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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“I am very surprised to see you here, seeing as how busy you are,” Bucky said as he stood looking up at Princess Celestia. “Putting two and two together, I am going to assume that Twilight told you that they would all be here so you could talk to them about hearthfire.”

“Correct.” The tall white alicorn gave the short almost but not quite a unicorn a smile. “Bucky, I heard a troubling tale about you… I was talking to Sunset Shimmer about what happened—”

Bucky’s cheeks puffed out and his eyes went wide. “Yeah, I did it. I apologised. She accepted. We’re going to duel again and this time I’ve promised not to cheat. A fair fight. Kinda tricky, trying to make it a fair fight, seeing as how I know everypony’s weaknesses as I fight them, I dunno how I am going to make this fair.”

“You are a bad pony.” Celestia’s smile vanished. She looked up from Bucky and at the gathered foals in the entryway behind him. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Dinky, Diamond Tiara, Boadicea, Sentinel, Cadance, Harper, Peekaboo, Sukari, and one kelpie foal who wobbled around on trembling legs, trying to figure out the whole walking thing.

“Bad pony,” Cadance repeated, nodding her head.

“You badmouthed my school… that was uncalled for, we are supposed to work together in a spirit of cooperation, not indulge in trash talk. We cannot have that.” Celestia fluffed out and brought herself to her full height. “I do believe a lesson is in order here… all this talk of punishment. I do believe that some little foals need to grow up believing there is a sense of fairness in the world… at least an attempt to make things right.”

Scowling, Bucky nodded and waited, wondering what it was that Celestia was about to do. He could deal with a wing slapping, but it was really going to hurt. Just touching Celestia caused him to blister and smoulder. He stood, waiting, his claws tapping on the floor, looking up at the white alicorn, one eye narrowed and squinting, the other wide and staring.

“Buckminster, I do believe that we should try you in a court of your own peers. We shall have your foals judge you.” Princess Celestia cleared her throat. “Tell me, how should we punish him?” Celestia’s words were met with stunned silence. She smiled down at the foals who stared up at her wide eyed, stunned, and in shock.

Bucky took a deep breath and told Celestia, “I am not a foal—”

“Oh, yes, I forgot something, my apologies, I was not being thorough.” Celestia’s horn flared with a golden glare and glowing motes of light swirled around her. The whole house shuddered. Deep magic. The most powerful of alicorn magics began to swirl around Bucky.

With a gasp, Bucky shrunk, becoming much, much smaller. He let out a squeaky cry as the flash of light consumed him, causing him to vanish for a moment, and then the light faded away, Bucky stood, little more than a yearling and not much larger than Harper. He still had his talons, his tufted ears, and his shaggy pelt. He was still the same as he ever was… just smaller.

“Oh fe—”

“Do not dare say it, you little miscreant,” Celestia used her magic to squeeze Bucky’s lips together. “You are a little different than I remember you as a foal… but you are still so adorable. You are so shaggy!” Celestia grinned and gushed, her wings fluttering at her sides.

“When Harpy bad, Harpy go in the corner.” Harper broke away from the others and approached Bucky, her head low, her ears back against her head, but hidden under her frizzy mane and not visible to the others. “Mama?”

Bucky shot Harper a look… not just any look. The Look. He watched as Harper stared at him, confused and curious. Giving her The Look was not very effective in his current body.

“Harper has an excellent idea… what do the rest of you say?” Celestia asked. She looked serious, as serious as she could be as she tried to hold back a smile. She watched several little heads nod, but the entire group of foals remained in stupefied silence.

Glowering, Bucky said nothing, not wanting to hear his own squeaky voice. He stood defiant, realising there wasn’t much he could do if Celestia stood him in the corner. He could try to fight back, but what message would he be sending to his own foals? He heard hooves in the hallway behind him and groaned.

“What is going on here?” Derpy asked as she came into the entryway. “Oh my gosh… is that Bucky?” The grey pegasus stood staring as Twilight and Applejack stood behind her, both of them having been spending time with the newborns.

Rarity came down the hall and asked, “What is going on?”

“We were about to put Bucky in the corner,” Celestia replied.

“Come here and let me hug you!” Derpy cried as she lunged forwards.

“No!” Bucky squeaked, his voice coltish and shrill. He took off at a run, knowing that the grabby grey pegasus was hot on his heels. His cloak slid from his body, it was much too large now, and Bucky realised that he couldn’t go outside… the sun would fry him. He darted to and fro, hoping to escape, and then bolted down the hallway, shooting between Twilight’s long, slender legs as she pranced around, trying to avoid stepping on him as he passed beneath her.

“Wait, we were trying to punish him! He has to stand in the corner!” Celestia stood, her head high, her eyes full of mischief.

“No! I gotta take his picture first… and maybe cuddle him!” Derpy shouted as she ran down the hallway, her hooves clattering over the wood.

Clearing her throat, Celestia became serious, her smile fading away, her eyes becoming stern. “Well then, now that Bucky is occupied, I would like to speak to all of you about what happened… I want to hear from each and every one of you about what took place, and I want no detail left unmentioned. I want to know more about the Hearthfire…”

 

 

Silent, saying nothing, Princess Celestia looked at the foals all sitting together on the floor. She was down on the floor with them, sitting on a large cushion, trying to be as unimposing as possible. Diamond Tiara had given the most detailed account by far, providing many useful details. Sweetie Belle focused on emotional details and Sombra’s broken heart. She also focused on the feeling of the Hearthfire, how it lifted them, how happy they had been.

The most curious part of all of this was Boadicea, who now had a wisp of pink flame as a cutie mark, a most interesting cutie mark for a griffon. More than anything, Celestia wanted to know what it meant. Did the griffoness have the ability to summon Hearthfire? There was so much that she didn’t know and it bothered her a great deal.

Once again, Star Swirl had somehow seen ahead into the future and had yet again provided for the needs of Equestria. Celestia wished that Clover was here. Clover had been a Bearer of Hearthfire and had been able to keep summoning it, using it as a weapon against the many foes of Equestria. It had burned away the windigos, singed the griffons, turned back rampaging hordes of minotaurs, and sent the diamond dogs packing, howling as they retreated. The Hearthfire also had a remarkable ability to heal without causing pain to the caster.

Twilight had said that Hearthfire was a type of harmonics magic, the new field of study that she was so desperately trying to understand. There were so many questions, like how had Clover retained her ability to cast the spell all by herself? Could it be summoned now that there were new Bearers of Hearthfire? Could it be used as a weapon against the mirror travelers, to drive them back, or help them somehow in their defense. There was so much that Princess Celestia had to know… and no answers seemed forthcoming any time soon, which troubled her a great deal. She needed answers.

The Crusader Project had borne fruit—Apple Bloom had become a princess and now, the Cutie Mark Crusaders had been part of a group that had brought back Hearthfire to Equestria, the ultimate in magic abilities. But Celestia was no closer to understanding it… or figuring out a way that she could cast it herself.

If she could somehow cast Hearthfire herself, she could use magic to defend her little ponies with impunity… Even the most destructive blasts would be beneficial for those allied around her. Celestia could remember Clover in battle… the pink flames would fly forth, burning those who dared stand against her and healing those around her that had fallen in battle. It would mean that Celestia could safely join a battle without having to worry about obliterating everything around her. It would mean safety, peace, and security.

But, there were still no answers and Celestia seemed no closer to unravelling the secrets of Hearthfire. She was no closer to being able to cast it. One thousand years of waiting and Hearthfire had appeared again, but Celestia was no closer to becoming its Bearer. It was so frustrating that she wanted to scream, but on the outside, she was still the serene, calm, and patient alicorn that everypony believed her to be.

“Everything happened so fast… we just went down the hole in the floor and then Moonbow died and the Hearthfire happened and everything was over,” Dinky said, summing up everything she had said earlier. “There wasn’t enough time to take it all in. It just happened.”

“The same thing happened with Clover, Pansy, and Smart Cookie,” Celestia replied, looking Dinky in the eye and focusing on the foal. Dinky had the potential to become Celestia’s personal, private student, but she knew that Bucky would never let her go, and neither would Derpy. Instead, it was Celestia’s hope that Dinky would continue her tutelage with Bucky… and Sunset Shimmer. Dinky had courage, a strong revulsion towards dark magic, very much like Sunset Shimmer did, and an almost all consuming drive to gain more power, but not for personal gain. Dinky was the ideal unicorn to become a protector of Equestria, a product of chance, of luck, and beneficial coincidental circumstance.

“Hearthfire is nice and all, but when it wears off, you feel just awful.” Sweetie Belle blinked a few times, looking thoughtful, and trying to put her thoughts into words. The filly looked troubled, a little sad, the corners of her mouth were pulled downwards and her ears were drooping. She heaved a sigh, her barrel swelling outwards, and she looked at her companions, as if hoping for inspiration. “A part of me never wants to feel Hearthfire ever again… I don’t know if I can deal with the bad part afterwards.”

“I kinda don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Scootaloo said, unable to look Celestia in the eye as she said it. “It’s… it’s a sacred thing. It feels wrong to talk about it so much. It was something special that happened, like your first kiss… and if you talk about it too much and try to figure out everything that goes into it, it kinda ruins it. It takes away what was special about it. It just happened, it was a surprise, it felt good, and then it was over.”

“Scootaloo, I understand.” Celestia’s ears drooped. Out of the mouths of foals. She did her best to hide her disappointment, but she wasn’t certain that she was successful. Under normal circumstances, she did well to hide her emotions, but she could not help but feel a bit depressed. Scootaloo was right though—if Celestia kept prying, she might ruin what made the Hearthfire special.

“So what sort of prince is Sentinel going to be?” Apple Bloom asked.

Celestia’s ears perked up. She was saved, Apple Bloom, the clever little filly she was, had changed the subject. A tiny sigh of relief escaped and Celestia’s feathers ruffled. “Sentinel will be a prince like Keg Smasher. He will have a position of power and he will have duties, but not a specific title, like say, the Princess of Agriculture. Sentinel will focus more on his duties as a knight.”

“Are we still allowed to tease him?” Sweetie Belle asked, a mischievous smile on her face as she glanced at Sentinel.

“I would be grateful if you did… I do believe he will need his friends to keep him humble, he has a long life full of accomplishments ahead of him,” Celestia replied, her lips parting with a smile that was as bright as the sun.

“Get away from me, you mad mares! Back! Back! Away from me all of you! This has stopped being funny!”

There was a loud thump outside of the farmhouse library door and the clattering of hooves over the wooden floor. It took every ounce of effort that Celestia could muster, but she kept a straight face as she looked at the foals. “Bucky is being punished. He has committed a very serious offense.”

“Bucky, I just want a picture of you with the fillies having a tea party!” Derpy cried.

“Yeah, Bucky, you dressed up in a dress once and liked it, what’s the big deal now?” Lyra added.

“We just want to put some ribbons in your mane and make you look pretty!” Twilight’s voice carried through the house quite well and everypony (and birdy) in the farmhouse library could hear her. “Bucky, hold still, you’re ruining a special moment for Cadance, Sukari, Harper, and Peekaboo!”

Much to Celestia’s surprise, it was Sentinel of all ponies that began sniggering, choking, and trying very hard to hold back laughter. Beside him, Diamond Tiara was biting her lip. One of Dinky’s hooves clamped over her mouth. Sweetie Belle’s ears began to twitch as the filly’s lips pressed together and she tried not to smile.

Allowing a smile to grace her face once more, Celestia spoke to the foals in an almost playful, teasing voice. “I do not know about the rest of you, but I do believe that I would like to see Buckminster get his comeuppance. Who wants to watch?”

 

 

 

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