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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Darting away, Bucky watched as Moonless Night lifted the corrupted crystal unicorn up into the air. Up, up, up he went, clutched in Moonless’ massive, clawed paws, and when the elevator ride up was done, the corrupted crystal unicorn took the long ride down. Moonless Night slammed his foe down onto the cavern floor with a colossal thud, causing the whole of the cavern to shake.

It was the sort of blow that would have killed most anything. The crystal unicorn shattered into a thousand quivering pieces. Moonless was panting from his exertion and he snarled when he saw the pieces moving back together.

“Damn!” Bucky swore as the crystal unicorn began to reassemble.

Swift shadows shot forwards and Black Briar’s shadow brambles grabbed many pieces of the corrupted crystal unicorn, trying to keep them from reforming, but the glittering crystal shards just teleported out of the grasp of the brambles.

“NOT FAIR!” Black Briar shouted.

Unleashing a furious flurry attack with his talons, Bucky did his best to damage the crystal unicorn, hacking and slashing away with long, curved, shadowstuff claws. Moonless Night joined in, but it seemed to be a useless endeavour. The crystal unicorn was putting himself together and healing faster than he could be damaged.

Meanwhile, as Bucky and others attacked the corrupted crystal unicorn, Sunset Shimmer was having far more luck with the guardian lich. The lich was wounded, perhaps dying, but it was still going to be a while before the lich turned to dust. She hammered away with powerful spells, spells created by Princess Celestia, Princess Twilight, and Princess Luna, all intended to combat the undead. Sunset was using every bit of her training, every bit of her learning, it seemed, as she was recalling every lesson she had ever taken on magic, from the time when she was a foal with Princess Celestia to the long hours of study with Bucky, her current teacher.

Deus, recovering from being slammed into the wall by a concussive blast, reentered the fray, going for the corrupted crystal unicorn. He charged, lowering his head, and with a bellow, he slammed into his foe. The crystal unicorn was knocked from his hooves and slammed into the cavern wall, which caused parts of him to shatter again. A leg broke free and many cracks spiderwebbed over his body.

It pained Bucky to admit it, but they were losing. If Sparkler was here, the unicorn could be petrified and the fight would be over. This enemy was immensely powerful, far more so than the other crystal unicorns that Bucky had encountered. He wasn’t sure if this was a fight that could be won. He began to wonder if retreat was possible.

“Hush a bye, don't you cry, go to sleep, my little foal. When you wake, you shall have all the pretty little ponies,” Tainy sang in a voice that echoed through the caverns. She had her eyes closed and she was pressed against Black Briar’s side. She was bleeding, but the wounds were already closing. Her voice was still strong, and it gave her companions strength.

Hearing Tainy’s song gave Sunset courage. Princess Celestia had sang this lullaby to her when Sunset had been a foal. It always made the nightmares go away. Sunset was ready for this nightmare to end. The music gave her more strength, and Sunset felt as though she could keep fighting for a little while longer.

“In your bed, Mama said, my little foal is riding off to dreamland. One by one, they've begun, to dance and prance for my little foal,” Tainy continued.

His horn glowing with black flames and Taint mist leaking from his eye, Bucky fired round after round of disintegration spell into the crystal unicorn, trying to slow down the monstrous regeneration. Pieces of the crystal unicorn’s body chipped away, holes were blasted clean through, but he kept reforming. At least he could not do much spellcasting while he was reassembling.

“Blacks and bays, dapples and greys, running in the night. When you wake, You shall have all the pretty little ponies.” Tainy’s voice was a soothing balm. She could feel the horror and the fear of loss lurking in her companions’ minds.

Their battle with Wrath had been downright simple compared to this. With Wrath, they had simply carved him apart, ripped him to pieces, and then destroyed his heart. Easy peasy. But this fight wasn’t going as well.

With a triumphant shriek, Sunset Shimmer turned the guardian lich into dust and the lich stayed that way. There was a piercing cry as the animation holding the lich together failed and then a massive explosion rocked the whole cavern.

“Can you see the little ponies dance before your eyes? All the pretty little ponies will be there when you arise,” Tainy sang, finishing her lullaby. She hoped that all of her friends were still alive when this was over.

Two more figures joined the fight, winking into existence. Fever Cure and Mask appeared and right away, they surged forwards to began their attack on the crystal unicorn with the others.

“Dreadfully sorry that we’re late, but that phylactery wasn’t going to destroy itself,” Mask said as he summoned a shield around himself.

“The lich was clever… lots of booby traps… Mask almost got blown up.” Fever Cure also summoned a shield around himself and glanced at his boon companion.

Mask, firing off a bolt of telekinetic force, scowled at his friend. “I thought we agreed not to talk about the unpleasantness!”

With a gasp, Sunset collapsed, her magic spent. Tainy grabbed Sunset and pulled her close to Black Briar. The hippogriff understood that soon, Bucky’s magic would give out as well. He couldn’t keep casting forever. At that point, the fight would be over.

There was a sound like shattering glass when Storm Blitz’s hind hooves caused the crystal unicorn’s head to explode and shatter. Already, the damage was being repaired and all the little pieces were reassembling.

“What in Tartarus are we fighting?” Mask asked as their foe pieced itself together.

“Something with no weakness!” Storm Blitz shouted. There was a hint of panic in his voice. “I don’t think we can win this fight!”

Moonless sliced and slashed with his claws. “Somepony is going to have to stay behind and keep smashing while the rest of us escape!”

“No!” Tainy shouted.

“Then we die together,” Dues said as he tried to smash a kicking leg that had been snapped off.

“Bucky, I’m sorry, but I know how to end this,” Sunset said as she clung to Tainy. “This has to be a trap… a failsafe put in place in case you survived what happened earlier… I just know it.”

“Keep talking Minion, I’m listening!” Bucky replied as he pulled back.

“Goldenstar was too much of an idiot!” Sunset lifted her head. “Our real enemies were down here the whole time… Everypony who was left around the altar up there was intended to be food. You were supposed to kill all of them, I think. Goldenstar was no big loss if everything went wrong… they threw him away… but this unicorn here… he has some of Sombra’s essence, right?”

“I believe so.” The dark magic on Bucky’s horn died away and the Taint wafted away from his eye, which was now crimson from vampiric bloodlust. He blinked, and deep down in his heart, Bucky was fearful that he would end up with a permanent case of the Taint once more. It was a funny thing to be fearful of, considering it was the least of his worries.

“Bucky, this unicorn is the last failsafe… the only way to beat him is to absorb him.” As the last word left Sunset’s mouth, so did a sob. She closed her eyes, weeping, unable to bear this anymore. She clutched Tainy, hugging her, and wishing for this nightmare to be over.

Feeling his blood run cold, Bucky sensed the truth in Sunset Shimmer’s words. So long as Sombra’s essence remained, the corrupted crystal unicorn would continue to regenerate. Sombra’s corruption had to be removed. It had to go somewhere. With a weary sigh, Bucky knew what he had to do. He was damned already, there would be no going home after this, but he felt that he owed his Shadowbolts.

“Keep him pinned down and keep snapping off his horn so he can’t cast anything,” Bucky commanded.

“No! Not like this!” Black Briar shouted.

“Blackie, did you really think that there would be a happy end for any of us? We chose this life… at least he’s getting to chose how this ends,” Tainy said as she squeezed Sunset, who sobbed and wailed.

“NO!” Black Briar closed his eyes.

Bucky glanced at Fever Cure, saw a nod, and then looked at Mask. His fellow unicorn looked grim. After a moment, Mask nodded. Bucky turned his head. Deus and Moonless Night had the unicorn pinned down while Storm Blitz kept snapping off the long crystalline horn as it continued to regrow.

Stepping forwards, Bucky prepared himself, trying to come to terms with the fact that he was about to draw in even more of Sombra’s dark nature. The only way to stop this abomination’s reanimation was to remove the source of power. Perhaps if he was smarter, or perhaps if Twilight was here, some other way could be found. If Sparkler was here, it could be petrified. Perhaps the Elements of Harmony could destroy it. Bucky had none of those things.

He hoped that Princess Celestia would make it quick. He was certain that she would. He doubted that he would feel a thing. She would reduce him to ashes and it would be all over.

Extending his talons, Bucky sank his claws into the corrupted crystal monstrosity that had taken the shape of a unicorn. He felt it kicking and thrashing. And for the first time during the whole fight, Bucky felt fear. The fear offered sustenance. Hating himself for what he was doing, Bucky drank.

 

 

It almost felt as though Bucky had some kind of horrible flu. He didn’t feel strength, but weakness. The crystal unicorn was starting to crumble and Bucky was starting to feel sicker. His limbs felt dull and tired. His head felt heavy. A terrible hunger gnawed at his insides.

Then, much to his horror, Bucky smelled something that made his mouth water. Living flesh. Warm flesh. Sunset’s flesh. Self loathing flooded through his being. He would never let it come to that. It was a matter of willpower.

Inhaling, Bucky drew more essence in, and more pieces of the crystal unicorn broke away. Bucky’s limbs began to tremble. What little light there was dazzled his eyes. All around him was ruin. Dead unicorn bodies were scattered around the cavern, all of them broken, mangled, legs and spines all at odd, unnatural angles.

He could hear weeping. He could make out Sunset’s sniffling sobs and somepony else. Black Briar? Perhaps. Bucky didn’t turn around to look. He had a job to finish. The corrupted crystal unicorn had stopped kicking and had gone still. Cracks appeared in his body and parts of him fell away, turning into glittery dust.

The cold had returned. Bucky felt empty inside. His insides writhed with the sickness he had just absorbed into his body. He let go, pulling his talons away, and the crystal unicorn fell over. It shattered and did not reform.

Overcome by crippling weakness, Bucky fell, his face slamming into the floor of the cavern. There was more to do. Blinking, having trouble seeing, he saw a door at the other end of the cavern. There was more to do. He had to get up. It all came down to willpower.

“Master?”

Bucky closed his eyes again, this time feeling tears. “Minion, stay away.” He heard a sniffle and then an angry snort.

“No!”

Somepony was touching him. It wasn’t Sunset. Groaning, Bucky tried to get up on his legs. When that failed, he tried to drop into shadow. Try as he might, he couldn’t. He felt himself being lifted, and then he felt the warm tingle of magic. Sunset’s magic.

Opening his eyes, Bucky saw worried faces all around him. He saw Sunset moving into his vision. Her eyes looked sad. There was fear there too, but Bucky realised she was not afraid of him. As terrible as he felt, he managed to feel pride for his student.

“Help me… there is a door,” Bucky whispered.

“Yes Master,” Sunset replied.

Carrying Bucky, Sunset moved for the door, the Shadowbolts forming ranks around her. She struggled to hold back her tears, but a few slipped out. Her legs wobbled and her knees knocked. She was exhausted and it was a strain to even hold up Bucky. There was nothing left in her.

“Allow me,” Fever Cure said, taking Bucky into his own telekinetic field. He saw Sunset give him a reluctant nod. “Bucky, what lies beyond the door?”

“I don’t know.” Bucky’s voice was dry and raspy. Bucky rather hoped that it would be death. The door was heavy looking, made of wood, and Bucky knew that it would open for him. As he was carried closer, he shivered, feeling what felt like the chill of the grave.

For a moment, Bucky thought he saw a familiar pale pony with a black cloak beside him, but then it was gone. He couldn’t tell if he had been hallucinating or not. He blinked a few times, trying to clear his vision, and then, there it was.

The door.

Lifting his trembling talons, he touched the dark wood and brass. The door shuddered and then opened. A foul smell drifted out, causing several Shadowbolts and Sunset Shimmer to gag. There were bodies here, little bodies, many many little bodies. The room was dim, it was hard to see, Bucky couldn’t make his eyes work right. The room was like a freezer.

Sunset’s horn provided a pale light as she gagged. The bodies of dozens of dead foals littered the floor and there were several adults as well. Nothing moved. The floor was slick with frozen blood. Icicles hung from the ceiling—icicles made of blood.

In the center of the room was what appeared to be a large mirror. There was no silvery surface, only a black void. Compelled, Bucky wanted to look into the mirror. He slipped into shadow, now able to do so, and drifted towards the mirror. In the dark void, he saw two red glowing eyes surrounded by green. Glowing purple mist trailed up from the eyes.

“Still, you continue to resist,” a voice growled.

“I know what you are,” Sunset Shimmer said as she stepped forwards. Her horn glowed with a faint, feeble light. “I know who you are. I’m going to end you for this!”

The disembodied face in the mirror grew larger, as if it were drawing closer. “You have so much to learn, apprentice. Love only brings pain and weakness. Come to me if you will. I have much to teach you.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” Sunset hissed.

“I’ll be waiting for you in Tartarus.” Bucky scowled at the face in the mirror.

The mirror shattered, exploding into thousands of black fragments. Bucky shielded his eyes as he cried out in panic. The room was filled with a silver light. It burned him, causing his skin to blister and peel. He heard pained cries from the Shadowbolts.

The light subsided, but was still almost unbearable. Bucky struggled to see, but his eyes were blurry. He saw a vague shape in front of him, something glowing with a beautiful silver light.

“There is still hope… Cadance still lives… do not give up hope… Mommy still loves you.”

With another painful flash, the silvery light was gone. Bucky blinked and the last of his strength gave out. He fell to the floor, gasping, his whole body aching, his hunger threatening to consume him.

 

 

“We can keep fighting. Wherever you go, we will go with you,” Tainy said in a soft voice. “If you can’t go home, we’ll just roam. We’ll keep fighting until this is over.”

Laying on the cold stone floor, Bucky sighed. He stared up at the ceiling above him. The entire group was resting in front of the door that led outside. It would be dawn soon. Bucky did not know what to do.

“Wait, I think I know what might help a little,” Black Briar said. The earth pony sat down and kicked out his prosthetic leg. Reaching down, he opened a compartment, fished around inside, and pulled out something that shone silver in the faint light.

“When they swooped in and took you, this was yanked off.” Black Briar held up Bucky’s wolf headed torque. “We really couldn’t do much to stop them, we had to protect the town.” With a sad smile, the earth pony slipped the torque around Bucky’s neck and tried to ignore Bucky’s glowing crimson eye.

“Army of undead, destroyed. One demon lord of Tartarus, destroyed. One lich, dusted, two imps, ripped apart, and one crystal unicorn that just wouldn’t die… but did. Once again, I’d say that we’ve outdone ourselves,” Deus said as he flopped down upon the floor.

The torque, much to Bucky’s surprise, did make him feel better. Some of his weakness subsided. It made it a little easier to ignore the smell of Sunset Shimmer. Sunset Shimmer wasn’t making it easy for him though, as she refused to let go of him. She had his right hoof clutched in her fetlock.

The sound of grating stone could be heard and then the massive stone door was ripped away. Rolling over, Bucky saw a tall figure in the doorway. He knew who it was. He lay on the floor, limp, knowing there was no point in defending himself. He heard gagging.

“What an appalling stench!” A second figure joined the first. “Oh, that is ghastly!”

“Buckminster?” The taller figure stepped forwards, her horn glowing with soft light.

Other figures began to fill the doorway behind her. There was quite a crowd. Bucky groaned, Celestia’s light burned his eyes and his skin, it was almost unbearable. The light went away and was replaced by silvery light, which was cool and soothing. Bucky gasped.

“What has taken place here?” Celestia asked as she drew near. She froze. “No… Bucky, your eye… no… what has happened?”

Bucky had no strength to reply. He felt Sunset squeeze his hoof.

“This was all a trap,” Sunset said to Celestia. “He didn’t have any choice… you have to trust me when I say that.”

Somewhere, nearby, the wailing of a foal could be heard, coming from outside. Bucky’s ears perked. He sucked in a deep breath. “Cadance?”

“Bucky, I need you to listen to me and let me finish when I speak.” Celestia cleared her throat. “There was an attack upon the farm… an all out assault. They tried to take Cadance.” Celestia drew in a deep breath. “Nopony was seriously hurt, but there was some extensive damage to the house, the school, and the surrounding grounds. The attackers encountered heavy resistance. Rising Star, Sparkler, Lugus, and Ripple organised the defenses. Odin and Loki, along with many others, kept your family safe. Scorch ended the attackers and he’s in Tartarus right now trying to figure out everything that just happened.”

Groaning, Bucky writhed on the stone floor. “Let me see Cadance.”

Standing silent, there was no reply from Celestia, nor Luna. The two sisters stood there, looking at one another, neither one of them knowing what to say or do. Several Shadowbolts rose up, now standing, and Luna gave them a nervous glance.

“How dare you keep Cadance away from Bucky… do you really think that he would hurt her? Do you?” Sunset Shimmer let go of Bucky’s hoof and stepped forwards, her eyes narrowed, her lips quivering with rage. “Bucky could have fed on me and he didn’t! HE DIDN’T!”

“I would never keep Cadance away from Bucky… I’m not worried about him hurting her,” Celestia said to Sunset, shaking her head. Her wings fluttered and she blinked back tears. “I’m worried that Cadance would destroy him in his current state.”

“Just end me,” Bucky begged. “I can’t go home… not like this.”

Cadance’s shrieking reached a crescendo. Holding the pink foal in his arms, Scorpan moved forward, through the doorway, and stood near Princess Celestia. He glanced at her, then at Luna, and then at Bucky.

It was Luna who acted, lifting Cadance, and then setting the foal down upon the stone floor. Cadance scooted forward as fast her legs would carry her, her wings flapping, running to her father. She stopped just a few feet away, a confused, hurt expression upon her face.

“You been bad,” Cadance said in a squeaky, frightened voice.

Now sobbing, Bucky closed his eyes. “I didn’t have a choice, I’m sorry.” He rolled over onto his stomach, his chin resting on the floor. “Are you okay?” Bucky opened his eyes. Cadance radiated with a faint pink light and her ethereal mane whipped around in an agitated sort of way.

“You been bad,” Cadance repeated, shaking her head. “Naughty.” Her lower lip protruded. “Make promise, no more bad.”

“Cadance, I can’t promise that,” Bucky replied. He let out a pained groan, oblivious to the world around him. “I didn’t want to do it… I didn’t have a choice.”

“Make promise!” Cadance shouted, her wings now sticking out from her sides. “No more bad, Daddy!”

“I promise to try, Cadance.” Bucky opened his eyes and watched as Cadance approached. He gazed into her eyes as she stood nose to nose with him. “I don’t know what will happen… things happen that force me to do bad things sometimes… but I didn’t want to do it, I swear!”

Sitting down in front of Bucky’s face, Cadance leaned her head forwards. Her horn glowed with a soft pink light. A tear slipped from the corner of her eye as she touched her stubby horn to Bucky’s. “Sorry Daddy.”

Gritting his teeth to keep from crying out, Bucky thrashed about, but did not pull away from Cadance. It felt as though his whole body was going to combust. His talons clenched and his blood burned. His eyes clenched shut and he heard worried murmurs all around him.

When Bucky’s eye opened, the crimson was gone. He lay on the floor, whimpering, feeling as though he was on the verge of death. He panted, his whole body consumed by some terrible fever that was burning out whatever was in his blood. He felt Cadance hugging his face, clinging to him, and his eyelashes brushed up against her barrel. He could feel her kissing the top of his head.

“Has she cured him?” Luna asked.

“Doubtful,” Celestia replied. “But she took away the worst of it somehow. I did not know that Cadance was capable of such a thing.”

“She is the manifestation of love now.” Luna looked up at her sister. “There is probably much that she can do or will be able to do that we do not know about.” Luna’s ears perked at the sounds of Cadance and Bucky sobbing together. She took a step closer to Bucky and then paused when Cadance whipped her head around to glare at her.

“I need to know everything that has taken place here.” Princess Celestia stepped forwards and looked at Sunset Shimmer. “I need to know what has happened so we can begin to put the pieces back together.”

Sunset Shimmer nodded. “I can tell you everything I know…”

 

 

 

 

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