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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The mead hall was full of life and a little smoky. Bucky sat in his proper place, giving furtive glances over at the statue of Belisama and studying the griffoness known as Gossamer. The griffoness was either the largest hunter he had ever seen, or the smallest warrior. Or perhaps warrior griffonesses were somewhat smaller than their male counterparts.

Gossamer, covered in scars, had seen a hard life. She still had both eyes, but just barely. Her face was marred with deep furrows where she had been clawed. She was missing patches of feathers and fur. She was missing a talon finger from her right talons. No denying though, she was beautiful, at least by griffon standards of beauty. She moved with a sleek, confident grace, a predatory amble, and her tail swished around as though it had a life of its own.

The big, gruff griffoness spent most of her time watching Odin, some of her time examining Tannis, almost none of her time looking at Agnetha, and Bucky could not help but feel that he was being ignored. It was almost as if he wasn’t worth noticing—perhaps because he wasn’t a griffon, but he didn’t want to make dangerous, damaging assumptions. There had to be a reason, he would find out in time.

In the corner, Magpie was looking after the royal brood; Belisama had left Bandua here and little Beauregard let out a never ending stream of excited peeps when he saw Magpie, the griffoness nanny. Magpie fretted over them both, keeping them together on a blanket, all while looking very, very proud of herself for looking after two most important griffons.

As a serving wench filled their glasses, Gossamer spoke.

“You…” she looked at Odin through narrowed eyes. “You sat and you did nothing while our species declined into madness, disease, and death. What do you have to say for yourself, old timer?”

The old griffon’s crest stood up and for a moment, Bucky could see the rage on Odin’s face. But the old griffon held his beak and after a moment of silence that stretched out for several long seconds, the old griffon replied.

“The griffons abandoned me. I was cast aside and belief in me waned down to near non-existence. I became powerless and there was very little I could do. I became a near non-entity. Immortal, unable to die, but lingering at the verge of death for an age.”

Bucky watched as Gossamer’s eyes narrowed and her head tilted off to a quizzical angle. Odin’s talons clenched and Bucky eyed the old griffon as he smoothed over his ruffled feathers.

“Surely you could have done something,” Bucky heard Gossamer say in a low voice.

“What?” Odin replied. “What could I have done? I was forsaken for bloodthirsty entities and demons! The entire culture of art, poetry, and music that I had worked so long to cultivate was destroyed! My mead halls were torn down and shrines for bloody sacrifices were constructed on their ruins! I watched everything I worked for get dismantled and destroyed, piece by piece… what was I to do?”

Gossamer’s hard, flinty expression softened. “So then, there was really nothing you could do.” The big griffoness slumped over, glanced at Tannis and then shook her head. “I suppose you were powerless as well. Forgive me, but I still carry so much anger. Part of me still wants to find somebirdy to blame.”

In that moment, Bucky understood why he was being ignored, while Odin and Tannis were getting the lion’s share of attention. He felt Gossamer’s pain, he knew the madness of the griffons. He had been there, he had seen it, and knowing how she had fled her homeland, Bucky knew that she had seen it as well. She wanted somebirdy to blame. Turning his head, he saw Odin panting with anger, the small griffon’s girth rising and falling. Odin’s feathers were ruffled.

“I did everything I could,” Tannis said in a low voice that was as smooth and fine as silk. “I knew that I wouldn’t be any good to anybirdy if I was dead, so I kept a low profile and worked under the guise of helping my father. I had to be very, very careful that I did not arouse suspicions. I could have done more, perhaps, but I might have put myself at risk. Had I exposed myself, I would have been unable to help anybirdy at all.”

“Well spoken, Tannis.” Agnetha looked at her husband, a griffon expression of pain upon her face.

Bucky’s eyes darted from face to face. There was a lot of pain and regret in this room. He too, had regrets and knew pain; there were a lot of things he wished he had done differently. Things he might have done better. Perhaps saying ‘I love you’ might have been more beneficial than being hard on somepony now departed, trying to drive her into Celestia’s good graces.

“Tell us more about yourself, Gossamer,” Bucky said to the proud griffoness. “Tell us about your colony. I don’t know about the others, but I am dying to know more.”

“I took a gaggle of griffons and I fled Griffonholm. We crossed the sea and looked for a new home. A new way. We settled in Saddle Arabia and they were kind enough to give us a territory by the sea. We made a city on the cliffs. I made a new way of life. We became pacifists, healers, herbalists. We laid down our weapons after our old life failed us. I made new laws, a new way of living. I’ve had to take drastic measures to make everything work.”

“Drastic measures?” Agnetha asked, looking curious.

Gossamer’s crest went flat against her head. “Some did not appreciate the new way. Some wanted violent conquest. Some wanted to raid and poach the Saddle Arabians, who had shown us kindness… we tied stones around them and tossed them into the sea. Those of us who could not adapt to the new way of life, those of us who resisted change, we put them down as a mercy, all too aware of the hypocrisy of our actions. We did what had to be done. There was a brief, bloody uprising and I had to put down even more of my fractured tribe. Many of the hunters and warriors refused to change… they seemed mad. Crazy. Unreasonable. They would not listen to reason. I was forced to do what I do well and I put them down. When everything was said and done, I had a colony that had a fair number of hunters and quite a few of the little griffons who showed almost no signs of the madness of the larger griffons.”

In a low voice, Bucky said, “It comes from eating—”

“I have since learned what causes the madness and bloodlust in my kith and kin.” Gossamer’s talons curled into a tight fist and her tail darted from side to side in agitation. “It does not make what I did any easier, but I understand and accept that they had to be purged.”

Nodding, Bucky thought about what he did in the griffon nursery. He felt a stab of guilt, a wave of remorse hit him, and he glanced over at Magpie. Magpie understood. Magpie knew what the score was. Almost on a daily basis, Magpie told him that he had done the right thing. He had done them a kindness. What Bucky had done was an act of mercy. It still didn’t make it any easier.

“I’m sorry,” Odin said in an apologetic voice. “It has to have been very hard on you.”

Closing her eyes, Gossamer nodded. After a moment, she opened her eyes again and looked at Bucky. “I do not envy you. Out of all of us, the burden you must carry must be unbearable. The weight of rule must sit heavily upon your shoulders. You purged Griffonholm and carved the disease out of our species. You did what needed to be done. I admire you for your courage and for doing what you did. Griffon you might not be, but you will go down as one of our best kings.”

“Thank you,” Bucky replied, feeling a bit self conscious after listening to everything said. He wasn’t sure he deserved such high praise or flattery. He lifted up his mug and took a drink of mead, but wished that his mug was full of rum or strong drink. It would come later.

“We are a nation defined by tragedy.” Odin heaved a weary sigh, shook his head, and his grizzled crest lifted. “Our destroyer was our saviour. Those who fled home and were called cowards have become our heroes. We now exist due to the kindness of others, both the Saddle Arabians and the Equestrians.”

“The little griffons have become our saving grace. They are the best of us.” Gossamer lifted up her mug in salute. “In my colony I’ve had to enact strict laws about their care and treatment. Striking one, harming one, it brings about the fury of the lash. Killing one will get you drowned in the sea.”

“Pacifists, you say,” Tannis said to Gossamer.

Before Gossamer could reply, Agnetha cut in smoothly and said what needed to be said. “It is like those addicted to opium or other drugs… Gossamer’s remaining hunters are pacifists in the same way those addicted to opium must be dealt with and kept sober. Harsh measures must be taken to avoid relapse. This isn’t being done to be cruel, but to save those who are left. We hunters are far too proud for our own good. Extreme measures are necessary.”

“Well said.” Gossamer’s head lifted. “It is my hope that with the coming generations, we can be true pacifists. That we can leave our legacy of bloodlust behind. I want a colony of healers, alchemists, surgeons, I want good, gracious, gregarious griffons who can better the world.” The battered griffoness looked at Odin, then at Bucky. “And as the primary healer of my tribe, I’ll carve away whatever diseased flesh I have to so I can make this happen.”

“I think I can help you.” Bucky thought about his changelings, his healers, and he thought about the earth ponies that he had rescued from the mirror traveler’s homeworld. “Gossamer, you and I will talk later. I think I have something that will make your life a little easier.”

Once again, Gossamer’s talons clenched into a fist. She bent her foreleg and thumped her chest three times, slamming her balled up talons into her breastbone. She gave Bucky a fierce glance of gratitude.

“We must look to our future… if it preserves our species and gives us a grip upon our future, no measure, no act is too extreme,” Odin said in a sad sounding voice. The grizzled old griffon shook his head and then looked over at Bandua and Beauregard. “We do what we must do for them,” he continued, gesturing at the two cubs. “We cannot afford to relax our guard and be soft. Keg Smasher even understands this and so too the griffons who live under his rule. Thankfully, most of them aren’t mad from eating sapient creatures.”

“So how do we move forward from here?” Agnetha asked. The griffoness glanced over at her cub and then back at the group of assembled leaders. “There is much I worry about. Our future must be safeguarded.”

“We need to create a breeding exchange program.” Gossamer blinked a few times. “To guard our future, we must protect against the madness caused by inbreeding. There are too few of us left in the world. In time, we must make exchanges between our gathered groups to introduce new blood.”

“Hippogriffs are being born. The infusion of new blood will help us, as it has done so in the past.” Odin glanced over at Bandua and Beauregard, then turned and looked at Bucky. “I have always maintained that the hippogriffs are the best of us both. The very best that both ponies and griffons have to offer. They will be our saviours one day, I just know it.”

“Well, they are certainly a sign of unity,” Gossamer said in an agreeable voice. “But won’t we still breed ourselves out of existence if we mate with ponies?”

Odin shook his head. “So long as we keep breeding hippogriffs and griffon stock, we’ll come out okay. Griffons have dominant characteristics. In my many thousands of years of life, I’ve seen and observed much. Besides, the Fates have promised that we shall survive, provided that I keep my end of the agreement.”

“And what would that be?” Gossamer asked.

“I am forbidden to speak of it,” Odin replied.

Gossamer nodded. “We must remain creatures of our word if we are to ever regain the trust of the world. You do whatever must be done and we will do your work.” The big griffoness tapped her heart with her clenched talons once more in a show of unity.

“So… what is the best way to move forwards?” Tannis asked. “I suppose that should be what we focus upon for this first historic meeting. What do we do to assure our mutual survival and bring about the best that our species has to offer?”

Odin nodded. “That seems prudent. We have much to discuss…”

 

 

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