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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“Thanatos… what did you do? What have you done? Why have you done this? Do you realise what you have done?” Atropos stared wide eyed at her brother as he stood in the small library aboard The Scorned Mare. She blinked a few times, unable to process everything that had just happened in such a short amount of time.

“I had nothing to do with it.” Thanatos’ words came out as a weary sigh. “Honestly, this was not of my meddling. The Hearthfire revived her. When I came to collect her, I found my efforts blocked. It… it spoke to me… it told me to comfort her.”

It is alive?” Atropos asked.

“Does that surprise you?” Thanatos sat down in an overstuffed chair and got comfortable, as comfortable as he could get in a long, long life of knowing no comfort.

“She isn’t meant to be alive… Thanatos, her string is gone… she is supposed to be dead. She has no string. She no longer has a purpose, a destiny… at least not one we can influence or control. It is a sad, regrettable fate, but she was supposed to die… the final piece that determined this outcome slid into place when Sentinel committed theft—”

“Atropos… now I am not even sure that she can die.” Thanatos took a great deal of satisfaction from Atropos’ shocked reaction. “I have no desire to find out. If she has no string to cut, well…” The pale albino let his statement hang open ended.

Atropos flounced into a chair and glared daggers at her brother. After a moment of almost painful silence, she said, “I have no desire to find out either… we can’t arrange for an accident to test her hypothetical immortality. Somehow, that strikes me as being wrong, even for us. We have no way of knowing. But with no string, she has no end.”

“I fear I already have plans forming for her, Atropos…”

“What are you saying, brother?” Atropos gave her brother a cool, quizzical stare. She noticed that he was not calling her ‘Morta.’ He was being pleasant. After a moment of consideration, she realised that her brother was hurting, hurting far, far more than he usually did. She felt her heart soften as she began to feel pity for her brother.

“Atropos, some of us have grown weary… Clotho and I… we seek replacements.”

“What?” Atropos’ shocked utterance came out as a whisper. She looked at her brother, blinking in disbelief, her head shaking. “You cannot be replaced… you cannot…”

“Oh, I assure you, we can. Power can be passed on… Atropos, I have been meddling again I fear—”

“Brother, what have you done?” Atropos’ words were soft, not angry, and full of fear brought about by desperation. She realised that her brother and Clotho had been hiding something. Her own sight was being blocked, leaving her unknowing.

“When Bucky came to rescue Cadance, he offered me much in return for her. I took it.”

Atropos nodded, already knowing this.

“I took as much as I could take, leaving Bucky with only a sliver of his divine spark, just enough to keep him alive so his purpose could be fulfilled in one way or another.” Thanatos sighed, a weary sound, it was like wind whistling through a tomb. “Clotho and I found that we could… shape it a bit, like clay. We messed with it. We could not make major changes… Bucky has certain inherent abilities that come with being the potential alicorn of war. He knows the weakness of his enemies. He understands battle of any type, be it politics or bureaucracy. He has a supernatural tenacity that makes him very, very difficult to kill. I took as much of this from him as possible and then Clotho and I tried to reshape it—”  

“Yes, I get it… just get to the explanation,” Atropos said, becoming impatient.

“When I collected the soul of shadow from Sombra, I slipped a little something extra into it before giving it to Sentinel—”

“Thanatos… you didn’t!”

“Sentinel, should he ascend—”

“No!” Atropos’ eyes narrowed into slits.

“—into the alicorn of the hunt, he will know his prey’s every weakness, he will know the hunt, he will have a supernatural endurance that will allow him to outlast his prey so that he can overpower it—”

“What have you done?” Atropos’ words were a fearful hiss. “This goes beyond the pale, even for you, Thanatos… and you did this without telling me or Lachesis? How could you?”

“—and by doing this, Clotho and I learned a great deal. Even now, Clotho seeks her replacement and has her eye upon one promising soul. So do I.” Thanatos looked at his sister, countless ages of suffering and sorrow etched upon his face. “Moonbow could replace me. She knows of purpose, of duty, she is honourable. She understands that the letter of the law and the spirit of the law are flexible things.”

Atropos began to rub her face with a hoof, her eyes closed, her ears drooping down to the sides of her head. “It is Piña, isn’t it, the one that Clotho sees as a replacement. She has the Sight… and it is far stronger than any other mortal pony… a pony of her skill hasn’t been seen for ages… we cannot be replaced—”

“Yes, we can.” Thanatos shook his head. “Clotho and I have done this for far too long. We’ve lost touch with who and what we are. We’ve lost our passion. We’ve forgotten ourselves as ponies. We’ve lost our equinity. We both just go through the motions. We haven’t been ourselves for a long, long time.”

“So you would take Moonbow’s youth and her chance for a family from her?” Atropos looked at her brother, surprised by the words coming out of her mouth. She blinked, feeling strange, shocked that she felt sad about this.

“No. I plan to talk to her, make her the offer, and then let her live a long, full life. I can wait a little longer.” Thanatos gave his sister a sad smile. “Then, when the time is right, and she has had some training, she will have her first assignment… arranging for the death of her instructor and collecting his soul.” Thanatos heard his sister’s sharp intake of breath and he could see her jaw clenching. The look of pain upon her face was so intense that he felt a stabbing pain of guilt. He had never actually wanted to hurt her, even all those times he called her ‘Morta.’ He just liked to annoy her a bit. But seeing her hurting made him ache, a sharp, profound pain that he felt rising to the surface of the ocean of pain that was his existence.

“Father has tortured you long enough, I suppose… I guess it is time to end.” Atropos wiped her eyes, shuddered, and even though she fought to hold it back, a soft, gasping sob escaped as her whole body trembled. “Nothing lasts forever… even Death shall die… oh bother, here I am becoming all sentimental over my brother, who has been a pain in my side for eons.”

“Moonbow has no string. She has been freed from destiny and from fate. She can choose her own outcome. Don’t ask me how I know, but I just know that she will do as I ask. If offered the chance to protect Luna up until the time of Luna’s death, Moonbow will do it. Should Sentinel ascend and find immortality, it will be good for him to have an immortal companion that will join him on the hunt. I think that is the worst problem facing us immortals… we become lonely, we lose touch with what gives us emotions, and over time, we become cold and unfeeling. At some point, we stop living, and begin to go through the motions, a pale imitation of life.” Thanatos pulled his cloak a little tighter around his body, feeling a cold chill that was not borne of the air. “I’ve become dead… I’m sorry, Atropos, but I cannot keep doing this any longer. It is time for this to end.”

“I understand, brother. I will do whatever I can to ease your transition. Just… tell me what you need if you desire my help.” Atropos blinked away a few tears and wondered how Clotho was doing. She had become distant from her sister. Perhaps her blindness to the actions of Thanatos and Clotho was self induced. Maybe she would have seen it coming, had she cared more or been paying attention.

“Piña will make a fine replacement for Clotho… at least, I think so. She has the right temperament and a certain lust for life.” Thanatos’ face lit up with a weak, sad smile. “Atropos, perhaps we should all pass the torch. Perhaps no one pony should do what we do forever.”

“Thanatos… you might be right…”

 

 

Sighing, Princess Luna paced down the hallway, heading towards Sentinel’s cabin. When the foals had returned, they had been jubilant, happy, celebrating. They were wreathed in Hearthfire, all of them, and most of them showed signs of having been possessed by spirits.

But the fire had gone out. The leftover rush of being possessed by powerful guardian spirits faded away. The feeling of jubilation had faded away, only to be replaced with the horror of what they had faced. Luna stopped just outside of Sentinel’s door, closed her eyes, and prepared herself.

From within the cabin, she could hear sobbing.

The celebration had ended.

She opened the door, entered, and then approached the miserable, sobbing pile of foals. She stood at the edge of the bed and her ears perked at the sounds of growling. She lifted her foreleg, hoping to offer comfort, and tried to stroke Sentinel to soothe him.

She yanked her foreleg away as Sentinel’s teeth snapped the air a mere hair’s breadth away from the delicate, tender flesh of her fetlock. Luna, who had been around these creatures for a long time, knew them, understood them, they were her creatures, her chosen, her favoured. She didn’t even bat an eyelash. She made a soft cooing sound, a sound made deep within her throat, and then jumped up into the bed. When she was almost nipped again, she slapped Sentinel on the snoot with her wing to assert her dominance. She heard a yowling growl as she settled herself down upon the pile, adding her bulk to the nest made out of blankets in the bed. She heard another snarl from Moonbow but no nip seemed forthcoming. She dropped herself down into the middle, easing herself in, and pulled Sentinel’s still growling bulk into her forelegs to cradle him.

She lowered her head, using Sentinel as a pillow, took a deep breath, and felt satisfied that she had been accepted as a nestmate. Boadicea shifted against her side, getting comfortable, Luna very much wanted to find out more about the wisp of pink fire that was Boadicea’s cutie mark. To have a Hearthfire cutie mark was surely some kind of sign—Luna wanted to know more, but that would have to come later.

There was a heavy impact against Luna’s skull, a blow hard enough to cause her vision to blur and make her see stars. The affectionate headbutt from Moonbow would be enough to cripple most ponies, Luna bore it without complaint; she had been headbutted many, many times from her ponies of the night. The harder the headbutt, the more affection was behind it.

They were very much like cats; hissing, snarling, territory marking, nipping, biting, howling, yowling, growling, savages, the entire lot of them. She felt Sentinel rubbing his face against her throat, leaving her feeling greasy and oily from his scent glands below his ears.

He and Moonbow were almost feral in this state, but she had no fear for Diamond Tiara or Boadicea. Boadicea understood, she yowled in return, hissing right back, and there could be no safer place for Diamond Tiara than in a pile with her mates. The pink foal was slick looking, almost greasy, her pink pelt was shiny, she had been rubbed down and thoroughly marked by her companions. She was one of them now. Luna wondered just how much Diamond Tiara understood about her companions and their savage natures.

“Mama, he hurt me.”

Moonbow’s words were a soft, pained whisper, Luna was surprised to even hear them coming from Moonbow in her near feral state. She extended her wing, wrapped it over Moonbow, and pulled her closer.

“Close your eyes and rest, my foal,” Luna replied, using the sacred voice of Night to soothe Moonbow. “You have earned your rest. Close your eyes and sleep, I shall guard you so your sleep shall be untroubled. The nightmare is over, Sombra is gone, the entire world will sleep a little easier because of what you have done.”

Luna thought of the others and hoped that Twilight was able to comfort them.

 

 

 

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