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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“Are you any closer to understanding what has taken place, Twilight Sparkle?” Princess Luna, sitting at a table in the common area of The Scorned Mare leaned forwards over the table, eager to hear the answer from Twilight, who looked rather dishevelled.

“No,” Twilight replied, the word coming out as a weary sigh, “after much questioning and divination, I am left with only more questions.” Twilight stretched out her left wing, then the right one, groaning a little as her wing joints flexed. She really needed to go flying, she needed a chance to clear her head and think. Flying gave her a strange sense of focus and the ability to sort out previously unnoticed details. “How are Sentinel, Boadicea, Diamond Tiara, and Moonbow?”

“Sleeping in a dreamless sleep.” Luna’s lips pressed together and she shook her head. “The nightmares of what has taken place will come, but later. I cannot stop the natural healing process of the mind for too long.” Luna’s eyebrow raised and she studied Twilight. “So, what do you know?”

Clearing her throat, Twilight then replied, “Very little. Star Swirl, from what I could gather, left behind contingency spells, spells  triggered by having the right ponies present. The bloodlines of the Founders had to be accounted for, and a descendent of Princess Platinum had to open the door. Once the door was opened, Star Swirl’s spell activated, and the descendents of the Founder’s bloodlines were… well, possessed by spirits. I don’t understand the magic at work here, it is beyond my abilities.”

“This I do not understand. Many of them have departed from us and some have passed through the gate… how could they be here for these possessions?” Luna asked.

“A piece of them was left behind, merged forever with the Hearthfire.” Twilight rubbed her chin, becoming a bit more animated, even though she was exhausted. “It is like Bucky’s orbs of undead compulsion. He infused a part of his own being into those orbs. A part of his soul will always persist in this realm, even after his death and eventual passing into Elysium… if he goes there.” The last four words that Twilight said were spoken as a whisper and a pained expression crossed her face. “It’s complicated.”

“Twilight, answers are needed. Hearthfire is my sister’s obsession, her fixation, she has spent the past thousand years trying to make Hearthfire happen again. The city building projects, the social experiments, various experimentations into tribal integration, the Crusader project, Ponyville as a project, all of it has been done to once again bring Hearthfire back into the world.” Luna swallowed, her throat feeling dry, and she stared into Twilight’s eyes. “And now we know that Hearthfire can resurrect the dead, true resurrection outside of necromancy and my sister’s strange magic. We need to know more.”

“Hearthfire is some kind of gestalt harmonics magic, I don’t even understand it, it isn’t a spell that can be cast by itself… it is miraculous… it can revive those frozen and near death or those even dead. It lifts spirits in dire situations. It is powerful and I know next to nothing about it.” Twilight scowled, still rubbing her chin, blinked, and then stared down at the table. “Boadicea will need to be studied, she’s been touched by it, I am hoping that she will cooperate and will help me learn more.”

“You know that my sister is going to task you with learning everything you can about Hearthfire,” Luna said to Twilight, watching as Twilight stared down at the table. “I cannot stress this enough, learning more about this magic has been Celestia’s manic obsession. While I was gone away, she was not certain that I would return as I once was. Hearthfire was her hope, her dream, it was how she remained motivated during those long, lonely years.”

Twilight heaved a sigh. Everypony wanted something from her. In much the same way that everypony wanted Bucky to go and fight some horrible, monstrous creature or slay some ancient evil, everypony wanted Twilight to get to the bottom of something, or study this ancient unknown, or unravel the ancient mysteries of something or other, or figure out how and why something did whatever it did. This was going to cause her to lose hours of her life in the Tower of the New Moon. At least she’d have the help of Hex Libris.

Looking up, Twilight focused upon Luna’s face. “So what happens with Sentinel now?”

This time, it was Luna who turned away and stared down at the table. “He will be both punished and rewarded. He will be granted knighthood, of this there can be no doubt, and I suspect that the punishment will be serving many labours for the community.”

“And what of his status as a prince, as was Celestia’s hope?” Twilight asked.

“That will be discussed, though it still seems likely. Sentinel will take it as a position of service,” Luna replied, “and he will be much like Keg Smasher. A minor prince. In time, he could potentially fulfill any number of positions.”

“He’s a very lucky pony… all of this could have ended very differently. There are so many factors… Star Swirl might have botched one of his spells… one of the descendents of the Founders might have chosen to stay at home or might have been stopped by their parents… Sunset Shimmer might have made the trip… and it pains me to know that she might have failed. I guess we only know the details of stuff like this in hindsight. How could Star Swirl have known all about this in foresight?” Twilight saw that Luna looked up at her words.

“Star Swirl and Sombra both were powerful, powerful beyond the ken of most mortals. You and Buckminster are not so different. Working together, the two of you can and will accomplish much.” Luna sighed, closing her eyes, and then continued, “The two brothers together balanced light and darkness, at least, they did for a time. They took very different approaches to things. They faced problems in different ways… but they did their best work together.” Luna’s eyes opened and her ears perked forwards. “That was their strength… they were different, yet still found a way to work together, weaving their magic together, changing and shaping our future. Even Sombra’s darkness has become our benefit… in the wake of his passing, we have a new generation of heroes… Bearers of Hearthfire. We have future leaders and their devoted followers already gaining powerful and necessary life lessons. Whether by design, by random chance, or just plain luck, all of this has worked out for the best. Star Swirl keeps providing for our future. He laid the foundations for you… for Buckminster… for our new Bearers of Hearthfire… and even the means to lay his brother down for his final rest.”

“Luna,” Twilight said in a small voice, an almost foalish voice, “after everything you just said, I find myself wondering, ‘what will I leave behind?’ and it makes me feel very small and very humble.”

“Hopefully, you are not stuck cleaning up Buckminster’s darkness a thousand years from now.” Luna’s eyes narrowed.

“It’s funny you say that,” Twilight replied, one eyebrow raising. “I was just thinking it myself. Luna… we have to ease up on him… too much is expected… watching him… break after Sentinel’s departure was an eye opener. Too much was expected of Sombra as well. Bucky has endured a great deal… some ponies have a bad day… Bucky had a bad year. I have to say, I want to avoid cleaning up messes a thousand years from now, so… I’m dealing with the cause. I can no longer in good conscience allow you and Celestia to keep pushing Bucky so hard.”

“I do believe that we have all arrived at that conclusion already.” Luna’s ears drooped, falling down to rest against the sides of her face. “At least we have momentum now. Ponies are beginning to believe that change is possible. Others are rising to the challenge. Ponies are rebuilding Las Pegasus and Manehattan. Common, everyday sorts believe they can make a difference and we have heroes now… More Shetlanders have come to the mainland, many of them spoiling for a fight...”

Twilight gave Luna a weary smile. “And then there are our heroes in the Stable of Representatives…”

 

 

Sweating, feeling cold and clammy, Sentinel awoke with a gasp. He hadn’t been dreaming, at least he didn’t remember dreaming, but he awoke with a feeling of terror. He felt a warm body shift beneath him; Diamond Tiara. He was half draped over her barrel, with one foreleg wrapped protectively around her neck and his head rested upon Moonbow.

Sentinel now had a much greater understanding of his father. His mind tormented him, showing him the ghastly images of Moonbow being ripped in half. He closed his eyes, his breathing quickening, he turned his head, pressing his cheek against Moonbow’s withers, and rubbed his face against her. Everything he loved was in this bed with him right now. Everything valuable, everything important. His ears perked, listening for any sound. A soft touch startled him. His head lifted, he turned, and saw Boadicea. She was stroking him with her wing.

“Did I wake you?” Sentinel whispered.

The griffoness shook her head. “No.”

“Can’t sleep?”

Boadicea’s crest rose and she tilted her head to one side. “No… I keep thinking about all of you. My friends. When I lived in the Hinterlands, I didn’t have friends. It was everybirdy for themselves. I was thinking about Diamond Tiara and how much she’s helped me. You. Moonbow… Moonbow and I are only getting to know one another, but I can see us being close friends… maybe more.” The griffoness touched Sentinel once more with her wing. “Everything I never knew I wanted is right here, all around me, right now. Going home is going to be hard for so many reasons… the fur and feathers are going to fly… but the worst… the worst is going to be sleeping alone again. I like this.”

Sentinel gave some thought to Boadicea’s words, mulling them over in his mind, and came to the conclusion that he felt the same way. He was going to miss this. He thought of Bucky and of Bloodweather. Both were ponies that loved their mates, both ponies with strong bonds, a trait that Sentinel realised that he himself also shared. There was still a lot of growing up to do. Sentinel felt trapped. He was no longer a foal, at least he did not feel that way in his own mind, but he understood that others would continue to think of him as a foal.

“I keep seeing it,” Boadicea said, flexing her talons.

“Moonbow being pulled apart.” Sentinel looked into Boadicea’s eyes, already knowing what she saw. Luna had left the lights on, a touching gesture, as nopony wanted to be in the dark right now. He could see himself reflected in Boadicea’s black eyes.

“Everything happened so fast. One minute, we were heading down that passageway, the next minute, everything just got bloody.” Boadicea eyes closed for a moment and then, when they opened, they glistened with tears. “It was all so sudden. I finally knew what I wanted from life and then it was ripped away… or I thought it was. I thought I was going to lose you for a second there. I felt my whole life unravelling… all my hopes and dreams almost died in an instant.” Boadicea blinked again, her eyelids fluttering, her eyelashes now holding condensed droplets, trapped tears that didn’t want to let go and fall away. “And now that I have it back, I don’t ever want to let go. I don’t want Moonbow to go back to Myrmidon training. I want us to stay together. I don’t want to sleep in a bed alone. I don’t want us to be apart… I want all of you together, where I can see you… where I can protect you.”

Reaching out her talons, Boadicea grabbed Sentinel’s mane and clutched it, holding it, but being gentle and not pulling on it. “We’re going to go home and we’re all going to go our separate ways and we won’t be together anymore.” She let go of Sentinel’s mane, letting the silky strands slip through her talon fingers.

“I think I need to go for a walk, but I don’t want to leave Moonbow and Diamond Tiara… I know they’ll be safe… I just… can’t bear to leave.” Sentinel looked at Boadicea, his expression sad and uncertain.

“I think a walk would do us good,” Boadicea said to Sentinel. “We need to get used to being apart. Come, walk with me.”

“As you wish, my lady,” Sentinel replied.

 

 

 

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