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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Below, a storm raged. Ripple felt unsettled and uncertain as she watched. Above, the sun shone down, creating a field of glittering diamonds upon the black and grey clouds down below. Her side ached, but she ignored the dull, stabbing throb. This was only the beginning. Drowning the ants and saving the village was only the beginning. The first real step. From here on out, her responsibilities would be unending. One long fight that would only end with her death or old age. It was a sobering thought and it dulled the sweet taste of victory.

Thunder rumbled as rain both brought and ended life in the desert below.

Now that she had proven herself, even more would be expected from her. More would be demanded from her. No more slip ups, no more acting like a goof, no more mental slip ups; from here on out, she had to be the best pony that she was capable of so that she could best serve Equestria. And she would serve. She already had her princess picked out.

When Ripple had stumbled and had her mental breakdown, it had been Princess Celestia that had picked her back up. That one act of gentleness had made a difference and was remembered. She was going to go home, bow her proud neck, and offer fealty to the Sun.

An issue complicated by the fact that she wanted to undergo the shadowbolt transformation. Ripple realised it wasn’t an easy path, in fact, it was probably the path most difficult to take, which is why she wanted it. The Sun would cast a shadow, and Ripple wanted to be that shadow. The Solar Guard needed new leadership… it needed restructuring. Ripple had hopes and dreams that she could be a part of that in some form.

She had done the difficult part. She would go home and be recognised as a knight. The hardest part was done. Now her real work could begin. She would get a promotion in rank no doubt. She planned to have Gofannon promoted as well. Ripple still had a ship because of Gofannon. Her fledglings were all safe and accounted for. Rumble had earned himself a valuable, worthwhile cutie mark. Scootaloo had gained experience as a pilot. Archer’s legend as a gunner was off to a roaring good start. Boadicea had proven herself capable in all out combat, keeping Archer safe so Archer could continue to operate the deck gun without pause. More than that, every Raptor in this battle was alive and accounted for.

Ripple was positive that those left in the village were fine. When the storm subsided a bit, she planned to fly over there and check. She wasn’t worried in the slightest. Lugus not only had his axe, but he was armed with a lever action rifle. Callum was armed with Freyja. Yew Wood was an undisputed master of hoof-fu, though perhaps not quite as good as Ripple herself.

The only real casualty so far had been some pieces of armor and maybe a little bit of Loki’s sanity. The mad little harrier had ignored the bites, the stings, and other assorted acts of violence visited upon him and had killed many. Loki was her constant companion in battle, but, because of his bloodlust and recklessness, he was not a good candidate for leadership or promotion. Loki was crazy when he went into battle. He was Ripple’s chosen berserker and she loved him.

 

 

Thunder rumbled and a steady drizzle poured down upon them as they drifted over the new lake down below. There was the sharp report of a rifle and it echoed in the ears of all aboard. Some of the ants had survived the flooding—they were too big to swim and easy to drown, but some of the ants had used both larvae and pupae as makeshift life preservers.

The tenacious survivors were easy to shoot. Ant corpses sometimes bobbed up to the surface, sometimes with still twitching legs. When a large mass of ants floating on makeshift life preservers had been spotted, a shock bomb had been dropped into their midst and Belisama had shot the glass orb with her rifle just before it hit the water. The resulting electrical surge was devastating and fatal. With a single shot, Belisama killed by the score.

Ripple’s head jerked when she heard the sharp crack of another rifle shot. She turned and saw Boadicea holding Fleshrender’s rifle, and Belisama was holding Boadicea. Belisama looked proud. Ripple suspected that a tradition of sharpshooters among the griffon queens had been started. Boadicea’s crest stood high and Belisama’s talons were wrapped around Boadicea’s foreleg in an affectionate manner. With sharpshooting griffon queens, Ripple was certain that future generations of ponies would be kept safe by their fierce feline protectors.

She had a good look around the deck. Rumble and Scootaloo were sitting together. Not side by side, but together, pressed against one another. Ripple was certain that there would be kissing later when nopony was looking. Both looked exhausted. Archer was polishing her deck gun, cleaning it from top to bottom, removing all of the soot, grime, and filth from battle. Somepony or somebirdy had taken some charcoal and scribbled the words ‘born to kill’ on Archer’s soup bowl helmet. North Star was still in his armor and Kiara, also in armor, was sitting on his back. Their armor was blackened and scorched. North Star in particular would need some armor repair. His armor was battered, but not breached.

The hum of the engines droned in Ripple’s ears and for some reason, it made her feel sleepy. The ship needed new engines, new controls, the ship still needed a lot of work, upgrades that would happen over time. The sharp crack of a rifle made Ripple’s ears stand up. Even with the gunfire, this was relaxing.

 

 

Ripple’s rest and relaxation came to an abrupt end when a long shadow passed overhead. She craned her head skyward, trying to see around the gasbag, and she could feel her heart pumping. She didn’t know what had just flown overhead, but it was big. Only a few things could get that big.

Turning, she saw them. Two large dragons and over a dozen smaller dragons. They landed on the edge of the new lake and the little ones began drinking. Ripple’s head turned to one side to check out her wing. It hurt, but she could fly on it if she had to. Dragons were supposed to be friendly.

Spreading her wings, she took flight, heading off to say hello to a family of dragons.

 

 

Ripple approached, cautious, but optimistic. The dragons didn’t seem hostile and watched her as she drew near. She wasn’t sure how to be respectful to a dragon, so she kept her posture as neutral as possible and moved with slow, confident grace. She kept her wings tucked against her sides and made no sudden movements. In her side where she had been pierced, the ache made her feel a little woozy, but she ignored it. She had work to do.

“Hullo,” the big female rumbled in a booming voice that filled the air with smoke.

“Hi,” Ripple replied, “my name is Squire Ripple and I came over to say hello.”

“My name is Silverscale and this is my husband, Bad Bite. I don’t remember this lake being here. I came here once long ago when I was but a hatchling. We’re looking for a nice place to settle down and rear our young.” The big female lowered her head down near Ripple. “Other dragons are jerks and we want our offspring to have good manners. I’m sick of my kind having a bad reputation.”

“I, uh, am sorta responsible for making this lake.” Ripple shuffled on her hooves. “Long story. I had to battle with a bunch of fire breathing ants. I drowned them. Say…” Ripple looked up at the dragoness and smiled. “I bet the ants are delicious. If you happen to see any that have survived, feel free to eat them. There’s a village of ponies not too far from here. They could use a group of protectors. I know things are a little strained right now for dragons and ponies.”

“This good place,” Bad Bite said in a gruff voice. “Much water. Many minerals. Good rock for eating. We stay. Raise young. Dig mine. Make more young… heh heh heh.”

“Hush dear, don’t be brutish around company,” Silverscale said to her husband as she made a dismissive wave with her claws. She returned her gaze to Ripple. “I’m sure the ants will be delicious as a treat. Chitin is full of minerals we need. We’ll be happy to help out.”

“As for the ponies in the village, they might be scared for a while, but give them a chance. I’m positive that they will see that you are friendly and they’ll warm up to you.” Ripple beamed up at the big dragon after she decided that she liked Silverscale. “The lake will dry up. I don’t know if this is the best place to stay in the long term.”

“We dig deep. Bring up water from far below. Keep lake full.” Bad Bite lowered his head down to look at Ripple and drummed his claws upon the ground.

“Say, you know, the ponies in the village face constant water shortages…” Ripple waited for her words to sink in and she had a hopeful expression upon her face as she looked up at the two massive dragons that had to be more than thirty feet long each. The female was even larger than the male.

“Hmm.” Silverscale began to scratch her pointy chin with a curved claw. “We can share water, but it would be nice to have something in return.”

“Hey, I think something could be worked out,” Ripple replied, feeling quite pleased with herself. Not only had she killed the ants, but now she was hammering out a protection treaty with water benefits and she wasn’t even knighted yet.

“Ponies could work in mine, pull carts, do tiny work that dragons can’t.” Bad Bite lifted his head up and sat back on his immense haunches. “We give water and share of shinies. Make good example for offspring.”

“Yes, that would be a fine example.” Ripple was pleased as punch. Being friendly had its advantages. All she had to do now was head back to the village and spring the news on them that they now had dragons as neighbors and they needed to send somepony from the village over for a talk.

It would be easy peasy. Ripple was sure of it. The village had to have at least one brave, open minded pony that could be tasked with diplomacy duty. The little dragons were already frolicking in the water and catching the drizzling rain in their mouths. A few of them were watching Ripple, and she smiled at them. One smiled back and smoke rose from the corners of his mouth. He wasn’t much bigger than Spike, but he had wings.

“Ripple?” Silverscale asked.

“Yes?” Ripple looked up and did her best to look helpful.

“Will we be safe here?” Silverscale asked as she looked at her offspring.

“You should be safe,” Ripple replied. “Not much here that can threaten a dragon.”

“No… no… no…” Silverscale shook her head. “We have come a long way. War is brewing on the far side of the world. War with the ponies. Tensions are rising. There are ponies who start fights with dragons and things have grown bad. We came over here to avoid war… but if war happens… will the princesses let us live here in peace?”

“Yes.” Ripple said it without hesitation.

“I’ve heard stories… troubling stories about a pony that is war incarnate. He commands ice and brings death everywhere he goes. He destroyed Griffonholm. He is why I came here… I don’t want any trouble with him… I just want to rear my young in peace.” Silverscale began to wring her claws together. “War is coming, I just know it. Things were getting ugly back at home. I fear that he would bring winter to the dragon lands just as he brought winter to Griffonholm.”

“You don’t need to worry about him,” Ripple said in a reassuring voice. It felt funny to be discussing her father like this. To see the fear that he caused. To see it from another perspective, a different perspective. It was hard to deal with the idea that Bucky wasn’t always seen as the good guy. “He’s not a threat to you. Just be good to ponies, be good to your neighbors for that matter, ponies or not, and live in peace. Those who live in peace have nothing to fear from him.”

“Are you certain of this?” Silverscale asked. “The world has grown small. There are so few places left to go. There are no wild places for us to flee to and we no longer wish to be in the dragon lands in the utter east.”

“I give you my word as a squire that you have nothing to fear from him or the princesses, provided that you keep the peace. If you protect your neighbors, you in turn will be protected. That’s how we do things here. The biggest and the most powerful are expected to protect everything smaller and weaker than they are.” Ripple’s ears stood up and she tried to look as reassuring as she could. She saw Silverscale let out a puff of smoke and she hoped that it was a huff of relief.

“The world has grown strange and uncertain… I just want to rear my young,” Silverscale said to Ripple.

“It’s funny you say that,” Ripple replied, “because he wants the same thing. He complains endlessly about the fact that no one can seem to behave themselves so he can be left alone to get drunk, screw, and raise his foals.” Ripple saw Silverscale’s head jerk back.

“You know him, don’t you?” Silverscale asked in a worried voice.

Ripple nodded and a wide grin split her muzzle. “I’m his daughter! He’s my daddy and I love him to pieces!”

 

 

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