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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Head aching, Bucky tried to force his eyes to open. Nothing happened. The world remained dark. He heard whimpering, faint panting cries, and the sound of guttural laughter. He found that he was unable to move. After a few attempts, he found that his magic wasn’t working either. His whole body hurt, wracked by strange pain. He felt cold and his body felt as heavy as lead.

Using all of his will, he forced his eyes open.

Inches away from his face, he saw Sunset Shimmer. She was gagged. He could see the fear in her eyes. Her horn sparked and fizzled. She had been crying; her eyes were red, tears stained her face, and her nose was snotty.

“He awakes,” a voice said. “Delightful.”

“After doing what was predicted,” another voice said.

“I am still surprised that she lived… yet it is somehow more satisfying that she is to be his first victim… perhaps when he is done with her he can rid us of those wretched, crying, sniveling foals we took as a contingency.”

“I bet you are wondering why you are here, Descendant of Sombra,” a resonant voice said, speaking with a perfect, well cultured enunciation. “I would imagine that you have questions. I would not bother trying to ask them, all will be revealed in time.”

“I’m… going… to… kill… you,” Bucky gasped, panting, spitting out the words one by one. He kicked and struggled, or tried to. All of his efforts only caused his legs to twitch and make futile, feeble jerks.

“Tsk tsk tsk… how rude.”

The cultured voice was close, but not too close. Bucky could hear it. He tried to move his head, but was unable to do anything. He looked into Sunset’s eyes, trying to draw strength from her, trying to give her strength, trying to do something, anything to fight back.

“Unlike the bitchy Fates, I am kind enough to offer you a choice when it comes to your destiny,” the cultured voice said, his Canterlot accent strong and recognisable. “You see, because of my Master, I have some appreciation for you… not in the current state of weakness that you exist in, but for what you could become. Tonight, I plan to free you. Does that not sound pleasant?”

“Piss off.” Bucky’s voice came out as a dry, raspy hiss as he struggled to move.

“Tonight, I am going to give you a choice.” The cultured Canterlot voice burst into a laugh. “You can either ascend, becoming what you were meant to be, or you can take a little foal step towards your eventual ascension… either way, tonight, you will embrace what you were meant to be.”

“No,” Bucky gasped. “No, never.”

“I am not giving you the option of saying no,” the voice said before slipping into a sarcastic chuckle. “After tonight, there is no going back for you. The princesses will never allow you back after what you will do. They will hunt you down, they will destroy you… they will take your family from you. You will be left with nothing. You will have no choice but to embrace your destiny.”

Blinking, Bucky heard a low whimper from Sunset.

“Do you know what you are?” the refined voice from Canterlot asked.

“I don’t think he does,” another voice said.

All around him, Bucky heard snickering and more guttural laughter.

“When my Master first touched you, you had the right body. The right mind. You had the right blood. You’ve been given a gift. A gift that so far, you have rejected.” The Canterlot voice paused for a moment. “Tonight, your lack of gratitude will be rectified. You will be corrected, you ungrateful whelp.”

Bucky ignored the voice, focusing instead on Sunset Shimmer, staring into her opal eyes. A flood of Sombra’s memories began to trickle through his mind, and with them, came a faint glimmer of understanding. He choked back a sob, fearful for Sunset and how close she was to him.

“Do it,” the cultured, Canterlot accented voice commanded.

A dark shape loomed over Bucky, grabbed him by an ear, lifted his head, and before Bucky could do anything to protest, something sharp pierced his throat. He felt the cold metal biting deep, then slicing him open. He heard a dreadful gurgle and it was suddenly hard to  draw breath.

“You have but two options. Ascend, and save yourself. Become an alicorn and give Sombra your body. You will be immortal, and you will live.” The voice paused for a moment as Bucky gurgled. “Or, you can feed upon your former student and save yourself. By doing so, you will make yourself an enemy of the princesses.”

Bucky’s vision was growing dim. He didn’t like these options. He stared into Sunset’s eyes, wondering what to do, and with great sadness, he realised there was a third option. He blinked. Dying was easy. All of this could be over. It would be over and he would be beyond caring. It would be easy to slip away.

But slipping away meant leaving Sunset at the mercy of these ponies, whomever they were. Anger flared within Bucky’s dying heart. There was another option. He didn’t like this option, but it was an option.

Bucky let out a strangled gurgle, trying to say something. Blood sprayed from his lips. He had such a narrow chance. He felt his heartbeat growing weaker. Colour was bleeding from his vision and sound was becoming distorted.

“I do believe he is trying to speak,” the Canterlot voice said. “You idiot… you were only supposed to open his throat, not slice into his vocal cords!”

Coughing, Bucky tried to say something again, his blood splattering all over Sunset’s face. Even as he was dying, he felt bad about it. Something white loomed in his vision. He could no longer see Sunset. Something white and gold.

“If you have something to say, some final words of protest, I am listening,” the Canterlot voice said, his words dripping with sarcasm. “Or do you require some help feeding on your prey? Is that it? Just nod and I shall help you.”

Calling up the last of his strength, Bucky lifted his head, opened his jaws, and clamped down on the white that was in his vision, his teeth sinking into an ear and part of a face. The moment that blood spurted into his mouth, he felt his strength returning. A piercing shriek filled his ears.

With the blood came more memories. Haunting, terrible memories of Sombra. These ponies, they had but a fraction of the curse; they relied upon necromancy to aid the dark curse of shadow upon their souls. Bucky didn’t need necromancy. As it had been stated, he had the right body, the right mind, and he had the right blood.

“My magic is gone!” Somepony shouted. “My gift is gone!”

“Mine too!”

Bucky felt a weak bolt of telekinetic energy slam into his body. He ignored it. There was another, weak, ineffective blast of magic against his ribs. He ignored that too. While the taste of blood had been invigourating, Bucky’s shadow essence was pulling the life force out of the unicorn trapped in his jaws. He began to radiate a powerful aura of umbral terror.

He felt his magic returning, but faint. However, his shadow essence had been restored and he felt much needed warmth returning to his limbs. He felt alive. The unicorn he had his teeth sank into was starting to feel a little dead, or close to it.

Snarling, Bucky rose from where he had been laying, his grey eye now a scary shade of crimson. He was on some kind of altar. He could see unicorns fleeing all around him, running. He would deal with them in a moment. He still felt sick, drugged. He also had a terrible hunger.

He reached out to Sunset Shimmer, who whimpered at his touch. He dove into shadow, pulling Sunset down into the darkness with him. Luna had taught him a trick to purge his body of drugs and poisons. Deep within shadow, he purified his essence and Sunset’s as well.

Becoming semi-solid, he released Sunset. Using his telekinesis, he pulled off her gag. She wobbled on her hooves, looking at him with a fearful expression, trembling, and then, lunging forwards, she kissed Bucky on the cheek.

“Master,” she whispered.

“Be ready to fight,” Bucky replied.

“Your eye… you’re like them,” Sunset said.

“Not now, Minion.” He looked around the now abandoned chamber.

There was work to be done. Horrible, dirty work.

Reaching out with his mind, Bucky felt his cloak nearby. He called it to him. His wolf head torque seemed to be gone, perhaps destroyed, its loss unnerved him, because he knew what it protected him from.

 

 

“We can’t get out, something has sealed off the entrance!”

Hearing this, Bucky let out a maniacal cackle that echoed through the hallways. This was a place filled with weaklings. Most of these unicorns were type ones with a few type twos scattered in. Whatever powerful necromancy they had, it was gone now. Bucky wondered where the giant demon was.

He needed answers, and they did not seem forthcoming. Perhaps killing the Canterlot unicorn with the fine white pelt and silky golden mane had been a mistake, but Bucky was beyond caring. Flames lashed out from Sunset Shimmer as she burned down more undead.

Screams echoed up and down the hallways. Without their powerful necromancy, the unicorns in the charnel pit had no control over the undead abominations they had been creating. Bucky could not even count how many undead horrors were lurking in here, nor could he figure out why they were roaming the halls. Something had gone horribly wrong.

Perhaps, seeing their weakness, sensing failure, the demon helping them had abandoned them, but not before releasing the undead hordes. Bucky heard screaming; turning his head in the screamer’s direction, he watched a mare getting dragged down by hungry undead horrors. She was pulled apart and her guts spilled out all over the floor. Her last act was to reach out for her own hind legs with her forelegs.

He pushed ahead, a wall of telekinetic force shoving the undead away from him. Sunset Shimmer was setting everything around them on fire. The hallway was filled with smoke that burned Bucky’s eyes and made him cough.

Bucky had a feeling that this was going to be the longest night of his life.

 

 

Stepping into a large cavern that reeked of sulfur, Bucky stopped, seeing several figures in the smokey haze. The first was a crystal unicorn. He wasn’t surprised at all. On either side of the crystal unicorn were two hulking demon imps. There were several unicorns all standing together in a tight cluster, and then Bucky saw something that made his blood run cold.

There was a dried out dessicated corpse with very little flesh; it was more skeleton than anything else. Its hollow eye sockets glowed with eldritch light and a spike of purple crystal stuck out from its forehead. Somehow, Bucky knew what it was, because he had seen it before. It stood out in Sombra’s memories, because Sombra had helped to create it. A guardian lich. Bucky shivered.

“It isn’t too late,” the crystal unicorn said. “You can still surrender. We will still aid you. We want you as our king… after what you have done, do you honestly believe that the sisters will allow you to return home?”

“Bucky, don’t listen to them… Celestia will forgive almost anything… believe me, I know,” Sunset Shimmer said, moving closer to Bucky’s side. “She is the most forgiving pony I know. Don’t believe a word he says.”

“Do you really think that the Empress of the Sun will allow a vampire to live peacefully? She has hunted the shadow leeches to near extinction, destroying almost all of Sombra’s children… we, the rightful heirs to his power… those of us who have been touched by his gift.”

“I grow weary of wordy foes,” Bucky spat, wondering how he was going to kill another lich. The last battle hadn’t ended very well and he had ended up with the Taint. He was going to need disintegration magic. Beside him, Sunset Shimmer was already casting powerful defensive spells.

“There is no need for further violence,” the crystal unicorn continued. “We only want to help you. The Fates have lied to you… you have a great purpose… a powerful destiny. And you have been manipulated to keep you from it.”

“Sunset,” Bucky whispered. “Be ready to shield me for as long as possible. I need time to work.” Bucky turned his gaze towards the crystal unicorn. “Why should I listen to you?”

“You cannot possibly beat us.” The crystal unicorn paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. “You killed Prince Goldenstar, who claimed to be the rightful head of House Avarice… he was an idiot and a constant source of irritation. I think that you would make a far better prince… or how about a king?” The crystal unicorn raised his eyebrow. “All of Equestria could be yours… even if you do not ascend, we would understand. You could still live up to some of your potential… you could remain with your family. We could help you remove the sisters.”

“Want to hear my counter proposal?” Bucky asked.

“Ah, there we go. Reason. I figured with a few soft words and some kindness that you could be reasonable. I was right.” The crystal unicorn smiled. “What is it that you want?”

A terrible rictus spread over Bucky’s muzzle. The sclera of his eye turned a sickly shade of green. Taint mist began to drift up from his surviving eye. Black flames danced along his horn. “I want you to die… screaming please… I like it when you scream!”

 

 

Spell after spell slammed into Sunset’s shield, but Bucky ignored it. He had far more pressing concerns. The unicorns, the crystal unicorn, and the guardian lich were certain to take down Sunset’s shields, sooner rather than later. He was inside of the minds of the two imps, dominating them, forcing his will to overpower their own. Overpowering a demon and seizing control of it was a task of fiendish difficulty; taking on two at once was folly.

Meanwhile, Sunset Shimmer stood with her eyes closed, her mind a fortress of iron will. She blazed with inner light, her whole body illuminated with a golden glow. Her reinforced horn was now capable of so much more magic; she no longer knew her upper limits. She didn’t know how much longer she could keep this going though. More spells slammed into her shields.

Then, without warning, the two imps both shrieked and went into a frenzy. One attacked the crystal unicorn, the other attacked the guardian lich. Screams filled the room as the unicorns realised that something had gone wrong in the worst way possible.

Sunset Shimmer felt her shield break and all around her, the room plunged into darkness, a darkness so powerful even her own light was extinguished. Crying out, gibbering with fear, Sunset Shimmer tried to return the light, fearful of what was in the darkness.

 

 

Gliding through the darkness, feeling weak, needing sustenance after his mental battle with the two demonic imps, Bucky went for the weakest targets in the room while the crystal unicorn and the guardian lich were busy.

He moved among the unicorns, feeding off of their fear, gaining strength, drinking it in, but he needed more. Becoming just solid enough to do what he needed to do, he wrapped his right foreleg around a unicorn’s neck. Reaching up with his talons, he grabbed the unicorn by its horn, cackling the entire time, and snapped the horn off with a flick of his wrist. The darkness was filled with a horrible scream. Inhaling, Bucky drank deep of the unicorn’s thaumaturgic essence, refreshing his own mana reserves. This was how Sombra sustained himself on the battlefield.

The limp, lifeless body slipped free from Bucky’s grasp. One unicorn, unable to see, killed another in her panic. He laughed. Reaching out his talons, he grabbed her around the neck and pulled her closer. He allowed just enough light to return around his face so she could see him.

Her piercing screams filled the cavern, echoing, and Bucky was nourished by her fear. Using his thumb talon, he made a tiny incision in her throat. He inhaled, sucking in her raw vital essence, giving himself more magic, charging himself up with bloodlust. Already, the need, the craving, the desire to keep feeding was almost more than he could bear.

It would do himself no good to win this battle but lose himself in the process. Ignoring his baser instincts, Bucky pushed out with a pulse of powerful dark magic. All around him, more screams resounded. Black crystals grew from the unicorn’s horns, stealing away their magic.

Bucky allowed some of the light to return. Sunset needed to see after all. She needed to live. She had to live. If Bucky couldn’t return, then Sunset had to be the one to go back and explain everything that had happened.

Talons extended, Bucky surged forwards, aiming for the guardian lich. Long claws made of shadowstuff extended from his talon tips. He raked his claws along the lich’s rotten ribs, cutting it open, sending dust flying out as the demon imp was attempting to twist off the lich’s head, while the lich itself was trying to disintegrate the demon.

The lich burst into flames, green flames, a spell that Bucky did not recognise. He scooted away, something about the flames frightened him a great deal, their warmth caused him some pain and discomfort.

He focused upon the crystal unicorn instead. He dove forward, half in and half out of shadow, and with a swipe of his claws, a long series of gashes opened on the crystal unicorn’s neck. The damage, while impressive, was not serious; the gashes were already closing.

The lich was howling with pain, its cries caused the whole cavern to reverberate. Sunset Shimmer hammered away upon it with spell after spell, smashing down its defenses, her lip curled back in a snarl.

“Celestia gave me a really nifty spellbook… how do you like that? It’s a spell of her own making, a purging flame… HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?”

The heat coming off the lich was becoming terrible. Bucky had to flee. His skin burned, blistering and peeling. He came to the realisation that, whatever it was that he was now, he was no longer welcome in the light or the grace of the sun. A whimpering cry escaped his lips and he slipped into shadow, trying to cool his burning flesh.

“Protect Sunset!” a voice shouted.

A moment later, Moonless Night came crashing into the cavern, covered in gore, and Deus was right beside him. The pair formed a wall in front of Sunset, snarling and growling. Storm Blitz entered the room next, half in and half out of shadow, dangerous electrical arcs crackling along his body. Black Briar came next, and with him, a writhing mass of spiky shadow briars, which formed a barrier around Sunset.

Tainy came last, long shadow claws extending from her paws. “Your stupid pet demon lord is dead… we killed Wrath and shredded his disgusting heart into a thousand pieces… guess what… you’re next! Go for the throats, Shadowbolts!”

 

 

 

 

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