. Though smaller, it was still a big weapon.

Nearby, Fleshrender’s rifle lay upon the table, and beside it, Belisama’s sword.

“Are you scared?” Sentinel asked, finally getting the words to come out.

Belisama stopped polishing and looked at Sentinel. She nodded. “Of course I am. I am terrified. I had terrible nightmares all last night. But that doesn’t change the fact that I must do what needs to be done. For too long, we griffons were the cause of much of the world’s suffering. Now, I intend to make amends.” The griffoness resumed her task and began to rub Huginn once more.

Creeping a little closer, Sentinel got a better look at Muninn, which was lying upon the table, but he made no attempt to touch it, even though a part of him wanted to do so. Something about the weapon made his skin feel shivery. Whatever magic the gun had, it was terrifying.

“Sentinel, you know, if you treat her well, you might have a nice little griffoness of your own to ride upon your back into battle,” Belisama said in a voice that contained the faintest hint of teasing.

“Boadicea is a hunter griffon, she will not be little,” Sentinel said, feeling roasting heat in his neck that rose up into his cheeks.

“That doesn’t matter… you’re going to be a big pony. They’re talking about pairing up some of the little griffons on the backs of Myrmidons. If two little griffons can ride a lunar pegasus, I think one somewhat larger hunter griffon can ride a lunar pegasus as well.” Belisama folded the cylinder into the gun and it closed with a click.

“The guns… they’re magical… did Scorch say what they did?” Sentinel asked, desperate to change the subject and talk about anything but Boadicea.

“I don’t know, Scorch might have been telling me a story,” Belisama replied. “He said the revolvers have been bound with spirits of torment and anguish. To be my enemy and to look upon my guns is to know despair. I don’t know what he did to them. Scorch told me to ask Odin.”

“It scares me to look at them.” Sentinel blinked and watched as Huginn was set down upon the table.

“Odin says that a long time ago, a griffon that became a demon rampaged the countryside, sowing fear and derision everywhere he went. He came to be during the time of defilement, where everything in the world went wrong. For many years, he tormented the world, running rampant, doing terrible things. He was a terror. His name is not remembered. Or maybe it is and Odin doesn’t want his name remembered so he did not tell me. But this demon griffon, who fed upon the anguish of others, came across an enclave of ponies and griffons who had holed up together to endure the trying times they lived in, one of the last hold outs to days gone by when ponies and griffons lived in harmony with one another.” Belisama picked up Fleshrender’s rifle and began rubbing down the wooden stock. “This demon griffon plagued these survivors of the time of defilement, wearing them down, killing some of them, but the group of survivors did not survive as long as they had without learning a few tricks. They slew the demon griffon and bound his soul into a bell they had made. Odin says the bell had powerful magic after that, that when rung, it would scare away enemies, overcoming them with terror. Those revolvers are supposed to be made of the remains of that bell, after it was taken to Tartarus because of the bound demon spirit contained within it.”

“Really?” Sentinel asked.

Belisama shrugged. “Maybe. It might be true. It might be a story, intended to create a legend, a history for these guns. But the guns are magical. So it might be true. Part of it might be true. I don’t know.”

“I like these stories,” Sentinel said, his eyes narrowing. “I like not knowing if they are the total truth or not. I like it when Odin starts telling stories. I try to write them down like how he tells them so I can be a better writer. I would very much like to become a skald, but I am not a griffon and I don’t know how to play any musical instruments.”

“Odin says a skald must be equal parts poet and warrior, musician and killer, an artist and an avenger. More and more, I can feel the magic now, the connection grows stronger every day.” Belisama pulled the lever out on Fleshrender’s rifle and began breaking down the gun. “Been learning alchemy, learning how to shoot, been learning music, getting an education in politics, been learning how to be a good mother, I’ll be learning how to be a fierce warrior, I suppose a skald is all of these things. What I do know is that hundreds of years from now, they’ll be telling stories about me slaying giants and going to war and how I restored the honour of the griffons, because that’s how storytelling and creating legends works. When the story about this war is told, I’ll have slain half of the invading army myself, my guns will be twice as big as they really are, and wee little griffons will feel inspired to follow me in my good works, because that is the purpose of our storytelling tradition.”

“Hmm.” Sentinel looked at his griffoness mother, his mind filling with thoughts that pushed the limits of his comprehension and then pushed a little harder. Was inspiration more important than the truth? Sentinel didn’t know, but it was something to think about. Sometimes the truth was less than inspiring. Sometimes it was disappointing. Sometimes, the truth was discouraging and disparaging. Sentinel’s thoughts drifted to how his father might be remembered, and by who. Would the ponies tell very different stories about his father than the griffons? His enemies would tell a very different tale Sentinel supposed.

“Skalds are parents of heritage. We give birth to stories and they take on a life of their own. They grow up, they mature, these stories inspire others, who in turn live the sort of lives that stories are written about, so in a sense, these stories of ours produce offspring, giving birth to new legends.” Belisama continued to rip the guts out of Fleshrender’s rifle and placed them upon the table, intending to oil each and every piece. “We are mortal storytellers, but we have immortal offspring.”

“As a writer, I suppose I could do the same thing,” Sentinel said, feeling a new sense of self awareness as he thought about the meaning behind Belisama’s words.

“As king, perhaps you could write a foundation for us to build a new history upon…”

 

 

“This is tea. Real tea. Not just water in a cup. I put lots of sugar in it for you,” Piña said to Sukari. Reaching out, Piña adjusted the ribbon tied into Sukari’s mane. “We have to look pretty when we have tea parties… there… you look smashing.”

Lowering her head, Sukari sniffed her teacup. Her ears perked and then she looked up when Dinky placed a plate of cookies upon the low table set up in the middle of the room. There was tea in her cup but no tea in the cup of the stuffy sitting next to her, which made Sukari feel confused.

But then again, almost everything made Sukari feel confused.

“Empress Cadance, you look stunning,” Dinky said as she poured a bit of tea into Cadance’s cup. Dinky used her magic to adjust Cadance’s paper crown, trying to get it straight without rumpling it.

Cadance, sitting upon a cushion, sat up a little straighter and tried to look important, or at least as important as she could look with cookie crumbs all over her muzzle and grape jelly stains on her snoot.

“Ooh, Lady Harper, you look especially frizzy today,” Dinky said, placing a few more cookies in front of Harper. Stolen cookies, filched from the kitchen, the best kind of cookie there was, the kind that tasted the best.

It wasn’t safe to place a paper crown upon Harper’s head. The last one had ignited from Harper’s electrical arcing and had burst into flames, which had caused quite a scare, but Harper had not been injured, only somewhat singed.

“Tea is what makes us civilised ponies,” Dinky explained, using this as an opportunity to instruct her younger sisters. “It teaches us how to behave, how to get along with one another, how to share, and how to be considerate of others. Observe.” Dinky lifted up the platter with little quartered peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches upon it. “Lady Piña, would you care for a sandwich?”

“Why thank you, Lady Dinky, for your most gracious offer,” Piña replied, taking a sandwich and placing it upon her plate.

“Tea is usually done with unicorn manners, but teatime with pegasi can be a rich and rewarding experience,” Dinky said, her head bobbing with youthful enthusiasm.

At that moment, Cadance let go of a disgusting long winded belch, her lips pulling away from her grape jelly stained teeth as she let everything out. The force of the blast caused Piña’s mane to blow back upon her head.

Wide eyed, Dinky stared at Cadance with an expression of awe. “Yes, Empress Cadance is in touch with her inner pegasus…”

 

 

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