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 forge was cold. Under normal circumstances, the fires would be blazing by now, even at this early morning hour. The forge was cold, quiet. There was no hammering, no pounding, no heavy thudding of steam powered machines that banged metal into shape.

There was a pile of tinder, a pile of charcoal, an iron rod, a hammer, one small unicorn filly, one large fey unicorn, two griffons, both males, two griffon cubs, both female, and one primordial fire entity along with his former apprentice.

This was a solemn moment, and Rising Star said nothing as he stood watching. Firelock was being added to their number. Rising Star felt an odd sense of pride. This filly was not his, but he was her teacher, and he had strong feelings of fondness for her. He knew that Lugnut and Spanner wanted to keep her, to become her parents. Rising Star hoped that their petition would be accepted. Everyone that worked in the forge had become fond of her.

“Why aren’t we using magic to light the forge?” Firelock asked, breaking the contemplative silence of the forge. She yawned and her breath was visible in the frosty air.

“Because, little one, there are other forces than just mere magic. There is tradition. The griffons have a tradition, one that is taught to us by the Fire Keeper himself,” Lugnut replied in a soft voice. He wrapped his wing over Firelock’s back and patted her on the neck with his talons.

Spanner, silent, and wearing heavy leather gloves over his talons, picked up the iron rod. It wasn’t very big, long, and rather thin. One end looked a little flattened and battered. He placed it upon the anvil and waited.

Stepping away from Firelock, Lugnut picked up the short handled hammer. “You know how I’ve had you practicing holding a hammer gripped in your fetlock?”

Firelock nodded.

Lugnut held out the hammer to Firelock. “Take this. This hammer is the blacksmith’s heart. By itself, it is only a hammer.”

Spanner lifted the iron bar above the anvil. “And this, this is the blacksmith’s soul. By itself, it is no more than an iron rod. But if a blacksmith has both heart and soul, he or she will have fire at their command.”

Gentle, careful, mindful of his sharp talons, Lugnut grabbed Firelock’s front leg that was holding the hammer. He waited, watched as Spanner placed the iron rod upon the anvil, and then, he pushed down on Firelock’s leg. The hammer struck the iron rod and the anvil, which rang out in the quiet forge.

“Keep striking the iron with your hammer,” Lugnut instructed.

“Heart and soul must work together to produce passion, which is heat. Heat is fire,” Spanner said. “With the beating of the heart, the soul will burn with passion.”

Firelock began banging the hammer down upon the cold iron rod, swinging her foreleg. She wasn’t very strong, at least not yet, but her blows were steady and well timed. The forge filled with -ting-ting-ting!- sounds.

Shifting into the form of a massive earth pony, Scorch, the Fire Keeper, stood nearby, his face as solemn as a stone. He watched as the filly lifted the hammer and brought it down, each strike hitting the iron rod. Already, a thin wisp of smoke came from the iron. It was getting hot.

“The heart beats true and the soul warms, gaining life of its own,” Spanner said as he watched the iron begin to heat. “Now the soul has vitality, but it is not enough to start a fire. Firelock, keep striking and give it life.”

“The heart must beat steady and true,” Heifer Aestus said to Firelock. “I too, was taught this lesson.”

After repeated striking, the tip of the iron bar began to glow cherry red. Spanner took the iron bar and poked it into the pile of tinder. He opened his beak, blew, and the tinder ignited. Flames began to burn as the tinder blazed and the wood began to ignite.

Firelock watched the flames with wide, staring eyes. She set the hammer down upon the anvil and watched as the wood began to burn.

Lugnut placed his talons under Firelock’s chin, lifted her head, and looked her in the eye. “You made fire without magic, without matches, you have made fire with both heart and soul. You are now one of us. Do not squander this gift.”

“So who is going to tell her?” Scorch said. He was smiling.

Smiling, Heifer Aestus covered her mouth with her massive hand. She took a step backwards and stood with a merry look in her eye.

“Tell me what?” Firelock blinked and looked around. The flames were blazing now. “Hey, what’s going on?”

Lifting his cloven hoof, Rising Star prodded Firelock on the backside. She turned around, her eyes narrowed, her tail swishing from her sudden movement, and then, she saw what the others had seen.

“Ooooh!” She continued to chase her own tail, trying to get a better look.

“That’s a good looking mark. A flaming hammer.” Lugnut looked at Spanner and his crest rose. The griffon puffed out, looking proud. “No doubting it now, you are one of us.”

Spanner reached up and began wiping his eyes. “I think I got a spark in my eye or something…” The griffon began to mutter and squawk.

Standing beside him, Sprocket clutched her father’s leg. “No cry.”

“I’m not crying Sprocket, I have something in my eye!”

Looking up at her father, Sprocket peeped and then looked at her twin, Cog.

“So are we going to get to work?” Firelock asked.

 

 

Scowling, Sunset Shimmer tore her gaze away from the prisoner and then looked at Shining Armor. Frustrated, she did not know what to say. She did not have Bucky’s raw intimidation factor, nor would she dabble into dark magic as Bucky tended to do. She turned her attention back to the crystal unicorn. The black crystals growing out of his crystal horn had rendered him powerless, a spell cast from smashing open a spell jar.

“He’s not going to tell us anything,” Sunset Shimmer said. “I’m sorry Shining Armor… I’m just not scary like Bucky can be.”

“That’s okay. It’s probably for the best. At least we have his magic neutralised, I was worried about him somehow defeating the magic inhibitor we had on him.” Shining Armor’s image flickered for a moment, becoming fuzzy and indistinct. “Message incoming.”

“Message?” Sunset Shimmer gave Shining Armor a curious look.

“Princess Celestia is sending pulses through the ley lines… Morsel’s code—ugh!” Shining Armor’s image began to pulse and stutter. His image crackled, some crackles short, other crackles long.

“The second battle of Fromme du Lac rages on, stop. Victory is not assured, stop. The enemy have holed up in makeshift bunkers and trenches, stop. They have some kind of sound weapon that completely disables the diamond dogs, stop. Shining Armor, I am scared, stop. Please look after my little ponies, stop.”

Shining Armor blinked as he took in everything he had just said. “The lowlands offensive was just launched several hours ago, back around midnight, Canterlot time. The mirror travelers are capable foes.”

“I know. I was almost killed by one,” Sunset Shimmer replied. “He took on four of us and he was winning that fight.” The unicorn mare shook her head. “Shining, what if we lose?”

“Then the survivors pull out, come home, and we begin the largest evacuation ever known as we begin bringing citizens of Fancy and Germaney to both Equestria and the Sea of Grass,” Shining Armor replied.

“You mean there is a plan in place already?” Sunset Shimmer felt a tightness in her barrel as she spoke.

“Princess Celestia made extensive plans and plotted many outcomes. If necessary, Equestria becomes a fortress. She has thought that far ahead.” Shining Armor frowned. “I hope it never comes to that.”

“Shining Armor, it is my recommendation that we turn the prisoner to stone. I will bring Sparkler to Canterlot to deal with him. We have more pressing issues to deal with than this jerk. He’s no longer much of a concern and any information he might have can wait until Bucky comes home.” Sunset’s face became stern. “I wanna watch this guy pull the tough pony act with Bucky.”

Shining Armor’s head bobbed. “I think your suggestion is wise.”

 

 

Standing on the deck of a ship named Thundercracker, Bucky’s muscles tensed as the ship drifted towards Fromme du Lac. He turned, lifted his head high, and looked at the Myrmidons on deck.

“Our enemy is tough and capable. During previous engagements they were hit with a bowel disruption spell that should have ended the fighting. While it took down some, many kept fighting while ignoring the effects.” Bucky shook his head. “Princess Celestia wanted them incapacitated, taken down, and captured alive to show the world that we can be merciful. That’s not gonna work. Now we’re going to do things my way.”

There was a great deal of hooting and grunting from the assembled Myrmidons, a lot of hoof stomping, and enthusiastic squawks from mounted griffon riders.

“Each of you have been given a number of spell jars containing the fires of Tartarus from my son, Rising Star. Fromme du Lac cannot be saved, and our enemy cannot be captured alive. Your job is to fly in as low as you dare and drop these spell jars onto areas of enemy occupation and destroy enemy fortifications. Are there any questions?”

“Why did they return to Fromme?” a Myrmidon asked.

“I don’t know. Familiar ground I suppose. There has already been a major battle fought here and this terrain might be well known to them. They might have established it as a reconnoiter point. The concrete grain silos do make for good fortifications and the extensive drainage system beneath the city allows for rapid movement below ground where they cannot be seen,” Bucky replied.

“How much resistance can we expect?” a griffoness asked.

“Heavy resistance. You will encounter enemy pegasi and even unicorns using wing spells. They’ll also be shooting at you every chance they get. To help you out, a group of minotaurs and a group of brave earth ponies will be making a damn big ruckus. The earth ponies have twenty millimetre guns mounted to their backs, rigged as mortars. They will be shelling the northeast quadrant of the city to cause panic and maybe draw out some of the enemy, making it easier for you lot to go in and do your jobs. Make each pass count, we’re expecting heavy casualties for the ground troops. The enemy have an unreasonable hatred for the earth ponies, and we’re exploiting that.”

“Brave bastards,” a female Myrmidon said. “When this is over, we owe them a drink.”

In the distance, fires burned and explosions could be heard as the Thundercracker drew closer to Fromme du Lac. The Thundercracker, so named because of its ability to generate protective storm cloud cover around the ship, was a small, swift moving light cruiser. Other ships also approached the city.

“Sir, what will you be doing?” a griffon asked.

“I plan to go underground, down into the dark. I’ll be in the southwest quadrant of the city, so go easy shelling that area. We suspect that their command headquarters is somewhere in the southwest,” Bucky replied.

“Sir, I hope you will not be going alone.” The griffon, sitting on the back of a Myrmidon, sat up straighter and looked at Bucky.

Belisama cleared her throat. “Not to worry. We’ll be meeting up with several bocors who specialise in underground fighting.” She reached out and patted Bucky’s neck with her talons. “It’s important to have friends.” Belisama began to pull a gas mask over her head, getting ready as the Thundercracker drew closer to their point of departure.

“We’re getting ready to turn the ship around,” a voice said through the deck’s intercom system. “Make ready for departure!”

“Make ready!” Bucky shouted.

“FOR FROMME DU LAC!” one of the Myrmidon’s screamed.

“YEAH!”

“GO GO GO!”

The first row of Myrmidons broke from the formation, lept for the rail of the ship, and took to the air. Airborne, they spread out, presenting less of a target. Other Myrmidons broke ranks and took to the air.

“Belisama?”

“Yes Bucky?”

“I love you, just so you know.”

“I know.” There was a pause. “I love you too.”

“The bocors are going to be using really nasty gas… aerosolised poison joke to break down defenses and phosgene gas to clear the tunnels. It smells like musty hay or green corn, or so I’ve been told. Belisama, this is going to be awful… I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to be sorry. I chose to do this. Now get your mask on, we’ve got work to do.” Belisama, whose voice was muffled by her mask, reached out her talons and gave Bucky’s left ear a tug. “Come on, let’s get this over with.”

Grimacing, Bucky pulled his gas mask over his face and then began to tighten the straps. Having something over his muzzle made him feel claustrophobic, but he dismissed the feeling. There was work to do and Bucky would see it done.

 

 

 

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