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 shadows grew long as the sun settled ever closer to the west. An odd mix of emotion had settled over the town, both fear and hope. Fear that their rescuers would fail, plunging the town into darkness, and hope that they would succeed, meaning the nightmare would finally be over.

Plans had been made for the first night. Break apart into groups, travel outwards from the center of town through the darkness, find any opposition, and crush them. If any undead were encountered, either fire weapons would be employed or Sunset Shimmer would be whisked to the undead. Either way, annihilation was the only outcome. The group was armed with several orbs of undead compulsion, one of Bucky’s finest and perhaps most puzzling creations.

 

 

“You’ve been staring into an orb again, haven’t you?” Bucky noted the haunted look upon Storm Blitz’s face. “I told you, what you see there isn’t real. It’s your own fear of death and the horrors of your mind.”

“I know.” The big pegasus hunched over, looking chastised. “It’s like a horror movie. I can’t turn away… part of me keeps wanting to look to see what will happen next… what fresh horror is about to be shown next.”

“Those orbs are creepy,” Black Briar said. “When I touch one, I can hear whispering sounds inside and outside of my head.” The rotund earth pony shook his head. “Yet I keep wanting to touch one. I like how it shivers my skin.”

Moonless Night looked down at Black Briar and nodded. “Creepy.”

His lip curling back, Deus shrugged. “The orbs have no effect on me. I don’t see what the big deal is.” He reached up and scratched his neck. “Then again, I don’t scare easy.”

“It’s hard to scare a cambion,” Tainy said as she looked up at her big, hulking, horned companion. “Those orbs… I don’t like them. I don’t trust anything that gives Blackie the creeps.” She waved her paw, making a dismissive gesture. “Bucky, you going to be okay for tonight?”

“I’m fine,” Bucky said, not feeling fine at all. He looked at his Shadowbolts, meeting the eyes of each of them. “Sunset and I will be working together. If you need her, send a message via umbral empathy. How are the rest of you planning to team up?”

“Well, Mask and I were planning on teaming up together, but Tainy pointed out that having two sources of magic in different places might be useful,” Fever Cure said.

“Tainy and I both have spell jars with fire and Tainy also has her crossbow.” Black Briar looked at his constant companion. “We work well together, so unless there are any objections, I’m with her. She needs distance to do her best work and I can keep stuff away from us.”

“Moonie and I will work with Mask,” Deus said to Bucky, gesturing to each as he said their names. “I think we can keep the little guy safe.”

“I guess that leaves Fever Cure and I.” Storm Blitz looked down at the unicorn and saw a faint nod of approval. “Do you think I could set the undead on fire with lightning?”

“Electrical burns?” Bucky shrugged. “Perhaps. You have set stuff on fire before.”

“But no running around setting things on fire willy-nilly.” Sunset Shimmer looked around the group, her opal eyes blazing in the last faint light of day. “Ask first. Check. Double check. And then triple check. What if you run into some injured pony out in the dark seeking help and you burn them? Not good! If you burn an innocent, you’ll answer to me!”

“Okay, no shooting first and asking questions later, I get it,” Tainy said, her feathers fluffing out. “I’m as nervous as a griffon cub in a room full of rocking chairs… this is going to be a rough night. Frickin’ undead.”

“I don’t know what we might face out there. Zombies, wights, ghouls, could be anything. Once you have confirmation, take them down. Dismember the corpse. Shooting them in the head or decapitating them is useless. Remember to dismember.” Bucky looked around the group, his grey eye glinting beneath this hood. “If you run into real trouble, don’t be stupid and proud, call for help… this is why we brought Sunset Shimmer… she is our best weapon against hordes of undead.”

“Don’t be proud, remember to dismember, burn everything that is dead but keeps moving, got it.” Moonless Night reached up with his hind leg and scratched behind his ear. He sniffed and his tall ears perked. The wolf-like pony’s hackles rose as he continued sniffing the breeze blowing up from the south. “Something rotten… like bad meat.”

“Oh, ew.” Tainy shook her head. “I guess they know we’re here. Here comes the welcoming committee.”

“Perhaps.” Bucky turned his head and looked southwards. “Spread out and be careful.”

 

 

Darkness settled over the land like a shroud, causing well lighted windows to become islands of illumination in a sea of vivid, crawling black. Many windows had planks over them, trying to keep whatever was lurking in the darkness out, and light spilled through at crazy angles.

Bucky moved through the darkness, drifting, legless, a billowing black shroud with a face. Beside him, Sunset Shimmer moved with an easy grace, an orb of undead compulsion levitated in front of her face. She was scowling, her face visible in the light of her magic, and her eyes were troubled.

“Master, we’re getting closer.”

“We’re still in a populated area, Minion.”

“I know, this troubles me,” Sunset replied, her voice little more than a whisper.

“So something undead lurks within the town proper.” Bucky glided over the frozen dirt, a writhing, roiling mass of shadow covered in a black shimmering shroud.

“There,” Sunset Shimmer pointed at a house, a small house, made of adobe that had a sod roof. It was one of the nicer houses, more than the common wooden ramshackle shack. Sunset headed for the door, her black cloak billowing out behind her, her breath rising like steam from her nostrils.

Bucky solidified, his hooves touching down upon the sand, and a pained expression crossed his face. He limped towards the door, one ear spasming from pain with each step he took. He glanced at Sunset Shimmer and then saw her knock.

“Hello? Hello!” Sunset knocked again. “We need to speak with you!” The orb pulsated as Sunset held it up in front of the door for a moment, and then she secreted it away, hiding it beneath her cloak.

“Go away,” a voice on the other side of the door said.

“Look, I’m very sorry sir, but we are coming inside one way or another. Now let us in, or there will be trouble,” Bucky replied.

There was a clunk on the other side of the door, the door shook for a moment, and then opened. A tired looking earth pony peered out. “What do you want?”

“Well, we’re looking for undead.” Sunset Shimmer glanced at Bucky. “And we noticed that your home was giving off some peculiar—”

“No, you can’t… she’s sick… she’s all I have left… all I have left… mother gone… sister gone… she’s all I have… she can be cured,” the stallion stammered.

Moving forwards, Bucky shoved the door open, moving the stallion aside. “I’m very sorry, but there is no cure for this. This is not an illness… she’s gone, all that you have is a body—”

“NO!” The stallion tried to shove Bucky, but couldn’t. A weeping red sore began bleeding, torn open by his efforts. With the blood came the smell of rot. The stallion started weeping. “No, please, she’s all I have left!”

Sniffing, Bucky could smell death and decay. Touching the darkness with his mind, he reached out for Fever Cure. He turned and looked at the stallion, his expression one of pity. “I understand your pain. I too, am a father.” Bucky’s talons rose up and tendrils of black shadow rose from his claws. The stallion collapsed. Bucky looked at his companion. “Gangrene, I think. He’s dying. I hope that Fever Cure is able to save him.”

“Master, you should grant him mercy…”

Bucky nodded at Sunset Shimmer’s open ended suggestion. A little editing was in order. Some things shouldn’t be remembered. It would be a kindness to wipe away this memory, make it all a fever dream, a faint unknowable nightmare.

Something moaned down in the cellar. Bucky heaved a weary sigh, not feeling well at all. “We go downstairs, we teleport it outside, you set it on fire, and we let it burn to ashes.”

“Master, no.” Sunset Shimmer shook her head. “No, Master, I do not think so. This I shall handle alone. You don’t need to see this in your condition—”

“I don’t have a condition,” Bucky grumbled, cutting Sunset off.

“Liar.” Sunset scowled and shook her head. “I’m telling Bon Bon.”

Sighing, Bucky hung his head in defeat. “Very well. You take care of what is in the basement and I’ll do what I can to make this poor sod feel better.” Bucky looked Sunset in the eye. “Sunset, I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Sunset looked around the room, looking at the different doors.

“For what you are about to experience.” Bucky shook his head. “It’s going to be awful, I wish there was a way I could spare you from what is about to happen.”

“I’m sure that it will hurt me,” Sunset replied in a soft, whispery voice. “But at the end of all of this, I get to go home to Bartleby and Trixie, and I will feel better in time. This is the life I chose to have. You are my teacher… where you go, I will follow, damn the consequences.”

 

 

Try as he might, Bucky could not ignore the haunted expression on Sunset Shimmer’s face. She had said only a few scant words as they had started back out together, but the most chilling words she had said were, “She was still fresh.” Hearing this had made Bucky’s blood run cold. Fever Cure and Storm Blitz were left to look after the gangrenous bite victim.

The farms out at the edge of town were little islands of light and shelter in the darkness. The fallow onion fields waited for spring, the promise of new growth, as well as the return of invigourating light and the heat of the sun.

One farmhouse was a burned down hulk, little more than charred scraps of wood, broken glass, and twisted sections of tin roofing. Bucky examined it as they passed, looking it over, searching for bodies, but it seemed as though the ruined farmhouse had already been searched.

Many of the farmhouses were empty, abandoned, the families living in them gone for whatever reason. There was a brief moment of worry when Bucky saw flames in the distance, but then something touched his mind; he could feel Tainy’s thoughts and Black Briar’s as well. Black Briar’s thoughts seemed remarkably calm given the circumstances.

 

 

Hearing a low moan, Bucky stopped and looked at Sunset Shimmer. He watched as she lifted up the orb of undead compulsion. It glowed in the darkness, almost burning his eyes, his grey eye reflecting a silvery glow from the orb’s light.

In the distance, something very clearly dead shuffled towards them. Bucky heaved a weary sigh when he saw the horror ambling towards him. Somepony had killed these zombies, dismembered them, but hadn’t burned the bodies. Now, the undead creature shambling towards he and Sunset was a disgusting mass of legs, heads, wings, and bodies, all of which stuck out from odd places. The corpses had pulled themselves together and had reanimated after being dismembered.

“Okay, that’s just gross… when will ponies learn that the movies aren’t a good place to learn about dealing with the undead?” Sunset Shimmer shook her head. “Well, I think we have a confirmed undead… no having to worry about torching this one.”

“Wait.” Bucky held up his talons. “Let us see if there is anything to be learned here.”

“Master—”

“Just give me a minute,” Bucky said as he stepped forwards. He held the creature back from him at a safe distance with his magic.

Using his telekinesis, he formed a thin, flat blade of force and then lopped off the legs the creature was using to walk. It fell to the ground with a splat and squish. Bucky stepped forward, watching, and he heard Sunset moving beside him. There was a sickening slurping sound and little red meaty tendrils shot out of the undead abomination. The legs were pulled back to the corpse, and more tendrils looped out, and it looked almost as though the body was sewing itself back together.

“Ew.” Sunset Shimmer shook her head. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“That’s some powerful necromancy.” Bucky sliced off a head that happened to be growing out of a lumpy, misshapen shoulder, right where a front leg should have been. Within seconds, more meaty red tendrils reached out, grabbed the head, pulled it back to the writhing mass that was the creature’s body, and began to reattach it, this time connecting it to a rotting, open gash on another torso’s ribs.

“Oh Master… I don’t like this… not at all,” Sunset Shimmer said as she backed away.

Shoving the creature over, Bucky watched as it started to get back up, using a different group of wriggling, kicking legs. Bucky had seen enough. He backed away. “Minion, if you please, kill it with fire.”

“Gladly.” For a moment, Sunset’s eyes blazed in the darkness and then the creature burst into greedy, hungry flames. Sunset’s ears twitched as the night was filled with a horrible keening, as well as the sound of flames cooking meat, the horrible spit and sizzle.

“Minion, necromancy such as this… this doesn’t come from the common demon I don’t think. We’re dealing with something powerful. I have a bad feeling that we’re dealing with something I keep hearing about, but never see.”

“And that is?” Sunset asked.

“One of those enemies that I keep hearing about… the ones that work in the dark, pulling strings, and trying to end Equestria.” Bucky thought about things that had been said, wagers, bets, the denizens of Tartarus and how they loved to gamble.

“Stupid question time, Master.”

“Go ahead, there are no stupid questions, Minion.”

“Can you kill it?”

“I dunno… I’m not sure I want to answer that question either.”

 

 

“Fall back!” Bucky shouted as he shoved forwards with a wall of telekinetic force.

“Regroup!” Sunset commanded as she lashed out with fire. The night around her burned and her companions all squinted from the bright light she generated.

A massive army of abominations poured from the south, advancing by the hundreds. Shambling corpses made of many bodies, legs, and heads surged forwards. Zombies, fast moving ghouls, and wights with powerful auras of cold that made limbs feel heavy and useless.

A large shadowy form swooped overhead and Moonless Night landed, forming a wall made of meat between the advancing horde of undead and Bucky. He roared, not sounding at all like a pony. Deus landed at his side, his infernal eyes glowing in the firelight.

“We’re in deep shit,” Deus said to his companions. “I feel something… something bad!”

“The ground feels like curdled milk!” Black Briar shouted.

“What does that even mean, anyways?” Tainy looked at her companion and began to crank the lever that cocked her crossbow.

“It means something so foul is coming that the ground itself is turning bad!” Black Briar screamed as he began to dance around. “My hooves are burning!” The earth pony slipped into shadow and rose up above the earth with a pained, whimpering cry.

“Damnit, I don’t like that!” Tainy rose up, hovering near her companion, half in and half out of shadow. She watched as Sunset Shimmer lobbed a massive fireball, and then squeezed her eyes shut before the explosion blinded her. “Whatever it is, it hurt Blackie… IT DIES!”

After the fireball detonated, it began to rain flaming body parts. They fell to the earth with a wet, chunky sounding splatter. Bucky let go of another wave of telekinesis, pushing hundreds of bodies backwards, dismembering many from the force of impact, even causing some to explode.

In the distance, in the darkness, something was laughing. It boomed through the night, a horrible sound, as if something escaped from Tartarus found all of this funny. The stench of brimstone filled the air, mingling with the scent of rot and the stink of burned bodies.

When Sunset let go of another massive fireball, launching it in a parabolic arc, Bucky saw a tall, bipedal winged figure off in the distance, in the back of the advancing army of the undead. He had just survived a war, lived through a devastating trap that had killed thousands, and yet at no moment in the war was he as worried about his survival as he was right now. Gulping, he steeled his nerves, preparing himself for what was certain to be a real fight.

“Shadowbolts… stick together!” Bucky barked. His body shifted, his shadowstuff rippling. Armor began to form around him, his inheritance manifesting in his time of need.

Beside him, both Mask and Fever Cure began to cast as many defensive spells as possible, both remaining cool under pressure. Sunset Shimmer began casting powerful augmentations, not just on herself, but on the whole group.

Realising that drastic times called for drastic measures, Bucky conjured up a few rainclouds, but these clouds didn’t have water. These clouds were charged with the spell Acidulant Assault PH0. The advancing ranks of undead began to dissolve and puddles of acid formed.

More booming laughter filled the night and Bucky’s blood ran cold. He felt it before he saw it. An incoming missile of blackness, a flying void of darkness. Memories of the crystal lich filled his mind, the loss of his leg, and he stared upwards, his eyes wide with remembered horror. He had survived a death spell, and was now keenly aware of their presence.

“SCATTER!” Bucky shouted. “SHADOW DIVE! GET OUT OF HERE!” Almost too late, Bucky realised that Sunset Shimmer couldn’t shadow dive. Bucky knew that the incoming death spell was locked onto the life force of a living solar pony—if she teleported, it would only follow her. He didn’t know what it would do to Shadowbolts, but it was reasonable to assume it would kill them if they were in the detonation radius.

Diving into shadow, Bucky surged forwards, engulfing his student, pulling her down with him, swallowing her in his shadow essence, pulling her into the void of his cloak with him.

He did not make it away in time. He concentrated his essence around Sunset’s, trying to shield her, trying to ignore the horrible pain of the necromantic magic that was trying to rip his soul away from his body. He had survived this once already, it was a matter of willpower.

Almost merging with Sunset’s essence, Bucky held on, not knowing the outcome as blackness began to overtake him. He cursed in his mind, he struggled, he raged, refusing to let go of life, his final thought was of a grey pegasus with vivid amber eyes and how she had chased him.

 

 

 

 

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