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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Whiskey bottle in tow, Bucky, now in a much better mood, approached some tall double doors. He stopped for a moment, took a drink of the well preserved whiskey, grimaced at the smokey flavour of iodine with a heavy, acrid, peaty note, and then let out a belch that echoed throughout the complex.

Looking annoyed, Hex Libris appeared. She glared at Bucky, all four of her arms crossed over her dangerously well endowed bosoms; all eight of them. “For I moment, I thought Sombra himself had returned.” The demoness snorted and then gestured at the doors. “Beyond those doors is the arsenal.”

“I know,” Bucky replied, his words somewhat slurred.

“I heard a frog.” Sunset Shimmer staggered into the room through a narrow door. Her mane was mussed and it looked as though she was expending a great deal of information to remain upright. “Really big frog. Frog.”

“Minion, you must really learn to hold your liquor… cast a spell and burn some of it out of your system,” Bucky said to his apprentice.

“No… I’m not drunk… YOU’RE drunk… you cast a spell… I’m going to see if I can find that frog.” Sunset Shimmer staggered off, exiting through the narrow door. “Here, Froggy Froggy Froggy!”

Heaving a sigh, Hex Libris shrugged. “Some things never change.”

“I’ve heard that Sombra was a bit of a sot.” Bucky looked at Hex Libris, wondering what he could learn from her. “I suppose he had a good excuse though. He probably needed the caloric intake to fuel his magic.”

“If you wanted to see a fine pair of drunks, one needed to look no further than Star Swirl and his apprentice, Clover the Crocked.” Hex Libris walked towards the double doors, glancing at Bucky as she moved. “Star Swirl had a theory that liquor was a type of knowledge lubricant; that being sufficiently inebriated allowed for knowledge to enter the brain easier.”

Hearing hoofsteps, Bucky lifted his bottle to his lips, took a long pull, and then saw a flash of blue in the corner of his vision. He watched as Luna entered. The alicorn was smiling, looking triumphant, right up to the point where Bucky saw her look at him. He watched Luna’s eyes roll and then she shook her head.

“Sunset Shimmer was stumbling through the halls trying to find a frog,” Luna said. The Princess of the Night cocked her eyebrow at Bucky and then clucked her tongue. She turned her attention to the double doors as Hex Libris was beginning to open them. “Oh, this is exciting.”

The doors creaked open, an almost theatrical creak, and Bucky could not help but wonder if Hex Libris was perhaps adding a little sound effect for the sake of a good show. Beyond the door, lights flickered to life, illuminating what appeared to be a long hall.

The room was nowhere as large as Bucky thought it would be. All things considered, it was rather small. He could see suits of armor, racks of weapons, tall cabinets, shelves, and many solid looking wooden trunks. Compelled by some unseen force, Bucky took off at a slow walk towards the arsenal, longing to look upon the treasures inside.

“The Heart of the Golem,” Bucky said, his voice almost a whisper as he moved forwards. His now armored hooves rang out with each step he took, a fine metallic ring. He saw a suit of armor, black armor, and knew that he was looking at the armor that made for a finished set with what he was wearing.

This wasn’t like his old armor, an arcano-tech marvel. This armor was not made with magic, this armor was magic. It couldn’t be dispelled, it could not be breached, at least not by common magical means. Very much like his cloak, this armor was something else. Bucky had no idea what it was, or what it was constructed from.

It hummed as he approached. Sombra wore the greaves as his symbol of office, along with his crown. But in battle, Sombra wore the full suit of armor. Entranced, Bucky stood, spellbound, staring at what he knew to be his birthright. As he stared at it, the armor shifted, changing size. Bucky wasn’t sure if the armor had grown smaller or he had grown larger. Magical artifacts of extreme power liked to play mind games, and he had experienced this sensation before.

“It has been a long time since I have gazed upon this armor,” Luna said as she stepped forwards and stood beside Bucky. “It was forged in the realm of shades, the Other Other, the gaps between worlds. Made by Haides, the Lady of Shades, She Who is Unseen.”

Bucky turned to look at Luna, feeling curious, and hoped that his teacher would continue her lesson. He stood, silent, waiting, a hopeful expression upon his face.

“This armor inspired Sombra’s study into enchantment and magical smithing. Haides, the Lady of Shades, made this for him to aid him in his fight after he assisted her in the realm of the Other Other.” Luna paused, her eyes narrowed, and her ears perked forwards as she stared at the armor. “Such was its design that Sombra began to experiment with forging shadows. He made arms and armor to mimic its design. Sombra made his greaves to match this armor. He made armor for others as well. Sombra was the only enchanter who ever came close to matching Haides skill… not even I could make such finery… but I did make that cloak that you are wearing.”

“I visit occasionally with Haides,” Hex Libris said as she began to move around the room. A feather duster appeared and the demoness began to tidy up the room a bit as she went from artifact to artifact.

“How is she?” Luna asked.

“Locked into an eternal war with the other shade lords, each of them trying to wrest control of the Other Other from each other,” Hex Libris replied. “Dreadful business. Haides seems to be doing well though. She still exists and has not yet been absorbed or devoured by the others.”

Extending his trembling talons, Bucky reached out to touch the suit of black armor. The blue-green gemstone upon his crown began to glow with a faint light. Hex Libris stopped her dusting, turned her head, and looked at Bucky, watching, waiting. Beside Bucky, Luna waited, wondering what would happen. With one talon finger extended, Bucky touched the armor.

The armor vanished from the armor rack.

“Where did it go?” Bucky asked, looking panicked. His ears rang with the laughter of Hex Libris, it sounded like screechy violins being played while cats were being slaughtered, an unpleasant sound if ever there was one.

“Buckminster, your shadow essence has absorbed the armor.” Luna lowered her head, placing her lips near Bucky’s ear. “It is now a part of you. If you focus, the armor will manifest to protect you.”

“Oh.” Bucky took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. He looked at his gauntleted talons. The armor had reshaped itself to fit his body, at the least the greaves had. The gauntlet was proof of that. He looked down at himself, at his legs clad in the strange black metal. He focused his will, desiring to be armored. For a moment, something black and blurry formed around him, his body shimmered, almost like heat rising up from the road.

Blinking, Bucky pushed a little harder. The blurry glammer around him began to solidify, becoming real. His chest was now covered by an articulated black metal plate. More armor appeared, manifesting, and Bucky could feel its reassuring solidness all around him.

Cloaked in night, armored by shadows, Bucky, even as small as he was, was now an imposing figure. Luna lifted her head high and studied him. While the armor and the cloak were all very dark, for some reason, Bucky was not a dark figure. The gemstone upon his crown, a fierce glowing blue-green, did not seem as ominous or dreadful as the red gemstone when the crown had been worn by Sombra. Bucky’s armored form was what Bucky was meant to be; a knight. Perhaps it wasn’t the more typical vision of what a knight should be, but Luna had never been one to embrace convention.

And then, as Luna watched, all of it vanished. The armor, the greaves, the gauntlet, even the crown. It dissipated into tendrils of shadowstuff and was absorbed into Bucky’s body. Now, Bucky was himself once more. Small, quiet, unassuming, a hideous eyesore brought about by maiming and magical mutation. He was also her apprentice, her student, and Luna, staring at him, felt a sense of pride. Luna pondered if this is what her sister felt when Celestia contemplated her students.

Twilight Sparkle had renown for all of her greatness; Bucky had renown for all of his terribleness. For a moment, Luna felt a pang of sorrow. That really wasn’t fair to Bucky. Fate, destiny, it was all so fickle, even cruel sometimes, and Bucky had little to no say in how his own life had turned out.

“I suppose you’ll be wanting the Heart of the Golem,” Hex Libris said in a soft voice.

The demoness stood near a cabinet. Reaching out, she stroked the wood with her fingertips, a loving caress. When she saw that she had both Bucky’s and Luna’s attention, she extended her arm and pulled the cabinet door open, a faint demonic grin upon her face. Pointed teeth made a teasing appearance just behind her parted lips.

Inside the cabinet was a short handled rod that almost looked like a minotaur’s morningstar mace. It gleamed and there was a faint illumination that twinkled from several gemstones studded along the handle.

“The Heart of the Golem,” Hex Libris said to Bucky. “It not only aids in the creation of automatons, but will allow you to seize control of enemy automatons. It’s magic is very, very powerful.” The demoness reached out her hand and touched the rod. “Wielding this rod in battle, you will rule the minds of all automatons and all golems. They will be unable to resist your commands. Very few creations will be capable of resisting your authority. It is a weapon powered by willpower.”

Bucky swallowed, a loud, audible sound in the small room. Such a thing would have been useful in the recent war. It might have even saved the fleet from the wretched sneak attack. He took a step forwards, coming closer, both eyes wide. Bucky looked very much like a foal on Hearth’s Warming Eve.

Take it. The words were strong in his mind, said in Sombra’s voice. Take it, my son. This is the inheritance that you deserve, not the horror that you have been given. Let this be your sceptre, one of the symbols of your rule.

Reaching out with his talons, Bucky wrapped his talon-fingers around the cool metal handle and then lifted the rod from its cradle. It was heavy, much heavier than Bucky anticipated. The metal had a strange smoothness, almost as if it had no grain, no flaws, no faults, no imperfections. The gemstones embedded in the handle flared with light at his touch.

He lifted it in his telekinesis and held it aloft in front of his face. Holding it in his magic made him feel peculiar, almost drunk, it was as though he had been drinking whiskey by the gallon. There was an intoxicating feeling of power. Not the power of dominance, nor the power of control, but the power of creation. With this, he could make life. Feeling giddy, Bucky inhaled and then let out a shuddering sigh, almost unable to contain his glee.

With this, he could build an army.

 

 

When Luna entered the room, she saw Bucky staring at the Heart of the Golem. She paused and looked around the room. It was almost how it was left long ago; this room had been Sombra’s room when Sombra had stayed here at the tower. There was a large bed, large enough for many ponies to be piled together; or several ponies and one large alicorn. Luna let out a soft sigh.

The walls were lined with shelves and on the shelves were all manner of things.  Books, curious, oddities, artifacts, trinkets, mementos, useless junk, and… something else. Seeing it caused Luna’s heart to stop for a moment. Luna was forced to take a deep breath and then she moved forwards, stepping past Bucky as she went to the corner where two shelves met together.

There it was. Few would even know what it was, or that it even had real value. Seeing it caused Luna to feel a pang in her heart. She stared at it for a moment, and her mind flooded with memories. It had been one of Sombra’s most treasured possessions, something he loved more than anything, an odd bit of treasure for a king that could have had anything he wanted.

A small gaudy looking tiara sat upon the shelf. It was made of tin and scrap metal. It was tacky, awful looking junk. Instead of a gemstone as the centerpiece, there was a walnut. For a moment, staring at it, Luna thought she might start crying. A hollow, empty ache filled her barrel. She desperately wanted Erebus, but she had left him with her Myrmidons upstairs.

“What is it?” Bucky asked as he brushed up against Luna’s side.

“The Hearth’s Warming Crown,” Luna replied as she sat down upon the stone floor in a very unprincessly like manner. She extended her wing and pulled Bucky closer to her. When he sat down, Luna leaned over, placing her weight upon Bucky, and she was glad to have him near.

“It looks awful… if you wore that, it would slice you open,” Bucky said.

“Yes, you are correct.” Luna’s lips turned upwards in a sad smile as her eyes glazed over with tears. “Not long after Princess Platinum and Sombra were married, they had their very first Hearth’s Warming together as a married couple. Sombra was as drunk as a lord and he demanded some sort of celebration… we were fighting a war at the time but he insisted that we celebrate.” Luna took a deep breath and immersed herself further into ancient memory.

“Clover made this pot metal coronet and proclaimed Princess Platinum the Princess of Debauched Unicorns. It did, in fact, cut Platinum’s scalp when Clover placed it upon her head. Platinum was a little soused, she had imbibed a few drinks, perhaps a few drinks too many. Sombra, seeing his crowned bride, told Platinum that he had a throne that she could sit on, the Turgid Throne of Almighty Bone. She slapped him, hard, for being lewd. Sombra, who had been slapped silly, lay upon the floor laughing about the whole thing.”

Luna heard Bucky sigh and her ears perked.

“After he recovered, Sombra, now serious, got to his hooves, lifted Princess Platinum’s hoof, kissed it, apologised, and begged for a dance with his princess. He didn’t wait for an answer… Sombra swept Platinum up in his forelegs, pulling her close, and then off he went, dancing around the central hall with her, roaring with laughter while Princess Platinum tried to slap him away and squirm free from his embrace because he had unsheathed yet again in public view. Several of the maids and the servants fainted from the sight.”

“That’s some story,” Bucky whispered.

“Sombra kept the crown. After Platinum died, he would sit and stare at it for hours. I did not realise that it was here, in this place. I thought it had been lost to time.” Reaching up with her other wing, the wing not wrapped around Bucky, Luna wiped her eyes. “It should remain here, in this place, in this room. This is a good place for it.”

“I agree… I’d like to believe that whatever good Sombra had in him remains here… even though I know he succumbed to darkness here.” Bucky paused. “But perhaps we can focus upon the good.” He lifted up the almost empty bottle of whiskey to his lips and took a drink.

“Share that,” Luna said to Bucky.

Saying nothing, Bucky lifted the bottle up and passed it to Luna, who took it in her telekinesis. She lifted the bottle to her muzzle, closed her eyes, and then, tilting her head back, finished it off in one gulp. She opened her eyes, stared at the tacky tiara, and then set the bottle down upon the floor beside her.

“Those days were very much like the days that we have now. Troubled days, but there were joyous moments. The difficult times somehow made the happy moments all the sweeter.” Luna let out a soft belch. Against her side, Bucky was warm. Luna, feeling uncharacteristically affectionate, leaned her head down and kissed Bucky on his ear, a soft, gentle, quick kiss of simple, unabashed affection.

“What was that for?” Bucky asked.

“Because you are my friend,” Luna replied. “I am not an easy pony to be friends with.” Luna, feeling something in her heart, something she could not identify, closed her eyes and instead focused on just enjoying this moment. She thought of the past as well as the present, she thought of her sister, she thought of Erebus, and she thought of Barley, missing him.

“I suppose that opposites do attract,” Bucky said as he stared at the crown on the shelf. Beside it was a little wooden box and beside that was a glass jar filled with something that Bucky did not recognise.

Opening her eyes, Luna nodded. “Platinum and Sombra were very different ponies, but there could be no mistaking the fact that they loved one another. They completed each other… very much like a certain unicorn and pegasus I know.”

“I don’t think that Derpy and I are all that different.” Bucky shook his head. “No, we’re not that different at all.”

“Oh, I disagree.” Luna, tilting her head, looked down at Bucky, gazing into his eyes, the corners of her lips turning upwards into a lopsided smirk. She gave him an affectionate squeeze. “She is a creature of simple goodness and of virtue. She walks among the light, never wavering.”

Turning away from Luna’s gaze, Bucky scowled and his ears drooped down.

“Dearest Buckminster, some of us have to walk within the darkness… it is a sacred duty. Some of us chose to brave the darkness to keep others safe. You know what lurks within the lingering shadows and what hunts your fellow ponies in the dark.” Luna’s voice softened and her head dropped down, her lips now near Bucky’s ear. “You chose to walk this path. You have the courage and the conviction to see this through. Because of your efforts, Derpy, and others like her, walk through the light untroubled, unmolested by what would devour us all, had it the chance.”

“Luna?”

“Yes Buckminster?”

“Had I means… the ability… had I the option… I would remain at your side forever, as your servant, patrolling the darkness with you.” Bucky paused. “I would do it because it is a thankless job, and I would want to spare others this burden, but also to keep you company.”

Touched, Luna felt a tightness in her throat. Bucky’s words were sincere, honest, and she knew them to be true. He would take upon his shoulders such a task to spare others. For a moment, Luna wondered if she was worthy of such devotion.

“Buckminster, I wish to go home… it is my desire to see Barley.” Luna gave Bucky one final squeeze and then let go. “We should wrap up here. Hex can prepare this place for Twilight Sparkle’s arrival. Is there anything else you want from this place? Anything in the arsenal? Anything that you would like to see?”

In reply, Bucky shook his head and sighed.

“Then we should be going…”

 

 

 

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