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 darkness was a living thing, oppressive, and something about it made it difficult to breathe. The air was filled with a nauseating stench. The companions stepped inside, and nothing came to greet them, much to the surprise of everyone. Sweetie Belle and Dinky moved forwards, their horns casting a tiny circle of light around them.

“I suddenly know a whole bunch of weird stuff,” Diamond Tiara said as she crept forwards, pressed against Sentinel’s side. “My head is full of things I didn’t know five minutes before.”

“Isn’t it amazing?” Sweetie Belle peered ahead into the darkness. “I come from Clover the Clever… I know a whole bunch of stuff… like… Clover is alive still… I don’t know how I know that, but I know that she is. She’s been watching us… she’s excited. Something about Princess Celestia’s Crusader Project.”

“How can Clover still be alive?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Stranger things have happened,” Piña replied, saying nothing else.

“This place is weird, it is a tower, but look how much larger it is on the inside.” Dinky paused to have a look around. “The magic here is strange, it is like the dimensional spells that Princess Celestia has on her castle making it bigger on the inside, but different.”

“Shadow space.” Sentinel could feel Diamond Tiara shivering against him. “It is different. It can only exist where there is dark. A powerful enough light will shrink this room.”

“Somepony has been paying attention during their Luna lessons.” Dinky chewed on her lip and tried to coax more light from her horn. “Sweetie Belle, work with me… help me merge spells.”

“I don’t know how,” Sweetie Belle replied, looking at the darkness around her.

“But I do… just… try not to resist me and that will make this easier.” Dinky closed her eyes for a moment, concentrated, and her horn glowed even brighter. The bright glow of Dinky’s purple magic settled around Sweetie Belle.

“I can hear you whispering inside of my head!” Sweetie Belle cried out, her eyes widening. “That feels really weird—”

Sweetie Belle was cut off by her own magic flaring and intensifying. Both her and Dinky’s magic doubled, then tripled, and then became so bright that the other foals cried out. The same sort of magic that unicorns had once used to help raise the sun, move the moon, and guide the stars was now in play.

A unicorn to light my way…

The darkness retreated and the room shrank. All that was left was an opening in the middle of the room, leading down. Above them was stark, empty space. The tower was nothing but empty space on the inside, a vault filled with darkness.

After flooding the tower with light, Piña let out a cry and collapsed. She lay on the floor, her eyes closed, her breathing shallow. The others rushed to her side, some trying to figure out what was wrong with her, others forming a protective circle.

“It’s the horn,” Piña managed to say as she wiggled a bit. “It hurts so much… he knows we’re here… I’m close enough… that… he is hurting me… through his horn—”

“Piña is the only one of us strong enough to deal with that.” Apple Bloom looked around the room, her face grim. “Sweetie, throw her over my back. I’m strong enough to carry her and not be slowed down.”

An earth pony to shoulder my heavy burdens…

Scowling, Sentinel was tempted to dive down the hole and go after Sombra, who he was certain was down below somewhere. As much as he wanted to run off howling into the darkness, he stayed, standing beside Scootaloo, Moonbow, and Boadicea.

Piña needed him… she was being hurt and she needed him. What she didn’t need was some colt that foolishly ran off after their common enemy. Sentinel made a silent promise that he would see this out and that he would stay with the others. However this ended, this ended with them staying together.

A pegasus to watch over me…

“He’s down there,” Moonbow said, lifting her hoof and pointing at the hole in the floor. “I get the feeling this tomb was never finished. Look how plain it is on the inside. There are no carvings on the walls, no mosaics on the floors, there is nothing here that shows dedication or love. This place was never finished.” Moonbow’s voice echoed in the emptiness, the tower was tall, and her voice bounced about as it rose to the top, the echoes rising like eerie spectres.

“Let’s go.” Apple Bloom was the one that got the group moving, together. She had Piña draped over her back and she could hear Piña’s laboured breathing. Dinky and Sweetie Belle were close to her, near the middle as much as possible for the sake of protection.

As one, the group moved towards the round hole in the floor. The empty round hole. There were no stairs, no means to get down, just a hole, for all they knew, it might have been an oubliette. Boadicea peered down into the darkness, her tail swishing.

Raising her head, Boadicea looked at her companions. “It’s not far, I can make out the floor below. I mean, so long as it isn’t an illusion, I could drop down there. With all of us wearing heavy overcoats, our fliers are useless unless they peel off their outerwear.”

“Boadicea, Moonbow, the two of you drop down together.” Sentinel looked at the pair, loving them, hating himself for sending them into possible danger. “Nopony or nobirdy goes alone.”

“Seems reasonable,” Moonbow replied as she stood near the hole. “Boadicea is right, it is a short drop. I can just make out the white floor beneath us.”

The pair stood near the hole together, looked at one another, then nodded. Moving as one, they lept down the hole together, dropping down into the dark depths below. Moonbow landed with a thump while Boadicea somehow landed with total silence.

“All clear,” Moonbow said, tilting her head upwards so she could communicate with her companions. “Come on down—”

“Wait, how do we get up?” Diamond Tiara asked.

“Easy,” Dinky replied, “we unicorns levitate the rest of you up, I levitate Sweetie up, and when she is up here, she levitates me up. Easy peasy.”

“That works.” Diamond Tiara lept down the hole and landed beside Moonbow down below. The pink filly peered around, taking in the sights, and waiting for the rest of her companions to join her.

 

 

“This place was never finished.” Moonbow pointed at where the white marble flooring ended and a rough stone passage headed downward at an angle. The walls glistened, slick with some slimy texture. Something smelled bad, Moonbow had no idea what it was. It wasn’t decay, not exactly, Moonbow could only describe it as the scent of evil.

In the darkness ahead, something moaned. The sound made each and every foal (and one cub) shiver. There it was, the reminder that they weren’t alone in here. Moonbow began to work her way down, careful where she placed her hooves upon the slick stone passage. The cold here gnawed its way through her protective clothing and she could feel it in her bones.

The foals moved as a herd, remaining pressed together, bringing with them their sphere of light that kept the darkness away. Each of them were as silent as possible, and except for Piña’s pained panting, very little sound could be heard.

The darkness came to life. Like a rushing wind moving forwards, a dark shape rushed them, gliding up the passage, and the dark shape brought a wedge of shadow into the sphere of light. There was screaming, lots of screaming, and two terrible glowing eyes were visible in the dark, formless shape. Terrible red eyes, surrounded by glowing green, trailing purple mist.

It descended upon Moonbow, seizing her, lifting her up into the air. Moonbow, who had been trained as a Myrmidon, did not give Sombra the satisfaction of a scream. She was grabbed by tendrils of shadow, both her front legs and her hind legs, and as her companions watched in horror, she was ripped in half, her body torn in two and tossed aside.

Her intestines and her entrails fell to the floor, followed by the two halves of her body. Her wide, staring eyes were unblinking, a look of surprise and pain frozen upon her face. The air was filled with maniacal laughter, a wretched, terrible cackle, a cackle that seemed all too familiar for those who knew Bucky.

The darkness retreated, fleeing up the passage, leaving the shocked, screaming foals alone with their dead companion. Dinky and Sweetie Belle’s light began to flicker as fear flowed through them.

A terrible, sound rending scream came from Sentinel’s parted lips. He started to charge forwards, to give chase to the darkness, his mind focused only upon one thing: Revenge. His vision filled with a red haze and he felt his guts twisting around inside of him.

“No, Sentinel!” Dinky grabbed her brother in her magic and pulled him back before he had left the circle of light.

“Sentinel… you have to live for us,” Piña said, choking back tears. “If we get separated now, we’ll all die. We have to stay together.” As Piña spoke, the light grew dimmer.

Sentinel, who stood staring at Moonbow’s body, choked back a sob and gnashed his teeth together. He thought of his father charging off into the night to avenge his mother. He choked, coughing, tasting bile, the scent of Moonbow’s blood now heavy in his nose. Her pink intestines were scattered all over the floor like ribbons.

“No…” Sentinel gasped in a pleading voice.

Piña let out a whimper as the light began to go out. Somewhere, in the darkness, the sound of howling wolves could be heard. It echoed through the passage, causing terrified little ears to flicker and twitch.

“We have to stick together,” Sweetie Belle said to the others, “we have to keep the light on somehow!”

“Sentinel!” Diamond Tiara pressed herself up against Sentinel and pulled him closer. “Don’t look… Sentinel, try not to look… your fear, your anger, it is weakening us… if you don’t stop, if you don’t pull yourself together, we’re all going to die… if Sombra strikes again, it’ll be either Boadicea or me because he knows that it will hurt you the most.”

The light continued to dim. It was dark now, the circle of light barely covered the companions. Sentinel realised that this was his fault, he just wasn’t strong enough. His weakness had given Sombra terrible strength, and now, the darkness would devour them all.

Sentinel turned and buried his face against Diamond Tiara. “However much time I have left, I’m living for you and Boadicea… for my sisters… for my friends… I will not waste my life on revenge.”

As Sentinel said the word ‘revenge’ the light went out completely. There was a rushing sound in the darkness, like wind, a whooshing sound, the foul darkness came to life. Each of the foals felt something horrid coming for them…

But the darkness did not devour them.

A faint pink light outlined each of the companions, a warm pink glow, and as the darkness took shape around them, becoming solid, becoming Sombra, pink flames surrounded each of the companions, burning bright.

Sombra howled, his body outlined in pink flames.

Hearthfire!

The Hearthfire sprang to life, outlining each of the foals, causing each of them to blaze brightly. Piña, no longer in pain, slipped down from Apple Bloom’s back and gave her brother a hug, Sentinel needed a hug. She held him close and wept with him, grieving with him, not knowing how to fix his broken heart, not knowing how to fix the gaping hole that had been torn into her own heart.

Sombra’s furious howls filled the cave as the Hearthfire consumed him. His shadow became corporeal, becoming a body, he was becoming solid and real again. As the flames intensified, Sombra lost much of his shadow nature, burned by the Fires of Friendship. He screeched and howled, unable to stop what was happening, he felt the terrible warmth of living again, the flame of life and all of the pain that came along with living.

A silver light filled the passage and it was Sweetie Belle that first noticed the spectral form of a pony standing with them. She was tall, regal looking, her pelt glowed with silver light, and she appeared to be almost metallic. The others began to notice the tall mare standing in their midst.

“Sombra, it is time for this to end,” the mare said in a voice filled with sorrow.

Sweetie Belle felt her mouth start moving and strange words began to spill out. “Sombra, this is your own friend, Clover… I tried to bring you comfort… and now, I’m still trying to save you. It doesn’t have to end this way… if you let it, the fire will consume you, and it will be all over… Platinum still loves you… all of you, even your darkness… you can still be with her… just let go… you have to let go of her.”

Sweetie Belle pointed her foreleg at a figure that was shambling up the passage and was now visible in the light. An undead figure stumbled forwards, it is shockingly well preserved, a mare, with a an almost silver metallic looking pelt and a mane the colour of pale yellow gold mixed with platinum. Even the eyes were well preserved.

“Sombra, that body is empty… I’ve long since passed on… I am in Tartarus… with you… at least, part of you. Why stay here with… that when you could have the real me?” Princess Platinum’s spectral form glowed even brighter, and with her, the Fires of Friendship blazed.

“A broken heart hurts more than just about anything,” Sweetie Belle said, looking at Sombra. This time, her words were her own. Her anger had melted away, her terror, her fear. She could feel the Hearthfire revitalising her spirit, giving her strength, giving her courage. “You broke Sentinel’s heart because you just wanted him to hurt like you hurt… you’ve made the whole world hurt in an attempt to express your own pain… I’m really very sorry, but sometimes, bad things happen. Hearts are fragile things. You lost the pony that you loved more than life itself. I know it hurt… but was it worth all of this?” Sweetie Belle coughed and pointed at the revived revenant of Princess Platinum. “Have you found any comfort clinging to her empty corpse? That body offers no warmth, no matter how much love you give it, how you hold it, how you cling to it seeking what it once had. You can have that again, I think… just go with her.”

“Sombra, the flame will consume you and this part of you will be gone forever… come with me… please? I don’t want to lose you… even after all that has happened, I still love you, all of you, even your darkness, as hard as it is to love you sometimes. Just… come with me and we can sort this out… I don’t want this part of you to die… I want all of you.”

Another figure appeared, a pale albino earth pony wearing a black cloak. His pink eyes flashed, reflecting the flames of the Hearthfire. “It is time for an ending… Sombra, make your choice. Go with Platinum and know peace, or be consumed.”

The now physical body of Sombra shuffled forwards, hardly moving, his body was little more than a dessicated husk. Dust fell from his body as he moved, and the pink flames that burned him prevented him from slipping away into shadow.

Sombra let out a groan and as he did so, the revived body of Platinum slumped over, losing animation. The Hearthfire lept to her body, consuming her, burning her, rapidly turning her to ash. She was gone in seconds.

“There, that’s a start… letting go is hard… would you like a hug before you go? I can feel Clover… she’s saying that you need a hug.” Sweetie Belle stepped forwards, her companions stepping aside. “No funny business though.”

The shadow given physical form stepped forwards, his eyes changing. The Taint vanished, the terrible red and green fading away, leaving behind two eyes of pale grey, familiar eyes to all who knew them. Sombra took a hesitant step forwards, his mouth moving, but no words coming out.

Feeling her skin crawl, filled with revulsion, Sweetie Belle felt Sombra press up against her. He was on fire, consumed with Hearthfire, but his body had no warmth. He was dead. He gave her a weak hug, and fighting back her rising gorge, Sweetie Belle rose to the ultimate test of her talent, healing a broken heart. She gave the undead emperor a hug and tried not to think about how much it sounded like the rustle of a pile of leaves as she hugged him.

“I’m sorry…” Sombra’s words were a faint gasp, a voice of wind blowing through a cemetery. He pulled away from Sweetie Belle, almost stumbled, and took a step towards Platinum.

“That’s right… come to me… and we can go away together. You can be reunited with the rest of you, and I’ll have all of you once more.” Princess Platinum held out her hoof and made a come-hither gesture.

Sombra lurched forwards, the pink flames around his body blazing brightly. He paused, turning his head, his grey eyes sad. He turned and looked at the pale white pony. “No…” Sombra’s voice came out as a groan and he pointed at the front half of Moonbow’s corpse that he himself had torn asunder. “No… no… no!”

“What’s done is done, dead is dead,” Thanatos said, shaking his head.

“If I join with the flame, it says it will bring her back.” Sombra’s voice crackled, it was dry and raspy, the voice of a pony long dead.

“Sombra…” Platinum’s word came out as a gasp.

“I was good once… as I remember the good, I can feel warmth… I have not felt the warmth in so long… not since you passed.” Sombra drew in a deep breath, his dried out lungs rattling. “I have made a terrible mistake… Platinum, I am sorry, but I cannot go with you. This part of me must atone for what I have done.”

Reaching out, Princess Platinum grabbed Dinky and pulled the foal close. Her spectral form began weeping, and she pressed her face down into Dinky’s mane. “I have missed the pony that I loved so much… I thought him gone.”

“There is still the matter of the inheritance,” Sombra said in a low voice, a dry wheezing groan. “Even if I pass, my power will not. Somepony will claim it… in the wrong pony…”

Thanatos nodded, looking solemn. “Yes, in the wrong pony, this would be bad.” A flash of silver light appeared around Thanatos and a pair of glowing garden shears appeared. They moved near Sombra, and a faint purple glow emanated from Sombra’s body. Thanatos made a sour face as he drew Sombra’s essence from him, and then, with one swift snip of the garden shears, he cut away Sombra’s shadow essence.

The emperor staggered and fell down to the cave floor. “I give freely the last of what I am…” Sombra’s eyes closed and the pink flames burned so bright that they were blinding. The flames consumed him, and parts of his body began to flake away, becoming ash.

Moonbow’s body was engulfed by the pink flames and the Hearthfire began to burn her, turning her to ash. In no time, she was gone, the flames having devoured her. Thanatos stomped his hoof once, and a very confused looking filly appeared, her eyes wide and blinking.

“You…” Moonbow gasped, looking at Thanatos. “You told me it would be okay… what’s going—”

Moonbow never got a chance to finish her words as she was slammed into by Sentinel, who struck her with enough force to knock the wind out of her. She rolled, sucking wind, and Sentinel clung to her, sobbing.

The last of Sombra burned away, and when he was gone, so was Platinum. She vanished without a word, her silver glowing form vanishing, leaving behind a very confused Dinky, who had been hugging the ghost of her long dead grandmother.

“Before I go… there is still the matter of the inheritance.” Thanatos looked down at Sentinel, who was still hugging and squeezing Moonbow, his eyes squeezed shut. He stepped forwards and gave the colt a gentle touch.

Sentinel opened his eyes and looked up at the pale white stallion.

“This was supposed to go to Bucky… this is the essence that would have made him immortal. This isn’t something that can just be destroyed, it isn’t that easy. If left in the world, it will find a way to Bucky, or some other soul might end up with it. There are others who might seek it.” Thanatos looked Sentinel in the eye.

“Is it evil?” Sentinel asked.

“No,” Thanatos replied, “nor is it good. It simply is. It is power. Pure concentrated shadow essence. This could help you—”

“I don’t want it!” Sentinel cried, his voice echoing through the cave.

“Have you learned nothing?” Thanatos asked, his voice soft and patient. “Just like your father…” Thanatos snorted. “This has to go somewhere… something like this doesn’t just go away… if you run from this responsibility, eventually, this power will end up in the wrong hooves… and the world will suffer greatly.”

“I don’t know if I should have it,” Sentinel said, still squeezing Moonbow.

“Sentinel, you could have ran away and left us all to die… and that power still would have found its way to you… but in the wrong way… you resisted… you did not fail us… you chose to live for Diamond Tiara and Boadicea… and for us… you are worthy to be its bearer.” Piña, her body wreathed in Hearthfire, approached. “Because of you, we summoned this fire. You had a hoof in this… all those who walked though the door had to play their part. You are worthy.”

“I will do what needs to be done,” Sentinel said, letting go of Moonbow, rising up to his hooves, and bowing his head. “I will accept this responsibility and then spend the rest of my life trying to prove worthy of it.”

Thanatos nodded, his expression sad. He stepped forwards, the glowing orb of purple light held before him, and saying nothing, he pressed it into Sentinel’s head. He watched as the colt shuddered. Sentinel blinked a few times, and Thanatos watched as Sentinel took on a dusky, shadowy ambiance.

Sentinel looked over at Moonbow, whose body was still wreathed in Hearthfire. She was alive and whole again. He looked at his sisters, his companions, his friends, and those he loved, knowing that he could not have done this without them. He felt more tears sting his eyes, fresh tears, and the emotions he felt welling up within him threatened to consume him.

“Hey, Boadicea has something pink on her butt!” Piña pointed.

“What?” Boadicea turned, whirling about, trying to look at her own lithe haunches. “No! What is that?”

“It is a pink puff of fire… you have a cutie mark. Congratulations!” Piña threw her forelegs around Boadicea’s neck.

“Argh, it’s pink!” Boadicea, still wreathed in flames, returned Piña’s hug with grudging reluctance.

“So… what now?” Sentinel asked, overwhelmed by everything that had happened.

“Now… now you pick up the pieces and continue with your life. Something miraculous has happened here. A powerful force of goodness that has long been absent has been returned to the world. Sombra is no more, his broken heart was mended just a little bit and he chose his own end. He sacrificed a piece of his own soul, ridding both the world and himself of his darkness. The Sombra who resides in Tartarus will be glad this nightmare is finally over. Your father, Buckminster, no longer lives with a shadow looming over him, and his offspring are finally free of the old curse. The Bearers of Hearthfire were promised to heal a great hurt in the world, and I would say that you have.”

“What about me?” Moonbow looked up at Thanatos. “I feel weird.”

“You were dead, you should feel weird. The Hearthfire brought you back to serve its whims… it is a living thing, a spirit, a force… in very much the same way that Discord is a spirit of disharmony, Hearthfire is a spirit as well. It is immensely powerful and I know very little about it.” Thanatos reached out and touched Moonbow. “The Bearers will need guardians. This world is still dangerous and our foes are many. There are those that will see this as a terrible threat and will move against all of you.”

“But we were called together to do this, right?” Apple Bloom looked at the pale white earth pony as she hugged Scootaloo. “I mean, this was our big heroic moment, right?”

“This was only the beginning, a test. In time, you will be needed again, of this, I have no doubts. The original Bearers, you call them the Founders, all of them lived interesting lives and accomplished much.” Thanatos gave the foals a sad smile. “Interesting lives, but not always happy ones. Come… I will take you back to my sister, Luna… I’ll probably get lectured by my other sisters, but really, who wants to walk through a frozen wasteland?”

“What about this place?” Scootaloo looked all around her at the unfinished tomb.

“The ice will reclaim it. Without Sombra’s magic to preserve it, the ice and the snow will soon cover the tower, crush it, and then it will be gone.” Thanatos sighed. “It is for the best. So much wrong has taken place here. It has tainted the earth. The Fires of Friendship have helped, but the ground has its own way of cleansing itself. Already, the endless storm of centuries has ceased and the sun is shining above us.”

“I have so many questions—”

“All those will have to happen later, Piña, after I return you to Luna. Hold on, this will be disorienting. We’ll be taking a shortcut through Tartarus.”

“Wait, what… no!”

 

 

 

 

 

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