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 Bittersweet Sparkle flew at a slow, but steady pace, heading south southwest, towards the San Palomino desert. The ship might be a heap, but she was a good heap, serviceable, durable, and true. She could fly in a straight line, (provided the wind was willing) she didn’t leak much cloudstuff, and because of her narrow hull profile as a skiff, she could fly into a headwind without too much trouble.

Ripple paced the deck, anxious to be where she was going, eager to be in combat. She wore the war shoes her father had made for her, a light but strong helmet, and some light, flexible body armor that allowed her to move without encumbering her. Ripple’s defense, her greatest protection, was her pegasus precognition and her incredible speed. Her endless, constant training had produced a near perfect physical specimen.

Lugus was sprawled in a sunny patch on deck, watching the much smaller Raptors as they went about their business. A small silver spoon, which glittered in the sun, hung around his neck. Near to him, Yew Wood was chatting with Belisama, the two of them talking about their hippogriff offspring. Lugus was not idle as he lay sprawled upon the deck, no, he was sharpening a wicked looking hook sword that would be far better for close combat in the tight confines of the underground tunnels. Lugus was expecting to be a much smaller size.

Fledgling Scootaloo was getting flight instruction from Wing Corporal Gofannon. The little orange filly stood at the helm, actually piloting the craft as Gofannon stood nearby, offering advice. Gofannon himself had only recently earned his license as a pilot and the little griffon was proud to be considered knowledgeable enough to be an instructor.

Loki and Boadicea sat together, with Loki holding up glass bottles of different coloured liquids. Loki, the teacher, was giving Boadicea, his student, a lesson in various types of poisons and their creative uses. Poison that locked up the joints. Poison that caused paralysis. Poison that made the jaw clench so hard that the target might crush and break their teeth. It was a macabre lesson, and Boadicea hung on every spoken word from her fantastically lethal mentor.

Unknown to Loki, Archer was sitting some distance away, but her sharp ears were paying attention to everything being said. The little blue earth pony filly was trying to memorise all of the deadly knowledge, knowing that it would only improve her abilities as an archer.

In the middle of the deck, Rumble was getting close combat lessons from Angus, the hammerhead bird headed griffon. Angry Angus was giving Rumble a good working over, pulling no punches, leaving Rumble sweaty and bloody. Rumble had come into the Raptors as soft as cookie dough; the constant conditioning, the running, endurance training, and hard knocks style combat training was slowly turning Rumble (and the other Fledglings) into something else.

Lugus took a great deal of pride knowing that his training methods produced results.

The Raptors also took pride in Lugus’ training methods; they could both give and take punches, endure abuse, and despite being so small, they had managed to impress some of the Myrmidons, a feat that came with considerable bragging rights.

North Star, a Myrmidon but also a Raptor, watched as his mate Kiara sparred with Freyja. The two griffonesses were evenly matched in combat, Freyja was hard, brutal, and a heavy hitter, while Kiara was swift, quick to react, and was a master of combat improvisation.

Griffon combat was a terrible, horrible thing. While the Raptors did not use their claws upon each other, that was dirty pool, they did use their fists for practice in anticipation of the time when they would use their claws. The griffons grappled, punched, kicked, simulated clawing open each other's’ bellies, yowled, hissed, screeched, cawed, and generally made the most awful sounds while fighting. They would sneak up on each other, which was fair game, appreciated even, pounce one another, attempt to give one another a good natured throttling, and even acted as though they would gouge each other’s eyes out. The Raptors had trust though, and each of them knew that grievous injuries were not allowed. Everything else was fair game though. Any Raptor was fair game for a sneak attack, even the Fledglings, who had all become quite aware of their surroundings as a result.

Some Raptors were braver than others. Brigid, who it could be said could get high off of danger, liked to pick dangerous targets for her ambushes. She took a great deal of pride in the fact that she had snuck up on Lugus and was promptly thrashed for her efforts. She had snuck up on Yew Wood, and again, was smashed down for her efforts. She crept up on Ripple, and yet again, she had been hammered. Her moment of triumph though was sneaking up on Bucky, perhaps the single most dangerous act that any creature might do. He had turned her into a common housecat with a transmutation spell, placed a collar with a bell around her neck, and then had set her free in the yard. Brigid still had the collar and the bell as a trophy, and she bragged about it every chance she got when celebrating and drinking. Very few creatures could boast about sneaking up upon the Lord of Winter, and fewer still remained breathing.

As The Bittersweet Sparkle continued south, it was graced with a tailwind.

 

 

Bucky, drunk enough to be social, but sober enough to be observant, watched as Gossamer interacted with Tannis and Agnetha. Tannis and his mate Agnetha had changed. Living with Princess Celestia under her tutelage had made the two griffons almost unrecognisable from when he had met them in Griffonholm. Tannis was now a respected, capable leader, somebirdy that could even run Equestria if necessary, and Bucky knew that Princess Celestia trusted him without reservation. Tannis was growing to become the type of leader that he would have never been allowed to be in Griffonholm.

As for Agnetha, she too, had matured, had grown, and she showed spectacular leadership abilities. While Tannis was good at the day to day aspect of governance, Agnetha was the public face. She went to the hospitals, the libraries, the social functions, she followed Princess Celestia around to various Crown functions. Agnetha was a master of the social game of ruling and there were times when Bucky felt lost trying to understand her.

But he had no doubt, she and Tannis would lead the griffons to greatness.

Griffonwood (Formerly Hoofington) was being discussed. The city was already being rebuilt and reclaimed from the Everfree. Gossamer seemed excited that the griffons were getting their own city within Equestria, and she spoke of equality.

“Things are going much better than I had anticipated,” Odin said in a low, sonorous voice. “I had so many worries. So much depends upon this meeting and its outcome.” The grizzled griffon lifted his mug of mead, drank some down, set his mug back upon the table, leaned forwards, and looked Bucky in the eye. “Thank you, for this.”

“Oh, I had nothing to do with this,” Bucky replied.

“Minotaur shit.” Odin’s eyes narrowed. “You had this mead hall built. You put out a call for artisans, poets, and creative types. While Tannis and Agnetha work to restore our respect, your goal is to restore our culture. You’ve pulled me back from the very brink of death.”

Bucky let out a dismissive snort. “I only did what was necessary.”

“Was stabbing Hades to death necessary?” Odin asked.

“Yes,” Bucky replied without a second’s hesitation, “he threatened my Auntie. He wanted her dead. I will pull the still beating heart right of something’s chest if they do that.”

“You know, Bucky, for most, saying that you’ll rip their heart out of their chest is just an intimidating threat.” Odin lifted up his mug, took a sip, and shook his head. “But to have actually done it… and to Lord Hades no less… right now, many fear you.”

“There is nothing to fear.” Bucky lifted up his own mug, which was filled with rum and took a long gulp. “So long as the immortal powers that be do not actively oppose Celestia, or threaten her, or work against the peace process, they have nothing to fear from me.”

“Just out of curiousity, what have you done with the sword?” Odin asked.

“Hades’ blade?” Bucky’s eyebrows raised. “It is mine to keep. It is a powerful weapon under my influence. It can sever immortal ties. I’d like to think of it as an insurance policy. So long as everybody behaves themselves, it’ll stay in its box. If someone steps out of line, it comes out of the box and I will be forced to take another stab at the peace process. I will take as many stabs as is necessary.”

“Just how did you manage to sneak up on Hades, anyhow?” Odin gave a nod of thanks as a griffoness serving wench filled up his mug with mead.

“Powerful aversion spells, shadow magic, and a healthy dose of chaos.” Bucky let out a long, horrendous belch and then banged his mug on the table.

“And this is why no one feels safe,” Odin said in a sibilant whisper. “They want some assurances that you’re not just going to creep up behind them and do to them what you did to Hades. The current powers that be need assurances.”

“No.” Bucky’s single spoken syllable held the finality of a death knell.

“Bucky, they need to know that is safe to argue and debate. They’re all shitting themselves right now because of Scorch the Usurper giving you that dreadful weapon. Right now, everyone is caving to Celestia’s demands without question and none are refusing her for fear of what you might do. There needs to be a healthy amount of debate and arguing is valuable for the process of moving forwards.”

“Then they need to grow a pair,” Bucky replied, “and understand that I have no intentions of shanking them for simple debate or argument. My stance on the issue is clear. Threaten Celestia, actively work against the peace process, and I will come for you.”

Odin let out a frustrated peep, sighed, shook his head, and stared at Bucky.

“I don’t care that they are scared.” Bucky’s eyes narrowed. “For too long, the immortals of this world had no one holding them accountable. Now, all bets are off. I’ve shown that I can kill even the most powerful among them. They now live in mortal fear just like the rest of us. Scorpan is of the opinion that this is the best thing that could happen to the Council of Immortals… they needed to be shook up and snapped out of their stupour. Heifer Aestus also agrees. For too long, they were complacent, quiet, they lapsed into doing nothing because they stopped caring. Even Scorch retreated from the world. He allowed the years to pass and he did nothing. Now, events are happening that are forcing the immortals to react, to take notice, to get involved… and with the death of Lord Hades, the immortals now realise that there are consequences, even for them if they fail to do right. I have such a small window of influence. I’ll be dead in no time and the entire world will heave a sigh of relief when I’m gone. Many sphincters will unclench. But while I am here… there will be changes.

“So… the bogeypony now scares even the immortals.” Odin blinked, having come to an understanding. “You’re not acting as the alicorn of war—”

“No, no I am not,” Bucky replied, cutting Odin off. “I have reached deep and sought out my other influences. I am fulfilling the function I am intended for. I have other mantles I have inherited. And when I am gone”—Bucky’s head turned and he looked over where Bandua was on display—“she will take up my cause and scare those who wander away from the light.”

“Well, I did intend for her to act as the bearer of nightmares for the griffons.” Odin slumped down in his chair. “And I did want her to serve the role of the bogeybirdy. Somebirdy has to keep the griffons on the straight and narrow. That was the nature of the deal.”

“And you are getting that,” Bucky said in a voice made gritty by strong drink. “This world must have a future. Somehow, we must wrestle away control and allow for life to continue. The old mistakes of the past must be corrected. It can be done, I am sure of it, and I agree with Scorch—Celestia is our best option. Her soul, Light, comes directly from our creator. She is his direct descendent, and as such, that makes her powerful. We just need to make her powerful enough to challenge him. This is the endgame, the task I must finish before my string gets cut and my life ends. I have declared war upon our creator.”

Clutching his mug, Odin trembled at Bucky’s words. There were bound to be consequences for such an action. He took a drink, looked at Bucky, and then took another drink. After giving it some thought, Odin realised that he had nothing to say.

A most dangerous game had just been engaged, and killing Lord Hades had been the opening move. Odin had no idea how this would turn out and he feared the future. How did one fight a being that could undo existence on a whim? Odin didn’t know, but he suspected that he was going to find out.

 

 

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