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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Whimpering, Sukari watched as her mother vanished beneath the surface of the water. Since the thaw, Thistle had been going into the lake almost every day, and Sukari hated every minute of it. She paced along the dock, wanting her mother back, not understanding how her mother was able do what she did. Sometimes, her mother took her little sister down below into the water as well.

All of which frightened Sukari, who worried that those she loved might not come back up. Her tail lashed around her legs and her ears pivoted around to different positions. She was afraid of the water, the water was cold. She had already tried going into the lake once, having taken a few steps in from the shore.

Unable to bear the separation from her mother, unable to deal with the worry, Sukari sucked in a deep breath and lept from the end of the dock. She belly flopped into the water, which almost knocked the air out of her, and the cold water bit into her skin like terrible teeth. She splashed around, unable to swim, and unable to keep her head up above the surface.

Gasping, she slipped down into the depths of the murky water.

She couldn’t see very well, her whole body hurt, and Sukari couldn’t tell which way was up or down. She kicked with her legs, trying to swim, instincts taking over, but she kept sinking, down, down, down. Bubbles surrounded her, making it even harder to see, and she was starting to see red spots in her vision. She needed air. The cold was making her body numb.

In the dark water, something grabbed her. She felt something snake around her middle and Sukari had to choke back a scream. She kicked and thrashed even harder, and then she felt something touch her lips. It felt like a kiss. It was a nice kiss, and Sukari discovered that she could breathe again. The cold water didn’t feel so cold. Straining to see, Sukari saw green in the water, and two eyes. Mama?

The zebra foal went limp and ceased her struggling. The two legs wrapped around her made her feel secure. She was able to breathe again, even though she couldn’t understand how or why. And Mommy was kissing her, so everything was okay.

 

 

With a flap of her tail, Thistle broke the surface, bringing Sukari with her. When she pulled her lips away, the zebra foal began to shiver once more, feeling the cold of the water no doubt. Thistle didn’t understand how her magic worked, only that it worked. She lifted Sukari up, holding the filly in her forelegs, and then set her daughter upon the dock. Thistle could hear Sukari’s teeth chattering.

Heaving herself up, Thistle slid out of the water, onto the dock, and changed forms, becoming a pony. She gave herself a shake, pulled Sukari close, and then gave the foal a squeeze. After a quick kiss, she pushed Sukari away with a gentle shove.

“Come on, shake yourself off… get as much water off as you can and I’ll get you inside,” Thistle said to the shivering zebra filly with chattering teeth. “You’re a very brave little filly, jumping into the lake like that, but don’t do it again.”

Staring, Thistle realised that there was something different about her foal. She stepped around Sukari and looked at the zebra filly’s backside. In the white spot on her hips there were now three wavy marks, right in the same place where a pony would have a cutie mark.

“Oh my, Sukari, you’ve done something, but I don’t know what.”

 

 

Stuffed into a comfortable chair, Twilight Sparkle took a sip of coffee as Celestia was sitting down on a cushion upon the floor. Twilight, eager for this meeting to hurry up and commence, cleared her throat and waited for Celestia to speak. Not far away, a very sleepy looking Luna was trying to keep her eyes open. As Princess Celestia was getting situated, Shining Armor blinked into existence and then stood beside Twilight’s chair. Twilight reached out and touched her brother. He was solid, real, and being able to touch him brought her comfort.

“We find ourselves in a dangerous state of affairs,” Celestia began. She lifted her head up a little higher. “I have been reading through Scorch’s reports. Wrath is not dead. It is as I feared, he is far too powerful to have been simply destroyed. He is recovering in Tartarus and no doubt, at some point, he might be summoned again by somepony with enough strength. There was a rebellion in Tartarus, a major shift in the ruling powers, and that is why the Fates did not see this coming. Something very powerful has thwarted their foresight and we do not know what, or whom.”

One ear twitched as Luna grunted.

“The attackers that teleported to the farmhouse had several demons with them as support. Scorch has been interrogating them, but not much has been said yet. We do know that they work in support of Sombra’s cult,” Celestia continued.

“Sparkler turning them to stone was helpful,” Twilight said as she looked over at her brother. “I want to know how they were able to defeat my brother’s ability to detect threats.” She saw Shining Armor look ashamed for a moment and Twilight reached out to touch him once more. “It isn’t your fault, Shiny.”

“This is not the first time we have been blindsided.” Luna, who had an irritated, cranky expression, yawned. “They hit us hard. They attacked Canterlot castle to show that they can, they hit the farm, and there was a brilliant trap laid out for Bucky.”

“It is time that we hit back,” Celestia said, her voice holding an uncharacteristic amount of force and anger. The alicorn took a deep breath as she poured herself a cup of coffee. She added several sugarcubes, a splash of milk, and then lifted her coffee cup to her lips. She took a long drink, emptying half of the cup, and then her nostrils flared as her belly warmed.

“The immortal pegasus known as Shield is gathering up an army of like-minded immortals and he is more than willing to lead them into Tartarus. Heifer Aestus has agreed to be his second in command. Scorpan wants to go with them, but he understands that he is needed here at the castle.” Luna’s eyes narrowed. “The plan is quite simple. Attack Wrath’s holdings and destroy as many of his followers as possible. With Wrath in his weakened state, other demon lords will move on him, keeping him occupied. I understand that this is a temporary solution, but for now, this is the best that we can do.”

“So we keep Sombra’s allies occupied in Tartarus and we move on Sombra?” Twilight asked. “Sentinel was supposed to destroy Sombra… it was to be his test. There is no way that Sentinel is ready.”

“Sentinel will not be the one destroying Sombra’s shadow.” Luna closed her eyes and sighed. “He is not ready. This is going to pain him greatly.” Luna’s eyes opened and she shook her head, wishing that things could be different. Things were far too urgent though, and something needed to be done sooner, rather than later.

“I plan to discuss the issue with Sunset Shimmer. In her new role as the first Empyrean Paladin, I believe destroying Sombra’s fell shadow will be a good test of her abilities.” Celestia glanced at her sister and then at Twilight. “Sunset is strong and capable. Her ability to destroy the undead has been proven in battle.”

“She destroyed a guardian lich, which is no small feat, but she had help.” Luna chewed on her lip as she paused for a moment. “It is not my intention to diminish her accomplishment, but there is much difference between a lich and Sombra’s fell shadow.”

“Luna?” Celestia looked at her sister.

“I worry for Sunset… Bucky is very close to her. If something were to happen to her, Bucky would lose his mind… I believe that Sunset is a very capable archmage, do not get the wrong idea, but things could go badly. I fear for my own student’s mental well being. He hangs by a thread right now.”

“Twilight?” Celestia looked at her former student.

“I believe that Sunset has the potential, but at this time, I do not feel comfortable saying much more than that.” Twilight set down her coffee cup, no longer in the mood for the somewhat bitter drink. “I think her chances would be improved if she was an alicorn.”

“She refused.” Celestia shook her head. “She is too much like her teacher. That morning, after we recovered Bucky from that horrid pit, I asked her. She refused me. She has refused me every time since as well, and now she gets angry with me if I bring it up.”

“Oh.” Twilight blinked in surprise. “I didn’t know this. I wonder why she refuses?”

“Because she is Buckminster’s apprentice,” Luna snapped. “She doesn’t need a reason.” Luna let out a yawn and blinked her eyes a few times. “I have been awake for far too long. I feel my patience withering.”

“Shining Armor, do you have any opinions on this matter?” Celestia asked.

“I can feel the darkness at the top of the world growing stronger,” Shining Armor replied. “Every day more undead horrors come to attack the Crystal Empire. The shadows have grown long and strange. Sometimes, the sun is dimmed and does not shine as brightly. I do not know what needs to be done, but I am aware that something needs to be done.”

Twilight nodded and then said, “We do have other allies we can call upon…”

 

 

“You again.” Berry Punch stared at the strange earth pony. She did not know the earth pony’s name, but she knew the earth pony. “I suppose that you are here to see Bucky. I’ll let him know that you are here. Go wait in the library and I’ll tell him.”

Feeling somewhat relieved to see the strange earth pony again, but also rather annoyed, Berry Punch stepped aside and let her guest inside. Berry waddled away, heading down the hall towards the back bedroom so that she could let Bucky know that he had a guest.

 

 

When the library door opened, Clotho felt her heart creeping up into her throat. Bucky looked awful. She, along with her sisters, had done much to abuse him, leading him along, manipulating him, making him labour to aid their plans, and now, Clotho felt bad about it. She cringed when she saw Bucky’s scabbed over and blistered hide.

“Why didn’t you warn me?” Bucky asked, his voice a low, faint growl.

No hello, no greetings, nothing else, just the questions right away. Clotho felt the first prickle of fear, a cold tickle along her spine and her dock. “Something blinded us… we could not see.” Clotho took a step backwards.

“How could you be blinded?” Bucky demanded, his voice rising.

Too late, Clotho saw Bucky lunge at her. He moved with supernatural speed now, not even using his legs, a writhing black mass of cold shadow was upon her in the time it took to blink an eye. She had no time to bring up her defenses and Clotho wondered for a moment if she could die.

She felt two legs around her neck, she stumbled backwards, confused, Bucky’s thin, frail body was hanging from her. She tripped over her own hind hooves, stumbled, and sat down with a plop just as the first sobs began to slip out of Bucky.

Not knowing what else to do, she raised one foreleg and pulled Bucky closer, slipping her right front leg around his bony, protruding ribs. It was like hugging a skeleton covered in loose, hanging skin.

“How could you not see?”

Clotho felt Bucky’s talons clench her mane, there was a tug that was almost painful as he gripped it. She realised that he wasn’t trying to hurt her. Confused, Clotho felt a strange pain. She had treated Bucky so callously to motivate him into doing what she and her sisters wanted. She didn’t know what to do with the sobbing unicorn hanging from her neck.

“How could you be blind?”

At a loss for words, Clotho did not know what to say or do. She gave Bucky a squeeze. She felt tears stinging at her eyes. Was she crying? Were these real tears? She had cried many times to get a pony to do what she wanted, but this, something about this was different.

“I almost lost everything… how could you not warn me?”

Seized with emotion, Clotho began weeping. She pulled Bucky closer, and as she did so, she began to hate herself and what she was. Something in her bones, something within her earth pony nature told her that she was a bad pony, and that quiet little voice could not be ignored. Bucky was hugging her, clinging to her, hoping to find some comfort, and she had done bad things to him. She had done awful things. Something cold lanced through her heart.

Clotho had abused his trust, his love, and his affection. She clung to him tighter, unable to bear her own pain as she came to the realisation that she was an awful pony, that at some point, during her long life, she had lost her way. When had she become so cold and unfeeling? When had she stopped caring? She was supposed to be the soft hearted one. The foal in her belly right now was supposed to be her connection the world. The foal she knew that she would give away soon after birth. She felt her spirit sink down to a new low.

“Bucky,” Clotho said in a strangled voice. She coughed, but could not stop crying. “I brought you something… it might help… I don’t know.” She tried to ignore her own pain, she swallowed and tried once more to stop crying. She squeezed. There was almost nothing left of Bucky, he was a frail, thin doppelganger of his former self.

The future was changing, the many different outcomes were all so uncertain now.

 

 

 

 

 

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