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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Standing near the front edge of her ship, Ripple surveyed the valley below. Far off in the distance she could see a village that circled an oasis, a small patch of green that existed in the rocky, sandy San Palomino desert. She saw no sign of the giant fire ants, but she did not doubt their existence.

She had no intention of landing or putting her ship anywhere near the ground. The gasbag was vulnerable to fire and much of the ship was made of wood. She began to pace along the front edge, looking down, and admiring the dull orange sunset off in the west.

“Wing Corporal Callum, Private Freyja, I need you both.”

Turning her head, she saw the two griffons looking at her, and she knew enough about griffon facial expressions to notice their wide, expectant stares. She turned her whole body to face them and came to a halt, no longer pacing.

“I would like the two of you to go to the village and let them know that we are here,” Ripple said to the pair. She drew in a deep breath and then continued, “Reassure them. You will be my eyes and ears in the village. I will be sending reinforcements down there to help you guard them, but I haven’t yet decided who.”

“Um, Squire Cornet Ripple, wouldn’t it be better for you to go and speak to them?” Callum asked.

“Why would it be better for me to speak to them, Callum?” Ripple arched her eyebrow at the griffon to let him know that she was a bit irritated about having her orders questioned.

“Well, you are a pony,” the dove like griffon replied, “and I am a griffon.”

“Callum,” Ripple began in a patient voice, “you are my messenger. You wear silver armor. I send you out to be my mouthpiece. Now, I understand your hesitation, I do, you are dealing with ponies that might be scared of griffons… I get that, I do. I need you to carry messages for me and the griffons need you to be their messenger too. You need to send a message that the griffons can be trusted. Ponies need to know that when the Raptors arrive, we are there to thrash monsters and deal with threats to Equestria and all who live there. When I send you out, you are carrying the hopes and dreams of your species—”

“Callum, what she’s trying to say is, stop being a chicken!” Freyja said to her mate.

“Yes… but I was trying to be diplomatic about it.” Ripple smiled to let Callum know that everything was okay. She turned away from the two griffons and peered off at the town in the distance. “We do need to reassure them though. I think I’ll send both Yew and Lugus to help guard the town.”

“It’s impossible not to like Yew,” Callum said, doing his best to be agreeable. “Shall we escort Queen Belisama? Having a visiting queen might bolster the spirits of the villagers.”

“Good call, Callum.” Ripple glanced back at the griffon, impressed. “Escort Queen Belisama down to the village and let them know that their troubles will soon be over.”

“We shall depart at once,” Freyja said to Ripple as she gave a tug upon her mate. “Come on, you… before you start strutting and showing off.”

Ripple watched them depart, heading back to the cabin to find Belisama. Each of her Raptors had a skill that she valued. Callum was a natural born messenger and Freyja was the only Raptor that could compete with Loki’s combat abilities. Together, they made for an ideal pair and Ripple never had to worry if her messenger was safe. Ripple suspected that if Callum was threatened, Freyja could become the most ferocious of all the Raptors in defense of her special somebirdy. The little griffoness had finally allowed herself to love after experiencing so much loss. It made Ripple think of romantic, chivalrous thoughts.

Ripple could see herself razing a continent for Bittersweet or her herdmates. Sure, that sort of thing was frowned upon, but it was fun to think about. Righteous fury unleashed. She knew her father would understand. Bucky would approve. It was fun to think about what her father might do if something was to harm a single, solitary feather on Derpy. Or if something hurt Berry. Ripple didn’t want to be a warmonger, not at all, but she did have fun thinking about the sort of overblown responses that could be made in the name of love.

The fantasy was fun—the reality; not so much.

Ants were ground dwelling creatures. Ripple was already making plans on how she would deal with them. Drawing them out somehow would be important, and then a dedicated air campaign perhaps. When the ants’ numbers were thinned out, when she felt confident that a majority of the ants’ forces were no more, phase two would begin. Go underground into the ant tunnels and begin systematic extermination of the fire breathing menaces. The little griffons would be ideal combatants in the underground tunnels. They had crossbows and a selection of small, easy to use firearms. Ripple’s head almost exploded with pride when she had discovered that she was trusted enough to be armed.

Victory would be declared when the fire ant queen was no more. After that, there would be hearty thank yous from the townsponies and then they would head home. This was almost too easy.

 

 

The night was dark, full of stars, and peaceful. Belisama sat upon a barrel, feeling lonesome, feeling a need to throw back her head and yowl. Bandua was at home, with Bucky, with the rest of her pride. She flexed her talons, kept her eyes upon the stars, and wished she was home.

The little griffoness, who had been born a servant, a slave, saw little difference in her current status as queen. She was still a servant. She still had unpleasant tasks that she had to finish. This was a job, a job like any other, and there were vermin that needed extermination. The fire ants preyed upon the ponies that lived here. On the inside, she was divided; a part of her was satisfied to be here, to be doing good, to be the hero. The rest of her wanted to be home. She wanted to be curled up beside Bucky, nested in the bed. Or being used as a pillow by somepony that she so dearly loved.

And make no mistake, she loved them. Which was the reason why she was here, in the San Palomino desert, sitting on a barrel located upon a repurposed skiff, staring at the stars, contemplating on the complexities in her life. She scratched at her wing joint with her talons and glanced over at the others sharing the night with her. Scootaloo and Rumble had guard duty and were patrolling the deck together. She could hear them talking, making plans, discussing something they both had an invested interest in; Applebloom.

North Star stood near the engines and Kiara was perched upon his head, keeping his ears warm. It was easy to mistake her for a fuzzy, fluffy hat, right up to the point where she blinked. It was a source of never ending amusement for all of the Raptors.

Everything was ready for the purge. There were lots of potions of fire immunity stocked up. Each potion would last for about thirty hours or so after drinking. Loki of course, would not need one, nor could he drink one, as they were awful poison for any fire aligned creatures such as him.

“Belisama?”

Hearing her name, Belisama turned and angled her head. She saw a weary looking Boadicea sitting on the deck, wrapped in a blanket draped over her back. Extending her talons, Belisama scooted over on her barrel and made room for Boadicea.

In silence, the griffoness cub climbed up beside Belisama, got settled in, and the blanket was wrapped around the both of them. Already, Boadicea was larger than Belisama and the cub held her elder close in a warm, devoted embrace.

“What’s on your mind, Bodi?” Belisama snuggled closer, thankful for both the blanket and the warm body. “You should be sleeping, it’s going to be a long day tomorrow, I think.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Boadicea replied, shaking her head.

“Missing Sentinel?” Belisama asked in a teasing voice.

“Maybe just a little bit,” Boadicea admitted, “but that isn’t what is keeping me awake.”

“Well then, what is?”Belisama became serious, turned her head around, and looked at Boadicea as her crest rose. She saw a troubled look in Boadicea’s eye and could feel the griffoness cub’s heart pounding beneath her ribs.

“I keep thinking about Griffonwood. About all this responsibility. And becoming queen later… I think I’m freaking out.” The young hunter griffon shook her head. “It’s all so much. It seems like just a few days ago I was sitting in a tiny dungeon cell thinking about how my life was going to end and now I’m wondering how my life will get started. It’s all too much.”

Belisama of course, understood. She had just lost her sister and her homeland in one fell swoop when she had been married—with marriage came responsibilities. So much had been expected of her and everything had been so overwhelming. It still was, sometimes.

“What if I’m not the griffoness everybirdy thinks I am and I turn out to be a cat brain? What if I fail? What if I can’t make Griffonwood prosperous? What if I let Sentinel down? What if I let Bucky down? Or Lugus… or Yew… oh stars, I don’t want to let Yew down, she’ll give me that look of hers and nothing hurts more than that. I think I’d rather fall upon a dull sword and disembowel myself.”

“That’s drastic,” Belisama said in a low whisper.

“Almost losing Sentinel made me realise that I love him.” Boadicea sucked in a deep breath and all of her feathers fluffed out. She shivered, but not from the chilly night air. “But to have Sentinel means having the future that comes along with him. It gets so complicated. He’s an alicorn now and he has all of these powerful responsibilities and so much is expected from him and I don’t know how he’s managing, but he is, and that’s amazing, but I’m not managing, because I’m just not.”

“Hmm.” Belisama took Boadicea’s right talons into her own and held them. It felt nice, as strange as it might be. This wasn’t something that griffons did back in Griffonholm. Holding each others’ talons was a new practice.

Boadicea let out a mournful sounding caw and then went silent, her crest going flat against her head. She pulled her twitching tail under the blanket with her, sighed, and tightened the blanket around both her and Belisama.

“I think you’ll do fine with Griffonwood. It’s a new place, a new home, with new ideas… it is a place where mistakes can be made and then corrected. You’ll be able to try out different things there and see what works. See what makes the griffons happy. There’s bound to be some mistakes, some failures, but you will have a whole bunch of friends willing to help you smooth everything over. Twilight will help you, so will Tannis and Agnetha, you have all of us, and me, and Lugus will always be there to help you—”

“He won’t be there forever.” Boadicea shook her head. “Something tells me that Lugus isn’t the sort that will allow himself to die of old age. When the time is right, he’ll pick a worthy foe and throw himself at it. If he survives that encounter, when he recovers, he will find another worthy foe. It is what his kind do when the years stretch on too long.”

Belisama fell silent after hearing Boadicea’s words. She couldn’t argue the point, but a part of her hoped that Lugus would want to grow old. The big griffon loved his mate, he loved Peekaboo, Brennus needed a father, and Boadicea needed his guidance. Losing Lugus would be a loss to all of griffonkind.

“I hope he doesn’t,” Boadicea whispered, “and I feel so selfish wanting him to stick around. I want him to stay. Sure, he thumped me and split my head open, but I was acting like vermin at the time. I need him. I need to hear his voice. He’s taught me so much.” Boadicea shivered and then shuddered. “I want him around when my own cubs are born. They’re going to need him. I know how I am… I won’t be able to sort them out. I get distracted by shiny things because I’m a corvid. They’ll need his level headed approach to life.”

“I too, understand the fear of coming loss,” Belisama admitted.

After a moment of silence, Boadicea nodded. “I bet you do.”

Realising that she and Boadicea shared so much in common, Belisama, Queen of the Griffon Empire, scooted around and pulled the younger griffoness into a tight, affectionate embrace. Together, sitting on a barrel, the two griffonesses contemplated their shared futures.

 

 

 

 

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