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 Tower of the New Moon was buried under centuries of compacted snow and ice. Princess Luna knew of its exact location though. Sunset Shimmer, using her magic, was able to unearth the tower, little by little, layer by layer, scorching away the accumulated ice and snow.

The base camp was set up on a narrow ledge. Bucky created a small fortress made of ice to keep the wind and the weather out. It didn’t look like much, but indoors, it was warm and pleasant enough.

The tower was carved and shaped from the living stone of the mountain, much like any other shaped stone tower made by unicorns. It was a hallmark of unicorn magic. Unlike other unicorn towers, Bucky’s included, this one radiated strange magic. Sunset Shimmer’s fire could not scorch it, nor did she try to do so. Directing any sort of hostile magic directly at the tower was a bad idea. Bucky could sense things and vague memories flittered around in his mind.

 

 

“This is very much like a dawning of a new golden age,” Luna said as she studied the now visible door. “A return to the time when Equestria was at its mightiest. A time when we had a surplus of archmages and anything was possible.”

“I dunno, seems to me that we have a surplus of alicorns now.” Bucky peered down into his coffee, which was black. He was missing his wives already. There was just no good substitute for fresh milk.

“We have a surplus of magic.” Sunset Shimmer, who was taking a bit of a break, drank a sip of hot chocolate. “Which means we have enough to help the whole world. There is no longer a good reason to be selfish.”

“I concur.” Luna nodded at Sunset’s words. “Pay attention, both of you. On either side of the door there is a locking mechanism. You will have to put a hoof inside of the hole on either side of the door. Once you put a hoof in there, press forward. Something will click and lock around your hoof. The next part is painful, I am afraid.”

“Painful?” Bucky raised one gnarly eyebrow on the right side of his face.

“After you stick a hoof in there and it is locked into place, a needle will come out, stab you in the frog, and if all goes well, your blood will open the door.” Luna frowned. “If all does not go well, well, we might have a crisis upon our hooves. I shall do my best to save you if I can.”

“Wonderful.” Bucky heaved a sigh and then sipped his coffee. He grimaced at the bitterness of his hot drink. He was reminded of the morning that he had stepped on some jacks; he then winced as he thought of Sukari biting him, a lovely moment of bonding between father and daughter.

“Just inside the door is an antechamber. There are stairs going up. On the next floor is a kitchen, an ancient affair, and above that are bunks and living quarters. In the antechamber are also stairs going down. In the room below, there is a large door that leads down to the hollowed out mountain. I do not know what was done to seal it off, but it is no doubt dangerous. Do be careful.” Luna looked at Sunset Shimmer and then at Bucky.

“Sunset, I want you to stay close to me. I don’t want you getting hurt. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened.” Bucky looked at his apprentice, his expression one of open concern. “Hopefully, we can handle anything that might happen in there.”

“I intend to exercise caution. I have Bartleby and Trixie to return home to.” Sunset Shimmer swallowed some of her cocoa. “I miss them already. At least Luna has Erebus with her.”

“Yes I do… and he’s my snuggly-wuggly widdle cuddle-wuddle buddy,” Luna said as she lifted Erebus into the air and gave him a playful shake. Luna crossed her eyes and made a silly face, causing Erebus to begin giggling.

“We’re starting to collect some serious artifacts. We have Star Swirl’s portal control rod. I’m guessing that soon, I’ll have the Heart of the Golem. And whatever else has been sealed away in this tower.” Bucky watched Luna playing with Erebus and a powerful feeling of loneliness gripped him. He missed his foals, the littlest ones he missed the most of all. Bell Heather would soon be like Harper, going from a fuzzy little lump that sometimes said something to an adorable little ball of fuzz that had a personality, that would have conversations, and Bucky longed to see how Bell Heather would turn out. Bandua however, only made peeping sounds and Bucky, with a feeling of regret, realised that he would have to wait much, much longer before Bandua went from being a hungry lump to something interesting.

“Bucky?”

Startled, Bucky jumped and almost spilled his coffee, which he was holding in his talons. He looked over at Sunset, his eyes wide and his ears perked forwards. He blinked at his apprentice.

“You were staring off into space.” Sunset Shimmer’s brows furrowed. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Bucky replied. He took a sip of his coffee and thought about what he wanted to eat before entering the tower. “I was just thinking that I might steal Erebus from Luna so I could play with him for a bit.”

Eyes narrowed, Luna’s head swiveled and she glared at her apprentice with a fierce stare. “Try to take my foal from me and I will banish you into some staircase bannister someplace.”

Chortling, Sunset Shimmer watched as Bucky stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry at Luna. There was a sense of camaraderie here that Sunset Shimmer treasured. She wondered how her friends on the other side of the mirror were doing as she watched the playful exchange between Luna and Bucky.

 

 

The double doors to the tower were simple. Understated. At least ten feet tall and made of some strange metal that did not rust. Bucky had never seen its like before. It was some kind of metal that had come from a falling star that Luna had pulled down from the dark reaches of space. They radiated a strange magic, something unique, different, and terrifying. There was so much power here.

There were two openings on either side of the door. Without thinking, Bucky began moving towards the opening marked with a crescent moon embossed over the hole, while Sunset went towards the opening with a stylised sun. A faint, strange memory lingered in Bucky’s mind. He had done this before. He knew this place. He knew what the antechamber would be like on the other side of the doors. He knew that these doors open for him.

This was his tower after all. He had been present for its construction. He had seen it birthed from stone. Many strange magics had come together for its construction, and not just pony magic. Dragons had helped to construct this place, and so had demons. Friendly demons who had assisted Star Swirl and Sombra.

Bucky closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The bitter wind blew, but his cloak did not flap around him. He raised his right hoof, and, with his eyes still closed, he placed it into  the hole, touching the metal plate within. He pushed inwards and felt the warm tingle of magic. There was painful pricking; he felt the needle pierce his flesh, but Bucky did not pull away. Blood was needed. His blood. Sombra had reached across the centuries and was now partially revived and living on through Bucky.

Something inside the wall rumbled to life and everything vibrated. The massive blue-black doors began to open. Bucky opened his eyes and a peculiar sensation overtook him. He had the strangest feeling that he was home. He had lived here at some point during the past. Other memories began flooding his mind. A warm bed and an even warmer body. Vivid memories of Princess Platinum filled his mind; he could almost feel her body writhing beneath him as he sunk into her depths. Even more torrid memories came to him, memories that Bucky wanted no part of, memories of Princess Celestia in the throes of passion, both Sombra and Celestia wrestling for control, for dominance, an impassioned fight for who would rule who in the bedroom. Sombra had happy memories here. Spells and magic of unbelievable power drifted through Bucky’s mind.

But there were unhappy memories as well. Passionless, cold sex with Clover that did not fill the empty ache, nor could it warm Sombra’s cold heart. Dabbling into necromancy down in the very depths of this tower. And something else… something horrible lingered on the edge of Bucky’s memory—something that Bucky could not remember. He stared up at the double doors, now open. The tower would welcome him inside. The tower’s master had returned.

“What’s happening?” Sunset Shimmer cried as she backed away. “His horn is turning red and changing shape!”

Princess Luna stood in the snow, staring at Bucky, her eyes wide. The agitated alicorn flapped her wings once, twice, and then a third time before she worked up the nerve to go to Bucky. “Buckminster, look upon yourself.”

Not knowing what was wrong, Bucky tilted his head and looked down at his foreleg. “What in Tartarus?” Bucky grumbled. He was turning darker, his tan pelt was taking on a greyish tinge. A dark, sooty, greyish tinge. “What’s happening to me?”

“It is like seeing a ghost,” Luna gasped. The alicorn shook her head. “This is changeling magic… I can sense it. It is some kind of residual effect from the Shadowbolt generation… at least, I think it is. Buckminster, think of something else, do it now!”

Closing his eyes, Bucky thought of the day he had met Derpy, bumping snoots with the grey pegasus. He pushed Sombra’s memories out of his mind and focused upon his own. He thought of those first few tender kisses, not just with Derpy, but with Berry as well. Those were happy times. He felt a warmth deep within his chest.

“Buckminster, you are as you were so long ago. Your horn is normal. Your talons are gone. Your scars have vanished, from what little I can see.” Luna shook her head. “I did not realise that seeing Sombra would scare me so.”

Snapping into the present, Bucky felt a peculiar sensation course through his body. Opening his eyes, he looked inside of the tower, into the antechamber. He made his way through the double doors, stood just inside, and with a mental flick of his magic, turned the lights on. The room came to life at Bucky’s presence. Magical globes of light flickered to life. A fireplace on the far wall ignited, ghostly flames burned upon a piece of petrified wood.

Standing just inside of the doorway, Bucky inhaled, drawing in ancient air that seemed to invigorate him somehow. Something about this place made him feel a calm sense of power. Warmth was already filling the room and the cold chill was pushed outside. Behind him, Sunset Shimmer, Luna, and the Myrmidons began to enter, crowding in just behind Bucky.

“Do not attempt to go down the stairs, any of you. Even you Luna. Very bad things will happen,” Bucky said in a low, rumbling baritone that reverberated off of the walls. “Stay up here. You will be warm and comfortable. The tower recognises you as my guests. Everything has been preserved here.”

He turned to look at Sunset Shimmer, and he could see that she was fearful. “You and I have business downstairs. Come Minion, follow me. Stay close. The tower acknowledges our presence, but we have not yet proven our mastery.”

“Buckminster… this place… does it speak to you?” Luna asked in a low voice.

Hearing Luna’s words, Bucky nodded. “Yes, yes it does.”

 

 

After going down a curved staircase, Bucky came to another door, and Sunset Shimmer was just behind him. Sunset was wide eyed, enchanted by everything around her. As they came down the stairs, the lights had flared to life. This room was still furnished, still beautiful, even if the interior design was a thousand years out of date.

Standing before a silver door, Bucky looked up at the glyphs covering the surface. There was a sun, identical to Celestia’s cutie mark, and a moon, also identical to Luna’s cutie mark. Beneath the sun and the moon, little ponies frolicked. Little earth ponies, little pegasi, and little unicorns, all dancing and playing together.

Beneath the ponies, there was a carving of a familiar draconequus. Lines were hitting him, Bucky supposed that with some imagination and a bit of squinting, one might see it as a rainbow hitting Discord. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna stood triumphant, wings flared, light shining from six gems that orbited around the two of them.

Bucky blew the dust from the words written at eye level upon the door and then read them aloud. “Without the keys, the door will not open.”

“Master, we have no keys.” Sunset glanced at Bucky and then began to study the magnificent door, trying to take in as many details as possible.

“Trust me, we have the keys.” Bucky turned away from the door and went over to a trunk located against the wall, near the stairs. Before he opened the lid, he knew what he would find. Star Swirl had prepared for this event, the keys would be within. The symbols of the two brothers. Bowing his head, he touched his horn to the trunk.

There was a soft click from the lock and then the lid opened. Inside, preserved by magic, were several artifacts. There was a broad, floppy brimmed pointed hat covered in silver bells. It radiated powerful magic and just being near it made Bucky feel light headed. This was not Star Swirl’s hat, but it was the likeness of Star Swirl’s hat.

But the hat was not for him. He knew what else lay within the box. Wrapped in velvet, hidden down at the bottom, were the symbols of Sombra’s power. Bucky lifted the velvet and stared at the four greaves. Blinking, Bucky realised that there was a problem. He had three pony legs… and one set of talons. Fearful, he wondered if this would work.

“Is that Star Swirl’s hat?” Sunset Shimmer asked.

“No.” Bucky, still staring at the greaves, shook his head, his eyes never leaving the foreboding black metal greaves. These greaves were not just copies, facsimiles of Sombra’s greaves, these were the real thing. Sombra had made several pairs, all of them based upon the battle armor of the ancient Northern Kings. “Put on the hat. Be prepared, you will be tested.”

Bucky watched as Sunset slipped the hat upon her head and then her eyes rolled back in their sockets. He did not feel overly concerned. Sunset Shimmer had the right bloodline, and she had resisted the siren call of the alicorn amulet. She had proven her worth as his apprentice. He lifted the greaves in his magic and could feel strange shadow magic radiating from the blackened metal. He saw his cloak lift, the fabric reaching upwards, and when it touched the greaves, Bucky felt an electric jolt flow through him. Much to his alarm, the greaves vanished.

Controlling his panic, Bucky realised that he was wearing them. They radiated shadowstuff and wisps of smoke-like shadow wafted off of them. Bucky lifted his talons. The greave that should have gone over his left front hoof had formed a gauntlet instead. This ancient armor was not made of metal, no, it was made of stranger stuff. It looked like metal, it gleamed like metal, but when in contact with his body, it was something else entirely. He clenched his talons into a fist. It even sounded like fine steel when it clanked. Bucky felt a curious sensation of power creeping through his bones. It made him feel giddy.

“Master, my mind is full of strange knowledge. I feel… smarter somehow,” Sunset Shimmer whispered in a low, breathy voice. “There are spells inside of my head that I did not know before.”

“We have claimed our inheritance,” Bucky said to Sunset as he turned to look her in the eye. “Twilight Sparkle will be the master of this tower, but you and I, we have claimed our rightful inheritance.” Bucky unclenched his talons and set them down upon the floor. “We have taken our rightful place as Equestria’s champions.” As he watched, Sunset Shimmer’s hat changed colours, becoming a far more cheerful looking orange. The hat was adapting to Sunset Shimmer, absorbing a part of her. No other pony would be able to wear it, an act of theft would have dire consequences.

There was only one last thing in the trunk that Bucky had to claim before going down further into the depths of the tower. He feared it, but at the same time, he was filled with anticipation. He was born to wear it… it was his, and his alone. It was Bucky’s birthright.

Lifting away the velvet, Bucky saw a small wooden box within the trunk, nestled into the corner. Reaching out his talons, he touched the box, tapping a talon tip upon the wood. The box opened. Inside was a crown, made of the same strange material as the greaves. It had spikes protruding from the areas that would be around his ears. Cold, cruel protection. There was a red crystal embedded in the front. This was Sombra’s actual crown. Bucky knew its history without knowing how he knew. After Sombra had been banished and the Crystal Empire had vanished, the crown had been all that was left. It had been brought here and sealed away.

After putting this on, Bucky knew that there would be no going back. This was one crown that could not be removed. It would be with him until he died. The crown was a sapient artifact, and Bucky could feel it calling to him even now, begging him to put it on. The crown itself was not evil, nor was it good. It simply was. The idea of placing it upon his brow terrified him. It was very much like the hat that Sunset Shimmer was now wearing. It was more than a symbol of office, more than a key.

Closing his eyes, Bucky slipped the crown over his head, sliding it down over his ears.

 

 

 

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