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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Bucky had spent almost a week in study as well as his usual attempts at brewing. There had been no eureka moments, but there had been steady improvement, and Bucky felt that he was ready enough to move on. It was time to get started. Bucky felt well prepared and the seething fires that were his desire for vengeance had settled into hot coals of inspiration.

It was the perfect day for a walk, and Bucky enjoyed the sun as he trotted through the rolling meadows with several foals following after him. Today, they were looking for where the ley lines crossed, and Dinky’s bees were showing the way. Dinky was thrilled to be doing something productive. Piña had followed along, glad to be spending a bit of time with Bucky. Ripple had come along as well, now an almost constant companion to the two younger fillies, something which Bucky was grateful for. Having a pegasus protector had done a great deal to soothe Derpy’s frazzled nerves.

Butterflies attended the wildflowers they encountered, wild bees buzzed all around them, and the day was very nearly perfect. Honey was a valuable commodity for the isles, but it was a treat rarely enjoyed by most of the locals. It was used for mead making, something Bucky was interested in attempting to brew someday.

There was an annoying itch in his eye socket, something Bucky was still having some trouble adjusting to. The bandages were gone and he now had simple bit of grey cloth tied around his head, covering his eye and the horrible gash.

Dinky had commented that it made him look like a pirate, something that had left her mother totally agast and rather upset, but Bucky had laughed and then tried to smooth over the grey mare’s ruffled feathers. Poor Derpy couldn’t find any jokes about Bucky’s missing eye funny.

“These are different butterflies than the ones we have at home,” Piña observed.

“They’re a bit smaller and they have blue wings,” Dinky quipped.

“And orange,” Piña commented. “The orange ones are pretty.”

“There are yellow ones too,” Ripple added. “Sometimes I would chase after the butterflies when I was little.”

“I don’t see any yellow ones,” Dinky said as she looked around.

“They’re rare, which is why they are special,” Ripple explained.

Bucky listened to the banter of his foals as the group continued to follow Dinky’s bees, his thoughts occasionally drifting to other things. There was a lot to do. There was a very long list of things that needed to be done, but Bucky wasn’t worried. He had helpers, and he didn’t need to do all of this alone.

Some of what he was planning would be faced alone though.

“Dinky?” Bucky asked, his sonorous voice cutting through the foal’s chatter with one another.

“Yes daddy?” replied Dinky, suddenly attentive and focused.

“How is your reading about creative applications for magic?” Bucky asked as the group continued to follow the bees.

“I am having some trouble with the bigger words,” Dinky admitted.

“Aside from that, how are you doing?” Bucky questioned.

“I think I get most of it… I liked the chapter on how to find things,” Dinky answered.

“Explain,” instructed Bucky, his voice one of gentle command.

“Well, the chapter talks about how to find things that do not want to be found. Like if somepony uses spells to hide something. And then if they cast the right spells, they can make it very difficult to scry and find whatever is hidden,” Dinky explained.

“So, if something wants to remain hidden, how would you find it?” Bucky asked.

“I think I wouldn’t actually look for whatever is hidden,” Dinky replied. “Instead, I think would focus my efforts of divination upon detecting the spells cast in an area rather than try to find whatever is hidden. If I cast that spell that allows me to detect magical residue, I could find traces of magic that was cast in an area, even if I couldn’t find what was hidden because of illusion and other magical deterrents.”

“Very clever Dinks,” Bucky praised.

Dinky beamed. “It took me a long time to think about that,” she admitted.

“I was almost twice your age when I figured that out,” Bucky confessed. “But yes. You can cast spells which will allow you to see if magic has been used in a general area, and with careful scrying, you can figure out what sort of spells were cast. With time and effort, you can begin to dispel those spells, which may be a bit puzzling, and then you can find whatever is hidden.”

Dinky no longer trotted but strutted, a broad smile plastered over her face, and she looked very pleased with herself. Her mane bobbed around her face as she followed at her father’s heels and she seemed to radiate a sense of pure joy.

“A clever unicorn can hide things in plain sight. You can look right at them and not see them. There are many spells that allow for things to be hidden, usually right in plain view. They can still be found, usually by a unicorn that is far more clever… like you are turning out to be Dinky,” Bucky said.

“I can’t take all of the credit for being clever,” Dinky announced. “Piña helped me. We talked about it for a long time,” Dinky admitted.

“Is that so?” Bucky asked.

“Yes it is,” Dinky said, casting a glance at Piña.

“A very clever unicorn turns to their friends for help,” Bucky stated. “Piña, I am proud of you as well. Why didn’t you say something when Dinky was being praised for being clever?”

“I wanted her to have a moment to feel good about what she had done,” Piña replied. “And I knew that sooner or later Dinky would say that I helped her.”

“And there is a lot of things I help Piña with that I never get credit for,” Dinky added. “It is just something we do for one another,” she explained.

“Piña, how well do you think you understand magical theory?” Bucky asked.

“I probably know as much as Dinky,” Piña said bashfully. “I guess it seems silly for an earth pony to know about magic,” she muttered.

“Not at all. I want you to keep studying with Dinky. In fact, I might even test you like I do her, so apply yourself and study hard,” Bucky commanded.

“When I get stuck on the really big words it usually takes both of us to puzzle it out,” Dinky said as she cast a glance up at Bucky. “Piña is better at stuff like that than I am.”

“Piña, have you ever had your IQ tested?” Bucky asked.

“They don’t test earth pony IQs in school,” Piña replied.

“What?” Bucky asked, stopping suddenly and standing in place. “Say again?”

“They don’t test earth pony IQs. They test the unicorns and only test some of the pegasi if they show promise because the pegasi have to be really good at math to do weather work,” Piña explained.

“And earth ponies don’t get tested at all,” Dinky added.

Bucky sat down in the grass and shook his head, unable to comprehend what he had just heard. His thoughts briefly reminded him on how much he had changed, it wouldn’t have been all that long ago that he would have believed that earth ponies were simply dumb farmers, and he felt a faint twinge of shame.

“You alright Bucky?” Ripple asked.

“I am just a bit stunned, that’s all,” Bucky replied.

The bees circled and swished through the air impatiently, and Bucky rose to his hooves. He felt a painful tug in his rear legs as he stood, and cried out slightly, which caused Piña to yelp in concern.

“I’m fine,” he said soothingly. “The muscles back there are still tight, they just need to be stretched, that’s all.” He stretched out one hind leg, and then the other, feeling a painful tightness in both of them. Some days, he didn’t know which leg was worse. One had been gnawed on from hoof to hip and the other had a large chunk chewed out of it.

“I think we are getting close,” Dinky said. “My bees feel agitated,” she added.

 

 

Keg Smasher was very surprised to see Derpy. A pony had requested an audience with him and he had agreed, and now he was feeling a slight bit of concern. He had nothing but respect for the grey mare, but they didn’t get along very well.

“Keg Smasher,” Derpy greeted, her tone rather harsh sounding.

“Madam,” Keg Smasher greeted in return, raising a wing in a salute.

“We are going to talk,” Derpy stated bluntly, seeing no point in mincing words.

“Alright, let us talk,” Keg Smasher agreed cautiously.

Derpy stared at the pegasus with one eye closed, trying to read him and his posture. She was pleased to note that he was completely submissive, which she hoped would help her cause.

Keg Smasher, for his part, realised that the grey mare was studying him, and tried to look as meek as possible, hoping that things could be patched up a bit between them. Having this unpleasantness between him and his armiger’s matriarch was counterproductive.

“About Thistle,” Derpy began.

Keg Smasher heaved a sigh of relief. This was a subject he could deal with. Immediately, he settled in a comfortable diplomatic mood.

“If I allow her in, I understand there are probably going to be some conditions of consummation,” Derpy said. The grey mare had of course already allowed Thistle in, but Keg Smasher didn’t need to know that. Not yet.

“Yes,” Keg Smasher said slowly. “Celestia made it very clear that I am to make sure that she is integrated into your herd after we spoke and reached our agreement. She doesn’t want you just adopting her and then letting her go later… and I don’t want that either.”

“I understand,” Derpy replied. “I suppose both of you think that if Bucky ruts her, he will feel the need to look after her because of how young she is. Nothing makes you feel obligated like guilt. And maybe shame.”

Keg Smasher cringed visibly at the pegasus mare’s words.

“Which brings me to my point. About the consummation… if she is married into our herd…” Derpy’s words trailed off and the mare fell silent.

“What?” Keg Smasher asked. “Look, it is in my best interest to help you. I am glad you are at least considering this. Just say whatever it is that you have got to say.”

“Does it matter who sleeps with her on that first night… what if it wasn’t Bucky?” Derpy asked.

Keg Smasher looked at Derpy shrewdly and realised he was dealing with a very clever mare. He remained silent for the moment, knowing that if he waited, she would say more. She was trying to draw him out, or so he believed. Guilt, shame, and obligation indeed, Keg Smasher thought to himself. He felt guilty, he felt ashamed, and he felt obligated.

“We have a very open relationship with one another,” Derpy explained. “I have spoken to Thistle a bit, and she is open to the idea of being bedded by a mare after the marriage, if it happens.”

“I see,” Keg Smasher replied.

“I want some kind of an answer,” Derpy demanded, not willing to further explain her position.

“So in your herd, some of the mares take an interest in one another as well as Bucky,” Keg Smasher stated. “And wee Thistle would be marrying into this herd and their rather open sexual practices, which will probably include a lot of rutting of all kinds that has nothing to do with making more foals, am I right?”

Derpy nodded and felt a hot angry flush rising through her neck.

“Look, so long as she goes to bed that night and comes out walking funny the next morning, I don’t give two shites and a tinker pony’s damn about who screws her, so long as she is looked after, cared for, and happy,” Keg Smasher said. He smiled somewhat, hoping his answer might help repair the relationship between him and Bucky’s matriarch.

Derpy relaxed visibly and her some of her ruffled feathers settled into a less agitated looking state.

“If fact, I think this would be a good for her… introduce her to your ways. See if she can adapt. See if she is happy with something a bit different. I take it that you would be the one to bed her?” Keg Smasher asked.

The flustered pegasus mare found herself blushing as she nodded. “Yes… that was what I had in mind,” she replied.

“I think more matriarchs should do what you are doing,” Keg Smasher said diplomatically. “More of a gentle introduction to marriage. A little education of sorts.” The big burly pegasus hoped that a few flattering words might help the situation, and it looked like he was getting some results. The much smaller pegasus mare before him was smiling a bit and didn’t look so hostile.

“And there is one more thing,” Derpy mentioned. “I want a private room. I will not do this with my whole family watching.”

“I can manage that I think… but I am going to have to ask that Bucky spend the night with you two when and if this happens. Might look funny, two mares going off after a marriage with no stallion,” Keg Smasher said in reply.

Derpy scowled, her smile vanishing.

“Look, he doesn’t need to actually do anything, but it wouldn’t hurt Thistle to have him watch. Plus, it keeps up appearances. I have to look like I am going my job and holding up my end of the deal,” Keg Smasher explained.

“I guess that seems reasonable,” Derpy agreed.

“Done!” Keg Smasher shouted. “You will have your private room, Thistle will have a herd to look after her needs, Thistle will also have a really nice night most likely, and Bucky gets to watch a nice show, because hey, what stallion doesn’t want to watch two of his mares fooling around.”

The pegasus mare blushed purple and her wings fluttered.

“And all I need now is your agreement to take Thistle in,” Keg Smasher requested.

“A little more time is needed,” Derpy replied. “You will have your answer soon though, I promise.”

Keg Smasher heaved another sigh of relief. He felt that he had come out ahead in this exchange. The grey mare actually seemed happy, which made him happy.

 

 

The convergence point of the two ley lines was marked by a pile of stones, which surprised Bucky slightly. The bees swirled in a chaotic vortex overhead and Bucky could hear buzzing both inside and outside of his head. He sat down, feeling dizzy and lightheaded.

“You alright?” Ripple asked as she watched Bucky trembling.

“I’m fine,” Bucky replied. “I just feel a little weird.”

“You’re sweating,” Piña observed. “And shaking.”

“I’m fine,” Bucky insisted.

“I can feel it too,” Dinky said. “My hooves feel tingly like I am standing on something that is vibrating.”

Bucky could feel the power all around him. The ley lines could give him the strength he needed for what was ahead. From here, he could draw upon the power he needed to defeat the wolves. He felt his stomach churn and a violent sense of nausea overtook him. His vision blurred over and the buzzing in his ears was replaced by the ringing of bells. He saw the ground rushing up to greet him and he could hear Pina’s frantic cry as blackness crept into his vision.

The three fillies all cried out when they saw Bucky slump and then fall over to the ground. Piña began to cry in panic, unable to deal with the situation at all. Dinky held herself together fought back against the rising panic, knowing just how dangerous it was to panic.

Dinky understood control now… and she held everything in. It was a monumental struggle for her, and she gritted her teeth. She could feel the magic surge building along with her emotions. She bit down savagely on her own lip, drawing blood. The pain made her nearly swoon, but it cleared her head.

“Ripple, can you fly?” Dinky asked.

“When I was little I could fly a bit. And then I got sick and scrawny and I couldn’t fly anymore,” Ripple answered as she pranced around on her hooves in panic.

“No excuses Ripple. Father needs you to fly. You will fly to save him. You’ve been getting better since we’ve taken you in,” Dinky commanded, her blood trickling down her chin as she did so.

Ripple spread her wings, flapped a few times, and then took off at a run, flapping as hard as she could as she did so. She became airborne for a moment, came down hard, nearly stumbled, and then somehow managed to keep on her hooves as she continued to run forward. She tried again, and this time she took off into an unsteady flight.

“I’ll return with help,” she promised. “I don’t know if I should leave you two alone!” she shouted in fear, her voice high pitched with panic.

“I will protect Piña,” Dinky replied. “Go!”

Ripple did not have to be told twice. She struggled to remain airborne but took off in the direction of the castle, flying as fast as she could. Her muscles ached already, and her tendons creaked painfully, but she continued with grim determination towards her destination.

“Piña, we will be fine,” Dinky said reassuringly. “And he will be okay, I am sure of it.”

“I hope so,” Piña said. “He’s breathing, so that’s a good sign.”

Dinky bit down on her lip again, holding back the caged beast of panic. She hoped that help would come soon. She wasn’t sure how long she could keep everything held in.

 

 

Bucky found himself in an endless grey expanse that seemed to stretch in all directions. He looked all around him, trying to figure out where he was, and saw two figures approaching. He did not recognise them. One was a stallion. Large. Grey. Black maned. The other was a mare. Smaller. Delicate. She was a pearlescent white and her mane looked as though it was made from pure silver. It shone with a metallic sheen that was nearly blinding. The two figures drew closer and Bucky couldn’t help but notice how much he looked like the grey stallion. He was a bit smaller, and he was tan, but the physical similarities were strong.

“What is this place?” Bucky asked. “And who are you?”

“This is my prison, and I am your ancestor… do you not know me? Surely you have had dreams… visions… I know you must know of the defeat of my shadow by Princess Twilight Sparkle and Princess Cadance,” the stallion replied.

Bucky shook his head. “I don’t know you. But you seem familiar. Who are you?”

“In life, I was called Sombra,” the stallion replied.

“I am confused. Why am I here? This is a prison? And who is she?” Bucky questioned.

“There is little time. You are here because the master of this realm has agreed to allow me to give you a boon. I have been here for a thousand years, waiting for one of my descendents to free me-”

“Oh no, if this is a prison, I am not freeing you,” Bucky interrupted.

“There is much you do not understand,” the mare stated. “In life, I was called Princess Platinum. I was Sombra’s first wife. In death, I have waited here with him, in this dreadful expanse, waiting for him to be freed so we can continue through the gate together.”

“The gate?” Bucky asked in confusion.

“I cannot pass into Elysium until one of my heirs is able to do what I could not,” Sombra replied. “Please, listen, time is very short.”

“Speak then, I am listening,” Bucky answered.

“In life, Sombra started off as a very good pony… he defended the empire of the Royal Pony Sisters. He battled Discord. He kept many safe and secured against the forces of chaos. He was a guardian. Celestia made him regent over the north. He was a pony that I was proud to call my husband,” Princess Platinum explained.

“What happened? And why don’t I know this? I paid attention in history class,” Bucky interjected.

“Celestia blocked me out of your mind… and she was right to do so. My shadow sought to taint you,” Sombra replied.

“So what happened?” Bucky asked.

“Sombra was the love of my life. He was my everything. My reason for living. I loved him in ways I cannot describe. And he loved me. We were happy. Life was good. And then, not long after foal birth, I became sick. And then I died. And poor Sombra didn’t do well without me,” Princess Platinum said.

“I couldn’t bear her loss. But I had duties. I had no time to grieve. I was a king… there were griffons to fight. Dragons to subdue. I had to keep my ponies safe. I became obsessed with keeping them safe,” Sombra said regretfully.

“Sombra sent his foals away to live with Celestia and Luna. He was alone. And it destroyed his mind,” Princess Platinum said sadly. “He tried to keep everypony safe. He locked them away, trying to secure them away from harm.”

“I went mad and became a tyrant,” Sombra admitted. “I turned to dark magic hoping that it would give me the power I needed to fend off entire armies of griffons and dragons and everything else that threatened the north at that time.”

“The Princesses used the Elements of Harmony on him. It caused Sombra to split in two. The good in him came here, to this place, this grey purgatory in Tartarus, and his darkness tore free. It spirited away his entire empire for a thousand years,” Princess Platinum explained.

“So you love him enough to share in this torment of waiting until somepony frees him,” Bucky stated.

Princess Platinum nodded.

“So what do I do to fix this?” Bucky asked.

“I do not know,” Sombra replied. “You must do what I could not. I was meant to be a protector.”

“So this is my curse?” Bucky asked.

“Something like that, yes,” Princess Platinum agreed. “There have been many who have tread in Sombra’s steps. Power comes to them. All of my foal’s foals have been afflicted. But power comes to them and then it corrupts them. Eventually, their horns crack or shatter completely. And then, they die. And the hope of being free dies with them.”

“So what do I do?” Bucky asked.

“You have already done so much… we have hope again because of you. You have power now, real power, but you acknowledge in your heart that it pales in comparison to the power of your family. You survived your horn cracking because you had those that loved you and they were willing to care for you,” Princess Platinum said.

“Eventually, your horn will try to fail again… you must remedy that. I know you have been planning it. Tap into the ley lines Buckminster. Every spell ever cast by unicorns still resides in the lines. They are the spellbook of the ages. You will remember none of this once you have awakened, but part of your mind will retain this knowledge. You must do what I could not. Take up my mantle. Be a guardian. Protect those you love and those who love you. Protect your fellow ponies,” Sombra commanded.

“Each of my sons who has came before you has had different task that fate seems to dole out for them. You must face the wolves. If you face them alone, you will fail,” Princess Platinum warned.

“So I must allow those I love to face the risks with me and not lose my mind I suppose,” Bucky said in a soft whisper.

“Yes,” Sombra replied. “I sent my foals away and faced the darkness alone. It destroyed me.”

“So I destroy the wolves and the curse ends,” Bucky asked.

“No,” Sombra replied.

“No?” Bucky inquired.

“Defeating the wolves is not enough. You must also take up my mantle. You must accept your role as a guardian,” Sombra explained.

“I am not sure I understand the difference,” Bucky retorted.

“You must become what you were meant to be. Defeating the wolves is only a first step. A test,” Sombra said.

“Oh,” Bucky replied.

“My foals have become horrible monsters. Hold them accountable Buckminster. Restore our good name. Our bloodline is tainted and full of shame. I know it is a lot to ask of you, but please, restore my bloodline,” Princess Platinum begged.

“Our time grows shorter,” Sombra said as he made a gesture towards Bucky.

Bucky looked down at himself, and saw that he could see through his body. He was fading, transparent, and his substance grew thinner and thinner.

“How do I fix my horn? I have some ideas, but there is so much I don’t know,” Bucky said.

“Commune with the ley lines. Star Swirl remains within them, he will help you. Part of me does as well. Clover the Clever also has a shred of memory in the lines. You will find aid if you seek it,” Sombra said.

“Will I ever remember you?” Bucky asked.

“When the time is right, I am certain that Celestia will restore your memory and allow you to remember me. To remember everything. When you are ready to become a guardian, when it is time to take up my mantle,” Sombra replied.

“I will do my best to free you if I can, even if I don’t remember this. You are loved as I am loved… she is willing to wait for you, and while it sounds terribly selfish, I hope my wives would do the same for me.” Bucky said as he watched himself continue to fade away. “Love is the only thing I truly believe, and for this reason alone I will help you if I can.”

“Do it to help yourself,” Sombra corrected. “If you do right, then hopefully this dreadful confinement will end. If you fail, the consequences to yourself will be dire.”

“I understand,” Bucky said in return.

“Good luck,” Princess Platinum said as Bucky approached nothingness.

“Wait, what about your shadow? What do I do about that?” Bucky asked as he continued to fade.

And then, he was gone and the two figures were alone once again.

 

 

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