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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At the Apple family home, a gathering of sorts was taking place. For now, it was a quiet gathering, mostly foals, with everypony and everybirdy dealing with their grief in their own way. Loki, who had been quite stricken by the news, paced the living room floor with Gormlaith sitting nearby, watching Loki’s every move. Death was something that Loki could not protect the Apples from and he took this hard.

Big Mac and Cheerilee were curled up on the sofa together, saying nothing, taking solace in each other. Beside them, Babs, who had crawled out of bed, lay limp on the sofa, with Piña beside her, rubbing her back. On the other side of Babs, crammed into a tiny spot that was left on the sofa, was Boadicea, who had come to be with Babs, her friend from drama class. Sitting on the floor in front of the sofa, Spike the dragon sat, looking up at Babs, fearful worry upon his face, and grief in his eyes.

In the kitchen, gathered around the large wooden table, there was a gathering of foals. Dinky and Diamond Tiara worked on letters, while also managing the mailing list. Sweetie Belle and Rumble added names to the letters that Dinky and Diamond Tiara churned out. At the bottom of each letter, Apple Bloom added a short, brief, personal note and her signature. Sentinel and Scootaloo worked on stuffing the letters into envelopes.

“I don’t mean to complain, but this is really boring and I feel sad so this feels even worse,” Apple Bloom said as she set down her pen and took a break. She lifted her head, stretched out her neck, and then looked at Sentinel. “Read anything interesting lately?”

“Apple Bloom, I don’t know if this is the best time,” Sentinel replied.

Shrugging, the earth pony filly reached up and rubbed her jaw. “Now is as good a time as any. I’m bored. I’m sad. Everything is too quiet and I want to think about something other than this. Now do as your princess bids, noble knight.”

“Not a knight… yet.” Sentinel looked up from his pile of envelopes. “Funny you bring that up. I was just reading a historical novel of Sir Starkicker. He was a knight in the early dark ages, not long after Princess Luna was banished.”

“Tell me about him,” Apple Bloom said, resting her chin on both of her front hooves and propping her elbows up on the table.

“He was a pegasus, a proud warrior, a rough and ready fighter, and he fathered two foals, one of whom became famous.” Sentinel cleared his throat. “He did amazing things and left quite an impact on the world, all before he was nineteen years old.”

“Nineteen?” Apple Bloom leaned forwards a bit. “What age did he get started?”

“Well, he became a squire by five, at least that is what the records say. His master, Sir Harrowwood, was killed by griffon invaders when Squire Starkicker was eight. At the age of nine, Squire Starkicker killed the griffons responsible for his master’s death. He was given a knighthood by Princess Celestia herself and became Sir Starkicker the Knight.”

“That’s about our age.” Apple Bloom lifted her head and lowered her forelegs down upon the table. “He was our age. He must have been brave.”

“At the age of ten, he proved himself on the field of battle, became a commander, led a regiment, and secured a major victory against the diamond dogs in the southern reaches, re-opening the trade routes between Equestria, Mustangia, and Saddle Arabia. At the age of eleven, he was married to Baroness Night Bright from Mustangia. She was the age of ten and the gossip of the age says that many worried that she would never find a husband at her age.”

Sweetie Belle turned and looked at Rumble, made a face, and then went back to looking at Sentinel. “What?”

“Not so different than life on the Shetland Isles,” Sentinel said to Sweetie Belle. He shrugged. “By all accounts, he loved her, and he was a good husband. He was said to be kind, gentle, and courtly to her. It was an arranged marriage, but he took the time to woo her, winning her heart, and he went to battle under her standard.”

“That’s kinda romantic.” Diamond Tiara stared at Sentinel with a sad, but dreamy expression upon her face.

“Their firstborn, born when Sir Starkicker was the age of twelve and Baroness Night Bright was eleven. She almost died during the birth, but recovered. By all accounts, motherhood agreed with her. Their first foal is actually unlisted in the book… he was a scoundrel and is generally disliked by all. Their second foal was a filly, born when her father was thirteen and her mother was twelve. The filly was named Firefly, and she would grow up to be a ruthless warrior, just like her father. She would found the Wonderbolts.”

“Oh neat!” Apple Bloom’s face lit up with a halfhearted smile. “So, what happened when Starkicker was nineteen? Did he retire or something?”

Sentinel shook his head. “No, Apple Bloom. After securing his legacy with two foals, he continued as a knight. War, hardship, infections, disease, and poor nutrition took a toll on him. At the age of sixteen, he became unwell. He remained mostly in Equestria, working as Princess Celestia’s personal advisor. By eighteen, he was bed ridden, unable to do much of anything. At the age of nineteen, he died in his sleep, listed by the surgeon as ‘death by old age.’ Sir Starkicker got to die peacefully in his bed. Many who lived during that time had no such luxury.”

Apple Bloom heaved a sigh. “It really makes you think about how far we’ve come. Nopony even is sure how old Granny Smith was. But she was ancient. Over a hundred.” Apple Bloom began to roll her pen back and forth with her hoof. “If we were living back then, our lives would be half over. Most of us would be married right now.”

“Or just living on the Shetlands,” Sentinel said in a low voice. “Some places, the world hasn’t changed much.”

“I can hardly even take care of myself. I can’t imagine being married.” Sweetie Belle frowned. “I can’t imagine dying of old age at nineteen either.”

“Back then, a lot of ponies died with no cutie marks. Life was too hard, too short, and too dangerous to spend any time looking for what you did best. A lot of ponies just sort of did whatever they had to do to survive. Did whatever was needed to get by.” Sentinel looked around the table at his friends and then down at the pile of envelopes in front of him.

“What about Baroness Night Bright?” Scootaloo asked.

“She died at the ripe old age of twenty, not long after her daughter Firefly was betrothed,” Sentinel replied.

Scootaloo’s face scrunched up in concentration. “Firefly was eight years old when she was engaged to be married?” Scootaloo sat there blinking, then turned and looked at Rumble.

“At the age of eight, Firefly already had a promising future in the military, and was in command of her own squad of rowdies.” Sentinel smiled. “She was a brilliant tactician. She changed aerial warfare.”

“Meanwhile, all of us are still trying to get our acts together,” Rumble said.

“Speak for yourself, Rumble.” Dinky leaned over and looked at the pegasus colt. “I know what I want from my life. I have dedicated myself to becoming the best wizard that I can be and I have set high standards for myself.”

“Well, she has the hat part covered,” Sweetie Belle said.

“My brother got me an awesome hat.” Dinky looked at Sentinel and gave him a smile.

“Apple Bloom has us all beat. She became a princess.” Rumble looked at Apple Bloom and then slumped over the table. “Sentinel is a squire and on his way to becoming a knight.”

“I’m not that special.” Apple Bloom shook her head. “Princess Cadance became a princess at a younger age than I am now when she beat Prismia.” Apple Bloom paused, took a deep breath, and then looked at her friends, looking each of them in the eye before she continued:

“I could not have done what I did without each of you. I became a princess because all of you helped me become a princess. There is no way I could have done this by myself. I owe each and every one of you my heartfelt thanks.” Apple Bloom wiped her eyes and then made herself smile. “Granny Smith was proud of me. She said I became a princess because I brought out the best in each and every one of you, because you loved me and you wanted to help me because of that love. Granny Smith said I wasn’t making friends, I was making a family… and… and… and she was right.” Apple Bloom scrubbed at her eyes once more with her foreleg and she struggled to keep smiling even as the tears started to fall.

“I love you… but I think you know that,” Rumble said in a low whisper, staring down at the table, his eyes almost closed. “My mothers keep giving me awkward talks because of this love. I guess it’s obvious to them.”

“We’re old enough to know what love is.” Diamond Tiara turned a darker shade of pink as she spoke. “This Sir Starbucker—”

“Starkicker,” Sentinel corrected.

“This Sir Starkicker the Knight, he was married and he wasn’t much older than we are. He was eleven, and no offense Rumble or Sentinel, but we all know how colts can be at the age of eleven.” Diamond Tiara’s eyes blazed for a moment and then she regained her calm. “He could have been a real brat and treated Night Bright poorly. But he took the time to win her heart. He courted her. He wanted to be loved by her. He was eleven. Eleven.” The pink filly paused, looking thoughtful. “If somepony tells you that you are too young to understand love, you should tell them to shove off.”

“Diamond Tiara got in trouble a few days back for doodling about how much she loves Sentinel in her notebook,” Scootaloo said, looking serious and not being teasing at all. “I got in trouble too. I told the teacher that she was being mean.”

“I owe you one, Table Scraps,” Sentinel said to Scootaloo.

“You know it.” Scootaloo looked at Sentinel and then at Diamond Tiara. “That whole thing made me feel so angry. If somepony tried to tell me that I didn’t know my own feelings towards Leftovers over there…” Scootaloo glanced over at Rumble. “I… I… I might just black their eye.”

“Granny Smith said I was growing up. She said there was two kinds of fillies. Little fillies, or filly foals, and big fillies… fillies on their way to being a mare. She told me…” Apple Bloom made a hiccuping sound, swallowed, then took one shuddering breath. “She told me I was becoming the young mare that she wanted me to be. She told me that yesterday while I was helping her bake pies and she kissed me and I want her back!” Apple Bloom hunched over the table, buried her face into her forelegs, and began sobbing.

Sweetie Belle, sitting beside Apple Bloom, placed her foreleg over Apple Bloom’s withers. “Just let it out. You can cry in front of us. We’re all friends… loved ones, and family.”

“Thank you, Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom sobbed. “I love you so much -snort!- you’re one of my best friends!”

Sentinel, watching the display of affection, felt his heart warm. He glanced at Diamond Tiara, already knowing how he felt about her, and glad to know how she felt about him. He thought about being a squire, what it meant to him, his obligations, and his obligations to Apple Bloom. His father had been very specific about Apple Bloom’s care and protection, and Sentinel recalled the oath that his father had made him swear.

Sentinel took his oaths in the most serious manner possible.

 

 

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