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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As Derpy was being lifted out the carriage, she saw a familiar face smiling at her. She sucked in a lungful of cold air and shouted, “Sparky! What are you doing here in Canterlot?”

“Mom, I can’t talk about that,” Sparkler replied.

“Oh fine, be that way,” Derpy said as she wrapped her forelegs around Sparkler’s neck. She began kissing the filly, planting kiss after kiss upon Sparkler’s face, and as she did so, she noticed Sparkler’s facial tics. Worried, Derpy tried to kiss those away.

“Okay, mom, you’re getting all slobbery and excited.” Sparkler didn’t dare pull away, she stood there, glad to have to her mother’s affection, but she was no longer a little foal. “I have to get back to Ponyville, I’m needed there.”

Derpy pulled away, feeling sad, and watched as two fresh pegasi guards started to get hitched into harnesses. “I’m so proud of you, Sparky. You’re growing up and doing so well for yourself. And now you’re here in Canterlot on secret business. Is it police work?”

“Something like that, mom.” Sparkler smiled a dazzling smile, the corner of her mouth and her eye twitching only a little. “Take care of mom, Dinky. That’s an order. Do it or face arrest.”

After rolling her eyes, Dinky then looked up at her sister. “Oh please. Like I need to be told.” Dinky grinned and then adjusted her hat so it sat at a more rakish angle. She watched as Sparkler stuck her tongue out.

“Ah, Canterlot… smell that snooty air!” Berry Punch said as she had a look around.

His ears perking forward, Sentinel noticed Berry Punch’s forced smile. She wasn’t happy to be here, not at all, and now she was going to make bad jokes as a means to mask her discomfort. He sighed and resigned himself to what was certain to be a long day.

“Hey, please, get my mother inside, out of the cold and see that she’s comfortable,” Sparkler said as Derpy let go. “I gotta go mom, bye.”

Feeling a bit sad, Derpy watched as Sparkler climbed into the carriage. She lifted up a hoof, waved, and gave Sparkler one final, parting smile. “Go look after Ripple, she gets lonesome without you!”

“I will… don’t worry, mom,” Sparkler replied as she pulled the door shut.

 

 

The hospital was small, had a single bed, and a single narrow illusionary window that allowed illusionary sunlight to shine in, an impressive feat considering this wing of the hospital was below ground, sunk into the solid stone of Canterhorn Peak.

In the bed, Goldflake looked more like a skeleton with leathery hide stretched over the bones. Most of his hair had fallen out and his skin was wrinkled like a raisin. One eye had gone milky and white with age. A feeding tube snaked up one nostril.

“I didn’t think you would come,” Goldflake said in a raspy voice that sounded like winter wind blowing through dead, dry leaves. “And I am very surprised to see her.”

Her eyes narrowing, Berry Punch’s ears pitched forwards, but she did not say anything. She was sitting on the floor on a cushion and was comfortable enough, but she worried about Derpy, who was propped up in a chair.

“I am so sorry,” Goldflake said in the voice of a being broken from pain and suffering. He struggled to draw in breath and it rattled inside of his lungs. “Princess Platinum has… forgiven me… she tells me she’s waiting for me and that I’ll be seeing her soon.”

With sadness heavy in her eyes, Derpy smiled and wondered if Goldflake could even see her. She listened to the soupy sounding gurgles of his breathing and felt a genuine pain in her heart for the equine lying in the bed. “Why did you ask for us to come here?”

Sucking in air, Goldflake wheezed, his breathing wet and raspy. “You… you showed me the first sincere act of kindness… in my… whole life… at a moment when… I did not… deserve it.” Goldflake rested for a moment, winded from speaking what few words he had spoken. “I have been haunted… by your smile… and your laughter.”

The grey pegasus mare gasped and her smile faded away into nothingness. Sitting in her chair, she looked at Goldflake, feeling a strange pain in her heart. She felt tears stinging her eyes and she shuddered as she tried to breathe.

“I can see… why he loves… you the way… that he does… Princess Platinum tells me… that your smile… your laughter… might have saved… the world from… destruction.” Goldflake let out a weak gurgling cough and closed his eyes. “I don’t know… but I do know… that it has… saved me.”

Sniffling, Piña let out a shrill cry and then began sobbing. She buried her face into Sentinel’s neck, wrapped her forelegs around him, and bawled her eyes out. “I can feel him going… it’s awful!”

 

 

A pale white stallion, almost an albino, moved through the room. He had stepped through the door and now stood beside Goldflake’s bed. On his backside, there was a wilted petunia plant that had given up the ghost and died.

Blinking, Goldflake tried to draw breath as he looked up at the new visitor.

“There’s no point in doing that,” the pale pony said.

Fearful, Goldflake realised that he no longer needed to breathe. It was a curious sensation. He looked up at the pale pony and felt cold fear lancing through his heart. “I’m going to be punished.”

The pale pony nodded. “Yes, there will be punishment, but it will not be as bad as you fear it will be.”

“But I deserve it,” Goldflake said.

“Yes, yes you do, but the fact that you can say that says a lot about you.” The pale pony smiled. “It is never too late to change. So long as you draw breath, change is possible. It is never too late to do good. You… you had exactly one pony that loved you. She barely knew you, but she held love in her heart for you. She felt sincere pity for you. She loved you enough to sit by your bedside in your final moments. You have been an extraordinarily rotten pony, and the very sight of you disgusts me, but you sought to change your ways and one pony loved you.”

“I don’t understand,” Goldflake said.

“It means that, instead of thousands of years of soul shredding torment to make up for what you’ve done, you will instead spend centuries of contemplation while in a state of discomfort. After you have done your time, you will be allowed to pass through the gate, and you will know happiness.” The pale pony offered the dead stallion a gentle smile.

“I… don’t know what to say.” Goldflake shook his head. “She’s crying—”

“She’s crying for you.” The pale pony turned his muted pink eyes upon Goldflake. “She hardly knew you, but she feels sincere and honest pain because of your passing. Her goodness knows no bounds, it seems, and even shelters the undeserving.” The pale pony turned and looked at Derpy, who had covered her face with her wings. “Some ponies, when they die, they are remembered for their atrocities. Others are remembered for their heroic acts. Some will be remembered for courage and bravery. A few will be remembered for their capacity to love… and love can change the world.”

“I did not deserve this.” Goldflake sat up in the bed. He looked down on his own body and shook his head.

“No. You did not. But that is what makes this special. She loves you even though you don’t deserve it. That is what love is. A choice. She chooses to love you and show you kindness. It is easy to love those you like. It is hard to love those who have done you wrong.” The pale pony made a gesture at the grey pegasus mare. “You had more wealth and power than just about any other mortal on this planet, and I tell you, for all of your wealth, for all of your power, you did not possess anything as valuable as that mare. She is a treasure that cannot be bought with gold or silver. Nothing in your empire is as valuable as she.”

Looking up from his own corpse, Goldflake studied the grey pegasus. She was enormous, fat with foal, sobbing, and wheat coloured strands of her mane clung to her soaked cheeks. He felt a terrible pain inside, it started off as a dull ache, turned into a stabbing pain, and then became a throbbing agony. It was almost more than he could bear. He whimpered. It was a pain unlike any other he had felt during his entire long life.

“Ah, there we go. The pain… the pain that you will reflect upon for these many centuries, you feel it, do you not? It is… most unpleasant.” The pale pony reached out and patted Goldflake.

“Oh stars, it hurts!” Goldflake covered his face with his hooves and then gibbered with pain and fear. It dawned upon him that he was going to have to endure centuries of this, and the realisation was soul-crushing. He quailed with despair.

“As much as this hurts, this is better than you having passed into my realm with no love at all, trust me. Had you passed into my realm with no love to shield you, no love to protect you, I would be shredding your soul right now as we speak. I would be trading your soul to the denizens of the underworld. You would be bought and sold in the market of lost souls, and your suffering would be used as the currency of Tartarus. And to get you acclimated to the suffering you would be enduring, I’d be laying your soul to waste right now. You sir, are one lucky equine. Life is so very simple. Just get one being to love you with a simple, sincere, true love, and save yourself from damnation. Yet so many fail in this endeavour.”

Cringing, Goldflake pulled away from the pale pony, whose voice had changed, becoming cold, terrifying, and sepulchral.

“Princess Platinum has requested to see you. Are you ready?” the pale pony asked.

Nodding, Goldflake found that he could not speak, he was far too terrified and the pain he felt coursing through his being was overwhelming.

The door to the hospital room opened, but the hospital hallway was not on the other side. The doorway was nothing but blackness, a featureless void. The pale pony stepped towards the door, stopped for a moment, looked at Sentinel, smiled at the colt, and then turned around to look upon Goldflake once more.

“Don’t dawdle,” the pale pony said, his voice now dripping with malice. “Her love may save you from my wrath, but it will not shield you from my impatience…”

 

 

Quiet, contemplative, Berry Punch was sprawled in a comfortable chair, drinking a cup of coffee. She had watched him go and now she couldn’t figure out how she felt about it. The deposed ruler of House Avarice, a pony laid low by his own hoof. She wanted to hate him. More than anything, Berry Punch wanted to hate him, but found that she could not. The dead were dead, the noble houses were gone, the war had ended, the feud was over.

And Goldflake was as dead as dead could be.

Berry Punch sipped her coffee and looked over at Derpy, who was still crying as she held all three of her foals. Piña was still sobbing, Dinky just looked sad, and Sentinel looked… it was hard for Berry to understand whatever it was Sentinel was feeling. Under the somewhat embarrassed expression of being sobbed on by two females, there was something else.

Something unknown.

“I felt him going and the room got cold.” Piña, still sobbing, sniffled and clung to Sentinel. “I don’t want my magic if it means I have to feel ponies dying.”

Piña’s words caused Berry a bit of pain and the earth pony mare watched as Sentinel wrapped a wing around Piña, and then as Derpy also put a wing around the sobbing foal. Piña was so tender hearted. Berry wondered if Piña even understood how much pain, misery, and suffering Goldflake had caused a countless number of ponies. For a moment, Berry Punch contemplated telling her, explaining just how terrible he had been, and what he had done.

But then, Berry realised, Piña would not be growing up under the shadow of House Avarice. She had suffered some, of that there could be no doubt, Piña had been on the Shetland Isles and had seen the pony she now called her father laid low. Piña had suffered enough hurt. Feeling ashamed for her thoughts, Berry Punch realised there was no good reason to make Piña hate a pony now dead.

The dead were as dead as dead could be, and the old bones, now buried, should be left alone. The old hatred should pass along with Goldflake. Berry Punch took another sip of coffee. It was time for this to end. She had brought Piña here to learn something, and now, Berry Punch understood the lesson.

It was time to let go.

Piña was weeping for a pony, not a hated enemy. She had not yet learned to hate. Berry Punch resolved that the old hatred would end here and now with the passing of Goldflake. Feeling ashamed, feeling bitter, Berry Punch pondered her part in all that had taken place, and the pony she loved more than anything. Missing Bucky, Berry Punch began to weep.

 

 

 

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