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The Book of Friendship

by BillyColt

Part 1: Learning


Chapter 1


The comb hung in mid-air, sparkling as it was carefully dragged through the brown mane. The white unicorn kept a close eye on the mirror, as he wanted to make sure that he presented himself as best as he could. He was going to meet somepony special today. Somepony he hoped he’d be very close to.


After diligently brushing his teeth, he headed downstairs. His name was White, and he certainly looked it – he was a white unicorn, obviously, with brown hair, blue eyes, and what a beaming smile for a cutie mark. He was the spitting image of white-bread-upper-middle-class-oh-no-I’m-in-some-sort-of-cheesy-family-sitcom-aren’t-I?


There was more to him than that, however. The title he answered to was Brother White, for he was a proud member of the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Celestia.

“Well,” he announced at the bottom of the stairs, “I’m off.”


“We wish you the best of luck,” said his father, who was also the spitting image of white-bread-upper-middle-class-oh-no-I’m-in-some-sort-of-cheesy-family-sitcom-aren’t-I?


“Remember to write us every week,” said his mother, hugging him. His mother was also the spitting image of white-bread-upper-middle-class-you-get-the-idea.

“I will, mother,” he said.


“And remember to brush your teeth,” she added.


“I always do.”


“And when you talk to your partner,” said his father, “remember to let him talk about things that interest him, not just you.”


“I will, dad,” he said, laughing nervously.


“And White?” Dad asked, just before he left.




“We love you.”


“I love you, too.”


With his goodbyes over, Brother White left his house, to take part in the most important thing he had ever done.


Another member of the Fraternity was sitting alone at a table. Occasionally, he smiled feebly at other ponies that were passing by. They didn’t pay him much attention – he didn’t say much. He was a dark blue earth pony with black hair, brown eyes, large round spectacles, and a rolled-up scroll as his cutie mark. He was waiting for the big ceremony, where they’d get their badges and then head off to their destination. His name was Scroll, and he was waiting for his mission partner, Brother White. He didn’t know what he looked like, though.


He saw the other ponies pairing up at tables, and he worried that he wouldn’t meet his partner until the ceremony, and if they weren’t friends before getting sent off, then it might be less like a friendship and more like “yeah, I have to work with you.” He didn’t want that.


“Hello,” said a unicorn, “this seat isn’t taken, is it?”


“Huh?” Scroll looked up. It was a white unicorn. “No, go right ahead.”


“Thanks,” said the unicorn, sitting down. There was an awkward silence – the blue earth pony wasn’t really one for conversation. Must’ve been shy. “Soo…”


“Is this thing working?” asked a pony at the microphone onstage, “Good. Well, Brothers (and Sisters), how are we feeling?”


“Great!” everypony in the room responded.


“Has everypony met their mission partner yet?”


There were various calls of “yes” and “uh-huh” through the hall, except from the white unicorn and the blue earth pony at the table.


“Now, today we’ve got something very special for all of you. Fillies and gentlecolts of the Fraternity, please give a warm hoof for – Princess Celestia!”


“You’re kidding,” said Brother Scroll, gaping as the Princess walked onstage.


“Thank you, Brother Emcee,” said Princess Celestia.


“I can’t believe it – the Princess is actually here!” Brother Scroll whispered frantically, “The actual Princess!”


“When the Fraternity was first founded, I was pleasantly surprised that there were other ponies who thought that the magic of friendship was worth sharing. I thank you for your time and dedication.”


“Now then,” said Brother Emcee, “when your names are called, come up to the stage and receive your badges. Now then – Sister Hope and Sister Starshine…”


The ponies went up as their names were called, receiving polite applause from the rest of the auditorium (more popular members got more applause).

“Sister Charity and Sister Promise...” continued Emcee.


“I’m nervous,” said Brother Scroll.


“Why’s that?”


“Brother White and Brother Scroll,” said Brother Emcee. Both the ponies stood up.


“You’re Brother White?” Brother Scroll asked, surprised, “well, I guess you are…”


“Good to meet you, Brother Scroll,” said Brother White, walking up the steps on the side of the stage, Brother Scroll close behind.


“Ready for your big mission?” Brother Emcee asked them quietly, holding out the badges – they read “Brother White” and “Brother Scroll.”


“You betcha!” said Brother White, eagerly taking his nametag. Brother Scroll, however, was staring at the ponies in the crowd.


“I’m standing in front of hundreds of ponies…” he said, stiff as a board.


“Hey, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal-”


“Of course it’s a big deal, that’s why it’s a ceremony!” Scroll whispered frantically.


“Are you feeling alright, Brother Scroll?” Princess Celestia asked softly.


“He’s good, just got a bit of the jitters,” Brother White said, taking Scroll’s nametag and slapping it on his chest (Scroll jumped, startled), “excited and all that,” White finished as he walked off the stage to modest applause.


Suddenly, Scroll bolted out the door. Brother White looked back on the stage, but they’d moved on to the next pair. He followed Brother Scroll out the door, onto a balcony – the poor earth pony was leaning on the railing, his head over the edge.


“I think I need an inhaler,” he said, “well, no, I don’t have asthma… maybe I need to throw up.”


“Ooooooookaaaaay,” said Brother White, walking up to him, “is something wrong?”


“I’m nervous,” said Brother Scroll, retreating back onto the balcony, “why do we have a balcony?”


“It’s a fancy place. But why are you nervous? I mean, ceremony wasn’t that bad-”


“Not just the ceremony, but the mission, the Fraternity, the whole thing. I don’t know what I thought I was getting myself into…” he was pacing back and forth frantically, “I don’t know, what did you do when you joined?”


Brother White was quiet for a minute. Then he laughed. “Join? Well, not really,” he said, “I mean, my parents were in the Fraternity. You mean, you just joined?”


“Uh-huh,” Scroll said, calming down, “I wasn’t born into it or anyth-”


“That’s GREAT!” said an excited Brother White, putting a leg around Brother Scroll “This is just great! I’ll be able to show you the ropes, help you out and everything. We’ll be the best of friends! No, we’ll be more than that!”


“I’d like that…” said Brother Scroll, smiling bashfully.


“So, are you ready?”


“I hope so.”


“I don’t think you needed to pack quite that much.”


Brother Scroll was laden down with an enormous pair of saddlebags. The two were getting ready to board their ship. Brother White’s saddlebags were much smaller.


“So, where is this place we’re going?” asked Brother White, holding a sheet of paper in front of him, “Earthquake Island?”


“It’s not really part of Equestria,” Brother Scroll explained, “their economic situation is lower than ours, and there are… racial tensions.”


“Racial tensions?”


“Yeah. The earth ponies, the unicorns, and the pegasus ponies don’t really get along well. I don’t know all the details, though.”


“There are two other Brothers working there – Brother Shine and Brother Sky.”


“Unicorn and pegasus, right?”




“White?” Scroll asked quietly. Brother White stopped and turned around.


“I’m nervous,” Scroll continued, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do anything. I mean, I just joined the Fraternity, and…”


“And what?”


Scroll lowered his head. “I’ve never really had a friend before.”


“Well, you’ll make tons of new friends,” reassured Brother White, “and look at it this way – you’re a living testament to the success of our Fraternity!”




“Yeah! Come on, we’re gonna do great!” and with White’s encouragement, Scroll climbed onboard, and they set off for Earthquake Island.


When they arrived two days later, they stepped off the boat and into the town. It didn’t seem like a particularly impoverished area – a little old-fashioned, maybe, with almost all of the buildings made out of unpainted wood, but there were tons of old-fashioned places in Equestria. It just wasn’t… shiny.


Brother White surveyed the town eagerly – earth ponies, and lots of them, going through their day-to-day activities. Then White noticed it – earth ponies, all of them.


“Not many unicorns here…”


“Not any unicorns here,” said Brother Scroll, looking around nervously, “just an earth pony town. All over the island, just earth ponies. No pegasus ponies, either…”


“No, there’s one!” said Brother White, pointing his head up in the direction of one frantic flier. There was a loud CRACKing sound in the air, and the pony seemed to lose his bearings. He hit the roof of one of the nearby buildings with a loud SLAM and fell off, several roofing tiles shattering on the ground after him.


The two good members of the Fraternity ran after him. He was picking himself off the ground, but with a great deal of difficulty.


“Hi!” said Brother White in his usual friendly manner, “We’re with the Fraternity. Is there something wrong here?”


The pegasus pony stared at them with an incredulous look on his face. “What?” he asked, as though he’d been told that the sky is filled with bananas.


“There he is!” shouted another voice – an earth pony who had rounded the corner. Two more earth ponies followed, and they had with them what appeared to be staves. They raised them and pointed them at the pegasus. The pegasus saw them, and was about to make a break for it, whenBANGBANGBANG!


The pegasus fell to the ground, dead. Brother White was covered in blood, and seemed to have gone numb from shock. The smile fell from his face and his right eye twitched involuntarily.


Brother Scroll started a panicked fit of breathing, at risk of hyperventilating, and he shouted,


“Oh, fuck, they have guns!”

Chapter 2

Brother White was in the shower, scrubbing frantically. He’d gotten splattered with blood, and he still wasn’t quite over that shock of seeing somepony murdered right in front of him.

The Fraternity had set up a mission house in the town, but White and Scroll were the only inhabitants – the previous missionaries, Brothers Sky and Shine, were nowhere to be seen.

The mission house was certainly the most modern of the buildings in the town. Fortunately for Brother White, it had a bathroom with a shower, which he had the feeling he’d desperately need on future occasions.

The main, large room had several chairs and a front desk, which had neat little stacks of the Fraternity’s most important text, the Book of Friendship.

“Uhh…” Brother Scroll was outside the door. He knocked, “White? You’ve been in there for a half-hour…”

The water shut off, but not because White had turned it off. “Hey!” White shouted from inside the bathroom. “Who did that?”

“I did,” said a menacing voice from the front door. It was a tall, bulky pony, the color of dry earth, and with what seemed to be a crack for a cutie mark. Scroll swore he could feel himself shrinking. The other pony continued talking, “I’m not about to give away all of our water on some horner.”

“‘Horner?’” Scroll asked dubiously, as Brother White came out of the bathroom, drying himself off with a towel. The other earth pony gave a snort of disgust.

“Im General Quake. I run this place,” said the earth pony.

“You alright?” Scroll asked White quietly.

“I’ll be fine,” said Brother White, before turning to the pony who had just used a racial slur against him. “Well hi,” he continued, ever cheerfully. Brother Scroll looked at him – he didn’t seem intimidated at all. “I’m Brother White, and this is Brother Scr-”

“I know who you are,” the general cut them off sternly, “more missionaries…”

“Yeeaaaaah,” said Brother Scroll, looking around, “about that ‘more’ part…”

“Where are Brothers Shine and Sky?” asked White, “We were hoping to meet them here.”

“Don’t know, don’t give a fuck,” said the general, “they went off with the other wingers and horners.”

“Huh?” Brother White asked, confused.

“I think…” said Brother Scroll, “he means that Sky went with the pegasus ponies and Shine went with the unicorns.”

“Really?” Brother White asked, “I didn’t hear about that. Wouldn’t they have sent that kind of thing in their letters?”

“Will you two shut up?” the general barked, “As far as I’m concerned, good riddance.”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say…” said Brother Scroll timidly.

“Well, I guess I’m not a nice guy, huh?” said the general, walking up to him, which caused Scroll to back into a wall, “You got a problem with that? What, you need your teddy bear now or something?”

“I’m sorry, I, I-”

“Leave him alone,” said Brother White, walking behind the general. The general turned to look at him.

“You know something?” the general asked, “You don’t fucking talk to me. You’re beneath me, and it’s only because I’m so fucking gracious that I don’t kill you right now. So I suggest you stay in line. One wrong hoof, and I’ll-”

“Aaaaaactually…” said Brother Scroll, regaining a little confidence. Quake turned to him. Scroll took a deep breath. “You can’t. Diplomatic immunity… We’re protected.”

Quake eyed both of them, and then circled around to the front of the room, “Sticking up for each other, ain’t ya?”

“It’s part of the magic of friendship, sir,” said Brother White, sensing an opportunity to win over the general, “Scroll and I are the best of friends.” He smiled at Scroll, who smiled back.

“What, are you…” Quake asked, “gay or something?” he looked at the two of them, “There’s no way you two’re straight.”

“Actually,” said Brother Scroll, “the Fraternity doesn’t like to use the word ‘straight.’”

Quake looked at him like he’d heard the dumbest thing in his life. White nodded to Scroll, encouraging him.

“Well…” said Brother Scroll, “the thing is, ‘straight’ means ‘morally upright.’ And if we were to refer to heterosexuality as being ‘straight,’ that would imply that others were morally wrong.”

“The Fraternity is accepting of ponies of all sexual orientations,” said Brother White, helping him, “be they heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, transsexual, pansexual…”

General Quake finally spoke up. “Well, that’d be fascinating to know if I gave a fuck. The only reason I let you say all that was because it was so stupid I couldn’t think of anything to say.” He turned to leave, “So, you just go around, handing out your fruity little book, but be warned – you’re only here because we’re letting you here. So don’t fucking push it.” And with that, General Quake left the mission.

Brother Scroll sank to the floor. “I can’t do this…” he said, “I can’t…”

“Sure you can!” said Brother White, sitting next to him, “You just did. You saw a big scary pony, and you stood up to him.”

“Well, not really…”

“Yes, really! You did great.”

Scroll looked at him. White was smiling that warm, encouraging smile. “You really think so?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” said White, “and remember,” he placed his hooves on Brother Scroll’s shoulders, “if you ever feel scared, or frightened, or ready to give up, or hopeless, just remember that I’m right here, next to you. I’m here for you, and I always will be.”

“Thanks…” said Brother Scroll.

“Now,” said Brother White, getting up and looking at the stack of books, “let’s go out and do great.”

There was an earth pony family that was sitting down to have lunch. Not a whole lot – just some bread and vegetables. There was a knock at the door. The patriarch of the family went to get it, grumbling – couldn’t they wait until later? Probably just solicitors…

He opened the door, and there were two ponies – one of them was a blue earth pony, and the other was a white-

“Get off of my doorstep, horner,” said the stallion who owned the house.

“Hello,” said Brother White, undeterred by the racism, “are you aware of the magic of friendship?”

The door shut.

“That was rude…” said Brother Scroll.

“Ah well. There are a lot of houses and a lot of doors,” said Brother White, leaving a book on the doorstep.

They went to the next house.

“Er…” said Brother Scroll, “White? Maybe I should handle it.”

“Alright,” said White, stepping back.

Brother Scroll knocked on the door, and then sat down, holding a book between his hooves. An old mare answered the door.

“Hello!” said Brother Scroll, “did you know that there are twenty-seven games you can play with just a pack of drinking straws?”

The door shut. They fared little better at the next household.

“Hi!” said Brother White, “I’m Brother White, and this is my partner, Brother Scroll…”

“So which of you is the top?”

Three hours later, and Scroll was very discouraged.

“Aww, man, what are we gonna do?” said Scroll, “how can we spread the Fraternity’s message if nopony wants to listen?”

“Somepony’ll listen eventually…” said Brother White, “if anypony needs friendship, it’s these ponies…” Brother White ducked as one of the books he’d left on the doorstep barely missed hitting his head, “even if they don’t realize it…” he said, gingerly picking it up and flipping through it to make sure it wasn’t damaged (it was). He sighed. Despite his ever-cheerful attitude, it discouraged him, too.

“Hey! Lemme go!” shouted a voice. The two missionaries ran towards the voice, and they saw a shocking sight – three earth ponies had another earth pony tied up and standing on a chair by his hind legs. One of the others took a rope and threw it over the branch of a tree, and lowered it down to him. The end of the rope had a loop.

“What’s that?” asked Brother White.

Scroll was trembling. “It’s a noose! They’re gonna lynch him!”

“What’s that mean?”

They’re gonna kill him!

Brother White stammered for a few seconds as the noose was fitted around the neck, and then he ran forward. “Wait! WAIT!” he shouted.

The earth ponies all looked at him.

“You can’t do this!” White said frantically.

“Why the fuck is a there a horner here?” asked one of the earth ponies, irritated.

Brother White had just about had enough of this.

“Hey, see this?” said Brother White, taking the badge off of his chest, “it’s got something written here. Can you read? Can you? It says ‘Brother White of the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Celestia.’ Now call me ‘Brother White,’ or just ‘Brother’ or ‘White,’ and not ‘horner.’”

The other ponies were silent.

“Now then…” said Brother White, calming down, “untie him,” he said, gesturing to the pony on the chair.

“Why?” asked one of the other ponies, distaste in every part of his countenance.

“Because you can’t just… murder people. We should all be friends!”

One of the ponies glared at him. “‘Friends?’ Is that what you think, chucklefuck?”

“I have a name…”

“You know what this bastard did?” he asked, gesturing to the frightened pony who was, quite literally, at the end of his rope. “Well?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“No, you don’t. Well, I’ll tell you. This little bastard’s out hankering around with my daughter, and you know what he does? He gets her knocked up. They panic, and you know what they decide to do?”

Brother White didn’t dare say anything.

“They get an abortion, and my daughter dies!” spat the older pony, “my daughter is dead. And you think I should be ‘friends’ with this sack of shit?”

The pony on the chair whimpered.

“You can’t just…”

“Yes I fucking can. Unless you or your missionary fuck-buddy can give your wonderful ‘Friendship’ advice.”

“Wait!” said Brother Scroll, who was frantically flipping through the book, “it, uh, it says here that if somepony does something wrong, then that pony should apologize and… and try to make up…” Scroll’s hooves shook as the older pony glared at him, and he dropped the book.

The older stallion bucked, and the chair went out from under the other pony. There was a snapping sound as his neck broke. The pony was dead.

White and Scroll were completely still as the rest of the crowd dispersed, leaving two missionaries and one corpse.

Chapter 3

“You really think it’ll help?”

“Sure!” said Brother Scroll, “I mean, hold on...”

It was evening, and they were walking down the road. Neither of them were feeling very good. It had been a bad first day - they’d witnessed two murders, and nopony was interested in hearing about friendship.

Brother Scroll stopped, sitting back on his haunches, taking one of their books and flipping through it.

“Right here,” he said, “good friends can have a lot of fun by going out on the town - restaurants, parties, plays, all kinds of stuff.”

“And this is a...”

“Tavern,” said Brother Scroll, closing the book and putting it back into his saddlebag, “we can get food and meet ponies.”

“Sure,” said Brother White, “sounds great.” It actually didn’t sound great to him. He’d been met with nothing but racism ever since he arrived, but it wasn’t as though the day could get worse for him.

He hoped.

The tavern they went to was in pretty much the same condition as the rest of the town - “bare essentials,” so to speak, all made of wood. Brother White fondly remembered one place he liked eating at back home. Whole building looked like an ice cream cone. No such places here - everything was brown or grey or black.

But he didn’t complain out loud. He looked around as they entered. Two adjectives described the place - loud and hot. There was a fireplace that seemed larger than necessary, with a fire that took up roughly a quarter of the space provided by the hearth.

There were a lot of ponies in there, mostly stallions, save for the barmaid, a cream-colored filly with what appeared to be a frothy mug for a cutie mark. The stallions were all loud, and conversations were nearly unintelligible. Occasionally the Brothers could hear somepony trying to sing.

Brother Scroll tried to keep up the cheerful attitude White had exemplified earlier. “Hi!” he said when they walked in, to nopony in particular.

As he had spoken to nopony in particular, nopony answered him. Brother White walked up to the counter.

“What can I getcha?” asked the barmaid. She spotted his horn. “Say... we don’t get any of your kind around here.”

“I noticed,” said Brother White flatly. A colt next to him grunted.

“Oh, lookit him with his fancy tie,” the colt muttered, “them horners...”

“I got a tie, too...” said Brother Scroll, indicating his matching red tie.

Brother White ignored him. “I’m with the Fraternity.”

“Oh, so that’s why they didn’t shoot you,” said the barmaid. “Sorry,” she added, seeing his pained expression.

During all this, Brother Scroll was looking around at the other ponies. He was nervous about this place, and he wondered whether the book’s advice had been right.

“Could I have a glass of milk?” Brother White asked.

The barmaid looked at him like he’d asked for a bucket of sludge. “Aren’t you a little old for that?”

“Uhh, White?” said Brother Scroll quietly to them, “I don’t think they regularly drink milk. Except for foals.”

“Why not?” asked Brother White. Another wonderful piece of luck, he thought.

“Well, they don’t have cows.”

“Oh.” Brother White sat there for a while. The racism occurred to him. “Figures. You have a bathroom?”

“Right over there,” said the barmaid, “over to the left, next to the staircase.”

“Thank you,” said Brother White, following the instructions.

Brother Scroll took his place at the counter. “You’ll have to pardon him,” he said, “it’s been a rough day...”

“Hey, he didn’t do anything wrong,” said the barmaid, filling another colt’s glass, “you’re from where, again? Equestria?”

“That’s right,” said Brother Scroll, nodding.

“And they let horners just come and go everywhere?” asked the colt next to them.

“Yes, and we don’t use racial slurs,” reprimanded Scroll.

Brother White didn’t actually need to use the bathroom. It was a terrible bathroom, anyway, rank with the stench of ammonia and feces. Crude graffiti, from which he learned that the barmaid’s name was Tap, was scrawled over the walls of the stall. Brother White just sat there, staring ahead of him at the door of the stall.

"I have no idea what I'm going to do," he said.

He came out a few minutes later, not having relieved himself at all, and returned to the counter.

Brother Scroll, meanwhile, had been invited to a nearby table, with some colts who, for a change, were not extremely rude.

“So, what’s this book you’re selling?” asked one of them.

“It’s the Book of Friendship, and we’re not selling,” responded Brother Scroll, “you can just have it. Go on, take it.” He held it out to the colt, who, curiosity and courtesy compelling him, took it and started looking through it.

“You see, there was this unicorn filly named Twilight Sparkle,” Brother Scroll continued.

“A unicorn?”

“Yes, a unicorn,” said Brother Scroll, quickly, so as to get past that part, “and she was the star pupil of our Princess Celestia. She was tasked by the Princess to make some friends.”

“Princess?” asked one of the colts, “Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously,” said Scroll, “and in this book, we have her collected letters...”

“That explains all these Dear Princess Celestia things...” said the pony reading the book.

“But there’s more to the book than that - it also has other stories and lots of advice: party games, how to resolve an argument, that kind of thing.”


“Well,” said Tap, “he’s certainly enthusiastic.”

“Well, why shouldn’t we be?” asked Brother White. “It’s what we’re here to do, after all.” He decided to try his luck with ordering a drink again. “Sarsaparilla?”


“Root beer float?”


“Oh yeah, no milk,” Brother White said, feeling a little stupid for not remembering that. “Apple cider?”

“Cider?” asked Tap, almost relieved that he’d named something they had. “Sure thing.” She took a bottle from under the counter and placed it in front of him.

“Thanks,” said Brother White, opening it with magic. Eager to have some sort of relief, he lifted it to his mouth and- SPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!

Tap narrowly avoided getting covered in that terrible mixture of drink and saliva.

“What is that?” asked Brother White.

“Hard cider,” she responded.

“Guess I get where the name comes from...” he tried drinking it a little more slowly. That helped.

“Hey, White, I think I’m doing good!” said Brother Scroll, sitting next to him. “They actually seem interested and one of them took the book!”

“Thanks,” said the colt in question, giving him the book back, “that was... interesting.” And he left the bar.

“Well, for a little while, anyway...” said Scroll. He watched as Brother White took another drink. “What is that?” he asked.

“Cider,” said Brother White.

“Hard cider, actually,” corrected Tap.

“Whatever that means...”

“Uhh...” Brother Scroll said, “is that... alcohol?”

“Yeah...” said Tap, as though it were obvious. She had to wonder - just how clueless were these two colts? It wasn’t like they were idiots or anything, but that lack of awareness was jarring.

“What’s that?” Brother White inquired, though only half-interested.

“It’s a thing in drinks that makes you, well...” Brother Scroll said, unsure, “we don’t have it in Equestria.”

“Guns, alcohol...” Brother White listed, “lack of cows... how do you know all this stuff?”

“I read,” said Brother Scroll, “that’s what my cutie mark means.” He smiled, pleased with himself. Tap put a bottle in front of him. “Huh?”

“On the house,” she said, “you two could use a little booze.”

“I don’t know...”

“It’s not that bad,” said Brother White, “once you get used to it.”

Scroll looked at Brother White. He did seem to be a little more chipper than he had been a few minutes ago...

Some time passed.

“Hey, fratboy!” shouted a colt. “Can you ponies sing where you’re from?”

“Can I sing?” asked Brother White, slurring his speech a little, “I’ll tell you somethin’, mister - I was the tenor section leader for three years straight, all while holding a 4.0 GPA. Lemme see if I can sing a...” he stumbled a little bit, almost dropping the bottle from his telekinetic grip, “an ode to this... this fine, fine drink of yours.”

He got up on a table, and began to sing.

“Let me drink in your wonderful nectar

Of this very particular kind

And I think I’ll thank my friend the lector

For his very astute kind of mind.”

Brother Scroll was just sitting at the counter. He hadn’t drank quite as much as Brother White, but he was still tipsy. He wasn’t joining in the festivities.

“Hey, you alright?” asked Tap. She was concerned - he seemed like a foal with the way he acted.

“Yeah...” said Brother Scroll. He giggled bashfully.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re purdy...” said Brother Scroll, a dopey expression plastered on his face.

Tap laughed, half at Scroll’s expression and half at the remark. She was used to receiving crass, drunken catcalls from her job. Looked like Scroll was going to fit right in.

“You wanna come upstairs?” she asked.

“Alright,” Scroll said through increasingly frantic fits of giggles. She left the counter and walked up stairs, while Scroll followed, swaying slightly as he walked.

“O never shall I recall sorrow

With a bottle beside me to stay

Without hope or a care for tomorrow

And the worries of life held at bay.”

She led him to a room with one musty bed, which Scroll sat on, still giggling.

“Funny?” Tap asked, smiling.

“Well, not really,” said Scroll, “not many ponies have been nice to us today.”

“Well, that’s not very fair,” she said, sitting next to him, “I’ll be nice to you.” She kissed him on the cheek, making him blush.

She leaned over, causing him to lean back, until he was lying down. He wasn’t giggling anymore.

“Something wrong?” she asked.

“No...” Brother Scroll said, his breathing a bit heavier than before, “it’s just that, well...” his voice went very quiet, “this is my first time.”

“I know.”


The next morning, White and Scroll found themselves back at the mission house. They weren’t in their beds, but just on the floor in the main room.

“Uggggghh...” White groaned as he got up off the floor, “my head...” he put his hoof to his head, and he found, oddly, that his tie was around his head and not his neck.

“What about my head?” Scroll asked. He looked at White. “Wow, you look...”

“What?” asked White, looking for a mirror. As there were none around, he had to head to the bathroom. He found that his mane was scraggly and he had a black eye.

“What happened?” asked Brother White, coming out of the watercloset.

“I dunno...” said Scroll, shrugging, “we were drinking, and...”

“You know what?” said Brother White, preparing to march out the door, “No more drinking. That stuff’s bad for us.” He opened the door and sunlight came pouring in. “Ah!” he said, shutting it. “My head...” he groaned.

“Maybe we should wait until a little bit later to start mission work?” Brother Scroll suggested.

There was a knock on the door. Brother White opened the door a crack, wondering who’d be interested in coming in. He saw a smiling earth pony who was disheveled in a manner similar to himself.

“Hello?” Brother White asked, opening the door a little wider.

“Hey,” said the earth pony, walking in, “thought I’d come by and see how you were doin’. Hope you don’t mind me inviting myself in, the sign on the door says welcome.”

“Umm...” said Brother White, blinking, trying to get his head clear, “yeah, yeah, that’s great, we’re just a little bit...”

“Yeah, I remember my first drink and my first fight,” said the stranger, drifting off into fond memories.

“Fight?” asked Brother White.

“Yup,” said the strange earth pony, “y’know, you proved me wrong about you horners. I always thought you guys were wusses, but, well... you kinda were a wuss, but you’re one crafty bastard, I tell ya. The way you got me with that chair from behind, while you were in front of me,” he laughed, feeling the back of his neck, “but I didn’t let you get all the blows. Forgive me for the black eye, eh?”

“Sure...” said Brother White, his head starting to clear, “pardon me if I don’t want a repeat performance.”

“Baaah, all’s in good fun, isn’t it?” he turned to Brother Scroll, “and you!”


“Yeah, you. Saw you goin’ up with Tap,” he raised his eyebrows, “lucky guy, you. How was it?”

“Wait, what?” asked Brother White, going straight back to ‘confused.’ Brother Scroll, however, was no longer confused. He remembered what happened the night before.

“Well?” asked the earth pony. Brother Scroll bolted out of the mission and tore down the street. He had to get back to the tavern.

“Brother Scroll, wait!” asked Brother White, feebly trying to follow him. Unfortunately, he hadn’t received the same shock to wake him up.

“So, about this book of yours...” said the earth pony, looking at the stack on the desk.

Brother Scroll had a little bit of difficulty finding the tavern, as most of the buildings looked the same, but when he got there, he was all out of breath. The tavern wasn’t as full as it had been - the earth ponies didn’t drink in the morning when there was work to be done, but Tap was there, cleaning the counter-top until she spotted the panting blue earth pony.

“Didn’t wait to get cleaned up to come back, didya?”

“Huh?” asked Brother Scroll, when he realized that his necktie was around his head. He sat down and frantically fiddled with his tie, trying to get it organized. It was a futile effort, more or less - that thing needed to be ironed before it was presentable again. “Well, it’s just...”

“I don’t just give out repeat performances, kid,” she said. Brother Scroll looked up.

“Well, no, I, uh...” Scroll fumbled, trying to find the words, “I just wanted to talk about it...”

“Talk?” asked Tap, sitting down, with a perplexed expression on her face, “you want to ‘talk’ about it? What’s there to talk about?”

“Well, what we did...”

“There’s nothing to say, kid,” she said, before softening her voice, “listen, you’re a cute kid and I thought you’d had a rough day. And I figured if you didn’t lose it now, you never would.”

“So...” Scroll said, his voice a little shaky, “it didn’t... m... mean anything?”

“Not really,” she said, “what, you didn’t like it?”

Brother Scroll’s posture sank. “It’s just...” he said very quietly, “that was my first... I... I...” He looked down at the floor.

“I wanted it to be special...” he said, almost whispering.

A couple of the handful of earth ponies looked at him. It was a rather pathetic scene.

Tap didn’t say anything. Never, in a hundred years, did she expect this. Degradation, of course, maybe some obscenities flung in her direction, but... that?

“Listen...” she said, leaving the counter. Her voice was very soft. “You have to learn sometimes, that nothing is special. Things just happen, and they don’t ‘mean’ anything.”

Scroll looked up. She could see that he was on the verge of tears.

“Th... that’s not true!” he said, choking on his words, “it has to mean something. That h-happened,” his voice deteriorated into barely coherent squeaking, “that meant something to me!”

“Scroll!” shouted a voice. Brother White burst through the door, “There you are! Are you...”

Brother Scroll sat on the floor, his mouth clamped tightly shut.

“What’s wrong?” White asked. Brother Scroll just shook his head, unable to speak. White looked at Tap, and the two shared an expression of confusion.

“C’mon, Scroll,” said White quietly, helping him get up, “it’s okay, it’s okay... we’ve got some work to do.” Brother Scroll nodded, making a sniffing noise, and they left the tavern.

Tap stood there, still feeling confused and about what had just happened. She was snapped out of it by a leery comment from one of the bar patrons. “How come ya never gave me a freebie?”

“Because you can just fuck yourself.”

Chapter 4

“So he took a book,” said Brother White, combing his hair in the bathroom. Next to the faucet he had a cold pack which would place on his black eye once he was done with his hair. “Seems like an okay guy. I just hope I don’t need to do any more bar fights, because I’m not setting foot in a bar ever again. Now I know why we don’t have that stuff in Equestria.”


Brother White looked out of the bathroom. Brother Scroll was sitting down, sulking. “Oh, don’t be so sad,” he said, exiting the lavatory, “look, we had a rough day yesterday, but things are only going to get better.”

“Two ponies died...” said Scroll sadly, “I don’t think I’m cut out for this...”

“To be honest...” said Brother White, sighing, “sometimes I feel the same way.”

“Huh?” asked Brother Scroll, looking up, “how can you feel like that? You’re good at everything. You’re charismatic, charming, handsome, you’ve got an amazing singing voice... You’re like the top banana here.”

“Nooo, not me,” said Brother White, laughing, “I’m no Top Banana. Now, he was someone who-” he cut himself off. Had to stay with what he was trying to say. “Look, that’s not important. The important thing is that Celestia sent us here to do a job, and we’re gonna do it.”

“But how am I gonna do it?” asked Brother Scroll.

Brother White looked at him. The poor guy seemed to have just about given up. He thought back to when he was starting school and he felt like the new guy - terrified, feeling lower than everypony else. Except Brother Scroll had not only that, but the reinforcement of that comes from having bullies steal your lunch money on a regular basis. But he knew that Brother Scroll wasn’t as worthless as he saw himself. If only he could see that himself.

“You’ll learn,” said Brother White, “I have nothing but confidence in you. You’re gonna do great. Now come on!” he said, bolting up and taking books from the desk, placing them in a wheelbarrow, “we’re late today! Got a lot of friends to make and half the day is already gone. Now, we’ve already got one new friend (I hope I don’t need to get another black eye) and we have to make a lot more. Now let’s get to it! Giddy-up!”

Brother Scroll was tasked with pulling the wheelbarrow, while Brother White waved a book in front of him, shouting, “Come one, come all! We’ve got the most amazing book you will ever read! We guarantee you that this book will change your life!”

They were largely ignored, save for a few annoyed glances. Brother Scroll looked at the town some more as they passed through. Everything was made out of wood, which meant...

“I think there’s a forest on this island,” he said.

“Really?” asked Brother White.

“Yeah. Probably a big one,” said Brother Scroll, “they don’t seem to import a lot of things, so if there’s this much wood, it must come from a forest. They probably cultivate it - being earth ponies, after all.”

“That’s incredible,” said Brother White, “really, that’s incredible. Sometimes I’m really astounded by what earth ponies can do - like in Apple-oosa. They grew an apple orchard in the middle of the desert. I mean, how cool is that?” he stopped and took a deep breath. “I think I like this town.”

“I don’t think it likes you,” said Brother Scroll.

“Oh, pah,” he said, “putting aside the racism and the occasional dirt, there’s something very appealing. I mean, all these wooden buildings - it’s like it all shares a theme. Again, like in Apple-oosa! No gimmicks, no ice cream cone houses or tree houses (or houses that are trees)... all very simple. It’s very old-timey and, and, and...” he was searching for a word.

“Rustic?” suggested Brother Scroll.

“Yeah! Rustic!” said Brother White, turning around, “I mean, it’s not like what we’ve got most places in Equestria, and just take in the smell... rustic.”

There was a splashing sound. “Smells more like... egh...” said Brother Scroll, looking around. When he looked back at Brother White, he found that the unicorn was dripping wet. A window shut above him. “Oh hey, they still use chamber pots... oh...”

“Rustic...” repeated Brother White, a little less enthusiastically.

“Hey, horner!” shouted a passer-by, “things seem a little piss-poor!

“But you’re still number one!” jeered his friend.

“Well...” said Brother White, “at least that time the jeers were less about my race than the...” he took a breath, “funny. This situation is funny. Right? It’s perfectly fine to laugh.”

“I dunno...” said Brother Scroll.

From Brother White’s perspective, this called for another shower. He was rather thankful that he hadn’t taken one at the start of the day due to the hangover confusion, but that’d mean two showers in the space of a few hours, which would have been an embarrassing waste of water.

Still, a shower at this point was a relief. White always liked it - he was completely alone, with only the constant sound of the running water as it purged the stank from his body. The mission house’s bathroom wasn’t as clean as he’d hoped it’d be, but he didn’t want to complain about small things like that. At the moment it was just a relief. That is, until Brother Scroll interrupted him.

“Uhh, White, I’m not sure that’s a good idea!” he shouted.

Brother White sighed and turned off the water. “What?” he called back.

“Wasting water, I mean,” said Brother Scroll. Brother White exited the bathroom, drying himself off with a towel, “I mean, remember yesterday when General Quake shut off our water?”

“Yeah?” Brother White asked, “But how can there be a shortage of water?”

“Well, think about it,” said Brother Scroll, “in Equestria, it’s not really that much of a problem because the pegasus ponies usually take care of the rain, but here...”

“But here...” Brother White got it, “they don’t have pegasus ponies... Oh dear.”

“Yeah...” said Brother Scroll.

“But...” said Brother White, “hygiene is important. If I don’t bathe I’ll start smelling bad and stuff and nopony will want to be around me and there will probably start being bugs...”

“I think that last part already happened.”

Brother White took a deep breath. “Okay, I think I can handle this. Just... let’s avoid standing under windows this time. Ready?”


They began their second attempt of the day, this time with less chamber pots. Brother White, however, would not give up. He’d gotten one convert... sorta. He took a book, anyway. That had to count for something. But the converts weren’t the important part for him. These ponies needed help. In one day in one town on Earthquake Island he’d encountered more callous brutality than in his entire life in Equestria. He and Scroll could help them, he knew they could. It’s just that the ponies didn’t care. The important thing was the keep trying, and not lose hope. They had to be capable of doing this, otherwise why would they have been sent here?

While he wasn’t still crying about losing his virginity, Scroll wasn’t feeling very confident, himself. He didn’t know if he had it in him to teach the ponies about friendship - what could he teach? He’d never had a friend before Brother White. And Scroll wondered if he was fit to try doing something like this? Scroll, the sad little dweeb with glasses who had about as much presence as a brightly-colored teacup?

He had to try something. “Hello,” he said, walking up to the first pony he saw, “my name is Brother Scroll. And I would like to share with you the most amazing book.”

“Huh?” asked the pony, turning around. He was a large stallion, bright green in coloration. On either side he was flanked by two of his friends.

“It’s a very good book,” said Brother Scroll, nodding his head at the wheelbarrow, “the foundation of our organization, the Fraternity.”

“C’mon, man, they’re just the missionary fruits,” said one of the green pony’s friends, “we don’t need to listen...”

“No, you two go on ahead. I’ll catch up later,” said the pony. “What’s it about?”

“The magic of friendship!”

The green pony narrowed his eyes. “Magic?” he asked dubiously.

“Well, not very many ponies know of the magic of friendship,” said Brother Scroll. He looked over at Brother White, who gave him an encouraging nod, “but it’s a magic the same as any.”

“Isn’t magic the stuff that the horners use?”

“Well, actually, y’see, that’s a bit of a misconception,” said Brother Scroll, straightening his spectacles, “a lot of ponies think it’s just the unicorns that have magic, but unicorns just have a different kind of magic. Pegasus ponies and earth ponies have their own magic, too, it’s just not as... sparkly.”

Brother White watched, and he realized - Brother Scroll was really smart. He didn’t know how he could have any kind of doubt in himself. After all, Brother Scroll had actually done research before coming on the mission. If anything, Scroll was more prepared than he was.

“And friendship is its own kind of magic, just kinda different,” continued Scroll, “and if you read this book, you’ll learn all about it.”

“What kind of magic?”

“Well,” Brother Scroll said, “during the Long Night, Twilight Sparkle and her friends harnessed the power of the Elements of Harmony and defeated the evil Nightmare Moon, and restored Princess Luna and... and...” he stopped, seeing the pony’s uninterested expression.

“What we mean, sir,” said Brother White, coming to his friend’s aid, “is that we think that you could really use the information in this book.”

“Based on what, exactly?” asked the green pony, “Why do you think we need it?”

“Well, uh...” Brother White swallowed, “we think that your, uh, your town here-”

“Whole island, kinda-”

“Island, yeah,” said Brother White, taking the cue, “that the ponies here have problems and could really stand to learn about the magic of friendship. It’d really help to improve your lives.”

The green pony had run out of patience, “I don’t need some over-privileged horner faggot telling me that I’ve got problems that he can solve.”

“Well, th-that...” Brother Scroll stammered. The green pony looked at him, a condescending eyebrow raised. “Thatthatthatthatthat... that...” Brother Scroll spat out, “is the problem we were talking about.”

“What is?”

“The racism,” Brother Scroll said, “you shouldn’t be calling my friend a ‘horner faggot.’ You don’t even know him. I don’t think you even know any unicorns...”

“I know horners,” snorted the green pony, “I know they come here in their flying castle and rain destruction on our town. You want me to make ‘friends’ with them? No. And you know something else? I’ve fought against ponies like your friend, and they’re all the same - smug little fags with spines like twigs. And your friend is no different.”

“Don’t talk about my friend that way!” said Brother Scroll, his heart beating faster and his rate of breath increasing.

“It’s okay, Scroll,” said Brother White, trying to calm him, “he doesn’t know any better.”

“Shut up,” said the green pony, “fuck you, fuck your horner friend. For that matter, why don’t you two just go back where you came from? I’m sure you can do plenty of fucking there.”

“Hey, we can’t hold up forever!” shouted one of the green pony’s friends.

“I was just leaving...” said the green pony, turning and walking away.

Brother Scroll just stood there, his brow furrowed, shaking, his breathing staggered. “It’s okay...” said Brother White, nuzzling his shoulder, “you’re doing fine...”

“Well... well...” Brother Scroll stammered, “FUCK YOU!”

The green pony and his friends stopped and slowly turned around. Brother Scroll took a step back as the green pony’s eyes locked his.

“Excuse me?” asked the green pony, snorting, his eyes narrowed.

Brother Scroll looked at Brother White, whose expression was completely blank. He looked back at the green pony. “...yeah,” he said, taking a deep breath, “Fuck you...” a smile grew on his face, and he stood up a little straighter and taller. “Fuck you. Fuck you in the ass. Fuck you in the ass. Fuck you in the ass.” The green pony and his friends began to walk up to him, very slowly, but Brother Scroll wasn’t stopping, he was on a roll. “Fuck you in the ass! And then shit it all out into a sock, and then stuff! It! RIGHT back up there again!

By this point, the green pony was standing there right in front of him, looking down at him.

“...cunt,” finished Brother Scroll quietly, looking at Brother White. The other four ponies followed Scroll’s gaze and all four were looking at the only unicorn on the entire island. The unicorn looked at Scroll, then to the other earth ponies, and then back to Scroll, before finally returning to the intimidating trio.

“Yeah, what he said,” confirmed the unicorn.

By the time Scroll looked back at the green earth pony, he found himself on the ground and in pain. Brother White saw the pony stand on his hind legs and then beat Scroll on the nose with a kick.

“Hey!” Brother White shouted, running in front of the now-floored Brother Scroll, “you’re not doing that to him!”

“Fine by us!” said the green earth pony, as his friends seized Brother White by his front legs and restrained him (“hey!” shouted Brother White). The green pony stood in front of Brother White, and then turned around.

“What’re you...”


“Ghh...” Brother White wheezed, as the green bony bucked him, knocking the wind out of him. This was followed by another buck, and another, each one more painful than the last. Brother White could feel as though his ribs were on fire - they’d crack before long.

Brother Scroll, meanwhile, had recovered. The three ponies weren’t paying attention to him - they were all facing away. He looked around, had to act fast. He saw a large crate. That’d have to do. Pulling himself off of the ground, he grabbed the crate in his front hooves, and swung it, catching one of the ponies who was restraining him off-guard. He collapsed with a startled grunt, and Brother Scroll grabbed Brother White, pulling his captor into the way of the green pony’s buck, causing him to finally relinquish his grip.

“Agh! You asshole!” shouted the pony who had just been kicked in the face, both to the missionaries and his green friend.

Brother Scroll, demonstrating a remarkable bit of earth pony strength, tossed Brother White into the wheelbarrow, and while the other three were still recovering, grabbed the wheelbarrow with his front legs and ran on his hind-legs, pushing the wheelbarrow through the town as fast as he possibly could.

“How’d you learn to talk like that?” shouted Brother White.

“I read!” responded Brother Scroll, looking over his shoulder at the three earth ponies who had now given chase, “I know they’re bad words and I’m not supposed to-”

“Fruit stand.”

“Huh?” asked Brother Scroll, not looking in front.


Brother Scroll looked ahead, but not before he felt a crash, and an array of apples, oranges, bananas, and everything in-between cascaded around them, along with surprisingly flimsy wood, all of which ended up stuck in their manes.

“Heeeey!” shouted the owner of the fruit stand as the two continued to careen away.

“Tough break, man,” said an earth pony.

“Yeah,” agreed another, who was currently working with the other to carry a large pane of glass. They found themselves no longer carrying the pane of glass, as it had shattered due to three earth ponies charging through it.

“Aww, fuck!” shouted one of them, holding his hoof, “fucking thing cut me!”

“Nevermind that, keep running!” shouted the green one.

“Naw, man, can’t do it, fuck it, we know where they live.”

“You’re gonna need to pay for that, y’know...” said the (much more polite) earth pony who now had to explain to his boss why a pane of glass hadn’t been installed.

“You can stay here and suck your hoof if you want, but I’m running!” shouted the green one, taking off after the missionaries, with his able-bodied friend following.

“We’re gonna have to pay for that!” shouted Brother White.

“Nevermind that, they’re still coming!” shouted Brother Scroll, looking at the two ponies in pursuit. He looked back ahead. It seemed as though the road was starting to slope downward. “Hold on!”

“Huh? What’re you-” But Brother Scroll had jumped into the wheelbarrow. He scrambled towards the front and tried to get a hold on the handle, as the wheelbarrow accelerated down the hill.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHH!” Both of the Brothers shouted in unison, as Brother White threw his front legs around Brother Scroll, who was holding the handle of the wheelbarrow so tightly it was starting to bend. He turned it to steer out of the way of a blissfully unaware pedestrian, but in his fright he moved it too far, causing a very rough turn. The wheelbarrow leaned on its wheels as more books tumbled out, and Brother Scroll steered it the other way to try to stabilize it, and it was only luck that kept them from crashing.

Brother White, meanwhile, saw an opportunity.

One pony was stepping outside of his carpentry shop when he spotted the two blazing down the road in the wheelbarrow. He barely managed to duck as a book whizzed past his head.

“Pleasereadourboooooooooooo...” shouted Brother White as they passed by.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” asked Brother Scroll.

“We’ll get publicity now!” shouted Brother White, not quite understanding how publicity worked. He looked back and saw that the two ponies were still in pursuit. He regretted what had happened - they’d gotten off on the wrong hoof. Maybe, just maybe, he thought. “We’re really sorry!” he said, using his unicorn magic to hold up a book, “but if you’ll just read this-” he threw it at them.

“I-” the green pony’s friend opened his mouth to speak, but the book hit him in the mouth, corner-in. He stopped and backed up, gagging on the book, like he was going to cough up a lung. Sitting down, he managed to grab it with his hooves and pull it out, still hacking and wheezing. He shook an angry hoof at the two missionaries as they left, not having enough air to yell.

White continued pitching books left and right, occasionally cringing as he heard the sound of something breaking.

Brother Scroll turned his neck to look behind, seeing that the green pony was still in hot pursuit.

“How can they run that long?” asked Brother White.

“We’re earth ponies, we last long!” answered Brother Scroll.

“Scroll, keep your eyes ahead!”

“Huh?” Scroll looked in front. They were heading right for a building and there was no way to miss it. “AAAAH!” he threw his forelegs around Brother White, too, and Brother White started screaming as well.


It could have been worse. Miraculously, they managed to hit the door rather than the wall. The door was reduced to splinters, and the two came tumbling into the room. Brother Scroll was flung further in, and his glasses further still.

“Uuuuuuu...” he groaned. He looked up, and he saw a familiar cream-colored pony looking down at him.

“Back again?” Tap asked. They had crashed into the tavern.

“Helloo... My name is Brother Scroll, and I’ll trade you a book for my glasses...” he said, disoriented.

Brother White was also lying on the floor, and he was laughing incoherently, like he’d been told a hilarious joke and hit on the head at the same time.

“Alright, where are the fruity little bastards?” asked the green stallion, walking in alone. “There you are!”

“You two have got to be the worst missionaries ever,” muttered Tap.

“It’s not easy...” groaned Brother White, getting up. He looked at the green pony, “so, how’d you like our book?”

“I liked it a lot,” said the green pony sarcastically, “so much I’m gonna take it and shove it up your ass!”

“Sounds painful...” said Brother White.

Brother Scroll now realized what was going on, and he scrambled to get up. “Look, look man, we’re sorry!” he said frantically, “I didn’t mean anything what I said, about the sock or, or...”

“Spines like twigs,” sneered the green earth pony, “both of you.”

“I think he’s got more of a spine than you,” said Brother White.

“I don’t think I asked for-” but the green earth pony wasn’t able to finish. His mouth seemed to have been forced shut. “Nng!”

Brother White glared at him, his horn glowing, “No, listen to me, because I’m talking,” he said. The earth pony, now realizing that he was under that mysterious “unicorn magic” that he hated so much, backed down.

“I think my friend has more of a spine than you. He stood up to you and your buddies. He stood up to the General, even though he’s scared of all of you. He came here, even though he’s scared of all of you, to help you. And you know something? That’s what real courage is about. Not cussing with a tough guy attitude. I’ll tell you this, if I could only have one other friend in the whole world, I’d have him.” His horn stopped glowing, and the green pony gasped for air. “You got that?”

Tap walked up next to the green pony. “I think you should leave.”

The green pony snorted. “We know where you’re staying, you two faggots!” he said, walking out the door, “We’ll see who fucks who!”

Scroll looked up at White. “Did you... did you really mean that?” he asked.

Brother White smiled at him, “Every word.”

Scroll blushed, looking down at the floor. “Thanks...”

“Hey, don’t act so surprised,” said Brother White, laughing, “I’ve told you from the start: I believe in you. You’re gonna do great. So...” he turned to Tap, picking up one of the books and holding it in front of her, “how’d you like to be Sister Tap?”

“You two really are the worst missionaries ever,” said Tap, “you’re nice colts, though. This place might be better if more were like you. But then, what’d we do when General Storm or General Monarch comes? Can’t exactly just made friends with them.” Spotting Scroll’s glasses, she walked over and picked them up in her mouth. She walked back over to Scroll and placed the glasses onto his face. Scroll blushed, and stammered something about needing to get them cleaned, before walking into the bathroom.

“Poor guy,” she said, “he’s kinda cute with his glasses off, though.”

“Yeah, he is,” agreed Brother White. She gave him a funny look. “What? And what do you mean... more generals?”

“They lead the pegasus ponies and the unicorn ponies.”

“Where are they?” asked Brother White, “we can-”

“They’re not on the island,” said Tap, “they’re flying around somewhere over the ocean.”

“Wait... flying?” asked Brother White, “I imagine that the pegasus ponies have some sort of cloud things, but the unicorns...”

“They built it,” said Tap, “they built a giant, flying fortress.”

“Not surprising,” said Brother Scroll, coming out of the bathroom, “unicorns have always been the inventors - like the fridge. That was invented by unicorns.”

“Fridge?” asked Tap, “What’s that?”

“Keeps things cold,” said Brother White, “we’ve got one at the mission house if you’d like to see.”

“Maybe later,” said Tap, “you broke a door, and I have to fix it.”

“We’re really sorry about that, really,” said Brother White, “we can help.”

“No, really, it’s best if I take care of it myself,” said Tap, inspecting the ruined door, “it’s how I always do things.”

“That’s not how you should,” said Brother White, “we have a better way.”

“More friendship stuff?” asked Tap.

“Yes,” said Brother White, picking the book up again, “now, uhh, where is it...” he flipped through.

“Here,” said Brother Scroll, taking the book and flipping to the correct page, “Dear Princess Celestia, my friend Applejack is the best friend a pony could ever have. She’s always there to help anypony. The only trouble is, when she needs help, she finds it hard to accept it. So while friendship is about giving of ourselves to friends, it’s also about accepting what our friends have to offer. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.” He closed the book, a smile on his face.

“So that’s what your book is about? Letters?” asked Tap.

“Well, there’s the letters, but there’s also stuff - like party tips!” said Brother Scroll, grinning excitedly.

“Maybe later,” said Tap, clearing away the fragments of wood, “you two should leave now - I need to clean up this mess. Just carry on with your... friend-mission.”

“Okay...” said Brother Scroll, walking out slowly.

“You know, you’re free to come to our mission house anytime you like,” said Brother White, before he left. “The door is always open. And you can see our fridge!”

Tap watched as the two missionary ponies left her house. Brother White was carrying on, shouting about how his book would change everypony’s life.

He was standing beneath another window. The window opened, and a pony absentmindedly emptied a chamber pot.

Chapter 5


“Yeah, Scroll?”

“I’m sorry.”

Brother White was silent for a minute. “Sorry?”

“Yeah,” said Brother Scroll from his bottom bunk, “about the mess I got us into. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“That’s okay,” reassured Brother White from the top bunk. Brother Scroll took the bottom bunk because he was afraid of heights. “We all make mistakes. After all, we’re only pony.”

“I just thought...” said Brother Scroll, “this place is scary. The ponies here act so... so mean, and even when they aren’t mean, well...” his voice trailed off, “it’s like, I wanted to show that I could be as tough as they could, and well, that stuff, it just sorta came out of my mouth...”

“It’s okay, Scroll,” said Brother White, who really just wanted to get some sleep.

“I just don’t know what we can do,” said Brother Scroll, “I don’t know if we can reach them. They hate us.”

“Nah,” said Brother White, “just me. But they’ll see.”

“I don’t think they like me any more than you,” said Brother Scroll, “they called me a fag, too.” He sighed, “How can we make friends with them if they don’t want to be friends?”

“Aw, don’t think that way-”

“How can we win when there’s so much hate?”

Brother White was quiet for a minute. “We just have to keep trying. Remember the story of the buffalo and the settlers in Apple-oosa? How they were enemies until Twilight Sparkle showed them the magic of friendship? We can do that too.”

“Aaaaactually, Twilight Sparkle didn’t really do anything there...” Brother Scroll corrected him.


“Well, y’see, the buffalo and the settler ponies did it all on their own. It isn’t important what Twilight Sparkle did as it is what she learned.”

“Well... maybe we need to learn something?” suggested Brother White.

“Learn what?” asked Brother Scroll, “This isn’t a very fun lesson.”

“Well, we’ll see...”

“If we don’t get lynched first.”

“We’re not going to get lynched, Scroll,” said Brother White, laughing. Me, maybe, but... “Look,” he continued, “let’s get some sleep, and tomorrow we’ll start anew.”

“Okay,” said Brother Scroll, “good night, friend.”

“Good night, buddy.”


“So...” said Brother White over breakfast, “water shortage?”

“Uh-huh,” said Brother Scroll, talking through his eggs.

The kitchen in the mission house was, by most Equestrian standards, modest. It was small, with a table, a stove, a counter, an oven, a sink, and a refrigerator. All of this was put into a small space.

“How am I going to keep clean and stuff?”

“Well, there are lots of ways to save water,” said Scroll, swallowing, “like when you brush your teeth, don’t leave the water on. Or when you shower, don’t leave the water running the whole time. You just turn it on, get wet, do the soap and shampoo and stuff, turn it back on to rinse it off, and then done.”

“Huh...” said Brother White, “that’ll be hard.”

“Well, I dunno,” said Scroll, shrugging, “you could also try the ocean. Showering with a partner also saves water.”

“Huh,” said Brother White, “well, I guess we can try those.”

“So, what are we doing today?” asked Brother Scroll, “More door-to-door stuff?”

“I dunno,” said Brother White, “why don’t we just go out today and meet some ponies? No books, no badges, no neckties, no nothing like that, just go out on the town. Just have some fun.”

He cheerfully made his way out of the kitchen and into the main room of the mission house, up to the door...

And then he ducked out of the way, shutting the doors with his magic.


Two holes were blown in the door, as Brother White huddled off to the side. “Okay...” he said, breathing heavily, “I’ll have to wear the nametag.”

Brother White and Brother Scroll waited for a while, to make sure that the attempted murderer had gotten bored. After that, they stepped out (Brother White having made sure that his badge was at its absolute shiniest) and began their walk. Their walk did not last long.

“Spare change for a poor, blind old bastard?” asked a haggard voice. It was an old earth pony, his eyes apparently lost in the sags of his face, a cup with a scant few coins in front of him, “C’mon, I know you got some.”

“Why are you sitting out here?” asked Brother White, wondering why someone would just be sitting out in the street outside the mission house in the morning like this.

“Well, it’s as good a place to sit as any, heheHAKH!” the old pony laughed before hacking a cough.

Brother White and Brother Scroll exchanged an uneasy glance. Brother White turned to the old beggar. “Hi,” he said, “my name is Brother White. I’m with the Fraternity, and you happen to be sitting outside our mission.”

The beggar grunted. “Fine,” he said, “I’ll get outta yer way...” He began standing up.

“You misunderstand us, sir,” said Brother White, “we-”

“‘Sir?’” asked the beggar, reaching a hoof behind his neck to scratch, “That’s funny. Can’t remember the last time a pony called me that. What’d you say your name was?”

“Brother White, sir,” responded the unicorn, “and this is my partner, Brother Scroll.”

“Ah...” said the beggar.

“Anyway,” said Brother White, “you’re right outside our mission. You can come in if you like.”

Brother Scroll blinked, and Brother White continued. “It’ll be better for you. We’ve got food and bedding and stuff. Scroll, help him up.”

Scroll didn’t object. He decided he’d just let Brother White do whatever it was he was thinking, though he did feel a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. He wasn’t quite sure why. Still, he did as White said. Supporting the old stallion was, however, awkward. Gave him a bit of a worry - he imagined he’d be needing to do a lot of this “helping little old mares cross the street” business throughout his career.

“Thank ye,” said the old stallion.

“Don’t mention it...” mumbled Brother Scroll.

It became apparent that “fun day on the town” would not be on the table. Instead, Brother White went about preparing the mission house for their sudden guest, and he seemed very cheerful about it, opening a can of soup and pouring it into a pot on the stove. Scroll, meanwhile, set the stallion in a chair before joining White in the kitchen.

“This is great, isn’t it?” asked Brother White, stirring the pot, “We get to really, directly help somepony. And no chamber pots!”

“Uhh, yeah, it’s great,” said Brother Scroll, nodding, “was kinda surprising.”

“I know!” said Brother White, “I remember doing bake sales in school. Those were always fun, raising money for the choir. I mean, this is what missions are about. You know, some missionaries get sent to vacation places that are full of rich snobs and the like who are too up with themselves to care much about friendship. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but here, places like this, this is where you really have to, to... to dig in and start helping out and stuff.” He took a deep breath. “Man, I feel good.”

“Umm...” said Brother Scroll.

“What?” asked Brother White, “Something wrong?”

“Well, I was just wondering...” said Brother Scroll, “so, this guy’s gonna be staying here.”

“Of course.”

“And spending the night?”

“You bet.”

“Well...” Brother Scroll said uneasily, fidgeting with his front hooves, “we only have one bunk bed.”

Brother White stopped stirring.


“I’m afraid of heights.” Brother Scroll was in the top bunk. So was Brother White. There was a soft snoring sound from the bed below. “That’s why I took the bottom one.”

“Ah,” said Brother White, who was having a little difficulty moving, because Brother Scroll had his legs wrapped around him, “well, if this thing falls down, I think he is going to have it a lot worse than us.”

Brother Scroll loosened his grip. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m just a bit of a worry-wart, I guess. It’s funny, last time I was in bed with somepony...”

He was about to say ‘was when I was a little colt and got scared of nightmares and walked to mom and dad’s bedroom,’ but then he remembered. Brother White could feel how awkward it was.

“You okay?” he asked, “About... that whole thing?”

“I guess,” Scroll said, shrugging, “it’s just that, well... how was your first time?”

“My...?” Brother White asked. “Well...” he whispered awkwardly, “I’m still a virgin.”

There was a magnificent silence as Brother Scroll basked in the stupefying fact that he’d lost his virginity first. Brother White took advantage of the silence to change the subject.

“We should probably write a letter back to the Fraternity,” said White, sitting up, “tell them what’s happened. Like that thing with Brother Sky and Brother Shine. We could also send a request for some extra food and bedding and stuff.” He started rubbing his hooves together. “We’re gonna get really started here!”

A very loud snore from below made them jump.

“...First thing in the morning.”


Brother White was sitting at his desk, writing a letter with a quill.

...Brother Sky and Brother Shine were not here to receive us upon arrival. They seem to have vanished. The general claims that they left to join the group of pegasus ponies and unicorn ponies - I assume Sky with the pegasus ponies and Shine with the unicorn ponies. All in all, the mission is going...

He paused.

...well. Brother Scroll has...

He paused again.

...already made a new friend. Although new to the Fraternity, he’s shown himself to be a true Brother, and I’m proud to have him as my partner.

That is not to say that everything is pinkie keen. If there was ever a place in need of the magic of friendship, it’s Earthquake Island, and there are a lot of ponies and not a lot of missionaries. We need everything we can get if we’re going to help these ponies. To that end, we would like to request additional supplies: books, food, blankets, and especially bedding.


Brother White

“Uhh, White?” asked Brother Scroll, poking his head out of the bunk room.

“Huh?” asked Brother White, looking up from the desk.

“The guy’s still asleep,” said Scroll, “aaaand... isn’t it a bit late to be sleeping in?”

“I don’t see why,” mused White, putting the letter in an envelope, “this is probably the first time he’s been in a bed instead of on the concrete. By the way, you think you could take this letter down to the dock before the boat leaves?”

“I think I should be able to...”

“Wonderful!” said White, stuffing the letter into Scroll’s mouth, “I’ll see how our guest is doing.”

“Moh-hay,” mumbled Brother Scroll, walking out the door. After he left, Brother White was sure to close the door. He found himself wishing that he’d asked for new doors. Ah, well, can’t always get what you want, he reasoned. He decided to check up on their old guest, who was still lying in the bottom bunk.

“Mmm...” he groaned.

“Hello,” whispered Brother White, “you sleep well last night?”

“Not really,” said the old stallion, “was hard to sleep through your pilla talk.”

“Oh,” said Brother White, “sorry about that. Scroll gets worried about things. He’s new.”


“Would you like breakfast or...”

“No, I don’t think so,” said the old stallion, “don’t know what good it’d do me. I think I’m dyin’. But if ya got some gin that’d be fine, though.”

“Gin?” asked Brother White. He didn’t know what that was. “I dunno... I’ll see about that.” He walked out of the room as the old stallion hacked another cough.

“Just managed to get the boat!” panted Brother Scroll, walking back into the mission house.

“Good, good, umm...” said Brother White, walking back into the main room. “Gin.”

“Gin?” asked Scroll, “What about it?”

“You know what it is?”

“I think it’s another one of those umm... those drinks.”

“Ah,” said Brother White. That explained why he hadn’t heard of it. “Well, think you could run down to the tavern and get some?”

“What? Why?”

“Our guest wants some,” said White, “and I think we should oblige.”

“Well, if you say so,” said Brother Scroll.

“Good. That’d be wonderful,” said White, turning back to the guest, “so, everything okay?”

“Well,” said the old stallion, “I’m blind, and I have maggots in my scrotum, but aside from that... no.”

White’s ears drooped.

“Never had anyone to bother me for a while, though. Wife died. Son got killed by the wingers. After that, nopony had any use for an old washed-up stallion like me. Except you, for some reason. Why?”

“I just wanted to help...”

“Peh,” said the stallion, “wanted to feel good about yourself, more like. Taking time out of your busy schedule to help little old me...”

“Well, that actually kinda is my busy schedule...”

“What, so you can call yourself a ‘good guy?’ That it?”

“Well,” said Brother White, trying to find the right words to say, “is it wrong for me to want that?”

“Eh...” said the stallion, “I don’t see why you bother. I’m dyin’, y’know. Been dyin’ for a while, and you actin’ all nice isn’t gonna change that.”

“I can’t really do anything else,” said Brother White, “listen... I’ve had a pretty good life so far, and other ponies... haven’t.”

“Oh, you just noticed now?”

“All I’ve ever wanted to see is smiles,” said Brother White, “that’s my cutie mark. You can’t see it, but it’s a smile. I’m normally a pretty happy pony, and... and I’d just like others to be happy. That’s what I want to see.”

“But you don’t see that.”


“Then tell me, what have ya seen here?”

“Well...” said White, thinking back on the last few days, “when we got here we saw a pegasus pony get murdered. Then we got threatened by the general...”

“Asshole, ain’t he?”

“Kinda. Then we tried going door to door, and that didn’t work. Then we saw a pony get lynched... Then we got drunk and I got a black eye and Scroll lost his virginity. Then we felt bad in the morning and Scroll got upset. Then we went out and I got doused in... in pee. Twice.” The stallion gave a weak chuckle. White couldn’t help but smile at his own folly. Like he said the other day... it was funny. “And then we got into another fight. And then today somepony tried to shoot me. They, uh... they don’t like me. They don’t like unicorns here, obviously.”

“Waitaminute...” said the stallion, slowly sitting up, “you’ve been a... a horner all this time?”

“Yeah.” Brother White’s voice didn’t betray any sort of shock or indignation.

“Sonuva... ach!” the stallion coughed again, “Eh. I don’t have any fight left in me now. But that just goes to my point. Everypony here hates you, why are you here?”

“Maybe because everypony hates me,” Brother White shrugged, “I was assigned a mission. I’m going to do that. What else can I do?”

“You could go home,” said the stallion, “you and your boyfriend. Then you wouldn’t have to have your... your ‘guilt’ or whatever at us not meeting your standards and we wouldn’t have to be annoyed by your prancing.”

Brother White was silent for a minute. “I can’t do that,” he finally said. “I refuse to believe it.”

“Well, thanks for the soup, at least.”


Brother Scroll returned to the mission house with the bottle of gin in his mouth. As he hadn’t been saying anything on the errand, he didn’t encounter any trouble. By himself, he was not a very noticeable pony, despite the bright red necktie. He stopped at the door. Those holes made him feel uncomfortable - what if there was a draft or something? That’d be awful.

He opened the door, knocking on it as he did so. There was no response. He would’ve called out from White, but there was a bottle in his mouth that prevented him from doing that. He slowly walked over to the door of the bunk room and peered in. White was right where he’d been when he left, slouched over the bed. Scroll gently placed the bottle of gin on the floor.

“White?” he asked quietly.

Brother White didn’t turn to look at him. “He’s dead.”


It took several hours for somepony to come take the body. Brother White, meanwhile, sat on the curb in front of the mission (this time wearing his badge, so he didn’t get shot). He didn’t say anything, but just looked out, surveying the dilapidated town. Scroll quietly walked up behind him.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” said White, “I’m always okay. Besides, there wasn’t really anything we could do. He was dying before we even invited him in. We made him a little more comfortable before he died, so... at least he liked the soup.”

“For what it’s worth,” said Brother Scroll, sitting down next to him, “I think you did the right thing.”

“Thanks,” said White, still surveying the town. One thing stood out that caught his eye - it was a little pink colt wearing some bizarre harness with saddlebags that were a bit bigger than an earth pony his age should be carrying. The little colt seemed to be collecting garbage and putting them into the saddlebags, and he moved very slowly.

“Hey!” called out White. The colt didn’t respond. “You there! With the garbage!” The pink colt looked up at him.

“Me, sir?”

“Yeah, you,” said Brother White, “what are you doing?”

“Collecting trash, sir...” the colt said. He walked up closer, staring at Brother White’s horn.

“What’s your name?”

“They call me Clip, sir...” he responded.

Scroll looked at the colt, then at White, and then back at the colt.

“You’ve never seen a unicorn before?” asked Scroll.

“No, sir,” said Clip.

“Only when they attack, I’ll bet...” muttered White. “Clip, why are you out collecting garbage?”

“Well, I kinda have to,” said the colt, lowering his head, “it’s kinda my job... I have to get back to doing that.”

“Well, Clip, before you go, I want you to know,” said White, “that our mission’s doors are always open. You can come in here anytime you want, and bring your friends, too.”

“I don’t have any friends, sir...” said Clip, slowly shuffling away. Brother White opened his mouth to speak again, but he was interrupted.

“Times like these, it’s the best job there is,” said an earth pony, emerging from the door, a shovel for a cutie mark, “there’s good money to be made as a gravedigger when there’s plenty of graves to dig.”

“So you say,” said a second earth pony with the same cutie mark.

“When’s the funeral gonna be?” asked Brother White.

“Funeral?” asked the first gravedigger.

“Old bastard didn’t have a family,” said the second.


“Listen, we don’t deal with that stuff,” said the first gravedigger, “we just dig holes and fill them with bodies, and that’s what we’re doing with this old stiff.”

“I wouldn’t be too broken up about it,” said the second gravedigger, “he got to die in bed. That’s quite an accomplishment. If you’re really broken up about this, you should just pop open that bottle of gin.”

“Well, we, uh...” Brother Scroll looked at White, who seemed to bear an expression of complete resignation.


“O whether we be many

Or whether we be few

I’ll never want for anything

While I have faith in you.”

The bottle of gin was now covered in a dull glow, suspended in mid-air, as the two Brothers sang the Fraternity’s hymn. It was late, and White and Scroll were up on their hind legs, attempting to dance while supporting each other. This worked about as well as could be expected for two drunk ponies, and they lost balance and fell over, Scroll on his back with his glasses having fallen off, and White on top of him.

White managed to catch the bottle with his magic before it shattered on the floor and gently set it down.

“We shouldn try that again...” Brother Scroll slurred, giggling.

“Probly not,” said Brother White. “Y’know, Tap says you look cute without your glasses.” Scroll giggled more. “I think she’s right,” said White, smiling, and Scroll’s fits of giggles grew uncontrollable. When he was able to suppress his fits, he saw that White was looking up at the door. Scroll followed his gaze to see a stern-looking General Quake in the doorway.

“Hi, general,” said Brother White, levitating the bottle, “care to join us?”

General Quake raised a leg, and then stomped it on the ground. The whole mission house shook, and the missionaries scrambled to get up.

“What was in that letter?” he asked angrily.

“Huh?” Scroll asked, “letter...?”

What was in the fucking letter, you fucking little fairies?” the general barked, walking up to Brother Scroll with a surprising bit of speed and knocking him down, “Tell me!” he pressed a hoof into Scroll’s mouth, pushing down, “You don’t send fucking letters without my approval!

Scroll gagged on the general’s hoof, and his eyes went wide. If the general kept up the pressure he’d crush his skull.

“Stop! Please!” pleaded White, “We just sent for supplies! Just for some... some food and bedding and books! Things we need for the mission!”

The general paused, and then lifted his hoof. Scroll chocked, wheezing for air, and White ran to his side. “You okay...?”

“Fine,” said the general, “from now on, you send the letters through me.”

“Why?” asked Scroll, coughing.

“Because I fucking say so,” said the general, making Scroll cringe, “got it?”

Scroll nodded.

“And fix the door,” said the general as he walked out, “it’s a damn eyesore.”

Chapter 6

There was a dull clink as the empty bottle went into the garbage can.

“Right, then!” said Brother White, straightening his mane, “Doors again today?”

Scroll shrugged.

“Doors it is, then!” declared Brother White, “Set up the wheelbarrow and let’s go!”

“Nothing ever gets you down, does it?” asked Brother Scroll, piling a few less books into the wheelbarrow than they had the last time they tried, on the grounds that they were unlikely to part with too many of them and it’d be a lighter load.

“Nope,” said Brother White, beaming as always, “can’t let it. We’ve had setbacks, but that’s no reason to give up. We can’t let everypony down.”

“I wish I could do what you can,” said Brother Scroll, pulling the wheelbarrow.

“Why wish?” asked Brother White, “You’re perfectly capable.”

Scroll walked up to the door and found something funny - there was a bit of paper stuffed through one of the bullet holes. “Hey, what’s this?” he asked, pulling it out. It was an envelope. He opened it and out fell two small pieces of paper.

“What are they?” asked Brother White, levitating them in front of his face, “Ration coupons?”

Scroll read over his shoulder. “That’s what happens when you’re in a war with a water shortage, I guess.”

As they went out on the town again, Brother White didn’t have the usual spring in his step, but more of a “forward march” attitude. Brother Scroll followed behind with the wheelbarrow. It began as usual - disdainful looks or outright ignoring from passers-by, who had their own business to attend to. White trotted up to the first door, and knocked.

It opened slowly to reveal a young colt who seemed unusually cranky.

“Hello,” said the unicorn, “my name is Brother White. I was just admiring your door, the, the uh, sound when you,” he knocked on it again, “knock on it. Would you like a free book?”

“How many pages?” asked the colt.

“Umm... how many pages is it, Brother Scroll?” White asked, as the blue earth pony took one of the books and started flipping towards the back.

“No thank you,” said the colt, “too short. Won’t burn long enough.”

The door shut. “Should I try the next one?” asked Brother Scroll.

“Sure,” shrugged Brother White. This was probably a mistake, given that the next house over had a very threatening dog chained to a post outside. It growled at them, causing Scroll to back up.

“Easy, now, the dog can’t get ya,” encouraged Brother White. Taking a gulp, Scroll walked up to the front door and knocked. The door opened.

“Hello, my name is...” started Brother Scroll. There was some kind of crunching noise that Brother White didn’t recognize, and Scroll backed away, terrified. White saw that it was a gun. “I’m so sorry!” shouted Scroll, hiding behind the wheelbarrow, “I won’t intrude again, just please put the shotgun down!”

The door closed.

“Shotgun?” asked Brother White, “As opposed to a gun that doesn’t shoot?”

“Well, there are different kinds of guns,” said Brother Scroll, “shotguns, rifles, revolvers...”

“How do you know all this?”

“I told you, I read.”

“Yeah...” said Brother White, “but what do you read that has... guns and alcohol and swearing and stuff?”

“Well...” said Brother Scroll uneasily, “Comic books...”

Brother White didn’t respond. This was going absolutely nowhere, and Scroll’s confidence had been shrinking by the minute. Brother White didn’t wait for anything, he just marched straight up to the next house.

He angrily hammered on the door, and then stood, impatiently pawing the ground, until a very bored-looking mare opened the door.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Hi,” said Brother White, his characteristic smile gone, “I’m going to tell you something that you already know but don’t want to acknowledge: your life sucks.

Brother Scroll sat at the wheelbarrow, shocked.

“I’ve seen what you ponies go through, and it’s abysmal,” continued White, “but we’re here to help. If you listen to us, we can change your life for the better.” He hovered the book in front of her, and his tone went from harsh to pleading. “Please,” he said, “just take our book. Read it. That’s all I’m asking.”

“Eh,” said the mare, taking the book and then shutting the door. White lowered his head. Even though she’d taken the book, what was the chance she’d read it? Or actually join?

Brother White sighed, time to go to the next house. And the next. And the next. No successes whatsoever. If they weren’t met by bored indifference, they were met with hostility.

As they passed through the town they saw the gallows, where the corpse of a unicorn could be seen hanging from the scaffold. Apparently he had been a spy, and the Brothers had arrived too late to even fail to save him.

It failed to leave Brother White shocked. He suspected that even Scroll was becoming jaded. Everywhere they went, they were met with one bleak disappointment after another. The high point of the day was White managing to avoid the payload of a chamber pot.

Maybe that old stallion had been right. Maybe it was time to just give up. Pack up and go home. The ponies here didn’t want help. They didn’t want friendship, they were just fine with going through their miserable existence with no hope of reprieve.

Scroll had all the fight taken out of him, as well. Poor guy, thought Brother White, he doesn’t deserve this. He couldn’t imagine how scared Scroll was - the other night when the general nearly killed him. That had to have shaken him considerably.

White decided - it was over. Time to give up. Time to pack up the mission and go home. There was nothing else they could do but sink lower and lower into despair.

“Scroll,” he said, “I think we’ve had enough.”

“Huh?” asked Scroll.

“We’re going back to the mission house,” White explained, walking back.

“But... aren’t we gonna...?”

“They don’t want our book,” said White, “they don’t want our message, and they don’t want our help. And they all hate our guts. At first I thought it was just me they hated, but no, it’s both of us.”

Scroll nodded. White looked at him. He was right - Scroll’s morale was completely shot.

“Come on, buddy,” said White, walking back to the mission house, “we’ll seek out worthier pastures. Just let these guys... just let them do what they’ve been doing.”

He continued talking as they walked back, explaining every bad thing that had happened to them.

“And they shoot up our nice door,” said White, sneering at the holes, “the general’s right. It’s an eyesore.” He opened the door, “First thing I’m doing when I get back, I’m going to...”

He stopped. There, sitting in one of the seats, still wearing that bizarre harness, was the pink colt from yesterday.

“Dental school...” White finished, quietly.

The colt turned and looked at them.

“You’re leaving?” he asked, confused. White relented.

“Well...” he said, “it’s just that we don’t see how much good we can do.”

“We’re just not cut out for it...” sighed Brother Scroll.

“Oh...” said the colt. He seemed disappointed. “I guess I’ll just go back out collecting garbage.”

“N-n-no, you don’t have to go just now!” said Brother Scroll, “I mean, are you hungry? Would you like some lunch or something?”

“I guess,” said Clip, “can I take this harness off?”

“Sure, go right ahead,” said Brother White, going into the kitchen. Pancakes, he thought. He could do with some pancakes. Maybe that’d make everypony feel better. He looked at the box, checking the...

“Oh, no...” he said out loud. He looked at the other boxes in the cabinet, and in the fridge. Everything they had was well past the expiration date.

“Oh Celestia...” he heard Brother Scroll say, “Oh, no, no no no no...”

This snapped Brother White out of his woozy stupor. “What?” he called.

“Come out here...”

“It, well...” he heard Clip say.

Brother White stepped out of the kitchen and looked at the colt. It took a few seconds for it to sink in, and then he gasped.

On the colt’s back there were two garish scars, like gashes, and on each of his flanks there was a burn mark.

“Oh no...” repeated Brother Scroll, “Oh no no no no no...”

“What...” asked Brother White, “What happened?”

“He’s a pegasus pony, and they, and they...” Brother Scroll stammered. Murders were one thing, but this... this was too much for him to comprehend.

“I was never a strong flier,” said Clip sadly, “up in the clouds, they test you. They throw you off and if you can fly, you get to come back up, but if you can’t, then... most drown. I washed up here, and they...”

“This... this is horrible!” exclaimed Scroll. “How can they do that?”

“They have me pick up garbage in the streets,” finished Clip, “that’s what I do. I need to fill the bags or else the boss gets mad...”

“I... I...” Brother Scroll stammered. He looked at Brother White. He hadn’t moved. His expression was blank. But in this, this moment of the worst horror that they’d seen yet... he realized something.

White slowly walked up to the colt, before kneeling down.

“I’m sorry, sir,” said Clip, “I didn’t mean to bother you.”

“It’s all right,” said White, “Clip, I want you to know something.”

Clip’s ears pricked up.

“You don’t have to go back,” said White, “you don’t have to go pick up garbage anymore. You can stay here with us, in our mission.”

“But, but if I don’t...” stammered Clip.

“No buts,” said White. “If anypony comes for you, we’ll be right here. Clip...” he placed a hoof on the colt’s shoulder, giving a gentle smile, “you’re our brother. And we’re your family, Scroll and I. Brother Clip,” he said, standing up, “welcome to the Fraternity!”


“Could I just get a salt lick?”

Tap turned around and saw that Brother White was sitting at the counter. It was shortly after noon, so there was a small crowd present. Scroll was nowhere to be seen, as he was taking care of Clip back at the mission house. “Not covered in oranges and piss this time, are you?”

“I’ve learned to look up,” said Brother White.

“You want a whole block? Just for you?”

“Yeah,” said Brother White, nodding, “I wanted to talk to you.”

“You missionaries certainly like to talk, don’t you?”

“Well, we have a lot to say,” said White. “Scroll and I got drunk again last night...”

“I can only imagine how that went...”

“...And General Quake came over and threatened us. Again...” White sighed as Tap set down a block. “He can make the whole building shake just by stomping...”

“He can do more than that,” said Tap, “why do you think he’s called ‘Quake?’ Hell, the whole island, even?”

“Never thought of that...” said White, “Tap, what happened to the last two missionaries?”


“Sky and Shine. Pegasus and unicorn. I’m sure they got met with a whole lot of racism,” said White, looking at the salt lick.

“I didn’t see them a whole lot,” said Tap, “I think they got scared and didn’t go too far from the mission house. They stopped by one time to offer me a book. I wasn’t interested, no offense.”

“Well, where are they now?” asked White.

“They left. One went with the wingers and one went with the horners.”

“You really shouldn’t be using those words,” reprimanded Brother White, “do you know what I saw today?” he took a lick. “I saw a colt.”

“Go on...” said Tap, leaning on the counter.

“He was a pegasus pony. His wings were torn off and he had burns where his cutie mark should be.”

Not the answer Tap expected to hear. “Surprised you haven’t given up yet.”

“But that’s it,” said White, tapping his hoof on the counter, “that’s why I can’t give up.”

“You really think you can stop a three-way war that’s been going on for as long as any of us can remember, and turn this place into a sugar-dream fantasy?”

“I’m certainly gonna try. At least I’m not going to stand by while foals get crippled and set to do demeaning labor when they should be in school and having fun and... and...” his voice was shaking with anger. He took a deep breath, calming down. “I almost gave up. I admit, it’s not easy. These books, we can’t even give them away.”

“Hey, bro!” said an approaching earth pony, “Thanks for the book. Real, uh, interesting read...”

It was the earth pony who’d gotten in a bar fight with White that other night. He slid the book right back to White.

“Case in point...” sighed Brother White, “But I’m not giving up. I’m not going to let down the Fraternity, or Scroll. I almost did, but I can’t let that happen. Sooner or later, somepony is gonna listen to us. It might not be the general, it might not be you, but it’ll happen.” He took another lick.

“I admire your persistence, kid, but you haven’t seen anything yet,” said Tap, tending to another customer who seemed so inebriated that he was close to falling off the seat. “Just wait until an attack comes. You think it’s bad now, it’s always worse when there’s an attack.”

“But you said,” said Brother White, “you said that the missionaries are with them. Together the four of us could stop-”

“If those two were capable of doing anything they’d have done it already.”

White didn’t say anything. “There has to be a way...” he said quietly.

Tap went along with her work as White just sat there with his salt lick. “I should go now,” he said after a pause, “I need to get back to the mission house. Make sure Scroll and Clip are alright. But first...” he slid the book towards her. “Please,” he said, “read our book. I don’t care if you laugh at me tomorrow for it, just read it. Please.”

“Well, all right...” she said, looking at the book. It was a simple book, with a brown cover. On it was a picture of a purple star, surrounded by five other small white stars, with the title “The Book of Friendship” above it. She looked up at the departing unicorn.

“About Scroll,” said Tap. White turned around. “Is he all right?” she asked, “Do you think that what I did was... wrong?”

“Well... I dunno,” said White, thinking about it.

“That’s never happened,” she said, “they just pay me and we do it. Not the nicest line of work, but you need every bit of money you can to keep the place running when most of the food is on ration - you either get your own stake in the forest or you find some way to scrounge enough money. And sometimes there’s some insecure dweeb that just wants to lose his virginity so he can brag to colts younger than they are or fail to impress older colts or whatever. Sometimes I’ve had them swear at me. But I’ve never seen one break down like that.”

“I think...” said Brother White, “that you had a difference in expectations.”


Brother White walked back to the mission house, licking the block as he went. The sun was starting to come down. He knew that it was Princess Luna taking her duties for the night, though he didn’t think that the rest of the town knew. Not like it mattered to them. They’d probably hate the princesses for being both unicorns and pegasus ponies. They didn’t even know about the princesses.

He made his way back to the front door and tried to open it. It wouldn’t budge.

“Scroll?” he called, “Something going on in there?”

He saw a brown eye appear in one of the holes. “Well, not in here, but there’s a bit of a problem.”

“Problem?” asked White.

“Problem,” said a voice behind him. White turned around and saw the green pony from the day before.

“I miss the matriarchy...” whimpered Scroll.

“You here to beat me up again?” asked White.

“That’s part of it,” said the green pony, “there’s also the part that you’ve stolen my employee.”

“Your...” White said. Then he got it. “Ohhhh, your employee. Right,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “you mean that kid you have collecting garbage?”

“It’s none of your concern,” said the green pony, “I-”

“Hey, Clip!” White called through the door, “you wanna go back with this guy?”

Scroll looked at the terrified colt, who sat there, shaking.

“I think he says ‘no,’” said Scroll.

“Well, that settles that, then,” said White, licking his salt block again, “you can just... go away now,” he made a shooing motion with the salt lick.

“I’m not leaving without my employee.”

“Sorry, you’ll have to,” said Brother White, “I’m not letting you abuse him. I saw what you did - ripped his wings off and burned his cutie mark.”

“Sanctimonious, aren’t ya?”

“I have my moments,” said White, not budging.

“I’ll tell you one more time,” growled the green pony through his teeth, “get out of my way.

“No,” said White, “you get out of my way. We’ve got work to do, and you’re interfering. You want that colt, you’re going through me.”

“I thought you'd never ask,” said the green pony, moving to strike White. He wasn't able to connect, however, as he was struck in the head by a flying object. White had used his telekinesis to swing the block around and strike his attacker in the head.

The green pony fell to the ground, dazed. “Ugh.”

White backed up, a little startled about what he’d just done. He looked around, and let out a nervous sigh. “Well...” he said, “if you want to learn about the magic of friendship, you’re free to come in. Clip, however, is staying right here.”

There was the scraping sound of moving furniture as Scroll hurriedly opened the door, letting White walk in. “And stay out!” Scroll shouted, before slamming the door.


That night, Clip had a dream.

Clip woke up in his bed, in a new home in Equestria. The four walls of his bedroom were made out of something different - one wall was a giant salt lick, one was made of gingerbread, one was made of hard candy, and the last was a giant hay bale.

He went out of his bedroom to breakfast, where White and Scroll, his two daddies, were preparing a huge stack of pancakes. They had a lot to eat because they got five ration coupons a week. White nuzzled Scroll. His daddies loved each other very much.

He had to go out for work for the day. Outside, everything was clean. Walking to work, he passed a mission house, where there were two smiling young ponies. Then he passed another mission house, and another, and another. Along the way, he got lost, and was stopped by a large, threatening stallion. It was the local general.

“Hey,” said the general. “Are you lost?”

“Yes, sir,” Clip responded.

“Then follow me,” said the general, guiding him to his place of work. “And have a lollipop.”

After he got to his place of work, he found his boss, smiling. His boss had just given him the day off. Heck, he’d given him the entire week off. As much time off as he wanted, really, he could just take it.

He could spend the day with all his friends - and he had real friends, friends who were earth ponies, pegasus ponies, and unicorns, in every color of the rainbow, and none of them judged him for being a pegasus pony or for not having wings or anything. They all played on a grassy hill (and the grass was very green, because the grass is always green in Equestria), and they got on a cloud zeppelin that wasn’t likely to get shot down, and they had fun.

And at the end of the day, when he was tired, he went back home. His daddies fixed him dinner, gave him a bath, read him a bedtime story, and tucked him into bed.

Chapter 7

A tavern is normally a place where one can find all sorts of colorful personalities. This tavern, however, was permeated by various shades of brown. Lots of assholes, basically, and all of them loud and drunk. Tap managed to put up with it, though. She had to, otherwise she’d have gone crazy a long time ago.

She ran the tavern, more or less, along with her younger brother, Barrel, a tawny, slightly fat earth pony who at that moment in time was in the cellar, trying to figure out which of two bottles of cider was fermented. The two of them were almost constantly busy - got to bed late and got up early, though sometimes they were able to take turns. This occasionally allowed for one of them to sleep in or leave the tavern to shop or walk. Sometimes, however, the tavern required both of their attention.

Like when Barrel couldn’t tell which bottle had the fermented stuff.

While she loved her brother dearly, she had to admit that Barrel was always a few pints short of a hogshead. Since their parents died in a pegasus attack years ago, she’d had to take care of everything for both the tavern (which had needed to be rebuilt several times) and her brother.

Tap’s days were rarely interesting. In the morning she woke up and walked downstairs to the bar, opening it for business. She and her brother then served drinks for the next few hours. Shortly before noon there was a break in the flow of business, and at this time Tap left the tavern. She needed to buy some hops. This, however, turned out to be a problem.

“Five bits?” she asked. “It was four last week.”

“Well, a pony needs the money. I can barely support myself as is,” protested the merchant.

“You and me both,” Tap sighed, not in the mood to try arguing prices.

That left a slight block of free time, which she used to think to herself on things that had happened to her recently. She’d lost a door, for one thing. Those two goody-four-horseshoes missionaries seemed to keep cropping up. Of course, that wasn’t too difficult when...

“We want to be your friends!” she heard that familiar, almost whiny voice call. Brother Scroll, trying his damned hardest to sell. She felt bad for the guy. Then she spotted the little pink colt in their wagon, which she quickly realized was the garbage collector Brother White had mentioned the last time they met. Which reminded her...

She went back to the tavern, deciding that she’d see just what it was that was in their miraculous little book. She went upstairs and into her room. She had a dusty but fairly large bed, and a nightstand with a broken drawer. Unlike the door, she was in no hurry to fix that. Not a priority. It opened with a painful scraping sound, and she took out the book. She also decided that the lighting wasn’t good enough, so she went to the windows and opened the blinds. Sunlight flooded into the room, forcing her to blink. The room seemed so different in the light.

She sat down on her bed and opened the book. Twilight Sparkle...

She snorted. What kind of a name was that? That sounded like the kind of name she made up as a filly when she wanted to pretend she was a princess or something. But apparently Equestria was actually run by princesses...

Oh, and Twilight Sparkle was also a unicorn. Great, thought Tap, I’m reading lessons from a horner...

While Tap wasn’t as aggressively racist as many other ponies, she found it hard to admire a unicorn when most of her encounters with unicorns were violent ones. Except for Brother White, that is. He was nice, if a little full of himself and hopelessly naive. It might’ve helped that he hadn’t drunkenly hit on her and thrown demeaning terms in her direction, but then again, she almost took it for granted that he was a coltcuddler. She wasn’t too sure about Scroll, though.

The story was a silly one, she thought. So basically this unicorn gets together with another unicorn, two earth ponies, and two pegasus ponies, and they have these magic things that enable them to defeat this maniacal pony that’s somehow both a pegasus and a unicorn (she found her an easy antagonist to dislike, funnily enough), and... they make friends with her in the end. Sort of.

She had to stop there. It was too ridiculous. And these ponies were obviously lesbians.

Actually, that made her think a bit. Maybe the ponies in Equestria were all just really nice to each other like that.
Damn, she thought, maybe those two aren’t gay. It left her puzzling.

The next story in the book involved some sort of confusion about tickets for a big fancy party. Dumb, she thought, I would’ve just scalped ‘em. Then it turned out that all she had to do was ask for more tickets. These fillies must have been as old as she was at the time these letters were written, but the most pressing concern on their minds was “who gets the ticket?”

That was enough of that for the day. Seriously, if the worst they had to worry about was a matter of who to give tickets to... well, they must’ve had pretty good lives.

“Hey, give those back!”

She raised her head, looking towards the window. Getting up from her bed, she walked over and looked out. Those two again, and this time a group of rambunctious foals had grabbed Scroll’s glasses and were running off with them.

The glasses, however, seemed to lift right out of the foal’s mouth and floated over to Scroll’s face again. Unicorn magic, she saw. She saw Brother White walk over to Scroll, who had sat down to adjust his glasses, and White said something. She couldn’t hear what it was, but it made Scroll smile. White had to break off, though - the foals had moved on to teasing the garbage collector who was in the wagon.

Well, that was about the entirety of her free hour to herself. She closed the blinds, put the book back on the nightstand (she didn’t want to wrestle with the drawer again) and headed back downstairs. Her brother Barrel, however, was not at the counter. Sighing, she checked the cellar.


“Just a minute!” her brother shouted frantically. He had several cups out and he was pouring cider into, mixing them together. It seemed that his solution to the “can’t tell which is which” question was to simply mix the contents of the two bottles together.


One particularly plastered pony was demanding another drink. “Ehy, ahm payin’!” he protested.

“Keep up like that, you’ll drink us out of house and home,” said Tap. “Besides, I’d rather you didn’t pass out in a pool of your own vomit in here.”

“Jus one more...”

“No. That’s it. Get out if you can walk straight enough to get to the door,” Tap said emphatically.

The drunk pony grumbled in between hiccups, and got up, walking to the door... of the bathroom. As he didn’t come out for quite a while, Tap was led to assume that he had either passed out or was taking an extraordinarily long piss.

Mid-afternoon, and business had slowed to a crawl, which allowed Tap and Barrel to catch their breaths a little. It’d be a few hours before the ponies started pouring in, and there was sure to be a cavalcade of fighting and bad singing.

She sighed. “Barrel?” she said, “I think we’ll have to close the tavern for a bit sometime this week.”

“Huh?” asked Barrel, who was thinking to himself about exactly how much water he should use to dilute the beer.

“Close the place down for a day so we don’t have to deal with this. Brew some more drinks so that we’re able to keep up. That sort of thing.”

Barrel shrugged. Managing stuff was not his strong suit.

“Is this ‘terrible doors week’ or something?” asked a voice. Tap looked up. It was General Quake, accompanied on either side by two lieutenants of his. Quake was wearing a fancy uniform, which meant one thing – “important” military meeting.

He was sneering at the curtain they were using for a makeshift door. “See how that keeps anything out,” he muttered, walking to a table in the corner with his two lieutenants. “And bring us some ales,” he ordered.

Tap wondered which was worse – a tavern filled with normal assholes or a tavern with just one reigning asshole?

She never complained out loud, though. Snarked at drunkards, yes, but didn’t complain. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all, and in such a setting one can’t be too picky with patrons. Besides, pissing off the general was a bad idea.

She got a tray and placed three bottles on it before carrying it over to the table.

“...they’re avoiding each other,” said one of the lieutenants.

“Figures,” said the general, “buncha cowards. That’s why they got big flying things - so they can run away! Not us, though. Whatever it is they’re planning, we’ll be right here, ready.”

“Think they might be joining each other?” asked one of the lieutenants.

“Don’t be retarded, they hate each other as much as they hate us!” said the other.

Tap, deciding that their conversation didn’t have anything to offer her in the area of maybe-this-information-will-keep-me-from-dying, placed the tray on the table.

“I think we can probably expect an attack in the near future,” said the general, “if those little shit-wings gave us the right information and Tap don’t go away just yet.” The rapid change in the topic was not accompanied by a similarly rapid change in tone. “I’d like you to go upstairs and wait for me in a few minutes.”

Tap sighed and took the tray away as one of the lieutenants got annoyed. “What, now?” he asked incredulously.

“Not now, in a few minutes,” said the general.

“You call us out here for a meeting and then you...”

“Listen, it’s my fucking island and I’ll do what I fucking like, got it?” said the general. The lieutenant backed down. Pissing off the general was a bad idea.

“Think you can hold down the fort for the time being?” asked Tap, putting the tray back at the counter.

“Yeah, why?” asked Barrel. Tap nodded over at the general. “Aww, no...” said Barrel, disgusted, “no, don’t...”

Tap ignored him and just trudged upstairs, while one of the lieutenants (the one that had suggested that the other two factions might’ve formed an alliance) started snickering at Barrel’s reaction. The other lieutenant (who had called him retarded) promptly smacked him upside the head.

She decided that now would be as good a time as any to continue reading. There was that thing where the farmer pony learned that she needed help. That was the section Scroll read from when they broke the door.

The next story involved a griffon... she had absolutely no idea what that was. But apparently she was a bitch that needed to be put in her place. It was also at this point that she decided that Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were definitely lesbians.

She skipped forward into the book, and to her surprise, found that the letters had ended. This section was title “Party Games.”

Spin the Bottle - you and your friends sit in a circle and place a bottle in the middle. One pony spins it. When the bottle stops spinning, the pony has to kiss whoever the bottle is facing.

Truth or Dare - ponies take turns. When it’s a pony’s turn, they have to choose between truth or a dare. If truth, that pony has to answer a question (preferably an embarrassing question). If dare, the pony has to do whatever he or she is told. In some variants, the pony whose turn it is selects the pony who calls truth or dare and then selects either the question or the challenge, and in other variants the truth or dare that the selected pony has to answer is open for anyone to call.

The door opened, and in walked the general.

“Anything we commonponies need to know?” asked Tap dryly. The general ignored her.

“What’s that?” he asked, seeing that she was reading.

“It’s that book the missionaries are handing out.”

The general groaned. “I am getting fucking sick of those two,” he said through his teeth as he undid his uniform, “them and their fucking combed manes and their fucking little smiles and their fucking little ‘oh I want to be friendly, come on and be gay with me’ shit.”

“I don’t see a problem with them,” said Tap, turning a page (card games and tricks, the last entry being 52 Pickup), “they aren’t really hurting anything.”

“This morning I got a complaint from somepony about how they stole one of his employees.”

“Garbage collector?”

“Yeah, that was it, I think.”

“What are you gonna do about it?” she asked, somewhat apprehensively.

“Nothing, don’t give a shit about his garbage collectors. But if those two keep butting into everything with ‘oh, we can save you all with the magic of friendship,’ they’re gonna be in deep shit.” He turned around. “What’s that book about, anyway?”

“It’s about a horner and her friends,” said Tap, closing it, “it’s... pretty stupid.” She concluded, placing it on the nightstand. The general approached the bed.


A few days later, Tap went for a walk. She was going to the mission house - despite their regular visits, she’d never actually seen this place on the inside. She was going to try to run some errands a little later, but she didn’t have very high hopes. A pony couldn’t have very high hopes in this place.

Except for those two missionaries. Ever chipper, if occasionally rattled. She wondered how long that would last. Probably not - their foundations were already crumbling. She felt bad for them. Anypony else and she’d likely just suggest they suck it up, but these two... they were practically kids.

The door had some boards on it to cover the bullet holes. That didn’t really do anything for the aesthetics that the general seemed to have been complaining about. She checked the door - unlocked. In fact, the door didn’t seem to have a lock on it. This baffled her. Still, she wasn’t one to completely turn down their hospitality.

She entered and saw Brother Scroll, his back to the door, reading something.

“So you think we should try limbo or musical chairs?” asked Scroll.


Scroll jumped, turning around. “Oh, uh, sorry...” he said, fidgeting with his glasses (nervous again, thought Tap), “I thought you were White. The pony, not the color, that is...”

“Where is he?” asked Tap.

“He went out,” said Scroll, “he wanted to, uh... check something out...”

“What?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, can’t tell you,” said Scroll, “it’s a surprise...”

“And it involves either limbo or musical chairs?”

“No, that’s something completely different,” said Scroll, “we were hoping to throw a party. A bit of a problem when we can’t make cake, though.”

“I see...” said Tap. Scroll wouldn’t stop fidgeting, like he was antsy about something, but then, Scroll seemed like he was always antsy about something. “How’s the mission going?”

“Fine, fine...” said Scroll. The air felt thick with awkwardness.

“It isn’t, isn’t it?” asked Tap.

“No,” said Scroll, letting out a sigh like the air being released from a very worried balloon, “still nopony interested and I almost got beat up again. Same with White. Somepony tried to kill White the other day and the general almost killed me and what if the general gets mad again because of Clip...”

“I can tell you he doesn’t really care about the garbage collector...”

“...and all the ponies here are just so mean and they curse at you and throw racism and homophobic slurs and ponies keep dying and being violent and there’s all these guns and booze and did you see what they do to the little pegasus ponies they catch it’s horrible and... and...” and by this point he was nearly hyperventilating.

“It’s okay, it’s okay...” said Tap, nuzzling his shoulder, “just calm down.”

Scroll took a few deep breaths. “Okay... I think I’m fine... it’s just... it’s just really hard.”

“Well, that’s life,” said Tap, “well, life for us. I guess it’s different where you’re from.”

“Uh-huh,” said Scroll, nodding, “so, uh... wanna see a fridge? We got one in the kitchen.”

“Sure, why not?” said Tap, hoping that the awkwardness of the visit would be over soon. Scroll led her into the place, and Tap was rather shocked that they got a fancy clean kitchen while hers was, well, not. Hell, just how pampered were these Equestrians, anyway?

“So, here we are,” said Scroll, throwing open the fridge. Tap looked in it, unimpressed. “Well, we had to throw all the food out. Expired...”

Tap stuck her head in the fridge. It was cool, like they said, but she found it surprising. It was just so alien to her.

“How does it work?” she asked.

“Unicorn magic,” said Scroll, “same with the stove and the oven here. It all runs on unicorn magic. A lot of inventions were made by unicorns. And I mean, if they’ve got a floating city... I’d like to see that, actually.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” said Tap, “it’s hell when they come.’

“Oh...” said Scroll. “Well...”

“Helloooooo!” called out a familiar sing-song voice as Brother White merrily swung the door open. “Scrooooll, I got your favorite snaaaack.”

Tap gave Scroll an amused look, and Scroll laughed nervously. “We’re in the kitchen!” he called.

“We?” asked White, stepping into the mission house and poking his head through the kitchen door. “Oh,” he said, seeing Tap, “glad you came over for a visit.”

“Hi,” said Tap.

“Soo...” said Scroll, “I’m not sure if we should do limbo or musical chairs...”

“Limbo, definitely,” said White, dragging in the wagon (Clip was sitting there looking cute) “requires less setup and it’s easier to jump in.”

“Alright then, limbo it is!”

“So,” said Tap, trying to sort it all out, “you two are throwing a party?”

“Uh-huh!” said Clip enthusiastically, “With balloons even!”

“And we’d like you to come!” said White happily, “you and anypony else you’d like to invite!”

Tap opened her mouth. She was about to say no, but that smile on White’s face (along with the accompanying squeaking sound he made) largely prevented her from doing that.

“Oh, alright,” she conceded.

“YAY!” exclaimed the other three in unison.


Tap returned to the tavern to find Barrel leaning on the counter, looking a little forlorn. There was a bottle next to him.

“Oh, Barrel, you’re too young to be drinking!” she said, walking over to him.

“Gotta start sometime...” Barrel mumbled. Something, however, seemed off. Tap inspected the bottle.

“Barrel... this is ginger ale,” she said.

“Yeah, so?”

“Ginger ale doesn’t have alcohol in it,” she explained, eyes narrowed slightly.

Barrel sat up. “Oh. What about ginger beer?”

“Sometimes. And you shouldn’t slouch like that. I don’t want you to get a crooked back.”

“Where were you?” asked Barrel.

“Oh, I went to see the missionaries.”

“What do they want, anyway?” asked Barrel, “one of them was in here the other day. Got a bottle of gin. He seemed nervous about something...”

“Blue one?”


“Yeah, he’s like that. Anyway, they want to have a party or something,” said Tap, “invited us.”


“Uh-huh. I think they just want to be... well, nice to everypony,” she reasoned. “Now get cleaned up, we’re gonna get a lot of ponies in here who want their booze and it is not going to be fun.”


The next day it was Barrel’s turn to take leave. He didn’t usually run errands or anything - every time he tried, he always forgot something. More likely he was going to go down to the docks and watch the sea birds as they carried out their mundane activities. He could sit for hours just watching them.

Today, however, it appeared that he hadn’t gone down to the docks. When he came back, he was sporting some heavy-looking saddlebags and a big grin on his face.

“Hiya, sis!”

“Hey, Barrel,” said Tap, trying not to betray a sense of surprise, “...where were you?”

“At the mission!” said Barrel enthusiastically. “Look!” He puffed out his chest, showing the shiny name badge he had. “They’ve accepted me into the Fraternity! I’m Brother Barrel now!”

Tap blinked, somewhat dumbfounded.

“And the bags?”

“Books!” he said, setting the saddlebags down on a table, “we can set up a little table and it’ll have all the books there, and the patrons can just come in and take them.”

“You sure that’s a good idea?” asked Tap, nervously. The last thing she wanted was to be ridiculed for being associated with the Fraternity.

“Aww, c’mon, sis,” said Barrel.

“Oh, alright,” she said, deciding that there was no conceivable way it could make things worse.


That night, they had a small table near the counter, stacked with books and a sign inviting patrons to “Take One.”

General Quake happened to come in that night. After scoffing at their lack of a proper door, his eyes fell on that table. He stared at it for a full minute, and then looked at the two ponies behind the counter. Tap ignored him, while Barrel looked back at him with a hopeful smile. He even made the squeaking noise that White had (how do they do that? she wondered).

“Fuck, now I really need a drink...” grumbled the general.

Chapter 8

Barrel had walked into the mission a few days ago, suspicious, like many a pony. He saw the two missionaries sitting down at a table, White with a book in front of him, and Scroll and the little pegasus colt sitting across from him.

“So, what is the most important thing that we learn from the story of the Sonic Rainboom?” asked Brother White.

“That you should always be there for a friend when they need support, and that you shouldn’t be so self-centered you forget it,” answered Scroll, who probably knew the book better than White.

“Good!” said White, flipping through pages. “Now, Clip, your turn - what is the most important thing we learn from Trixie and Twilight Sparkle’s encounter with the Ursa Minor?”

“Umm...” said Clip, trying to think, “that unicorns shouldn’t show off their magic?”

“Nooooo,” said White, “the thing is, Clip, that all of us ponies are special, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of the things that make us who we are. The important thing to remember is that we mustn’t think that these things make us better than the ponies around us.”

“Ohhh,” said Clip, nodding.

“Okay, Scroll, now your turn to quiz me,” said White, floating the book over to the blue earth pony.

“Okay...” said Scroll, flipping through the pages, “how about this one - what is it we learn from the story of Fluttershy and the phoenix?”

“That we should ask permission before taking things into our own hooves!” said White, beaming. “That right?”

“Uh-huh,” said Scroll.

Clip, however, seemed confused. “Then... what about me?”

White’s smile twitched a little. Scroll also found Clip’s question troubling. The silence allowed Barrel a chance to speak up.

“Hi,” said Barrel, nervously. The other three ponies looked at him.

“Oh, hi!” said White.

“You’re the pony from the tavern, right?” asked Scroll.

“Yeah,” said Barrel, “I’m Barrel, and I’m Tap’s brother.”

“Oh...” said Scroll, starting to fidget with his glasses for some reason.

“Well, Barrel, why don’t you come on in?” asked White, “pull up a seat?”

“Alright...” said Barrel, taking a chair from the room and dragging it over to the table, sitting next to Scroll. The unicorn smiled at him. He’d never seen a unicorn smile at him like that. Not without a gun floating next to his head...

“So,” White said, “Barrel, that’s your name? What do you know of our Fraternity?”

“Umm...” said Barrel, “well, you have books...”

“Uh-huh?” said White, pressing further.

“You go around doors a lot...”


“You know my sister...”

Brother Scroll fidgeted with his glasses some more. Brother White didn’t let that smile falter. Barrel looked at it. It was friendly. “I don’t think of you as an idiot,” it seemed to say, “I like you and think you’d do great with us.”

“Well, that’s all I really know...”

“Well,” said White, “we are called the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia...”

So they told him about Princess Celestia and Twilight Sparkle and the Elements of Harmony. They told him about the importance of love and tolerance and sharing and caring. Barrel started to spend most of his spare time with the Fraternity, learning about the organization and their book. He was not as sardonic a pony as his sister, and he quickly found himself liking the stories. Their philosophy, their way of life... it was just so happy that he found himself swept up in it, no matter how silly it might have seemed.

At the moment, Scroll and Barrel were hauling a large chest into the wheelbarrow, while White paced back and forth excitedly.

“Oh man, you guys, this is gonna be great!” White said, “We got everything?”

“I think so...” said Scroll.

“Wonderful!” said White, “Now, Barrel, you swear you haven’t told anyone what we’re doing?”

“Yeah!” said Barrel. White and Scroll looked at him. “Yeah, uh,” Barrel stammered, “I mean, yeah, I swear I haven’t told anyone.”

“Alrighty,” said White, “tomorrow’s the big day, then.”

“I’ll see if I can get my sister to close the tavern tomorrow,” said Barrel, “we’ve been talking about doing it for a little while.”

“Sounds like a plan!”


“Please?” asked Barrel. “You said we could shut down the tavern for a day this week.”

“Barrel, I’d like to, but we simply can’t afford it,” said Tap. This really was not the opportune time for such a conversation, as they were busy.

“But this is really, really important!”

“You still haven’t told me what ‘this’ is.”

“Bitch, I asked for a drink,” shouted a patron.

“Then take this bottle and shove it up your ass!”

“Well, I can’t,” said Barrel, “it’s a surprise.”

Tap rolled her eyes. “Oh, I give up... Listen, you can do it if you really want, but I’ll have to stay here.”

“But I want you to see it...”

Tap sighed. “Barrel, you can’t always get what you want. That’s just how life is.”

Barrel’s ears drooped.

“Look, Barrel,” she said, relenting, “I’d like to come see... whatever it is you’re putting on, I really would, but we have work.”

I want a fucking beer!

“Shut up!” shouted Tap. “Look,” she said, turning back to Barrel, “you can take the day off tomorrow, do your thing. Then you can tell me all about it. Okay?”


“There. Now, could you run down to the cellar and grab a bottle of beer so this asshole will shut up?”




“Make way, everypony!” shouted Brother White, as he, Brother Scroll, Clip, and Barrel made their way through the town. Scroll was pulling the wheelbarrow, as usual, and in the wheelbarrow was the large trunk. “Alright, guys, you remember everything?” White asked.

“Yeah...” said Scroll, “I dunno why we have to do it at the...”

“It’s the only place that works for this,” said White, stopping. “All right, here we are!”

They were standing in front of the gallows - a wooden platform, high into the air. There was a wooden beam looming over the platform, some nooses still dangling from it, flapping in the wind like ghosts. There was a lever on the platform that opened the trap door, sending any hapless pony below, where they wouldn’t hit the ground until the rope was cut.

Scroll gulped.

“Stage fright?” asked Brother White.

“Among other things...”

“Well, come on, chop chop!” said Brother White, merrily trotting up to the stairs. There were other ponies around. They wondered why this unicorn seemed to be merrily heading off to his death. Of course, they used some sort of racism to explain that.

“Good afternoon, citizens of Earthquake Island!” he shouted out, and a crowd started gathering. Yes yes yes, he thought. “We have something very, very special for all of you today...”

He had to pause. Scroll and Barrel were still hauling the chest up the stairs. About a minute later, they managed to place the chest on the center of the platform.

“Ah, good,” said White when they finally got the thing where it was supposed to be. “And now...” he said, trying to make his voice sound deeper (which didn’t work because he was a tenor), “for the show!”

His horn glowed, and the lever released the trap door, sending the trunk falling. As it fell, it opened, and red cloth shot out, coming through the trap door and draping itself over the wooden beam, like a curtain. More red cloth emerged and covered the surface of the platform, billowing over the sides and covering up the area beneath. White and the others went behind the curtain.

The missionaries had turned the gallows into a stage.


Tap was ready to run the tavern by herself. She expected that there would be the usual early-afternoon ponies on lunch break, a small group she could normally handle. However, they were nowhere to be seen. Well, except for that one guy passed out in the corner. He was there a lot. Occasionally she stopped by to make sure he was still breathing.

Nopony there. Her tavern was quiet. More than that, it wasn’t filled with assholes. That was the bright side. The downside was that the tavern was extraordinarily boring. She decided that maybe she’d go continue reading in the book that Brother White had given her. Then she thought. There was that thing the missionaries were doing that Barrel was helping out with. He really wanted her to see it. Maybe, just maybe, she could close up the tavern for now and go see it.

That is, if she knew where it was... of course, she reasoned that those two missionaries weren’t particularly difficult to find, what with one of them having a horn on his head.

A simple step out the door gave her the impression that there was a modest crowd of ponies heading in one particular direction. The direction in question, however, puzzled her - the gallows? That couldn’t be it. The missionaries couldn’t be looking forward to their own execution, could they-

Yes, she thought dryly, they absolutely could.

She reasoned, however, that execution probably wasn’t the case. She followed the crowd, almost dreading what their “surprise” was. She decided, too late, that it was a bad idea for her brother to be taking part in this. Her opinion was not improved when she got to the gallows - there it was, draped in gaudy red curtains that would’ve been better suited to... well, she never really thought about the uses of gaudy red curtains.

“Good afternoon, fillies and gentlecolts!” shouted the voice of Brother White (Scroll drew a comparison to Brother Emcee from the ceremony), “Today, we have something very, very special to show to all the ponies here on Earthquake Island! We would like to tell you the story of how our Fraternity began!”

The curtains drew back, and Tap stared, dumbfounded.

There, standing on the gallows, was Brother White. He was wearing fake wings, a gold tiara, fancy gold horseshoes, and he had a multicolored cloth covering his mane.

“I am Princess Celestia!” announced Brother White. “I rule over the land of Equestria, and it is my task to raise the sun each day!”

“And I!...” shouted a voice, “am her sister, Princess Luna!”

It was Brother Scroll. He, too, was in drag, also sporting fake wings, a horn, an a silver tiara and horseshoes. “I raise the moon every night!”

Scroll was not a very good actor. His lines were all delivered in either a loud monotone or were shaky, like he was nervous. “We sisters embody all three of the pony races - earth, unicorn, and pegasus.”

It was sort of fitting, in a way. You have the radiant sun-princess and the quiet moon-princess. They also conveniently had the right colors, with Scroll being blue and White being, well, white.

There was an awkward silence. The two just stood there in their ridiculous costumes, staring at the audience. After a while, Brother Scroll let out a gasp as he realized that he still had another line.

“Sister, I am jealous!” he exclaimed, turning to Brother White.

“Why is that, Luna?” asked Brother White as Princess Celestia.

“Nopony appreciates what I do! I raise the moon every night, and they all sleep through it! That makes me jealous, so I will not lower the moon!”

“But you have to!”

“Make me!”

“Ohhh, my sister, I am so sorry,” intoned Brother White in the most melodramatic way he could (which was quite melodramatic), “but I can see that evil has seeped into your heart!”

“I shall depose you and become the one true princess of Equestria! I will be the queen of the night!”

“No! I will stop you!” Shouted Brother White, his horn glowing, “Forgive me, my sister!”

Brother Scroll let out a yelp as the trap door was sprung, sending him below the platform (Tap could have sworn she saw White mouth “don’t break character” down to him).

Tap blinked. She just had to wonder - what could they possibly hope to accomplish with this? What train of logic were they following that made them think that a poorly-produced pageant would perform better than their usual door-knocking routine?

Next, Clip walked onto the stage, wearing a fake horn, just like Scroll had. Brother White looked at him, “ahh, Twilight Sparkle, my favorite student! How are you?”

“I’m just fine, Princess Celestia,” said Clip, who was not much better at acting than Scroll had been.

“And yet I sense that something troubles you.”

“It’s Nightmare Moon, your majesty,” said Clip, “the prophecies have clearly foretold that the stars will aid in her escape this year at the Summer Sun Celebration. We have to stop her!”

“Twilight Sparkle,” said White, “thank you for bringing this to my attention. I decree that you go to Ponyville and make some friends!”

With that, Brother White left the stage, leaving Clip alone.

Please don’t start singing... thought Tap. Mercifully, she got her wish.

Brother Scroll walked on-stage, pink paint slapped onto his face. He looked at Clip, and then delivered in a flat, quiet voice, “My name is Pinkie Pie and I don’t know you so I will throw a party for you.” He then walked off the stage in exactly the same manner as he had walked on.

“Howdy!” shouted Brother White, prancing onto stage wearing a cowboy hat and orange paint smeared all over his face, “I’m Applejack! I run Sweet Apple Acres, where we prize good, hard, honest work! And food! We have lots and lots of food!”

Brother Scroll walked back on stage with the same fake wings, except this time he had several different colors of paint splashed in his mane. “I’M RAINBOW DASH!” he shouted, “I’M FAST AND BOLD! I CAN CLEAR THE CLOUDS IN EXACTLY ONE-SIXTH OF A MINUTE!”

All this time, Clip had no lines and just sort of walked from one side of the stage to the other, as White and Scroll alternated between overacting and underacting. Tap was extraordinarily glad that Barrel had not appeared on stage yet.

It also became abundantly apparent that it was Brother White who was the real star of the show, which was probably for the best, given that he was the only pony who could act his way out of a paper bag. White’s insistence on being the center of attention became even clearer when he strutted out wearing a purple wig, walking towards the center of the stage.

“Helloooooo, Earthquake Island!” he said in the most flamboyant sing-song voice imaginable. “I am Rarity, the most glamorous pony in all of Ponyville! But I’m more than just that! I am very generous!”

Brother Scroll popped onto stage with purple paint on his face. “I find you very attractive,” he said, much more convincingly than anything else he’d acted so far.

“And today, I have something very special!” White’s horn glowed, and the trap door opened. Up through the trap door came various food items - two salt licks, two cartons of eggs, two bushels of apples, and two straw bales. “I am giving away two weeks worth of rations!”

“We are?” asked Scroll. “Oh yeah, she is...” he said, upon a reprimanding glance from White.

White walked down off of the gallows, passing out the food to the various ponies. Tap caught on - this was more than just their usual door-to-door attempt. They were trying to be a bit more blatant with reaching out, and one couldn’t be more blatant than giving away rations. She did have to wonder, though, how they planned on continuing to feed themselves if they gave away their own food.

She reasoned that they were well-intentioned idiots who simply hadn’t planned that far ahead.

It ended up that each individual pony didn’t really get a whole lot of rations, and Brother White quickly ran out of food. White found this disappointing, so much that he nearly broke character. The show must go on, he decided, and mounted the stair again, just as Brother Scroll walked on with a pink wig and yellow paint. He mumbled something - Tap could piece together “I like animals” before Scroll walked off the stage again.

Finally, after all that business, it was Clip’s turn to speak. “Now that I’ve made so many friends, it’s time for me to stop Nightmare Moon from...” he struggled with the word, “plunging Equestria into...” he struggled again, “eternal night!”

There was an awkward silence. Scroll stumbled onto the stage in the earlier Luna costume. “You are too late! I have stolen Princess Celestia, and now the night shall last forever!”

“No!” said Clip, “my friends and I have the Elements of Harmony!”

“What?” asked Scroll in the most flatly anti-climactic way possible. A cardboard rainbow (the audience gasped) swung across the stage, hanging by a rope. The trap door opened, and he fell down. Brother White emerged, wearing the Celestia costume again.

“My sister, I...” he reached down through the trap door. They hadn’t quite rehearsed this bit, as White struggled to try to pull Scroll up from the ground. Scroll was a bit heavier than White, and since White was a unicorn, his physical strength was not the best. After about three minutes of the audience watching them awkwardly try to pull Scroll up the trap door, Brother White let out a gasp for air, and finished, “...I forgive you.”

White turned to Clip, “And you,” he announced, “my prized student, Twilight Sparkle, what have you learned?”

“I learned about the magic of friendship!” said Clip excitedly (or at least the little guy was trying to say it excitedly).

“And you will stay here, in Ponyville, and learn more about the magic of friendship,” said Brother White, as he and Scroll walked behind the curtain, “and you will write letters to me, telling me what you have learned.”

A flag bearing the same symbol as the book unfurled, hanging over the stage. Brother White continued with his speech.

“And then I will take those letters, and we will put them into a book, and then the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia will take that book and go throughout Equestria and beyond, teaching ponies everywhere about the magic of friendship! Everywhere, from the city of Canterlot, to Apple-oosa, to little Earthquake Island, where the Fraternity will send... US!”

Brother White and Brother Scroll, now dressed as the nice little missionaries they were, burst from behind the curtains, Scroll with a book in his mouth and White with a book floating above his head. “And we are here to teach all of you about the magic of friendship, and what it can do for your lives!”

The three looked out at the audience expectantly. They were completely silent, just staring at the Brothers. Scroll looked at White, wondering what to do. He sat down and took the book out of his mouth, holding it in his hooves, before smiling at the audience like White (except less confident). After about twenty seconds of awkward silence, the crowd began to lose interest and walk away.

“Aren’t they supposed to applaud at this point?” whispered Scroll nervously.

“I knew we should’ve added a musical number...” said White.

The crowd cleared the area almost as quickly as it had formed, leaving only a few curious stragglers. “Yep,” said Brother White, “we definitely should’ve added a musical number.”

Barrel poked his head out from behind the curtain. “So...” he said, “we done?”

“Yep. That’s everything. Time to strike the set and all that. Thanks for the help,” said White.

“You guys...” called Tap, who hadn’t moved from where she was standing for the entire show, “I swear, you guys are completely crazy.”

“Funny," said White, "Twilight Sparkle said something like that."

Tap shook her head and walked towards the stairs. “I mean...” she stammered. There were no words for what she had just witnessed.

“Well, did you like our show?” asked Barrel.

“I, uhh...” said Tap. She decided that the only polite honest answer was “I’d never seen a play before.”

This, however, provoked a horrified reaction from Brother White. His jaw dropped. Oh brother... thought Tap.

“Naw-oh,” said Brother White, “you know something, once our mission is over, the five of us are all going to Equestria and we’re gonna see a musical. Got that?”

“Maybe,” said Tap, “c’mon, Barrel. We’ve got a tavern to run.”

“Oh, okay,” said Barrel, following his sister down the stairs, “I’ll see ya tomorrow, alright?” he asked, looking at the missionaries.

“Sure thing,” said White, before turning to Scroll, “c’mon, let’s get this all packed up.”

“They won’t want it in the way for their executions tomorrow,” said Scroll, in an uncharacteristically sarcastic tone.

White discovered the problem with trunks - just because stuff fits into them one time doesn’t mean it’s always easy to pack in. Sometimes they need to go in the correct order or else it doesn’t close properly.

“How?” he asked out loud, trying to get the curtains folded, “how did we fit them in the first time?”

The curtains were by far the most bulky part.

“I think they were rolled up a certain way,” said Scroll, taking one end and trying to fold it in half. “Maybe we should’ve written this down.”

“Can I help?” asked Clip.

“No, you just head back to the mission house,” said White, stuffing the fake wings into the trunk. “This might... take a while.”

“Oh, okay,” said Clip, leaving. He’d be safe, they figured. He knew his way around.

“I feel embarrassed...” said Scroll, when they were alone. “I don’t think I did very well...”

“Oh, pah,” said White, smiling, “you’re fine. You just need to be more confident. Tell ya what, when we get back to the mission house, I’ll give you a few pointers on improvising musical numbers. Sound good?”

“Yeah...” said Scroll, nodding, “that sounds really good.”

“Good, now if we can just... URGH!” he grunted, finally closing the door on the trunk, “now we can go.”

They pulled the wagon back along the road to the mission house. The sky was grey and the roads were completely empty. White looked around, feeling somewhat depressed.

“Overcast,” he said, “never gives the best feeling...” he looked at Scroll. Scroll had stopped walking, his feet frozen to the ground. “Scroll?”

“Overcast,” said Scroll, “you just said it’s overcast.”


“This island consists entirely of earth ponies,” said Scroll. “How is it overcast?”

Chapter 9

White and Scroll ran back to the mission house. The town had always seemed decayed, but now it looked like a ghost town - the streets were empty and the sky was grey. This was particularly troubling - all of the ponies on Earthquake Island were earth ponies, so that left the question: how was the sky grey?

White ran through the doors, followed by Scroll, who shut them. “Pegasi...” he said, “what’re we gonna do?”

“Okay, okay...” panted Brother White, “we can do something... we’ve got the earth ponies here, and the pegasi up there, and we can...”

“What’rewegonnado?” asked Scroll, “What if they start fighting?”


Scroll cringed.


“Oh no, we’re doomed...” moaned Scroll.

“What’s that?” asked White, cautiously walking towards the door, “it sounds like... bigger guns?

“Cannons,” Scroll said feebly, as they continued to fire, “much bigger guns.”

“Oh...” said White.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no...” Scroll groaned, pacing back and forth, “what do we do?

“Calm down, Scroll...”

“Calm down? They’ve already started shooting!” said Scroll frantically, “we’ve walked right into a horrible race war! We, we...” Scroll started wheezing. “I’m hyperventilating again...”

“We just need to think...” said White. He sat down, and tried to clear his head. As he did this, however, something else occurred to him. “Clip?” he asked.

There was no response. “Clip?” he asked again, “are you alright?”

Scroll looked up, an expression of horror on his face.

“Clip?” asked White, running to the kitchen. He wasn’t there, nor was he in the bathroom, the bunk room, the storage room, or any room.

“He... he didn’t get back?” asked Scroll.

“We have to find him!” exclaimed White.

Outside, the cannons continued to roar. “C’mon!” shouted White, bolting out the doors. Scroll was so surprised that he didn’t even move, he just stammered to himself before following. “White, wait!”

“Clip! CLIP!” shouted White, looking down the streets. They were still empty, but he could see some faces peering from behind windows. As the cannons continued to roar, he looked up and saw them, mounted high on walls, ponies in strange uniforms tending to them - soldiers.

The sounds of the firing cannons split their ears - they’d never heard anything as loud. They thought that the guns were loud, but that was nothing compared to this. The closest they could compare it to was a storm. Scroll remembered the first time he heard a storm. The thunder terrified him and his parents were there to assure him that the world wasn’t about to end.

He wished he had his parents with him now.

White continued calling for “CLIP!” as they ran through the town, trying to shout through the sounds of cannon-fire. Out of the corner of his eye, Scroll spotted that familiar curtain - the makeshift door. He felt something wrench in his heart.

“Tap!” he yelled, running into the tavern.

“CLIP! Huh?” asked White, stopping. “Scroll, what’re you-?”

Scroll burst through the curtain, into the tavern. It was completely vacant, but with bottles and cups strewn all over the place, like they’d all left in a hurry. The fire was extinguished, leaving no sounds by the cannons outside. “Tap?” he asked, “Tap!”

“Scroll!” shouted White, running in after him. “What’re you doing?”

“Tap!” said Scroll, “Tap and Barrel - where are they?”

“They’re probably hiding or something...” said White.


“Calm down, Scroll...” said White, putting a hoof on his shoulder, “I’m sure they’ll be fine...”

There was a clicking sound. Scroll spun around. A door near the back of the room was opening...

“What are you two doing here?” asked Tap.

“Tap!” shouted Scroll, running towards her, to her great surprise. He stammered, “I-I-I saw the sky and then I heard the cannons and then I worried about, well...” he stopped talking. He pawed the floor nervously as Tap looked at him.

Barrel peeked up from the stairwell, eyeing Scroll suspiciously. There he was, sitting and fidgeting with those glasses of his again.

“We’re hiding in the cellar,” said Tap, “I’d suggest you find someplace to hide, too.”

“We can’t find Clip,” said White, cutting in. “Have either of you seen him since the play today? Have you?”

“No, we haven’t,” said Tap, “we thought he went with you.”

“Ohh, oh no...” said White, “that was stupid... we shouldn’t have let him out of our sight!”

“You gotta get down here!” called Barrel, “There’s no telling when they’ll hit!”

“But what’s going on?” asked White, “Are the pegasi attacking?”

“Well, duh...” said Tap. “C’mon, there’s no time-”

“Uhh...” said Scroll, looking up at the ceiling. “How...” his voice was very quiet, “how long has this building been up?”

“Huh?” asked Barrel.

“I mean, look...” Scroll said, lifting a hoof to look at the ceiling, “I mean, uh, I don’t- I don’t know a whole lot about architecture, but, um, those beams, they, uh, they don’t look quite...”

Brother White looked up. He’d never noticed it before, but the ceiling seemed rather clear - there were less wooden beams up there than he’d expected. He got what Scroll meant - the building didn’t seem well-supported. If the pegasi were going to bring in a storm...

“That’s why we’re getting into the cellar,” Tap groaned.

“No! Listen!” said Scroll, his eyes wild with panic, “I don’t think it’s safe here. If the building collapses, you, you could be trapped! Listen... come stay at the mission house.”

“The mission house?” Tap asked, an eyebrow raised.

“They won’t attack it,” said Scroll.

“How do you know that?” asked Brother White.

“Because I don’t think the Fraternity’s ever needed to rebuild it,” said Scroll, pacing back and forth, “I mean, if they attacked it, they... we’re missionaries, that’d be some kind of crime, right?”

“I don’t think that’d stop them...” responded a cynical Tap.

“But they haven’t!” said Scroll, “And Brother Sky should be with the pegasi, he...” he stopped, “we need to find Brother Sky.”

“What?” asked Tap.

“Brother Sky, if we can find him-”

“Scroll, soon the town’s gonna be filled with pegasi, and there’ll be a storm. They’re going to have guns.”

“Look, guys,” said White, trying to butt in, “we can’t just stand there. You three, get to the mission house. Scroll’s right, it should be safe.”

“B-but,” stammered Scroll, “what’re you gonna do?”

“I’m gonna find Clip,” said White. “And use the bathroom.”

The cannons stopped firing. The four of them looked up intently. There was dead silence.

“White, I...” whispered Scroll, “White, I’m frightened...”

“Listen, Scroll...” said White, “I want you, Tap, and Barrel to gallop all the way to the mission house. Shut the door, and stay in. I’ll be back.”

“Do you promise?” asked Scroll.

“I promise. Now go. I’ll be back with Clip,” said White, “after I use the bathroom...”

“Huh?” asked Scroll.

“Just go!”

Scroll bolted out of the door, followed by Tap and Barrel. That left White completely alone in the tavern.

The silence was frightening. The tavern was eerily still, and White almost felt that he would’ve felt better with the rhythm of cannon-fire. White quickly trotted to the bathroom. He had to find Clip, but sometimes nature calls, and nothing can adequately drown out that feeling of “I need to go.”

He didn’t like that bathroom, though. It was dirty and smelly and the walls were covered in crude drawings of genitalia. He walked into the stall, sealing the bolt with a clink! He was just about the sit down when the ground shook, sending him to the floor.

Earthquake Island, he realized. He remembered when the general came to the mission house, and he stomped his foot on the floor. He froze. General Quake was strong enough to make the whole island shake, just by stomping his feet. He realized another thing - the cannons had stopped firing, but there were still loud bangs going on outside - gunfire.

He was scared, now. He realized he didn’t really want to use the bathroom anymore. He needed to get out, and he was about to leave, when he noticed something in the toilet. He walked up to it. It was a very simple facility - no plumbing, just a big dark hole that went down into a pit. But there was something shiny down there. Had someone dropped a piece of jewelry or something? He looked at it, and found that it seemed to be glowing brighter. And even over the gunshots, White could hear that there was a growing hum.

Then there was a blinding flash of light, and White found himself stumbling backwards. And then in front of him there appeared a stallion - a unicorn stallion. White stared at him. He seemed to be dressed in armor, and there was a gun floating in front of him. In all his confusion, White seemed to be able to guess what it was - it was a soldier. A soldier who then spotted him.

“Hey!” the unicorn said, “What are you doing here?”

“Huh?” White said in an outrageously high-pitched voice, slowing standing back up, “What are you doing here?

“How’d you get ahead of me?” demanded the soldier.

“What?” asked White, his face plastered with a distraught expression of confusion.

“Oh, nevermind, just get outta my-”

There was another flash of light, and the soldier stumbled forward, bumping into White, who backed into the stall door. Another soldier had appeared.

“Hey, what’s the hold-up?” asked the second soldier.

“Don’t look at me!” said the first soldier.

“I just wanted to use the bathroom...” moaned White.

Another flash of light, and another soldier came in.

“What gives?!”

“This dumbass is holding us up!”

White was now nearly pressed against the door, as a bathroom stall is not a great deal of room for four stallions. Another flash of light raised the number to five stallions. Now White was pressed against the wall, the first stallion face-to-face with him.

“Open the door!” the first soldier yelled.

“Hey, what’s the- woooooah!” shouted the fifth stallion. An accompanying splash and an “eeeugh!” indicated that he had just fallen down the toilet.

“Why are we in a bathroom?” asked one of the soldiers.

“I dunno, I didn’t set these things up!” shouted another.

Brother White was beginning to see why it would’ve been a better idea to do what he was supposed to do, rather than stopping by the bathroom. It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at first, until it was actually carried out. Granted, White didn’t actually get to carry it out. Now he didn’t really want to use the bathroom.

The ground shook, causing all the stallions to shout in alarm.

“Fuck it!” said the first soldier, regaining his bearings, taking his gun, and slamming the butt against the lock, breaking it. White fell down onto the floor as the soldiers scrambled over him, not being particularly careful about where they placed their hooves.

White, having narrowly avoided being trampled to death, looked up and saw them running into the tavern. White followed them, cautiously - before he could enter into the main room, however, he spotted an earth pony sticking his head through the curtain-door.

“UNIC-” he began to shout, but was cut off when one of the unicorn soldiers shot him dead. There was the sound of more voices shouting.

“Shit!” said one of the unicorns, “Take cover!”

The unicorn soldiers took cover - behind tables, stairs, the counter, and earth pony soldiers started running in through the door.

Brother White couldn’t bear to look. He just retreated into the bathroom and sat in a corner, his hooves over his ears. This didn’t block out the roar of gunfire as the tavern turned into a full-blown shoot-out. All he could think about was how awful it was, and how much he wished he could just find Clip, and go back home and be with Scroll...

The gunshots stopped. He looked up, taking his hooves from his ears. He looked towards the door of the bathroom - the earth pony soldiers were coming in. Then he heard a grunting, coming from the bathroom stall.

“Ugh...” said the unicorn soldier, trying to climb out. When he finally managed to half-way pull himself out, he looked up and saw the earth pony soldiers. “Aww, shit...” he said, before one of the soldiers put a bullet in his head and sent him right back down.

“Well, well, lookie who’s here!” said one of the earth pony soldiers, spotting Brother White huddled in the corner. “If it isn’t our faggy white missionary pal.”

“...hi,” said Brother White, weakly, as one of the soldiers walked up to him, carrying a rifle in his mouth. The soldier turned his head and smacked White with the butt of the gun, knocking him onto the floor. The soldier placed the gun down, letting the barrel lean against his shoulder.

“Whatcha doing in here?” asked the soldier, mockingly, “here in the bathroom behind them horners?”

“Nothin’...” groaned Brother White.

“Y’know what I think we got here, boys?” asked the same soldier, looking at his pals, “I think we got us a spy!”

White’s face shot up. “Huh?”

The soldier grabbed him by the shoulder with his mouth, picked him up, and shoved him against the wall. “Just what are the chances that our resident horner shows up in the same room as a whole lot of un-resident horners? Hm?”

White couldn’t believe this. “I-I-I-I-I-I...” he stammered, sounding a lot like Brother Scroll.

“No, take your time,” said the soldier as his compatriots laughed, “I know you guys are clever bastards, I wanna see how you try to explain this.”

“L-look, it’s not what it looks like...” the unicorn tried to explain, “I came in here to use the bathroom, and they just start... they start coming in.”

The earth pony released him and turned around. White felt very relieved, when


The soldier had bucked him, knocking the wind out of him. White stumbled to the floor again.

“Not good enough!” jeered one of the other soldiers.

“I’m telling the truth!” protested White, before finding himself staring down the barrel of the gun.

“Wonderful for you,” said the soldier, preparing to pull the trigger, when a dull humming sound started. He took his mouth off the trigger. “What’s that?”

White gulped, “I think there’s more.”

There was a flash of light from the stall, but none of them could see what had appeared. Except, of course, for the earth pony nearest the door, who was gaping in terror. “Oh shit!”

The earth pony didn’t even bother raising his gun, he just turned tail and ran out of the bathroom. The other soldiers, not getting why he had been terrified, readied their weapons.

“Oh, what now...” asked the soldier nearest to White, turning around. Then his eyes widened. “Oh fuck...”

Out of the stall stepped a tall unicorn stallion. His coat was a deep purple color, and he was wearing armor. Though his flank was covered, the armor had a gold crown painted on it. White’s eyes were drawn to the unicorn’s horn - only the princesses had bigger ones.

“Fire, you idiots!” shouted the first soldier, as the other earth ponies started firing. The unicorn smirked as his horn glowed, and a bubble encased him. The gunshots weren’t hurting him, and he nonchalantly walked right out of the bathroom.

Something funny happened: White found himself lifted off of the floor, surrounded by a similar bubble, and he found himself floating through the air, after the other unicorn. One of the soldiers stopped firing and just stared at the sight. The bubble kept White from being harmed by the bullets, but it also seemed to dull the sound of the firing, as though everything were muted by a thick wall made out of pillows. The experience was all the more surreal when White could still see the soldiers firing and swearing at the two of them.

“Well, you aren’t going to thank me for saving your life?” asked a voice, causing White to jump. He was startled by how loud and clear it was, and then he looked over at the purple unicorn. “Well?”

It was a deep voice, with what White could’ve sworn was some kind of English accent.

“Umm...” said White, a bit too dumbfounded to speak coherently.

“What’s the matter?” asked the unicorn, looking at him. “Say...” his eyes scanned the floating white unicorn, “I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”

White was just staring at the purple unicorn, so much that he hadn’t noticed that several earth ponies had poured into the tavern, knocking down tables, taking cover behind them, and firing.

“They’re still shooting at us,” White said rapidly.

“Ah,” said the purple pony, acknowledging the attackers for the first time. He gave a smirk that White found profoundly unsettling, and his horn glowed brighter. There were several pop!ping sounds, and White saw that the bottles on the shelves were blowing their own corks off, and the liquor was flying out. There was a crash as several kegs on the side of the room burst open. The door to the cellar flew open as well as a river of booze poured in. The torrent of alcohol drenched all of the soldiers in the room, who couldn’t even continue firing. One of the soldiers slipped in a puddle, which prompted White to laugh. The other unicorn gave a low chuckle himself, and a spark flew from his horn.

It touched one of the soldiers, who was promptly set on fire. The alcohol that had now drenched the other soldiers was also lit, and in the space of a few seconds, half of the tavern was set ablaze.

White’s face turned from an expression of amusement to one of horror as the soldiers screamed, flailing around and desperately trying to grab their guns. The purple unicorn, however, used his magic to grab a shotgun from one of the soldiers, and promptly shot him in the head. The gun proceeded to float through the room, shooting the burning soldiers one by one, until one of them tried to bolt for the door. The unicorn smirked. One more blast from the shotgun, and he dropped dead at the doorway. The curtain caught flame.

“Now then,” said the unicorn, dropping the bubble, leaving White to land painfully on his rear, “I don’t think we’ve been introduced...”

White didn’t even let out a grunt as he landed. He was just staring in horror at the stallion who had massacred an entire roomful of soldiers and set the tavern on fire. He couldn’t say anything - the smell of burning flesh and liquor filled his nostrils, and it was making him ill, but he didn’t take his eyes off of the unicorn. He knew that it was...

“General Monarch,” said the unicorn, “now, what’s a fine young stallion like yourself doing down here with the dirts?”

White didn’t say anything. There was no sound but the roaring fire.

“Well?” asked the general.

“You... you killed them,” said White, scooting backwards on his rear, terrified.

“‘They’re shooting at us,’ ‘you killed them,’” repeated Monarch, “you seem very talented at stating the obvious.”

White still didn’t say anything, either because he was scared, or because the smoke was starting to make him cough.

There was a crash of thunder from outside. Monarch looked up, as though surprised for the first time. “Well,” he said, “that would be my cue to leave.” He looked back at White. “Care to come along with?”

White choked a little and shook his head.

“Suit yourself,” said Monarch, vanishing in a blink of light, leaving Brother White alone in a tavern that was now half on fire.


Scroll, Tap, and Barrel had managed to make it back to the mission house just as the unicorns had started teleporting in. Scroll was the last in, and he shut the door, but he couldn’t help but watch through the bulletholes.

“Why are there unicorns?” asked Scroll, “I thought this was a pegasus thing.”

“Cowards,” spat Tap, “must’ve decided to get a cheap shot.”

Unicorns were rushing out of buildings, wielding guns and other strange weapons that Scroll wasn’t able to identify from comic books. Earth ponies, also carrying guns, were on rooftops and in the streets. The two groups were firing at each other, with ponies dropping dead like flies. One of the unicorns took something off of his armor, like some kind of ball, and flung it with his magic at a group of earth ponies. It exploded, setting a nearby building on fire, and killing the earth ponies.

The ground and the building shook and Scroll stumbled away from the door. It was just as well - he couldn’t take it. He backed away and slumped against the wall.

“Oh no, oh no no no no... this is awful,” he said, going into another one of his fretful fits. The rain of gunfire was going off, and he started fidgeting with his hooves.

“You probably should consider getting a lock on that door...” said Tap.

“What about White? How is he gonna get back? How long will he take?” asked Scroll, “What if he can’t find Clip? What if... what if...?” His voice stammered and trailed off as he considered the horrifying possibilities, his breathing growing more rapid. He was close to hyperventilating again.

“Scroll!” shouted Tap. This seemed to snap him out of his fit of panic, as his head snapped over in her direction. “Listen, there’s nothing we can do. All we can do is sit tight and hope that White makes it out alright.”

“But I...”

“Scroll, please,” she said, walking over to him, “calm down...”

Scroll gulped and took a few deep breaths. “I’m just... I’m just so worried...

“I understand, Scroll,” said Tap, sitting down next to him, “just calm down...”

Scroll took a few more breaths, shuddering a little. Barrel stepped over to the side of the room, watching the two suspiciously. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like that Scroll had just barged into their home and demanded they come here, he didn’t like the way he was acting around Tap, and he wasn’t comfortable with the way Tap was acting towards him.

The gunshots stopped, and Scroll nervously opened the door just in time to see General Quake - he was wearing thick armor and had various threatening-looking guns fastened to his sides. He was in the middle of fighting with a unicorn soldier. The general turned around surprisingly quickly and bucked at the unicorn soldier, tearing his head right off and sending it flying right at the door. Scroll was so horrified that he just stood there, frozen, until it struck him on the head.

He stumbled back, dazed from the blow.

“What happened?” asked Barrel.

“There’s a head...” said Scroll groggily, “there’s a...” he looked down at the floor, and the terrible sight snapped him out of it. “THERE’S A FUCKING HEAD!”

He scrambled, going up against the wall and curling into a fetal position. He let out some sort of unintelligible whimper and started rocking himself back and forth.

“Uhh...” said Barrel, “he okay?”

“Not really...” said Tap, gingerly kicking the head out the door, which she promptly shut. “We’ll just have to sit here and wait it out, like we always do.”

“I don’t see why we couldn’t just stay in the cellar...” said Barrel.

“C-c-c-c--cc-couldn’t risk it c-c-c-c-c-collapsing...” stammered Scroll, as though he were freezing, before looking up at them, “I d-didn’t want you to g-get hurt if you got tr...trapped or something... you’re my friends.”

The silence was ended by a crash of thunder. This seemed to snap Scroll out of his cringing stupor (again).

“I need to find White,” he said quietly.

“Huh?” Barrel asked, as Scroll scrambled to get up.

“Scroll, what’re you...” started Tap.

“WHITE, I’M COMING!” shouted Scroll, throwing the doors open and running down the street. Tap and Barrel weren’t able to react in time.

“Scroll!” Tap shouted from the doorway, “You’ll get yourself killed!”

“I don’t care!” Scroll yelled back.

The skies were no longer simply overcast - they were black, tumultuous and rumbling. The streets were littered with the corpses of earth ponies and unicorns alike.

“White?” he called, “WHITE!”

Terrible thoughts flashed through his head - if unicorns were attacking, what if that meant White was a target? If the earth ponies had turned on White, he didn’t know what he’d do, or how he’d be able to cope.

In his panic, he ran down the most familiar path, which went right past the tavern, which was now on fire. He couldn’t even see through the doorway, as there was a huge, rank-smelling column of flame blocking his view. His jaw dropped - his intuition to get Tap and Barrel out of there had been completely justified. On the other hoof...

“WHITE!” he shouted, running towards the door.

Inside, White could hear the shouting. “Scroll!” he called back.

“What are you doing in there?!” shouted Scroll. “Hold on, I’m coming to get you!”

“No!” shouted White back. “Scroll, get back to the mission house!”

“What about you?” Scroll called, “How are you gonna get out of there?”

“Umm...” White said, too quietly for Scroll to to hear. He looked around. The door was blocked by the flames. Maybe he could go upst- no, that was on fire, too. He backed up, and the grave reality of the situation hit him - he was in a burning building. He took a deep breath, sweating. “Okay, Scroll, listen,” he called out again, “I... I’ll find some way out of...” his eyes caught something: the bathroom. There was no fire there. “Scroll, don’t worry, I think I can find a way out of here!”

There was the sound of gunshots from outside.

“Oh no...” said Scroll, looking up at the sky. He could see shapes descending from the clouds above - pegasus ponies, and lots of them, and the earth ponies were shooting up at them. “They’re coming!”

“Scroll! Get out of there!” shouted White.

Scroll didn’t need to be told twice, as the corpse of a pegasus soldier hit the ground in front of him with a SPLAT! He turned around and galloped as fast as he could. Unfortunately, the direction he ran in was away from the mission house.

Inside the tavern, White ran for the bathroom. He heard a crashing sound as part of the ceiling collapsed in the main room. He ran to the stall and looked down. It was a deep pit, and he could make out the corpse of the unicorn soldier. Taking a deep, nervous breath, had got up on the can and jumped down.

Scroll continued running as fast as his legs could carry him, the sounds of gunshots and cannonfire filling his ears. He noticed, however, something odd - around his feet, there were little plumes of dust coming up...

His heart went stone-cold. Oh, fuck, he thought, they’re shooting at me!

He stopped for an instant, and it was only blind luck that ensured he didn’t die right there. Doing the smart thing, he ran into a nearby building and shut the door. He looked around frantically for something - anything heavy he could use to barricade the door. He seemed to be in some kind of shop, but the merchandise was all put away - the shopkeeper must’ve hid his wares and hidden. He spotted a table. He scurried behind it and pushed it up to the door. Praying that it would be enough to keep the soldiers at bay, he backed up and huddled in a corner.

He stared at the door. Anypony trying to get in would have to get through the...

He noticed something funny on the door. The hinges, mainly. He then watched, frozen, as the door swung open to the outside.

“Helloooo?” called the young stallion, peering in. He was a pegasus pony, dressed in the same soldier getup as the other ponies - not like the pristine, ceremonial, regal look of the royal guards back in Equestria, but instead these uniforms were gritty and functional. This soldier had an orange coat and a black mane. “Well, lookie what I’ve found!” he said, spotting Scroll in the corner. He readied a pistol in his mouth. “Wanna keep running?”

Scroll gasped and leaped behind the counter as a gunshot rang out. Scroll didn’t think he’d ever get used to just how loud those things were. Spotting a back door, he made a run for it. Mercifully for him, the orange pegasus soldier was a lousy shot and he managed to swing the door open and shut it without dying.

His heart was pounding almost loud enough for him to drown out the gunshots. This wasn’t a bully beating him up and stealing his lunch money and calling him a faggot. This wasn’t General Quake threatening him. This pony was trying to kill him, and if Scroll couldn’t get away, that was exactly what the soldier would do.

The back door led to an alleyway. Scroll didn’t stop to panic, but he just kept on running. Funnily enough, he didn’t find himself getting worn out, which was fortunate, as he couldn’t afford to stop and think about it.

He didn’t know where he was going. They avoided alleys on their way through town, for two reasons. The first was that they didn’t want to get mugged more than usual. The second was that there just weren’t really a whole lot of doors to knock on. He couldn’t stop and try to figure his direction. He just had to put as much distance between him and the orange soldier as possible, get away from him before he caught up and started shooting again.

Gunshots, cannonfire, and thunder were all crashing in the town around him. The sky was lit with explosions and lightning. It was like a nightmare or a heavy metal concert. The alley led back into a larger, empty lot, when a bolt of lightning struck the ground right next to him. The light nearly blinded him, and the sound of the air exploded almost completely deafened him. He fell to the ground, groaning.

He didn’t know how long he lay there, but when he looked up, he saw two large pairs of metal boots in front of him.

“Well, well,” said a voice. It was a female’s voice - high, cold, clear, and cutting.

Scroll looked up. Standing right in front of him was a tall mare. Her coat was slate grey, with a blue mane and tail. Scroll noticed her mane was cut very short, and she wore an armored uniform, with a lightning bolt on the piece that covered her cutie mark. She was looking down at him, a small smirk on her face.

Scroll looked around - there were other pegasus soldiers flanking her.

“You don’t seem armed, dirt,” said the mare.

Scroll adjusted his glasses. “You’re... you’re General Storm,” he said quietly. General Storm let out a snort in amusement.

He heard the flapping of wings from behind. “I got ‘im!” shouted a familiar voice. Scroll turned his head and saw the orange pegasus who had been shooting at him earlier. He walked up to Scroll, aiming his pistol.

“No, Eagle, you haven’t,” said Storm, “he stumbled right into me. In fact, this guy is so stupid I’m left wondering why you didn’t kill him first!”

“I’m not stupid...” said Scroll.

“Shut up, I’m talking,” snapped Storm. She looked back down at him. “Now, then, what exactly is a soldier doing out here without a weapon?”

“Um...” said Scroll, confused, “I’m not a soldier.”

“Ohhhhh,” said Storm, nodding, “awful big for a young colt, aren’t you?”


“No, wait...” she said, “you’re an adult?”

“Kinda...” said Scroll, looking around. The other soldiers were laughing.

“Eagle,” said Storm, looking at the orange pegasus, “what exactly was this young pony doing when you found him?”

“Hiding, sir,” responded Eagle. The general grinned at this.

“Well, boys,” said Storm, turning to her soldiers, “it looks like what we have here is...” he threw a mocking grin at Scroll, “a civilian.”

She turned back to her soldiers. “Kill him.” There were several clicking sounds as the guns were cocked. Scroll had to do something fast.

“WAIT!” Scroll shouted. General Storm turned around, sporting a very annoyed expression.

“Wait?” she asked, walking up to him. “We don’t ‘wait,’ you miserable little pile of manure. We fly. We fly, and if you can’t keep up, then that’s just too bad.”

Scroll realized - for a mare, she was surprisingly big - taller than he was. He found himself backing against a wall as this general advanced on him.

“There you are, backing away!” she said, her head locked against his, “And hiding, earlier. You know what you are, you little dirt?” She asked, her voice dripping with disgust.

Scroll tried to stammer something out, but he seemed to have lost his voice. Storm swung her front hoof, and the metal boot collided with Scroll’s head. There was a loud clang and a dull clink as Scroll’s glasses broke and he fell to the ground, dazed.

“YOU’RE A COWARD!” General Storm roared. She lowered her head to his. “You see...” she lowered her voice, “we on my Stormcloud-”

“Do you all name your towns after yourselves?” asked a groggy Scroll.

“Shut up,” snapped Storm, “we have standards. If you don’t meet those standards, then you’re worthless. And we all understand this.” She turned to the soldiers. “Right boys?”

“Right, sir!”

Then, Scroll remembered Clip. They threw him off the cloud... he thought. Slowly, he got up.

“Furthermore...” continued General Storm, walking away from him, “we don’t like cowards. Snivelly little whiners who run and hide from a fight.” She looked back at Scroll. “And glasses. He wears glasses, too.”

She looked at her soldiers.

“Well?” she asked, “Why’d you put your guns down?”

There was a chorus of clicks coming from the soldiers. Scroll was more or less completely out of options.

“General,” said one pegasus, who seemed uneasy, “I don’t know if-”

“Don’t know if what, Sky?” asked the general. Scroll’s head shot up, looking at the blue pegasus. Unfortunately, as he had no glasses, he couldn’t make out Sky’s expression, and Sky didn’t say anything. “Guess that answered whatever question, then?” she asked, when Sky didn’t answer back.

General Storm turned back to face Scroll. “Ready,” she began, “aim...”

“Look! General Quake!” Scroll shouted, pointing behind them.

Hilariously, General Storm and all of the pegasus soldiers whirled around, looking for the earth pony general. Scroll wasted no time and bolted for the nearest open door. A few of the soldiers caught wise and started shooting at him, but Scroll managed to shut the door before any of them got a good aim on him.

“Son of a bitch!” spat Storm. There was a crash of thunder, and rain started pouring down. General Storm looked up. “About time,” she said, “forget about him. Move out!” The general and the soldiers took off into the air, flying low, out of the alley and back into the streets, save for one soldier.

Eagle was intent on following Scroll through that door.


The tavern, along with a few other buildings, was completely up in flames. Soon enough, the building could not sustain itself, and it collapsed. Once again, Tap and Barrel were left without a home.

White was safe, if extraordinarily ill, in the pit beneath the bathroom. He had to share that space with a week’s worth of manure, urine, and a newly dead corpse.

He found himself thinking it might’ve been a better idea to simply run through the burning doorway. He was stirred from these thoughts, however, when a drop of water hit him on the nose. He looked up and could see clouds from above. He grinned - he’d been right. He’d made a phenomenally stupid decision on the spur of the moment, and he’d been completely right.

Slowly and painfully, he climbed the walls of the pit, just like he assumed the late soldier had done. Rain was pouring down, and he eagerly welcomed the cool ammonia-free water. It’d be just like a shower. He reached the toilet, and stuck his head out, gasping for fresh air at last.

He looked around - water was pouring down everywhere, and he could make out the shapes of moving ponies. The sounds of gunshots, cannons, and thunder were all around him, and he sat there, hanging from a toilet bowl, like the central character of some terrible absurdist play.

He saw one familiar figure, though: the hulking form of General Quake, except this time he wasn’t just a big brown stallion. He was decked in armor bristling with all manner of guns. He remembered what Scroll said about how there were different kinds of guns - revolvers and rifles and shotguns and such, and White could only stare and wonder just how there could be that much variety for a single function.

General Quake was stomping the ground, making the whole island shake (White nearly fell right back down into the shit pit). The guns were blazing, and pegasi dropped out of the sky in bloody piles.

“GENERAL QUAKE!” shouted a voice, cutting through the sounds of warfare. White’s eyes were drawn to a pegasus mare wearing metal boots - General Storm.

She was flying, and with a smirk on her face, she lifted her front hooves and banged them together. White squinted - he could have sworn he saw a spark come from those boots. General Quake spun around to face Storm, just as Storm hurled a massive lightning bolt at him.

Quake jumped out of the way of the bolt as it missed him and hit a wooden cart, which was promptly reduced to a smoldering pile of ash. Quake responded by blazing his guns, trying to shoot Storm out of the sky, but she was fast and ducked into the window of a nearby building. One tube attached to General Quake’s side launched something into the window, which was followed by an explosion that engulfed the room in fire. Quake intently watched the room. After a wait, Storm appeared on top of the roof and threw another lightning bolt, which Quake dodged.

White now understood just why these ponies were generals. Jerked to his senses by the second lightning bolt, the unicorn pulled himself out of the toilet and ran through the rain.

If there was one thing that comforted him, it was the fact that the rain could be just like a shower. Unfortunately, now the situation was worse - how could he possibly hope to find Clip?

He ducked into a dark corner where he was sure that nopony would shoot at him. He had the distinct impression that the pegasus ponies didn’t like unicorns any more than the earth ponies did, and the earth ponies didn’t need much of an excuse to shoot him.

The rain continued to fall, and he closed his eyes, trying to catch his breath. If he could just drown out the sounds of the fighting around him, he might be able to calm down, just enjoy the rain as it hit his cheek and chin...

He opened his eyes. The rain shouldn’t have been hitting there. The wind had picked up, and White stared at the center of town. The pegasus soldiers were there, flying in a circle. White’s eyes widened as he saw a funnel of air form, before touching down. The pegasus soldiers had created a tornado. He watched as the tornado ripped up buildings. He couldn’t understand. Sure, he’d seen tornadoes before, but that was at a Wonderbolts show. They used them as a stunt, and they were completely controlled. The idea that somepony would use a tornado as a weapon was horrific. Then again, in the week he’d been here, he’d found progressively worse forms of “horrific.”

“DON’T JUST STAND THERE!” roared General Quake to his soldiers, “GET THAT THING OUTTA THE SKY!”

White watched as two soldiers marched down the road. One of them was pulling a cart loaded with metal disks, and the other had some bizarre contraption that White didn’t recognize. The second soldier set down the device and constructed what seemed to be some sort of... long thing on a tripod. He went to the cart and took a disk, placing it on one end of the device, before pulling it back.

“Launching!” shouted the soldier, pulling on a lever. The disk flew off the end of the device and at the tornado. As White’s eyes followed it, he could see other disks following. White wondered how, exactly, this was supposed to stop the tornado, but he decided that he needed to get moving. He figured that with most of the soldiers occupied on that thing, he’d be a little safe.

He quietly tip-hoofed around the town, looking for some sign of Clip, but it was useless - he had absolutely nothing to go on. Then, something landed in front of him. He let out a scream - it was a severed wing. He looked up at the tornado. Mutilated, bloody corpses were flying out of it.

That was how the disks were supposed to stop the tornado.


Scroll saw no shame in being a coward. It was difficult for him to feel shame when he was hiding. He was in somepony’s kitchen. Whose kitchen, he had no idea. While he caught his breath, he wondered just where everypony was hiding? Perhaps they all had underground cellars or bunkers like Tap and Barrel. Maybe they were all soldiers, if Storm’s words gave any indication.

He was hiding in a cabinet, with one small knothole that allowed him to peak out. He really found himself wishing that he still had his glasses. There was the sound of hoofsteps, and he saw orange legs walking in front of the knothole.

“Where aaaare you?” asked Eagle in a sing-song voice. “Don’t ya wanna come out? Are you scared?

Because Scroll wasn’t an idiot, he didn’t answer.

“Hey, man, let’s do this fairly.” There was a dull clinking sound. “No guns. Come at me with your hooves up.”

Again, Scroll wasn’t an idiot.

“Y’know,” said Eagle, “this is my first battle. Gotta say you’re making it pretty memorable. You’re gonna be my first kill, you know that?”

There was a banging sound, and Scroll jumped.

“I know you’re hiding in here, somewhere,” said Eagle. “No way out of here. I’ll find you soon enough. Why don’t you face me like a stallion instead of sitting there like a pansy?”

There was another banging sound, and Scroll’s breathing became heavier. Then the light from the knothole went out. Scroll saw one gold eye looking at him.


One thought occurred to Scroll immediately. Actually, it was less of a thought than it was a reaction. He kicked the door open, knocking Eagle back. Scroll scrambled to try to run past him, but Eagle was much faster than he was. Before Scroll could make it to the door, Eagle cut him off. He reared up onto his hind legs and kicked Scroll in the face, making him stagger backwards.

“Not running away this time!” said Eagle, a sadistic grin on his face. Scroll backed away from the pegasus soldier. The pegasus soldier lunged at him, hitting him twice with his front hooves. “C’mon!” he goaded, hitting him again. “What, it doesn’t hurt enough?”

“Well...” said Scroll, “I’ve had worse...”

Eagle snorted. This was exactly the wrong thing for Scroll to say. He lunged at Scroll, throwing a foreleg around his neck. He spread his wings and the two lifted off of the ground. Scroll flailed and kicked at the air, but it was completely futile. Eagle, however, hit his head on the ceiling and dropped Scroll, who hit the ground with a thud. In the time it took for Eagle to get his head cleared, Scroll managed to bolt out the door again.

Cursing his flagrant incompetence, Eagle followed Scroll out the door into the alleyway. Scroll was galloping as fast as he could - if he could just get to the mission house, it’d be alright. Eagle, however, took off into the air. No matter how fast Scroll could run, he couldn’t outrun somepony who could fly.

Eagle soared above him and then went into a dive, crashing down on him and rubbing his face into the ground. When he lifted his face back up, it was caked with dirt and blood. He gasped for air, and Eagle just hit him again.

Eagle snorted, his brow furrowed. It as was though he was angry at Scroll.


“Stop...” Scroll choked. “Please...”


White ran back to the mission house, bursting through the doors. Tap and Barrel had been sitting aimlessly, and they jumped up. White, however, ignored them, and ran towards the desk at the front of the main room. He opened the drawers frantically.

“White!” said Tap, “We were worried that you might’ve...”

“Well I didn’t,” said White, shuffling through miscellaneous junk. “No, not in there...” he looked up. “Where’s Scroll?”

“He, uh...” said Barrel, “He went after you...”

“And he didn’t come back?”

“No,” said Tap, “he didn’t.”

White froze. Then, he suddenly went to the storage closet.

“White?” asked Tap, “What are you doing?”

“Looking... for...” said White, rummaging through a bunch of junk, “AHA!” He exclaimed triumphantly, brandishing a megaphone.

“I don’t think that answered my question...” said Tap quietly as White marched past her, the megaphone floating ahead.

White threw open the doors of the mission house, stepping into the stormy weather. Gunshots, lightning, and cannons were still firing, and many nearby homes were ruined. But White wasn’t deterred. He would never be deterred.

Circling around the back of the mission house, he found some conveniently stacked boxes - exactly what he needed. Gripping the megaphone in his teeth, he climbed up, onto the roof of the mission house.

He stood there, looking at the town. Buildings on fire, rain pouring down, lightning striking, tornadoes, unidentifiable body parts flying through the air...

He looked up to the sky, raised his megaphone, and shouted.


The wind picked up, and White took a step back, placing his feet so he wouldn’t lose his standing.


He stopped again. He felt rather foolish - he planned to make this big dramatic speech, and when he was about to do it... his mind went completely blank. Then something whizzed right past his ear, before embedding itself in the roof of the building - it was one of the disks.


Exasperated, he took one deep breath, before screaming at the top of his lungs.


He felt the wind pick up around him, and he had to duck to keep from being blown off the roof. He clenched his eyes shut, but surprisingly, the wind died down. Cautiously, he opened them again, and drew back in alarm.

The mission house in the center of a swirling column of wind. The eye of the storm, where the air is calmest. He looked up, and he saw several pegasus soldiers on clouds above him, and in the center of them all was General Storm.

White picked up the megaphone. “I’ve got a book for you.

The pegasus general leaped from the cloud above and landed on the roof with a CLANG!

“Isn’t this a funny sight?” she asked, “I thought you horners cleared out by now. Not like you were able to do a lot with your little sneak attack.” She snorted, amused.

“I’m not with Monarch...” groaned White. General Storm seemed completely uninterested, and continued talking.

“I look forward to having a direct confrontation,” she said, smiling, “I think we’re overdue for that...”

“I want you to call off the attack,” said Brother White, which seemed to get an actual reaction from her.

“What?” she asked.

“I want you to call your soldiers off. Stop the tornadoes and the storm and go away.” White said, gritting his teeth. “Then you come back when you’re ready to make a peaceful cooperation.”

General Storm was dumbstruck. Then her mouth pulled into a smile, and then she started laughing. “Wait, wait a minute... this building is...” she said through fits of laughter. “You’re another one of those Fraternity ponies. Ha!” he looked up at the soldiers above them, “Hey, Sky! One of your friends!”

“Sky?” White asked, looking up. “Sky! Are you up there?” he called.

“Yeah,” called a voice down, from the blue soldier.

“Brother Sky!” White called up, “I-”

“He’s one of my lieutenants,” said General Storm, cutting him off.

“Huh?” asked White.

“He joined us,” she said, walking closer to the unicorn, “not the most... effective soldier,” she said quietly, “but he’s quite useful in certain ways.”

White looked up at Brother Sky, who’d retreated out of sight, and then back to the general. Time for him to stick to his guns.

“Hello,” he said, “my name is Brother White. I’d like you to read our book.”

“No, Brother White,” she said, turning her back on him, “I’ve looked through it, and I can only come to the conclusion that your Fraternity is a collection of pansies. I mean, Fluttershy?” she asked disdainfully, “A pegasus who would lower herself to the level of one of those dirts-”

“Really, what is it with these terrible racial slurs-”

“She could barely even fly. What use would the Stormcloud have for a pony like her?”

“In Equestria,” White said, his eyes narrowed, “we value kindness.”

General Storm chuckled at this. “Kindness? Yeah, I’ll bet you’ve been trying that for a while. How’s that working out for you?”

“I think it’s working out just fine...” said White through his teeth.

“Oh really?” asked General Storm, “Tell me, frat boy, how many new friends you’ve made? How many soldiers have you gotten to throw down their guns and start making fancy floral arrangements? Made any new fillyfriends lately? How about coltfriends?” Her tone grew increasingly mocking. “Maybe you can get one of your friends to wash the stench of shit from your mane. Good fuck, you smell awful. I thought you horners were all about hygiene.”

“Call off the attack,” repeated White.

“Or what?” asked General Storm, “What are you going to do, little horner, if I don’t call off the attack?”


General Storm drew back in alarm, before retaliating. She swatted the device aside with her booted hoof, shattering it, before striking White in the head with the other one. White was knocked down on the roof, and he rolled off of the edge, landing with a thud on the ground below.

General Storm looked up, almost a little nervous - she reacted that way to a unicorn with a megaphone. Not very dignified. She straightened her posture. “Boys, we sacked some food?”

“Yes, sir!” called a soldier from above. “Managed to break into a few storehouses!”

“Good!” said the general. “Let’s get ready to move out!”


Scroll couldn’t do anything but cringe, shielding his body with his legs, as Eagle struck him again and again. Scroll’s face was a mess, sporting a severely bloody nose, a black eye, and several cuts and scrapes. His body was covered in bruises, and he was drenched in water and dirt.

Eagle’s breathing was labored, like he was almost winded, but he still had a grin on your face. “Still not fighting back?” he asked, “What, you get off to this or somethin’? Well, that’s fine. I can keep this up all day!”

Scroll backed up against a wall.

“What’s the matter, pal?” asked Eagle, advancing on him, “I thought you liked this. I mean, you sure aren’t doing anything to stop me, so...” He laughed.

There was the sound of a trumpet, and both the earth pony and the pegasus looked up.

“Back to the cloud!” called a soldier from above.

“But I didn’t even...” Eagle complained. He looked at Scroll, then started fishing through his uniform, looking for his gun. It wasn’t there, however, because he’d left it in the house back there. “Well, you’re one lucky little pussy,” he snorted, “but next time, you’re fucking dead.”

Eagle spread his wings and took off into the air. The rain slowed to a more comfortable pitter rather than a patter, and the gunshots slowly died off. Scroll sat there, snivelling and doing his best to hold off tears. He took a deep breath and made a nervous laugh. He had the shit beat out of him, but he was alive, at least. The worst was over, or at least he hoped so. He slowly got up and limped out of the alley.


“Is he alright?”

“I think so, I mean... he’s breathing...”

“Look! His eyes!”

White’s eyes fluttered awake, and he saw Tap and Barrel standing over him. He was back in the mission house, in the lower bunk.

“Hi...” he said groggily.

“You had us worried there,” said Tap, who was holding an ice pack to his head. “We weren’t sure you were still going to be alive. General Storm did a number on you.”

Brother White slowly sat up. “My head...”

“Yeah, that,” said Barrel.

Brother White groaned. Then he remembered something. “Where’s Scroll?” he asked in alarm.

“Right next to you,” said Tap, nodding. White turned and saw Scroll was lying in bed next to him, asleep. “You’ll probably want to wash the sheets...”

“What happened to him?!” White asked, seeing how beat up Scroll was. This seemed to wake him up enough to groan.

“Bullies happen...” Scroll said sleepily.

“He just sort of... walked in here and fell down,” said Barrel.

“We dragged both of you into bed,” said Tap, “and we got these ice things out of your fridge. What were you two thinking?

White paused. “Umm...”

“You weren’t,” said Tap flatly. “Listen, next time there’s an attack, you hide, like the rest of us.”

“Pegasus don’t like hiding,” murmured Scroll, “called me a pussy...”

“Your, um...” said White, turning to Tap. It wasn’t easy to say. “Your house burned down.”

“Again?” asked Barrel.

“Yeah, the unicorns came out of the toilet...” said White.

“Well, we’ll just have to build another one,” said Tap, “like we’ve done before. A lot of the ponies will have to rebuild houses. It doesn’t take too long - we’re all used to it.”

“Tap...” said Scroll, turning towards them, but not sitting up, “You can stay with us.”

“I...” said Tap.

“We’re always open,” said White, “I mean, until you get the new tavern up, you’ll need to stay here.”

“I dunno...” said Tap, shaking her head.

“Please...?” asked Scroll.

“Well...” said Tap, looking around to the three faces in the room. “Oh, alright,” she relented.

White lay back down on the bed, before shooting back up. “Wait!” he said, “We forgot Clip!”

“I’m here!” called a voice from the top bunk. White looked up, and saw the little pink colt stick his head from over the top.

“You...” said White, “where were you?!”

“I was in here, hiding,” said Clip. “Up here.”

White was dumbfounded. “Why didn’t you respond when I called?”

“I dunno...” said Clip. “I couldn’t hear you, I guess. I was hiding under the pillow.”

White’s face went completely blank, and he fell back down on the bed. His face went into a grin, and he started laughing.

Chapter 10

It was the dead of night, and Scroll was in the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror. He was an absolute mess, all bruised and beat up. He remembered how in school bullies used to pick on him, but they usually left him alone after they’d taken his lunch money or suspended him from a flagpole. Turning on the water, he dunked his head under the faucet.

He took his head out and shook it, spraying water everywhere. He looked back in the mirror. Now he was a wet absolute mess, but at least he felt better. He took a case and put it on the edge of the sink, opening it. In it were several pairs of glasses, a small contact lenses container, and a monocle. He took out a pair of glasses and put them on his face. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, and he smiled. He still looked like a mess, but... well, there really wasn’t anything that mitigated it. He and his friends were safe, he supposed...

Friends. He had actual friends now.

He walked out of the bathroom, and back into the bunk room. Clip was snuggled up in the bottom bunk, and Barrel was snoring in the top bunk. Tap had been sleeping on a bench in the main room, and White and Scroll had set up a blanket and pillows on the floor.

Except the blanket seemed to have been pushed aside - White wasn’t there.

“White?” Scroll whispered. No response.

He walked over to the door and opened it, peering out.

Since General Storm’s forces had left, the clouds had left the sky, leaving the full moon and starlight to illuminate town. The night sky was not completely pristine, however. There was a column of smoke coming from the center of the town - a bonfire, to get rid of the bodies of the enemy dead.

He looked around and saw a solitary white figure walking down the road, heading in the direction of the docks. He followed slowly, not saying anything, as the unicorn went down.

The streets were filthy, littered with blood, spent bullet casings, and debris. The docks were almost completely smashed - the pegasus ponies realized that the earth ponies relied on trade, so with no place for ships to land, it’d make the recovery that much more difficult.

White walked out as far as he could and sat down, staring at the sea. There were no sounds save for the waves of the ocean churning. Scroll walked up next to White and looked at him.

“It seems so far away, doesn’t it?” asked White. “Back home. Like it doesn’t exist, and we’ve woken up from a dream and been yanked out of a very comfy bed.”

“I know what you mean,” said Scroll, sitting down. “What’re you doing out here?”

“I’m waiting for the morning,” said White. “It’s hard,” he confessed, “it’s hard to go on believing in friendship and harmony when you see stuff like this. When you see ponies who will kill each other over... over nothing. When you see them living in squalid conditions and cursing each other and not caring if the pony next to them lives or dies. But as bleak and as terrible as everything is, I think that if I can see the sunrise...” he took a breath, “I can know that everything I believe is true.”

“Can I sit with you?” asked Scroll.

“Sure. You kinda already are.”

“Thanks...” said Scroll. He followed White’s gaze out at nothing in particular.

“You know... I know what you mean.” said Scroll. “Sometimes I don’t know if we can really win. I don’t know if the... if the friendship stuff is really true enough to help everypony here. I don’t really know how much I believe in it. But... I believe in you, White.”

“Well, thanks,” said White, “that means a lot to me.”

There was a shout from in the town, near the bonfire. The Brothers ignored this and just looked out at the dark, calm sea.

“I was scared,” said Scroll. “I thought I was gonna die.”

“So did I,” said White, looking at Scroll.

“I was worried about you, White,” said Scroll. “When I saw that they were killing unicorns, all I could think about was... was...” his voice trailed off.

“What happened to you?” White asked, changing the subject. “When I woke up I saw you, and...”

“A soldier beat me up,” said Scroll sadly, “the only reason he didn’t kill me was because he forgot his gun.”

“I...” White said softly, “I don’t know what to say... I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said Scroll, “I’m alive, anyway. I just... I just wish I could be as brave as you are.”

“Aww, don’t say that,” said White, throwing a foreleg around Scroll’s shoulder, “I’m not that brave. I hid in a toilet!”

Scroll laughed nervously. “In a toilet? Wow... so that’s why you were in the shower for ninety minutes?”

“Nnnnnnot long enough!” White laughed. “I mean, there was a dead body down there!”

“Eesh...” said Scroll, squirming a little, but still laughing. “Y’know, this really is a terrible, horrible place.”

“And we’re having a pretty terrible time,” conceded White, “but we just gotta keep bucking, y’know? Never give up and all that.”

“Uh-huh,” said Scroll, “like - OOH!” he exclaimed, almost jumping in his seat. White looked at him curiously.

“It’s like that one story - when Twilight and her friends went to the Grand Galloping Gala, they had a terrible time...”


“But that was okay,” said Scroll, “because they had each other. And when you have...” he looked at White, “when you have a friend, you can bear it.”

White smiled at him. “Well, look who’s a little scholar pony?” he said, rubbing a hoof on Scroll’s head. “Anything else in that head of yours you’re not telling me?”

“Well...” Scroll said, smiling sheepishly, “I know this seems like something really silly to say, but... I’m really, really glad I met you. You’re my first friend, and I think you’re my best.”

“I’m glad I met, you, too, Scroll,” said White.

“No, but...” Scroll said, almost choking on his own words, “I... I want you to know that you’re the most wonderful pony I’ve ever met in my life.”

White smiled at him. “You know something, Scroll?” he asked.

“What?” asked Scroll, looking at White.

“I think you’re pretty wonderful, too.” White nudged him. “My wonderful, brave little scholar.”

Scroll smiled and looked up. “The stars are going away,” he said. “It’ll be dawn soon.”

A single ray of golden sunlight pierced from the horizon, lighting everything up.

“So,” said Scroll, “does this mean we sleep in today?”

End of Part One

The Book of Friendship

Part 2: Family

Chapter 11

With the bright sun hanging overhead and the trees all covered in orange and gold leaves, two young stallions made their rounds through the town. One of them, a chipper unicorn, pranced up to a house and rang the doorbell. The door opened a short while after, revealing a bespectacled earth pony in a suit.

“Can I help you?” the stallion asked.

“Hello!” said the unicorn, “My name is Brother Young, and we’re with the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia. This is my partner, Brother Breeze.”

“Hello,” said Brother Breeze, a pegasus.

“Fraternity?” asked the stallion at the door, “My son joined that. He’s off on his mission, too.”

“Oh?” asked Brother Young eagerly, “Maybe we know him! What’s his name?”


“Oh,” said Brother Young, deflating. “I don’t know him.”

“Me neither,” said Brother Breeze.

“Well, in any case, we already have a book, but thank you,” said the stallion, closing the door. Truth be told, Mr. Page didn’t quite get the whole Fraternity thing. He just knew that one day in his senior year, his son came home from school very excited about this club he had just joined. His mother had been very relieved that Scroll seemed like he was finally making friends, and Scroll seemed extraordinarily enthusiastic, bringing home the Fraternity's literature to read. Unfortunately, Mrs. Page’s mind changed that summer when he announced that he’d be going with some unicorn to a far-off place on a two-year mission.

At present, she was standing in Scroll’s room, which was more or less the way he’d left it, save for what he’d taken with him. There was still his bed, his quiz bowl trophy, his Star Horse poster, the picture of him with the science club (Scroll was, of course, barely visible in the back of the group), his coin collection, and other knickknacks.

It had been two months since Scroll left on his mission, and his mother didn’t like that. As far as she was concerned, he should have been in college then. It didn’t help that they’d gotten almost no contact from him. She wasn’t worried that he was dead or anything, but she didn’t like how he seemed to just jump into this Fraternity business, going off with a random guy to commit to an undertaking like... well, she wasn’t exactly sure what Scroll was supposed to be doing.

Mr. Page walked to the door. “Honey?” he asked, “We should be getting ready.”

Mrs. Page sighed. “Oh, alright...”


The Green Grass was one of those moderately classy restaurants, the kind that a foal would be able to find something on the menu they liked, but that was still expensive.

“Party of two?” asked the receptionist.

“Oh, no, no,” said a white unicorn, “party of four. It’s under ‘Gleam.’”

“Oh, of course,” said the receptionist, “whenever you and your guests are ready.”

“Right-O,” said Gleam, grinning.

“Hopefully they managed to find their way,” said the mare at his side.

“Ah, probably,” said Gleam, “just got a little caught up with something, I suppose.”

Gleam and his wife Bianca were both dressed for the occasion - meeting new ponies they always wanted to put their best hoof forward. As Bianca had always told her son White, “First impressions matter.” She had decided, after getting letters back from him, that they simply had to meet his partner’s parents, so last week she looked them up and sent them a letter, saying they should meet for lunch here.

Two equally well-dressed earth ponies entered through the doors. Unlike the two unicorns, who wore beaming smiles the entire time, the earth ponies were more reserved. The contrast became even more apparent when Gleam noticed them.

“Why hello!” he said, merrily trotting up to them, “You must be Mr. and Mrs. Page!”

“Yes,” said Mr. Page, unflapped, “you’re Gleam?”

“Yes siree, and this is my wife Bianca,” he said. “I could tell it was you right away, I can really see the family resemblance! White’s told us all about your son. You must be so proud!”

Mrs. Page was a little too dumbstruck to say anything.

“Your table, sir?” asked the receptionist.

“Oh, of course!” said Gleam, “Thank you kindly.”

The Pages didn’t give a visible “weirded out” reaction, though they were somewhat taken aback by Gleam’s energy (the neutral connotation was the best choice). They followed the waiter to their table, where they sat down.

“So, can I start you off with anything to drink?” asked the waiter.

“Why, yes,” said Gleam, “I think I’ll start off with some jasmine tea.”

“I will, too,” said Bianca.

“We always agree, don’t we?” asked Gleam.

“Coffee, please,” said Mr. Page.

“Decaf,” said Mrs. Page. She turned back to the unicorns. “So, your son has told you about Scroll?” she asked nervously.

“Oh, yes!” said Bianca, levitating a photograph in front of the earth ponies. Mr. Page adjusted his spectacles, looking at it. There was Scroll, all right, the dark blue earth pony with the black mane and glasses. He was smiling at the camera, next to a white unicorn with a brown mane and a smile for a cutie mark. The unicorn was beaming at the camera - obviously had to be Gleam and Bianca’s son. There were some other ponies in the picture, though. On the unicorn’s back was a small pink colt, and next to Scroll there was a pair of earth ponies. The first one was a cream-colored mare with some kind of frothy mug as a cutie mark, and the other a slightly shorter, slightly fatter tawny colt.

“Who are these other ponies?” asked Mrs. Page.

“Well, they’ve had a ton of success!” said Gleam. “That pink colt is Clip. They’ve taken him in like a family member. Cute, isn’t he? And those two there are Tap and her brother, Barrel.”

“Barrel’s actually joining the Fraternity,” said Bianca, smiling.

Mrs. Page raised an eyebrow. There was something she didn’t like about Tap. She looked, well... not the sort of filly she wanted her son to be around. She didn’t say anything, though.

“So, Scroll hasn’t written back to you?” asked Bianca.

“Well, not really,” said Mr. Page.

“He never was a big writer,” admitted Mrs. Page.

“Aww, that’s a shame,” said Gleam. “Well, anyway, they’re on this island of earth ponies. Our little White’s the only unicorn there.”

“Ah,” said Mr. Page.

“So White tells us that Scroll’s quite the scholar,” said Gleam.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Page, smiling a bit, “he was one of the star players of his quiz bowl team.”

“Really?” asked Bianca, “White was going to do that, but he decided to do theatre instead.”

Gleam’s horn glowed, and a large folder floated up.

“Umm...” said Mr. Page as the folder opened, showing several photos of the white unicorn colt.

“This was White’s first show as a little colt,” said Gleam proudly, “and he’s been in over thirty musicals!”

The album flipped through the pages, showing White in various costumes with the members of whatever cast he was in at the moment. In a somewhat surreal twist, the cast photos seemed to be the same group of ponies, with the same poses, but in different costumes. Mrs. Page could see the distinct family resemblance - in every picture, White had that blinding smile.

“He certainly smiles a lot...” she said.

“Oh, yes!” said Bianca, turning the page, “And he has wonderful oral hygiene!”

The next few pages consisted almost entirely of dental records.

“We would’ve been happy if he decided to pursue a career in the arts,” said Gleam, “but he’s studying to become a dentist!”

“He always says he wants to see other ponies smile,” Bianca sighed fondly.

Mr. Page was not as concerned as his wife. “So what exactly is it they do on this mission?” he asked.

“Well, basically they’re supposed to spread the teachings of Twilight Sparkle,” said Gleam simply, “Princess Celestia’s student.”

“Scroll told us about that,” Mr. Page answered, somewhat relieved he could actually contribute to the conversation, “the letters, right?”

“Yes,” said Bianca.

“But there’s more than just the letters in the Book of Friendship,” said Gleam, “there’s also other things - party games, pranks, simple recipes, even relationship advice in some of the newer editions...”

“But what do they do?” asked Mrs. Page. “Walking up to doors and hooving out books?”

“Well, yes, there’s that,” said Gleam, “but they also do other things they think can help out. Like Tap and Barrel, here.” He picked up the photograph again. “Their house burned down, so White and Scroll helped them rebuild.”

Burned down?” asked Mrs. Page, for the first time actually frightened about this whole mess, “What happened?”

“I’m not sure...” said Gleam, “White never really explained...”

“Calm down, honey,” said Mr. Page.

“But also Clip - he’s an orphan, I think,” continued Gleam, “they’ve taken the little guy in.”

“They also put on a play,” said Bianca.

Mr. Page’s eyes narrowed. That was probably the last thing he ever expected his son to take part in. “Well,” he said, picking up his menu, “it sounds like they’re having fun.”

Actually, they weren’t.


Earthquake Island was not a very nice place. It was an island far beyond the borders of Equestria, with a town that consisted entirely of earth ponies. Brother White was usually the sole unicorn there. This day, however, there were other unicorns.

There was a massive fortress in the sky, floating over the island. Bolts of fire and magic rained down from the castle, striking the town and its surrounding forest. In retaliation, the soldiers of the town were firing cannons back up at the fortress. In the street there was a roaring firefight between the earth ponies and the unicorns. These ponies weren’t throwing pies. They had guns that shot actual bullets that were intended to kill.

While the battle was raging outside, however, there was one building that was left untouched. The castle’s attacks didn’t land anywhere near it, soldiers weren’t breaking down the door, nothing. It was a quiet, clean building not too far in the middle of the town with a plaque on it. This plaque read:

Mission House of the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia.

Brothers White and Scroll welcome you!

“Alright!” said a young unicorn stallion, looking around the mission house. He was a white unicorn, with bright blue eyes and a big beaming smile. His brown mane, however, was not as neatly combed as it had been in the photograph his parents had seen. There were some loose locks that kept falling in front of his face, causing him to jolt his head to clear them away.

There were dozens of earth ponies in the mission house, all of them “refugees” of sorts, in here to keep safe from the war outside.

Brother White looked at the group of ponies, all of whom seemed tired, scared, and a little bored. They were used to the attacks, though this was the first time that it involved-

“Pies!” called a voice from the kitchen. A dark blue earth pony stuck his head out of the doorway. There was Brother Scroll, with that nervous smile and a pair of round spectacles over his brown eyes. His face was covered in flour and batter, and he had a big poofy chef’s hat on his head. “First batch of pies are done!”

He went back into the kitchen, and then trotted out with a platter of freshly-baked apple pies on his back. He looked around hopefully. The earth ponies there, however, did not seem particularly interested.

“They’re really good...” Scroll said, a little pathetically. He simply placed the platter of pies on the counter, hoping somepony would want one, before retreating back into the kitchen.

White shiftily looked around at the other ponies before walking up to the pies. “Thank you, Scroll!” he said loudly. “These pies look absolutely delicious!” He leaned down to smell. “Mmm!”

Tap, the cream-colored mare, was lying down on a nearby bench, bored like a lot of the other ponies were. She wondered whether her tavern had been destroyed again. It probably had. She looked over at Brother White, who was trying so very hard to convince the others to try one of those apple pies. She tilted her head, curious - she’d never actually had an apple pie. Fancy pastries weren’t exactly the sort of luxury anypony on Earthquake Island really cared about. White and Scroll just seemed so dead-set on these pies that she decided she’d just get up and go try one of them.

“A bit fancier than the usual grass or fruit,” she said, looking over the pies.

“They’re a staple back in Equestria,” explained White. “You know...” he smiled again, “These apple pies are actually what ended the conflict between the settler ponies and the buffalo at Appleoosa.”

“Really,” said Tap, her tone so flat it wasn’t even inflected as a question. “Well,” she said, looking at them, “I think I’ll try one.” White let out a very relieved sigh as Tap took one of the pies back to her bench. White, feeling a little better, decided he’d pop into the kitchen, where Brother Scroll was busy at work stirring something in a bowl. Barrel, Tap’s brother, was walking from the fridge with a carton of eggs, while Clip, the pink colt, was sitting on the counter watching the whole thing.

The photograph did not have a clear view of Clip’s back or his flanks. On his back were two red scars, and his flanks had black burns where his cutie mark should have been. He was not an earth pony, but a pegasus pony.

“Baking is easy...” Scroll said to himself, “it’s just chemistry. Simple, applied chemistry...”

“Chemistry?” asked Barrel.

“Yeah, Chemistry!” said Scroll. “Everything’s down to reactions. All very simple - just gotta get everything in the right quantities and measurements and under the right conditions, and you’ve got pies!”

“Sounds complicated,” said Barrel flatly.

Scroll shrugged. He smiled a little. Despite the terror going outside, he felt that occupying himself with a mental task was a good way to help him relax. He could put his mind to work, and hopefully these pies would help to relieve the war-torn earth ponies in the next room. And in any case, he found there was something refreshing about making delicious baked goods.

“Great work, Scroll,” said White, poking his head into the kitchen, “how you holding up?”

“Fine, fine...” said Scroll, nodding.

“Wonderful!” said White, pulling his head out of the kitchen. He spotted another pony taking one of the pies. White smiled - it seemed like a little stroke of good luck. Then the ground shook, the pony lurched, and the pie went flying, hitting White in the face with a splat!

Even though guns and cannons were blazing outside, the world seemed very quiet for White. The pie tin slowly slid off of his face, hitting the floor with a dull clang.

“It’s okay...” said White, taking a deep breath, “You can have another one.”

White stood there for a few seconds before walking back into the kitchen, where Scroll seemed to be trying to catch his breath. Barrel, meanwhile, was standing with egg yolks over his eyes. White walked up to the sink and turned the faucet on... and water didn’t come out.

“Oh, come on...” said White. The water was off again. “Great.”

Barrel, meanwhile, was wiping the egg off of his face. Clip started giggling. Those two had a much better composure in the situation than the missionaries - they’d known the war their entire lives.


The day after an attack was deathly quiet. White sat up in his bed, his ears pricked, like eyes gone wide in the dark. Not a sound, save for Scroll’s breathing. He looked down at the young stallion sleeping next to him. Scroll let out a contented little hum - White decided he wouldn’t wake him. He got out of bed and looked up at the bunk above and saw Clip, snuggled up in his bed, like he didn’t have a care in the world. White smiled a little.

White stretched himself out and walked into the main room. Empty - all the earth ponies had cleared out by now, and they’d left the place a mess. Most of the pies were still there, too, completely untouched.

White proceeded into the bathroom. He saw his scraggly mane in the mirror. “I am such a mess...” he said to himself. His first thought was to take a shower, but the water was still off. He lifted the comb with his magic, trying to straighten out his mane, but that didn’t work too well when it was dry.

He shook his head. Snap out of it, White, he thought, you’re Brother White, and by gosh, you’re with the Fraternity! Show that smile! He grinned. There it was, bright and beaming as ever in the mirror, and he instantly felt better.

He walked back into the main room and looked at the door that led to the town outside the mission house. Taking a deep breath, he gathered his courage, marched up to the door, opened it, and was met with something wet and stingy on his face. “Ahh!” he yelled, stumbling back and covering his eyes with a hoof. He shut the door, and removing the hoof from his face, he saw that it was covered in black paint. He blinked, puzzling over that.

“G’morning, White...” said a groggy voice. White turned around to see Brother Scroll, yawning.

“Hey,” said White, wiping off his hoof. Scroll tilted his head, looking at his mission companion.

“We doing another play?” he asked.

“What?” White asked, “Oh, no, no no...” he nervously laughed. “This is just something that happened...” he straightened up, “anyway, think we should go take a look? Maybe see if Tap and Barrel are okay? Maybe if they’re okay we can stop by for breakfast - bring the pies.”

Scroll looked sadly at the untouched pies. “Nopony wanted them...”

“Aw, don’t be hard on yourself, buddy,” said White, shrugging, “they were fine. Tap had one.”

Scroll’s head snapped in White’s direction. “She did?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said White, “now, let’s go on out!” he said, marching out the door.

White took a few steps outside of the mission house and stopped. The town was a mess - many of the buildings were destroyed, and there was rubble and dead bodies littering the street. White took a deep breath - this would not be pleasant to walk through.

Scroll followed outside, pulling the red wheelbarrow, now stacked with the tragically neglected apple pies. He, too, surveyed the wreck - depressing, but it was starting to become typical as they witnessed more and more attacks. He looked around, and then he saw the door, which now sported a crudely-painted penis.

“Well, let’s-” said White, before spotting the graffiti. “Oh...” he said, “Well, we’ll have to, uh...”

He shook his head. “C’mon, let’s see what we can do,” he finished, starting on down the road, with Brother Scroll following.

“We got pies!” White called out, sporting his usual smile. “Home-made apple pies!”

Scroll had to smile along with him. “I made them myself!” he called, trying to show a little confidence.

Of course, nopony was interested in a pie. They were all busy trying to get back to their lives, rebuilding their homes, carting away their dead. There was a nearby cart that was owned by the Shovel Bros., a pair of grave-digger ponies who seemed to be only ones as cheerful as the missionaries.

Scroll’s eyes shifted. He saw the other earth ponies, and the looks they gave him and White. “Fuck off, you annoying little fairies,” they seemed to say.

White wouldn’t be deterred. He just kept walking with his head held high. Scroll didn’t know how he could do that. He kept finding himself jittering around, just noticing things around the place - a foal pawing at a fallen door, a soldier giving them a dirty look. A cream-colored mare standing in front of the ashen ruins of a tavern.

“I think I should feel worse about losing my home,” said Tap, “but now it’s just something that happens and it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

“We can help you rebuild it,” said White, trying to be helpful.

“Again?” Tap asked, laughing a little.

“Yeah,” said White, “again and again.”

“We brought some pie,” said Scroll, nudging the wheelbarrow. He knew how pathetic it seemed - all this bleak despair, countless ponies dead and countless more out of homes, and all they had was a wheelbarrow full of apple pies.

Tap looked at it and laughed a bit.

“Hey, I had one of those yesterday, during the attack,” she said. “They’re really good,” she added, seeing Scroll’s despondent expression.

Scroll smiled. “Thanks,” he said, pawing the ground nervously. “Say, uh...” he looked around, “where’s Barrel?”

“Oh, he went down to the docks,” said Tap. “Not like he has anything else to do. There isn’t anything here but this bottle of whiskey,” she said, tapping a bottle on the ground next to her.

“I’ll go check up on him,” said White, trotting off. “Scroll, you stay and see if you can help Tap clear away the junk.”

“What?” Scroll asked, watching as White merrily went away, “I, uh, well, um...” he stammered, sitting on the ground and fidgeting with his glasses.

“Well, there’s not a whole lot to be done,” said Tap. “There’ll be a crew coming in to clear away all the busted wood and stuff. Then we can start putting up new stuff. I think we’ll just keep it one story this time, though...”

“You could stay at the mission house...” suggested Scroll, “well, if we can get some new beds, I mean...”

“Oh, Scroll,” Tap laughed, “that’s awful nice of you, but I don’t think that’d work out.”

“Well...” said Scroll.

“Oh, come on, you don’t want my business around your place,” said Tap. “You don’t want a bunch of drunken brutes crashing around your nice little house, do you?”

“Well, I dunno...” said Scroll, “I mean, really, I want to help.”

Tap smiled. “Your Fraternity must be glad to have ponies like you in it.”

“Well, eheheh...” Scroll said, rubbing the back of his neck with his hoof.

“There’s a ship!” cried a voice. It was Barrel, running down the street, followed closely by White. “There’s a ship that’s coming in!”

“I think it’s got supplies!” White said excitedly. “I think the Fraternity is actually answering my request for supplies!”

“Suh-suh...” Scroll stammered, “Really?”

“C’mon!” shouted White, turning back around and running down the street. “This is great! We’ll have so much more apples and milk and sugar and maybe some more beds and blankets...”

The four ponies ran down the street, towards the docks, with White shouting happily all the way.

“...And frosting and cookies and eggs and alfalfa and salt and...”

He stopped. There at the dock, in front of them and looking sternly at the docked ship, was a hulking stallion, the color of dried earth, with a crack for a cutie mark. With him were two earth pony soldiers, one of whom noticed the party of ponies that had just waltzed in.

“Uhh, general?” said the soldier. The general turned his head. Seeing the unicorn, he snorted, narrowing his eyes.

“Well, uhh,” said White, “hiya, Quake!”

“What the fuck did I tell you about checking my ass, horner?” the general growled angrily. White and Scroll backed up, exchanging a nervous glance. What did Quake want here?

“Here we are, sir!” shouted a soldier from the boat, as he and two other earth ponies carried down a large crate. They set it down with a loud thud. The general walked over to it and looked over it.

“Well?” he said, “Don’t just stand there like a bunch of mouth-breathing dipshits - open it!”

One of the soldiers bucked it, knocking the lid off. By this point a small crowd was starting to gather around the docks. The missionaries just kept their eyes glued to the general as he stuck his hoof into the crate and started sorting through it. White cringed as he heard the sounds of the supplies being sorted around - he didn’t want them to get broken, and General Quake wasn’t being too considerate.

“Eggs... sugar...” the general muttered, “The fuck is this?” he asked, lifting a jug of milk from the crate.

“Well, sir,” said Scroll, “I realize that here on the island you don’t have cows or, well...” One glance from the general indicated he didn’t want a long-winded explanation. “It’s milk.”

“For the foals?” asked the general.

“Well, not completely...” said Scroll. The general looked at him like he was crazy.

“Well, shit,” Quake grunted. He rummaged through the crate some more, scattering some straw and bits of packaging out of the box. One small item hit the dock and nearly fell through a gap in the boards, but the general didn’t notice it.

All the while, the crowd was watching with interest. Clip, the little colt, managed to gingerly pick his way through the mass of ponies and get up to where the missionaries were.

“Waddya need all this shit for?” General Quake asked, looking at them.

“Well, sir...” said White, looking from the general do the crowd, “It’s for them. The Fraternity sent these to us so we could share them.”

“Sharing is an important part of being a friend!” Scroll piped.

“Sharing, huh?” the general asked disdainfully. “Well, I guess you wouldn’t mind ‘sharing’ with us, now, would you?”

“No, not at all!” said White, nodding eagerly. “It’s for everypony.”

Quake snorted. “We’ll take this over to my bunker,” he said, as the soldiers replaced the lid.

“Uhh...” said White, unsure of what to say as the general and his stallions passed by.

“But... but...” said Scroll, rushing in front of the general, “but you can’t-”

The general shoved Scroll aside. His glasses fell onto the dock, while Scroll stumbled right over the edge and into the water with a splash.

“Augh!” Scroll cried, desperately clinging to the wet wood. The water kept rising and falling, however, making a steady grip difficult. The general looked down over the side of the dock.

“Scroll!” White shouted.

“I can do whatever the fuck I like, you fucking little pussy.” Quake snorted, before leaving with his soldiers and the crate.

Scroll was frightened. He’d never been a strong swimmer, and there seemed to be very few provisions on this dock for ponies that fell overboard.

“Hold on!” White said frantically, “A rope, somepony get a rope!” He spotted a bit of rope, grabbing it in his mouth and running over to the side of the dock. “Grab on!” he shouted, throwing it down. Scroll bit down on the rope as White tried to pull him up. Clip ran up behind him, grabbing a length of rope and pulling along with him. Very shortly, Tap and Barrel followed suit, and soon enough Scroll was raised out of the water.

“Pull!” White shouted, pulling on the rope as hard as he could. Scroll managed to get high enough that he could throw his forelegs over the top, allowing White, Tap, and Barrel to get a grip on him and pull him up.

Scroll sat there on the dock, panting.

“Scroll, are you okay?” asked White, kneeling in front of him.

“Yeah...” Scroll said, still breathing deeply. “I think so...” He looked at White. “Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me,” said White, laughing a little. “I’m your best friend. I’m supposed to do that.”

Scroll smiled and looked down. “Well, still... thanks.”

White smiled too, spotting the glasses. “Dropped these,” he said, lifting them into the air and onto Scroll’s face.

“Thanks for that, too,” said Scroll.

“Uhh...” said an earth pony, tapping on White’s shoulder. White looked up at him - one of the sailors on the ship. “Y’know, we got like five more of these crates... you do want ‘em, right?”

White got up, overjoyed. “Oh, absolutely!” he said, “You just unload them and we’ll get them right over to the-”

“What’s this?” asked Clip, prodding the little box that the general had knocked out of the crate.

“Huh?” asked White, looking over at him.

Clip picked the tiny little box in his mouth, lifting it up for White to see. White squinted and looked at it - very small, no bigger than a music box. White’s horn glowed and he lifted the box a little higher so he could see it in the light. He recognized it. He looked over at Scroll, smiling, and Scroll’s expression showed that he knew what it was, too.

White looked back at the crowd, which was beginning to disperse. White smiled. “Ponies?” he said to the friends around him, “I think our day is about to get a little brighter!”

There was a click as the lid of the box opened, and a burst of light streamed from the opening. A banner of multi-colored light flowed out of the box, up into the sky, before arcing down over the town. Tap, Barrel, and Clip stared at it in awe, as the missionaries’ faces filled with elation.

It was a rainbow.

Chapter 12

Barrel took a deep breath. Closing his eyes, he pulled on the rope as hard as he could, and the wall came up.

Rebuilding was always the busiest part of life. Out over the sea, there were two floating bodies - there was the Stormcloud, a collective of pegasi led by General Storm (vicious bitch), and the Monarch’s Fortress, which was a floating city ruled by General Monarch (smug bastard). The ponies of Earthquake Island, led by General Quake (fucking asshole), couldn’t do much other than sit and wait for one of the two groups to attack. When an attack came, there was no way to guarantee that one’s house would be safe. Just about everypony on the island had lost their home at one point or another, and when that happened they had to try to rebuild and get a livelihood back. Some of them couldn’t, and just ended up as bums on the street.

Tap and Barrel had lost their home several times throughout their lives. Sometimes the tavern burned down, sometimes it got demolished by an explosion, sometimes a pegasus tornado blew it away, sometimes it just couldn’t hold under an earthquake. When an attack came, they’d hide in the cellar, and often they’d come out to find that the tavern around them had been flattened. The next day, they’d have to rebuild the whole thing by themselves. It wasn’t a particularly difficult job, as earth ponies were always fast builders.

Barrel could remember the first time that their home had been destroyed. It was when he was a tiny colt, hadn’t even gotten his cutie mark yet...

“Tap,” said his mother, “I want you and your brother to stay down in the cellar.”

“But mom...” said Tap.

“No buts,” said their father, “you stay down there, and you don’t come out until all of the cannons and guns have stopped.”

“But...” said Barrel, “What are you gonna do?”

“We’re going to help the neighbors,” said their father, “we’ll be back in the morning.”

“Barrel?” asked Tap, “Is something wrong?”

“Huh?” asked Barrel, jolted from his memory. “Oh, no. Just thinking...”

“Well, we can’t just live in walls. Need to get the roof on.”

That had been the last time he’d seen his parents. When they came out the next morning, they were nowhere to be found. Tap never said what had happened to them, but when Barrel was older he understood that they must have been killed. That had been a rude awakening to a lot of things about life on Earthquake Island. Barrel realized that nopony was going to help them - it was just him and his sister, out on their own. Tap adjusted to it well, though. At least, Barrel thought she did. She was smarter than he was, at any rate.

They stood in the middle of the room - four walls, but there was no furniture and no ceiling. And after they got a roof on they’d need to get the other rooms up. Then they’d be able to go back to their tavern business, assuming they could scrape together enough to buy booze to sell. Until then, however, Barrel was not optimistic.

Barrel heard hoofsteps on the blackened floor. Turning around, he saw two stallions whom he recognized as carpenters and builders.

“‘Ey,” said one of them, “we saw your house’d burned down.”

“I noticed,” said Tap, not paying them any attention.

“Well,” said the other stallion, “we thought we might be able to help.”

This caught Tap’s attention. “Help?”

“Yeah,” said the first stallion, walking up to her, “I mean, you want your house built, and we can build houses.”

“We’d be happy to,” said the second stallion, following his partner, “if we could have a little exchange.”

“Exchange,” said Tap in a flat tone of voice.

“Yeah, y’know,” said the first stallion, “not in money, but like one of them... bartender economies?”

“Well,” said Tap, “I think Barrel and I would appreciate the help. We can probably work something out.”

“That’d be great. We could even throw in some money, too,” said the second stallion, “if you offer us enough in exchange.”

Barrel had about enough of this. “I know what you’re talking about,” he huffed, turning away. “I don’t think you need my help.”

“Barrel, wait...” said Tap, but Barrel was already out the doorway. He wasn’t grumbling, or fuming, or really letting anything on at all. He just had to get out, without his sister or the stallions who bought her or the missionaries or the general or his soldiers or anything. He just wanted to be alone.


White was always the one up early, and the first thing he did, even before breakfast, was freshen up in the bathroom. Now that the water was back on, White could comb his mane properly. As he did so, he realized for the first time that he hadn’t gotten a manecut in two months. It had completely slipped his mind up until this point. Placing the comb down, he looked at himself. He wondered whether he’d keep his mane long. He decided he’d ask Scroll what he thought. Moving on with his morning routine, he placed the comb down and put on his shiny nametag. He smiled as he adjusted it. Now all he needed to do was put on his tie...

There he was. The three P’s: prim, proper, and professional - the ideal missionary.

“White?” called Scroll’s voice, “Is today toast day or pancakes day?”

“Why don’t we forget both of them and have waffles instead?” asked White.

“Waffles and pancakes are kinda the same thing!”

White shrugged, straightened his tie, and walked into the main room. “Well, whatever we have, let’s have a big breakfast. Big new day, and a whole lot of new doors to knock on!”

He marched up to the door, threw it open, walked out, and found he had to swat a noose out of his face.

He stopped. Something wasn’t right here. He looked at his hoof, which was holding the loop of rope. As the realization dawned on him, he dropped it like a hot potato and backed up.

When he calmed down, he heard a foal laughing. Venturing to step further outside, he turned around and saw a brown colt sitting on the roof of the mission house, holding one end of the rope. He looked vaguely familiar to White. He could’ve sworn that he’d seen that colt out and about while doing missionary rounds, sometimes jeering or throwing garbage at him.

“Your idea of a practical joke?” White asked.

“Not joking,” said the colt. “You’re fucking dead, horner.”

White was alerted to the depressing reality that death threats had ceased to unnerve him. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Buzz,” answered the colt, who had a circular saw as his cutie mark.

“Well, Buzz,” said White, “do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“No!” said Buzz. “‘Cause I’m not GAY.”

White was not going to dignify that with a response. “Y’know, you really should get down from there,” he said. “It’s not safe. You could fall, and trust me, it hurts.”

“Fuck you!” Buzz shouted. He glared down at White.

White sighed. He got the distinct impression that this kid would be sticking around, and he wouldn’t be as nice as Clip. It was bad enough when the adult ponies picked on him, but now there was a colt who must’ve had a great deal of spare time.

“White?” called Scroll’s voice from inside. The door opened. “It turns out that it actually is pancakes day and LYNCH MOB!” He jumped back, seeing the noose.


Barrel sat completely still on the docks, watching the seagull. If he just sat completely still, it wouldn’t be afraid of him. He held his breath, watching as the bird walked closer (well, not so much walking closer as not being afraid to go in his general direction).

Barrel smiled. He always liked to just sit on the docks and watch the seabirds as they did the things seabirds did. It was just something simple and calming, completely detached from the harsh realities of Earthquake Island.

Barrel’s smile dropped as the bird suddenly flew away.

“Hey, kid,” said a voice behind him, “mind moving outta the way?”

Barrel looked behind him and saw a pony carrying a large box. “Sorry...” he said, quickly getting up and moving out of the pony’s way.

Barrel sighed. Now that there were sailors doing stuff, the gulls wouldn’t be on the docks, leaving Barrel just standing there like an idiot with nothing to do. He felt guilty about storming out on his sister like that. He decided he’d have to swallow what little pride he had and trudge on back home to the tavern, and hope that Tap wouldn’t be upset with him.

He returned to the tavern to find that the two construction workers had not started on building a roof, but where hard at work building a second floor.

“Uhh, sis?” Barrel asked nervously.

“Yes?” Tap asked.

“I thought we were gonna just have a one-floor house this time...”

“Figured I’d get as much as I could,” said Tap. “Barrel, are you alright?”

“Yeah, I guess...”

“Listen, Barrel,” Tap said, gesturing for Barrel to sit down on a stool, “I know that what I do upsets you.”

Barrel nodded sadly. “I’m sorry I stormed off like that...”

“It’s okay, Barrel,” Tap said, smiling, trying to cheer him up. “C’mon. Let’s get to work. If we hurry, we can get open business again tomorrow.”



There was a knock on a door, and an old stallion answered the door, to find a smiling white unicorn in a red tie standing on his porch.

“Goooooood morning!” said Brother White.

“The fuck is good about it?” the old stallion asked, groaning inwardly.

“Yyyyyyyyyyoooou getting a free pie!” said White, revealing an apple pie.

“Fuck your pie.”

“No, you eat it.”

The old stallion had enough of this and just shut the door.

Why doesn’t anypony want my pie?” Scroll moaned loudly.

“Don’t worry, Scroll,” said White, “we just need to get one or two ponies to try them and then it’ll spread through word of mouth. Then maybe they’ll be interested in our book...”

“Hopefully...” said Scroll.

“C’mon,” said White, “you knock next time.”

They moved onto the next house. Scroll walked up to the door, book in mouth, and knocked. A young mare answered. Scroll took the book out of his mouth.

“Can I help you?” asked the mare.

“Hi!” said Scroll. “My name is Brother Scroll, and I’m with the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia, and I, uh...”

Scroll’s voice trailed off as the mare’s extraordinarily bored expression intimidated him.

“I have a book...”

“Aren’t you with that horner?” asked the mare.

“Um...” Scroll said, looking back at White. “Listen, ma’am,” he said, turning back to her, “he isn’t a ‘horner,’ he’s a unicorn. You really shouldn’t be using racial slurs. I mean, ‘horner’ sounds dirty, and Brother White is actually very clean.”

The mare shut the door.

“He showers every day!” Scroll called. When no answer came, he sighed and hanged his head.

“So...” said White, walking up to Scroll, “next door?”

“We need a better idea,” said Scroll. “Knocking on doors isn’t working, apple pie isn’t working, trivia night isn’t working, nopony seemed remotely interested in our beach party...”

“We’ll think of something, Scroll,” said White, “something...”

They resumed walking for a while - they skipped the next several houses, as they were all the sites of previous rejections. When they finally came to a house they didn’t recognize, White knocked on the door.

“Go away!” shouted a voice from inside. “I’ve told you three times I don’t want your damn book!”

“Oh, sorry!” White called. “New house?”

“Yes, now fuck off!”

White walked away from the door, shaking his head and muttering something about counting houses.

“So,” said Scroll, as they resumed walking, “lately I’ve been reading...”

“Oh yeah?” asked Brother White. “What?”

“Clydesdale Lewis,” said Scroll, “one of the great friendship apologists. He wrote something about laughter that I thought was very interesting.”

“Oh?” White asked, his curiosity piqued. “And what was that?”

“Well,” began Scroll, adjusting (not fidgeting with) his glasses, “basically, he divided laughter into four different categories: joy, fun, the joke proper, and flippancy. Laughter from Joy, Lewis argues, is the purest and greatest form of laughter. Fun is very similar on most levels. Jokes are slightly different - laughter from most jokes is good, but, say, you know those jerks from school? The ones who made wisecracks at the expenses of others all the time?”


“Not good laughter,” said Scroll. “Lastly, there’s flippancy, and that is not good laughter at all. I mean, it’s like a joke without the actual joke, treating something dismissively as though it’s just something worthy of derision, and, well... it’s just mean.”

“Huh,” said White, “that’s cool, Scroll.”

“Thanks,” said Scroll, smiling. He stood there and looked at his partner. “White?” he asked timidly.


“I was wondering...” Scroll said, fidgeting with his glasses, “If maybe... maybe we could have a day for just us?”

“Just us?”

“Yeah. No mission work, no Barrel, no Clip, just... us?” He looked at White, a nervous expression on his face, as though he was afraid he’d be rejected.

“You know,” said White, “I’d love to.”

“Any luck?” asked a mocking voice. The two ponies looked over and saw Buzz.

“Hello, Buzz,” said White, “any real reason you’re following us today?”

“Came to watch the freak show,” said Buzz.

“Freak show?” Scroll asked.

“Yeah,” said Buzz, “Brother Scroll, the amazing horn-sucking faggot.”

“Horn-sucking...” Scroll repeated, unaccustomed to the insult.

“Don’t you have something else you could be doing?” White asked. “Foals your own age you could be playing with, family you could be helping out with? School?”

“Fuck no,” said Buzz, trotting off. “Smell ya later!” he jeered, laughing at them disappearing around a corner.

“That,” said Scroll, “is laughter from flippancy.”


Barrel placed the last table in the center of the room. That was it. After one long day of work, deep in the evening, the tavern was rebuilt, just like new (or at least as “like new” as one could get with the available resources). It was a strange feeling - even though there was always something different, it was always comforting to know that they had their own roof and their own beds and their own fireplace. Tomorrow morning they’d open up for business.

Barrel was roused from his thoughts by a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Just your friends!” called Brother White’s voice.

“Come in!” said Barrel.

The door opened, revealing a smiling but obviously tired Brother White. “Hello!” he said. “We saw you got the tavern rebuilt. Great to see.”

“Thanks,” said Barrel, sitting down at the counter.

“And you know something else?” said White. “When the Fraternity sent supplies, they sent in this!” He looked behind him. “Bring it in, Brother.”

White walked in, followed by Scroll, who pulled in the wheelbarrow. In the wheelbarrow was a small refrigerator.

“Ours is still working, so...” White said, shrugging.

“And we put all the booze that you’d put in our fridge into this one,” Scroll said, opening it to reveal a number of bottles.

“Wow,” said Barrel, a little dumbstruck, “thanks.”

“Oh, nah,” said White, “we didn’t even need it, and who better to give it to than our good friends Tap and Barrel? Say,” he looked around, “where is Tap, anyway?”

“She went out,” said Barrel, shrugging, “don’t know where. She never tells me.”

“My older sister was like that, too,” said White, reminiscing. “She never respected my privacy, though... always reading my diary...”

“Uhh...” said Barrel, walking over to the fridge and peering insdie, “so, want something to drink?”

“Sure,” said White, “I think I’d like a ginger beer. That’s non-alcoholic, right?”

“Me too,” said Scroll.

“Alrighty,” said Barrel, fishing out two bottles, as White went to sit next to Scroll.

“Y’know,” said Scroll, “I think the problem with trivia night is that none of the ponies on this island really know anything about Equestrian popular culture. I mean, they don’t know who’s on the Wonderbolts or what musical won the Pony Awards or stuff.”

“Good thinking, Scroll,” said White, “need to work on a more local level.”

Barrel brought the bottles over to the counter, opening them with his teeth. “Oh the house,” he said, “just don’t tell Tap.”

As if on cue, the door swung open, and an exhausted-looking Tap walked in.

“Whiskey, we got whiskey?” she asked, flopping down in a chair. “Cause if we don’t, we need to get our priorities straight.”

“Something wrong?” asked White.

“Oh, nothin’,” said Tap, waving an unconcerned hoof. Scroll, however, noticed there was an unsightly bruise on her foreleg.

“Tap,” Scroll said, “are you...”

“What?” Tap said, quickly lowering her leg.

“You were out doin’ it again,” said Barrel, a sour expression on his face, “weren’t you? With those builders.”

“That was the agreement.”

“Then don’t agree to it!”

“And then what, Barrel?” Tap asked angrily. “Then we don’t have a house.

“Guys, please...” said White feebly.

“Do you think it’s easy for me?” asked Barrel. “You think it’s easy for me to go through and have kids snicker at me?”

“You think it’s easy for me?” asked Tap. “I’m the one who has to support us.”

“Oh, yeah, and it’s not hard for me at all to see my sister going off with shady-looking stallions and coming back with bruises.”

“I’m doing this to keep food on the table!”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” roared White, exhibiting the experience he’d gained from being in over thirty musicals. “Look...” he said, calming down. “It’s been hard. There was an attack the other day, and we’re all a little tired...”

There was a tense silence in the room. Nopony looked each other in the eye, except for White and Scroll. Then, Scroll’s face lit up, and-

“I know!” Scroll said. “I just got an idea!”

“An idea?” asked Barrel.

“For what?” asked Tap.

“For how we can reach out to the ponies!” said Scroll. “We build a library!”

“Huh?” Tap asked dubiously. “A library? How?”

“I brought a bunch of books along with me. And, I can, I can also send a letter home!” he looked at White. “Ask mom and dad to send over all my other books! We’ll be able to do that, right?”

“I think so...” said White, thinking about it, “the general can’t be that paranoid.”

“Great!” said Scroll. “We can stock it with our copies of the Book of Friendship, my comics, those plays you showed me, those books I’ve got by GK Chestnut and Clydesdale Lewis...”

“What makes you think it’ll work?” asked Tap. “I mean, first there was the door-to-door with the books, then there was that play, then there was that party you never threw, then it was the short-lived ‘showtune night’ here, then the potluck, then that pet show...”

“Well...” started White, but Tap continued to list things.

“...Mane styling tips for the mares, that very poorly thought-out kissing booth, those sorry attempts at starting flash mobs, the campfire sing-along, your repeated attempts to get ponies to attend your friendship talks with offers of free food...”

“And improv night,” said Barrel.

“Please don’t talk about that...” said Scroll, cringing.

“And the ‘Missionary House of Pancakes,’” Tap finished. “I just don’t know how you expect a library will go over any better.”

“Well...” said Scroll, “I mean, literacy is something good. I go around and I see the kids are out around, being delinquent and stuff. I mean, if they just spent sometime inside reading-”

“And drawing dongs on your superheroes?”

Scroll shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt.” He stood up. “I’m gonna go back to the mission house - get started and see if Clip’s okay.”

“Okay,” said White, “I’m just gonna finish this.”

“Sure thing,” said Scroll, leaving.

White sat there, drinking his ginger beer, as Tap walked up to the array of bottles and took a bottle of whiskey, sighing in relief. “Barrel,” she said, “you should get to bed.”


“Because we’re opening in the morning and you need sleep.”

“Why aren’t you going to bed?”

“Because I need a drink,” said Tap, “now please go.”

“Fine...” grumbled Barrel, heading up the stairs.

White looked at Tap as she took out a shot glass, took the bottle in her mouth, and poured out a shot of whiskey.

“You shouldn’t be rough with him like that,” said White, “I’m sure he’s just concerned about you.”

“I know...” said Tap, sighing, “I just, well... Barrel’s the only family I have. I want to take care of him, but there’s only so much we can make off of the tavern...”

“Listen, Tap, really, we can help-”

“How?” asked Tap, downing the shot of whiskey. “You’re always on about how you want to help, but you don’t know how to help.”

White didn’t say anything. She was right.

“I mean, really, I know you mean well, but nothing’s working,” she said.

“I figured that ponies would at least appreciate food and bedding,” said White, “we got some blankets...”

Tap poured out another shot.

“I think Scroll might be on to something with the library,” said White, “I mean, missionaries in other places have had a whole lot of success with education programs, and it just seems like something worthwhile.”

“Well, when you do end the war with a big musical number I’ll be first in line to kiss your ass,” said Tap, downing the shot. “Y’know, I’ve been wondering something...”


She turned to look at him. “I think you’re just about the only colt on this island who hasn’t hit on me. Why is that?”

“Uhh...” said White, “Well, I, uh, I, uh, I, y’know, uh...”

Tap almost smirked, watching White fumble.

“I didn’t think it’d be polite,” said White, finally getting something coherent out.

“Polite?” asked Tap, amused but not very surprised.

“Yeah, I mean, lots of stallions... do that, and it just seems kinda inappropriate...” said White. “I mean, you are very, very pretty. I get why all the stallions like you.”

She laughed. “I think I should go to bed. I’ll get drunk and then say something stupid that offends your virgin ears.”

“Good night,” said White, getting up.

“Thanks for the fridge,” said Tap.

“Don’t thank me,” said White, opening the door, “we just thought you could use it.”

With that, White shut the door, leaving Tap to get a little bit more drunk.

Chapter 13

There was a crack in the ground. Actually, it was a bit larger than a crack. It was a small fissure, large enough for an unwitting pony to find themselves stuck, should there be a misstep. Down in the fissure was a unicorn, constrained in a tight squeeze. The unicorn stood there, sweating from the heat. The space was so small that he was cramped in, barely able to breathe or move, which turned an itch from a minor discomfort into a severe torment.

“You dead yet?” asked a voice above. The unicorn looked up as best he could. There, peering down at him, was the gruff face of the general.

No,” said the unicorn, too tired to inflect his voice.

“Good,” said the general in a bored tone, “not finished yet.”

They were in General Quake’s camp on the edge of the town. It was a small camp guarded by earth pony soldiers. All of Quake’s soldiers were armed with guns and fitted with very basic matching uniforms. Some of the higher-ups, like his lieutenants, got slightly fancier uniforms (though fancy didn’t mean much on this island). The camp was surrounded by walls, which, admittedly, were not that good of a defense when both enemy factions were airborne.

“So, how the fuck do we fix it?” asked the general.

“Look,” said the unicorn, shuddering, “I don’t know how it works, I’m not an engineer.”

“The fuck do you mean? It’s your shit! You telling me you don’t know how your own shit works?”

“Smells better than yours,” the unicorn muttered. A second later, he realized he’d just made a horrible mistake. He looked up and saw the general reaching across the fissure. “Wait!”

The general didn’t pay attention. He put one powerful hoof on the other end of the crack and, flexing his muscles, he pulled. There was a rough, scraping sound, and the crack became narrower. The unicorn, realizing what was happening, screamed for him to stop, but the closing walls soon made it impossible to breathe. When the general lifted his hoof, the fissure was closed.

“Fucking douche,” he muttered, before walking off. “And somepony get me a damn drink.”

General Quake was the one in charge of the island, more or less. He was the head of the military force and as such, he was as close to “law” as it got for this shithole island. He surveyed his camp, watching the soldiers stroll around, all of them as bored as their general. All in all, a typical day. Quake looked down at the tiny crack that was the only evidence of the fissure existing.

“Sir?” asked one of his lieutenant. “There’s a pony here that wants to talk to you.”

“Who is it?” asked Quake.

“One of the missionaries, sir.”

“Oh, fuck, those two again...” he groaned. “Where is he?”

“I showed him to your tent.”

“Oh, no, no, no...” Quake said, shaking his head. “Why the fuck did you do that? He’ll fag it all up. Remember what he did to Tap’s tavern? That fucking ‘showtune night...’” He snorted. “What do they want, anyway?”

“He says he has a letter,” said the lieutenant, now a bit embarrassed.

“Huh?” Quake asked, “This isn’t that time of week. Oh, forget it...” he grumbled, walking off to his tent.

It turned out that the horner was a massive momma’s boy who insisted on not only sending progress reports to the Fraternity, but also on sending personal letters back home. Quake had insisted on approving every letter before it went out. If those idiots let sensitive information get out, he was boned, and the last thing he wanted was to be boned by those two.

He entered into his tent to find to his great surprise that it wasn’t the horner who was in there. It was that blue pussy with the glasses. He had a rolled-up scroll in his mouth and was sitting patiently waiting for the general.

“Alright, what the fuck do you want?” Quake asked, making Scroll jump out of his seat.

“Well, I, uh, I-I-I-I...” Scroll stammered.

Quake snorted, walking to his desk and sitting down behind it. He stammers. He always fucking stammers.

“Just give me the fucking letter,” he said, wanting this to be over as soon as possible. Scroll quickly dropped the letter on the desk. The general spread the letter out with his hoof. “Why’s it you this time and not the horner?”

“This isn’t White’s letter, sir,” said Scroll, “it’s mine. Besides, he’s back at the mission house with Clip.”

General Quake looked down at the letter.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hi. Sorry I haven’t really been sending any letters. Just wanted to let you know that everything’s going great. Brother White is a really wonderful friend and when we’re done with our mission I’d like you to meet him. I’ve even learned how to bake pies, though nopony’s really interested. Tap likes them, though (she’s a bartender). Aside from that not much is happening, except for that colt who hung a noose in front of the mission house. He was very rude.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing is that I want to start a library here on the island. I think it’d be a great thing for the ponies here if we could start a library. So I’d like it if you could gather up all my books so I can use them. And I mean all of them: all the ones on my bookshelf, all my books from school, all those old books you used to read me when I was a foal, and anything else you can think of. I want all of them. Just take them over to the Fraternity and they can send them over here.




Quake’s eyes glazed over. This guy was as much of a pussy when he was writing as he was when speaking.

“I’d like to start a library,” said Scroll.

“I can read that,” Quake said impatiently.

“Well, I...”

“Shut up,” said Quake. “What’s this about a kid with a noose?”

“Well, yesterday, there was this colt who was on the roof with a noose, and he called me a–”

“You don’t get it,” said Quake, “I don’t give a shit about what some piece of street shit’s doing. What I want to know is why it’s in your fucking letter.The force of the last statement made Scroll lean back, his mouth opening and closing, trying to speak.

“Just take out that part and send your fucking letter,” he said, blowing the piece of paper back in Scroll’s face. Scroll promptly turned and briskly walked out of the tent. “And tell your butt-buddy to stop sending me gift baskets!” he shouted after him. “I FUCKING HATE THOSE!”

The tent was silent for a few minutes.

“The shit I hafta put up with...” Quake groaned. “I need some fucking breakfast...” he muttered. For a brief moment, he almost wished those two – even if they were spineless pansies – hadn’t abandoned their Missionary House of Pancakes project.


The forest was how Earthquake Island managed to support itself. Outside of the town was a massive, dense forest of trees that stocked all the food and wood that the ponies needed. The trees were all carefully arranged in rows and columns, like a giant orchard. A huge swath of it had been burned down in the attack, but General Quake wasn’t too concerned. The earth ponies would make them all come back soon enough.

The general walked through the forest, followed by his two lieutenants. They looked from side to side, surveying the place. Meanwhile the earth ponies cleared the burnt and dead trees, overseen by guards.

“Hey! You’re not supposed to be here!” A voice shouted. The general’s ears pricked up, and he looked in the direction of the voice. A guard was shouting at two guys who seemed quite nervous, and were looking at each other as though trying to come up with an excuse.

Quake snorted. “What’s going on here?” he asked. All eyes turned to him, and the two earth ponies looked like they were going to shit themselves.

“Well, we, uh...” said one of them. The general looked down and saw a bag next to one of them.

“What’s in the bag?” he asked.

“The, uh...”

What’s in the fucking bag?” Quake barked. “You,” he said to his lieutenant, who walked up to them. He stuck his hoof into the bag and pulled out an apple. “Oh, fucking lovely, just what we need...”

“Sir,” said the other earth pony, “please, we lost our home in the–”

“Shoot them,” interrupted Quake.

“But sir–” protested the first earth pony.

When the lieutenant didn’t shoot, Quake grabbed his rifle and then turned it on the first earth pony. There was a bang as he was shot through the chest and fell to the ground, dead. The earth pony’s friend turned to try to run away, but Quake was quick to turn the rifle on him. Soon, the second earth pony was shot him down as well. Not even stopping to look at the dead bodies, Quake spat the rifle back at his lieutenant, who stumbled backwards as it hit him the face.

“The next time I give you a fucking order,” said Quake, “you fucking do it instead of standing there like a retard. Got it?”

“Y-yes sir!” stammered the lieutenant.

“And don’t fucking stammer,” said the general, still annoyed by his meeting with Brother Scroll.

Fucking looters, Quake thought to himself. Every once in a while, somepony thought he’d try to grab some fruit from one of the trees. His trees. In a way, he was somewhat relieved. Those two shits had given him something to kill, which he didn’t often have a reason to do when there wasn’t an attack going on. Killing usually helped him blow off a little bit of steam, but today he was just annoyed. He wasn’t here to pick up his guards’ slack. The forest was not what Quake was concerned about right now. That’s not to say he didn’t give a fuck about the forest, but the purpose of this visit was slightly different.

Further in, the trees were denser, as the damage from the unicorn attack hadn’t reached here. Eventually, however, the trees stopped, and there was a large basin filled with water – a lake of sorts, but the water didn’t fill the entire basin. There were several of these lakes, which served the island’s reservoirs, with a network of irrigation that watered the entire forest. It was a lot of water, for sure, but it was strained. Overlooking the lake was a cliff. The general looked up.

“Hey!” he shouted. “Get your ass out here!”

A very bored-looking earth pony walked out onto the edge of the cliff.

“Turn it on!” barked the general.

Uhhh, sir?” asked the pony. “We’re not scheduled to do that until–”

“I don’t give a fuck about when you’ve got scheduled, turn it on!” Quake barked. The pony on the cliff took a deep breath and walked away from the edge. Quake stood there, pawing the ground impatiently. “I shouldn’t have to tell ponies twice about simple things like ‘shoot them’ or ‘turn on the fucking–’”

Just then, a torrent of water poured over the cliff, crashing into the lake below with a thundering, tumultuous roar.

“Fucking finally...” muttered the general.


Quake couldn’t help but see everything in the town as flimsy. When Quake had enough raw strength to shake the island with a stomp of his hoof, the buildings in town seemed like they were made of balsa wood.

He got an idea – how about constructing buildings out of stone? Those wouldn’t break so easily. Then again, being on an island, they didn’t have a rock quarry, meaning they’d need to import the stone.

Importing stone, he thought, that’s retarded.

He also figured that making stone houses would take too long, and it seemed unnecessary when the earth ponies had so quickly rebuilt and had gone back to business as usual. He looked over at one familiar spot – the tavern. Already up and in business.

He stepped through the door, looking around. The place already looked like it’d been well-worn, despite having just been rebuilt. Maybe a drunk had pissed on the floor; he didn’t know. He saw that Tap was working alone at the counter while a group of ponies played cards at a table in the corner.

“Quick to get back on your feet, aren’t you?” asked Quake, walking up to the counter. “Where’s your brother?”

“He’s with the missionaries,” Tap said, sounding as bored as ever, “something about a giant trampoline...”

“Those two...” said Quake. “You hang around with them a lot. Why?”

“I’m hoping I get to see them make out,” Tap said, looking up. “You want something?”

“A drink,” said Quake, sitting at the counter. “There isn’t anything to break, so I need some fucking booze.”

Tap might’ve said something snarky in response to that, but making smart remarks to Quake tended to not end well. Instead, she just put a bottle in front of him. Moving on with her work, she put some other drinks on a tray, before leaving the counter to serve the card-players. Quake turned his head and watched her as she did so, smiling a little at the way she walked.

When Tap had dropped off the drinks, she turned around and saw the general leering at her. She stopped for a minute before taking a breath and walking back to the counter.

The general smirked. She was scared of him. Everypony was, and that was how he liked it. He didn’t own this island because he had the biggest guns or the biggest army or because he was probably strong enough to sink the entire fucking rock into the ocean if he felt like it. Well, come to think of it, that might’ve been it. The point was, he owned it. Nopony would ever stand up to him, because he was the only thing standing between them and a horde of horners and wingers who were a lot less nice to them than he was.

“I like you, Tap,” said the general, “and not just because you’re a great piece of ass.”

“You don’t have to flatter me, y’know,” she said, “you just need to pay.”

“Oh, I’ll pay you plenty,” said Quake, “but I’m just sayin’. I don’t think anypony on this entire fucking island really appreciates you like I do.” Tap stopped what she was doing. Slowly, she turned around, a quizzical expression on her face. “All these other guys,” Quake said, gesturing to the card-players, “they just think of you as some bitch they can stick their dick in. Not me, though.” He leaned over the counter. “I respect you.”

“Respect me?” Tap asked dubiously, but not with her usual sardonic tone. “What do you mean by that?”

“I think you’ve got a good head on your shoulders,” said the general, “you’ve got a lot more sense than most of the dipshits I surround myself with. That’s why I pay for you.” He got up from the counter, leaving Tap relieved that it seemed he was going to get out. However, Quake did not exit the building, but instead walked right through the opening in the counter that Tap walked out of to deliver drinks.

“What’re you doing?” Tap asked, stepping back as the general cornered her. She wasn’t one to lose her cool, but now, for maybe the first time, the general was personally scaring her.

“See that?” Quake asked, approaching her. “That’s what I can do. Anywhere. My island, my way,” he said, walking up to her until his face was right in front of hers. “If I wanted I could just take you, but I don’t.” He smiled. “I think you’re worth it.” He closed his eyes and lowered his head into her mane, sniffing. “And I can give you anything you need,” he breathed, “for the small price of anything I want.”

He stepped away. “I’ll see you later, Tap,” he said, turning to leave. Tap sank against the wall, trying to catch her breath.


The general continued walking through the town. He was going to pay a visit to the missionaries. Although part of him told him he’d regret it, he had a sack over his shoulder and an idea. When he came to the mission house, he sneered. It seemed like the building was every bit as smug and faggy as the missionaries it housed. And there was a cock on the door, too. Fitting. The thing he found confusing, however, was the giant trampoline out in front of the building. Just... sitting there. Quake puzzled over it for a minute before shaking his head. He marched through the doors to see White and Clip sitting in a corner of the room. They were on the floor with book in front of them. White had a hoof on a page, while Clip tried to follow along.

“Dancer... has...” Clip read. He stopped, peering more closely at the book. “Cloh-ooh...”

“Cloudchaser,” said White.

“Cloudchaser’s,” Clip continued, “ball.”

“That’s very good, Clip,” said White. “That was a long word.”

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything important,” said Quake. The two ponies looked up at him, startled.

“All ready!” called Scroll’s voice from the kitchen, before he trotted out with a plate stacked with these odd-smelling brown-and-yellow bread things in his mouth. He, too, saw the general, and stopped.

Quake looked at the contents of the plate. “The fuck are those?”

“Grilled cheese sandwhiches,” said Scroll through his teeth, “want one?”

“No,” said Quake, sharply, leaving Scroll despondent that his cooking had once again been brushed off.

“Clip,” whispered White to the pink colt, “why don’t you take one of Scroll’s sandwiches and go in the kitchen?”

“Okay!” said Clip, bounding up to Scroll. Quake watched with a slightly confused expression as the crippled pegasus trotted into the kitchen with a grilled cheese sandwich.

“So,” Quake continued, “it’s come to my attention that when you two fags aren’t doing each others’ asses, you want to ‘help.’” He slipped the sack off of his shoulder, where it hit the ground with a loud THUD! “Well, here’s your golden fucking opportunity.”

The general lowered his head, biting the sack. He lifted his head again, taking away the sack, and revealing the contents. It was a contraption attached to a tripod, with a set of metal discs next to it. Scroll set the plate of sandwiches down and adjusted his glasses. White froze. He recognized what it was.

“That’s a... that’s a...” said White, shaking a hoof at it.

“Disc launcher,” said Quake. “It’s very simple. You set it up, load up a disc, and when the wingers send down one of their fucking tornadoes, ya shoot at it. Discs go flyin’ around and slice ‘em up. Ya got that?”

“But that...” Scroll said, recoiling from the realization.

“What’s the matter, Scroll?” Quake asked. “Too much of a pussy? Howabout you, White?” he looked at the still-frozen Brother White. “Oh, wait, I forgot, you’re a fucking horner. You’re all pussies.”

“No...” said White, “you can’t ask us to do that...”

“Not asking you,” Quake said. “I’m just suggesting that maybe if you two butt-munchers really want to help, then here’s something you can do. So the next time the wingers come here, and they send down a tornado, then use this. Who knows, maybe you two useless fucking fags could save a few of our lives.”

Scroll looked from the device on the floor back up to Quake, who was smirking. “Listen, sir,” he said, “we... we can’t. This, this device,” he waved a hoof at it, “it’s a horrific instrument of war. We can’t use it, it’d violate several of the Fraternity’s principles.”

“And what’ve your fucking Fraternity’s principles got you?” Quake asked. “Huh?” The Brothers were silent. “Nothin’, that’s what. A big fat fuckload of nothin’.” He walked up to the front desk, where the Fraternity’s books were stacked. “See this? This is the book you’re handing out?” He lifted a hoof and opened one of the books. “Dear Princess Celestia...” he read in a mocking voice. He swung his hoof, scattering the books across the room. “Give me a fucking break.” He turned his head to look at the Brothers. Scroll was cowering behind White, who was staring at him. “What’re you looking at me like that? You checking my ass again?”

“You ask us what it’s gotten us?” White asked. “I’ll tell you what.” He put his foreleg around Scroll. “It’s brought us together. And general, I think that if you just honestly listened to us, you might learn something.”

General Quake stared at White for what seemed like hours. “Fuck if I care,” he said. “There’s your disc launcher. Use it or don’t.” And with that, he turned and marched out of the mission house, leaving its inhabitants huddled in the corner.

He thought about them while he walked through the town. He knew they wouldn’t do it. They’d just shove that thing in a corner and go back to fucking each other or whatever it was those gay ponies did. He thought to himself how much they pissed him off, what with their singing and their smiling and their “we wanna be your friend” shit. White always stood there with that cocksucking grin on his face, and Scroll was always behind him being oh-so-preciously meek.

“Well, fuck ‘em!” Quake said to himself.

Chapter 14

General Storm looked up and down the long line of young ponies. They all looked at her, nervous, like they’d arrived for a test they hadn’t studied for. She smirked; she liked it when they got nervous. It gave her a sense of pride and solidified a feeling of authority. She liked that feeling.

The ponies were all lined up at the edge of the cloud, peering down nervously at the water below. Storm flapped her wings, hovering over the open space, her light-blue mane too short to move with the wing. She went down the line, eyeing the young ponies with a cold gaze that matched her grey coat.

“Today,” she said, with a cold, cutting voice, “we find out which of you are fit to serve on my Stormcloud.” The young ponies shuffled their hooves nervously. “I don’t think it’s too difficult. It’s very simple. You just have to fly back here. If you can, then you’ve passed. If not...” she gestured to the open water below.

She looked down the line again. She spotted one little pony - a pink colt with a cloud for a cutie mark. She flew up to him.

“How about you, pinko?” she asked. The colt’s head jerked up sharply. General Storm got a better look at the cutie mark. It wasn’t just a cloud, it was a cloud with a smiley face on it. “You feel up to it?” She sneered.

“Y-yes!” said the pink colt.

“Yes what?

Yes sir...” the pink colt said. He’d forgotten to address the general by her proper title. His peers snickered, and his head sank, completely mortified.

I hope so for your sake,” said the general. “Now!” she announced to the rest of the ponies, “The instruction is to fall freely for five seconds, and then recover. Once you make it back to the Stormcloud, congratulations! That means you deserve to survive this long.”

The pink colt looked behind them. There were the soldiers, all standing impassively by. Well, most of them were impassive - one young orange stallion seemed to be smiling in a manner that unsettled the colt.

“Well?” barked the general. “Do it!”

Immediately, a cocky filly jumped off of the edge of the cloud. Everypony watched with baited breath as she fell. Then, extending her wings, she soared up into the air again, before landing back onto the cloud. The general smiled. Nervously, a few more foals jumped off. They, too, all made it back. The air was filled with elated shouts as the ponies passed their tests and got a grip on their flying.

The general smiled. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that everypony was passing; it was a stupidly simple task, but it always filled her with disgust when a foal wasn’t able to perform the simple task of flapping its damn wings. As far as she was concerned, if the little snots couldn’t fly, they deserved to drown. Or better yet, she thought, what would happen if they washed up on Earthquake Island?

The test was going remarkably well. Every single foal had passed. Well, that wasn’t true. There was a single foal that hadn’t gone: the little pink colt. He was standing there, staring down at the edge, one hoof raised tentatively.

“What are you waiting for?” Storm barked. The pink colt cringed.

“I... I...”

“JUMP!” shouted the general. The little pink colt, however, couldn’t do it. He was too frightened and he knew that he wasn’t the strongest flier. “If you won’t jump,” Storm said coldly, “we’ll throw you off.”

One of the soldiers moved. It was the orange one with the black mane who’d been grinning the entire time.

“Eagle,” said the general.

“Yes, sir!” Eagle responded eagerly.

General Storm nodded her head. The pink colt turned his head, frozen in fear as he watched the soldier march up to him.

“Well, squirt?” Eagle said, lowering his head. “What’s the matter? Scared? You know we don’t like cowards...”

“Eagle, just do it,” sighed the general, who really wanted this whole boring test to finish. Eagle lowered his head and put his teeth around the back of the colt’s neck, lifting him off the surface of the cloud. The colt flailed his legs, terrified and struggling to get free as the soldier jerked his head and tossed him over the side of the cloud.

The colt didn’t bother waiting for five seconds. Not like it mattered. He flailed his legs and his wings, but he couldn’t catch the air. He couldn’t recover. He couldn’t fly. Helplessly, he fell down into the cold, uncaring sea.


Clip woke up with a start. He’d had a bad dream. He peered around, clutching at the covers of his bed, peering through the darkness. Everything was silent, save for the sound of breathing.

Cautiously, Clip crept over to the ladder, and carefully climbed down. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw Brother White and Brother Scroll sleeping soundly in the lower bunk. His back hoof touched the floor, and he stood at the side of their bed. Scroll was closest to him.

“Scroll?” he whispered. “Scroll, are you awake?”

“Wuh?” mumbled Scroll as he was prematurely roused from his sleep. “Uhh...” he mumbled,  “Clip?”

“I had a bad dream,” said the pink colt. “Can I have a glass of water?”

“Oh...” Scroll yawned, “alright.” With some effort, he sat up. Putting on his glasses and lighting a candle, he got out of bed, and headed for the kitchen. He was still a little groggy, so he found himself in the storage room before he got to the kitchen, but the two ponies got there without any real incident.

Scroll went to the cupboard and got a glass while Clip climbed up onto the counter. Despite the fact that he’d lost his wings, he still showed a proclivity for high places: roofs, the top bunk, etc.

Scroll went to the sink and filled the glass with water. He gave it to the little colt, who, taking it in his hooves, slowly drank from it.

“Feeling better?” asked Scroll.

Clip nodded, his mouth being too full of water to speak.

“Alright, then,” said Scroll, “now...”

“Can I stay up?” asked Clip.

Scroll stopped mid-sentence. “Umm...”

“I mean, if it’s okay...”

Scroll looked around. The room was dim, illuminated only by a single candle. “You know what? Sure,” he said, “just let me get some more candles.”

Clip sat there, drinking his water as Scroll scurried off. A few minutes later, he walked back into the room with several candles in holders, balanced along his head and spine.

Scroll carefully placed the candles along the counter. “Hey, you wanna see something cool?” he asked. Clip nodded. “Okay, gimme the cup,” said Scroll, taking the cup. “Can you get the sugar out of the cupboard?”

“Okay,” said Clip, walking along the counter while Scroll filled the glass with more water. Clip opened the cupboard, quickly finding the bag of sugar and carrying it down to the counter, though not without some difficulty.

“Alright then,” said Scroll, taking a spoon out of the drawer as Clip opened the back of sugar. “Time for a chemistry lesson.”

Scroll began scooping large spoonfuls of sugar into the glass of water. When he was satisfied that there was enough, he stirred the water. “Now,” he said, “sugar dissolves in water, right?”

“Uh-huh,” said Clip.

“When the sugar dissolves in the water, we get what’s called a ‘solution.’” He placed the spoon down, and motioned for Clip to look at the mixture. “You see that?” he said, tapping the bottom of the glass, where there was still some undissolved sugar. “It can’t dissolve that. The solution is saturated.

Clip watched this, interested. He didn’t really know anything about science.

“However,” said Scroll, taking the glass over to the stove and placing it on a pan, “if we heat it up...” He flipped the switch.

“Then what?”

“Well,” said Scroll with an eager grin, “then we wait.” He looked at the colt. “Is there anything you’d like to do? We could play a game, or I could cook something, or I could read to you...”

“Do you have a lot of books?” asked Clip.

“You bet I do!” said Scroll. “Brought a bunch from home. Hopefully my parents send more. Wanna see them?”

“Yeah!” said Clip, climbing down from the counter, as Scroll led back into the bunk room. The two were careful not to wake White, who was still sleeping soundly. Scroll carefully stuck his head under the bunk, and took out a box.

“Let’s go read this in the main room,” he whispered.

Scroll hauled the trunk into the main room, while Clip carried a candle. Scroll gingerly lifted the lid of the trunk as Clip peered inside, seeing all kinds of books.

“Let’s see here...” said Scroll, sorting through the books. “When I got into the Fraternity, I started reading a whole lot of their literature - The Everlasting Friend, The Rotclop Letters, The-” He cut himself off, seeing a book that probably shouldn’t have been in there and definitely wasn’t something he wanted Clip or anypony else to see. “That’s nothing...” he said, hastily hiding it. Thankfully, the candlelight was so dim it was almost impossible to see his face turning red.

Clip’s eyes, however, fell on something else entirely - rather than the bland, seldom-illustrated covers of books that expounded on philosophy or poetry, he found himself drawn to some smaller books that had much brighter colors depicting exciting scenes. “What’re those?” he asked.

“Huh?” Scroll asked, still hastily putting his other questionable book somewhere out of site. “Oh, those? Those are my comic books.”

“They look cool.”

“They are cool,” said a grinning Scroll. He never had anyone to share them with before. “There are a bunch of them. This is Tales from the Wasteland, though they’re a bit too violent for-” he stopped, looking at Clip, with his scars and burned flanks. “Well, they’re kinda depressing,” he said, changing his reasoning. He picked up another comic. “This one is Picturesque Picaresques, these ones are funny, this is Alfred Hitch-Hock Presents, The Incredible Gigatrot...”

“What’s that?” Clip asked, looking at another one. This one caught his eye - it was a bright, flashy cover that was crowded with about a dozen ponies, but there was one giant pony in the background - a bright gold stallion with both wings and a horn.

STAR HORSE was the title. Who is the amazing stallion? You absolutely can not miss this shocking issue in which, for the very first time, the true identity of this great hero will be revealed!!!

Scroll smiled. “This is Star Horse,” he said, “my favorite superhero.” He took the comic and placed it in front of them, opening it to the first page... which was an advertisement for glow-in-the-dark horseshoes.

“Alright,” said Scroll, turning to the first page of the actual story. “So, a star fell from the sky one day, but this wasn’t an ordinary star - this fallen star contained powerful magic.”

“What did the magic do?” asked Clip. Scroll turned the page, showing the two princesses standing in front of a tiny star.

“Oh, it held the power of a star. It was too powerful to just let anypony take it. They decided they had to guard it and make sure that only the right pony got it.”

“And who was the right pony?”

Scroll turned the page again, and Clip gasped.

“This is Big Scoop. He’s a reporter,” said Scroll, but Clip was amazed - the pony in the comic book had a dark blue coat, a black mane, glasses, a rolled-up Scroll as a cutie mark...

“He looks just like you!”

“Heh...” Scroll laughed. “It’s a funny story, really. Ponies at school, they told me that I looked just like Big Scoop from this comic, so I decided to read an issue, and, well... now I’m a fan.”

“You must have a lot of friends back in Equestria, right?” Clip asked.

Scroll was quiet for a minute, thinking. He thought back to his days in school. He thought about how bullies made fun of him and stole his lunch money. He thought about how he never got a date to any of the school dances. He thought about how he was always picked last on every team, even for games he wasn’t bad at. He looked back at Clip, who looked back up at him, wide-eyed.

“Yes,” said Scroll. He took a deep breath. “Hold on,” he said, getting up, “I’m gonna check on that glass of water.” He left, carrying a candle. Clip sat there, paging through the comic. He couldn’t read it, but he saw the bright, colorful pictures of Star Horse bucking out scary-looking bad guys and shooting lasers from his horn. But there was more to it than beating other ponies up - at other points he was talking with an attractive mare, taking her flying.

Scroll returned from the kitchen, carefully balancing the glass of water on his head. “Okay,” he said, setting it down. “Now, what do you notice about the water that’s different?”

Clip looked at it, tilting his head. “Uhhh...”

“The sugar in the bottom,” said Scroll, “has completely dissolved. You see, when the liquid gets hotter, it can dissolve more before it’s saturated. Now, we’ll leave it to cool down for awhile...”

They returned to the comic book, and Scroll explained what was going on.

There was a simple earth pony, a reporter named Big Scoop. His peers picked on him and teased him, and the one mare he had affections for, Letterary the columnist, regarded him as little more than a dweeb with a crush.

Big Scoop, however, won an award for his investigative journalism that uncovered the criminal activities of a unicorn named Willpower. For this, the princesses chose him to receive the power of the fallen star. Through his journalism, he proved that he was devoted to truth and justice - he had exposed political corruption, crime, vindicated the innocent, and spread truth. This was the pony that could be trusted with the power of the star, and with it, he became Star Horse, tasked with defending Equestria from evil-doers within and without.

But for all the fighting he did, he was never violent. He never used dangerous weapons, he never killed anypony, and whenever possible, he’d try to talk down the bad guy before fighting.

Then the next page was an advertisement for Blooming Balloon Bubble Gum, which purportedly allowed its chewers to blow bubbles so big they could use them to float.

“Okay,” said Scroll, bringing attention back to the glass of sugar-water. “Now, as I mentioned, as the temperature goes up, the water can dissolve more sugar. However, now it’s cooled down, but the sugar is still dissolved.”

“Huh,” said Clip. “So...”

“The solution is supersaturated. That means that it isn’t very stable.” Scroll lifted a hoof. “So, if it’s jostled...” he tapped the glass with his hoof, and in a flash, the suspended sugar crystalized. Clip backed up, startled.

“Woah...” said the colt.

“Cool, right?” asked Scroll, grinning like he’d just gotten a high pinball score.

“If it’s unstable, does that mean it’s dangerous?”

“Oh, nah,” said Scroll, going back to the comic.

Sure enough, Willpower the unicorn was jealous of Star Horse. Will had been a powerful sorcerer, but Star Horse seemed to be getting all the glory. Deciding that Star Horse was the cause of all of his problems, Will swore to bring him down. That was where the issue ended.

“Next issue?” asked Scroll.

“Yeah!” Clip nodded eagerly. He watched as Scroll took out the next issue. “Y’know, you really do look just like him.”

“Weeeeeelll,” said Scroll, chuckling, “maybe I am Big Scoop.” He grinned. “Maybe I secretly am Star Horse, and the only reason I let other ponies beat me up is so that Willpower doesn’t find who I am. And when you’re not looking I’m flying across the stars, fighting to defend Equestria!”

Clip chuckled. Of course, he knew Scroll wasn’t really Big Scoop or Star Horse. He knew that couldn’t be. Big Scoop was in love with some dumb columnist, but Clip knew that Scroll was in love with Brother White.


“Well, what do we do?” the soldier had asked. “I mean, we can’t just let him fly off...”

“Well, then make sure he doesn’t fucking fly off,” another pony had said. “Now, if you’ll kindly fucking excuse me, I have to go do anything else.”

The colt was scared. He’d just been thrown out of his home, and he couldn’t get back - even if he could get back, he wouldn’t be welcome. Now he was on an island full of ponies he didn’t know and who might’ve been happy to see him killed. Now he had absolutely no idea what was in his future.

Now he was chained to a table, unable to move. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the earth ponies did... whatever it was they were doing. He didn’t know what they were doing, but he knew it wasn’t good.

He’d been brought up to hate the “dirts,” as the other pegasi had called them: the ponies who wallowed in the mud below. He was now fairly convinced that they were every bit as bad as he’d been told.

They’d found him washed up on the beach. At first they considered shooting him, but now they’d decided on something different. They’d taken him before another pony, a hulking stallion that the colt knew had to be General Quake. The general, however, didn’t seem to care, and had just brushed them off.

The air was hot and musty, and the colt was sweating. “What... what are you going to do to me?” he asked timidly. The earth ponies didn’t answer him.

“All right,” said one of them from a furnace. “Hold him down, make sure he doesn’t squirm too much.”

The little pink colt was approached by two other ponies, who pressed down on him with their hooves. He wanted to struggle, but he couldn’t move. He saw the other pony, the one at the furnace, turn around. In his mouth, he held an iron rod, the end of which was flat and glowing red-hot.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Well, you’re a little winger,” said the earth pony. “We’re just gonna make you ‘fit in’ a little better.”

The colt’s eyes went wide as the pony circled around him. He tried harder to struggle, but the more he tried, the more the other two ponies pressed down. He couldn’t move a muscle, but he couldn’t stop trying; he was starting to panic. He knew something horrible was coming, something he couldn’t bear to think was possible. He wasn’t sure what he remembered first - the vicious hiss or the searing pain - as the dirt pressed the red-hot iron against his flank.

“AAH!” the colt screamed. “NO! NO! PLEASE STOP!”

“Shut him up, will you!” barked the pony with the iron. Another pony grabbed the colt’s mouth and held it shut. That didn’t stop the screaming though, it just muffled it, as tears streamed down his face. The earth pony circled around to his other flank. The colt nearly choked on himself as the iron came down on his other flank.

He couldn’t see it, but he knew what was going on: they were burning off his cutie mark. They were erasing the one thing that made him special.

The iron was lifted from his flank, and the other earth ponies released him. He still couldn’t move, due to the chains, but he opened his mouth and gasped for air, crying.

“Oh, quit snivelling, you little shit-wing,” said one of the dirts. Another pony undid a chain around his midsection. “Spread out your wing.”

“Huh?” asked the colt, his eyes shifting.

“Spread out your fucking wing.”

Clip was shaking as he tried to comply, but part of him wanted to hold those wings as close to him as possible and never let go. “Oh, fucking...” the earth pony muttered. The dirt reached over and grabbed his wing, pulling it over so it extended.

“You there, ready?” he asked another earth pony. The colt’s eyes flickered as he saw a bright, silvery glint. Not waiting for him to start trying to struggle, the other earth ponies restrained him again. He saw the pony approaching, carrying a large knife. The colt clamped his eyes shut, wishing to himself that none of this was really happening. The steel blade came down, but it was like ice, unlike the burning iron. It cut right through the joints of his wing, severing it. He tensed up in pain, pulling the stub of the wing away from the knife. His captors forced him to spread his other wing, and the pony with the knife circled around. The colt didn’t even try to struggle any more. It was over. He’d lost one wing, and he’d never fly again. He just whimpered as the knife came down on his remaining wing. Blood was beginning to dry on the table.

One of the earth ponies looked at him. “Quit your snivelling,” he said. “You’re lucky we didn’t throw you right back into the ocean.”

The colt sniffled a little, before gasping again as the knife went into his back. They weren’t finished, as there were still the stumps of the wings to remove.

That was what happened the day that Clip came to Earthquake Island. This was the nightmare that Clip had, back to the memory of the day the earth ponies took away his wings and his cutie mark. But this time, for once, the dream ended differently.

There was a loud banging on the door. The earth ponies turned to look in shock, as another bang knocked the door right off of its hinges, flooding the room with a blinding light. The pink colt, however, did not flinch. He saw a magnificent golden stallion regally step into the room, his majestic wings spread. Every step of his was a proud, powerful declamation. The earth ponies gazed at him, letting out a simultaneous shocked gasp. There, standing in the doorway, was Star Horse.

Star Horse looked upon them, his golden horn gleaming and his pristine mane draped flowingly over his neck. Suddenly, the earth pony with the knife charged at him. The stallion retaliated, shooting a spark from his horn that sent the knife flying out of the attacker’s mouth and embedded it into a nearby wall. The earth pony looked around stupidly, before Star Horse’s horn glowed again, lifting the earth pony into the air and chucking him out a window. He looked at the remaining earth ponies, smiling as though to say “your turn.”

Deciding not to take him one at a time, two of the other earth ponies charged at him, armed with nothing. The unicorn’s horn glowed again, and the two earth ponies were enveloped in a dull glow. They jerked towards each other, their heads colliding, before they resumed charging. However, the two charged right past him and crashed into the wall behind him.

“You two aren’t right in the head,” said Star Horse, before looking back at the chained-down colt. He slowly walked up to the table, where the last remaining earth pony was cowering. “Release him,” the stallion said softly.

“Huh?” asked the cowering earth pony.

“I told you to let him go.”

Trembling, the earth pony undid the chains that held Clip on the table.

“Now get out,” said the stallion. The earth pony took the advice, running out a blubbering wreck. Star Horse looked at the pink colt, a kind smile on his face. “All right,” he said, “let’s get you out of here.”

“I’m going with you?” The pink colt stood up slowly. He was weak, and his back was caked with blood.

“You sure are,” said Star Horse, turning around. “Climb on my back.” Timidly, the colt walked onto the stallion’s back. “Hold on...”


A blast from the unicorn’s horn blew the roof clean off of the building, and he leaped into the air, his wings spread. The colt looked down as they left behind the awful building, and the filthy town and the whole miserable island seemed to shrink beneath them as they soared into the sky.

“Do I...” the colt asked, “do I have to go back to the Stormcloud?”

“No,” said Star Horse, “I’ll take you far away from here. I’ll take you up to Equestria, and there you’ll see Canterlot and the princesses. Then I’ll take you flying along the stars and you’ll see everything you’ve ever imagined. And then when we’re all done with that, I’ll take you home and you can meet my husband.”

Chapter 15

“Okay, so...” Scroll mumbled. He had a checklist in front of him. “Breakfast for Clip...” He glanced over at the colt in question, who was chewing on a piece of toast. “Check. Breakfast for the bum...” He looked over at a shabby earth pony who had passed out next to a plate of eggs. “Uhhh, White? Is that ‘check’ or ‘not-check?’”

White poked his head out of the bathroom. “I think it’s a ‘check.’” He stepped out of the bathroom and made his way towards the kitchen. “So is that everything in order?”

“Cookie plate...” He looked over at the plate of cookies on the desk. “Check.”

“Can I have some?” asked Clip.

“You can have one cookie, Clip,” said White. “Remember, the free food is for the guests... if we get visitors.”

“You all set?” asked Scroll.

“Yeah,” said White as he stepped into the kitchen. “Just give me a minute.”

There were a few assorted items on the counter: a basket, a red-checkered cloth, teacups, and some sandwiches. A tea kettle was whistling on the stove. Using his magic, White lifted the kettle and placed it in the basket, before packing in the cups, sandwiches, and cloth. Now he had a nice little picnic basket, and he could have a nice little picnic.

It’d be a bit of a break for the two Brothers, and one that White thought was well-deserved. A few days ago Scroll asked if they could just have a day for themselves: no mission work, no worrying about getting lynched; just a nice, quiet day outside of the town. Maybe they could chat and get to know each other better. He’d never really asked Scroll about his personal life: friends, family, hobbies, or any of that. He knew that Scroll had joined the Fraternity fairly recently, and didn’t have many friends before. He knew that Scroll was smart and liked to read and got nervous easily. He knew that Scroll was adorable and got laid first.

“Aah!” cried out Clip’s voice. White rushed out of the kitchen.

“What is it?” asked White.

“My tooth...” said Clip, holding his jaw with his hooves. “I think I have a toothache.”

“Well, let me take a look,” said White. He knelt down in front of Clip. “Alright, Clip, say ‘ahhh.’”

“‘AhhAH!’” Clip opened his mouth, then leaned back in surprise when he found he couldn’t close it.

“It’s alright, it’s alright...” said White. His horn was glowing; he was holding Clip’s mouth open. “Just hold still while I take a look...” He leaned forward, peering into his mouth. “Can’t really see anything serious. It just hurts a little?”

“Ah-hah,” said Clip, who was sitting there awkwardly.

“Well, let’s see...” A small flash of light came from his horn. “That better?”

“Yeah...” said Clip, rubbing his jaw. “Was that magic?”

“Yep!” said Brother White. “You see, with unicorns, our magic corresponds to our special talents. Now, my cutie mark is a smile, so my magic has to do with teeth.”

“What about ponies that aren’t unicorns?” asked Clip. “What do they mean for them?”

“Well, cutie marks generally relate to a special talent,” explained White. He looked at Scroll. “That’s right, right?” Scroll nodded.

“My cutie mark is, well,” Scroll said, “it’s in my name. There are a lot of ponies with cutie marks like mine, actually.”

“So...” said Clip, “does that mean that you’re less special?”

“Uh...” Scroll stammered, “Well, uh, well...”

“It’s not quite that,” said White. “Scroll’s special talent just so happens to be, well...” he looked at Scroll. “Reading?”

“Something like that...”

“Well, there are lots of ponies that do more academical things like studying, rather than specific talents like blowing bubbles and building houses. So just because Scroll has the same cutie mark as a lot of other ponies doesn’t mean anything.” He threw a foreleg around Scroll’s neck. “He’s my very special buddy, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

Clip looked down at the floor, sadly. “I don’t have a cutie mark anymore...”

White’s smile faltered, and he stepped away from Scroll. He slowly walked up to Clip and knelt down on the floor.

“Clip, listen,” said White. “Your cutie mark just shows your talent. The mark itself isn’t what makes you special. There is nopony in the world just like you, Clip, and nopony can ever take that away. Remember that.” He lifted Clip’s chin with his hoof. “C’mon and give us a smile.”

“What about him?” Clip asked, pointing at the bum.

“Same goes for him,” said White. “His talent is probably making bottles. It’s a useful skill.” Clip giggled a little. “There we go,” said White as he stood up.

“We didn’t call them cutie marks on the Stormcloud,” said Clip. “I don’t think they call them those here.” He looked down. “General Storm doesn’t like ‘cute.’”

“Well,” said Scroll, “she’s kinda a bitch, so...”

“Now, Brother Scroll,” reprimanded Brother White. “That isn’t language we want to use.”

“But she tried to murder me...”

“Anypony who’d try to kill Scroll is totally a bitch!” exclaimed Clip. White and Scroll both looked at him open-mouthed. Scroll closed his mouth, and his face bore the expression of somepony who just discovered he’d made a huge mistake.

“Well...” White took a deep breath. “You have a point, but let’s just try not to use that kind of language, okay? Anyway, let’s go, Scroll. We’ll see you later, Clip. And remember, one cookie, and make sure to work on your reading. Barrel will be over later to check up and see that everything’s okay.”

White threw the door open floating the picnic basket and a sign in front of him. Cautiously, he stepped outside, carrying the sign in front of him. Scroll followed behind him; Scroll wasn’t quite so fearful of his own safety, but White held up his sign, reading Please Don’t Shoot.


As they were on an island, it logically followed that there would be a beach somewhere outside of the town. It looked like a normal beach with sand and waves and most of the things one expects on a beach, but there was something off about it; something melancholy. The beach was completely deserted - normally at a beach one could find foals building sandcastles or stallions surfing or mares sunbathing, but not here. Here the only sounds were the calls of the seabirds in the deathly still air.

Still, there was something nice about that. Considering that the town seemed to consist almost solely of assholes, a chance for a pony to get away and spend time with a very best friend was very welcome.

White set down the basket before talking out the red-checkered cloth. It hovered in the air with a soft white aura before spreading and gently floating down to the ground. Scroll lifted the teapot out of the basket and set it onto the spread, while White set up the teacups and the plate of sandwiches.

Scroll sat on the cloth, looking out at the waves as they gently lapped at the shore. “Ahh, this is nice,” said White as he sat down, pouring out some tea. “Kinda eerie, though - no wind.”

“Well, no pegasi,” shrugged Scroll. “If somepony here felt a breeze they’d probably run for their guns.”

“That’s...” said White. “That’s depressing.”

“Yeah,” said Scroll. He leaned down and took the teacup in his mouth.

“So, what are your plans for when the mission’s over?” asked White.

“Oh...” Scroll took a sip of tea before placing down the cup. “I’ll probably go to college. Don’t know what I want to study. You said you were gonna go to dental school?”

“Yeah. Good money there,” said White. “And lots of smiles. I like smiles.”

“Just like Pinkie Pie?”

“Just like Pinkie Pie,” White laughed. “What do you like, Scroll?”

“Oh...” Scroll said. “Just stuff. I like books...”

“What’s your favorite one?”

Scroll looked at White. This was somewhat different: he’d never had a pony who seemed interested in asking about him. “My favorite book?” he asked. “Well... that’s kind of hard. There’s one I really like, though. It’s called The Steadfast. It’s about this guy in a far-off land who’s all alone against all these... these horrible, corrupt ponies. They try to get him to give in, but he doesn’t.”

“Does it have a happy ending?”

“Oh, yeah, it does,” said Scroll. “He wins and everything. And I love that book. It’s just... even when it’s so, so hard for him to win, even when it’s absolutely impossible... he does what he thinks is right. I find it inspiring.”

“Well, I’ll have to give it a read,” said White. “Sandwich?” Scroll was snapped out of his reminiscing about the book by the cucumber sandwich floating in front of him.

“Thanks,” he said. “I always wished I could be like him.” He looked down. “White?”

“Yeah?” asked White.

“I did something awful.”

White slowly put his teacup back onto the saucer.

“I told a lie,” said Scroll. “I lied to Clip. I told him I had a lot of friends, and I wanted him to look up to me, and... and...” He took a deep breath. “I don’t have any friends back home. That’s why I joined the Fraternity.”

“Well...” said White, his voice barely above a whisper. “Um... You’ll have to tell him the truth.”

“I know...” Scroll said. “It’s just... I wanted him to look up to me. Now he won’t be able to, because I’m a lying loser.” He looked back down, not wanting to look White in the eye. This was stupid, he thought. He was prattling about his insecurities to Brother White, and now White would think less of him...

“You’re not a loser, Scroll.”

“B-but...” stammered Scroll, “I’m a coward, and a wuss, and I break down after getting pity sex from a cute girl...” He felt something. He looked down and saw White’s hoof on his own. He looked up and his eyes locked with White’s.

“Scroll,” said White, “I’m going to tell you everything that I think is great about you.”

Scroll looked up at him. White was gazing at him, his eyes completely fixed. “You’re smart, Scroll. A lot smarter than I am. You’ve only been in the Fraternity for, what, less than a year? I mean, you know more about it than I do, and I’ve been in it my whole life.”


“And you’re not a coward,” White continued, “just scared. We’re all scared. And if you were a coward you’d have gotten right back on that boat and gone home. But you didn’t. You stayed here, and you’ve stuck to the mission, even when it’s hard. That’s courage, Scroll, not cowardice.”

“I guess...” said Scroll. “But I don’t think I could’ve stayed here if it wasn’t for you.”

“Aw, that’s alright. We all need a little help sometimes. That’s what friends are for, right?” White smiled. “C’mon, let’s see a smile.”

Scroll giggled a little.

“C’mon, smile,” said White, “I’m a dentist and I wanna see a smile.”

Scroll grinned bashfully. “Thanks.”

“Scroll, I want you to know this, no matter how much the other earth ponies here pick on you. It doesn’t matter if they tell you you’re worthless, or a pussy, or a... a faggot, because you’re not. You’re a wonderful pony, and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with. And if you ever feel scared, or depressed, or lonely, or anything, I’m here for you. Remember the lesson that we learned from Fluttershy and Rarity - you can always be honest about your feelings with your friends.”

Scroll looked away. “I don’t really know how I feel...”

“How’s that?”

“I just... since our mission started, all these things’ve happened. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to just explode or break down and cry.” He started to shake a little. “All, all these feelings about the mission and the war and the ponies here and, and, and if I can really help, if I if I can be a good role model for Clip, and I still don’t know about Tap, and you... and, and...”

“There, there...” White said, putting a foreleg around him. “It’s okay. Just calm down, look at the sea, and take a few deep breaths.”

“Times like this I wish I had an inhaler...”

“You don’t have asthma,” White reminded him. “Now, what’s this about Tap?”

“Well, y’know about our first night here, and we got drunk, and I...”

“Yeah...” White said with a pause. “You felt pretty bad about it.”

“Yeah...” said Scroll. “But I don’t know... I still have feelings for her, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well... why not just tell her?”

Scroll shot up. “Tell her? But, but...”

“Hey, think of it this way,” White said. “Worse things have happened to us than getting rejected by a pretty girl. If you just go up to her and tell her what you feel, what’s the worst that could happen?”

“I... I dunno...”

“I’m not gonna push you to this or anything,” White said, “but I think you’ll feel better if you come forward about it. Besides, I think she likes you.”

Scroll looked at him. “Really?”

“Hey, she knows you and she hasn’t called you any names. I mean, she liked you enough to, well, uh...” White didn’t want to finish that sentence. “She told me she thinks that you’re cute.”

“Well...” Scroll closed his eyes. “Okay, I’ll do it. I, I’ll go right up to her tavern and tell her that I, that I, uh...”

“Don’t worry about it. Just take your time and think of exactly what you want to say. I’ll help you if you want it.

“Okay...” said Scroll, nodding his head. “That’d be a big help.” He leaned over and rested his head on White’s shoulder, closing his eyes.

“Oh yeah,” remembered White. “And you’re a great cook, too.”


Clip puzzled over the book he was reading. Red and blue make... he blinked. That couldn’t be right: it was pronounced pur-puhl, not pur-pluh. Of course, the book had other mistakes. Brother Scroll had crossed some things out: The three primary colors pigments are yellow, blue, and red... The words that replaced blue and red he couldn’t figure out. Scroll hadn’t re-colored the drawing, so he didn’t really understand the difference; why were there different words with complicated spellings for the same colors?

He sighed, looking up. Reading was hard enough when the book didn’t need corrections. More than that, he was just bored. He had his one cookie quite a while ago, and there wasn’t a whole lot for him to do.

He looked at the door. He wasn’t locked in or anything, and the missionaries wouldn’t be back from their date until the end of the day. That left him a lot of time - he could do any number of things and they’d never need to know.

He closed his book and prepared to step outside. He didn’t have anything to worry about, he thought. After all, he could be a tough kid when he had to, even if he was pink. Not that he necessarily liked being tough, but he could do it.

When Clip stepped out the door, he turned to climb up the side of the building. He prided himself on that; whenever he saw a building, his eyes scanned it, looking for places he could climb up. He used to climb up on top of the buildings to escape from the mean dirt ponies who couldn’t follow him. The mission house was a particularly easy building to climb - all he had to do was go up a few empty crates and he was there. Even Brother White was able to do it once.

From the roof, he surveyed the surrounding town. There was one nice thing about the houses getting destroyed in the attacks: when they got rebuilt, it was all new, and that meant more to explore. He looked at the nearest building, which was a ramshackle house. He took a running leap and cleared the gap.

He was good at jumping. Sometimes he wondered if he had simply jumped off of the cloud in the first place, General Storm might’ve been impressed. Instead, that soldier had simply thrown him off... Then he realized that was a stupid idea. He liked being with the missionaries a lot better than the pegasi on the Stormcloud, anyway. The missionaries were nice.

He walked along the rooftops, looking down at the ponies below. Most of them were pretty mean. Good for him that they couldn’t reach him on the rooftops. Indeed, they weren’t even very inclined to look up.

“Hey! Fatass!” called a voice. Clip walked over to the edge of the roof and looked down. He saw Brother Barrel (who wasn’t actually a missionary but they called him that to show they welcomed him) at an apple stand. A distance away he saw a brown colt who was hassling him. “I’m talking to you!”

“Shove off, Buzz,” said Barrel, doing his best to ignore him and continue doing business with the mare at the apple stand.

“Hey, fatass, how much your sister charge?” Buzz resumed. “How much for her to suck my dick? How about to fuck her in the ass?”

Clip saw that Barrel was looking at the produce with an unusual intensity. Buzz picked up a rock and threw it at Barrel. “Too bad she’s your sister!” he jeered. “That means you can’t fuck her, but that’s okay, because you spend so much time with those faggots that you’re probably gay!

The rock hit Barrel right in the head. “Agh! Fuck off, you little shit!” he shouted back. Buzz ran off, snickering to himself, while Barrel stood there. Clip didn’t like that; Buzz shouldn’t have used that kind of language. Though he could see that Barrel felt bad about that, as the earth pony had lowered his head. Well, he might’ve felt bad about that; he also might’ve just felt bad about Buzz being mean to him.

In any case, Clip didn’t think that Barrel was gay. He wouldn’t have a problem with that, but he doubted it. Besides, he didn’t really want Barrel to be one of his daddies.


White was considering playing the “what does this cloud look like?” game, but then he realized that there weren’t any clouds.

Both of the missionaries were lying on their backs, looking up on the sky. “Say...” White sat up. “We’ve got an ocean in front of us.”

“Huh?” Scroll asked, looking at him. White turned his head, beaming at his partner.

“Whaddya say we go swimming?”

Scroll sat up with a jolt. “Sw-swimming?”


“Oh, I dunno...” Scroll fidgeted with his glasses. “I mean, I’m not a good swimming,” he flubbed.

“Well, there’s always a good time to learn,” said White. “I’ll help you.”

Scroll looked from White’s smiling face to the ocean, and then back to White’s face. “Well...” he took a deep breath. “Okay.” He took his glasses off and placed them on the mat.

White stood up. “C’mon,” he said as he started a brisk walk over to the edge of the water. Scroll slowly got up and followed, but he went much more slowly, being  a lot more timid than his partner.

When Scroll got to the water’s edge, he placed a hoof into the oncoming wave. It was a little colder than he expected; not frigid, but not exactly warm. He looked over at White, who was further out into the water with his hooves submerged. Scroll followed White out to where he was standing.

“Okay, this isn’t quite so bad...” Scroll muttered, as he felt the receding waves pull the sand out from underneath his hooves.

“Alright,” said White as he approached. “You ready to go further?” He lifted his hoof and put it on Scroll’s shoulder.

“I... I think so,” said Scroll.

“Well, let’s go,” said White, slowly leading him further into the water. “We can do it either fast or slow. If you just jump in, you’ll get over it faster, but it can be easier to go slow.”

“I’ll go, slow, I-” a wave came and lifted the two mission brothers up, soaking both of them up to their necks. “Alright...” Scroll shivered. “Fast, then.”

“Hold onto me,” White said, extending his hoof. Scroll cautiously grabbed a hold as they waded further out into the water. “It’s easy. Just keep kicking your hooves and you’ll be fine.”

They went a little further out. They were no longer able to touch the sand on the bottom, but they were able to stay afloat. Poor Scroll was clinging to White, flailing his hind legs. “It’s okay, you’re doing fine...” White reassured him.

“No,” said Scroll as a panicked expression crossed his face, “I think I’m having trouble...”

“Aw, you’re getting the hang of it.”

“No, really!” squeaked Scroll. “Something’s pulling me under!” He flung his forelegs around White. “Help me!”

White grabbed him, still kicking with his hind legs, but he noticed that Scroll was right. It was like the ocean was dragging them down. “Scroll! Hold on!” he shouted, trying desperately to hold Scroll above the surface. “Hold o-!”


Barrel had agreed to stop by the mission house around the middle of the day. Brothers White and Scroll were off doing something else, and they’d asked him to drop by and make sure Clip was doing okay. Not difficult at all. He’d walk in, see Clip doing something, then walk out and head right back to the tavern.

He trotted up to the graffiti-ridden door and threw it open. “‘Ello?” he called. “Clip? It’s Brother Barrel...” He found himself wishing he hadn’t lost his nametag. “Y’know, that other guy?”

Clip, however, was nowhere to be seen. “Hello?” Barrel called again. He spotted the bum in the corner of the room. “‘Ey, you!”


“Yeah, you seen a little pink winger? Uh... without wings?”

“Saw pink elephants...”

“Uhhhhh oh...” Barrel rushed into the nearby rooms. “Clip?” He checked the boxes in the storage shed. “Clip?” He checked all the cabinets in the kitchen. “Clip?!” He checked the pillow on the top bunk. When he failed to find Clip, he sat there, feeling pretty stupid. Of course, eventually he had to stop feeling stupid and realize he needed to find the little guy before the missionaries got back. This realization made him get up quickly - or as quickly as he could, given that he was somewhat fat - and bolt out of the mission house.


Of course, Barrel was not likely to find Clip. He didn’t have cause to panic, though; Clip was still merrily trotting along the rooftops of Earthquake Island, much to the confusion of the occupants of said buildings.

He took another running jump across a gap. He landed on the edge of another building, but this time, the tiles were loose. He slid right off of the roof, flailing and trying to grab at the wall. He managed to catch a grip at the windowsill as the tiles fell to the ground below, with a sharp clang!

“Ow!” shouted a voice below. Clip looked down and saw one very angry-looking dirt glaring up at him. “Watch it, you little snot!”

This was the sort of thing Clip wanted to avoid. He kicked his legs, trying to get back up to the roof, but his position did not afford him very firm footing. He was barely holding onto the edge of the windowsill, peering into a musty room. In it was a large bed and a nightstand with what appeared to be one of the Fraternity’s books...

The door opened, and a mare walked in. Clip recognized her: it was Brother Barrel’s sister, the one that Scroll looked at a lot. She was pretty.

She looked around the room before she spotted him and jumped back in surprise. “What the f...” she mouthed. She walked over to the window before slowly opening it. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, nothin’...” said Clip. “Just hanging.”

Tap sighed and leaned forward. She picked up Clip by the back of his neck and lifted him off of the windowsill, before setting him down on the floor. “Now, just what were you doing there?”

“I slipped...” Clip said, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Uh-huh...” said Tap, who really wasn’t sure what to make of that. She also wasn’t really sure whether she cared. “Well, that reminds me why I like two-story buildings and blinds,” she said as she shut the window and drew the curtains. “What are you doing out? Shouldn’t you be with the missionaries?”

“They went on a picnic,” said Clip.

“Really,” Tap said.

“Don’t tell them that I wasn’t at the mission house...” Clip said in a quiet, guilty voice.

“Ahh,” said Tap. “So they aren’t being dumber than usual.”

“They are not dumb!” said Clip with an emphatic stomp of his little hoof.

Tap had to laugh at that. “Alright, if you say so,” she said. She looked at the door. “Are you hungry?”

“Kinda... I only had one cookie.”

“Well, come on downstairs,” she said with a smile. “I’ll give you a lunch. On the house.”

“Really?” asked Clip.

“Sure,” said Tap. “Just... wait a few minutes before coming downstairs,” she added as she opened the door. “I... really don’t want to have to explain what I was doing in my room with a little colt.”


Barrel tore down the street, stopping pretty much every pony he met. “Excuse me, sir/madam, have you seen a little pink colt?” he asked. This failed to get a “yes” from anypony.

He ran through the town, looking in all the windows (which nearly led to some embarrassing confrontations), garbage buckets, outhouses, and various boxes. This, too, failed to find the colt. As he grew increasingly worried, he sat down and tried to think.

Okay, Barrel, he began, if I were Clip, where would I be? He shot back up to a standing position. With the missionaries!

With a massive wave of relief sweeping over him, he rushed off for the beach... That is where they said they were going, right? Yeah, I think that’s right.

Of course, they didn’t tell him where on the beach they were planning to go, given that they’d adopted a “let’s-find-a-nice-place-and-sit-here” approach. It had worked for them just fine, but it didn’t give Barrel a whole lot to go on. There was little he could do but wander aimlessly along the beach, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of Scroll and White.

Unfortunately, he was quickly distracted by the extraordinarily silly sight of two seagulls fighting over a sandwich. He stopped walking and just watched them with an amused grin crawling over his face. It took him a few minutes for it to occur to him that the sandwich had to have come from somewhere. This jolted him back to the realization that he was supposed to be looking for Clip, so he continued down the beach. Fortunately for him, the big red-checkered picnic cloth was very conspicuous on the sand, but the missionaries were nowhere to be seen.

He cautiously approached, as he wasn’t used to picnic setups. He looked around. “‘Ello?” he called. “Brother White? Brother Scroll? Where are ya?”

He looked down at the spread. There was a basket, a plate with crumbs, a teapot, cups, and a pair of glasses. He lifted the lid off of the teapot and looked inside. Clip wasn’t in there. He checked the basket, too.

He looked back at the glasses and puzzled over them. Why on Earthquake Island would Scroll leave his glasses on the ground? He was always wearing them, after all.

He sat there, puzzling over the whole thing. In retrospect, it seemed pretty dumb for him to think that Clip would run off to be with the missionaries. After all, wasn’t the entire point of their outing to be alone? And in that case, if he had run into them again, he would’ve messed it up for them, and then he’d have to explain that he couldn’t find Clip...

“Hmm...” thought Barrel as a bird landed on his head.


Clip climbed up onto the stool and peered over the counter.

“Well, there you are,” said Tap. She placed a plate in front of him with a sandwich on it. “I was wondering if you’d run off.”

“I didn’t really know how much ‘minutes’ was...” said Clip.

Tap laughed a little. “Well, that’s alright. I don’t think we’ve ever really been introduced. I’m Tap.”

“They call me Clip,” said the colt as he cautiously poked the sandwich.

“It’s not gonna bite, kid.”

Clip picked it up and took a bite out of it. “Sorrih. Fometimes the uhver foals’d put san’ innem.”

“Well...” said Tap. “A lot of the foals in this town are real shits, aren’t they?”

Clip cringed. “Scroll and White don’t like to use those words.”

“I gathered...” said Tap. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said Clip. “You’re still a lot nicer than a lot of the other dirts in town.”

Tap raised an eyebrow. “I thought the missionaries didn’t like those words, either.”

“Oh... sorry.”

“It’s alright,” said Tap. She moved back, filling a few glasses with watered-down booze and serving the other customers. As she moved along the counter, she got a better look at the scars on Clip’s back. She shuddered - that happened to a kid? Fuck! “So, you’re from the... the Stormcloud, right? What’s it like there?”

“Well...” Clip squirmed a bit in his seat. “They’ve all got ranks and a chain of command. I remember some of the other foals had higher ranks than me and they pushed me around. Well... actually, all of them had higher ranks than me, I think.” He paused, thinking. “Just like here. Except the general here is kinda different. Storm was more sneer-y.”

“Oh, that fucking bitch...” groaned Tap. “So... what happened to you? Why are you here?”

“They threw me off,” said Clip.

“Oh...” Tap said. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Clip shrugged. “It’s better now. I’m with the missionaries, and they’re gonna take me to Equestria and they’ll get married and adopt me.”

Tap laughed. “I’m sure they will.” She smiled fondly. “They’re nice to you, aren’t they?”

“Uh-huh!” Clip said eagerly. “They read to me and play with me and give me ice cream! Though they don’t give me that much ice cream. They say it’s bad for me and I need to share it with the other ponies but the other ponies never take any...”

The door flew open. Barrel lurched inside, heaving. “I can’t do it...” he wheezed as he pulled himself to the counter. “I looked everywhere for him, but he just vanished...”

“Who, Barrel?” asked Tap.

“Clip,” said Barrel. “I looked all over town, all over the mission house, I even looked for the Brothers... but I just couldn’t find him.” He groaned. “Why can’t I do anything right?”

“Hi!” piped up Clip.

“Hi, Clip...” Barrel moaned. “They’re gonna think I’m an idiot...”

Normally, Tap might’ve laughed, but she saw something unsettling: there was a bruise on Barrel’s forehead. “Barrel, what’s that?”

“Huh?” asked Barrel. “What’s what?”

“That,” Tap touched the bruise. Barrel jerked away. “Barrel, what happened?”

“Nothing!” Barrel blurted.

“Buzz threw a rock at him,” Clip said.

“WHAT?!” Tap shouted. “Somepony threw a rock at your head?

“It’s nothin’...” said a rather fidgety Barrel.

“Barrel, somepony throwing a rock at you isn’t nothing.”

“He’s just some stupid kid, Tap,” said Barrel. “I mean, he can’t do anything. He’s just a little asshole.”

“That’s a bad word!” exclaimed Clip.


An earth pony stared at a giant, hulking machine. He was supposed to make sure the damn thing worked, but he didn’t know how it worked.

It was a big hulking thing, clanking to itself as the noise echoed through the cavern. At one end of the machine a torrent of water poured, while at the other end a huge pipe led deeper into the cavern.

The water emptied into a large basin that then emptied into several other streams that led down different parts of the cavern. They would emerge out of the mountain and fall into the lakes in the forest.

The machine’s function was simple: it took water from the ocean and somehow turned it into fresh water. It was a piece of stolen unicorn technology, and as such, the earth ponies didn’t understand how it worked. Or rather, how it wasn’t working. That clanking noise wasn’t there at first, but it grew. Sometimes the machine had trouble turning on, or it started shaking so violently it had to be shut off. Every time they flipped the switch, they were worried that it be down for good, leaving them without a water source.

One of his pals was watching the “in” pipe. There was a little window in it, which they watched to make sure that if anything came in they didn’t want, they could fish it out. It was somewhat puzzling that the machine got rid of the salt, but if a fish or a piece of seaweed got in it was a humongous pain in the ass.

Fucking horners, he thought. Even when we steal from them they’re a bitch.

However, he saw something that he did not expect.


“What?” asked the earth pony at the panel (the buttons of which he dared not push).

“I just saw...”

The machine clanged some more, before it suddenly shut down. The two ponies looked at it. Shit. Then the machine gave a sickening lurching sound, and then a blast of water exploded out the end.

The two ponies looked on in shock as two soaking ponies hit the wall of the cavern and slid down to the ground.

“Well, what the fuck...” said one of the ponies.

“I...” Scroll gasped, “need... a... hug...”

Chapter 16

The technicians watched as the two missionaries slobbered away over their salt licks. The trip through the machine had left them in need of nutrition.

“So, uh,” said one of the technicians, “why’s there a horner? And why aren’t we turning them both into the general?”

“Quake’s cool with us!” White shouted.

“Well, he tolerates us...” added Scroll.

“I think he’s one of them missionaries,” said the second technician.


“That’s right!” called Brother White. He stood up. “My name is Brother White, and I...” He took another lick, “...Am with the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia! This is my friend, Brother Scroll.”

“Hi,” said Brother Scroll.

“But...” said the first technician, “he’s a horner.”

“What’s that?” asked White, looking at the machine.

“This?” said the second technician. “It’s our water thing.”

Scroll stopped licking, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Thing?

“Why doesn’t horner over there tell us?”

“Y’know, you’ve said that three times,” sighed White. “I just told you my name.”

The first technician silently examined White; soaking wet and slobbering over a salt lick, but still asking to be respected. The technician snorted.

“Fag...” he muttered.

“So, uh,” said Scroll, looking over at the machine. “This is where your water comes from?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” said the second technician. “Also makes salt blocks. Damn thing only works when it likes, though.”

“And it’s made by unicorns?” asked Scroll. He shoved the salt lick in his mouth, stood up, and walked over to the machine. “Hhh,” he said, spitting the block out again. “Never seen anything like this. It, uh, it takes ocean water and makes it drinkable?”

“When it works,” grunted the technician. “And then when it doesn’t, I kick it. That doesn’t usually help.”

“You have any idea what’s wrong with it?”


“Huh...” Scroll licked at his block. “Well, I don’t know about this, this exact thing, but these things are usually either a mechanical failure or a magical failure.”

“Magical failure?”

“Yeah.” Scroll nodded. “Y’see, these machines all run off of unicorn magic. They get built, and a unicorn puts an enchantment on it that makes it do its thing. Like a refrigerator - you build an insulated box, and then the unicorn puts a spell on it that makes it cold.”

“Okay, so...” the technician looked around. “What do we do?”

“Well, you could find a unicorn who can fix it,” shrugged Scroll.

“What about him?” asked the first technician, shoving White forward. “We got a horner.”

White stumbled a little. “Four times...” he muttered.

“Doesn’t work that way,” said Scroll. “You need a unicorn who knows a ‘turn-salt-water-into- fresh-water’ spell. And Brother White,” he emphasized, “only knows tooth spells and stuff like that. If it’s a mechanical failure you just have to open it up and see if anything’s broken.”

“We’ve tried that,” said the second technician. “Nothing works.”

“Well, then you need a unicorn who can fix it,” Scroll said.

“Well, if this faggot can’t fix it, what’s the point of him being around?” the first technician sneered.

White took a lick from the salt block. “I can tell I’m not wanted here,” he said, turning to leave. “I’ll leave Brother Scroll to help you with your machine. He’s smarter, anyway...”

“Wait up!” Scroll called, running after him. “If my friend isn’t welcome, I’m not welcome.”

Figures they both are,” muttered the technician. “They both came out of the pipe together. Figures they both, uh, take it up the pipe together.”

His partner turned to him. “Will you just shut up sometime so you don’t sound like a fucking idiot?”


White closed his eyes, letting the water from the showerhead wash over him.

“White, could you pass over the soap?”

“Oh, sure.”

White took the soap from the holder and floated it over to Scroll, who sat down and took it in his hooves. White, meanwhile, squirted some shampoo into his mane.

“Okay, so, doors again today,” said White. “I think we should plan our approach in advance a little.”

“Umm,” Scroll thought as he lathered himself up. “Yeah, okay.”

“Let’s practice. I’ll pretend that I’m knocking on your door, and you pretend to be the occupant. Ahem... White cleared his throat.

“But I dunno...”

“Oh, it’s easy,” said White. “You just gotta get in character. Just imagine yourself: you’re an earth pony here on Earthquake Island. You’re doing something, and then there’s a knock on your door.”

“Okay,” said Scroll, “so I open the door...”

“Hello,” said the unicorn, “my name is Brother White.” Scroll stood there for a few seconds, thinking.

“Uhhh, fuck you?” They stared at each other for a few more seconds as the running water fell around them. “Sorry, I was just trying to imagine myself as, um...”

“Yeah, let’s just, uh, talk about our apprbb,” White stuck his head into the running water, letting it rinse through his mane. Scroll tried to stand up, which got a little difficult due to the tight space. White had to move to the side to accommodate his partner.

“Well, so far,” said Scroll, standing in the stream of water, “we’ve tried knocking, reading selections, asking them nicely, bringing pie...”

“And none of that has worked.”

“How about we try leaflets?” suggested Scroll. “That way we don’t even need to knock. Just get a bunch of fliers and put them on doorsteps.”

“That could work.” White nodded. “You pass me the soap?”

“Uhh...” said Scroll.


“I kinda dropped it.”

“You-” White took a step and his hoof went right onto the bar. His leg slipped out from under him. “Woah!” he yelled as he stumbled, falling right into Scroll. Scroll, in turn, fell down under him.

“We’re gonna drown!” squealed Scroll. Then, as if on cue, the water shut off. “Oh. I guess not.”

White carefully got up, making sure to replace the offending bar of soap into its holder. “Alright, now for breakfast...”

The two Brothers exited the cramped shower stall, taking their towels and drying off.

“But that worked,” said White as he lifted his brush. “We both shower together, we both get clean before they shut it off.”

“And we don’t use as much water,” Scroll said, cleaning his glasses. “So, I think today is toast day.”

“Sounds good,” nodded White. He dragged the brush through his mane, making sure it was neat, straight, and clean. Even if the rest of the town was unconcerned with hygiene, that was no reason that Brother White couldn’t be proper and presentable.

“You’re an asshole, Quake.”

The two Brothers stopped and listened. They didn’t recognize that voice.

“Funny, you never said that to me when you were here, you little pussy,” said a voice that they did recognize. Scroll adjusted his glasses before the two of them slowly walked out of the bathroom and peaked into the main room of the mission house. General Quake was there, accompanied by his two lieutenants. However, there was somepony else there as well: a white unicorn with a blond mane and a gold star for a cutie mark. The two ponies were glaring at each other with similar expressions of distaste. Quake’s eyes flicked in the direction of the missionaries. “Figures,” he muttered, “with how long you were in there.”

“Hi...” said White. “Are you here for the free breakfast?”

The other unicorn turned and saw them. “He’s here,” he said, before stepping away and apparently vanishing.

“Huh?” asked White.

What the missionaries saw next made them both jump back in fright.

Where the other unicorn had been standing, another unicorn appeared. It was a very tall stallion, his coat a deep shade of purple. On his flank there was the image of a golden crown.

“General Monarch,” said Brother White.

“Ah,” said the unicorn general, facing him. “Brother White, if I remember correctly?” The general had a deep voice, and he liked to draw out every word he said, as though he were savoring the syllables.

“Yes,” said White. His tone was not quite as high as it usually was, and he didn’t carry that beaming smile like he usually did. He’d met general before, in his first week on the island, during the sneak attack before the pegasus raid.

“Aaaaaaand General Quake,” said the unicorn, turning to the scowling earth pony general.

“Fuck, I hate the way you talk,” Quake growled.

“Wait,” said White, “not that I’m complaining, but... you aren’t shooting each other?”

“Oh, they aren’t going to waste bullets,” said Monarch, his voice full of smug self-satisfaction. “Even they aren’t dumb enough to attack a hologram.” He nodded below him, where there was small glowing device on the floor. Scroll hadn’t pointed it out because he had been staring.

“That horn...” he said.

“Wait until you see what I can do with it,” Monarch smirked. Scroll stammered a bit and his face turned red.

“What’s the deal here?” asked White.

“I just remembered our last meeting,” said Monarch, “and wondered what that white unicorn was up to.”

“You burned my friend’s house down,” White said in the bluntest tone of voice he could muster.

Well, that’s water under the castle. Monarch shrugged. “But in any case, I wanted to talk with you, White.”

“Free breakfast, right?” asked Quake.

“You want to talk to me?” asked White. “Why?”

“I asked if there was breakfast. Quake snorted.

“Yeah,” said Scroll. “It’s toast day...”

“I was just thinking of you is all,” said Monarch.

“You got anything other than toast?”

“You see,” Monarch said, “Brother Shine here told me about how difficult it was for him, being a unicorn in a town full of dirts.”

“I think I get along okay,” said White.

“Oh, sure, plenty of stuff. We can make eggs or pancakes or hash browns or doughnuts...”

“Oh really?” asked Monarch. “I doubt our good friend Quake really appreciates you.”

“Shut up, I want my fucking pancakes.”

“What’s your point, exactly?” asked White.

“I like you, White,” said Monarch. “I think you’re a bright, handsome young stallion, so I’d like to make you an offer.”

“An offer?” White raised an eyebrow. “What kind of an offer?”

“What kind of pancakes? We could make buttermilk pancakes, apple pancakes, even potato pancakes...”

“I’d like you to come up to the fortress,” said Monarch. “I think you’d get along much better with our locals than with theirs. I assure you, we are much more civilized than our good friend General Quake here.”

“Shut up,” said Quake. “Sure, just get me something.”

“Alrighty,” said Scroll, exiting into the kitchen.

White, however, was not won over by Monarch’s suggestion. “I’m sorry, sir, but my mission is here on Earthquake Island.”

“And how is that mission going?” asked the general.

“It’s going fine,” White said through his teeth.

“Oh really?” asked Monarch, raising an eyebrow.

“How long do the fucking pancakes take?” Quake called.

“Gimme ten minutes!” Scroll answered from the kitchen.

White looked from one general to the next. “Why’re you here, Quake?”

“Wanted to make sure king horner wasn’t up to anything funny,” said Quake. “I also wanted breakfast.”

“Well, happy to oblige,” said White. “That’s you,” he indicated to Quake, “not you,” he pointed to Monarch.

“Well, I’ll leave you to think it over,” said Monarch, turning to leave.

“Wait!” said White. “I do have something I want to talk about. Both of you.”

The generals looked at him with looks of condescending confusion.

“Listen, why do you two fight each other? I mean, you’re here, talking, and you aren’t killing each other.”

“And hating every second of it,” muttered Quake.

“Well, maybe if the dirts here didn’t steal from us.”

“Oh, that’s really fucking rich,” snarled Quake. “What about all those hostages you’ve been taking?”

“Oh, that’s right!” said Monarch. “I’d almost forgotten!” He turned his head. “Are we willing to discuss hostages?” he called behind him. White, Quake, and the lieutenants looked in the same direction, but didn’t find whoever it was that Monarch was speaking to. He returned his attention to General Quake. “Alright, then, about those hostages. We’ll be willing to give, hmm, some of them back.”

“Wait, what?” asked White.

“Afraid we aren’t quite willing to part with all of them, but there are a few we don’t have any real use for. We could give them back, if,” Monarch continued, “you return the water machine and the cannon engine. What do you say?”

“Alright!” said Scroll, emerging from the kitchen with a tray on his back. “Turned out we actually had some leftover batter from yesterday!”

Quake glared at Monarch as Scroll served him his breakfast, which consisted of four pancakes slathered in butter and syrup, with a glass of orange juice. “Hey, I know,” said Quake. “How about if I eat my breakfast, shit it out, and then you can come down here for real and I can take your horn and shove it up your ass?”

“That was extraordinarily homoerotic...” said Scroll.

Monarch casually glanced behind him. “He says ‘no.’”

“Wait, what just happened?” White asked.

Monarch returned his gaze to the front again. “All dead. Very glad that’s cleared up. Thank you, Quake.”

“Did I do something wrong again?” Scroll asked, fidgeting with his glasses.

“You...” whispered White, “you murdered them.”

“No, that would be the executioner,” corrected Monarch. “In any case, I hope you’ll give my proposal a little consideration.”

“I already told you, no,” said White. “I’m not leaving here. I’m not going to abandon my mission, and I’m not going to take Scroll along to someplace that I just know is going to be as horribly racist to him as this place is to me.”

“What, who?” Monarch asked. He looked around the room until his eye fell on Scroll. “This little dirt?”

“Yeah,” Scroll said. “Racism.”

“That ‘dirt’ is my friend!” snapped White. “He’s also a good cook.”

“Well, I don’t think he’d be coming along.”

“Then I won’t,” said White. “Now, I have a proposal.”

“You?” asked Monarch. “You mean to make suggestions to me?

“Yes,” said White. “Yes I do. I say you two stop fighting and end the war. Now.”

Monarch and Quake stared at him as though he were an idiot.

“Listen,” said Scroll as he straightened his glasses, “we have a water shortage here. Right?”

“Yes, from all your showering together,” said Quake.

“Well, listen, that machine you got that provides the water,” continued Scroll. “It’s unicorn tech.”

Stolen,” interjected Monarch.

“Here we fucking go again,” muttered Quake.

“Listen!” cried Scroll, desperate to keep the conversation on the track he wanted.  “We shouldn’t need to kill or steal! If you just stopped fighting and worked together, you could fix the machine and have all the water you’d want! And the forest here is huge! We could feed both populations!”

“Don’t you two get it?” White added. He rushed to the desk and grabbed one of the books. “If you’d just listen you could see how wonderful your lives can be! We can all live together, in peace and happiness and prosperity! We can save you!

The two generals stared at them.

“Save us?” Monarch asked. “I hardly think I care.”

“What, you’re fine with just... just going on killing each other?” White asked.

“It’s served me well,” said Monarch.

“Are we done here?” asked Quake. “I need to go beat something up. Or have sex with something that isn’t a stallion.”

“Think over my proposal, Brother White. If you so wisely decide to take up my offer, the hologram device here will serve as a one-time, one-way teleporter.” He looked over at Quake. “Oh, and don’t get any ideas, Quake, you’re not intelligent enough to do anything to me with it.”

Quake snorted in irritation.

“That is all,” concluded General Monarch. He turned to walk away, but he stopped. “Actually, that’s not a bad idea... water shortage?” A sinister grin crossed his face. “I think I can do something about that.” He took a step and vanished. The dull humming from the machine on the floor ceased, and the lights went out.

General Quake, having finished his breakfast, grunted, got up, and turned to leave.

“I wish he’d said ‘thank you...’” said Scroll sadly.


Scroll stood at the mirror, scrubbing at his eye.

“Rotten fruit,” said White. “Stings the eye and the soul...”

White stood behind him, running a brush through Scroll’s mane.

“I’m so nervous,” said Scroll.

“Oh, don’t be,” said White. “It can’t possibly go worse than our door-knocking today. At least with Tap the worst you’ll get is a ‘no’ and maybe a wisecrack.”

“The hotfoot was the worst...”

“Anyway, remember what you’re going to do?” asked White.

“I... I think so,” Scroll nodded. “I walk up to her, I smile, and I ask her if she’d like to go out with me.”

“That’s right,” White turned Scroll around to face him. “Don’t worry, Scroll. You’re gonna do great. She likes you.”

“I-I know, it’s just, well, I’ve never really asked a girl out before.”

“Well, first time for everything, right?” White smiled. “Now get out there and show her what a charming young stallion you are!”

Scroll put on his glasses, and, with his mane straight and his face washed, marched out the door of the mission house. The air was still and cold, and the streets were illuminated with light from the windows and stars.

Scroll walked up to the door of the inn. He was ready - his mane was combed, his posture straight, and he had his tie on like a proper gentlecolt. He hesitated, though. His legs were locked as his nerves wracked him, leaving him unable to do much else other than breathe.

Come on, Scroll, he thought. Worse things have happened to you than this... But then why am I so nervous?

“You gonna go in or not?” asked a voice behind him.

“Wha?” Scroll jumped. “Oh, oh, s-sorry!” he stammered, heading through the door. Well, that first obstacle was out of the way. Now there were only about a dozen or so left.

The tavern was full of drinking and drunken stallions as usual, and roaring voices filled the room. Tap and Barrel were at the counter.

“Barrel, could you go downstairs and see if we have more whiskey?” asked Tap.

“Okay. Barrel nodded before turning to head for the cellar.

Before Scroll could make his move, however, he saw a young colt walk up to her - Buzz. The colt walked up to one of the stools and climbed onto it, peering over the counter.

“Hey,” he said. Tap, however, did not appear interested. “Hey! I’m talking to you!”

Tap turned to look at him. “Huh? What do you want?”

The colt hauled a small sack of money onto the counter.

“Really?” asked Tap. “Aren’t you a little young for booze?”

“I don’t want booze,” Buzz sneered. “I want to fuck you.”

Tap’s expression dropped. “Yeah, no,” she said, pouring another glass of a drink. “Come back when your balls drop.” She left the counter, carrying a tray of drinks and a sandwich over to a table where two stallions were engaged in a hoof-wrestle.

Buzz sat there with a fuming expression on his face, staring at Tap as she left to do her job. “Hey!” he shouted. “I’m not done here!”

“Yes,” said Tap, “you are. Get out.”

“You’re a fucking whore!” Buzz snapped. “You don’t get a choice!”

Tap stopped for a minute. Then she turned around and slowly walked up to Buzz, who was wearing an irritating grin. Tap stood in front of him for a few seconds and thrust out her hoof, roughly pinning him to the counter. “Usually, yeah, I don’t,” she said as the colt gasped. “But sometimes I do. Right now I’m telling you to fuck off. Got that?”

Buzz stared at her, his mouth hanging open in shock.

“Oh,” she leaned on him a little more, “and if you ever throw rocks at my brother again, I’ll make sure you regret it.” She lowered her face to his. “Just because you’re a little kid doesn’t mean I have to be nice to you. You got it?”

Buzz frantically nodded his head.

“Good. Now get out.” Tap released him, and he bolted out the door, forgetting to take the money. She laughed and took the bag, before returning to her position behind the counter.

“Got it!” called Barrel from the door.

“Great,” said Tap.

Scroll gulped. This would make things harder. He just wanted to talk to Tap, but he couldn’t do it with all these shouting bar patrons and her brother. He needed to think of something...

There was a group of stallions over at a table, playing cards. Idea.

“Um, excuse me?” he said, tapping one of the inactive card players on the shoulder.

“Huh?” asked the stallion. “Whaddya lookin’ at?”

“Nothing, nothing!” Scroll stammered. “I just, uh, wanted to ask you a favor...”

Tap and Barrel, meanwhile, went about their business - serving drinks, food, and dodging said drinks and food whenever they went flying. Tap’s other bit of business started that evening when one of the card players approached her.

“Hey,” said the stallion, seemingly bored out of his skull.

“Yes?” Tap asked.

“Uh, you meet me upstairs in, uh,” the stallion paused as though he had trouble thinking what he was supposed to say, “ten minutes?”

Tap looked around, and saw that Barrel was presenting a bottle of gin to a patron who was on the other side of the bar.

“Ten minutes?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“You think so?” Tap asked. The card-player simply shrugged and turned to go back to his table. “Huh,” she said. Odd. I’d expect him to act more interested. However, she decided, didn’t really matter as long as he had money. She ducked down to sort through some glasses. Scroll, seeing the opportunity, bolted up the stairs.

Okay, so far, so good, he thought, slowing down at the top. Heh. You’re good. You’ll be all alone, you won’t have to worry about all the loudness, or making yourself look like an idiot in front of everypony, just... He opened the door to Tap’s room.

He didn’t expect it to be the same. After all, their house had been destroyed twice so far, but it was still arranged similarly: the bed, the nightstand, the closet, the windows - all arranged like it had been before, but it was a different bed, a different nightstand, and a different closet.

It was at this point that Scroll realized he’d done something phenomenally stupid.


“Alright, Barrel, think you can handle it?” Tap asked.

“Huh?” asked her brother. “What for?”

“I’m going upstairs,” she said. “Taking a break. I’m going to, uh, read.”

“Oh, okay,” Barrel nodded.

Tap, relieved that she didn’t have to put up with Barrel’s protests, went upstairs. Admittedly, she wasn’t particularly looking forward to this. That stallion seemed bored out of his skull, and she almost suspected that he hadn’t bathed.

Well, she thought as she approached the door to her room, here goes- Scroll?!

The missionary was pacing back and forth, so occupied with his apparent worry that he hadn’t noticed her opening the door. She watched him for a while, before closing the door with an audible thud.

Scroll stopped dead in his tracks. Slowly, he turned to face her. “I, uh, well, y’see, I, uh, uh uh...” He gulped. “Sorry...” he squeaked.

Tap raised an eyebrow. One the one hoof, Scroll was probably the last guy she expected to do this. On the other, she found there was something profoundly predictable about his stammering and his nervous fidgeting.

“You, uh, you asked somepony else to ask me up here?”

Scroll looked down. “I was too embarrassed...”

“Aw, don’t be,” Tap laughed. “I have to admit,” she said as she walked up to him, “I didn’t see this coming. It’s a bit of a pleasant surprise, really.”

“Uhh, thanks...”

Tap laughed a little. “Awful bashful, aren’t ya?” she asked. “Well, I know how to solve that.”

“I- uh...” Scroll didn’t finish that sentence. Tap was standing very close to him, with her eyes narrowed and a sly smile on her face. Scroll opened his mouth, but his train of thought was stalled for words. Tap leaned forward and planted a kiss on his mouth. Now Scroll really couldn’t say anything, because his train of thought had crashed. His legs locked up and blood rushed to his face. When Tap broke away, Scroll’s mind was completely blank.

“You get that for free,” she said. She walked over to the bed, before giving him a sultry glance. “But the rest’ll cost you.”

Scroll’s mind snapped right back on track.

“How much did you bring?”


“Well, you here for just a half-hour? Or you want an all-nighter?”

“What?” Scroll gaped. “No, I don’t want sex!”

The room fell silent save for the muffled shouting downstairs. Tap had been surprised before, now she was confused. If he wasn’t here for sex, she wondered, then what was he here for? And why did he want to be alone with her?

“I...” Scroll closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I have something I want to tell you. Something very important and personal.”

Fuck, thought Tap, he’s coming out of the closet.

“When I’m around you, I feel funny,” said Scroll. “I feel jittery, I don’t know what to say, and I feel kinda dumb. And I don’t usually feel dumb. I get this... this strange feeling in my stomach, and I get really nervous, and I mean more than usual.”

Tap sat there on the bed, staring at him and listening. “Y’know, that kinda sounds like you want sex.” Scroll stopped. “I’m just sayin’.”

“Well, it’s more than that...” Scroll rubbed the back of his neck. “Tap, you’re pretty. And I mean really pretty, and that night, when I got all drunk and you had me on the bed, I couldn’t believe it. I’d never even really been around girls all that much. They didn’t talk to me more than they needed, and here you were, and you were being nice to me and kissing me and... There were times when I didn’t know if that would ever happen to me. And then when you told me that it didn’t mean anything to you, well...”

Tap remembered that. “I wanted it to be special,” he’d said, the six most bizarre words she had heard in her life. Great, she thought as she sighed, he’s getting emotional.

She’d dealt with the type before, usually after a round of pity sex - the colt would lose his virginity and think that he had something “special” with her. They started to get clingy, bugging her and acting as though she owed them something. Sometimes she felt guilty about toying with feelings, but eventually they all turned into the exact same kind of asshole as everypony else. They weren’t sincere, she came to realize. Her clients were never sincere. Sometimes they were nervous or awkward, sometimes they were bashful, but it always amounted to the same thing: some colt had money lying around and they wanted the pretty little whore. Some clients were nicer than others. Some of them were gentlecoltly, even, but all that meant was that what she did was a little more pleasant some of the time.

“I understand if you don’t feel the same way,” Scroll said after a pause. “I’ll just... I’ll just go now. I’m sorry.” Clenching his eyes shut, he headed for the door.

Tap was snapped out of her thoughts as she watched him go.

“Scroll, wait,” she said. Scroll stopped at the door and turned his head to look at her. “I don’t want you to run out bawling your eyes out. It doesn’t look good for either of us. C’mon and sit down.”


“Come on,” she patted a spot on the bed next to her. “Let’s talk.”

Scroll hesitated before approaching her.

“Look, Scroll,” she said in a soft, gentle voice, an acquired skill of hers. Scroll slow sat down next to her. “I like you. You’re a nice guy and you bathe regularly. If I knew more stallions like you, I think my life would be a whole lot nicer.”

“Thanks...” said Scroll.

“I mean it. You’re a sweet guy, really, and you’re a very good friend,” Tap continued. “I just want you to know that. But really, the whole ‘lovesick’ thing is really, really silly.”

Scroll looked down despondently, not saying a word.

“Aww, don’t be like that,” She nuzzled him under the chin, pushing his head up.

“I’m sorry,” said Scroll.

“Don’t be,” said Tap. “But do you understand?”

“I think so...” said Scroll.

“Good, that’ll be a lot better for both of us,” said Tap. “Feel better?”

“Yeah,” said Scroll as he got up. “Thanks.”

Tap watched as he walked to her bedroom door. Poor guy, she thought, I hope he takes it well.

“Good night, Scroll.”

“Good night, Tap.”


White lay in bed, reading the Book of Friendship and refreshing himself on the lesson that Twilight Sparkle learned from Zecora. Clip, meanwhile, slept snugly above.

He heard the door open, and he looked up. Scroll had returned, but his head was a little lower than before.

“So, how’d it go?” White asked.

“Not very well,” Scroll sighed as he flopped down on the bunk. “I made a complete foal out of myself, and she doesn’t feel the same way about me as I do about her.”

“I’m sorry,” said White.

“Don’t be,” said Scroll. “At least I got my feelings out. That was the important part, right?”

“As long as you don’t regret what happened,” reasoned White.

“Well, I don’t know. I mean, I care about her a lot, and, and...” he stammered. “Do you think I still have a chance?”

“I don’t know,” said White. “But I don’t think she knows what she’s missing.”

“I think she does, remember?”

“Oh yeah...” White thought. “Well, Scroll, you know something?”


“If I were her,” said White, smiling at him, “I would’ve fallen right into your hooves.”

“Thanks,” Scroll giggled.

“C’mon,” said White, “let’s get some sleep. We got a lot of doors to knock on tomorrow.”

Chapter 17

A profoundly listless and jaded-looking earth pony answered a knock on the door to find two young stallions standing at his doorstep.

“Hello,” said the unicorn. His earth pony companion nodded feebly. “What would you say if we told you the key to happiness was something as simple as companionship?”

“I’m not done with you yet, you bastard!” shrieked a voice from inside.

“I’d tell you that getting married is for saps.” The stallion shut the door.

“That...” White blinked. “That wasn’t exactly what we were getting at.”

“Can’t knock on the next two doors,” said Scroll, counting the houses on the street. “They have guns, and they don’t like us.”

“I think we’re running out of doors...” said White.

The two walked back to the wheelbarrow where Clip was seated next to the stacks of books.

“Maybe we’re being too ‘in-your-face’ about it,” White mused. “Maybe we shouldn’t so much ‘ask’ as ‘invite.’”

“What do you mean?” asked Scroll.

“Maybe just set up someplace public, like the market,” suggested White, “and let ponies come to us. Still visible, but less, well...”

“Gives them less of an excuse to wave a shotgun in our faces?”


“Can I knock on a door?” asked Clip. The Brothers looked at him, and then to each other.

“Umm...” said Scroll, rubbing the back of his neck. “Well...”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” mumbled White.

“Please?” begged Clip.

“Oh, alright,” said White, “you can do the next house.”

Clip grabbed a book in his mouth and hopped out of the wheelbarrow. He merrily trotted in front of the two Brothers up to the next house that they’d marked as “safe.”

The two Brothers watched, holding their breaths, as Clip walked up to the door. He raised a hoof and softly knocked. The door opened to reveal a mare. She looked around, taking a moment to realize that Clip wasn’t at her eye level.

“Oh, hello,” she said, looking down at the colt. Clip drew back a bit, looking at the missionaries as if asking for help. White leaned forward, smiling and nodding.

“Go on,” he mouthed.

Clip turned back to the mare. “Hi,” he said, sitting down and lifting the book up. “I have a book for you.”

“A...” she looked behind him. “You’re with that gay group?”


The mare sighed. “Okay, fine.” She bent down, took the book from the colt, and shut the door. Clip turned around and pranced back to the missionaries with a self-satisfied grin on his face.

“Wow,” said White, “great job.”

“Thanks!” Clip bounced up and down, his face full of glee.

“Hey, look!” called a jeering voice. “It’s the two-way gay!”

“Buzz...” the Brothers groaned in unison.

The brown colt watched them from the other side of the road. “Hey, horny!”

“Just ignore him...” said Scroll.


Clip and the missionares resumed their walk down the road. Buzz, however, was not about to be deterred by their lack of reaction.

“Hey, horny, you’re gonna die, y’know that?” he asked. “I’m gonna kill you!”

“Go away!” shouted Clip.

“So I was saying,” White piped in a loud voice, “see if we can set up a booth in the market. Maybe a whole lot of ponies don’t stop by the mission house, but if we just seat ourselves...”

“Scroll!” Buzz shouted, desperate to get their attention. “Hey, Scroll! What’s it like to be a virgin?”

“I’m not a virgin...” mumbled Scroll.

“Taking it up the ass doesn’t count!” jeered Buzz.

“Yes it does!” protested Scroll.

“Excuse me,” said a gruff voice. The three turned to see a soldier impatiently tapping his hoof at them.

“Did we do something wrong again?” asked Scroll.

“You’re wanted back at the mission house,” said the soldier. “If you’ll follow me.”

“Wanted,” repeated White. “That’s a nice word to hear.”

“Hey, horner,” mocked Buzz as he followed them. “The soldiers are gonna kill you, y’know that? You’re fucking dead!”

“Did we do something wrong again?” Scroll asked.

“Something like that,” said the soldier. “I don’t think he’s gonna kill you, though.”

The missionaries exchanged nervous glances as the soldier led them back to the mission house, while Buzz followed them and continued to throw taunts. Clip stuck his tongue out at the bully.

“Maybe he got here after we left and wanted breakfast...” Scroll murmured as they approached the door.

The soldier pushed the doors open, and they walked into the main room of the mission house. Clip’s eyes went wide as he saw the inside, which was packed with boxes and crates. And there, standing in the middle of the room, was the general. As soon as he saw them, he started railing.

“I saw three ships come sailing in, with three pine trees, hundreds of boxes of food, clothes, and blankets, four dozen cakes, more toys than I can even begin to count, cookie cutters, and...” He walked over to a large, brightly-colored wheel, which was evenly divided into six sections: a lavender one with a magenta star, a white one with blue diamonds, an orange one with red apples, a yellow one with pink butterflies, a pink one with balloons, and a blue one with a rainbow-colored lightning bolt. “...This fucking thing.”

“Ooh!” said Brother Scroll. “A lesson wheel!”

“A what?” the general asked.

“Oh, man, I love these things!” said White. “You spin it, and then you have to answer a question based on the Element of Harmony it lands on!”

“You ever make your own question cards?” asked an excited Scroll.

“You bet I did!”


The missionaries looked at the general, who was snorting. Clip, meanwhile, walked around the room, looking at the boxes.

“Now, you explain to me just what the fuck is going on?” asked the general.

“Oh!” said Scroll, “I think I know what it is!” He rushed over to the wall and checked the calendar. “The Fraternity sent them.”

“Is this what I think it is?” White asked.

“Yep!” Scroll said. “They sent it here for Hearth’s Warming Eve!”

General Quake stared at him. “What the fuck is that?”

“Well,” said Brother White, “it’s when we celebrate the founding of Equestria and the bonds of friendship that break the cold of winter.”

General Quake continued to stare.

“Oh, yeah...” said Scroll. “You guys don’t, uh, you don’t have winter...”

“You get five more words to make yourself look less retarded before I beat the shit out of you.”

Scroll and White exchanged another nervous glance. Scroll looked at the general and took a deep breath.

“It means presents and food,” said Scroll.

“You see,” added White, “this is a very special time of year, so the Fraternity receives a lot more in donations and they send more food and toys and things out to the missions for us to give to the ponies.”

“I said five words.”


“So, what the fuck is going on, then?”

“Well,” said Scroll, “on Hearth’s Warming Eve, we’re going to give this stuff away.”

“Yeah,” said White, “we’ll have a... we’ll have a party! We’ll give toys to all the fillies and colts, and give out free food and warm clothes-”

“Well, they don’t really need warm clothes if there’s no winter...”

“It’s a time to be happy, general. You know, it’s funny, before Equestria was founded, we were all very much like you-”

“Do you just enjoy hearing yourself talk?” asked General Quake.


Quake nodded to the soldier, who promptly hit White on the head.



It was early afternoon: the part of the day when the tavern hit a lull in business, with a workload so light that even Barrel couldn’t mess it up.

Barrel worked alone, cleaning the counter. The only other pony in the tavern was a bum who had passed out in the corner again. Barrel was trying to clean the counter as quickly as he could. The sooner he finished with his chores, the sooner he could slack off. That, however, would have to wait, as the door had just opened. Brother Scroll walked in, with Clip perched on his back.

“Heya,” greeted Scroll. He let himself in, looking around as Clip hopped off of his back. “So, uh, where’s Tap?”

“She went upstairs.” Barrel shrugged. “Can I do anything for ya?”

“Well,” said Scroll, “White and I’d like your help. Y’see, we got this massive shipment from the Fraternity- it’s for Hearth’s Warming Eve.”

“What do you want me for?”

“Well, we have a lot of stuff we’ll be handing out,” explained Scroll. “You see, we plan to have a party on Hearth’s Warming Eve. We’ll be at the mission house for the whole day, and we’ll be giving away food and gifts - toys for the foals, too.”

“Uh-huh...” Barrel said, nodding.

“Well...” Scroll said, nervously rubbing the back of his neck. “We were wondering if it’d be okay if you and Tap could lend us the tavern for the party.” Barrel opened his mouth to respond, but Scroll hastily added, “I mean, I understand if you don’t, but if you could, well...”

“Well, you’ll have to ask her. I mean, I’d probably get in trouble if I...”

“Right, right,” Scroll nodded. He looked around. “Hey, where’d Clip go?”

Clip had gone outside. He decided that he wanted to see Tap, and he knew just how to do that. He walked over to a nearby building and quickly climbed up the wall, taking advantage of any protrusions, ledges, windows, or other depressions to do so. Once he made it to the top of the building, it was simple to take a running leap to get to the tavern. He was much more careful this time, so as to not slip and fall and accidentally piss off a pedestrian below. Slowly, he let himself hang from the edge of the roof, before dropping down to the window below.

He managed to land on the windowsill with his hind legs, rather than hanging from it like he had last time. He peered inside. There was Tap alright, and-

Clip’s eyes went wide.

Tap was lying on the bed, but she wasn’t alone. There was a stallion lying next to her, sniffing her neck. Tap was smiling, and her eyes were closed. Clip just gaped at the sight, unsure of what it was he was looking at.

Then the stallion saw him.

“What the fuck?”

“Huh?” asked Tap, her eyes opening as well.

“There’s a fucking kid at the window!” the stallion said, getting up. “There goes my fucking boner.”

“Wait, what about-”

“Forget it,” the stallion said, “I’m out of here.”

The stallion marched out the door, leaving Tap alone. Clip watched, confused as to what had just happened. She sighed and shook her head, before looking at him.

“Knew I should’ve closed the curtains,” she said. She walked over to him. “What, do I have a regular peeping tom now?”

“I don’t know what that means...”

Tap opened the window, letting the colt inside.

“What’re you doing here?”

“Scroll is downstairs. Barrel said you were up here, so...” Clip shuffled his feat. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, it’s alright,” said Tap. “Just, you had to come up to my window?”

“I just wanted to see you,” Clip said, feebly pawing at the floor.

Tap had to chuckle at that. “Well, c’mon. Let’s go downstairs before Scroll starts getting worried about you.”


By evening, White had finally finished counting everything that the Fraternity had sent. Not counting the boxes General Quake had commandeered, the shipment included seven different kinds of cookies, dozens of loaves of bread, sixteen crates of apples, three pine trees and accompanying ornaments, several gingerbread house kits, and five “X-Treme Action”-brand scooters, and other various holiday goodies.

The door swung open, and White turned to see three ponies walk in.

“You Brother White?” asked the one in the center. He was a brown earth pony with a block of wood as his cutie mark.

“Yessir I am.” White beamed. “And you are...”


“Well, Mr. Carpenter,” said White, “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we’re not having Trivia Night this week.” He turned around. “But if you like, I could fix you someth-”

Something hit him in the back of the head. White felt a dull pain before passing out.


“Wake up, horner, we’ve waited long enough.”

White lifted his head, his eyes flickering open. He moaned a little and tried to shake himself awake.

“Okay,” he slurred, “we’ll play, but I get to pick the category.”

This was met with a hoof to the jaw.


“Shut up,” growled the brown earth pony in front of him.

As White’s senses returned, he saw that they were in an alleyway. White could also see that there was a decent-sized crowd around them, as though everypony was waiting for a show. The lead earth pony, the brown one who’d met him at the mission house before he’d been knocked out, was standing in front of him. White tried to get out of his seat, but he found himself tied to it. There was also a rope tied around his neck that ran up, draped over a pole, and ran back down. The other end of the rope was in the mouth of another earth pony.

Carpenter had a shotgun leaning against his shoulder. He glared at Brother White, who was at a complete loss as to why he was tied up outside with a noose around his neck.

“What’s going on?” White asked.

“You take your sweet fucking time waking up, y’know that?”

“Well...” White tried to get himself into a more comfortable position, which was a futile effort. “I think you hit me on the head.”

“Wasn’t that hard,” said Carpenter. “But I guess I forgot you’re a horner. We gotta be a whole lot gentler than that.”

The crowd laughed. White was reminded of what Scroll had said about laughter a while ago - something about different kinds. White got the feeling that the crowd’s laughter was not one of the good kinds. “So,” he continued. “You’re Brother White.”

“Uh-huh,” replied the missionary, nodding. He looked at the crowd, beaming. “Brother White of the Fraternity of the Joyous Friends of Princess Celestia.”

“Fuck, you talk too much,” said Carpenter.

“What,” added the pony with the rope, “do you horners like hearing the sound of your own voice?”

“Funny, the general asked me that just earlier today...” White mused. This was met with a blow across his face from Carpenter. Clearly, his host was not amused by the coincidence.

“Ah!” White cried. “What was that for?”

“Well!” Carpenter turned to the crowd. “Bright shining faggot here wants to know what this is for!

“Why’s there an audience?” White looked around at the crowd. “What’s going...” His eyes went wide as he realized why there was a pony there holding a rope around his neck, why there was a crowd, and why one of the ponies was hitting him. He remembered something very, very ugly from the first day of the mission.

“Oh, no...” He laughed in a nervous, high-pitched voice. “This, this is ridiculous.”

“What’s so fucking funny?”

“Well, this, this, this thing with the rope and the thing and the stuff and...” He stopped talking. He closed his eyes and inhaled. He opened his eyes and looked at Carpenter, who was leaning on his shotgun. “You’re trying to lynch me.”

“And you know why?”

“Not really,” White said nervously, his eyes flicking around the crowd. “Listen, I get that you don’t like unicorns, but come on... there’s no reason to do this.”

“Heh,” chuckled Carpenter. “No reason, he says. Faggot horner comes here, prances around acting like he’s better than all of us, and he says there’s ‘no reason.’”

“Well, just because you don’t like me-” Carpenter pointed the barrel of the gun in White’s face, prompting the unicorn to shut up.

“Let me tell you some things I’ve learned about you unicorns,” he said. His voice was softer this time. “I’ve had to deal with ponies like you my whole life. You come here in your flying castle, you rain fire on us, steal our food, and kill us. But that’s not all.” He turned around and faced the crowd. “The unicorns are cowards. Dirty, stinking cowards. Every last one one of them. Horner, you know how many of you I’ve killed?”

“I didn’t know there were other mes...”

“Lots,” he continued. “It’s funny, a lot of the soldiers have those little things that glow and make them disappear in the blink of an eye. I’ve always laughed when I saw them try to use them to get away. They almost always do. They come here, ready to fight, but the moment you start shooting at them they start to shit themselves. But I guess that makes sense. Us earth ponies, we don’t get to pick and choose our fights. Horners do. Wingers do. They come, and then they run.” He finally turned back to White.

“It makes me sick to think that a scummy horner like you is able to just dance around here with that faggy grin of yours. You and that other spineless pussy you’ve got with you. Y’know how many times you horners have destroyed my home?”

White didn’t answer.

“I asked you a question,” said Carpenter. “Fucking answer me!

“I-I-I don’t know!” White stammered.

“Nine times,” he said. “Nine times your horners have destroyed my home. Every time, I’ve had to rebuild. Some things couldn’t be rebuilt, though. Sometimes you can’t just pick up the pieces and get a new home. Sometimes ponies die. Good ponies. Ponies we care about.” His voice dropped to a menacing growl. “Like my wife.”

He turned to the crowd. “How many of you have lost friends or family to an attack?”

Every single pony in the crowd raised a hoof.

“See that?” he asked, turning back to White. “See that, right there? That’s what you’ve done.”

White lowered his head, not saying a word. For the first time in a long while, he felt a sinking pit in his stomach: a feeling of shame. Shame about the fact that he could be associated with the ponies that had done so much damage to the island.

“Well? Why don’t you say anything?” He walked up to the missionary.

“I’m sorry.” White looked back up. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Oh, you don’t? Well, let me give you a few suggestions. First, why don’t you admit that you’re a faggy little horner?”

White stared at his captor, then at the crowd, then at the pony with the rope. The pony at the rope bit down, his eyes narrowed in a threatening display.

“I’m a...” White whispered. “I’m a faggy little horner.”


“I’m a...” White shuddered. “I’m a faggy little horner!”

The crowd laughed again.

“Good,” said Carpenter. “Now tell me you’re a coward and a pussy.”

“I’m a coward and a...” White paused. He didn’t like using this kind of language. “...And a pussy.”

“Just like all other horners,” his captor nodded.

“Now tell us you have a small penis!” jeered a pony from the crowd. Carpenter ignored this.

“And now, one last thing...” he continued. White looked up at him. “Tell us that you’re worthless, that your entire race is nothing but a band of cowards and thieves. Tell us that you’re a sick faggot and a disgusting wretch. Tell us that you think we’d be doing the world a favor by killing you.”

White looked down again.

“I’m waiting.”

“I...” White began. He looked up at his captor, and then at the crowd. Then a thought occurred to him, and that thought seemed to drive away the shame. “No, I won’t.”


“I’m sorry.” He looked at the crowd. “I’m sorry about all of you, really. I know you have your pride. But I have mine, too. I’m not going to say that I’m sorry for being a unicorn, or for, or for anything else you call me, because I’m not sorry. I’m happy with who and what I am, and I... I don’t understand it, how you can hate me because I have a horn on my head. I know that you’ve all suffered, that you’ve lost loved ones in this war. But I didn’t do any of those things. I’ve never killed a pony in my life. I never would kill a pony. Whatever it is you’ve suffered, I didn’t do it.”

“Lie!” snarled the leader. “What about my son?”

“Your son?”


White’s ears pricked up. “Oh! Buzz. You’re his father?” he asked, as the earth pony slowly walked up to him. “That’s good to hear. Y’see, I’ve been wanted to talk to you about him. Buzz has some real behavior prob-”

Carpenter swung the butt of his gun, striking White on the side of his face. The force of the blow caused the chair to rock, teetering on two legs. White tried to shift his weight to keep the chair upright, but he was still dizzy from the blow. He was going to fall. Or, he would have fallen, save for the rope around his neck, which caught him and held the chair up, teetering on two legs.

The noose tightened around White’s neck. He struggled, desperately trying to breathe, but he was only able to make sickly rattling sounds. Carpenter coldly stared at him, before looking at the pony holding the rope.

“Drop him.”

He released the rope, leaving White to crash to the ground with a thud. White loudly choked as his gasped for air. This wasn’t the first time somepony had tried to kill him. Once a couple of ponies had shot at him as he was walking out the door. Once, during an attack, a couple of soldiers seemed like they were ready to kill him after accusing him of being a spy.

This was different, though. This time it wasn’t a soldier or a drunk or anything. It was a mob of completely ordinary earth ponies that all wanted him dead. For the first time since he’d arrived on the island, a horrifying realization had come to him: these ponies hated him. They didn’t hate him in the way that a pony hates a rude or annoying peer. They hated him so much they wanted to see him die horribly.

“I... I don’t understand...”

“Yes you fucking do.”

“No, I don’t,” White moaned. “Why? What did I do?”

“Buzz told me what you did.” Carpenter hurled the butt of his gun again, striking White in the stomach. “About how you molested him.”

White looked up, his eyes wide with shock. “W...” he started. “What?

“He told me what you did, you faggy little pervert.”

“What? No!” White squirmed. “This, this is ridiculous. This has to be a joke!”

Does it look like I’m fucking laughing?” He leaned down. “He told me about how you invited him to the mission house, how you were all alone, and how you approached him...”

“No, no, no!” White stammered. “I never- he’s wrong!”

“SHUT UP!” the earth pony roared. He drove his hooves into White’s stomach. “Are you calling my son a liar?!”

“I...” White wheezed. “I’m telling you that I never touched your son. I’m telling you I’d never touch your son.” He looked up. “Buzz hates me. I don’t understand... I swear I don’t. I don’t understand anything at all here...”

He lay his head back down on the ground.

“I just wanted to be your friend...”

“Well, now you can fucking die.” He nodded to the pony with the rope, who nodded in turn. He gripped the rope and abruptly yanked backwards, jerking White’s head up and slowly lifting him off the ground. White desperately gasped for air against the rope, but he was completely helpless...

Then he realized that he could see the pony with the rope out of the corner of his eye. He had one shot. He put all of his concentration into his magic, fixating on the earth pony’s mouth. The pony’s mouth opened, releasing the rope and allowing Brother White to crash to the ground again, but barely on the edge of consciousness.

The crowd gasped as Carpenter looked around.

“Why, you little piece of shit!” he spat. He rushed up to White and started wailing on him, hitting him in the face and stomach with his hooves. White, tired, choked, and tied up, was unable to do anything to stop Carpenter as he landed blow after blow after blow.

“Think you’re clever, huh?!” Carpenter snarled. “Magic your way out of this, why doncha?”

He stopped his assault and stood over the battered unicorn. What little fight White had was gone.

“Yeah...” he panted, walking over to his gun. He lifted it and raised the barrel, aiming it squarely at White’s head. “Suck on this, you faggy little-”

“STAR HORSE TO THE RESCUE!” cried a voice. The crowd looked up and saw a little pink colt jump from the roof. Carpenter looked up in alarm as Clip landed on his face, making him stumble backwards.

There was a piercing BANG!, and the crowd looked around wildly.

“Alright, sons of bitches,” said Tap’s voice. The crowd parted, and White could faintly see Tap, Barrel, and Scroll, Tap with a smoking revolver in her mouth.

“White!” cried Scroll.

“Ugh!” shouted Carpenter, throwing Clip off of his face. “What the...”

“Alright, everypony, clear out,” said Tap.

“Just what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Not a clue,” said Tap.

“We’re not letting you kill him,” said Barrel, trying to make himself look taller than he actually was. Scroll, meanwhile, ran over to where White was lying tied to the chair, and frantically pulled the noose off from around his neck.

“White, are you okay?”

“Well?” Tap asked. “Everypony clear out.”

“Stay out of this, whore,” snarled Carpenter. “This is my business.”

“What, did he look at your ass or something? You should take that as a compliment.”

Carpenter raised his shotgun, pointing it at Tap, who likewise aimed her revolver at him.

Clip had recovered from the flight and was back on his feet, ready to have another go.

“Dude...” said the hangstallion, “it’s not worth it.”

Carpenter snorted. “The hell it’s not! He molested my kid!”

Scroll, Clip, Tap, and Barrel stared at him.

“I didn’t do it...” said White. “I swear to Celestia it’s a lie...”

“What’s that mean?” Clip asked with a quizzical tilt of his head.

Tap, however, seemed to have found this outrageously funny, as she burst into such laughter that she dropped the gun.

“Really?” she asked. “That’s a good one. A really, really good one. How’d you come up with that?”

Scroll turned and looked at the crowd, Carpenter, Tap, and the hangstallion.

“What the...” Scroll mumbled. “What the fuck is wrong with you ponies?

“Am I missing something?” asked a low voice. Every single pony in the alley looked back and saw General Quake standing there. “Did I miss another lynching?”

“Just in time,” spat Carpenter. “We were just about to off the horner.”

General Quake slowly walked up to Carpenter. “Why the fuck,” he started, “do you have a shotgun pointed at my mare?”

Carpenter’s expression was priceless. “No, I-I-I-I...” He dropped the shotgun.

“Better,” said Quake. He walked over to Brother White, who was lying on the ground, still tied to the chair. “So what’s this?”

“Hi, Quake...” White moaned.

“I was about to do something that should’ve been done a while ago,” said Carpenter.

“Oh, really?” Quake turned to face Carpenter. “Should’ve been done a while ago, huh? That’s what you think? Are you saying I didn’t do what I was supposed to do?”

Carpenter backed up.

“If there’s a horner here on the island who isn’t dead, and he continues to not be dead, then I usually have a pretty fucking good reason for it. Do you know what happens if this guy dies?”

The mob shifted uneasily.

“If he dies, then I have to make sure that his pals back home don’t figure out. I have to forge letters, and it isn’t fucking easy. I mean, have you read this guy’s shit? I don’t think there’s anyone on this entire fucking island who’s fruity enough to make it convincing. Worse yet, he writes every fucking week. And then what am I gonna do about this fucking pussy?” He waved a hoof in Brother Scroll’s direction.

Carpenter glared silently at the missionaries.

“They have a certain amount of ‘protection,’” continued Quake. “That’s why they’re still alive. If one of them dies, and word gets out that one of them dies, then we risk having an incident. We already cut it too close when these dipshits spilt the fact that the last pair of missionaries skipped town. And y’know something? I don’t want a fucking incident.

Barrel and Clip went over to Brother White and began untying him from the chair. The crowd, no longer having a show, began to disperse. Scroll looked at Quake, but Quake was already beginning to walk away.

“This isn’t over, you little fag,” said Carpenter, before he, too, departed.

Scroll didn’t pay any attention to Carpenter. He looked back at White. The unicorn’s face was bleeding and bruised, and he was shivering.

“White, oh Celestia, are you okay?” Scroll asked. White sat up, still shaking a little.

“I-I’m fine,” said White. He forced a laugh. “I-I’m still smiling. See? I’m smiling.”

Chapter 18

“So, as soon as this Heart-Warming thing is over, you get the tree out, got that?”

Tap was very adamant on this. She’d agreed to play host to their party, but it took a lot of convincing for her to allow that big, gaudy tree into her tavern.

“Got it,” said White. White didn’t pay much attention to her, though. He was occupied with decorating the tree with brightly-colored baubles and bangles and banners and beads. The ornaments floated around him as he tried to arrange them in just the right way.

The door opened and a patron walked in. He stopped and stared at the tree, unsure of what to make of it.

“What the f...” he muttered.

“Don’t ask,” said another patron.

Tap noticed that sometimes the floating ornaments dipped or twitched ever so slightly. She approached him.

“Hey, White, are you okay?” she asked.

“Huh?” White turned to face her. “Oh, I’m fine. Thanks for letting us use your tavern for the party.”

“You’re welcome,” said Tap, “but I really don’t understand what you’re doing.”

“Well, it’s simple,” White explained. “We’re going to have a nice party, with free food and gift exchanges and a punch bowl. And during the day we’ll give toys to all the foals who come by.”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” Tap sighed with an exasperated shake of her head. “Well, actually, yeah, that is what I mean, but... they tried to kill you, and now you’re talking about giving them presents?”

“Maybe it’ll make them want to kill me less?” White suggested. When he saw Tap’s unconvinced facial expression he continued, “look, it’s what you do for Hearth’s Warming. The presents, I mean, not the killing. I mean, what am I going to say - ‘sorry, you don’t get presents because of the lynch mob?’”

“Well, it’d at least be funny,” said Tap. “I gotta go down to the cellar and check on a few things. If Barrel comes back, tell him to get behind the counter and be ready for customers.”

“Can do,” said White as he returned to the tree. He heard a door open and shut, signifying that Tap had gone down to the cellar to make sure everything was in order.

The front door opened, and White turned to see Scroll step inside, looking around.

“Hey,” said White, “so, did you manage to get your presents in order?”

“I think so,” whispered Scroll. “I wanted to, um, show you this.” He produced a small box. White eyed the box suspiciously as Scroll beckoned him to come over.

“What is it?” White asked.

“It was my mother’s,” Scroll said as he opened the box, revealing a tiny gold locket. He carefully lifted it by its gold chain. “My father gave it to her a long time ago. She gave it to me. She said...” He gulped. “She told me to give it to the pony I was in love with.”

The two stood there, looking back and forth from each other to the locket.

“I’m thinking of giving it to Tap,” Scroll concluded.

“Ah. Well, I think she’ll like it.”

“You think so?” Scroll asked.


“What’re you two colts talking about?” asked Tap. Scroll’s face went red and he nearly dropped the locket, but he quickly hid it on the floor behind his hoof.

“Nothing!” the two shouted in unison.

“Anyway, we gotta get back to the mission house,” said White. “We’ll be back later.”

“Bye!” Scroll said, trying his best to scoop up the locket and box as inconspicuously as he could.

Tap watched the two as they scurried out the door.

“Think she suspects anything?” Scroll asked once they cleared the threshold.

“Not a thing,” said White.

“Yes I do!” called Tap’s voice from inside.

“Ah well...” Scroll shrugged. The two Brothers walked through the streets of the town, both a little skittish and watching their backs, afraid of what might happen.

“You don’t think they’ll...” Scroll gulped. “You don’t think they’ll try anything like that again, do you?”

“No, I don’t think so... not if the general told them not to.”

“We’d better be extra special nice to the general, then,” Scroll concluded.

“Hey, we should always be extra special nice to everypony,” White said. “That’s the mission, after all.”

“Right, right...”

White spotted Buzz sitting off on the side of the road, glaring at him. He wasn’t making any terrible jokes or barbs or slurs or any of his usual abuses. Just glaring.

“I don’t get it...” White said. “Why would he do that? Why would he lie about... about that? I don’t understand.”

“There’s a lot I don’t think we understand,” said Scroll. “White? Are you okay?”

“Of course I’m okay!” White protested. “I’m always okay.”

“Well, if you’re ever not...” said Scroll, “you can talk to me, okay?”

White stopped and looked at him.

“Please?” asked Scroll. “You’re always there for me, and I want to be there for you.”

“Well, alright,” White said. “If I ever need support, I’ll know who to come to.” They started walking again. “You know, I didn’t thank you for saving me.”

“You don’t have to!” said Scroll. “Remember what you told me? You’re my best friend. How could I not have done that?”

“Well, still,” said White. “By that logic, maybe the only pony I should thank is General Quake.”

Both of the Brothers laughed at this as they came to the mission house. Clip was happily bouncing up and down on the giant trampoline they had in front.

“You know, maybe I should thank the general,” said White as they entered into the mission house.


“He saved my life,” White explained. A hopeful smile came back onto this face. “I think maybe... maybe I’ve reached something! Oh!” White laughed. “Oh, General Quake. You try to be all tough, but I can see right through it!”


White marched into the bunk room, seizing his nametag and necktie. “It’s time to get to work.”

“Uhh, White, I’m not sure this is a good idea...”

“When has that ever stopped me?” White asked. “I’m onto something, Scroll.” He floated a book from the pile. “You continue with the Hearth’s Warming preparations. Me...” He threw the doors open. “I’ve got a mission.”

White stood at the front of the mission house, sporting his red tie, his nametag, and a book. His mane was neatly combed back and there was a fire in his eyes as he set forth with his resolve: He was going to march right up to the general and convert him. The time for doubt was over, and the time for action had begun.

General Quake had saved his life. White thought that maybe, just maybe, there was something in him that he hid beneath that crude, crass, brutish, rough, gruff, tough, jackass exterior.

A warlord who bucks ponies’ heads right off, he thought. What’s so scary about that?

White marched down the road, oblivious to the cries of “fuck you!” thrown by the various townsponies. White had never been so sure of anything in his life.

I believe, he thought, that there’s a special magic in friendship. I believe that it can bring harmony to all the world. And I believe that you can be a great friend, even if you’re a murdering racist.

“Good day, gentlecolts!” White said, approaching a few soldiers. “I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the general.”

“The fuck do you want to talk to him for?” asked one of the soldiers.

“Because I believe,” White explained, “that the magic of friendship can bring us all together. Because I believe that I can be friends with the general. Because I am a Brother.”

The soldiers stared at him.

“He’s at the camp,” said one of the soldiers, pointing. “That way.”

“Thank you!” exclaimed White as he bounded off in the direction the soldier had pointed.

The soldiers looked at each other. “Should we follow him?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” said another. “This is gonna be hilarious.”


General Quake, meanwhile, was sitting and looking over one of the boxes he had commandeered from the mission. He felt like an idiot.

Toys, he thought, I commandeered a fucking toybox.

“General!” called a soldier. “We have an intruder!”

“Excuse me?” asked the general.

“He’s just... walking in!”

Brother White burst into the encampment, his chest puffed up high and proud.

“General Quake!” he called.

“Oh, no...” the general mumbled.

“Happy Hearth’s Warming!” White exclaimed. “You know, I never got to thank you for saving me. Thank you.”

“You’re not welcome.”

“General, I know that you don’t like me.”

“And here I thought Scroll was supposed to be the smart one,” Quake muttered. “What the fuck do you want?”

“I want to be your friend!”

General Quake stared at him. “What the fuck is this?”

“I believe,” White said, “that through the magic of friendship, we can end the war!”

“Just how many times did that guy hit you in the head?”

“General, you saved my life,” White said as he floated the book in front of him. “You said it was because you didn’t want to risk an incident with Equestria and you didn’t want to forge my letters.”

“I regret that.”

“But Quake,” said White, “I believe that you could be a great friend. I think you could be a Brother. Think of it - you, me, and Scroll!”

Quake made an expression that plainly said that he did not want to think of it.

“Whaddya say?” White said. “We can end the war and bring peace and happiness to the island!”

“Hold him,” said Quake. Suddenly, several soldiers seized White. The unicorn’s confidence quickly dropped from his face as the general slowly stood up and approached him. “I’m going to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now.”


“Thanks for the help, Barrel,” said Scroll. “I think we’ve got all the party supplies moved over to the tavern.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Barrel. “I’m just glad that I could be of some use.”

“Well, see ya later!” said Scroll.

Scroll made his way back to the mission house, hoping that Brother White would be home in one piece. He knew he shouldn’t have let him go see the general all on his own. He sat down, deciding to wait.

After a few minutes, he heard something strange. It sounded like a far-off screaming, but it seemed to be coming from above. He looked up and saw Brother White careening through the sky. His jaw dropped as he watched White fall right down onto the giant trampoline before sailing through the air again. He disappeared behind some buildings with a loud crash.

Scroll stood there for a minute, sputtering like a fool, before running after him. He found the unicorn lying on his back, his legs in the air, weakly whimpering. Thankfully for White, his fall had been broken by a large pile of garbage.

“White!” Scroll cried. “Are you okay?”

“Not really...”


“I could’ve told you it was a dumb idea,” said Tap.

White was lying on his bunk, groaning. Scroll was next to him, examining the unicorn’s posterior. Barrel and Clip watched the whole thing with a sense of awkward confusion.

“Wow...” said Scroll. “He actually shoved the book up your ass.”

“I know, Scroll,” groaned White.

“It’s just that, well,” Scroll said, “how can it fit in there? Doesn’t it hurt?”


“This...” Barrel started. “This doesn’t mean that the party’s being delayed, is it?”

“No,” said White, lifting his head up. “No it doesn’t. We’re still having our party and our presents.”

“You’ll just have to lie down for a while,” said Scroll. “As soon as we can get this thing out...”

Tap sat down, watching the scene with a sense of detached amusement. She knew that she should’ve felt a lot more concern for Brother White, but it wasn’t as grave as a lynching attempt, and she found the sight of Scroll nervously staring at White’s ass funny.

“I think what I need,” said White, “is a long trip to the bathroom.”

“And be careful with how you walk for a while,” suggested Tap.

“We’ve got your presents,” said White in an attempt to change the subject. “Why don’t we open them now so that it takes my mind off of this?”

“I’ll go get them,” said Scroll as he scurried off into the main room.

“What’d you get?” asked Clip.

“You’ll see,” White said, grinning a little. “And plans are still the same tomorrow. Scroll and I will be here at the mission house giving presents, and then we’ll come over for the party.”

“As long as nopony pisses in the punch bowl,” said Tap.

Scroll re-entered the room, carrying two brightly-colored packages. He placed one of them in front of Barrel and the other in front of Clip. Clip eagerly tore at the wrapping paper to reveal a large cardboard box with the image of a robot on it.

Kids like robots, the missionaries had reasoned.

While Clip struggled with the copious amounts of packaging, Barrel opened his box to find a stuffed seagull.

“I gathered you liked seabirds,” Scroll said.

“Thanks!” Clip and Barrel said in unison.

Tap laughed softly. “Well, Barrel, we’d better get back to the tavern. You two sure you’ll be okay?”

“Yeah,” said White, “I just need to use the bathroom.”

Tap and Barrel turned to leave, exiting the bunk room. However, Scroll followed them out.

“Wait, Tap!” said Scroll. “I haven’t given you your present yet.”

Oh, no, thought Tap. “Barrel, you go on ahead.”

“Okay...” said Barrel. He eyed Scroll suspiciously, but left without saying anything. Scroll walked over to the desk and opened a drawer, producing the box.

“I, uh... I wanted to give you this,” he said, pushing it forward.

“Is this the thing you were talking about with White earlier today?” Tap asked as she took the box. She opened it and stared at the little gold locket inside. “What... what is this?”

“It’s a locket,” said Scroll.

I wonder how much I could sell it for? was Tap’s first immediate thought. She looked back at Scroll, who seemed to have been overcome with nervousness. She looked back to the locket, carefully lifting it out of the box. It was a little gold heart on a gold chain.

“It’s very pretty,” she said.

“I hoped you’d like it,” said Scroll.

Tap laughed. “Well, great. Now I have to get you something, and I have no idea.”

“Well,” Scroll said, fidgeting with his glasses, “I can think of one thing...”

“What?” Tap asked.

Scroll took a deep breath. “Tap,” he said, “would you go out with me? On a... on a date?”

Tap stared at him. So he hadn’t given up.

Tap thought back to when she was a little bit younger, and she had all these romantic notions in her head. Sometimes she had dreamed, or at least fantasized, about a perfect stallion: one who was strong, handsome, kind, and was interested in what she wanted, rather than himself. As time went on she became more accustomed to the reality. If they were strong, they were usually cruel. If they were handsome, they were usually vain. If they were kind, they were usually gay. If they were interested in what she wanted, they were usually masochists, and that creeped her out.

And now, here was Scroll. Sweet, nebbish, what-the-hell-is-he-somehow-a-virgin-again Scroll. This guy, who even after getting from her for free what she normally sold, came back and said he wanted something else. Scroll, one of the only ponies on the island who seemed to care about her as a pony and not just an object.

“Well, alright,” she said.

“Really?” Scroll asked.

“Really,” said Tap. “Have a happy Heart-Warming or whatever it’s called.” She looked down at the locket dangling from her hoof. “And thank you.”

Scroll watched as Tap left. The door shut, and Scroll stood there for a minute. Then he let out an excited squeal and stamped his hooves on the floor.

“Yes yes yes yes yes yes YES!” he exclaimed.

“Scroooooll?” White called from the bunk room. “I think I need help getting to the bathroom!”


The next day, Brother White was able to pull off the surprising feat of both walking with a spring in his step and limping.

“We’re not in any danger of running out of presents, are we?” he asked.

“Umm...” Scroll looked at the large pile of presents and then looked at the rest of the mission house, which was empty. “No, I think we’re good.”

Sadly, it seemed that the foals of the town were not interested in getting free presents. Also, Scroll thought that the fake glowing snowpony was a bad idea. One of the foals who walked in stared at the snowpony for a full ten minutes before asking what on Earthquake Island it was supposed to be. Still, they’d wait and hope some for some foals to come.

Meanwhile, a box with a depiction of a robot suddenly sprouted pink legs and started walking around the room. “Beep! Beep!” said Clip. “I’m a robot! Take me to your leader!”

“That’s aliens...” said Scroll.

“Beep! Beep!” Clip yelled as he aimlessly walked into the kitchen.

The door opened and in walked a little brown colt. Buzz entered slowly, looking around with a bitter glare on his face. White and Scroll stared at him.

“Well...” said White. “Hi.” There was an awkward pause. “Why, uh, why’d you say that I did that?”

“He nearly died,” said Scroll.

“I hate you,” Buzz whispered. “I hate you!”

White and Scroll looked at each other and then back at Buzz.

“Well,” said White, not one to be defeated. “Here, have this.” He floated one of the many packages over to Buzz. “Have a Happy Hearth’s Warming.”

Buzz stood there, staring and glaring. After ejecting every possible dagger from his eyes, he took the package in his mouth and walked out the door. He grumbled to himself about how much he hated both of those faggots, but especially White. However, somepony was waiting for him outside the door.

“Hey,” said Tap.

“Huh?” Buzz asked. He looked up as Tap shoved him to the ground, making him drop his package. “Hey, what-”

“Shut up,” said Tap, pressing a hoof down on his chest. “You have got to be the most repugnant little fuckwad I’ve ever met, you know that? Oh sure, I can understand being an asshole - pretty much everypony on this island is, but you’re a real vicious little shit.”

Buzz didn’t say anything; he was too frightened of her.

“I mean, first you throw rocks at my little brother, and then you try to get one of the missionaries killed. And by lying that he molested you, of all things.” She laughed bitterly. “But you know something, I think I know why you did that.”

Buzz gulped.

“Oh, you hate Brother White. You really fucking hate him, but not because he’s a horner. At least, not just because of that.”

“I fucking hate that f-” Buzz began, but Tap pressed her hoof down.

“Shut your fucking mouth, you little punk,” she snarled. She lowered her head, resuming. “You know, you accusing him of molesting you served two funny purposes. It gives your daddy a reason to get all his buddies together for a lynch mob, but it also gives you an opportunity – an opportunity to tell everypony about your little fantasies...”

“Shut up!”

“Oh yes, it’s funny, you hate Brother White because you like him. There’s a lot to like when you ignore the stupidity and the self-righteous sermonizing – He’s nice, he’s very attractive, and he has that dazzling smile. Nice singing voice, too. And he’s just dumb enough to try to be your friend even after tons of abuse. And every day you see him out, singing and giving books to ponies and being so ‘gosh-darn nice’ about everything. And you notice. You can’t help but notice it. It’s like he’s showing you this great big world where ponies can be nice to each other, and even though it’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard in your life, what you wouldn’t give to believe in it. And on top of that, isn’t he handsome?” She smirked. “That neatly-combed mane, the dazzling smile, the milky-white coat, those flanks, that horn?

“Shut up...”

“He’s like a great big fucking knight in shining armor, here to take you away from the horrible life here, and who’d accept you for something you wouldn’t dare open up to your father about, so you have to get rid of him because you can’t get him out of your head-”


Tap lifted her hoof and the little colt scurried to his feet and ran off. White stuck his head out the door.

“What’s going on here?” he asked.

“Nothing important,” said Tap. “Just giving him a piece of my mind.”

White looked down sadly at the package. “He forgot his present...”


White and Scroll had their matching party hats on and were quickly doing the last bits of setting-up they needed for the party in the tavern.

“Hey, open up!” shouted an angry voice from outside the door.

“In a minute!” called White as he set the final piece: the punch bowl. “Alright, Tap, open up!”

Tap took the bar from the door and the door opened.

“Fucking finally...” muttered one of the ponies as he walked in. However, he stopped right after he passed the doorway.

“Dude, fucking move!” said a pony behind him. However, the first pony was still in awe of the gaudy paper, balloons, and candy canes plastered about the room.

“Welcome!” said Brother White. “Come in! Come in!”

“We have punch and sparkling cider!” said Scroll. “And remember to make sure everypony has had firsts before you start having seconds.”

The ponies streamed in, stating variations of “what the fuck?”

“Good ponies of Earthquake Island,” said White, raising a glass of cider. “I would like to welcome you all here for this Hearth’s Warming Eve party.”

“What’s going on?” asked an exasperated patron.

“He’s giving a speech,” said Tap. “He does that a lot.”

“This winter festival is a celebration of the founding of Equestria, of the end of an era when ponies, very much like yourselves, were able to put aside their differences and enter into an age of harmony and prosperity. It was the magic of friendship that saved those ponies so very long ago, and the magic of friendship will continue to save us and carry us through even the darkest of times. Do not fret, my friends, for the bad times upon us now are merely a fading shadow of bigotry and hatred. So let us celebrate this night with merriment and joy!”

There was the dull sound of a hoof hitting the floor in subdued applause.

“We also have pin-the-tail-on-the-pony,” added Scroll.

The ponies of Earthquake Island, however, were not particularly interested in party games. They did, however, look around the room - for once, it seemed they were interested in free food, even if it didn’t have alcohol.

“We also have ‘spin the bottle...’” Scroll said, before noticing that the patrons were almost exclusively male. “Oh. That isn’t going to work.”

White, meanwhile, ventured over to a few ponies who were at the punch bowl. “Hiya!” he said. The other ponies stared at him.


“How’s the punch?”

“I haven’t tried it yet.”

“Oh,” said White. “Well, then, I’ll leave you to it.”

One of the ponies watched as White went over to explain to another pony what the pine tree was for. Yet another pony scooped out a cup of punch and tasted it.

“How is it?”

“It’s okay,” said the pony with a shrug. “I like something with a bit more kick to it, though. Hmm...” He produce a flask and poured out the cork. “How about we try adding some of this.”

The “party” didn’t really pick up, as many of the usual patrons just went about doing what they usually did at the tavern, save for the few who ventured over to the food table. The Brothers, however, judged the party as a success on account of the turnout.

“Great, just great,” said White as he prepared two cups of punch. “I think we might finally be making some headway.”

Scroll took a drink from his cup. “Tap said yes,” he said. “She said she’d go out with me.”

“Really?” asked White. “That’s great! I tell ya, Scroll, things are finally starting to look up. Even my rear doesn’t hurt as much right now.” He finished his cup. “Great punch, Scroll. I’ll have another.”

“Me too.”

Barrel and Tap tended to their customers at the counter, because most of the stallions there were interested in hard cider rather than sparkling cider. Barrel shuffled back and forth between two stallions whose orders he had mixed up.

“Sorry, sorry...” he said. He looked over at his sister, and noticed the gold locket around her neck. “What’s that?”

“Just something that Scroll gave me for Hearth’s Warming,” she said in her offhand manner.

“Oh,” he said. “Was that what he wanted you to stay for?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Why didn’t he just give it to you when they gave presents to me and Clip?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Barrel,” she sighed. “Maybe he just forgot or something.”


“Well, almost forgot.”

“You still got my order wrong!” called an irritated bar patron.

“Hold on, I’ll get it,” Tap said, eager to break away from Barrel’s awkward questioning. The last thing she needed was for Barrel to get suspicious of Scroll. After all, the Brothers had been good to him, taken him in and practically given him membership, nametag and all. True, she thought it was stupid, but the idea of friction between Barrel and Scroll over her was not something she wanted to put up with.

“Hello!” said Brother White, approaching the counter.

“Hi,” said Tap, not missing a beat as she corrected the customer’s order.

“Here,” White said as he floated two cups, one to her and one to Barrel. “Have some of the punch. It’s really good! I mean...” He looked at a few ponies who were standing by the bowl. “It seems to be pretty popular.”

The other ponies at the punch bowl looked into it.

“So you put what into it?” one of them asked.

“Oh, just my special stuff,” said another. “Thought it’d give it a little kick, y’know?”

“Good idea,” said another pony, who produced his own flask.


“Well, thawas great!” shouted Brother White, watching the last few patrons leave the tavern. “Have a happy... happy hoppy Heart-Warming Eve!”

“Dude...” said one of the patrons. “You’re gonna need one hell of a shower tomorrow.”

“I always do!” said White proudly. His mane was messy, as was his red tie. He had at one point dunked his head into the apple barrel and needed to be pulled out by a frantic Scroll (“Not my fault the apples kept moving...” he grumbled).

Tap was chatting with Scroll, who was giggling uncontrollably.

“I tell ya, that’s the last time I do that,” she said. She swayed a little in her chair. “Fuck, I’m drunk.” She looked at Scroll. “You’re all full of giggles and stuff, aren’t ya?”

“Snkt... I can’t help it...” Scroll said, trying to stifle himself.

“Well, it’s a nice night...” she looked over at Barrel, who had fallen asleep at the counter. She sighed and thought for a minute. Then a grin came across her face and she turned back to Scroll.

“You know somethin’?” she asked, trying very hard to keep her face straight. She had a hilarious idea, and it was all she could do to keep from cracking up.

“What?” Scroll asked.

“I was just thinking,” Tap said, leaning into Scroll’s ear, “that it’d be totally sweet if you...” She whispered the rest. Scroll burst into fits of giggles.

“Heehee! You really think-”

“Yes. Definitely.”

“Oh, I dunno...” Scroll said, unable to suppress his giggles. He looked over at Tap, who was smiling at him. “Oh, alright.” He got up and slowly walked over to Brother White, who was examining the punch bowl.

“Y’know, it’s funny,” said White, “like, real real funny. I think the punch bowl is magical.”

“Magical?” asked Scroll. “Howso?”

“Like, I keep drinking punch,” White explained with vague hoof-motions, “but it never goes emty. And it changes color. An’ tase.”

“Hey,” said Scroll. “So, how’d you think the party wen’?”

“I think ihwent predy well,” White slurred.

“Good...” Scroll said, before he resumed his fits of giggling.

“Whatso funny?”

“I like your mane...”

“Yep,” White said. “I always keep it brushed an’ stuff.” He looked at Scroll. “Your mane’s nice too.”

Scroll giggled some more. “So...” he said, “I was just talking with Tap...”

White looked behind Scroll and saw Tap seated on a bench, watching them with an excited grin on her face. White looked back at Scroll, who was blushing. White cocked a quizzical eyebrow.

“She thought it’d be totally awesome if we...” Scroll leaned in and whispered into White’s ear. White’s other ear twitched, and he looked back at Tap, who was grinning back at the pair.

“Huh,” said White. He looked from Tap back to Scroll, and then back at Tap again.

“Yeah, I think-” Scroll was cut off as White grabbed him and pressed his face into his, locking them in a kiss. Scroll’s eyes went wide in surprise before he relaxed into a lull.

Tap watched she saw each of them raise a hoof and run it through the other’s manes as they kissed. the smile on her face widened.

“Yeah...” she said. “You two are... you two are really goin’ at it, aren’tya?” She leaned back, still grinning. “Nice...”

Scroll and White broke off the kiss.

“Wow...” Scroll gasped. He looked at Tap. “He’s a really good kisser.”

“Lot of stage ‘sperience...” slurred White.

“Well...” Tap got up from her seat and walked over to them. “That was a show a girl likes to see.” She smiled at Scroll. “Girls like me love that stuff.” Scroll giggled. She looked at White. “You should totally do that again.”

“Nnnnnope,” said White. “One’s enough for now. ‘Sides, I think Scroll’d hyperventitilate.”

Scroll bust up laughing at that and fell into a chair as White walked over to the punch bowl and took the ladle. “Oh, gosh-darnit,” he said as he struggled. “Punch won’t stay in the ladle.”

“I don’t think that counts as punch anymore...” Tap said.

“Here!” White said, lifting a cup. “A toast to Hearth’s-Warming Eve and friendship and the Fraternity and... and stuff!”

“Stuff!” echoed the other two.

Chapter 19

Tap groaned. Her head felt like it was going to split open. She tried to remember what happened. She remembered that there was that party, and that she got drunk.

Great, she thought, somepony spiked the punchbowl.

On one level, this annoyed her because it meant that ponies were getting booze without buying it from her. She’d figured that the Brothers would provide their punch and cider and cookies and other stuff that didn’t get ponies drunk, and she’d go about selling liquor.

She didn’t remember at which point she realized the punch was spiked, but by that point she didn’t care. Everypony got drunk.

Oh, no, she thought, even Barrel.

It wasn’t that Barrel had never drank before, just that Tap didn’t want him to drink until he was older.

Well, she decided, nothing to do but wait for the hangover to end.

She laughed a little. The missionaries would probably not react well. Oh, how they disapproved of the booze, and yet they’d gotten drunk out of their minds. And then she got them to make out. She grinned at that. Unfortunately, that was about as far as she could recall from the previous night. Still, she found herself in her own bed, so she hoped nothing bad had happened in that hazy spot. She was still worried about Barrel and the missionaries.

Well, she thought as she opened her eyes, better get down to work and hope–

Her thoughts were interrupted. She saw Brother Scroll lying fast asleep right next to her, a small trail of drool trickling from his mouth. She stared at him. He was sleeping like a rock, no doubt a result of heavy drinking.

Oh, fuck... Tap looked up at the ceiling. She wondered: If Scroll didn’t remember anything, then what would he do when he woke up? And what happened?

She sat up with a groan, before she saw something that made her eyes even wider. Next to Scroll was Brother White, also sleeping like a rock.

Well, damn. She lay back down, trying to think. You know, maybe nothing happened, she decided. Maybe they were just too drunk to walk home and they decided to crash here.

With some effort, she managed to haul herself out of bed and over to a cracked and dirty mirror. The reflection showed that her lust red mane was an absolute mess. She snorted in disgust before reaching into her drawer to pull out a brush.

She certainly hoped nothing had happened. If something had happened, she would like it if she were able to remember it. She turned around, looking at the two. She had to smile; they looked adorable in bed together.

There was a loud knock on the door.

“Tap?” asked Barrel’s voice. “Are you alright?”

Oh, shit.

“Uhh, yeah, Barrel, I’m fine,” said Tap. “Am I late?”

“Uhh, yeah.”

“Well, fuck,” said Tap. “Just hold on, I’ll be down in a minute.”

“Mmmm...” groaned Scroll. “No, mom, I don’t wanna go to school, I have a tummyache...”

“Me neither,” White groaned.

Tap rushed over to them. “Be quiet, you two!” she whispered.

“Tap, are you okay?” asked Barrel. “Is there somepony in there with you? Why is your door locked?”

“Uhh, nopony’s in here!” Tap lied.

“Tap?” asked Barrel.

“Yes?” Tap asked. There was a deafening silence, broken only by Brother White squirming slightly.

“Is this what a hangover feels like?”

“Yes, Barrel,” Tap sighed. “Look, I’m a mess, could you... could you just go down and help with the drink orders?”

“Yeah, I kinda suck at that...” Barrel said.

The clopping sounds of hoofsteps indicated his departure. She let out a sigh of relief. She looked back at the bed and thought about what she was going to do about the missionaries. She needed to get them up, out of her bed, and out of her house.

“Alright, you two,” she said, walking over to Brother White. “Party’s over.”

“Mm?” moaned White. His eyes opened. “Not today, sorry. I’m taking the day off...” He blinked. “Hi. How are you?”

“Pretty shitty,” said Tap. “But that’s how hangovers are.”

“Oh... sorry,” said White as he sat up. “It’s a nice bed.”

“Yes it is,” said Tap, going back to her mirror and continuing to brush her hair. “And if you’ve got money you can use it again, but I have to get to work.”

Scroll groaned. “My head. It hurts...” He sat up. “Uh...” He looked around. “I’m in–” He faced White. “This isn’t our bunk.”

“No it isn’t...” said White.

Fuck, you two are slow on the uptake,” said Tap.

White and Scroll slowly pulled themselves out of bed, shaking their heads and groaning.

“What... what happened last night?” asked White.

“You two got very, very drunk,” said Tap, “and you made out.” The missionaries exchanged shocked looks. “That’s about as far as I remember,” she sighed in conclusion, a small smile on her face. “I figure you guys can show yourselves out. Just don’t let Barrel see you walking out or he’ll get suspicious.”

“Is something wrong with Barrel?” asked Scroll.

“No, he’s just, well...” Tap sighed. “He doesn’t like what I do to support us. A lot of ponies tease him about it: ‘Hey, tell your sister she’s a real great screw!’ and stuff like that.” She walked to the door and unlatched the bolt.

She walked down the stairs and found herself wishing that she hadn’t opted to build the tavern to two stories again. She dreaded what she’d have to put up with when she got downstairs.

She saw her tavern full of the usual regulars. She also saw the tree. Those two silly colts were going to help her get rid of that thing if she had to force them.

An angry customer was already haranguing Barrel for screwing up yet another order.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” asked the customer, pushing himself in Barrel’s face. “When I say ‘ale,’ I don’t mean ‘ginger ale!’”

Tap walked behind the counter and grabbed a bottle. “Here!” she said, slamming it down on the counter. “Now shut up and drink it or I’ll shove the bottle up your ass.”


“I keep saying ‘we’re not drinking,’” said Brother White. “And still, we end up drinking!”

The missionaries slowly trudged into the mission house before gazing in despair at the ramshackle condition of the room. The main room was piled high with unopened packages from the day before, scattered haphazardly. The ungiven presents served as a sordid reminder that once again, an endeavor of theirs had been met with lackluster success. Still, at least one pony had enjoyed his present: Clip was snuggled up in his box, sleeping.

Scroll stood there and smiled at the sleeping colt while White carried on into the kitchen, resuming his tirade. White made a beeline for the fridge, deciding that he needed some milk. He didn’t feel well enough to use his magic, so he simply opened the door and took out the carton with his mouth. He set the carton on the counter and went for the cupboard, all the while grumbling to himself.

“How can they like that stuff... it doesn’t even taste good...”

He poured himself a glass of milk and gulped it down. “Okay,” he said. “That’s... almost better.” He marched back into the mission house and surveyed the mess. “Okay, so we’ve got a mess to clean up, then we have to go...” His eyes fell on something in the corner of the room: the disc launcher.

He shuddered at the memory of the device. He remembered how the pegasi came flying in with tornados, and how the earth ponies had fought back. They got the idea to throw metal discs at the tornados, where they whirled around and hacked up the soldiers inside the funnel. The end result was a shower of mangled body parts mixed with rain.

Now Quake had given White one of the disc launchers and offered him the choice of using it the next time the pegasus army attacked.

White narrowed his eyes. He’d made his choice.

“Scroll, let’s get ready,” White said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

White grabbed a comb as he marched into the bathroom. He cringed at the sight of himself in the mirror, with his messy mane and crooked tie. Nothing I can’t fix, he decided as he ran the comb through his mane. The dry, tangled mane made it difficult to pull the comb through, leading White to wonder if he should take a shower. He decided against it; he needed to keep focused.

“All right!” he boomed as he walked back into the mission house.

“Whu…?” Clip said as he was roused from his sleep.

“Scroll,” White said as he walked up to the disc launcher, “any chance you could help me with this thing?”

“Uhhhh…” said Scroll.

White tried to hoist it onto his back, but it proved just a little too heavy for the unicorn. His legs nearly gave way, but Scroll rushed over to help him hold it up.

“Woah, hold on there…” said Scroll. “Maybe we should, um…” White’s eyes met with his. They were close, almost close enough to touch. “Maybe we should put it in the wheelbarrow?” he finished.

CLANG! went the device as it fell into the wheelbarrow. The launcher was so heavy that it left a dent in it.

“Alright! Good,” said White, hurriedly pushing the wheelbarrow out the door.

“Uhh, White?” asked Scroll. “What are we doing?”

“What we are doing, Brother Scroll,” explained White as he took a breath, “is formally declaring our intentions to General Quake.”

“You did that two days ago…”

“Different declaration, Scroll,” said White. Scroll noticed that White was pushing the wheelbarrow toward the docks. He had to wonder just what was going on inside White’s head. He considered the way White acted: theatrical; bombastic; feelings first, thoughts later.

Ships were coming into the harbor, as usual. There were some crates on the dock: the islanders’ exports. The ships were, of course, carrying supplies for the mission, and Quake was there as usual to see if there was anything he wanted first claim to.

“Hiya, Quakey!” called White. Quake turned his head around to look at him, his eyes wide and his face bearing an expression that said that if White called him that again he’d shove those discs up his ass, one by one. “So,” said White, stopping and leaning on the wheelbarrow, “you gave me this, this thingy here, right?”

Quake glared at him.

“Yeah, option of helping you shoot some of them wingers outta the sky, right?” White asked. “Well, I’ve come here to give you my formal reply!”

“White...” said Scroll.

“And?” Quake asked.

White walked next to the wheelbarrow and placed a hoof on it. Then, he pushed. All eyes were on the wheelbarrow as it rolled off the edge of the dock, splashing into the water.

Everypony watched in stark silence. Scroll was slack-jawed. White simply smiled smugly at the general, who glared back.

“You fucking little horner faggot fuck...” growled Quake.

“Scroll?” said White.




Barrel gave a flustered sigh. Once again, he’d mixed up an order and the customer was yelling at him. He wasn’t paying attention, though.

“Are you even listening to me?” asked the customer.

“Hey!” Tap butted in. “You got a problem, you talk to me. Got it?”

“Just wanted my fucking cider...”

“Fine,” said Tap as she went to the stack of bottles. “Barrel,” she said, turning to her brother, “could you go down to the cellar and bring up some bottles?”

“Bottles of what?”

“Bottles of anything. Just get some bottles.”

Barrel didn’t ask any further questions and simply headed for the cellar door. In a way, he was slightly relieved that he had been given a task that he couldn’t possibly screw up.

He lit a candle at the bottom of the stairs and looked over the rack of bottles. After coming to the conclusion that Tap just did this to get him out of the way, he sighed and walked past the shelves of booze to the wall. He pried off a loose plank of wood to uncover a small box. He opened the box, counting a small pile of copper coins. He added a few more coins to the chest: his little “rainy day” fund for the tavern. He hoped that maybe, just maybe, this could be something he could do to help.

He returned to the rack and put a few random assorted bottles onto a tray before ascending the steps again. He got to the top and saw Tap navigating the customers with drink orders.

“I got the bottles,” Barrel said as he set the tray down.

“Uh-huh,” said Tap.

“Sis?” he asked.


“Could I go head over to the mission house?”

“For how long?”

“I dunno. Just to see how everything’s going?”

“Okay. Just be back before the lunch rush,” said Tap.

Barrel nodded and headed out the door. He paused for a moment and sighed before resuming on the route to the mission house.

“Hey, fatass!”

Oh, fuck no...

“Hey, fatass!” Buzz repeated. “What’re you doing? Off to a gay orgy?”

“I don’t think they do that,” said Barrel. “I think they’re monora... mon... like married or something.”

“Yeah, you’re too fat to get laid.”

“Go away, Buzz.”

“Hey, you ever see Scroll suck–”

“Is there something in ‘fuck off’ that you don’t get?” Barrel snorted. “And you really seem like you got ‘gay’ on the brain, y’know that?”

Buzz backed up a little, looking at the glaring fatass - that last sentence hit a nerve with him. He then spotted a smaller colt he could pick on and ran off. Barrel ignored him and walked up to the doors of the mission house.

White was slumped in a seat, staring up at the ceiling. Scroll sat next to him, holding a cold water pack to his face with one hoof while his other hoof brushed aside the unicorn’s bangs.

“Please, White, you scared the bejeezers out of me,” said Scroll.

“Worth it...” said White. “Totally worth it.”

“What happened?” asked Barrel. The missionaries looked at him.

“Oh, hi,” said White.

“We had to run for our lives,” said Scroll. “Quake got mad.”

“He beat you up?” Barrel asked.

“What? Oh, no no no...” White said, laughing. “I just hit a low-hanging beam. Anyway, once Quake stops fuming we can go out and try some door-knocking. Scroll, why don’t you see how the bread’s coming and fix Clip some lunch?”

“Okay,” said Scroll. He hopped off the seat and went into the kitchen.

“Ain’t he the best?” asked White. “Good cook.”

“I’m still learning!” Scroll called.

“So modest.”

Barrel blinked. “So,” he said, “anything I can help with?”

“Hmm,” said White. “I’m not sure...” He saw Barrel, his head hanging low in self-pitying dejection. “Hey, you okay?”

“I keep screwing up,” said Barrel. “Like I can’t get anything right, and I’m always just... taking up space. I mean, it’s just sometimes I feel so... so useless, like I’m just getting in the way, and I just want to help...”

White set down the water bottle, revealing a black eye. “Hey, you’re a great guy. I mean, I can’t imagine what Tap’d do without you.”

“She probably wouldn’t be a whore.” A heavy silence set upon the room.


“It’s because of me,” said Barrel. “If she were on her own the tavern’d bring in enough money, but... with two of us, she has to, has to...”

White got up from the seat. “Barrel, it’s not your fault,” he said.

“Yes it is,” said Barrel. “If I could just... do something she wouldn’t have to go around...”

White needed to think of something and think of it fast. “Actually, Barrel,” he said, “I think I can think of something you could do...”

Barrel’s ears pricked up. “Really?”

“Yeah,” said White. “Any chance you could keep an eye on Clip while Scroll and I go out and try to feed the... unusually unhungry poor?”

“Well...” said Barrel, “I have to be back at the tavern for lunch, but I think I could bring Clip along?”

“Well, that’d be great,” said White.

“Oh, and Tap says you need to get over there and get the tree out.”

“Eheheeheheh...” White laughed nervously. “Right, we’ll do that.”

Scroll poked his head out the door. “White? Bread’s ready.”

“Good!” White exclaimed as he shot out of his seat. “Now let’s get it loaded into the wheelbarrow and...”

He stopped, having just remembered that they no longer had a wheelbarrow. “Well, I didn’t think that through.” He looked back at Scroll. “Well, we’ll fill up some saddlebags and take those.”

White got up and marched into the bunk room before emerging with several saddlebags. “Okay, you get the bread, I’ll get the books!”

White tossed some of the saddlebags to Scroll, where they draped over his head. Scroll retreated into the kitchen. White proceeded to stuff his own saddlebags with books, before draping them over his back. He let out a soft ‘oof’ upon the realization that bags filled with books were actually quite heavy. Scroll emerged with his saddlebags bulging with loaves of bread. Clip followed out of the kitchen as well.

“Alright, Clip,” said White, “Scroll and I are gonna go do some mission work. Brother Barrel here’s gonna look after you, okay?”

“Okay,” said Clip. Barrel tried to smile and appear friendly.

“And Barrel?” said White. Barrel looked at him. “I’d just like to tell you that you’re a great friend. Remember that.” He turned back to Scroll. “Alright, let’s go.”

Barrel and Clip looked at each other.

“Do you like checkers?” asked Clip.


“You what?” asked Tap.

“I just agreed to look after Clip while the missionaries are doing stuff,” said Barrel. “I mean, he isn’t gonna be a problem, is he?”

Tap peered down at the little pink colt looking up at her. “Well...” She really didn’t like that Barrel had basically just volunteered both of them for foal-sitting duty, but on the other hoof... “Aw, alright.” She rubbed the colt’s head. “But if he needs food, it’s on those two.”

“I already had lunch,” said Clip.

“Whaddya know, those two can do something right,” said Tap. She turned to a customer, passing a bottle to him. “Barrel, could you bring up that cask of cider?”

“Alright,” said Barrel.

“Cider?” asked Clip. “I love cider!”

“Iiiiiii don’t think that White and Scroll would approve of you drinking this stuff,” Tap laughed. “Wouldn’t it be funny to see them get mad?” she wondered out loud. “Guys like that are either really funny or really scary when they get angry.”

“Mister Quake gets mad a lot...” said Clip. “So does everypony else.”

“When the general gets mad, the roof shakes,” said Tap. “When he just cusses at you that means he’s in a good mood.”

The door swung open.

“Give me a fucking drink or I’ll bash someone’s head in,” snorted the general.

“See?” asked Tap. “Good mood.”

The general made a beeline for the counter, shoving one stallion off of his stool and sitting down on it.

“Get me a fucking whiskey,” said the general.

“What’s the matter today?” asked Tap. “Did the horner blind you with the glare from his teeth?”

“Bad word!” Clip exclaimed. The general stared at him.

Tap took a bottle of whiskey from behind the counter and placed it in front of the general.

“My little brother is taking care of their...” Tap tried to explain. “Their kid.”

“Forget it,” said Quake, taking the whiskey. “I don’t want to fucking think about those two faggots right now.”

Tap left the counter to tend to an order from the other side of the room. Barrel nervously walked around behind the counter, trying to take care of drink orders while avoiding the general’s scrutiny. Quake, however, was too preoccupied with his drink and leering at Tap to give a fuck about Barrel.

Barrel watched the general nervously. “Uhh...” he said as he saw the general chugging down whiskey. “I don’t think that’s good for you...r liver.”

“Fuck your liver.”

“Actually it seems a bit more like fuck your liver...”

Clip, meanwhile, had clasped his hooves over his ears in an effort to not hear the bad words.

Quake looked over Barrel. “‘Bangable’ doesn’t really run in the family, does it?”

Tap returned to the counter and began sorting and pouring drinks. “Barrel,” she said, “could you fetch some more beer from the cellar?”

Barrel nodded and walked off.

“Must be hard, keeping a tavern running and holding up your brother.”

“We manage.”

“The wingers are coming,” said Quake. “They’ll attack tomorrow.” He turned to the rest of the bar. “You hear that? You’d all better get a gun or get out of the way when they hit.”

Some ponies promptly cleared out. Others were surprisingly lax, or at least wanted to finish their drinks before running to their respective basements.

“Oh, fun,” Tap said sarcastically. “I guess this means ‘in case I die’ sex?”

“I don’t die.”

“I was talking about your soldiers.”

Quake snorted. His eyes, however, fell on the locket around her neck.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Huh?” Tap asked. “Oh, it’s just something one of the missionaries gave me. It was a present for that Hearth’s Warming thing.”

Quake, having finished off the whiskey, slammed the bottle onto the counter, shattering it. Clip flinched in alarm.

“Sorry,” grunted Quake. “Fighting wingers is fun. ‘Specially when you break their wings. They start shitting themselves when that happens. Gimme a beer.”

Tap complied with the order as Quake looked at the tree and the decorations. Clip, meanwhile, squirmed nervously in his seat. The general was a big scary dirt, after all. He smelled bad, too.

“So this thing,” he said. “I help myself to one of their shipments as usual, and what is it? Toys. Fucking toys.”

“I got a robot!” Clip piped.

“I don’t think they got any of those...” said Tap. “I don’t think they were really able to give anything away. Even if the foals in town didn’t already openly mock them, White being accused of being a foal molester–”

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” said Quake as he took a swig of beer.

“Oh, I would,” said Tap. “I mean, White’s obviously a virgin. At least...” She thought back to how she woke up that morning. “I think. He was then, anyway, that’s what’s important.”

Clip, unable to follow the conersation, had hopped down from the stool. He walked around the tavern, looking at the various dirt ponies who ignored him. He looked at the Hearth Warming decorations, wondering why in the world Tap would want to take them down. They were nice and pretty and the Brothers had worked hard on them.

Barrel emerged from the cellar with a hogshead on his back. “Is this enough?” he asked.

“Yes, Barrel,” said Tap.

“Big keg there,” said Quake. “How much did you water it down?”

“You see right through all the tricks, don’t you?” asked Tap.

“You bet your ass I do,” said Quake. “That’s why you have to learn a whole lot of other ‘tricks.’”

“Uhhhhhhhh...” said Barrel. That had to set some sort of record as the worst innuendo he’d heard in his life.

Tap took a rag and wiped the broken glass from the whiskey bottle off the counter.

“Barrel, make sure everything gets taken down to the cellar,” she said.

“Why?” asked Barrel.

“There’s going to be an attack tomorrow.”

Barrel stood there for a minute before turning to go up the stairs. Quake continued drinking his beer when the door opened.

“We’re here!” called Brother Scroll’s voice. “Came to help with the OH NO WE’RE SORRY!”

Scroll stared at the general, who looked at them with a look of dismissive disinterest.

White walked up behind Scroll and bumped into him. The unicorn, it so happened, now sported a second black eye. The general got out of his seat and brushed past them, but not without violently shoving the unicorn aside.

“Oof!” said White as he hit the floor. “Well, that could’ve gone worse.”

“The fuck happened to you?” asked Tap as she swept the broken glass into the garbage bin.

“Hit a beam,” said White.


“Uh-huh,” said Scroll. “It was kinda awkward the second time...”

“Anyway,” said White, “we wanted to help you clean up the...”

He spotted Clip, who was standing on a table in the middle of some card players, staring down a very annoyed-looking earth pony.

“Cliiiiip!” said White, walking up to the group. “Sorry about that...” he apologized to the card players. “He likes climbing things.”

Scroll looked at the tree. “Y’know,” he said, “when you get things out you never think about putting them away.”

“Hindsight’s a bitch, ain’t it?” asked Tap.

“Uhh, something like that,” said Scroll as he set down one of his saddlebags.

White had walked up to the tree and began to take down the ornaments, floating them into the saddlebags. The other ponies were still clearing out, leaving only the card players and the usual unconscious bum.

“Did you enjoy the party?” Scroll asked.

“Yeah,” said Tap with a soft grin, “the show was nice.”

“Umm...” Scroll blushed. “Hey, where is everypony?”

There was a bang from upstairs. The few ponies remaining all looked up.

“What the...” said Scroll.

“Barrel?” Tap asked. “Barrel!” She bolted for the stairs, with Clip and the missionaries in pursuit.

Tap ran to Barrel’s room and threw the door open. Barrel was lying on the floor, clenching his jaw. A smoking gun lay next to him, and the window was open with a bottle sitting on the sill.

“What happened?” asked White as the two missionaries failed to get through the doorway at the same time. Clip merely hopped over their backs.

White looked down at the floor and saw the gun.

“You...” he grunted as he managed to finally get through the doorway.

“I tried to shoot the bottle...” said Barrel. “I think I broke a tooth.”

“Barrel,” said Tap, “what were you doing?

White sat in front of Barrel.

“Open your mouth,” he said.

Barrel sheepishly sat up. “Well, there’s an attack coming and I wanted to...” Seeing an angry glint in White’s eyes, he shut up and opened his mouth. The fact that White had two black eyes served to make him appear somewhat unsettling.

“Barrel...” mumbled White. His horn lit up, lifting the broken tooth fragment off of the floor. “Barrel, Barrel, Barrel... We don’t do that.”

There was a glint of light as he mended the tooth. White got up and walked over to the gun. “No, no, no no no no no no no no no no no no no no NO! We don’t do that,” he repeated, lifting the gun into the air. “We don’t, we don’t use these!” He spat, throwing the gun out the window.

“That was mine...” said Tap.

White took a deep breath. “You said there’s an attack coming?”

“Tomorrow,” said Tap. “Quake told me.”

“Okay, we’re gonna have to round up everyone,” said White. “Get everypony we can into the mission house.”

“It’ll be all crowded again?” asked Clip.

“Think of it...” said Scroll, “as more of a party.”

“Because those always go well,” said Tap.

“Well, you’ll come, right?” asked Scroll.

Tap laughed. “Well, sure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get my gun.”

She turned to leave the room, but she saw something that stopped her. She noticed Scroll’s gaze, which was on his companion. White was standing at the window, glaring outside.

“Hey,” she said, “you okay?”

White slowly turned. Scroll bit his lip - the bruises on White’s eyes made his face seem sunken and gaunt.

“White?” Scroll asked.

“Scroll,” said White, “you get Clip back to the mission house quickly. I’ll meet up with you and we’ll try to round up anypony we can.”

“Got it,” said Scroll. “C’mon.”

“Okay!” said Clip. “Will we be baking pies again?”

“You bet!” said Scroll as the two left.

“I’ll help,” said Barrel, following the two.

Tap watched as the three left, before turning back to White. “I dunno how much luck you’ll have. They probably all still think you’re a foal-fiddler.”

“It doesn’t matter what they think,” said White quietly. “All that matters is what’s right.” He clenched his eyes shut. “And I know what’s right, and I’ll do it. And I’ll always do it.”

Tap looked at that strange, stupid white unicorn standing on the verge of tears. She remembered her gun out in the street below and briefly wondered if somepony had stolen it. Well, the general might give her another for the right price. Still, she had to look at the unicorn. After all that steadfast confidence, it seemed like he was desperately clinging to something.

“You really believe that, don’t you?” she asked. “I guess that’s what I like about you two. But y’know, I can’t help but feel that by the end of your little mission you’re gonna have a whooooooole lotta regrets.”

White opened his eyes. “Regrets?” he asked. “If I can tell myself in full honesty that I did everything I possibly could, that I didn’t stray from my mission and that I managed to wring some true good out of my time here... Well, I nearly gave up once. I won’t do that again. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, or look Scroll in the eye again if I did that. I made a promise, Tap. A promise...”

He turned and headed out the door. Tap watched as he left, and Scroll’s voice drifted in through the open window, imploring anypony who would listen to come to the mission house to wait out the storm.

They wouldn’t listen.

Chapter 20

Just what the fuck were you thinking? What, you thought it’d be fun if you ran off from the unit to beat up some snivelling little dirt? What made you think that piece of shit was even worth your time? Do you think you’re a tough guy, private? Do you think you’re enough of a hotshot to disobey orders? You were supposed to stay in my ranks, and what do you do?

You are not in this to have fun. You’re here to do what I say and kill dirt ponies, and you can’t even do that. Just what kind of miserable failure are you? How the fuck did you even live this long?

You’re a fucking waste as a soldier, you know that, private? Until you shape up, you know what you’re gonna be doing? You’re gonna do tornado duty!

Eagle couldn’t think of anything but General Storm’s words. He stood at the edge of the clouds, lethargically listening to the words coming from his new superior.

“Well, well,” said his captain, a cold steel blue stallion, “looks like you got yourself a new assignment, didn’t ya?” The captain watched Eagle. He had a scar running over his left eye that made him look like he was leering at something. “Not much to say, then?” he asked. “Embarrassed? You’d always made fun of Captain Tempest and his ponies, didn’t you? One notch above the non-fliers. Like we were flushing all the shit down the toilet?” He laughed. “Not so funny anymore, is it?”

Eagle took a nervous breath.

“Well, that’s okay. All of us have. Hell, I couldn’t get through the day if I couldn’t laugh at myself. So, what’s your name, private?”

“Eagle… sir,” he said, choking down his pride.

“Anything in particular got you saddled with our lot?”

“I, uh,” said Eagle, “I disobeyed orders. Went after a little chickenshit civvie.”

“Well, ain’t that a shame?” asked Tempest. “I’ll be honest with you: tornado duty isn’t nice, and it isn’t exciting. It’s a dangerous and menial job we do, but we do it, because it’s our job.”

“Understood, sir.”

“And you know something else, Private Eagle?”

Eagle flicked his ear.

“You’re probably feeling pretty damn low right now, aren’t you? Don’t like being on the level of the tornado cannon fodder. And you’re probably a little scared, too, aren’t ya?”

Eagle nodded.

“Well, being in here takes a lot of guts,” said Tempest. “You’re doing a job that’s very dangerous and offers you no rewards, except maybe a way out if you’re lucky. But you’re going to do that, aren’t you?”

“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”

“I suppose not,” said the captain. “You’re in some deep shit. We all are. But we can make it work, and we can survive. Just keep your head up and keep flying. Can you do that?”

“Yes, sir.”


Eagle stood on the darkened clouds, in line with the other pegasi on tornado duty. All around on the Stormcloud, the pegasi were preparing for the attack. The last time this had happened, Eagle was excited. Now, however, he had a sinking pit in his stomach, not helped by the pegasus in front of him blathering:

“I know that those of you on tornado duty feel like you’re the butt of a big joke. This is not true. Your task is just as important as everypony else’s, and they’re all valuable.”

Shut up, Sky, I don’t care, he thought. The other soldiers next to him fidgeted or just stared down at the clouds. One pony next to him mumbled something disparaging. Eagle stifled a chuckle – they didn’t buy Brother Sky’s spiel any more than he did.

Crashes and bangs filled the air. Rows of pegasus soldiers stomped on the clouds, crashing lightning down onto the town below. Fainter bangs came from below.

Suddenly, the surface of the cloud was broken as cannonballs burst through. The ponies scrambled in panic, trying to avoid them.

Hold your positions!” barked the general. A cannonball popped up in front of her and she batted it down with her hoof. She surveyed her soldiers with a look of disgust. Eagle knew that if there was one thing General Storm hated, it was a coward.

The soldiers tried to hold their positions, but they still fidgeted.

“I can’t hear any thunder!” called the general. “I want you to drown out their pussy cannonballs with the storm!”

The crashes of lightning and thunder resumed. The general approached the line of hapless tornado ponies. She sneered at the captain.

“Well,” she said, “I trust you can keep this line of pansies working? Or is that too much to ask from you?”

Tempest’s expression did not flinch. “We can do our job, sir. I think I’ve demonstrated that.”

“You’d better,” said Storm. She turned and went to another group of soldiers that were preparing to descend. Captain Tempest, meanwhile, turned to the ponies under his command.

“Alright, boys!” called Captain Tempest. “Time for us to get ready! Remember your jobs and look out for each other!”


Brother White sat in the main room. It was dark, illuminated only by candles. Nopony had come save for Tap and Barrel. It was just the five of them in the mission house, there to wait out the storm.

The sounds of thunder and cannons roared outside, blending together in an indistinguishable cacophony. White sighed and stood up, walking into the kitchen.

Tap, Barrel, and Clip were seated around the table, while Scroll stood at the stove wearing a poofy chef’s hat. He hummed to himself as he slaved over a pot of boiling potato something.

“So,” said White, “how is everything?”

“Kinda boring,” said Barrel.

“Um...” said White, unsure of how to take that.

“Our house is gonna get destroyed again,” said Tap. “I know it is.”

“Well, it doesn’t have to be boring,” said White, “we can entertain ourselves!”

“Can we play games?” asked Clip.

“We sure can!” said Scroll. “The Book of Friendship has all kinds of things you can do in a rainstorm.” He turned around, beaming. “Like cooking!”

“And we can play games and sing songs!” suggested White.

There was a particularly loud crash outside, which caused Clip to jump onto the table and Barrel to let out a gasp. Everypony in the room was still for a while before they decided they were still safe. Barrel took a few breaths.

“When I was little,” said Barrel, “some other foals would sit on the roof and dump water on me.” He laughed at himself. “I’d think it was rain and start panicking.”

“Rain’s nothing to panic about,” said White. “Well... not in Equestria, anyway.”

“Do you ever worry about anything in Equestria?” asked Tap.

“Well, yeah,” said White, “I mean, sometimes we worry about being late, or upsetting someone, or losing, or getting hit by a wagon... just not rain. Unless there’s a lot of it. But we try to have a healthy amount of rain. It’s just a necessary part of life. We’ve got songs about it.”

“Lots of songs,” said Scroll.

“Oh, here we go...” muttered Tap.

There was a deafening crash of thunder from outside, making all the ponies look up at the ceiling in worry. White took a deep breath and began to sing.

“We will not mind the rain

Although the wind may blow

For rain, it washes clean the earth

And makes the good things grow.”


Eagle and the pegasi on tornado duty stood in a wide circle on the Stormcloud. Most of the other soldiers present had descended beneath the clouds, though there were still a few lightning-strikers sending bolts down to the earth ponies.

The earth ponies, however, were still firing their cannons into the sky. An iron ball shot through the cloud, tearing off the head of the pony in front of Eagle.

“Fuck!” Eagle cried out in fright.

“Hold your positions!” called Tempest. “Get ready to fly!”

Eagle and the other pegasi spread their wings.

“Now!” called the captain. The pegasi took off flying. They all stayed on the same level, flying in a circle, slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed. Soon enough the whirring of the wind was able to drown out the roar of thunder and cannonfire.

“Now move in!” the captain ordered. The pegasi tightened their circle, moving in and compacting the swirling air.

“Now, move down!”

The soldiers began to spread vertically, descending beneath the clouds. The whirling air formed a violently churning funnel, touching down to the ground. The tornado was now in place, and the pegasus soldiers just needed to keep it going as long as they could. At first it was simple – they just needed to keep flying. However...

“Incoming!” called one of the soldiers.

Eagle’s eyes widened as he looked below. The buildings were splintering against the force of the winds, but now the tornado was carrying the debris up to them.


“Alright, soup’s on!” said Scroll as he set plates of potatoes in front of each of the ponies at the table.

“It doesn’t look like soup...” said Clip.

“It’s an expression,” said Tap.

“Ohh...” said Clip.

“Thought I’d try something with sea salt,” said Scroll. “That just makes it sound more exotic – ‘sea salt.’”

“What, you boil the sea water?” asked Barrel. “We do that sometimes if we run out of salt rations.”

“Yeah, I–” Scroll stopped.

“You what?” asked White.

“White, how do I get sea salt?” he asked.


“How do I get sea salt?” Scroll asked, punctuating the last words with a shake of his plate.

“By...” White said, not understanding what Scroll was getting at, “boiling sea water?”

Tap sighed. “Can I have my potatoes now, or are you going to tell us how you peeled them?”

“Nononononono,” said Scroll. “I mean, I can boil the water to get the salt, so I can...” he walked off. “One moment! I need pipes!”

“I want my potatoes...”

Barrel watched Scroll as he left the kitchen. “Pipes? What’s he need those for?”

“Science, I think,” said White.

There was a sound of clanking and shuffling from the adjacent room. White and Tap decided they wanted to see what he was up to – Tap also wanted her potatoes – and followed him into the main room. They found that Scroll had thrown open the supply cupboard and was examining several lengths of tube.

“Did I miss something?” asked Tap.

“I got an incredible idea,” said Scroll. He turned to the other two. “Okay, so I can boil water to get the salt. Sooo, why not boil the water... to get the water? Like, I boil it, then condense the steam so that we have fresh water?”

White’s face lit up. “That’s a great idea, Scroll!”

“Huh,” said Tap. “So, what, you get all the steam into a tube, and...”

“Yeah!” said Scroll. “We just boil the water on a stove, and then we put the steam through a tube and and then when it cools down we have water!”

“Aaaaand how much water will you get with that?” asked Tap.

“Well...” Scroll’s smile twitched a little. “We just need a big bucket and some time. And maybe another stove.”


Eagle very quickly realized why tornado duty was an awful job. In addition to being nearly brainless, menial work, there was the risk that even doing the job right could have fatal results. He dipped under a beam flying his way, weaving in and out between the debris.

As houses shattered against the wind, the beams, doors, bedframes, tables, chairs, utensils, and nick-knacks contained therein became obstacles for the pegasi to dodge. Eagle narrowly managed to avoid being impaled on a wooden beam.

The other ponies around him attempted to do the same, with various levels of success. One soldier nimbly ran across a broken rooftop. Another had an anvil smash his face in.

Eagle’s face was stiff in fear. When he first went down to fight he had been excited. Now he was locked in a circle of death. He looked up and saw Captain Tempest. Tempest didn’t display any signs of fear, and rather than avoiding the flying hazards, he was heading right for them.

Eagle had no idea what he was up to at first. He’s got to be an idiot, he thought, maybe that’s why he’s stuck here. But he saw that the captain was bucking the rubble off to the sides of the vortex. Eagle had to think for a moment before he realized what the captain was doing: he was getting the debris ejected from the tornado so that it wouldn’t hurt the pegasi inside.

Something stirred in that brain of his, and Eagle decided that he’d try to do it, too. Unfortunately, when he looked in front of him he found a wardrobe hurling towards him. The wardrobe’s doors flapped open and Eagle was swallowed up before he had a chance to blink.


The missionaries had conspired to do improvisation to pass the time. Clip and the guests were unfamiliar with the activity, so the Brothers had to demonstrate.

The premise: Brother White is the tenant in an apartment. Brother Scroll is the landlord, and he is knocking on the door.

“Hey,” said Brother Scroll, “the rent’s overdue.”

“Eheheheheh...” Brother White chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m just a little behind on the payment...”

“And how much more behind are you gonna get?” Scroll asked.

“Well, it’s just gonna be a while, but I’ll pay, I swear...”

“Swearing isn’t good enough!” said Scroll. “The rent is due. You either give me the money or you get out! Well...” he paused, “maybe if you can devise some other method of payment I could reconsider...”

Clip, Barrel, and Tap watched, with varying expressions. Clip was nervously chewing on his hooves, anxiously awaiting to see what would happen next. Will White be able to pay the rent? he wondered.

Barrel grimaced and shifted nervously in his seat. I’m not sure what I’m watching, and I don’t think I like it...

Tap’s face, however, was plastered with an eager grin. Go ooooooonn...

There was a loud crash as a cannonball smashed through the room, interrupting the Brothers’ terrible roleplay. All five ponies jumped at the crash.

White looked at the cannonball and the crater it made in the floor. “Well,” he said, “we’ll have to fix that.” He stuck his hoof under the hole, feeling the rain as it fell. “On the other hoof, this also means natural lighting...” he muttered, “That’s one way of looking at it.”

Tap rolled her eyes.

The ground shook, causing the five ponies to stumble. There was an unsettling creaking sound from ceiling, now that the cannonball had knocked a hole in it.

“I say we fix it,” said Scroll.

“Yeah...” muttered White.


Eagle was cramped inside a flying wardrobe, tumbling over and over. Eagle cussed, trying to right himself even as he kept hitting his head on the walls. After fumbling in the dark, he finally managed to feel for the doors. He forced them open, pushing against the wind. He muttered to himself, reading to fly back out, when he heard a dull thunk. He looked to the right and found a metal disc embedded in the edge of the door. He looked up and saw more discs flying through the air as the pegasi tried to dodge them.

Eagle stayed sitting in the wardrobe, hesitant to emerge. He watched in disgust as one disc slashed the neck of a soldier, who struggled to put his hooves to his neck in a vain attempt to stop the gushing of blood. He saw another disc sever the foreleg of another soldier. The dead hung eerily in the air, pulled only by the wind.

“Private!” he heard a voice call. “This is no time to play hide-and-seek!”

Eagle looked up and saw Captain Tempest. “Sorry, sir!” he responded.

“We need to keep flying!” Captain Tempest swung an iron-shoed hoof, knocking away one of the discs. “If we don’t keep flying then the tornado’ll stop!”

Eagle opened his mouth to object, but another disc came and severed Tempest’s wing at the joint.

“Argh!” cried the captain as he fell to join Eagle in the wardrobe. “Fuck...” he looked at the stub. “Well, there the fuck I go.”

“Shit...” said Eagle. “Oh, shit shit shit.”

“Don’t stand there blubbering, get out there and fly!”

Eagle was too startled to argue and bolted back out into the tornado. There were less pegasi – some had been killed or maimed by the discs and rubble, while others had bailed. Eagle struggled to keep the wind going fast enough to sustain the tornado. His fright made him quicker at avoiding the deadly obstacles.

However, he saw that the wardrobe was drifting uncomfortably away. He realized that if it kept going, it’d soon be thrown from the tornado with the captain still inside. He wasn’t going to let that happen. Eagle flew back to the closet, pushing it back into the tornado, much to the consternation of its occupant.

“Hey! What are you doing?” the captain demanded to know. “You need to keep the tornado going!”

Eagle didn’t say anything – for some reason, he just didn’t want the captain to get killed. However, there was a piercing pain as a disc slashed his side. He instinctively grabbed onto the wardrobe pulled his wings to his side, trying to stem the flow of blood. He clenched his eyes shut, holding on for dear life as his blood dampened his wing.

Oh, fuck, he thought, I’m in a tornado, and I’m gonna die... He felt a hoof on his.

“Can you still hold on?” asked the captain.

Eagle paused. “Yes, sir,” he said.

“Then take my hoof. That’s an order.”

Eagle gripped the Captain’s hoof. Before he could wonder what the captain was going to do, he found himself falling through the air. Captain Tempest had jumped from the tornado, beating his one good wing.

“What are you doing?!” Eagle cried.

“Getting us out of here!”

Miraculously, the captain managed to beat his one wing enough to break through the wall of the tornado. However, he couldn’t properly fly with only one wing, and they began to fall. Tempest, however, spread his wing and it managed to catch the air, allowing them to slowly fall, spinning in the air like a leaf.

They fell down into an alley with a thud. Eagle sprawled on the ground, but Tempest got to his feet and pulled a pistol out of his holster. The alley was littered with garbage and rubble, ranging from broken wagons to chunks of destroyed buildings. The captain remained vigilant and alert.

“Get your gun out,” said the captain. “Can you walk?”

Eagle scrambled to his feet. All he could think was how miserable it was to be in this filthy dirt pony town with a gaping wound at his side. He followed the captain’s lead and took out his own gun, just a simple pistol that they gave to the ponies on tornado duty. He looked up at the tornado, which was beginning to sputter away. He looked back at the wound on his side – it was still bleeding, but it didn’t seem to be as deep as he had first thought.

“I think so, sir,” said the private.

“Well, we have to get moving. We’re not out yet. There’s still a battle going on.”

They headed down the alleyway, their guns drawn. Captain Tempest was fully alert, as though completely unfazed at the loss of a wing. Eagle’s will was not quite as strong, but he had to wonder what would happen to the captain if they survived this. Would he be welcome back on the cloud?

“Over here!” shouted a voice. “Two of them!”

Eagle and Tempest turned and found an earth pony soldier standing in a doorway readying his gun. Tempest immediately reacted and fired two shots into the soldier’s heart, killing him.

There was a sound of shouting from inside.

“They found us,” said Tempest, preparing his gun. Eagle did the same. Eagle found that his initial fear was subsiding into a different feeling – excitement.

The sounds of hoofsteps signalled the arrival of more troops. Both of the pegasi backed up behind some scattered debris – Tempest behind a broken fruit stand, Eagle behind a piece of roof – keeping their guns trained on the doorway. One soldier came into the doorway, and both ponies opened fire, killing him almost instantly. The next soldier was more intelligent. He waited behind the door and only stuck his head out to shoot at Eagle. Eagle ducked behind his cover as the bullet lodged itself in the wood, while Tempest returned fire. The soldier ducked out of the way as another replaced him and opened fire.

Tempest didn’t move from his spot. He stood firm, shooting when he saw an earth pony soldier stick his head out of the doorway. Eagle stuck his head out from cover and fired, miraculously hitting one of the enemy soldiers in the jaw. The soldier let out a scream of pain and dropped the gun before disappearing behind the door. The other soldier replaced him, opening fire on Eagle. The bullet grazed his shoulder and he dropped back behind his cover again. Tempest followed up with one more shot and hit the enemy soldier between the eyes.

Eagle and Tempest sat there behind the cover, waiting. The earth pony soldiers, however, seemed to have been neutralized, and the only sounds of battle were far away from them. Cautiously, Eagle reloaded his revolver and stepped out from behind his cover. He slowly approached the doorway before peering inside. There were the dead bodies of the soldiers, along with one who was still alive. The wounded soldier was lying on the floor, clutching at his muzzle and whimpering. Eagle smiled.

“Yeah, you like that, didn’t you?” he asked. “See how you like this!” He kicked at the soldier’s stomach, making him cringe and try to crawl away. “Come on, you little bitch!” He kicked again.

Eagle stood there, watching the wounded soldier squirm. “Oh, fuck this...” he grumbled. He bent down to pick up his gun, before firing a shot into the soldier’s head, killing him. He stood there, looking at the dead bodies. He heard the cannons and thunder in the distance and looked around. No more soldiers. Then he noticed that Tempest wasn’t with him.

He ran back outside and saw that Captain Tempest was still there. He was standing, but he was slowly walking over to the wall, his legs shaking. Eagle slowly approached him before he saw that Tempest’s chest had three bulletholes and was caked in blood. The captain leaned against the wall, sighed, and slowly slumped to the floor.

“Woah, woah!” said Eagle, running up to him.

“Least it wasn’t tornado duty that killed me,” said the captain. “Well, guess it helped. Lost my wing. A soldier isn’t much good if he’s missing a wing, now, is he?”

“Dude, that was badass.”

Captain Tempest looked back up at Eagle.

“Not like the big wind toilet, huh? Not laughing anymore?”

“It’s a lot less funny now.”

“That’s what they all say. You know what my greatest ambition was?” The captain smiled. “To get a blowjob from the general.”

Eagle laughed. “Same here.”

“Well, get out of here and maybe you’ll get it.”


“Yeah, I’m kinda dead,” said the captain, laying his head down. Eagle stood there, unsure of what to do. “That’s an order.”

Eagle ran off, leaving his captain in the mud. Captain Tempest looked up at the the sky and thought to himself how surprisingly nice the rain felt.


Once the storm had subsided and the pegasus army had left, Tap and Barrel left in a hurry to find that their tavern had, once again, been destroyed.

“The sign’s alright, though,” said Barrel, shuffling through a few planks until he found one that had Tap’s written on it in big letters.

White and Scroll surveyed the wreckage. Yet again, homes were left in shambles, ponies were dead, and the missionaries couldn’t do anything about it.

“This is awful...” said White.

“I think that tornado really did a number on the town,” said Scroll.

“Yeah...” murmured White. “The tornadoes...” His mind went back to the disc launcher that he had so haughtily dumped off of the edge of the dock.

“I’m just suggesting that maybe if you two butt-munchers really want to help, then here’s something you can do. So the next time the wingers come here, and they send down a tornado, then use this. Who knows, maybe you two useless fucking fags could save a few of our lives.”

He saw the general making his rounds through the town. He watched, and he realized that he must have looked like he was staring, because Quake stopped and glared at him.

“Well?” asked General Quake. “What the fuck do you want?”

“I-uh...” White stammered. “It’s nothing. I just need to go...”

“White?” asked Scroll. “Are you okay?”

“I-I...” White said. “I don’t know... I need to think about something.” He took a breath. “I’m gonna go back to the mission house and take care of Clip. You stay here and see if Tap and Barrel need any help.”

Scroll watched in confusion as White slowly trudged back up the road to the mission house. Scroll, dutiful friend that he aspired to be, followed.

“White, wait, if there’s something you nee–”

“Scroll, I don’t need anything!” White snapped. Scroll stopped dead in his tracks. “I... I’m sorry, I need to be alone.” He turned and galloped back to the mission house as quickly as he could, leaving Scroll alone and bewildered.

Chapter 21

“White?” asked Scroll, rapping his hoof against the bathroom door. “Are you gonna be done soon?”

“No!” called White. “I need to brush my teeth. Then I need to brush my mane. And my coat.”

“Well, I could help with–”

“No, just go ahead without me, I’ll catch up.”

Scroll paused at the door before walking into the kitchen, where he had a large contraption built on the stove. There was a metal cauldron on top of the stove, and the cauldron was sealed off with a large tube that went into a barrel.

Clip was busy examining it. “So, what’s it do?”

“Well,” said Scroll, adjusting his glasses, “we put the sea water in the cauldron here. Then we turn on the stove, which will heat up the water and make it evaporate. The steam will then travel...” He followed the length of pipe with his hoof to the barrel. “...into here, where we can cool it. If it works, then we’ve got fresh, drinkable water.”

“Coooool,” said Clip.

“Yeah, it is,” said Scroll, smiling.

Scroll walked back into the main room and looked at the dent in the floor. The sun was streaming through the hole in the ceiling left by the cannonball. Scroll wondered what they’d do about it. They only really had to worry about rain during a pegasus attack, but it was still unsightly. Still, there were bigger concerns at the moment.

“Whiiiiite?” Scroll called.

“I’m busy!” White called back.

“Alright,” Scroll sighed. “Clip, tell White that I headed for Tap’s. If I’ve left there by the time he gets out, I’ll tell her and she can tell him.” Scroll stopped and blinked, considering whether or not that sentence made any sense.

Scroll trotted out the door. Just like after the last attack, the ponies of Earthquake Island were clearing their dead and rebuilding their homes. They seemed to carry this out wordlessly.

Scroll first made his way to what had been Tap and Barrel’s tavern. He was surprised, however, to find that Tap was lounging in a seat with a bottle in her mouth, watching as several soldiers had set to work rebuilding it.

“And I want a balcony this time,” called Tap.

“Hi,” said Scroll.

“Hey,” said Tap.

“Well, I was gonna come ask if you needed any help, buuuut...”

“Yeah,” said Tap. “Soldiers didn’t come at me with ‘in case I die’ sex, but now that the fight’s over they want ‘glad I’m alive’ sex. Well, I mean to get my body’s worth.”

Scroll stood there, processing what he just heard. “Uhh...”

Tap looked at him. “Hey, where’s White? Shouldn’t he be with you?”

“Well, he’s in the bathroom,” said Scroll. “Been in there for a while. Says he needs to do his mane. And coat. And stuff.”

“Uh-huh,” said Tap. “Yeah. When a guy spends that long in the bathroom he’s either sick, gay, crying, or masturbating.”


Tap turned her head and looked at him. His face had turned red again.

“So, whaddya want?” she asked.

“Well, uh...” Scroll hemmed and hawed, “I was gonna ask if you needed help rebuilding your tavern, but you seem to be all set there... where’s Barrel?”

“Down by the docks,” said Tap. “He’s there for another shipment of supplies. Good timing. Also something about your books.”

“My... my books?” Scroll asked.

“Yeah,” said Tap.

Scroll hopped up and down on the ground, much to the barely-concealed confusion of Tap.

“Oh! If White comes here, tell him I went for the docks and then back to the mission house!” called Scroll, galloping as fast as he could for the docks.

Tap sat up in her seat, looking after him. She looked back at the soldiers. “Remember, balcony!” she called, before getting up to go after Scroll.


“I swear, Scroll,” said Tap as she and Scroll pushed the crate through the doors of the mission house, “I’ve never seen you this excited.”

Scroll slowly cracked open the lid of the crate. He peered inside, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.

“Ahhhh...” he said. “My books.”

“You really, really like those books, huh?” said Tap.

“I’m so excited!” Scroll said, hoofing through the volumes. “This library project is the best idea I’ve ever had.” He picked up one book, titled The Steadfast. “I love these books. Now I get to share them with everypony. We can build some bookshelves and put all our books there, and then maybe we can write back to the Fraternity and they’ll send more books.”

“You really are into this idea, aren’t you?” She looked around the room while Scroll indulged himself in his foalhood literature. She noticed one book tucked away in the corner of the room, sloppily hidden. She gently nudged it out of its hiding place, opened it, and began to read...

“Oh my,” said Tap.

“Huh?” Scroll asked, looking at her.

“Scroll, I had no idea...” Tap smirked, looking at Scroll, whose face had flushed red.


“Gotta say, didn’t expect it,” Tap laughed. “My, my...”

“O-oh...” Scroll stammered. “Please promise you won’t tell White.”

“Hmm...” said Tap, pretending to think about it as Scroll squirmed. “Oh, don’t be silly, Scroll, your little secret’s safe with me.” Scroll let out a relieved sigh. “That is...”

“That is what?” Scroll asked, tensing up again.

Tap closed the book. “I think I’d like to borrow it. I think that’d keep ol’ White from finding it.” She chuckled. “Consider me your library’s first customer.”


Tap took the book in her mouth and walked towards the door, humming to herself. As she passed Scroll, she flicked her tail up against his chest and smirked as his face turned red.

Brother White stepped out of the bathroom to find at red-faced Scroll sitting down and looking bashfully at the mare merrily trotting out of the mission house.

“Okay...” sighed Brother White. His face wasn’t decorated with his customary grin, and despite all the time he had spent in the bathroom his mane was still a mess. “So we...”

“We got the books,” said Scroll. “And I think we can test my water thing. I need a name for it.”

“Uh-huh...” said White, heading into the room. “Right, so we got more books...”


“What?” White asked. He looked at Scroll, who was eyeing him with an uneasy look.

“Are you okay?” Scroll asked. “You seem kinda...”

“I’m fine!” said White. “Look, why don’t you just, go and...”

“I can...” said Scroll, thinking. “I can go get some seawater.”

“Right,” said Scroll. He grabbed a bucket by the wall and headed for the door. Before he walked out, however, he looked at White.  He was worried about his friend, but he wasn’t sure what to do. Sighing, the bespectacled pony trotted out the door for the peer.

White was left alone in the mission house, save for Clip, who was still munching on something in the kitchen. He looked over in the corner of the room where yet another thing haunted him: Monarch’s teleporter.

He slowly walked over to it and picked it up. It was a small device – smooth, clean, elegant, just like what a unicorn would make. It looked like it was made of a polished white stone.

White thought about the choice he had. He could just use it and teleport straight to Monarch’s castle. He wasn’t doing any good on Earthquake Island – nopony came to their meetings, nopony stopped by for help or advice, and worst of all they all hated him. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be better off with the unicorns. Maybe he could get help there.

But what about Scroll? he thought. He sat there, staring at the device. It began to fill him with the same sort of loathing that the disc launcher had.

His thoughts returned to that. He’d made the choice to throw that thing away, and what was the result? A tornado that ruined so many homes. What if Quake was right? What if he could have helped the ponies here by using that thing? But then he would have been hurting other ponies. He’d seen the body parts raining over the city. He couldn’t live with himself if he were ever a part of anything like that.

Since he had been a tiny colt, he had never dreamed of hurting anypony. It wasn’t who he was ­– he was a happy little pony, and he always wanted to do the right thing. One time, when he was young, he stole a cookie from the cookie jar and blamed his brother. For a long time, White struggled with that guilt, struggled to forgive himself. He wanted other ponies to be happy and for them to like him. But the ponies here weren’t happy. They didn’t like him. They called him names: Horner. Chucklefuck. Fag. Dickhead. Cocksucker. Ass-muncher. He didn’t understand why they did this. A foal had lied, accused him of molesting him with the intention of getting a lynch mob to kill him, and why? Purely out of spite.

Why? Why couldn’t they just let him be their friend? He had so much he wanted to share, and they wouldn’t take it. Back in Equestria things were so different. He had a family who loved him. He had a tight-knit group of friends with which he did plays and musicals. And then there was the Fraternity, filled to the brim with the nicest and brightest friends he’d ever known.

“White?” asked a voice.

White jumped, startled. He turned around and saw Clip standing in the middle of the room.


“Is it okay if I go see Tap?” Clip asked.

“Uh, yes,” said White.

Clip trotted out the room, and White stared at the scars on his back. How could they do that, he wondered. How could they rip the wings off of a little kid? How could they burn off his cutie mark? And for that matter, how could the pegasus ponies throw a child off of the cloud like that?

And as he looked at the teleporter he thought about the unicorns. He thought about Monarch, how he had callously murdered the earth pony hostages, how he had gruesomely massacred the soldiers in Tap’s bar.

He thought about the whole situation, between Earthquake Island, the Stormcloud, and the Monarch’s Fortress. Finally, after thinking and thinking, one terrifying, horrible conclusion occurred to him, something that he never thought he’d dare think – something he didn’t think was possible in Equestria.

These ponies are evil.

Scroll returned with a bucket of seawater, the realization dawning on him that this task would take several trips. He saw White sitting in the corner and stopped.

“White?” he asked as he set down the bucket.

“Huh?” asked White, hiding the teleporter.

“Are you... sure you’re okay?” he asked. “Ever since the, well, the...”

“Since the what?”

“Well...” said Scroll, “I mean, since the, er...” He swallowed. “Since the attempted hanging, you’ve been a little, well... hard to put it.”

White stared back at him. “What?” he asked.

“White, I’m worried about you,” Scroll blurted out.

White looked down. “That bad, huh?”


“You just work on your thing. I’m gonna go see if I can help around town.”

“No, I’ll come with you...”

“No, Scroll,” said White. “You just keep getting the water. I’ll be back in a bit and see you test it out.” He tried to give a reassuring smile, but Scroll’s expression didn’t lighten. White shook his head and marched out the door.

Scroll stood there for a moment before he returned to the kitchen and dumped the seawater into the machine before heading back outside to take another trip down to the docks. At least, that was his plan.

Unfortunately, right as he walked out the door he blundered right into General Quake.

“Well,” said the General, “how’s it hanging?”

Scroll looked up at him. The general, to his surprise was grinning down at him with an expression somewhere between smug satisfaction and sadistic glee. Scroll found himself thinking he almost preferred the abusive Quake to this one.

“How’s your butt-buddy the horner?” asked the general.


“What’s the matter? Cock got your tongue?”

“W-w-well, he’s, uh...” Scroll stammered. “...I’m worried.”

“Aw, he not feeling too good?” Quake asked. “Why don’t you just suck his cock, that’ll make him feel better. Or does he suck yours? Or do you take turns?” He looked down at the bucket in Scroll’s mouth. “What’s that?” He sniffed. “That your cum bucket?”

“Seawater...” Scroll mumbled.


“Seawater,” Scroll repeated. “I was getting more.”

“What the fuck for?”

Scroll smiled. “I think I have a solution for the water shortage.”

“You can’t drink salt water, dipshit. Or did you forget that after swallowing all that–”

“Well, no,” said Scroll. “I think I got a way to make it drinkable.”

Quake was silent for a moment. “Excuse me?”

“Well, I think I have a way to take seawater and make it drinkable. I was just gonna go get some more. Then once I get the thing filled up I can test it. You want to come see it?”

Quake narrowed his eyes. “I’ll be back in one hour.”


“Gee, it’s awful nice of them to help you with your house,” said Clip as he watched the soldiers at work on Tap’s house.

“Yes...” said Tap, making sure to tuck Scroll’s private little book out of the colt’s sight. “‘Nice.’”

“Are they your friends?”

“Not really,” she said. “They just like helping a pretty girl.”

“Eww...” said Clip.


“Girls are icky.”

Tap cleared her throat.

“Well, most girls.” Clip sulked. “They’re mean.”

Tap was silent for a moment. “The general?”

“She’s mean,” Clip said. “So was Mom. All of them were, but Mom was real mean.”

“What did she do?” asked Tap.

Clip sulked. “She never did anything when the other foals were mean to me. She never read me bedtime stories or tucked me in or made me grilled cheese sandwiches. She only wanted me to be a soldier and she yelled at me when I cried. And then that made me cry more and she yelled more...” His voice trailed off.

Tap reached over and rubbed his mane with her hoof. “I can’t imagine anypony being mean to you.”

Clip lowered his head. “I don’t need a mom.”

Tap looked up and saw a familiar white unicorn approaching. “Well, they do say that Equestria’s a matriarchy.”

Clip looked up, smiling. “White!”

“Hey, Clip,” murmured White. He looked over the soldiers. “So...”

“They’re helping with the tavern,” said Clip.

“Uh-huh...” said White, looking at the work. “Seems you’ve got things under control.”

“I always do,” said Tap. “Just need to keep Barrel out of the tavern for the first night. Any chance he could stay at the mission house tonight?”

“Oh, sure, sure...” said White.

“Ooh! We can play games with four ponies!” piped Clip. White, however, did not seem particularly brightened at the prospect.

“I’ll just be going,” said White. “See what I can do.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that there was anything White could do. The earth ponies were already hard at work rebuilding, and none of them wanted any help from the “faggy horner.” Maybe he should’ve offered Tap help, he thought. At least she would’ve accepted it.

The worst part of it was the bodies. Nothing he’d learned in the Fraternity had taught him about that. The fallen earth and pegasus ponies were piled into carts to be taken away and disposed of, either by burial or burning.

“Not crying this time,” said Quake. White jumped back. “Shocking.”

“This is awful...” said White, taking a breath.

“Well it’s fucking war,” said Quake. “Not like you faggy little Equestrians would know about that. All living your pampered little lives and sending your leftovers out to us.”

“We’re trying our best...”

“Well boo fucking hoo,” said Quake. He cornered White against the cart. “I gave you two spineless little pansies a chance. I gave you a fucking weapon. Something you could’ve used to save a few lives here. Or at the very fucking least, if you hate me so much you’d at least try to use it on me.”

“I don’t hate you, Quake,” said White.

There was a silence between the two. White stared into the general’s hard, rough features, before finally getting the courage to speak again.

“Am I wrong, general?” he asked. “Am I wrong to want peace? To want a world where we don’t have to be afraid of a cloud in the sky, where everyone can live safe, happy, and together?” He swallowed. “Am I wrong to think that life has worth?”

There was a groaning sound next to him. White turned his head and saw that one of the supposedly dead pegasus ponies was still stirring. Quake snorted.

“Life has worth?” he asked. He reached his hoof over and placed it on the pegasus soldier’s head. “What’s this cost me?” He pressed down, crushing the soldier’s head like an egg. “Jack shit, White. Jack shit.” The general turned and left, leaving White to sit there next to the piles of corpses.


Quake tapped his hoof against the floor of the mission house, making the chairs rattle.

“The fuck is taking him so long?” he asked, looking around the house.

Scroll, however, returned, carrying a barrel on his back. “Sorry...” he said nervously. “Anyway, just follow me into the kitchen...”

He carried the barrel into the kitchen, leading Quake over to the machine. The main chamber was now filled to the brim with seawater, and Scroll set up the barrel at the other end of the pipe.

“Alright...” he said, looking at Quake nervously.

“It’s a fucking...” Quake paused, not sure what to call it. “Thing. Stop being a pussy and turn it on!

Scroll nearly stumbled over himself heading to the front of the stove. Not wanting to get Quake to snap at him again, he turned the dial, igniting the stove and beginning the slow process of heating the water.

“And now we wait...”

Quake stood there, stiff as a rock, just watching as Scroll’s machine brought the water closer and closer to a boil. For Scroll, however, the wait was excruciating and seemed to crawl by at a snail’s pace. The wait was unbearable and he found himself pacing back and forth, his glance alternating between the machine and the general.

Scroll felt a miraculous wave of relief when he heard the door to the mission house open.

“Hey, anypony home?” called Barrel.

“We’re in here!” called Scroll.

Barrel entered the kitchen, carrying a sleeping Clip on his back.

“I think the little guy stayed up a bit too late with the attack last night,” he said. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Your gay best friend thinks he found something smart,” said Quake.

“Oh, is this that water thing you were talking about?”

“Uh-huh...” said Scroll.

“It better fucking work,” said Quake. “I could be doing something else right now. Like fucking your sister.”

Barrel grimaced at the remark.

“I got a look at all the soldiers she has rebuilding her place,” said Quake. “Bet you wish you got that kinda action, huh Scroll?”

Scroll looked at him.

“I wouldn’t know cause I’m not a fag, but hey, my soldiers good-looking? They’re sure manly and shit, aren’t they? But with how you spend so much time around Tap, maybe you like ‘em a bit more girly.”

“Wait...” said Barrel.

“But hey, a dick’s a dick, isn’t it?”

Scroll returned his attention to the machine. “I think it should be near a boil now. Then in a few minutes we should have something going.”

He walked over to the other end, where there was a spigot to dispense the water, once it had condensed from steam, into the barrel.

“Just need a few more minutes.”

“What should I do with Clip? asked Barrel.

“Just put him in the bunk,” said Scroll.

Barrel nodded and trotted out of the kitchen. All the while, Quake was impatiently looking up and down the machine.

“Why the fuck does this thing take so long?” he asked.

“Well,” said Scroll, “first it needs to boil the water and turn it into steam, and then the steam needs to condense back into drinkable water.”

“What, so we’re right back where we started?”

“No no no!” said Scroll. “When it evaporates, it leaves the salt behind... I hope.”

Slowly, cautiously, Scroll reached up to the spigot and turned the valve. Instantly, water began flowing through the hole in the top of the barrel. He stepped back as the sound of flowing water filled his ears. It was as though it were salvation in a valve.

Quake stared at the barrel as though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Like he couldn’t believe that something Scroll did was actually working. Once Scroll was satisfied that the barrel was full, he shut off the spigot and backed out of Quake’s way. The general yanked the lid of the barrel off and sneered at the clear water. Then, he lifted the entire barrel up and brought it to his mouth, gulping down the water.

Scroll watched, wringing his hooves as Quake downed the entire contents of the barrel. When he finished, he lowered it and wiped his mouth before slowly turning to Scroll. He stared down at the missionary, watching as he sat frozen in place, his face covered in sweat.

“You didn’t get all the salt out,” he grumbled at last, before turning to leave.

“T-t-the...” Scroll stammered before collapsing.


When Scroll awoke, he found himself back in bed. He looked around and found Barrel sitting next to him.

“Hey, you okay?” asked Barrel. “I saw the general leave, then I went into the kitchen and found you passed out on the floor. What happened?”

“I just remember...” Scroll thought. “How long have I been out?”

“I dunno... few minutes?”

Scroll sat up. “I think I got it...” he said. “I think I finally got it!”

“The water?”

“Yes!” Scroll hopped out of bed. “I gotta find White! This is great!”

“Umm...” said Barrel. “He actually just got here...”

Scroll walked into the main room and found White slouched in one of the seats, dejected.

“White! How’d it go?”

“Chamber pots...” White mumbled. “Why are they still with the chamber pots?”

“Well, you’ll be happy to know that I think I got the water thing working. That means we can take longer baths and...” He stopped. “Are you okay?”

White sighed. “No, I’m not okay...”

Scroll approached him very slowly. “White, what is it?”

“I don’t know if we... if we can really do anything here...” said White. “What if we’re wrong?”

Scroll didn’t know what to say.

“The parties, the songs, the friendly smiles... what are they accomplishing? They aren’t feeding anypony, they aren’t stopping the war...” He paused.


“And that disc launcher. What if throwing it off the pier was a dumb idea?”

“Well, I think we might’ve...”

“What if the general was right?”

Scroll and White were silent for a moment.

“That can’t be possible,” said Scroll. “Come on. Let’s get some water.” He lifted a bucket. “Take this.”

White looked at the bucket for a few seconds before sighing and taking it.


The sun was sitting low as the three Brothers left the mission house, carrying small water barrels on their backs. White was still shaken from his earlier encounter with the general, but Scroll seemed excited about this new prospect.

Scroll passed by a couple of earth ponies who were hard at work putting up the walls of their house.

“Hello!” said Scroll. “I’m Brother Scroll, and I’m with the Fraternity of–”

“Dude, we’re down the street from you.”

“Sorry,” said Scroll. “Want some water?”

The other pony raised an eyebrow.

“I got water,” said Scroll. “It’s not from the reservoir.” He turned, showing a spigot to the other pony. Scroll reached into his saddlebag and produced a bowl and gave it to the earth pony. The earth pony held it to the spigot and filled it with water. Scroll was silent as the pony took a long drink from the bowl, hoping that he’d gotten it right.

After the pony had drained the contents of the bowl, he gave it back to Scroll. “Thanks,” he said.

Scroll’s face lit up. “You’re very welcome!” He took the bowl back and happily trotted off. “Sfee?” he asked White.

“Yeah...” said White.

“So...” said Barrel. “If you have this thing working, does that mean the water shortage is over?”

“Well, not quite,” said Scroll. “It takes time to evaporate and condense the water, and we can only get so much. But maybe if we can get more stoves we can produce more...”

“That’ll make a letter,” said White. “Dear Fraternity, could you send five or six stoves our way? In case ours breaks.”

“We could break the stove and make them send replacements,” Barrel suggested. White shook his head.

He watched as he saw another cart of bodies passing through the street. He walked up to them, staring at the pile of the dead. So many earth ponies, he wondered if some of them wouldn’t be dead if he had simply used Quake’s weapon when the tornado came. Could he have saved one of their lives? But then, wouldn’t that have meant killing the pegasus soldiers?

He shook his head. He couldn’t get them out of his head: Quake, the disc launcher, the tornado, all the dead bodies, and every other ugly thing on this island. Then he heard a dull chuckle. Scroll turned and saw that one of the bodies was still alive: a steel grey pegasus who was missing half of a wing.

“Oh Celestia...” he said.

“Too tough for my own good...” Captain Tempest wheezed.

White fumbled, unfastening his water barrel and setting it on the ground. He hastily filled the bowl with water before setting it in front of the dying captain.

“What’s this?”

“Water,” said White. The captain peered at him with that scarred eye that looked like it was always asking a question. He must have decided the water couldn’t possibly make his lot any worse, because he began to drink from it. When he was finished he looked back up at White.

“Can’t say I expected this from a horner,” he said.

“You needed it,” said White. “Hold on.”

“White, what is it?” asked Scroll.

“There’s a pegasus over here!” White called.

“Oh Celestia...” Scroll scrambled over to the cart and gasped at the sight of the pegasus.

“That bad, huh?” asked Tempest. He watched Scroll as the earth pony set his barrel on the ground and started to fill another bowl. White meanwhile had refilled his and placed it in front of the dying captain. “A horner and a dirt giving water to a winger. I must be delirious.”

“We’re with the Fraternity,” said Scroll.

“Ohh, one of Brother Sky’s pals?”

The Brothers paused. “Kinda acquainted...” said Scroll.

“Sky...” Tempest muttered. “Waste of feathers. Didn’t do a thing for the ponies under me. But I guess nopony on the Stormcloud did. Only sent ‘em to me to die. Watched a lot of my ponies die...”

“The fuck are you faggots doing?” growled the general. The Brothers turned and faced him (Barrel had made himself scarce). “What...” He looked down at the water barrels, and then back up to the missionaries. Scroll always seemed to shrink whenever Quake looked at him, but White remained nearly unfazed. Quake stared him the face and snorted. He grinned a little, before raising his hoof. White’s expression changed to alarm.

“Wait! No!” he pleaded.

With a smirk, Quake brought his hoof down on the water barrel, splintering it with a crunch and bleeding water all over the ground.

WHY?!” cried White.

“Y’see that winger you’re watering?” Quake asked. “He’s one of the wingers they got on the tornados.”

“Was...” mumbled Tempest. “Can’t do that... anymore.” He rested his head on the floor of the cart. “Thanks for the water...” He said, before finally expiring.

Quake approached White. “You keep trying to play nice with both sides, well that doesn’t work. You have to make a choice. Can you do that, or is that too much to ask?”

“I-I-I-I-I...” White stammered. Then he broke. He turned away. He couldn’t face it. He didn’t care about the barrel of water on his back, he just had to get out. He ran.

“White, wait!” cried Scroll.

“I hurt your ass, faggot?” Quake jeered after him. “I knew you couldn’t take it. I knew from the moment you looked at that disc launcher that would wouldn’t have the fucking balls!” He laughed to himself before walking onwards.

Barrel emerged afterwards. “Dude...”

“Can you carry both of them?” asked Scroll.


“I gotta go!” Scroll yelled, before running off.

Barrel looked at the remaining water barrel, blinking and wondering how he was going to do this.


Brother White sat on a rock at the beach, watching as the sun finally dipped down over the horizon. The light was going out. He stared out at the sea, sulking and completely forlorn.

Scroll followed him down the beach at a brisk trot, carrying a book in his mouth. He slowed as he approached White, unsure if his companion was even aware he had been following.

“White...?” Scroll asked.

“What do I do, Scroll?” asked White, his gaze not shifting from the horizon. “What do I do? I try to do what I think is right, but... it’s not working...”

Scroll slowly approached and sat down next to him.

“I wanted to stay out of the violence. That thing... that horrible, horrible thing, I just couldn’t use it. I couldn’t use it to hurt other ponies. But then when I didn’t use it, other ponies got hurt. It’s like... whether I did anything or not...”

“It’s not your fault, White,” said Scroll. White didn’t say anything. “White? There’s...” Scroll got up and walked to the trunk of books. “There’s something I want to read to you.”

“Hmm?” White looked up and saw Scroll walking back up to him with a book in his mouth. Scroll sat down again and set down the book.

“This is that book I was talking about the day we went on the picnic: The Steadfast,” he said, turning the pages. “There’s one part I really want you to know.” Scroll took a breath. “And on all sides I am besieged, slandered, and shamed, because I would not give in to evil,” he read.

“Who talks like that?” mumbled White.

“White, please...”

“Scroll, I don’t know what I’m doing,” White sighed. “I’ve never known what I’m doing. All my life I’ve gotten by by just... just winging it, and now it isn’t working.”

“Using that weapon wouldn’t have helped anything,” said Scroll. “You’d just be doing what the general does.” White didn’t respond. “White, that pegasus soldier. If you had used that thing, you would’ve been the one killing him. And I know you don’t want that. I don’t want that. I can’t imagine anypony... I can’t imagine anypony like us wanting that.”

“I know, and I don’t want that,” said White. “I don’t want any of this... But what if it’s the only way?”

“It isn’t,” said Scroll. “They’ve been doing it that way for years, and it hasn’t worked. And when I looked at that soldier, well... I know he might’ve done some bad things. But I think he seemed like a good pony.”

“Maybe...” said White.

“White,” said Scroll. “The books came today.”

White looked down at the book Scroll had with him, and then back up at Scroll.

“The library,” said Scroll. “It can happen. It can really happen. And my water machine. It works. We can do it, White. We’ve been here for two months. We still have this mission for the rest of two years. We’ve invested too much and we still have too far to go for us to give up.”

“Maybe, but, but...” White shuddered. “Scroll, I’m scared!” He cried.

Scroll nodded. “So am I. I’m terrified, and I’ve been terrified since the day we arrived. And I still get scared every time one of the ponies here growls at me, or I hear a gun go off, or I see the sky darken or the general coming or when I look at the scars on Clip’s back or the burns on his flanks. But...” He put his hoof on White’s. “Whenever I look at you, and I see you smile... It’s like all of that’s just temporary, just an ugly thing that exists now and will be over.”

White looked at him. He opened his mouth to say something, but he couldn’t think of anything.

“White, I know you’re scared,” he continued. “And I am, too. But I can be here for you.” He nuzzled the side of White’s neck. “I’m always here for you. Just hold on to me.”

All of a sudden, White threw his hooves around Scroll, who returned the embrace as though he were expecting it.


“Hold on to me, White,” said Scroll. “Don’t let go.”

White took a deep breath and broke off. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” Scroll said, nuzzling him. “I’m your friend, White.”

White nodded. “Scroll, I want you to know...”

“I do,” said Scroll. “You mean so much to me. Before I met you I thought I’d never have a friend. But you’re a lot more than that, White.” He rested his head under White’s neck, nuzzling it.

“Thanks...” said White. “But... I’m still scared. The sun doesn’t seem to shine the same as it did two months ago.”

“So am I,” said Scroll. “But whatever happens, we have each other.” He closed his eyes. “I want us to always have each other.”

“So do I, Scroll...” said White, lowering his head.

Chapter 22

White slouched behind his desk, staring blankly at the door. Everything was set up for a perfect mission day – the chairs were in neat little rows, the floor was clean, and the desk was neatly organized. However, the problem with friendship was that it required multiple ponies for anything to work, and White was alone.

There had, at one point, been a clock in the mission house, but it broke some time ago. Without the constant rhythmic ticking, the air was filled with faint, buzzy silence. White could stand the lack of noise, but with no way to tell the time, it was as though he were stuck at one point, frozen and stretched out indefinitely.

He had before him a list of the Fraternity’s membership on the island. It was not a very encouraging list. The first two names were obvious:

Brother Pearly White

Brother Scroll Page

Barrel’s name was also listed, as was Bottle Top, the local drunken bum. After that, however, were other names that White wasn’t sure were legitimate.

Salty Streams

Brown Mound

And so on.

White looked back up to the door. Any minute now, Scroll will be back, he thought. He’ll be back with something from the Fraternity.

And, sure enough, the door opened. His blue companion entered, but White noticed that Scroll’s eyes were downcast. There was an opened letter in his mouth, and it didn’t take a whole lot of thinking for White to connect the two.

“What happened?” White asked, sitting up in his seat.

Scroll trudged up to the desk, laying the letter on it. “It’s... not good.”

“How can it not be good?” asked White, lifting the letter. “Da da da...” he mumbled, “Dear Brothers White and Scroll, we regret to inform you that, due to your mission’s performance, we are not able to fill your request at this time...” His eyes scanned the rest of the letter, but none of that changed anything. He looked back at Scroll. “So no stoves?” he asked.

“Afraid not...” said Scroll. “I was afraid this might happen...”

White looked down at the list of names. “Are you sure that Salty Streams isn’t a real pony?”

“Tap seems pretty sure,” said Scroll. “Uh...”

White looked at the kitchen door. “Any chance we could... just make stoves? I mean, they’d have to run on wood and not magic, but...”

“We could do that,” said Scroll. “Use firewood rations... but that’s kind of counterproductive. I mean, the ponies get wood from the forest, but they need the water to grow the forest and with the shortage, well...” He fidgeted with his glasses. “It’s kind of a dilemma there...”

“You know, I ran out of shampoo this morning,” said White. His eyes had glazed over, as though he had withdrawn into some other world of his own choosing.

“I’m sorry?”

“Ran out. All gone. Unless I write mom and dad for more.” White blinked. “And I haven’t had a manecut in months, either.”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with long hair...”

“I need a bubble bath,” said White, getting up from his seat.

“Huh?” Scroll asked, still weighing the advantages and disadvantages of building a wood-burning stove. Snapped from his planning, he saw that White was heading for the kitchen, where the water barrels were kept. White’s face was drawn into a half-delirious, broken half-smile.

“Just a nice, calm, relaxing...”

“White, no!” Scroll said, following him. “We can’t waste that. And you already showered this morning.”

White, however, continued. “But I need it...”

“No!” Scroll shouted. White tried to break into a run for the door, but Scroll leapt onto his back, knocking him to the floor. “White, get a hold of yourself!”

White hadn’t taken his eyes off of the door, and he struggled to push himself up with his hooves and drag himself closer to the door. Scroll did his best to hold him back – being an earth pony, he was a great deal stronger than his companion, but it was still a struggle. He put his forelegs around White’s belly and planted his hind hooves into the floor, pulling White back as the unicorn continued to try to advance towards the precious water supply.

Just one bubble bath!


“I’ll do it cold!”


Scroll and White continued struggling, with Scroll on top trying to keep him under control. The blue pony looked around, his eyes frantically searching for some way to calm him down. His eyes fell on the door of the bunkroom, where Clip, presumably roused by the noise, was staring at them wide-eyed.

“Clip!” Scroll shouted. “Get me a brush! Quickly!”

Clip disappeared back into the bunkroom.

“I need my bubbles…” White moaned.

The colt reappeared in the doorway, brush in mouth.

“Quickly, give it to me!” Scroll called. Clip tossed the brush over and Scroll caught it in his mouth. While White continued babbling about how much he needed his bubble bath, Scroll lowered his head and ran the brush over the unicorn’s brown mane.

“I… I…” White breathed as he felt his companion draw the brush through his hair. He let out a few more breaths and lowered himself back down. “Ahh...”

He lowered his head to the floor, closing his eyes as his companion gently, gently brushed his mane. It was perhaps the best feeling he could have after running out of shampoo that morning.

Scroll continued brushing his partner’s mane and began massaging his back and shoulders. White let out a soft moan as his muscles relaxed, dissipating all tension and taking on the consistency of a big floppy pillow.

“Mmm...” he hummed to himself.

“Feel better?” Scroll asked.

“Mm-hmmmm...” said White, raising his head. “Ahh... you’re good at this. Slower... just a little slower...”


Tap looked at the bottle and shot glass in front of her. Curiously, she raised the glass in front of her eyes, examining the whiskey. Lifting the glass to her mouth, she downed the liquid.

“Wow,” she said, looking at the empty glass with an impressed expression. “Good stuff.”

“No shit,” said the general. “It’s my special stash.” He peered unctuously at her. “You can have a bottle to take home if you like. Fuck, take two.”

Tap looked around the tent – it was arranged with Quake’s usual necessities. There was his bunk, a large mattress with covers that hadn’t been re-arranged in a month. There was a map of the island. There was a list of ponies that annoyed him: the other generals, the brothers, the idiot lieutenant who dropped his gun in the lake, some privates who wouldn’t shut up...

“This the part where you tell me what you want for it?”

Quake gave a snort of laughter. “Nothing different from usual.”

“You’re in a good mood today,” she said. “What, did you just drop somepony down a hole?”

“Fucker deserved it.”


“I told him, ‘one more crack about the size of my dick...’”

Tap let out a snort of laughter.

“You don’t laugh when it’s in you.” Quake smirked. He sat down opposite her, pouring out himself a glass. “Horners are planning something,” he muttered. “King horner wants the cum-colored faggot to go with him and suck his cock. Just like the last one.”

“Oh, the last one...” said Tap. “He was kinda an asshole. Actually, they both were.”

“Wouldn’t bang?”

“Wouldn’t bang.”

“Should’ve thrown both of them off the moment they arrived,” said Quake. “Gotten rid of a huge headache.”

“Hey,” said Tap, “can’t argue with free food.”

“The only fucking thing they’re good for...” Quake said.

Tap poured herself another glass of whiskey and leaned back. “Y’know, I’m not sure whether I should drink this whiskey or sell it. Hard choice.”

“It’s fucking hard liquor,” Quake said.

“Might sell it,” said Tap. “If I can get some good money out of it I’ll be able to go awhile without whoring.”

Quake leaned forward. “What, you don’t enjoy it as much as I do?”

“Well, I don’t enjoy my brother’s pained expression every time a stallion walks up the stairs.”

“Maybe he should eat less if he doesn’t like it so much,” Quake grunted.

Tap swirled her drink around a little, thinking. Quake got up from the table and walked over to the tent entrance, shutting the flap. She downed the glass and put the stopper back on top of the bottle.

“Thanks,” she said, “I needed that.”

Her eyes fell on the bunk – she hesitated to call it a “bed.” Dirty, smelly, unwashed, un-made. Due to the water shortage, a pony could very rarely be expected to wash their sheets. Really, it came down to the decision between drinking and cleanliness, and thirst always won. Still, Quake’s bedclothes, while dirty and unkempt, had at least been drawn over the bunk in an effort to appear tidy. She smirked at that.

She looked back at Quake. His eyes were filled with lust and he lumbered towards her. The mare stood up, meeting him.

“Remember our first time?” he asked. “You were scared?”

“Well, you’re a scary guy.”

“Yes I am,” he said. “Pretty young mare, how long ago was it?”

“Six years.”

“Six years...” Quake smiled. “I remember the first time I saw you, trying to get that inn off the ground. I stepped into your tavern not paying any mind. Your kid brother damn near pissed himself when he saw me walk in. You didn’t.”

“I was still scared.”

“Didn’t show it, though.” He lifted a hoof, stroking her chin. “I liked that. How long’d you been whoring?”

“Not very long,” she said. “Only been maybe... four stallions? Five?”

“Didn’t like any of them, did you?”

“No,” said Tap, “but I pretended to. I was always good at pretending.”

“Pretended not to be scared of me.” Quake smiled, leaned in and kissed her. “Big scary general,” he said when he drew back.

“A fight had broken out,” Tap continued, walking towards the bed. “The tavern was a riot zone, ponies beating each other up, bottles flying, tables upturned, chairs broken.” She sat. “I couldn’t handle it. Barrel was nearly crying. Then you came in and everyone stopped. You said you’d wreck them all if they didn’t knock it off and they all left. Then you saw me.”

“I saw you standing there,” he said, sitting down next to her. “I asked for a drink. Asked who you were.”

“Just a girl,” she said. “Trying to get by.”

“And I thought it must be awful difficult,” he said. “Being on your own, looking after a kid brother.”

“It still is.”

“And I asked you how you managed. You got really uncomfortable. You looked at the floor...”

“I do... things,” said Tap. “I do other things on the side.”

“And that got me interested,” said Quake. He leaned in closer to her, close enough to feel her body heat, close enough for her to feel his breath on her neck. Slowly, she lay down on her back, looking up at the smiling general.

“You were terrified. You’d seen what I could do. The way I fucked up the ponies who got in my way, the way I made the island shake. You thought I was gonna snap you in half.” He lowered his head to her ear and whispered. “Because you know I could do that. But it was also exciting, wasn’t it?”

“Yes...” she breathed in his ear.

“And you liked it,” said Quake. “I was the first one you liked...” He hoisted himself over her, and slowly lowered down. “You’re more beautiful now than you were then...”

A loud bang from outside resounded, wrenching Quake out of his monologue.

“Oh FUCK YOU!” he roared, pulling himself off of the bed.

“Shoulda done it at my place,” Tap muttered.

Quake stormed out of the tent, rippling the flap open. “Who did that?” he snarled, looking around. “Who shot their fucking gun?”

The general’s eyes fell on two hapless shmucks who feebly attempted to hide their rifles behind their backs.

“Who shot?” asked the general. The soldiers promptly pointed at each other. “Better, actually,” Quake reasoned. “I can beat the shit out of both of you.”

“He started it!” protested one soldier, pointing away from them all. Quake’s gaze followed and saw nothing but a seagull perched atop the wall of the encampment. He looked back at them with a tired, incredulous expression.

“Fucking really?”

“He was making fun of us!” the other soldier complained, at which point the seagull stuck out its tongue and blew a raspberry at both of them.

“Oh, fucking piece of…” Quake grumbled. “You know what? Fuck it, you’ll both probably die in the next attack…” Something in the corner of his eye caught his attention – it was a small wooden crate. “The fuck is this?” He asked, tapping it with his hoof.

“It’s the, uh, the supplies from the Fraternity…”

Quake kicked the lid of the crate open. Inside was a paltry assortment of goods: milk, eggs, a brightly-colored blanket dotted with smiling faces that the general wouldn’t be caught dead sleeping in…

“This is it?” he asked, picking up a package of crackers.

“No, we let them keep a loaf of bread.” The soldier shrugged.

“What’s the holdup?” asked Tap who, not hearing any beatings, ventured out of the tent. “I kinda got other stuff to do today.”

“This is bullshit, they get more than this,” Quake muttered.

“Apparently not…” said the soldier through his teeth.

Tap looked down into the crate. Quake was right; this didn’t make sense. The first time the Fraternity had sent supplies, Quake had taken more than this and left the Fraternity with plenty to go around, including a rainbow in a box. Now it seemed like little more than a lazy grocery list. Something was wrong.


“So...” said White. “Bake sales don’t work.”

“Can’t really do a bake sale if we can’t bake anything to sell...” said Scroll.

“I get that, Scroll,” said White. The ‘How-Can-We-Get-Ponies-To-Join’ list floated in front of the unicorn’s face, trailing down to the floor. Sadly for the missionaries, many, many items had been crossed out.

“Can’t do bake sales,” said White, “not even going to try the water balloon toss.” He shook his head. “They send us a package of the things two weeks ago, but now they cut us off.”

“No, no, nothing like a party game is going to help,” Scroll muttered. “That’s been the case from day one.”

“Need to solve the water crisis...” said White. “Solve the water crisis, we get more members. But we need more members in order to solve the water crisis...”

“Maybe...” said Scroll. “Maybe if we tell them that we need them to sign up in order to solve the water shortage...”

White lay his head down on the desk. “It’s not fair. We were this close. If we’d got this figured out like, three weeks ago we’d’ve got it.”

Knock knock.

The missionaries stared at the door.

“Oh no...” said White.

“It’s gotta be the general,” said Scroll. “He’s gonna ask why we didn’t get more stuff, and he’s gonna be mad.” He took a breath. “Okay,” he said, removing his glasses. “I’ll take the hit.”

“The hit?”

“Well he’s probably gonna hit somepony...” Scroll cleared his throat. “Ahem. Come in!”

The door slowly opened as Tap stood in the doorway.

“Hey,” she said. “I heard about the... supply shortage? What’s going on?”

“Well, I was half right...” Scroll mumbled.

“The Fraternity isn’t happy,” said Brother White, blowing a lock of his mane out of his face. “We haven’t been doing so well, so they’ve cut back on the supplies we get.”

“And that means no more pie for a while.”

Tap sauntered over to the desk where they kept the membership list. “Y’know, I told you that ‘Brown Mound’ isn’t an actual pony.”

“We know,” the brothers moaned in unison.

“Just checking...” said Tap.

“Well, in any case...” Scroll sighed, putting his glasses back on. “White and I will go out knocking on doors... can’t think of anything better to do...”

Tap looked up from the list. “I actually wanted to ask about that.”


“What?” asked Barrel. “No!”

“Thank you for your concern, Barrel,” said Tap in a tone so dry that one could swear the drought got a little worse.

The various patrons in the bar couldn’t help but watch the scene – Barrel, his mouth hanging open in horror; Tap, her eyes narrowed and wishing for this awkward conversation to be over already.

“I don’t get it,” said Barrel.

“Look, I’m going to go out with him while he’s doing his door-knocking thing,” said Tap. “It isn’t complicated.”

“But why? Tap, you can’t...” Then the realization hit him. He leaned in, and asked, in a low, accusing voice, “did you sleep with him?”


“Did you sleep with him?”

Tap paused. The dull murmur of the bar patrons, the occasional thud of a stein hitting the table, punctuated by Barrel’s accusing stare, filled her silence with a sense of guilt and dread.

“Yes,” said Tap. “I did.”

Barrel let out an outraged sputter.

“It was their first day on the island. They’d had it pretty bad, found out that this wasn’t a nice place. They stopped by here one night. I gave them some drinks, I saw that Scroll liked me... I thought I’d give him his first lay.”

“And now he wants more, huh?” Barrel asked bitterly.

“Barrel, you’re overreacting.”

“You two both go behind my back like this and I’m overreacting?”

“Barrel, stop...”

“No, you stop!” shouted Barrel. The a swift hush fell over the tavern. Barrel looked around and he felt suddenly self-conscious, almost ashamed. He looked down.

“I sleep with tons of guys,” said Tap, “why is this–”

“Stop treating me like I’m retarded...” he said in a soft voice.

Tap looked down at the ground, sighing. She then looked back up at Barrel, who was making a conscious effort not to look her in the face. “Brother White will be over here in a bit. He’ll help you with the customers.” She leaned over the counter. “And be patient with him. He's under a lot of stress."


“Barrel,” said Tap, “he’s a nice guy. You know him.”

Barrel didn’t respond. The door swung open.

“Heh-loooooo!” called Brother White. “I, uh...” He looked around and blinked. “I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here.”

Tap smiled and beckoned him over to the counter. “It’s very simple,” she explained. “I’ve got everything organized so you can find it.”

“No labels?”

“No,” said Tap, “that’d be stupid. Besides, it’s the middle of the day, so nopony’ll want anything fancier than a beer or a whiskey. But I made a little list, just in case.”

White floated the slip of paper in front of him. “Okay,” he said, his eyes flicking across it. “I think I can handle it.” He made his way behind the counter. “Sure. Got it. Totally got it.” He turned around, comparing the bottles on the shelf to his list. “Okay...”

“Anything I should know?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing much,” White said with a shrug. “Scroll should be able to give you the basics. Just be polite, knock, smile, and always wish them a nice day. Y’know?”

“I think so.”

Tap gave one last look at Barrel, who was still sulking at the counter next to the oblivious unicorn. She sighed before turning to walk out the door. The streets were busy as the various ponies went about their work, save for one pony who had been waiting by the door. His tie had been ironed, his nametag polished, and his mane neatly combed.

“Certainly got yourself prettied up for this, didn’t you?” she asked.

“Eheheh...” Scroll giggled, fidgeting with his glasses.

“This makes good on that promise for a date I made back in Hearth’s Warming.” She looked around. “So, you’re gonna take me for a walk through old brown town?”

Scroll gave a smile and nodded. “Something like that.”

The pair began their walk down the road, off to the side so as to avoid getting hit by a hurrying passer-by.

“Not polite to ask somepony who looks like they’re in a hurry,” said Scroll. “It just makes them resent you. Well...” He stopped, chewing over what he just said. “More than usual. In any case, the important thing is that they know you’re there. That’s what the ties and nametags are for.”

“Well, your friend already does that by himself,” Tap remarked. “I mean, the horn on his head in a town where ponies don’t have horns.”

“Well, yeah, for here,” said Scroll, fidgeting with his glasses again. “But in general, on other missions in places that, well...”

“Aren’t here,” said Tap. “What other sorts of places to missionaries get sent to?”

“Well, anywhere, really. There are lots of places in Equestria and out. Heh...” He chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. “Before I went on this mission I’d never been outside Equestria. Well, this mission had a lot of firsts for me.”

“One comes to mind.”

“Well, uh, that is...” Scroll shook his head and continued walking without finishing that sentence.

The two made their way through the marketplace. Scroll carefully waded through, trying to be as polite as possible. Tap, however, was more direct, cutting through the crowds like a knife, an art honed by years of practice rushing through the market to get to the best deal or to get home.

“Tap, wait up!” called Scroll.

Tap turned around and saw Scroll apologetically picking through the crowd. When he finally caught up with her, his breath was short as he was winded, and he let out a nervous chuckle.

“C’mon,” said Tap. “Teach me how to knock on doors.”


White, despite his slightly shaky condition, seemed to find himself fairly capable when it came to serving drinks. A customer would say:

“Hey, horner, give me a beer.”

White would consult the piece of paper Tap had given him, turn to the mess of bottles behind him, and then procure the correct bottle. He would then turn back to the customer, who often looked at the magically floating bottle with suspicion, and give them the bottle and a smile.

Barrel continued at his job, almost wordlessly, still stewing about what had happened earlier. He wiped down the counter, his brow furrowed, occasionally muttering to himself.

“Barrel?” asked White. “You okay?”

“How is it you’re doing okay at this?” Barrel asked. “You don’t get confused or flustered with the orders or...”

“Well, I got a list,” said White, looking it over. “I mean, it spells everything out.”

Barrel grumbled some more. “I can’t believe it.”

“What do you mean?”

“How long have you known about this? About my sister and Scroll?”

White took a deep breath. “The whole time,” White said.

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“It wasn’t my place to tell you.” White shrugged. Barrel resumed his grumbling. “Look, Barrel...”

“Everypony keeps saying ‘look, Barrel,’” Barrel mumbled.

“Listen, Barrel, I know exactly how you feel,” said White. “I have lots of brothers and sisters. And I’m very close to them, and back when I was in school, well, when we were all in school, they started dating. And, well, I got jealous. That’s just how life is.”

“Yeah,” said Barrel. “But you have a bunch of brothers and sisters. I only have one.”

“Well...” White grimaced.

“Well, lookit who’s in charge of the joint now,” said a voice that sent a chill down White’s spine. He turned and saw a familiar brown pony setting down next to the counter. Carpenter. “Bet you’re glad that your whorefriend got you out of that.”

“Very,” said White. “I’m also thankful to Scroll, Barrel, Clip, and the general. Now, anything I can get–”

“And to me,” said Carpenter, “because I don’t shoot you right now.”

White blinked. “Thank you?”

“Hey,” said Barrel. “Fuck off. He didn’t molest your shitstain of a kid.”

“Watch your mouth, fatass,” Carpenter snapped. “Your whore sister isn’t here.”

Are you going to order a drink?” asked White, his high tenor voice cutting over theirs. “Or are you just going to insult me? Because really, I’ve been here for a few months. You keep calling me names I don’t get and then you try to murder me.”

“You’re a foal-fiddler.”

“See?” asked White. “Calling me names I don’t get.”

“Oh, look who’s being clever?”

“I’m not clever, really,” insisted White. “Just ask Scroll or Barrel or Tap. Tap’s clever, she’s got a whole lot of zingers. I mean, Scroll’s the brains of this–”

Carpenter cut Brother White off with a hoof across the face. The tavern went silent as all eyes were fixed on the earth pony and the unicorn, staring at each other. White raised a hoof to his cheek.

“What?” asked Carpenter. “Not gonna fight?”

“I reserve the right to refuse service to anypony, for any reasons,” said White. “Please leave.”

Carpenter looked around. “This isn’t over, horner.” He snorted and turned to leave.

“Finally, an insult I know the definition of,” muttered White, turning back to Barrel. “Unfortunately it isn’t much of an insult.”

Barrel sighed. “I’m gonna go out back and take out the garbage, okay?”

“Okay,” said White, returning to count the bottles on the shelf.

Barrel grabbed a dustbin and made his way out of the back door. Part of him knew that he shouldn’t be so grumpy. After all, if Tap was going to be in a relationship, Barrel could easily reason that one of the missionaries would be a lot nicer to her than one of her usual clients. Still, the fact that they’d done this behind his back...


Barrel’s ears pricked up.

“Psst!” it said again.

Barrel looked around the alleyway, searching for the source of the noise.

“Up here!” hissed the voice. Barrel looked up and saw a very familiar pink colt handing from the roof above.

“Clip, what are you doing here?” asked Barrel.

“White said I should be working on my reading,” said Clip. “But this is more important!”


“Scroll and Tap are going out!” exclaimed Clip. “They’re out walking and stuff!”

“I know,” drolled Barrel, dumping the garbage into a larger bin.

“We have to stop them!” said Clip, his voice squeaking from his excitement. “They could... they could kiss!

“Oh, that’s all?” asked Barrel. “Look, I kinda got a job to do.”

“But this is important!” Clip whined. “Besides, White’s in there. Can’t he just do it?”

Barrel stopped and thought for a moment. Clip had a point – White seemed to be handling himself awfully fine in there...

“Okay, let’s do it. What’s the plan?”

“I have lots and lots of plans,” said Clip, grinning. “It’s time for Operation: End Date.”


Scroll trotted up to the door of one of the many houses on the road. “Okay, this house usually goes over okay. The guy who lives here is usually very friendly, always says hi. His wife, on the other hand...”

Tap knocked on the door and waited. “So,” she said, “why hasn’t he joined up? I mean, why do you keep knocking?”

“Just being neighborly,” said Scroll. “It’s part of being a good friend.” He chuckled. “And maybe sometime when his wife isn’t looking he can slip over to the mission house and sign our roster.”

The door opened and a mare peered out, glaring at the two.

“Oh, lovely. Where’s the other one?”

“He’s taking the day off from mission duty,” said Scroll. “Doing something less stressful.”

“Well, my husband ain’t home. And he ain’t goin’ with you,” said the mare, before slamming the door in his face.

“I don’t get why she doesn’t like us,” said Scroll as they made their way back down the pathway.

“Maybe she’s afraid you’ll seduce her husband,” suggested Tap.

Scroll looked at her. “Huh? Why would I do that?”

“Not saying you would,” said Tap. “Juuuuust saying.”

Scroll stopped and blinked, trying to figure out exactly what Tap was ‘juuuuust saying.’

“C’mon,” she said, tapping him on the shoulder. “Show me some more.” The two resumed their walk down the road. “Y’know, haven’t you visited pretty much everypony in town?”

“Probably,” said Scroll. “But every time there’s an attack and the houses change, it’s hard to keep track.” He nodded to a house with a large dog chained up in the yard. “That house we generally avoid. The dog’s very mean, and I think he might’ve been trained to attack unicorns on sight…”

“Unicorns and pegasi,” said Tap, “most likely.” She saw Scroll was smiling at her, and stopped. “What?”

“You didn’t use racial slurs.”

“What?” Tap laughed, resuming her walk. “Well, of course I wouldn’t use them around you.”

“You used to,” said Scroll, following. “But now you don’t.”

“What’s your point, exactly?”

“No point,” said Scroll, smiling slyly. “Juuuuust saying.”

Tap stopped and wheeled around to face him. “Oh,” she said playfully, “is this your way of flirting?”


“Okay!” said Clip, checking the elasticity of the cables. They had hooked up a large slingshot between two posts. Barrel sat, drawing back the cradle with a water balloon. “I knew these would be great!”

“But…” said Barrel. “There’s a water shortage. Isn’t this wasteful?”

“But this is about love!” protested Clip. He wheeled around, setting his sights on the two earth ponies. Grinning, he rubbed his front hooves together. “This will ruin their date. They’ll hate it so much that they’ll break up, and then Scroll can be with White...”

“Seems like an awful lot of water in here…”



“Aimfire!” Clip squeaked, prompting Barrel to release the water balloon out of pure surprise. They both watched as the brightly-colored ball hurtled towards its destination, striking Scroll squarely in the head and exploding.

Scroll and Tap were both soaked, their manes drenched. Tap jumped back, while Scroll just stood there, a look of abject shock on his face.

“Quick! Before they see!” yelled Clip as he ducked behind a cart, leaving Barrel to clumsily try to not only get up, but scoop up the slingshot and get behind cover with Clip. However, Barrel’s size made it difficult. “No! No! You’re too fat!” protested Clip, forcing Barrel to hole up behind another cart.


“White spent something like ten minutes on my mane,” said Scroll. “I think he feels better when he’s focused on something like that.”

Tap laughed, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. “Well, at least that’s a bit of water that I won’t have to pay for.” She smiled and looked at Scroll. “Think I might like that manestyle better.”

“Huh?” asked Scroll. “Well, I, uh, thank you?” he stammered. “Yours looks really good, too?”


“Psst!” Clip called to Barrel from the other side of the street. “Are they mad?”

Barrel peered out from behind his cart. “No, they’re... no! She’s nuzzling him!” he whispered as loudly as he could.

“What?!” Clip squawked, poking his own head out.

“Hey, kid,” said one of many, many gruff voices on the island. Clip looked up and saw the proprietor of the fruit cart he was hiding behind. “Are you gonna buy something or just keep playing hide-and-seek?”

“Hiding,” said Clip.


White wondered just where on Earthquake Island Barrel had gone off to. As it was, White was left alone to handle the orders coming in. It was slightly easier than expected, as it seemed his presence behind the counter made the tavern a little less popular than it normally would have been. After all, not only was he a unicorn, but his unease around the liquor, as though he weren’t old enough to be in the place, was off-putting for many customers. Also, the patrons didn’t deem him as pretty as Tap.

As two other ponies made their way out of the tavern, the door flew open. The loud hoofsteps on the ground told White who it was before he even instinctively turned his head to see.

“Alright! Time to get drunk and laid!” called General Quake who, from the way his eyes wandered with disinterested abandon, may have well been drunk already. “Now,” he said, looking to the counter, “where’s my NO! No no no no no no NO! Fuck you! Fuck you, you fucking horner! Where the fuck is Tap?”

“She’s out with Scroll,” said White. “I’m in charge for today.”

“Why don’t you magic yourself into a contortionist, bend over, and fuck yourself up the ass with your horn!”

“Uhh…” said White, “my magic only works on mouths. I’m going to be a dentist, and… I don’t think I really like things up my butt. I mean, after what you did…”

Quake looked around at the patrons around him, all of them staring at him, wondering if they’d heard Brother White correctly.

“Look, Quake, that hurt. I don’t want any more of it.”

The pupils of Quake’s eyes went tiny. For once, he felt as though the eyes of everypony else in the bar were boring into him. And they were – the bar was completely silent, and nopony was sure whether or not it was safe to laugh or say anything, or even breathe. Quake was a mountain ready to explode.

“Uhh, Quake?” asked White. “You, uh, want a drink?”

“Listen, you little punk,” Quake snarled through his teeth, “nothing happened between us. You got that?”

“What?” asked White. “I just wanted to make you happy, and you...”

Shut up!” Quake hissed. He slammed his hoof down, cracking the counter nearly in half. “Shut up you idiot! I’m already pissed off because your little gay fag club stopped sending supplies!”

White drew back against the shelf. “Listen, I-I-I-I can’t–”

“Write a fucking letter!”

“Listen, Quake, the Fraternity’s cut down on us because we aren’t doing very well!” White tried to explain, a hint of frantic desperation in his voice.

“Then do better!” Quake said. Forgetting that he wanted a drink, he turned to leave.

“Uhh, you broke the...”

“Fuck you.”

The tavern remained silent for a good minute after Quake left, after which the bar patrons resumed their business.

"Reminds me of my relationship with my wife," said one of them.


“Okay,” said Barrel, steadying the bucket. “As soon as they walk under, we dump it on them!”

“Yeah!” agreed Clip.

They sat on the roof, watching Scroll and Tap make their way down the street. In between the saboteurs was a bucket filled with sawdust. Barrel looked down at the ground – to him, the distance was dizzying.

“Oh dear...” he said. He looked around at the thatched wooden rooftops of the town, stretching out around here. “How’d I even get up here...?”

“It’s not that high.”

“Not for you, you’re a pegasus and you weigh like ten times less than me,” Barrel said, shifting his weight as the roof creaked beneath him.


Meanwhile on the street below, Tap and Scroll continued their walk. They had had no success with the door-knocking so far, and were on the way to another part of the town to try again.

“I’ve known the general for a long time,” said Tap. “Only things he likes are sex and violence.”

Scroll paused, his expression drawn into a quizzical scrunch. “Sooooo...” He thought. “Would he like us if we had sex with him?”

Tap’s mind then led to a colorful image...

“The reason I’m so angry,” said Quake. “It’s just that I’m so... so frustrated.”

“I understand,” said White, nodding understandingly.

“I just... I want to be honest about myself,” said Quake. “Can I? Can I be that with you?”

“You can be as honest as you like around me.”

“That is... the worst thing I have ever imagined,” said Tap. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Neither would I...” said Scroll, sticking his tongue out.

The two stopped and sat down on the side of the road. They watched as some ponies went by, doing whatever it was they were doing. Making deliveries. Going for walks. Whatever.

“It’s gotta get old,” said Tap. “Failing over and over again?”

“We at the Fraternity prefer to think of it as ‘delayed success.’”

“That only works if you succeed,” said Tap.

“Well,” said Scroll. “I’m not going to admit I’m a failure, am I?” He smiled, entreating her to laugh. She didn’t. “Well,” he said, “the door-knocking isn’t doing so well. I’ve been hoping that with our little water thingy we’d become a bit more popular...”

“Well, it works, at least,” she said.

“Yes.” Scroll nodded. “I mean, we can only get so much water, but if we can make enough to relieve just some of the drought...” He sighed. “Seriously, it’s exhausting hauling those barrels of sea water back and forth.”

Tap laughed. “And that library thing of yours?”

“Well, that’s been a bit on the back burner since we started with the water,” said Scroll. “I still have the books all locked up in the trunk.”

“I look forward to seeing how you pull it off,” she said flatly.

“Yeah...” said Scroll. “So do I.” He shifted his weight and started to stand up. “But I hope for the best.” He grinned. “I’m excited about it.”

“Somehow I don’t think the ponies here love books the way you do,” said Tap.

“That’s a shame,” said Scroll. “I love reading. Ever since I learned my ABCs.”

Tap rolled her eyes. “I know a bunch of ponies who can’t even get that far. I’ve never found stories very useful.”

“Stories are everything to me,” said Scroll. He looked up at the sky (Barrel scurried back in a panic). “Stories are... well, they’re worlds. Huge, amazing different worlds, filled with all kinds of things – wonder, magic, horror...”

“I’ve got plenty enough of that here,” said Tap. “Sometimes I think I could do with a little less of the real stuff, never mind the made-up stuff.”

“But they take us places,” said Scroll. “Don’t they?”

“Gotta come back, though.”

Scroll looked back down. “Well, yes,” he conceded. “But maybe you can bring just a little bit with you. Anyway...” He adjusted his glasses. “That’s enough of a break, I think.” He got up. “Well, let’s go.”

“Might wanna wait...”

“Nonsense!” said Scroll, walking on. “There’s too few hours in the–” Thud.

Because he hadn’t taken Tap’s advice, Scroll had stumbled right into a burly, scowling stallion. “Erm...” Scroll looked up. “Sorry.”

The stallion didn’t change his expression. “Well maybe you should watch where you’re going next time.”

“Yes...” Scroll backed up. “Yes, I’ll do that from now...” He bumped into Tap and jumped. Tap was wearing that sort of pained expression that comes when someone is trying very hard not to laugh.

“Whatever,” said the stallion, resuming on his way. “Just get out of my–” Suddenly, a light brown cloud dropped right over his head. “CAUGH!” he coughed. Tap and Scroll just stared at him. “What the–” The stallion looked up, just in time to find a bucket hit him square in the face with a loud clang. The other two jumped in surprise.

“Umm...” said Scroll, looking up. He couldn’t see anypony, but he could swear he heard something that sounded like a muffled argument.


“You waited too long!” Clip hissed.

“I had to get it so they wouldn’t see me!”

“Well you missed!”

“I was aiming for Scroll!”

“What?” asked Clip. “No, you should’ve been aiming for her!”

“I’m not gonna dump sawdust on my sister!” He paused. “Does it even matter as long as they break up?”

“Huh...” Clip rubbed his chin. Barrel sat down on the roof, relieved that he could rest his entire weight straight down without worrying about falling off the edge.

“So next plan?” he asked.

“I dunno...” said Clip. “I thought it wouldn’t take this long.”

“You said you had lots of plans!”

“I have one more idea...”


Tap was unsurprised when Scroll failed to give a book to any of the ponies he approached. After all, if the missionaries had failed a hundred times, there was no reason why attempt number one-hundred-one would be a success.

She had stood and watched as, every time, Scroll had been met with flat rejection, scorn and contempt, or outright suspicion. At every door she kept her eyes on his face – the nervous, wavering smile, the glasses he fidgeted with, the uncertain attempts at holding eye contact. All of it, showing he tried so, so hard, but never quite succeeding.

“Well, yeah, but what are we going to do?” asked Scroll. “Just stay in the mission house all day?”

“Well, yeah,” said Tap, “but I don’t see the point in going out when you’re only going to be met with failure.”

“I’m kinda used to it,” said Scroll. “Really, the thing that really bums me is that with less supplies we can’t have our free breakfasts.”

“I gotta admit,” said Tap, “I honestly think that the Missionary House of Pancakes was a pretty good idea.”

Scroll smiled. “Thanks.”

They continued on their way. Tap never found the town a nice place for walking. As far as she was concerned, if you saw one brown building then you’d seen them all, no matter how many times they were rebuilt. Barrel liked to go down to the docks or the beach for his seagulls, but she never understood the appeal of those dumb birds that didn’t seem to do anything but steal food.

But then, there were a lot of things Tap didn’t understand. As they came to the docks, she did have to admit that there was something pleasant about it: a sense of pleasant solitude, away from the dusty town. “You know,” she said, “you could probably sell the water.”

Scroll stopped. “Sell it?” he asked, a horrified expression crossing his face. “No. No no no. We’re not in this to make money.”

“So you just give it away,” said Tap. “And what does that get you?”

“What we ‘get’ isn’t what’s important,” said Scroll. “After all, it’s like the book says: you have to share, you–”

“You have to care,” droned Tap. “Yes, I did actually read your book – up to a point, anyway – but please, I’ve heard enough about the whole ‘how we do it in Equestria’ thing.” She turned around and looked at Scroll. Scroll had stopped stiff, unsure of what he should say. She sighed. “You know, I’m still not completely sure that Equestria really exists. A place where ponies play in the rain? Seriously, that’s impossible.”

“Well, we don’t use rain as a weapon,” said Scroll, shrugging. “Actually...” He paused, thinking. “Mom never let me play in the rain. Always worried I’d catch a cold...”

Tap shook her head and sat down on a crate.


“What’s that?” asked Clip in the darkness.

“I think she sat on us,” said Barrel. “Do I let out the spiders now?”

“Not yet.”


“Tap, I...” Scroll stopped.


Scroll uneasily sat down next to her.

“Well, I was just thinking...” He said. “When our mission is over, White and I will be going back to Equestria. And we’ll be taking Clip back with us, and, well... I think you and your brother should come with us.”


Barrel froze, his hoof still on the lid of the jar of spiders.


“Excuse me?” asked Tap.

“Well...” said Scroll, fidgeting with his glasses. “Yeah.”

Tap stared at him. She stared at him for what must have been a good half of a minute before she laughed. “This is dumb. What would I do there?”

“Well, what would you like to do?”

“You... what do you mean?”

“Well...” Scroll shrugged. “Think about it. What kind of life would you like to lead? If you could do anything other than what you’re doing now, what would it be?”

Tap looked away from him, out to sea, out to Equestria. She thought.

I own a restaurant. I run the tavern pretty well, so I could run a restaurant. Except this one would be nicer. The ponies there wouldn’t be a bunch of rude drunks. Nothing too fancy, just a nice easy place to grab a bite to eat. Obviously, there are... unicorns and pegasi there, but I can get used to that. I mean, in Equestria they aren’t trying to wreck my house. Both with the customers and employees. Yeah, I can actually have other ponies working for me. I’ve got a couple waiters. A guy at the front who talks in a stupid accent. Barrel still helps me, of course, but a little less than normal. He’s got a little marefriend he’s really shy around, but they’re cute together...

She got up from the crate and walked over to the edge of the dock. Her body was tense, locked up and stiff from trying to keep herself from doing something stupid.

“Tap?” asked Scroll. “Are you okay?”

“Live in Equestria...” She muttered bitterly. “Me. Tap the whore.”


Furiously, the mare whirled around. “How could I possibly live someplace like that? How could I even get used to it after living here my whole life?” She turned her head to the side. “How could I even deserve it? Deserve anything you’ve given me? And it gets worse...” Scroll leaned back on the crate as she returned her gaze to him, her eyes penetrating him. “You keep giving. You keep coming back to me, you and White keep making all these crazy efforts with the town and the island and probably with the other two if you get the chance, what with White’s stupid stunt with General Storm. And you can’t seem to get that maybe nopony here even deserves it.”

Scroll took a deep breath. “Does that really matter? Besides.” He smiled weakly. “I think you and your brother deserve it, if nopony else.”

She gave a sudden, snorty laugh. “That’s just because you don’t know me. There’s... there’s no way I could possibly live somewhere like that. Not me.” Her voice darkened, and she stared right at Scroll. “You know, on Hearth’s Warming Eve, when you gave me your mother’s locket, the absolute first thing I thought? I wondered how much money I could get if I sold it. And that same day when you and White were giving away toys, I saw Buzz. I hit him. Knocked him down, grilled him. I told him he was a little closet case and that he wanted White to do all those things he said he did. Made him run off and forget his present. Want to hear more?

“About a year ago a young mare came up to me, wanted to pay me to make love to her. I laughed at her, called her an ugly dyke. I remember the look on her face, and I remember I thought it was funny. And then I’ve blackmailed ponies. Seduced them, made them sleep with me, then soaked them for all they were worth so I wouldn’t tell their wives. Sometimes I went ahead and told them anyway, once I got all I could out of it.

“And then there’s the general. The general goes around bullying you and your friend, and you know what? I’m with him. I’ve been with him in all kinds of terrible ways. And even if I got... involved with you I’d still be sleeping with him. Because that’s what I am. A whore. And he’s paying. And if your friend White paid me I’d sleep with him, too.

“And my brother, my brother, my kid brother. I’ve lied to him about us the whole time. I’ve always lied to him about what I do. He hates what I do for a living, and I keep doing it. I always say it’s because I need to do it to support us, but sometimes I wonder if... if there isn’t another way. And every time I sleep with someone I know he hates himself for it.”

She laughed, rubbing her temple with her hoof. “It’s funny. I could soak you, get you to spend all your money on me, maybe even get your parents’ money, and you’d do it even if you didn’t get sex out of it. That’s the kind of thing I do. I lie, cheat, steal, sleep my way through life. And you. You’re just sitting there like you don’t have any idea what to say. You act like you love me, and why? Because one night I pretended to love you?”

Scroll’s mouth hung open just a little, in the way one holds themselves when they’re trying hard to think of the right words. Tap snorted in disgust and turned around, sitting and looking back out over the water. There were no ships in the docks. They were barren and empty, as was the sea before them.

Slowly, Scroll rose and approached her. “I think,” he said, sitting down beside, “that you’re much kinder than you think you are.” When she didn’t respond, he continued. “I mean, I’ve done some bad things too...”

“Like what?”

“Well...” He sighed. “I lied to a child.” He looked down at the water. “I told an awful lie to a child.”


Clip paused his breathing.


“He asked me if I had a lot of friends back home,” he said. “And I said I did. The truth is I don’t. I never had any friends back home. Not until I met Brother White.”

Tap didn’t say anything. She just scowled.

“When it comes to friends I have more here than I did at home,” said Scroll. “I have White. Barrel. And you.” He looked at her. He searched for something else to say.

“What do you want from me?” she asked, almost despairingly. “How can you want me? You said it isn’t so you can sleep with me, so what is it? Please, explain it to me. I don’t understand...”

“I’d do anything for you, Tap,” said Scroll. “I care about you. Just like I’d do anything for White. You’re not ‘Tap the whore’ to me. You’re special. You’re smart, kind, funny... I want to make you happy. I...”

“I can’t even have foals,” she said abruptly, cutting Scroll off. “I should be more... more like family to Barrel than I am. ‘Cause he’s the only family I have. He’s the only family I’ll ever have...”

Scroll was silent for a minute. Satisfied that there was nothing Scroll could say, she got up and turned to walk back up the dock.

“I should get back to the tavern,” she said. “There’s no telling how much trouble those two are in.”

Scroll stood up and turned. “Tap, wait.”

Tap stopped. A seagull had perched on the crate, looking at the two with a look of amusement and vague puzzlement.

“All these things you’re saying about yourself,” said Scroll, “that you think make you worthless. They don’t matter.”

“Why? Because you like me?”

“No.” Scroll shook his head. “Because you’re you.” They were silent for a moment. “At least...” He approached her. “Let me walk you back to your inn? I can pick up White there.”

“Well...” Tap thought. “Could we stop by the mission house on the way?”


White had to work around the large, broken section of the counter. He couldn’t lay drinks on it, at any rate. Worse yet, it was getting late, and business was starting to pick up. All he could do was hope that Barrel got back soon. He was running out of beers and ales and the list had neglected to mention where more were located in the cellar. Presumably that would’ve been Barrel’s task.

Thankfully, Barrel burst in through the side door, out of breath. “Huff... Sorry.”

“Barrel?” asked White. “Where’ve you been? Oh, sorry...” He floated a mug over to an impatient customer.

“I... had... huhh... to go... to the bathroom.”

“The bathroom?” asked White. “You were gone for hours.”

Barrel stopped. “I...” He took a few deep breaths. “I had the trots.”

“Oh,” said White. “Eww.

The front door opened and Tap and Scroll walked in.

“Hellooowhat the fuck?” exclaimed Tap at the sight of the counter.

“The, uh...” said Brother White, rubbing the back of his neck. “The general came in and I think I annoyed him again. I’m not completely sure how... Aside from that I think almost everything went fine. Though a lot of the customers said something about ‘fagging up the place...’” He shook his head. “So yeah... sorry about the counter.”

“He’ll probably help me get a new one,” laughed Tap. “Thank you, Scroll.”

“Thank you,” he said, turning back to White. “Clip was already in bed when I got back. So, ready to go?”

“Sure thing,” said White, stepping out from behind the counter. “Serving drinks is certainly an interesting change of pace. It’s fascinating, watching as somepony in front of you gets progressively, well...”

Scroll giggled. “C’mon,” he said. “Let’s go. We’ve got more work tomorrow.” He looked back at Tap. “See you tomorrow?”

“See you tomorrow.” The two exchanged a smile before Scroll and White turned to leave. She watched as they exited the door, to return to the mission house and, Tap imagined, obliviously cuddle. Once the door shut she had a look at the counter, split in the middle where the general had struck it. “White needs to be more careful,” she said.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Barrel was just standing there. “Barrel?” she asked. “Are you okay?”

Barrel didn’t say anything. He just went up to his sister and hugged her.


Back in the mission house, the membership list read as follows:

Brother Pearly White

Brother Scroll Page


Bottle Top

Salty Streams

Brown Mound



Faggy McFagfag


Chapter 23

General Quake had a problem. Ponies were beginning to talk.

Normally he didn’t care if other ponies talked about him.They could say whatever they liked, and he could beat the shit out of them if he didn’t like it. If a pony called him an asshole? Quake would beat the shit out of him. If a pony called Quake a brute? Quake would beat the shit out of him. If a pony said Quake was desperately overcompensating for something? Well, Quake could always complain to Tap about that, after he beat the shit out of him. Therefore, violence seemed at first to be the ideal solution to his new problem.

On his way back to his camp, he saw five young stallions – new meat shields for the army. Two of them he noticed were engaged in a conversation, one of them with an expression of mischievous glee and the other with a look of abject terror. This was where Quake got annoyed.

“Oh yeah,” said the gleeful one. “He likes to fuck the pretty ones, I hear. Better start getting ugly.”

“The fuck is this?” asked the general. The five young soldiers all wheeled around. The terrified one, however, kept his rear planted firmly on the ground. Quake, however ignored him and went straight for the one who had been talking. “You making funny out of me?” The smiled dropped right from the soldier’s face. “You think I’m a funny guy, you cocksucker?”

“Well, no, I, uh...” the soldier stammered. Quake, however, didn’t give him the chance to fumble for an excuse. He grabbed the soldier by the scruff of the neck, and as he frantically cried “wait, WAIT!” he hurled him into the air. The four soldiers watched, slack-jawed, as their companion went careening over the town. The general turned to them.

“So, anyone else think I’m fucking funny?”

The others just stared at him, save for the one who was sitting terrified on the ground. Quake snorted at him.

“Well? Get up.”

“Please don’t rape me...” the soldier sniveled.

Quake slammed a hoof into the ground, and the earth shook. The soldiers stumbled, with the sitting one jumping to his feet.