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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Settling into a chair, Piña looked over at her school teacher, Miss Stargarden, who had come to speak to her, although Piña was not sure why. Others wanted to understand. Piña was not certain that they could understand. Some things eluded understanding and remained forever mysterious.

Sensing what she could not see, Piña knew that there were doctors and other ponies listening on the other side of the wall, there were ponies observing her, watching through the mirror on the wall. She was a bit uncomfortable with this, but had decided to allow it to happen anyway.

Even now, she could hear a whispering inside of her head, the faint voices of those who had come and gone before her, the whispers of old heroes. Those who had made the noblest of sacrifices could be heard conversing in the darkened corners of her mind.

“Piña, are you ready to begin?” Stargarden asked. “I’m not sure what we’ll accomplish here, but it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?”

“I’m ready,” Piña replied as she gave her teacher a smile, “are you ready?”

“I suppose I am.” Stargarden settled down in her chair, relaxing, preparing her mind, and calming her thoughts so that she might focus.

“Listening does not mean hearing… knowing does not mean understanding… watching does not mean seeing.” Piña turned and looked at the mirrored glass on the wall and made a gesture. “They are going to listen, they will try to know, and they will watch.” Piña shook her head then turned and focused upon Stargarden. Piña knew and understood. She knew and understood all too well.

For Piña, her knowledge and understanding was like entering into a place with a door—you open the door and you go inside. You open the door and you step outside. But the door is always there—until it wasn’t. Her recent experience had removed the door completely. This was knowing and understanding. There was no longer the need to step through the door, there was no longer a barrier. Touching minds with the Hag had destroyed those barriers. Piña had seen beyond the barriers and she was only now beginning to understand it. Hearthfire had illuminated the way. The bright, piercing light of the Hearthfire had allowed her to peek at what Piña could only describe as forever. Inside of the fire there were voices that spoke to her from the very beginning of time. There were voices that made Celestia and Luna seem young, infantile even.

Most ponies, when faced with peering at the total perspective of forever, broke down, realising how insignificant and meaningless their lives were. How distressingly short their existence was. Most ponies did not have the mental fortitude to face this perspective. Most ponies did not have the presence of mind to even begin to understand what immortality even was.

Piña was not most ponies. When faced with the brain breaking knowledge, she had endured. Her curiousity had compelled her to look. She had opened her eyes, not the ones on her face, but the ones inside of her mind. She had watched… and she had seen. She had gone beyond.

Closing her eyes, Piña reached out with her mind and touched her school teacher, Stargarden. This was something that had been so difficult before, it had taken so much effort, so much force of will, so much concentration—but now it felt easy. It felt like second nature. Piña realised that she had to be careful. If she focused too much, if she focused too hard, if she put too much of herself forward, she would crush Stargarden’s mind.

The Hearthfire had removed all of the barriers. All of the things that Piña had to work through to make the magic happen. All of the doors, all of the barriers had to be opened with hard work and concentration, they were all gone.

Miss Stargarden, Piña said inside of her teacher’s mind, in a voice not heard by others, how would you like to know and understand?

 

 

“How did it go?” Bon Bon asked, hopeful that this time, Princess Celestia had some actual news. The cream coloured earth pony looked both fretful and upset. She was frustrated with not knowing. As she waited, hoping for good news, Bon Bon had been reminiscing about the long nights on the Shetland Isles spent with Lyra and Sentinel, teaching Sentinel how to read, how to do math, educating him and making him a better pony. Those were hours, days, weeks, a vast amount of time that she had invested and for Bon Bon, time meant something. Her investment was valuable beyond measure. She wanted her son back.

“Queen Chrysalis has finished her work. She has restored much of his face, but there are still some… imperfections. Overall, I would say that she has done a spectacular job. She has remade Sentinel’s face and given him an eye socket. We can get him fitted with a glass eye, if that is what he wants. He has eyelids again.” For a moment, Celestia closed her eyes and her ears drooped with exhaustion. She had not slept well and she was weary. She blinked, her eyes opening, and she looked at Bon Bon. “I will grudgingly admit that I am impressed by what she has done.”

“Princess?” Bon Bon asked in a husky voice.

“We are friends… family even, must you be so formal?” Celestia let out a soft sigh that punctuated her words and somehow, she felt even more fatigued.

“Um, Celestia… just a question.” Bon Bon’s voice was low, fearful, and Bon Bon’s eyes darted around.

“Do ask,” Celestia replied.

“About Sentinel’s missing eye…” Bon Bon hemmed and hawed for a moment, her gaze dropping down to the floor.

“What about it?” Celestia felt her eyebrow rising and Bon Bon’s strange behaviour filled her with worry.

“Regular means of healing can’t bring it back… it’s gone, I understand that… but… but necromantic healing…” Bon Bon’s eyes went wide and fearful as she spoke and she squirmed away from Celestia, ashamed to even be uttering these words. “Sentinel could get another eye through necromancy, right?” Bon Bon’s last sentence was a fearful, desperate squeak, her vocal cords constricting with fear and shame.

“Yes.” Celestia’s reply was flat, terse, and held no trace of emotion. She looked down at Bon Bon, wondering what the earth pony was thinking. Celestia had always taken Bon Bon to be a sensible sort, a wise, canny earth pony.

“It’s so unfair,” Bon Bon murmured, “it’s so unfair. I understand now what makes a pony step out of the light… I understand why they would do… that sort of thing. It’s so unfair that for all of our magic, for all of the good we can do… some things can’t be fixed. I can see how love can be turned against us.” Bon Bon shook her head and her drooping ears flopped against her face. “I’m so ashamed I even thought about it, but the thought just came into my mind all of a sudden and wouldn’t go away. The temptation… it feels so wrong. It’s almost as if something preys upon our love and our desperation.”

Celestia’s heart swelled with pity; emotion returned to her face and to her voice. “Things do, Bon Bon, things do. Bad things happen and there is no easy solution, there is only suffering and sacrifice. If an easy solution is presented, it usually comes with a terrible price. These solutions are often offered when we are weakest, when we are at our lowest points. We must resist them.”

“I know.” Bon Bon’s voice was a shrill squeak of pain and tears now streamed down her cheeks. “But I hate knowing that Sentinel could have his eye back. It seems like such a simple thing… and I keep thinking, ‘would it be so bad?’ and I feel so conflicted.”

“A mother’s worry makes her desperate.” Celestia’s voice lowered. “This is something I know all too well. For me, well… for me, it has led me to dark places that I regret going. It has made me do things that I regret. I have done things that I’m sorry for.”

“It’s us, isn’t it?” Bon Bon looked up and blinked. “Us little ponies… I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you. I have a small herd of foals… a few more than most mothers, and at times, they drive me crazy. I worry so much about them.” Bon Bon blinked away a few tears and sniffled, trying to clear her nose from snot. “You can’t even count all of your foals that you worry about, can you?”

“No… I cannot…”

 

 

Diamond Tiara found herself in a room full of predators. It was becoming commonplace for her and it bothered her less and less. Lugus was reclining upon a large pile of cushions set upon the floor, his tail twitching from side to side and his long, razor sharp claws tapped upon the floor as he drummed out a rhythm. Boadicea was fawning over Prince Beauregard, Agnetha’s cub, while Agnetha watched with a mother’s pride. King Tannis paced back and forth, his crest high, his foot pads and talons making very little sound as he moved.

Here, Diamond Tiara was little more than a snack, but she felt safe, secure, there was even some strange sense of belonging. She was learning griffon politics, getting a bit of a crash course in the goings on of the griffons.

“Gossamer is coming… I do so very much want to impress her. I want her to see the good we are doing here… I want her to see our potential,” Tannis said as he paced to and fro.

“Tannis, you worry too much.” Agnetha looked at her husband, her feathers fluffing out and her beak clicked together a few times.

“Gossamer is a good griffoness. She left our homeland… she had the courage to go, to flee, she had the bravery to think that we were wrong. I want her to see that we, the survivors of Griffonholm, are also good griffons. That we are virtuous.” Tannis came to a halt, puffed out his chest, and flared his wings. “I want her to see that we are noble and honourable—”

“Oh, here we go, griffon honour,” Agnetha said as she rolled her eyes.

“The collective honour of the griffons almost wiped out our species.” Lugus lifted his head, gave a yawn, gave himself a shake, and then began to study his talon claws. “Still, I understand Tannis’ fears. He is the son of Tanner, one of the kings that brought Griffonholm to ruin. A son can be made to pay for his father’s mistakes.”

“I am paying for my father’s mistakes… I am now a king without a kingdom. Our empire is a flock of refugees that depend upon the kindness of others. I worry at how Gossamer will perceive us.” Tannis began to pace again.

Diamond Tiara, thoughtful, understood the worry of living in fear of what others thought of you. A growing sympathy filled her heart for Tannis. She thought about honour, personal codes, and then thought of Sentinel. She felt a shudder go coursing through her body. Sentinel lived, and would probably die because of his rigid code of personal beliefs about right and wrong, self accountability, and setting a high standard for one’s self.

“Princess Celestia wants us to begin creating a Flock of Representatives to work with the Stable of Representatives. The same rules will apply. I am in need of honourable indi—”

“No.” Lugus spoke with a flat, forceful voice.

“No? You would refuse your king?” Tannis turned around and faced Lugus.

“I would tell Bucky no as well,” Lugus said, sounding annoyed. “I am a knight. I sometimes find myself in positions of leadership, like during the war. But I have enough duties to keep me busy. I have Raptors to train, a squire to look after, a wife to keep happy, and then there is Boadicea—”

“Hey!” Boadicea squawked.

“—who causes me no end of worry, frustration, and fear as I lay awake at night wondering who she is going to strangle next with piano wire.” Lugus leveled his stern gaze upon Boadicea. “Or steal a gun from the armory. Or what you and Loki, that horrid little harrier, conspire to do when nobirdy is around to keep a much needed eye upon you, you treacherous little corvid.”

“I don’t have to put up with your flockism.” Boadicea turned away from Lugus and winked at Agnetha, who was shaking with silent laughter.

Boadicea’s words made Diamond Tiara stop and think. Ponies had enough difficulty getting along with three major tribes. Pegasus ponies, unicorns, and earth ponies had plenty to bicker and squabble about. How many different types of griffons where there? The griffons had three castes, the artist griffon, the hunter griffon, and the warrior griffon, but there were also types. Boadicea was crow-like and Lugus was eagle-like. There were some real differences between the two, more than just the shape of their beaks.

It was something of a revelation for Diamond Tiara. There were some fundamental differences between griffons. Their physical differences affected their behaviour. Boadicea, a corvid, was smart, witty, fast, and Diamond Tiara knew that her friend relied upon cunning and stealth. Lugus, on the other hoof, was big. So very big. Lugus was larger than the average pony’s couch, the sort of couch that three or four ponies could sit upon. Lugus, from what Diamond Tiara knew, did not rely upon stealth very much. He tended to just drop in and attack, using his massive bulk to intimidate, shock, and awe. Lugus didn’t have to be sneaky, or have cunning to gain an edge in battle. Lugus simply had to be Lugus and use brute force, something that Boadicea was incapable of.

With those fundamental differences came very different approaches to life, just like how it was for ponies. Diamond Tiara, an earth pony, faced everything from a ground bound perspective. She saw distances as something she had to walk. Being an earth pony, she saw tasks as something she had to power through. She had no idea what it might be like to be a pegasus, who saw distance as something inconsequential, or a unicorn that could clear an entire orchard in a day, where it might take a group of earth ponies a week.

“I understand, Lugus. I’m disappointed, but I understand… there are so few warrior griffons… your kind is almost extinct… I wanted to see some representation for the warriors.” Tannis let out a weary sigh. “The little artist griffons don’t want to do it either… most of them are far too skittish and fearful still. They’re still adjusting to freedom. I don’t want our Flock of Representatives to just be hunter griffons… it feels too much like how it was back home with the hunters in charge and running the show.”

“Change will take time… maybe generations.” Agnetha lifted Beauregard and held the peeping cub in her talons. “We must guard ourselves against complacency in the meanwhile.”

“I have an idea,” Diamond Tiara said.

When every eye in the room focused upon her, Diamond Tiara could not help but feel a little nervous. Every eye was so predatory and birdlike. Each head turned, cocked, crests rose, and avian intelligence glittered in each eye. Diamond Tiara swallowed and found her voice.

“Maybe getting a Flock of Representatives right now is a bad idea that the griffons just aren’t ready for. Maybe, instead, you should focus your efforts on school politics.”

“School politics?” Tannis blinked a few times and his head tilted off to one side.

“Do go on,” Agnetha insisted.

“Create programs to get little griffons interested in politics. Civics. Have political clubs. Get little griffons interested in running for things like class president, or to become a member of the student body, or any number of other school political positions. It will be something that they will be comfortable with, something familiar, and they will grow up. There’s your future Flock of Representatives.” Diamond Tiara rubbed her chin and felt satisfied with what she had said.

“I like this thinking.” Tannis’ head bobbed up and down with enthusiasm, his neck feathers fluffing out as he moved. “Please, tell me more of this idea… I want to know more of what your school is like. Please?”

Diamond Tiara nodded, glad for the distraction. “Sure thing, I’ll be glad to help…”

 

 

 

 

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