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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During the spring, even the Everfree was a beautiful, if no less foreboding place. The tree canopy overhead was thick enough in some places to block out the sun, leaving the ground below thick with shade, curious patches where the battle between light and darkness played out, a theatre of shadows. There was a road here, a path, the road that lead through the Everfree and came out the other side, a road which few took, except those brave, daring individuals that sought adventure or those looking for the Palace of the Royal Pony Sisters.

Sentinel, his nose down, sniffling and snuffling as he trotted, followed this road, for Sand Piper had also followed this road. Hoofprints were still visible in some places, little crescents pressed into the soft, moist earth that was the road.

Coming to an abrupt halt, Sentinel raised his head. He stood, sniffing, his hackles rising, and his ears pitched forwards, angling over his eyes. He went stiff legged, bared his teeth, and growled.

Dinky and Piña, who took Sentinel’s reaction with great seriousness, moved to his side and waited. They watched, Piña looking off to one side, Dinky off to the other, and it was Dinky who looked the most confused when Sentinel lowered his guard.

“We have company,” Sentinel said, “stay close to me and do not move.”

Tall figures loped out of the trees and bushes around them, glowing spectral wolves that appeared to be made out of fog and stars. They were all blue or bluish purple, except for one, the largest, the one that approached Sentinel, who was red.

“Canis Rufus,” Sentinel said, bowing his head. “Greetings and good tidings on behalf of my Mistress, Princess Luna.”

Dinky watched as the large, glowing phantasmal constellation creature approached Sentinel, her breathing shallow, almost ragged, and she had trouble hiding her fear. The red glowing wolf and Sentinel both sniffed noses for a minute and then the red constellation wolf backed away.

“Piña, Dinky, this is Canis Rufus, Alpha of the Constellation Wolves.” Sentinel bowed his head a little and then continued. “Canis Rufus, this is Dinky and Piña, my little sisters.”

Freezing in place, Dinky did not move when the wolf came closer once more and began to sniff her. She could feel his hot breath against her face, her neck, and ruffling through her mane. She watched as the wolf did the same to Piña.

“I do not eat ponies.”

Dinky blinked, surprised, not expecting the creature to speak, her shock and astonishment showing on her face. She looked into the glowing eyes of the wolf creature and saw kindness.

“We prowl these woods and defend Ponyville as part of our agreement with Princess Luna. You have nothing to fear from us, little ones. Calm your fast beating heart,” the wolf creature said.

“Canis Rufus, did you notice a unicorn foal come roaming through these parts?” Sentinel asked.

The massive constellation wolf shook his head. “No, I did not, but I have sensed strange magic as of late. Well, more so than usual. This wood is alive with strange magic. Am I to understand that a foal is missing?”

Sentinel nodded while looking up at the much larger predator.

“Unicorns… strange creatures with their connection to magic… perhaps the foal was attracted to the strange goings on in these woods. Many unicorns come here, compelled by forces they will never understand.” The big red wolf sat down upon the ground, his tail wagging.

“You’re kinda neat,” Piña said, having overcome her fear. She was now staring and studying the constellation wolves around her, trying to understand them. She left Sentinel’s side, moving with cautious curiousity, approached the big red constellation wolf, reached out her hoof, and touched him.

Upon contact, Piña changed, becoming phantasmal, a glowing pink creature made of light and stars. A glowing spectral horn adorned her forehead, and she cast a brilliant pink luminescence all around her.

“What’s going on?” Piña asked in a breathless, somewhat frightened voice.

“You are like us, an astral creature,” Canis Rufus replied, lowering his head down closer to Piña’s ear. “Hello, child of the stars… how strange you are that you have a body.”

Piña pulled her hoof away from the big red wolf and she became solid again, her eyes blinking as the brilliant pink glow around her faded. She sat down, staring at her still raised hoof, trying to understand what had just happened.

“We must be going, we have a meal to hunt. We are hungry,” Canis Rufus said to the foals. “Be careful, little ones. There is strange magic about. We have sensed much weirdness over by the old castle. Perhaps your missing foal is there.”

“Thank you,” Sentinel said, bowing his head once more.

“Will I see you again?” Piña asked, looking up at the wolf as she spoke.

“Perhaps,” the wolf replied, giving Piña a lupine grin. “Come and find me among the stars. Princess Luna or Princess Celestia can show you my celestial hunting grounds.”

“Okay.” Piña rose, standing up, and she began to back away from the glowing red constellation wolf. Piña blinked once and when she opened her eyes, the wolves, all of them, were gone. She blinked again in astonishment.

“They just vanished,” Dinky said.

“They do that.” Sentinel shrugged. “I can vanish too, I just can’t do it during the day.”

“Sentinel, how do you know them?” Piña asked.

“You know those long lessons that Princess Luna sometimes gives me at night?” Sentinel replied. He looked at Piña, gave his sister a smile, and then continued, “I’m being groomed to be Princess Luna’s ambassador. I’ve met a lot of rather nice monsters. Not all of them are bad, some are just misunderstood.”

“We should get going.” Dinky looked down the road in the direction of the Palace of the Royal Pony sisters. “Sooner we get out of this place the better. I want to get Sand Piper and go home.”

 

 

As the group drew closer to the Palace of the Royal Pony Sisters, Dinky felt a peculiar sensation growing stronger within her. It was the feeling of magic, strong magic, deep magic. The forest was alive with this feeling, and Dinky knew that Piña could feel it as well, without knowing or understanding how she knew that Piña could feel it. There were times when it was difficult for Dinky to know where she ended and Piña began.

After all of the training in Miss Stargarden’s class, Dinky and Piña stumbled into each other’s minds rather frequently. They did nothing to keep each other out. Dinky had her mental magic while Piña had, well, whatever it was. As a mystic, Piña was growing in power every day. Together, Dinky knew from what she had learned from Princess Celestia that they would be a force to be reckoned with. Miss Stargarden had said the same thing.

“You know, I don’t mind the community service we’re being made to do,” Piña remarked as she trotted behind Sentinel. She glanced back over her shoulder at Dinky, looking thoughtful. “I’d do something like this even if I wasn’t in trouble. We can do more, we’re special and gifted, so more should be expected out of us.”

“That’s one way of looking at it, Piña,” Sentinel replied.

Piña, trying to make a point, continued, “Really, we’re not going to do much unless we’re challenged. Berry Punch and I talked about it on the train. Barley had a few things to say as well. Normal stuff doesn’t do much for us… it’s like giving that foal that is a math wiz a simple arithmetic problem and expecting them to be interested. They’re gonna be bored with four plus four after a while. Berry Punch said that she doesn’t want me to feel like I’m being punished, she wants me to feel like I’m being given a chance to prove myself. If I want to do more adult stuff, then I gotta prove I can.”

Sentinel came to a sudden halt, Piña almost bumping into him, and the colt facehoofed. He cringed, looking distraught, and then facehoofed for a second time, conking his own skull.

“Sentinel?” Dinky gave her brother a worried glance as she pulled up alongside him.

“It makes sense,” Sentinel said, his words little more than a mumble. The colt shook his head. “We’ve shown some exceptional skill. We’ve shown that were capable. The adults… they’re just manipulating us into doing better… it’s probably the reason why everypony I meet brings up what I did… even Flash Sentry had something to say about it… I’m probably being tested to see how I react and if I can really be an adult about this.”

“Have you?” Piña asked.

Sentinel gritting his teeth, shook his head and then replied, “I doubt it. I let Flash get under my skin… ugh, I’m so stupid! Stupid, stupid, STUPID! Argh, everything is a test… everything… everything!” Frustrated, Sentinel sat down with a thump. “I’m under so much pressure… everything has to be just so. Everything has to be perfect, there is no ‘almost’ or ‘just about’ or ‘kinda had it.’ When I try something and I don’t quite get it, it’s always some long conversation about why I failed rather than how I succeeded but still didn’t quite do it perfect… Princess Luna is so demanding… but she isn’t to blame.”

“She isn’t?” Piña sat down beside Sentinel and leaned up against him.

“No,” Sentinel replied, “I am.” He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut, squeezing back tears. “When I don’t quite do things right, I can’t let it go and I keep pushing to do it better. The others, they’re just pushing along with me. I do this to myself.”

“I understand.” Dinky, who sat down on the other side of Sentinel, leaned up against him, not minding that her tail was now full of dirt and twigs. “I make things harder than they need to be. There is a lot I want for myself.”

“Me too.” Piña sniffled a bit, and a sad smile spread over her muzzle. “I wanna be like Berry… I wanna make something of myself. Moonshiner’s Haint is an awful place and it is full of awful earth ponies and I just got to see what life looks like when you give up. I don’t want that.”

“We have a foal to rescue. Come on, let’s get moving. We can feel sorry for each other later, after we go home,” Dinky said to her siblings. She took a deep breath. “I think we need to change how we see the world though.”

“Yeah, we’re not being punished, we’re being tested,” Piña said, picking up where Dinky left off. “I say we go with it and see what it does for us.”

“Today, we can be heroes.” Sentinel lifted his head and his ears perked up. His spirits lifted, Sentinel got up, waggled his backside, and shook the dirt from his tail as his sisters did the same. “Let’s do this and go home… I want to talk to my father.”

 

 

“The trail ends here,” Sentinel said, coming to a stop. Not far from them was the old crumbling castle. The woods ahead seemed especially thick. Brambles, shrubs, thorny vines, thickets, and old, gnarled trees lay ahead. The scent went cold, coming to an abrupt stop.

Sand Piper had left the road, wandered through the underbrush, come to this spot, and vanished. Sentinel wasn’t sure how that was possible, and he continued sniffing around. Perhaps the little filly had teleported somehow. Nose to the ground, he wandered around, hoping to catch a whiff of scent.

“Something is up with this place,” Piña said as she stood on her hind legs and pressed both of her front hooves up against the knobby trunk of a tree. She closed her eyes and her hooves began to let out a faint glow.

“This place is strange.” Dinky began to get a peculiar feeling, a strange tingling in the base of her horn. She turned to look at the trees, and found that her vision was focused on the trees. She tried looking past them, deeper into the woods, trying to see beyond what was there, and found she could not. Time and time again, her eyes were drawn to the trees, to the thickets, to the brush and the brambles, but she could not see in any further.

Reaching out with her mind, she touched upon a beetle sitting on a branch. Looking at the world through the eyes of the beetle, she saw something, but she wasn’t certain what. She pulled out of the beetle, blinking her eyes, and realised that some very powerful magic was at work here, some kind of aversion spell.

As Dinky stood staring, a path yawned opened ahead of them, it was as if the path was always there and they were only seeing it now. The road was old and overgrown, it had not been a road for a long time, and beyond the trees, Dinky could see… houses. An old windmill creaked. It was dilapidated and run down. An old stone cottage with a sagging sod roof was the closest building to them.

“I’ve found the scent!” Sentinel took off, his nose to the ground, sniffing as he made his way down the overgrown road towards the town it seemed that time had forgot.

 

 

 

Author's Note:

Hoofington, the ancient city of the Royal Pony Sisters.

 
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