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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Refusing to panic, Boadicea kept her head. She hunkered down near Dinky, Piña, and Sentinel, her heart thudding against her ribs, her tail swishing behind her, slicing at the air like a sword. Sitting back on her haunches, she took a deep breath, trying to figure out what to do.

“Dinky’s in a bad way… she’s dying,” Piña said in a low voice.

“Piña, don’t overreact—”

“I’m not,” Piña insisted, her voice soft and wavering, “I’m not being a foal about this either. She used too much magic. She’s little… her body can’t handle it. Sentinel is fading too.”

Flexing her talons, Boadicea didn’t know what to do. She felt a tightness in her throat, but she pushed the feeling of panic from her mind. Reaching out with her left talons, she grabbed Piña’s fetlock and gave Piña a reassuring squeeze.

Just as Boadicea was about to say something to Piña, something happened. A bright pink flame ignited around her and Piña, it blazed, almost as brilliant as the sun. Boadicea felt her spirits lifting, the encroaching panic fled from her, and her body, aching from adrenaline and exertion, felt better.

The flames leaped from her and Piña over to Sentinel and Dinky, consuming them all in flames. Boadicea blinked, feeling the sustaining warmth. It was the same fire that had burned when they had faced Sombra, but not as strong.

“You’re doing this,” Piña said, her blue eyes staring into Boadicea’s black eyes. “This is your gift. This is what you do—”

“Stop being mystical and creepy,” Boadicea said, still holding Piña’s fetlock. “We need to figure out how to help Dinky and Sentinel.”

“Hearthfire will sustain Dinky. I don’t know about Sentinel.” Around Piña, the pink flames burned brighter. “I can’t summon the Hearthfire, but I can control it. I can feel it flowing through me. I can hear voices… so many voices… they’re singing.”

Ears straining, Boadicea tried to hear, but she couldn’t hear anything like voices singing. Still staring into Piña’s eyes, she watched as the earth pony filly’s eyes changed, going white, then turning pink.

“Necromancy is vile, there isn’t much we can do to help Sentinel,” Piña said in a low voice as she turned to look at her fallen brother. “We can staunch the flow of blood, but this is not a wound we can heal.”

As Boadicea watched, the oozing red blood leaking from the ruined left side of Sentinel’s face ceased to flow. Some of the flesh moved, curling, writhing, scabbing over. The puddle of corrupted, melted flesh blazed purple, burning in the Hearthfire, and turned to ash in seconds.

Piña extended her free foreleg, making a sweeping gesture, and Sentinel’s body was lifted off of the ground, away from the earth soiled with the remains of his face, which was now ashes. The Hearthfire blazed, crackling, and Piña’s now pink eyes glowed with the brilliance of the sun.

“To heal Sentinel’s face, the diseased, corrupted tissues and bone must be carved away and new flesh and bone must be regrown from parts of him untouched by the vile magic of the Hag.” Piña laid her brother’s body down on some wilted grass nearby, a tendril of pink flames connecting them.

Feeling strong, feeling confident, Boadicea let go of Piña. The flames continued to burn around them. She watched as Piña turned to Dinky and then Piña pulled Dinky closer, cradling her sister’s head in her forelegs. Dinky, still comatose, made no response.

 

 

“What is going on here? What has happened? What has taken place?”

Turning her head, Boadicea saw Princess Luna, a small flock of pegasi, a gaggle of griffons, and one very concerned Lugus. Seeing Lugus, she wanted to run to him, to throw her forelegs around his neck, and squeeze him. But she didn’t. She had to look responsible, in control, and show that she was grown up.

“We have slain the Hag,” Piña replied as she turned her pink, flame filled eyes upon Princess Luna. “Sentinel needs aid, the Hag used necromancy against him. We have revived him. Dinky is burned out and we currently sustain her. Our own magic grows weaker. We need rest. We cannot keep going.”

“Hearthfire.” Princess Luna almost breathed the word.

“Boadicea is Hearthfire’s champion. It is her purpose. She ignited the flame so that we might make use of it.” Piña’s flaming ears pivoted forwards and she turned her strange, burning pink eyes upon Boadicea. “We must be away at once. We grow weaker.”

The pink flames sputtered but remained alight. Princess Luna made a gesture with her wing and then barked out a command. “Gather them up and keep them together as close as possible! We need fast, strong fliers to get them to Canterlot! Now MOVE!”

Princess Luna watched as Lugus took to the air, flew forwards, and lifted Sentinel in his talons, then cradled Sentinel’s limp body close to his girth, pressing the comatose colt against his ribs. The other pegasi were moving as well, with Flash Sentry scooping up Dinky.

Blinking, Princess Luna had trouble taking in what she was seeing. This was Hoofington. Somehow, the city seemed almost untouched by time. Old buildings, thousand year old buildings that should have crumbled long ago were still standing. From what Princess Luna understood, Hoofington had just vanished one day, and was believed to have been swallowed up by the Everfree.

There was a mystery to sort out, but that would have to come later. Spreading her wings, Princess Luna took to the skies, her hawkish eyes watching for danger, and along with the rest of the flock, headed for Canterlot.

 

 

“I am surprised.” Pacing, Princess Celestia moved back and forth, her long legs taking tiny steps, both her eyes and her ears twitching in agitation. She turned to look at her sister, Luna, who was looking back at her with a puzzled look.

“Surprised?” Luna asked.

“Buckminster did not come,” Celestia whispered in reply. “This worries me.”

“He has four newborns at home, plus Crisis, a wife grieving the loss of her twin sister, a feral foal that needs looking after, and the entirety of his family that are no doubt suffering from what has taken place. What can he do here? Sentinel is still in surgery, Dinky is still comatose, and if he were here, he would be sitting and waiting, doing nothing.” Luna took a deep breath, then continued. “He is needed at home. He can put that nervous energy to good use looking after those he can help.”

Princess Celestia’s pacing came to an abrupt stop. She knew that Bucky had a busy home life, but hearing Luna speak of everything that Bucky had to deal with drove home the fact that Bucky was overwhelmed. No doubt, even with everything going on at home, he was probably still planning his invasion, bolstering Equestria’s defenses, and doing everything that he considered his duties.

There was a soft rapping upon the door and Princess Celestia turned her head. “Enter.” Waiting, Celestia watched the door as it opened. She saw a guard enter, his head low, his eyes worried and a bit fearful. “Yes?”

“Diamond Tiara has arrived with Silver Shill and Applejack.” The guard bowed his head. “They have been left to wait in a comfortable room. Applejack was hoping to see you, Majesty. I understand that you are very busy, but she is very insistent.”

“I will see her very soon. Tell her that,” Celestia replied. The white alicorn drew in a deep, calming breath and heard her sister Luna doing the same. “Anything else?”

“That is all, Majesty.” Backing out of the room, the stallion closed the door, leaving the two sisters alone together.

“I left Erebus and Tourmaline at the farmhouse. Somepony needs to go and fetch Tourmaline. She will be most useful.” Luna’s wings fluttered at her sides as she turned in a circle, her hooves clicking upon the stone floor. “I do not feel well… I feel like throwing up. All of this stress. I am not dealing with it very well. Barley is so foolish… he infuriates me sometimes.”

“Sister, you have not slept. Go and get some rest if you can. I will send couriers to fetch Tourmaline and Erebus.” Celestia watched as her sister shook her head.

“No,  there will be no—”

“Luna, go and get some rest. This night is sure to be a long one. You will be needed. Go now, and get the sleep you need.” Celestia’s tone of voice made it clear that this was not a suggestion, nor was it open to debate. Her eyebrow raised in a delicate arch and she waited for Luna to reply.

“Yes, Sister, of course. I will be needed tonight.” Luna sighed. “I will try to get some sleep if I can. But only if you promise to get some sleep as well.”

“Very well, you have a deal…”

 

 

In the corner of the room, sitting in a plush, overstuffed red velvet chair, Silver Shill read a newspaper, sometimes peering over the top of it to look at Diamond Tiara and Boadicea. The filly and the griffoness were sitting on a matching, overstuffed red velvet sofa, holding one another, and trying to comfort one another as best they could.

Silver wanted to say something, wanted to do something, he wanted to comfort them, but they were so closely entwined with one another that he felt that he was intruding upon their privacy just by being in the same room, so he sat in silence, reading his newspaper, and thinking about the rest of his family back at Sweet Apple Acres.

“Silver?”

Lowering his paper, Silver Shill focused his attention on Diamond Tiara. He gave her a warm smile, trying to put her at ease, hoping to make her feel better. He had strong feelings of affection for the filly, he liked her, and he desperately wanted her to like him.

“I know I just started staying with you for the spring and the summer and we don’t know each other all that well...”

The filly drew in a deep, shuddering breath and Silver felt his heart aching for her. She was taking this well, she was being strong, and Silver found himself admiring her for her strength and spirit.

“I just wanted to say thank you, for being here for me. You’ve been very kind to me. So, thank you.”

Just as Silver started to reply, the door opened and the big griffon entered the room. Silver turned and looked at Lugus, and could not help but feel just a little bit afraid. Lugus, a giant, was intimidating. The big griffon’s beak was large enough to fit a whole pony head inside. Shivering, Silver reminded himself that Lugus was friendly.

“Any word?” Silver asked as Lugus loped through the room, his movements cat-like and tense. He watched as Lugus eased his bulk onto a sofa, and the big griffon took up the entire sofa, with parts of him spilling off.

“Sentinel is still in surgery,” Lugus replied, shaking his head. “Dinky has a feeding tube up her nose. She is weak, but stable. I don’t understand how one so tiny can be so powerful, yet still so frail. Her body is ill equipped to deal with the consequences of her power.”

“I never did understand how unicorns do what they do,” Silver Shill said in return. “How is Piña?”

“Being examined still. Now that the Hearthfire has worn off, she has stopped using the word ‘we’ to describe herself and appears to be returning to normal. The doctors were worried.” Lugus stretched, causing the sofa he lounged upon to let out an alarming creak, the big griffon yawned, his razor sharp beak opening up wide and showing off his dangly uvula. He flexed his talons and then focused his gaze upon Boadicea.

All too aware of Lugus’ stare, Boadicea cringed and began to spill her guts. “I was training with Loki. He was teaching me… well, he was telling me about, well, you know, assassin stuff.” Boadicea let out a low peep, her crest folded down against her head, and she shot a nervous glance in Silver Shill’s direction. “Loki gave me a scent blocking potion to drink and then told me to shadow Sentinel. He gave me very specific instructions that I was to shadow Sentinel and not be discovered. Should I be discovered, well, Loki threatened to have Scorch drag me to Tartarus to run a hundred laps around some burning lake of fire in Scorch’s realm. I followed Sentinel through Ponyville, most of the ponies didn’t even see me, then I followed him out to the city’s edge, then into the Everfree.”

Lugus’ crest rose.

“When I saw the Hag, I was tempted to strike right away, but I waited for a better chance, knowing that the element of surprise was my best weapon against such a powerful foe. Sentinel was enraged, berserk, incapable of thinking or acting rationally, and that was his undoing. I wanted to do the same. After seeing what the Hag did to Sentinel, I had trouble keeping myself collected.”

“Go on,” Lugus said.

“When I saw that I had a good opportunity, I revealed myself and I attacked the Hag exactly as Loki instructed. I garroted her to cut off her air and restrict the flow of mana through her thaumaturgic system, then I focused on neck wounds, stabbing her repeatedly, spilling both her blood and her thaumaturgical fluids.”

Gagging, Diamond Tiara covered her muzzle with her left front fetlock.

“She kept healing, but grew weaker as she lost more and more of her available mana. I think I weakened her enough so that Dinky could finish her off.” Boadicea fell silent and gave Diamond Tiara a squeeze, pulling the pink filly close and pressing Diamond Tiara’s face into the feathers of her neck. She could feel Diamond Tiara breathing against her, ruffling her feathers, and she could feel tears as they spilled, soaking her fur and feathers.

Lugus gave Boadicea a faint nod of approval. “You did good, my little cub. I am proud of you.”

 

 

 

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