The Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
The full moon shone bright and pale upon the sleeping village of Ponyville, its silver glow punctuated by the warm patches of light that flowed from the villagers’ candlelit windows. It was a chill and anxious sort of night, the sort that most ponies did their level best to avoid, and as a result, the streets and alleyways that so often thrummed with cheerful activity during the day were now desolate and empty. Empty, that is, save for the two figures who moved silently among the houses on the outskirts of town.
The first of these figures was equine in form, but little else could be determined about him for his face and body were hidden beneath a cowled robe, bound about the waist and forelegs with broad leather bands. The second figure, who rode upon the back of the first, was the more distinctive of the two, for he was not equine at all, but rather short, stocky, purple, scaly, and also bipedal. He has also bound and blindfolded.
“Are we there yet?” asked Spike for the seventeenth time.
“Not much farther,” said his carrier, his voice thin and wry.
“C’mon Doc, you can at least tell me which direction we’re headed.”
“Yeah, no I can’t.”
“Please?” asked Spike, as sweetly as he could muster.
“No. But thank you for being so polite about it,” said Doctor Whoof with a grin. “Also, don’t call me by name. Even in passing. We don’t want to expose ourselves.”
“Whatever. Just wake me up when we get there.”
* * *
After what seemed like an hour, Doctor Whoof came to a stop.
“We’re here. Keep quiet,” he breathed.
Spike listened intently as Whoof raised his hoof and twice sounded a series of four knocks upon a wooden door. After a short while, there was a loud creak as the door swung open on rusty hinges.
“Who goes there?” demanded a deep, methodical voice that Spike swore he recognised.
“It is I, Brother Whoof. I bring the new initiate. Have the others already arrived?”
“Eeyup,” said the deep-voiced pony.
“Splendid. Come now, Spike. And watch your head.”
Spike, still struggling to place that familiar voice, did not immediately hear the Doctor’s warning as they descended into the darkness.
“Say that agai- Ow!”
“Told you to watch your head.”
Down the cold stone steps trod Whoof, as Spike grumbled upon his back at his inability to nurse the bump on his head. Blindfolded as he was, Spike wondered where they could be. He could heard the crisp clatter of Whoof’s hooves on the stairs, he sensed the enclosed feeling of being underground, and he could smell the all encompassing stench of... apples?
“And here we are,” said Whoof quietly.
The Doctor sat upon his haunches to gently let Spike to the floor. The distinctive aura of unicorn magic enclosed around Spike’s head as the blindfold was lifted away. Spike blinked, his eyes taking their sweet time to adjust to the dim light of the lone candle that guttered upon the round wooden table in the centre of the room. In addition to himself and Doctor Whoof, seven other stallions were grouped around the table, all cowled and robed like the Doctor.
“Where are we?” asked Spike, desperately searching around for any clue as to their location.
“A secret place,” said one of the hooded stallions.
“It’s best if you don’t know for now,” said another.
Spike’s gaze settled upon the unmistakable outline of a barrel. Several barrels in fact.
“We’re in one of Applejack’s apple cellars aren’t we?”
Doctor Whoof rewarded Spike’s deductions with a swift kick to the backside.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“Enough!” said the stallion who had first answered Spike’s question. “Now that we are all assembled, it is time to begin. Brother Macintosh, as our host this week, you will do the honours.”
The stallion that Spike now recognised as Applejack’s older brother nodded. Taking a deep breath, he raised his right hoof in an insurmountable gesture of triumph, which then degenerated into a series of dainty flicks.
“And a one, and a two, and a one, two, three.”
At this signal the stallions suddenly broke into song. They sang in unison, without music or, as far as Spike could tell, intelligible lyrics. In fact they seemed to be singing in another language which, Spike noted, was very possibly the case. Their singing was radically different from that of the mares with whom he normally held company; their voices were low and deep-throated, the notes slow, simple, and melodic. After about half a minute, the chant ended in a loud crescendo which the stallions punctuated with a collective gesture towards the centre of the table. For a moment there was only silence.
“Right, now that that’s out of the way, can somepony get the lights?”
“I think the switch is over by Brother Caramel,” said Big Macintosh.
“Where? I can’t find it?”
“Oh for crying out- let me do it.”
“Idiot,” muttered a derisive voice to Spike’s right.
At that moment, a ceiling lamp flickered to life above the table, casting the whole room in a warm glow. The stallions now lowered their hoods, revealing their faces for the young dragon to see.
Directly across from himself and the chestnut-maned Doctor, Spike easily recognised the freckled red face of Big Macintosh. To the farmpony’s left stood an off-white stallion with a bushy brown mane and a muttonstache that threatened to leap off his face and pick a brawl with the first pony who looked at him funny. Further on were a soft tan earth-stallion with flaming orange hair, a cream-coloured earth-stallion with oiled blue hair and a pencil moustache, and a very large brown pegasus with a great jaw coated in stubble. Right of Big Macintosh stood a caramel-coloured earth-stallion with a brown mane, and a dull blue unicorn with flowing white hair.
Big Macintosh broke the silence.
“Right, now that that’s out of the way, I hereby convene tonight’s meeting of The Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann!”
“The Fraternal Brotherhood of what-now?” asked Spike.
All eyes glared at Spike’s interruption. Doctor Whoof quickly came to his rescue.
“Perhaps our first order of business should be to educate our new initiate?”
The blue unicorn seemed to take great offence to this suggestion.
“But our agenda for tonight clearly states-”
“I second that motion,” said the orange-haired stallion through a thick Celtic accent. “Best get it all out of the way now, introductions and what-not.”
“Je suis d’accord,” nodded the blue-maned stallion. “Else he will pester us with questions all night.”
“But the agenda...”
“Very well,” said the muttonstachioed stallion. “We will begin with introductions. State your name, young dragon.”
“It’s Spike. Just Spike.”
“Very well Spike. I’m sure you already know Brothers Whoof and Macintosh. I am Brother Ace. This is Brother Breezy,”
He gestured to the orange-maned stallion who met Spike with a good-natured smile.
The blue-maned waiter nodded politely.
The great brown pegasus grinned at the baby dragon.
“Brother Caramel, and Brother Pokey.”
“I told you, it’s Brother Pierce!” said the blue unicorn.
“Too bad Pokey, you lost the hoof-wrestling tourney. Anyway, together, we are... The Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann!”
“And what is it you guys do, exactly?” asked Spike with a raised eyebrow.
“All kinds of things,” answered Breezy.
“This coming Thursday is Bowling Night,” said Pokey excitedly.
“But above all...” continued Ace. “We are a secret society, dedicated to preserving the secrets of the ancients, and to practising the values of Mann!”
“Uh, what’s Mann?” asked Spike with a raised eyebrow.
“What is Mann?” repeated a rather shocked Caramel. “What is Mann?!”
“Shut up, Caramel,” muttered Boxy.
“Mann is an ancient word,” explained Doctor Whoof. “From an ancient language of which we know very little, other than that it precedes our own culture by many, many years. Most scholars understand the word as simply being a translation of ‘Stallion’.”
“However...” said Ace. “The forbears of our order discovered that the word was apparently far more than a mere identifier of age and gender.”
“To be truly called Mann, you had to have worth!” said Boxy.
“You had to have pride!” shouted Breezy.
“You had to have power!” said Pokey.
“You had to have valour!” said Horte.
“Simply put, in order to be Mann, you had to be Mann.” said Whoof. “Does that make sense to you?”
“Not really,” muttered Spike.
“Oh well, I tried.”
“We are all stallions in a mares’ world,” explained Ace.
“Seriously, they outnumber us like four-to-one out there,” said Caramel. “Not that that’s a bad thing...”
“But through this brotherhood, through the values of Mann, our stallionliness is preserved,” said Boxy proudly. “Here, we are stallions in a stallions’ world, if only for an evening.”
“So what say you, Spike? Will you join our esteemed order?” asked Ace.
Spike thought for a moment. He thought about all the treasured moments he had spent with Twilight and her friends. He wouldn’t trade even one of them for the world. But then he thought about his own friends, his own peers.
He had none.
He was the only boy in a group of girls, and oftentimes it showed. In a flash, he recollected with a shudder the last time Rarity had taken advantage of his helpful nature to transform him into a horrific hummel-doll/glamourous drag abomination.
“Where do I sign up?”
Before anypony could answer, there came a knock upon the cellar door. Not the carefully timed four note rhythm that Doctor Whoof had used to gain entry, but the hard, brutal drum-beats of somepony who was clearly taking great offence at finding the door locked and their way thus barred.
“Tabarnac, we’ve been found out!” swore Horte.
“Everypony for himself!” cried out Pokey.
“Don’t panic!” shouted Ace. “Brother Macintosh, you get the door. Everypony else, hide!”
Big Macintosh quickly threw off his robe as the other brothers gracelessly slipped behind crates and barrels, dove under tables, or hastily covered themselves with loose sheets of cloth. Spike hurriedly jumped into an empty barrel that stood near the entrance to the cellar, and listened cautiously as Big Macintosh disappeared up the stairs. There was a creak of rusted hinges, and then there was only silence. At least on Big Macintosh’s part.
“Hey, Big Macintosh,” said the sweet twang of a young filly. “Granny Smith thought you and your friends might like some apple fritters.”
“So whatcha doin’?” asked Applebloom.
“Just... playin’ cards,” answered Big Macintosh.
“Can I play too?”
“Goodnight Applebloom,” said Big Macintosh.
“Okay guys, coast is clear.”
Spike and the other brothers extricated themselves, some not without difficulty, from their various hiding places as Big Macintosh placed a tray of apple fritters on the table before re-donning his robe.
“Oh sweet, apple fritters!” said Spike.
“Remind me to thank Granny Smith,” said Breezy through a mouthful of pastry.
“C’est manifique,” smiled Horte.
The others all nodded in agreement. Ace however, did not share their enthusiasm.
“What the hay, Big Mac, this meeting was supposed to be a secret!”
“Well, I had to let Applejack know I’d be using her cellar,” explained Big Macintosh calmly. “Don’t you guys worry none, I only told her I was havin’ friends over. Didn’t even say how many there was gonna be.”
“Then how did Granny Smith know how many fritters to serve?” asked Whoof darkly.
“There’re nine of us, and there were nine fritters on that platter. One for each of us...”
The room fell suddenly silent. All around the table, nervous eyes darted about in search of any sign, any hint, anything out of the ordinary that might testify to the source of the apparent leak. The leak that threatened to expose the existence of their noble order to the outside world, to the world of mares...
“Maybe it’s just a coincidence,” suggested Boxy. “Maybe she just happened to make nine.”
“Nope,” said Big Macintosh. “Granny Smith always makes a full dozen.”
A tense silence followed.
“Wait, maybe Granny Smith, Applejack, and Applebloom each had one,” suggested Caramel. “That makes twelve!” These are just leftovers! We’re okay!”
The resulting expulsion of relief flooded the cellar like a surge of molasses.
“For a minute there I thought we’d been had,” sighed Breezy.
“Right,” laughed Ace nervously. “Now that that’s over, where were we?”
* * *
A few minutes later, Spike stood straight and proud upon the wooden table before the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann, who had raised their hoods once again to mark the severity of the situation.
“Before we begin with you, Spike, we must first question the one who brought you here,” said Ace. “Brother Whoof, why have you brought this outsider into our midst?”
“The usual reasons,” said Doctor Whoof. “He is a stallion, so to speak, in a mare’s world. Is that not reason enough?”
Evidently not, if the expectant looks upon the other brothers’ faces were any indication.
“Also, he is the most valued assistant to our local librarian...”
Spike allowed himself a look of smug satisfaction.
“And as such, has access to great stores of knowledge that would greatly aid in our order’s efforts.”
The disbelieving gazes continued. A few raised eyebrows subtly added to the pressure.
“And... He may also be helping me with a small matter concerning a few overdue library books,” admitted Whoof sheepishly.
“That’s right,” smiled Spike. “Only replace ‘a few’ with ‘a lot’, and ‘overdue’ with ‘practically stolen’.”
“Both you and Miss Sparkle have my assurances that those books will be returned when I am done with them,” said Whoof to the scaly skeptic.
“Yeah, that’s what you said six months ago,” muttered Spike.
“Scientific progress does not follow a librarian’s schedule!” snapped Whoof.
“Speaking of which, when are you going to tell us all about that thing you’re working on?” inquired Boxy.
Whoof stopped dead.
“Oui, that project you’re working on in your tool shed,” smiled Horte.
“Tool shed, you say?”
“Oui, the one you painted blue! Don’t try to fool us, Doctor. You may be a clever pony, but you make the mistake of assuming you’re the only one sometimes.”
The other brothers snickered. Even Ace allowed himself a smug grin.
“Now see here, all of you,” snarled Whoof. “My personal projects are none of your concern, so don’t even begin to think about bothering to ask me again!”
“Fair enough,” smirked Caramel. “We’ll just ask your girlfriend instead.”
“You know, what’s her name? Works at Boxy’s company. The one with the eyes.”
“You mean Derpy Hooves?!” laughed Boxy.
“She is not my girlfriend!” snapped Whoof, much to the amusement of the rest of the brotherhood, who were clearly unconvinced. “And even if she was, she knows nothing about my machine, so leave her alone!”
“So it is a machine we’re dealing with,” murmured Pokey.
The Doctor’s ensuing attempt at an enraged outburst was nothing short of entertaining.
“Right, moving on...” said Spike, fighting back a snicker.
“Yes, yes. Spike, do you, noble stallion, or whatever you call a male dragon, wish to seek initiation into the ancient and noble order that is the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann?” asked Ace in a loud commanding voice that not only rang with authority, but also, despite his best efforts, served to make him sound rather silly as well.
“You betcha!” said Spike in response.
“And do you swear never to reveal the secrets of our order, including the very existence of the order itself, to the prying eyes and ears of the outside world, especially its female elements?”
The others glared at him.
“Oh, too girly for you? Never mind, I swear.”
“And lastly, do you swear to be the one to provide the snacks for next week’s meeting?”
“I swe- wait, what?”
“You, snacks, next meeting.”
“Oh, sure. Any suggestions?”
“I can’t have nuts,” said Pokey. “Makes me break out in a rash.”
“So then...” continued Ace. “By the power vested in me, I hereby declare you a novice of the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann! Welcome Novice Spike!”
The others drummed their hooves on the table in applause as Spike descended back to the floor.
“So is there some kind of initiation ritual or something?” he asked.
“Nope. Not yet,” smiled Big Macintosh.
“You stay a novice for a full year, and then comes the haz-I mean the initiation,” explained Boxy.
“Steel yourself boy,” smiled Horte. “You’ll be in for quite a paddling...”
“For now, we’ll need to get you some robes of your own,” mused Doctor Whoof.
“And also an official Brotherhood tankard,” added Ace. “You all brought yours, right brothers?”
There was an affirmative flourish of robes as eight silver tankards were produced, each painstakingly engraved with mysterious runes and symbols.
“And I do believe it was Brother Macintosh who volunteered to provide the refreshment?” hinted Horte with a sly grin.
“Eeyup...” nodded Big Macintosh.
The great red pony stooped under the table for a moment, then returned bearing a wide grin and an enormous oaken keg under his foreleg, which he set heavily upon the table. There was a brief flash of light as Pokey Pierce magically removed the lid.
“Sweet Apple Cider, very nice,” said Spike
“Here Spike, I brought you something to drink out of,” said Doctor Whoof. “It’ll do until we can get you a tankard of your own.”
He presented Spike with a chipped white coffee mug.
“It has a kitten on it,” said Spike with some annoyance. “A pink kitten.”
“It’s only temporary,” said Whoof airily. “Now serve us up please, Brother Pokey!”
“C’mon guys, ‘Brother Pierce’, can’t you at least give me that?” said the annoyed
unicorn as he magically summoned nine streams of hard cider.
“We’ll see,” smiled Boxy. “Now lets get tanked!”
The nine streams of cider swirled through the air before settling into each tankard (and kitten emblazoned mug) in turn, with the exception of Caramel’s, its owner having neglected to open the lid on his so that the cider sprayed all over his robes.
“Hey, watch it!” he shouted over the collective laughter of Spike and the others.
“Y’got nopony to blame but yourself,” chuckled Big Macintosh. “Now who’s got the cards?”
“That’ll be me,” said Boxy, tapping his hoof at a worn deck of cards on the table in front of him. “Spike, you got a good pair of hands. You deal.”
“Let’s get this ‘meeting’ underway!” smiled Ace. “We’ve got a lot of important issues to discuss...”
* * *
Two hours later, the contents of the keg had been very nearly depleted, and the eight ponies, and one dragon, were in very good spirits as a result (no pun intended.) After the card games had ended, the meeting had since resolved into a few rounds of cider pong, one half-drunken brawl between Mr. Breezy and Boxy Brown that ended in a good natured Mann-hug (or so they called it), and a heartfelt group-discussion of Spike’s situation with Rarity, in which the more pressing issues concerning biological discrepancies were left severely alone. The conversations had largely dried up from there on in, though there was still some verbal activity to be had.
“Yep,” muttered Ace.
“Yep,” repeated Whoof.
“Mmm-hm,” added Horte.
“Eeyup,” said a pony who need not be explicitly identified.
Elsewhere at the table, Caramel, Mr. Breezy, and Pokey Pierce were engaged in a banal, but spirited rendition of one of the more obscure drinking songs to ever haunt the pubs of Equestria. Spike, nowhere near inebriated thanks to his draconic physiology, was doing his very best to follow along.
“Ever and more, ever and more, ever and more...” they sang. “Singin’ ever and more, ever and more, ever and more...”
“So what else do we do?” asked Spike once their frothy chant had subsided.
“We dry duh (hic) come up width thingsh we can do duh proob how Mann we are,” answered Caramel with some difficulty.
“What kind of things?”
“Well, you tell us,” said Boxy with a wink. “Name the Mannest thing you can think of.”
Pokey Pierce’s hoof suddenly shot into the air like a schoolcolt.
“Oh, oh, guys, guys, no, no, no, wait, guys... Fighting bears!”
“What?! Thad’s a shtupid idea!” sloshed Caramel.
“Whaddaya mean? What’s more Mann than fighting a bear? Nothing that’s what!”
“I could fight a bear, no sweat,” said Boxy, knocking over his half-empty tankard for dramatic effect.
“Oh, nopony here is doubting that you could fight a bear, dear brother,” smiled Doctor Whoof. “It’s whether or not you’d live to brag about it that’s the issue.”
“Y’know, apparently Fluttershy fights bears,” said Spike. “Seriously, Twilight told me how she went to see her one day and there she was in her backyard, facing down an honest to hay bear! And then next thing you know, boom, fatality!”
“Fluttershy? No way,” sneered Boxy.
“That delicate papillon?” snorted Horte.
“I can see that,” smiled Breezy. “My gran used to sing me a song about a timid mare who fought dragons, so I can actually see that sort of thing happening.”
“So what, does she run a bear-fighting class or something?” laughed Boxy.
“That would actually be pretty awesome,” said Spike.
“Yeah, yeah it would.”
“Don’t mind me saying, but I wouldn’t mind giving her a few lessons of my own...” said Pokey with a wicked grin.
“She is a cute one,” smiled Ace.
“C’mon guys, that’s my friend you’re talking about here,” said Spike.
“Oh... okay yeah, sorry.”
“Besides...” said Spike. “She’s got nothing on Rarity...”
After a short while, the table was completely silent. Silent that it, save for the soft snores of a certain caramel-coated field-hoof.
“Guys, I think he’s totally passed out,” snickered Pokey.
“I guess I’d better take him home,” sighed Boxy. “See you guys on Thursday.”
“Yeah, I guess we all better turn in,” nodded Ace. “Same time next week. We’ll be meeting at Brother Breezy’s. His shop, not his house.”
“Aye, if my wife knew what I really get up to on Monday evenings...”
“What does she think you do?” asked Spike.
“I have no idea,” smiled Breezy. “Perhaps it’s something I ought to look into.”
“Well we’ll see you then in any event,” said Doctor Whoof as he struggled to maintain equilibrium. “C’mon Spike, I’ll give you a ride home.”
“You sure you should be driving?” laughed Spike.
“Never mind. See ya later guys. Great meeting, Big Mac- I mean Brother Macintosh.”
Spike quickly drained the last of the cider from his mug, then leapt upon Whoof’s back as the Doctor made his way up the stairs. A thought occurred to him.
“Are there any other Brotherhoods like us in Equestria?” he asked.
“Nope, just us,” answered the Doctor.
“What, like just the nine of us?”
“Not much of a secret society then, isn’t it,” said Spike.
“I suppose not. But it’s still damn good fun!”
* * *
Eventually, the Doctor dropped Spike off outside the Ponyville library. As Spike fidgeted in his pockets for his key, he thanked his lucky stars that Twilight must now be asleep, because he now realised that he had yet to formulate a suitable explanation for his absence. As a rule, an afternoon inquiry into overdue library books did not last until 11:45 at night.
“No worries, I’ll figure it out by morning,” he said to himself.
The door swung open silently on oiled hinges. Very carefully Spike tiptoed across the library floor towards the stairs. He was midway across the room when the lights suddenly flicked on, and the voice of a particularly peremptory purple unicorn floated across the room.
“And just where have you been all night?”
Return of the
Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
The preparations were almost complete. Nearly everything was in place. So many days spent planning in secret, listening at doors, peeking through letters, waiting patiently for the perfect opportunity. Now, finally, the time had come. The room had been prepared, the librarian had been taken care of. All that remained was to silence one last potential witness.
It was to this end that Spike the dragon was now leaning out of one of the Ponyville library’s upstairs windows, gingerly shaking a cardboard box of something dry and savoury, as though trying to attract a stubborn pet, which in fact was essentially what he was doing.
“Hello? Owloysius? You around?”
“Owloysius? Where are you, pal?”
“No, no, where are you?”
Spike let out a frustrated sigh.
“I do not have time for this,” he muttered to himself. “Hey! Owloysius, get over here; I need to talk to you.”
There was a moment’s pause before the uncommunicative bird swept silently down from one of the tree’s upper branches and landed softly on the windowsill.
“Okay, listen up,” began Spike, “I kinda need for you to clear off tonight, okay? It’s nothing personal or anything, I just can’t have you hanging around right now.”
“Hoo, hoo-hoo?” interjected Owloysius, pointing a talon at Spike’s chest.
“Never mind what I’m wearing,” said Spike bluntly. “So here’s the deal, you fly off somewhere else for the night, and I’ll give you this whole box of owl treats!”
Owloysius watched intently as Spike shook the bright yellow cardboard box once more for effect.
“You do not want to know what I go through to get these,” said Spike. “So do we have a deal?”
Owloysius brought a wing to his face and thought for a moment, before reaching out and taking the box in his talons.
“Hoo,” he said with a nod.
“Alright, pleasure doing business with you, Owloysius,” said Spike. “You have a good night, okay?”
“Hoo-hoo,” replied Owloysius as he took wing and flew off into the night.
Spike watched the owl disappear into the darkness, then headed for the stairs. On the way, he passed a large free-standing mirror that Twilight had been using for some experiment or another. The young dragon took a moment to inspect his appearance, gently brushing the dust off his stoney grey habit, and adjusting the broad faux-leather bands that bound about his waist and forearms. Tonight was a very important night for him, and he needed to look presentable.
For tonight, he would not be Twilight’s number-one assistant. He was not Rarity’s ‘Spikey-Wikey’. No, tonight he was Spike, Novice of the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann!
The young dragon recollected with a smile the night he had first been brought before the Brotherhood, on that cold November evening all those months ago. It was a night that had changed his very outlook on life. Before he had met the Brotherhood, there had been something notably absent from his life, something he could never quite place. But now he understood: masculinity. Spike was the sole boy in a group of girls; a stallion (so to speak) in a mare’s world; a stranger in a strange land (a land overrun by the fairer sex no less).
Not that he necessarily resented this fact, of course. Twilight and her friends were like a family to him, and he would never turn his back on them. But the Brotherhood was like a family too, a secret society dedicated to preserving the male ethos wherever it was threatened. And for the past six months, Spike had been a party to that noble cause.
Ever since that fateful night, every Monday evening had been spent with his new Brothers, learning about the values of Mann; how to walk Mann, how to act Mann, how to be Mann. It was a fairly demanding regimen, but Spike had persisted, and it was with great pride that he now faced the first great milestone in his initiation into the Brotherhood. For tonight he would prove his worth to his brothers. Tonight he would embody the greatest values of Mann.
Tonight was his turn to host the weekly Brotherhood get-together.
Right on que, Spike was suddenly jarred from his reminiscence by the sound of somepony knocking on the door in a distinct four note rhythm. After a final cursory glance in the mirror, Spike quickly scurried down the stairs, hurled himself at the front door, was suddenly struck by the notion that perhaps he ought to appear more in control of the situation, and as a result fell flat on his face just short of the door knob. After a moment’s pause to collect himself, the dragon drew his hood, adjusted his posture, and gently opened the door just a crack.
“Who goes there?” he asked, trying his best to affect an impressive tone and only partially succeeding.
“It is I, Brother Ace,” answered the hooded stallion at the door.
Spike paused a moment for dramatic effect, then drew the door wide open to allow the stallion entry. With head held high, Brother Ace strode into the library, waited for Spike to close the door behind him, then threw his hood back to reveal his full head of hair and his remarkable specimen of a moustache.
“Anypony else here?” he asked.
“Nope, you’re the first one in,” answered Spike. “I got us a room set up in back, follow me.”
Spike led his newly arrived guest to the back room of the library. It was a fairly small room, with only a single window, which Spike had thoughtfully blocked with the heaviest curtain he could find. In the centre of the room stood a large wooden card table, with nine chairs spaced evenly around.
“Very nice, Spike, very nice,” said Ace with an approving nod. “So everything’s been looked after?”
“What about Miss Sparkle?”
“Oh don’t worry about her,” said Spike with a dismissive wave of his hand. “She won’t be bothering us anytime soon.”
“What, do you have her tied up downstairs or something?” asked Ace with a grin.
“Let’s just say a little Royal stationery goes a long way...” answered Spike.
At that moment, there was another knock upon the front door, heavier than Ace’s but in the same distinct rhythm. Leaving Ace to take his seat, Spike sprinted back to the door, there to discover two hooded stallions standing upon the front step.
“Who goes there?” repeated Spike.
“Brother Caramel,” answered the smaller of the two stallions.
“And Brother Macintosh.” answered the other in a deep methodical tone.
“Come on in, guys,” said Spike, holding the door wide. “Brother Ace is already in back.”
While the two farm ponies headed for the back room, Spike made a detour for the kitchen to prepare a tray of scones he had covertly acquired from Pinkie Pie earlier that afternoon. Before he could return to the back room with his precious cargo however, there again sounded the Brotherhood secret knock. This time there were three stallions waiting outside with hoods drawn.
“Tis I, Brother Whoof,” answered the first stallion in response to Spike’s challenge.
“And Brother Boxy,” continued the second.
“Et Frere Horte,” added the third.
“Good to see you guys,” greeted Spike. “Head on in back and I’ll be with you in a bit.”
The three new arrivals quickly filed past the diminutive dragon towards the back room. No sooner had Spike closed the door however, when the Brotherhood knock sounded yet again. With an annoyed sigh, Spike flung the door open and glared at the two stallions before him.
“Y’know, you could have come in with the other guys,” he said bluntly.
“But we needed to do the secret knock,” protested one of the stallions. “It’s procedure.”
“Okay, whatever. Come on in, guys.”
“But aren’t you going ask ‘who goes there’?” demanded the stallion.
“I don’t think that’s really necessary, Brother,” said the other pony through a thick Celtic brogue.
“But how will he know for sure who we are if he doesn’t challenge us?”
“I already know who you are,” retorted Spike. “Brother Breezy and Brother Pokey.”
“Brother Pierce,” corrected Pokey.
“Whatever!” groaned Spike. “We call you ‘Pokey’ all the rest of the time.”
“Yes, but that’s my normal name; Brother Pierce is my Mann name!” protested Pokey.
“Mann name? We have those?” asked Spike.
“We do now, apparently,” deadpanned Breezy. “Just get on in.”
After seeing his newly arrived Brothers to the back room, Spike quickly returned to the kitchen, piled his scones on the tray, and hurried to the back room, where he laid the tray on the card table and took his seat with visible relief.
“Very good, Spike, you are a most gracious host,” said Doctor Whoof proudly. “I knew you’d make a fine addition to our Brotherhood.”
The others voiced their agreements through mouthfuls of scone. Finally, Ace raised a hoof for attention.
“As host for this week, it shall be Novice Spike’s duty to begin the meeting by leading us in our traditional Brotherhood chant,” he said proudly. “I trust you’ve been practising, Spike?”
“You betcha,” said Spike eagerly. “There’s no way I’m gonna mess up my first meeting.”
“Very well then, let us begin.”
Grinning broadly, Spike stood up, raised his clenched fist in an insurmountable gesture of triumph, drew a great heaving lungful of air into his chest, and was promptly interrupted for the fourth time that evening by the official Brotherhood secret knock.
“Oh for crying out loud, who is it this ti-... wait...”
Spike quickly did a mental headcount of his assembled guests.
“Me, Ace, Big Mac, Caramel, Boxy, Breezy, Doc, Horte, Pokey... all nine of us...” he muttered, counting on his fingers as we went. “But if we’re all in here, then who-”
Again the mysterious knock beat upon the door, a little louder this time. The other Brothers only seemed to notice it just now, but unlike Spike, their expressions were not of confusion or alarm, but rather... intrigue.
“Well I’ll be...” said Whoof. “The old coot actually showed up.”
“Damn, when was the last time that happened?” laughed Boxy.
“Months ago,” answered Caramel.
“Just before Spike joined up, I think,” added Ace.
“Hold on!” shouted Spike. “What’s going on here?”
“Well, right now it seems you’re leaving one of our brothers standing out in the cold,” said Horte bluntly. “Perhaps you should let him in, non?”
“Wait, there’s ten of us?!”
“What, you didn’t know that?” asked Caramel in disbelief.
“You never guys never told me!”
“I’m sure one of us must have mentioned it...” said Whoof.
The knocking came again, even more forcefully this time, and was largely ignored.
“No, you didn’t,” retorted Spike, fixing the Doctor with an annoyed glare. “This is literally the first time you’ve ever brought it up. Heck, you even told me that one time that there were only nine of us!”
“Ah, well, you see there were nine of us, but then you showed up, and I guess I got a little confused and...”
Ace let out a loud groan.
“Doc, shut up. Spike, get the door, please.”
The knocking continued, all pretense of rhythm now forgotten in favour of making as much irritating noise as possible. Grumbling, Spike hurried to the door, and carefully opened it halfway.
There in the doorway stood an elderly stallion, dressed much the same as the other Brothers, except where their robes were a stoney grey, his was a cold but venerable white. His bespectacled face was careworn and liver spotted, but his smile was bright and caring.
“Ah, finally. And ponies say I’m the one who’s hard of hearing,” chuckled the old stallion.
“M-Mr. Waddle?” said Spike, as recognition finally dawned on him.
“The one and only. You must be Novice Spike. A pleasure to meet you, my fine fellow,” said Waddle, extending a hoof in greeting to the young dragon. “It’s been so long since we had a new Brother.”
“Uh, thanks,’ said Spike, as he shook the old pony’s hoof. “So, um, come on in, I guess.”
Spike slowly led Mr. Waddle to the back room, saying nothing, but occasionally glancing over his shoulder at the liver spotted old stallion, as though he might suddenly throw a fit or vanish into thin air. Waddle did none of these things, but merely hummed contentedly to himself as he followed Spike across the dimly-lit room.
The other Brothers reacted with a hearty laugh at the arrival of Mr. Waddle, clapping the old cleric on the back as he took a trembling seat at the card table. Ace was the first to call for silence as he gestured proudly at the elderly stallion seated before them.
“Novice Spike, allow me to introduce (a little late, I’ll admit) the oldest and most venerable member of our order; Brother Waddle, Keeper of the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann!”
“Keeper?” repeated Spike. “What’s the Keeper?”
“A keeper of secrets!” answered Waddle excitedly. “The Brotherhood has many important secrets, you see, and as Keeper, it is my duty to, well, to keep them.”
“The Keeper safeguards all the collected knowledge of our order,” explained Doctor Whoof reverently. “What you have learned these past few months is but the barest tip of the proverbial iceberg.”
“There are secrets of our order that are so valuable, so earth-shattering, that only the Keeper knows them!” added Breezy. “It is his solemn duty never to reveal them, even to another Brother, unless there is true need.”
“So if you’re so important, how come I’ve never seen you at the meetings before?” asked Spike.
Waddle gave a cynical huff before answering.
“Well, the short answer is that I had a cold.”
“You had a cold for over six months?!” exclaimed Spike.
“No, no, I had a cold for one week over six months ago,” explained Waddle with a sigh. “Missed one meeting, and next thing I know I’m out of the loop for half a year. Thankfully, Brother Macintosh here had the sense to clue me in about tonight.”
“Seriously, not one of you other boys even thought to come visit me, did you?” huffed Waddle. “Maybe check to see if I was even still alive?”
“In my defence, the thought did cross my mind once or twice,” said Doctor Whoof sheepishly.
“Oh, and what stopped you?”
“Well, I’ve never been very good around retirement homes,” explained Whoof. “What with the orderlies, and the smell, and the being surrounded by walking reminders of your own fleeting mortality.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that last one,” said Waddle. “Though I’m behind you 100% on the smell. Ghastly, isn’t it?”
There was a round of shared laughter all around. Now that Waddle was back on their side, the meeting could begin in earnest.
“Alright, then,” began Spike, raising his fist toward the centre of the table. “Let’s get this party started.”
* * *
One melodious, but utterly nonsensical chant later, the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann had officially convened for their weekly Monday meeting. Horte had been in charge of refreshments for the night, and Spike’s scones were now but a distant memory as the Brothers feasted on gourmet potato chips, delicate cheeses, and luscious grapes, while their silver tankards overflowed with the finest ale money could buy.
“One advantage of being a high-class waiter,” said Horte smugly. “Nopony suspects you when a bit of food goes missing here and there.”
“Hard to believe that behind that snooty facade of yours lies the mind of a true Mann,” pondered Whoof.
“Who ever said it was a facade?” chuckled Horte.
“Your foul mouth says a lot of things, Horte,” said Breezy airily.
“Alright guys, that’s enough,” said Spike. “Brother Pokey, what do we have for tonight?”
With a self-assured grin, Pokey Pierce cleared his throat and magically produced a deck of cards from hammerspace.
“Right, first on the agenda...” began Pokey as he magically shuffled the cards. “Shall we begin with Pass the Ace, or should we move straight to Poker?”
“Pass the Ace,” voted Doctor Whoof. “My Poker face has been suffering as of late.”
“Second on the agenda...” continued Pokey as he dealt each Brother a card. “Do we have the results of last meeting’s ballot?”
“Indeed we do,” said Breezy, producing a slim manilla envelope from within his habit. “It was decided, by a vote of five-to-four, that henceforth, badminton is not considered a Mann activity.
“But tennis is still okay, right?” asked Ace.
“Aye, tennis is still okay,” answered Breezy.
Ace reacted to this assurance with visible relief, secure in the knowledge that his masculinity was still intact.
“The issue was also raised as to whether or not there is, in fact, a ‘goodminton’ as well,” continued Breezy. “It was decided eight-to-one that there is not.”
“Thank-you, Brother Breezy,” said Spike in a presidential manner. “Was there anything else on the agenda, Brother Pokey?”
“No, nothing else.”
“My, you boys have been busy,” said Waddle sardonically as he struggled to make out the number on his card (the ace of spades). “Have there been any other life-altering developments in my absence?”
“No, not really,” shrugged Ace. “We’ve just been carrying on as usual.”
“We did get a new Brother,” offered Breezy, waving his frothing tankard at their scaly host. “Haven’t had one of those in a while, not since Brother Macintosh brought young Caramel here into our midst.”
“I’m just happy to be here,” said Spike nonchalantly. “If it wasn’t for you guys, I’d still be wearing that frilly apron for Twilight and the gang.”
The table fell suddenly silent, with the exception of Boxy, who was suddenly gagging on a mouthful of ale instead.
“They made you wear an apron?!” gasped Ace.
“Sacremain, c’est barbare!” swore Horte.
“It seems we got to you just in time, my good dragon,” said Waddle gravely. “These are dark times indeed, when a stallion is forced to don a mare’s habits.”
“Meh, it wasn’t a total disaster,” shrugged Spike. “At least it got me closer to Rarity.”
There was a general murmur of agreement in this regard.
“Now there’s a true Mann,” said Whoof proudly. “Always with his eye on the prize.”
“Rarity?” asked Waddle, clearly confused. “The seamstress?”
“And she and Spike are...?”
“Well Spike is,” explained Ace with a chuckle.
“But... how is that-”
“Don’t ask, we’ve already decided we’re not going near that one,” said Pokey stiffly. “Not even with a ten-foot pole... maybe a twenty...”
“I’d settle for nothing less than a fifty,” shuddered Breezy.
“You know, I’m still here,” said Spike flatly. “It’s not like I can’t hear you or anything. Besides, you can’t blame me; this is Rarity we’re talking about,” he added with wide, wistful eyes.
“A fair point,” conceded Waddle with a paternal smile. “After all, what stallion can truly resist the charms of a mare?”
“I think I met such a one at the pub the other night,” muttered Whoof. “Offered to buy me a drink, he did.”
Waddle seemed unperturbed by this comment.
“Indeed, to pursue a mare’s affections with flash and honour is one of the truest expressions of Mann,” he continued, drawing skeptical looks from the others at the table. “And I am pleased that some of you have done very well in that regard indeed. Such as you, my good Caramel,” he added, addressing the younger stallion across from him. “How is that lovely girlfriend of yours? Wind Whistler, I believe her name was?”
Dead silence descended upon the room with all the grace and subtlety of a record scratch. All eyes were now focused intently on Caramel, who had suddenly gone stock still.
“Oh boy...” muttered Spike.
“Now you’ve gone and done it...” deadpanned Pokey.
For a moment, Caramel’s face was blank. Then it began to tremble, ever so slightly, before the mask of resolve finally shattered, and the caramel-coated field-hoof broke down into a sobbing fit.
“C-Caramel, what’s wrong?” asked Waddle, recoiling at the sight of the young stallion’s open display of grief.
“WIIINDIIIEEE!!!” wailed Caramel, abandoning all pretense of dignity.
“Wind Whistler up and dumped him a couple of weeks ago,” explained Boxy bluntly.
“No warning, no explanation, just gave him the talk and done,” said Breezy forlornly.
“We spent most of our last meeting helping him get over it,” added Ace.
“Why, Windie, why?” moaned Caramel. “You were so sweet and pretty... You told me I made you feel special...”
The sobbing stallion suddenly collapsed against the nearest thing that would support him, which in this case happened to be Big Macintosh. The larger stallion recoiled slightly, but nonetheless afforded Caramel an awkward pat on the back.
“Hey now, buckle up kid,” said Boxy gruffly. “So she dumped you, it’s not the end of the world.”
“Yes it is!” cried Caramel.
“Now, Caramel, I know Wind Whistler meant a lot to ya,” said Big Macintosh sagely. “But don’t forget ya got other friends too.”
“Like us,” offered Spike.
“Eeyup. Who needs some pretty filly anyway?”
“You’re one to talk, Brother,” laughed Ace. “Word on the street is you’ve been getting very cozy with Miss Cheerilee.”
“Cheerilee?! The school teacher?!” laughed Boxy. “Big Mac, you dog!”
“A commendable quarry, Frere Macintosh. Je te salue,” said Horte with a smirk.
“You shouldn't believe everythin’ ya hear,” said Big Macintosh with an indulgent smile. “Cheerilee and I are just friends.”
“Whatever you say, Big Mac,” snorted Pokey. “Whatever you say...”
“You know, this isn’t exactly making me feel better,” said Caramel dryly.
“Oh, Mann up, Caramel,” said Pokey bluntly. “You’re starting to sound like Boxy going on about his ex-wife.”
“Don’t you dare mention that nag in front of me!” roared Boxy.
“See what I mean?”
“Brothers, please!” pleaded Waddle. “This is no way to help a Brother in need. Does anypony have any positive advice for Caramel?”
“You want advice?” snorted Boxy. “Here a tip for you: never date a pegasus mare! They’re nothing but trouble.”
Any objections to this unfair generalisation went unvoiced as the focus of the Brotherhood’s attention shifted silently from Caramel to an older, more educated earth-pony.
“Why are you all staring at me?” asked Whoof nervously.
“No reason,” smiled Spike. “How’s Derpy by the way?”
“Oh, she’s doing very well actually, I- wait a minute...!”
* * *
Several tankards of ale (and a few debatable denials from the Doctor) later, the atmosphere in the room had lapsed into a state of silent contemplation. The candle on the table guttered in its brass mount, casting a dull ruddy glow upon the surrounding ponies.
At the head of the table, Spike narrowed his eyes; contemplating, judging. At the far side sat Big Macintosh, silent and stoic, waiting patiently for the Novice to make his move. Finally, the young dragon drew himself up, firmly gripping the hollow plastic ball held between his fingers, and cast the diminutive projectile upon the opposite end of the table. The other Brothers watched with bated breath as the ball bounced once, then arced in a graceful parabola into the welcoming tankard of Brother Macintosh.
“Oh yeah!” gloated Spike amid the applauding cheers of the other Brothers. “Let’s see you beat that, Brother!”
Big Macintosh waited patiently for the applause to die down, then calmly drained his tankard, gently gripped the ball between his teeth, then fired it across the table. Spike watched intently as the ball bounced and sailed high, too high. But before he could claim his victory, there was a loud crashing noise as Big Macintosh suddenly struck the table with his hoof, sending everypony’s tankards into the air, including Spike’s. In horror, Spike watched as the silver vessel soared up to intercept the errant projectile, and the resulting cries of disbelief filled the room.
Big Macintosh merely grinned as Spike begrudgingly gulped down his penalty.
“Alright, what’s next?” asked Spike impatiently. “Any ideas?”
“Hoofwrestling!” suggested Boxy in a loud, slightly intoxicated sort of way.
“Whaddaya mean ‘nope’?”
“Nope,” repeated Big Macintosh. “Every time we do hoofwrestlin’, I always win, you always come second, and Pokey here always comes dead last.”
“I do not!” protested Pokey. “I beat Spike that one time.”
“I let you win,” muttered Spike under his breath.
“Point is, no hoofwrestlin’,” said Big Macintosh.
“If I might make a suggestion,..” said Ace with unexpected severity. “How about... the Circle of Mann?”
“Oh, has it been three weeks already?” asked Breezy excitedly.
“Indeed it has,” answered Horte.
“Circle of Mann it is then,” said Ace. “Gather around then Brothers, hoods up. Can somepony dim the lights?”
“They aren’t even on.”
“Even better. Right then, the Keeper will now address the Circle.”
Mr. Waddle, who had been content to keep to himself during the meeting’s livelier moments, now drew himself up, looking truly venerable indeed beneath the shade of his white cowl. For a moment, the old cleric seemed to pause before suddenly casting his forelegs wide and intoning in a clear and authoritative voice the likes of which Spike could only dream of attaining.
“We are the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann,
United by our bonds of masculinity,
Sworn to preserve the secrets of old,
And destined to uphold the values of Mann,
“Amen,” mumbled the others.
“As followers of Mann, it is our duty and our joy to at all times and in all places give action and fulfillment to the words of our order” continued Waddle. “And so I ask you Brothers; what deeds of Mann have you accomplished these past three weeks?”
Ace was first to answer.
“The other day, I won not one, but two tennis matches against other stallions,” he stated proudly.
There was a modest applause.
“But there’s more,” added Ace. “After the last match, a little colt came up to me and asked for my autograph. And he said to me, ‘Mr. Ace, when I grow up, I want to have a moustache just like yours’.”
“And what did you say?” asked Pokey, leaning forward in his seat.
“I told him, ‘You will, kid... someday you will’.”
“That was beautiful... But it doesn’t compare to how I told off my jerk boss last week. Teach him to send six of my best couriers off to Las Neigas without telling me...”
“Ah yes, Derpy told me about that,” nodded Whoof. “So how’d that work out for you?”
“Brilliantly. Gave him a real piece of my mind. So what if I’m not invited to the company picnic anymore?”
“Not bad, Brother, not bad,” said Horte smugly. “I had a similar altercation on Friday. We were entertaining a very wealthy couple from Manehatten. I tell you, I do not believe I’ve had a more unpleasant pair of patrons. The mare in particular had the audacity to insult my accent!”
A loud gasp accompanied this revelation.
“So what did you do?” asked Spike.
“I kicked them out, of course,” said Horte with a shrug. “After all, what’s the point in being Maitre d’hotel, if you can’t kick a little ass, eh?”
“You kiss your mother with that mouth, Horte?” chuckled Waddle.
“You clearly don’t know my mother.”
Yet another round of laughter. Next to speak was Caramel.
“Okay, how’s this; a couple of weeks ago, me and Pokey went to the gym, right...”
The other Brothers nodded in expectation.
“And we lifted weights!” declared Pokey.
Raucous applause filled the room.
“And?” said Ace.
“You lifted weights and what else?”
“Uh... that’s pretty much it.”
“Well that’s no good,” said Waddle. “No good at all. Sounds like you boys have homework to do.”
“There’s more to bein’ Mann than liftin’ weights Caramel,” said Big Macintosh.
“I also went on the treadmill,” added Pokey.
“Hmm, it’s a start,” said Big Macintosh.
“Okay, if you’re so Mann, why don’t you tell us what you did this month, Big Mac,” said Caramel crossly.
Big Macintosh merely leaned back and closed his eyes.
“I went campin’,” he said finally. “The weekend before last. Got away from it all; from the farm, from the fillies, just me, the fire, and the open sky. Eeyup.”
The other Brothers exchanged approving nods.
“And then I wrestled a timber wolf,” added Big Macintosh.
Never before had the farm pony been offered so many hoof-bumps.
“Well that just puts a damper on our story,” said Breezy
“What, did you finally stand up to your wife, Breezy?” laughed Ace.
“I wish,” said Breezy. “No, the good Doctor and I decided to pay a visit to the pub last Thursday. Nothing special there. Then out of nowhere comes this bunch of colts, barely old enough to even touch the strong stuff. So naturally, Whoof and I took it upon ourselves to... ‘mentor’ the lads a bit.”
“And by ‘mentor’ we mean drink them under the table,” said Whoof proudly.
“Ha! Excellent work, my Brothers,” beamed Waddle. “I trust you’ll be seeing more of them? We could always use a few extra Brothers...”
“We’ll see,” said Breezy. “Still a little wet behind the ears, if you ask me. No offence to you Spike.”
“None taken,” said Spike.
“So tell me, Novice Spike,” said Waddle, now that the other Brothers had concluded their boastful stories. “What tales of Mann-like deeds do you have for us tonight?”
This was it, thought Spike, the moment he’d been waiting for all evening. Now was the time to prove he was no mere Novice, no namby-pamby baby dragon. Now was the time to prove to his Brothers that he was Mann!
Before he could launch into his Mann-ly tale of derring-do however, there was a knock on the library door. A non-Brotherhood secret knock.
A hush descended on the room. All eyes shifted towards the door to the main library.
“Everypony stay calm,” said Ace as another series of knocks echoes throughout the library.
“What if it’s Miss Sparkle?” hissed Doctor Whoof.
“It’s probably nopony,” said Ace calmly. “Just a random pony looking for directions or something.”
“Hello? Spike? Are you at home?” called a clear feminine voice that nopony immediately recognised.
“Don’t panic,” said Spike, determined to maintain control of the situation. “It isn’t Twilight. We’ll just sit tight and wait for them to give up.”
“Spike, are you there?” continued the voice. “It is I, Princess Luna. I have brought Twilight home.”
There was a chorus of hushed oaths.
“Tabarnac!” swore Horte. “Of all possible ponies, it had to be her?!”
“I thought you said Twilight had been taken care of!” hissed Ace.
“She was!” protested Spike. “I didn’t figure she’d get a ride home, though.”
“Spike?” called Luna, knocking even harder now
“We’re gonna get found out!” whimpered Caramel. “I’m too young to die!”
Spike gulped. If there was ever a time to step up and be Mann, it was now.
“Wait here and keep quiet,” he said boldly. “I’m going in.”
“Bless you, Brother,” said Waddle tearfully.
As the others watched on in suspense, Spike eased open the door, and stepped out into the library. With a few nervous bounds he reached the front door and gently eased it open, allowing the Princess of the Night to enter the library in all her nocturnal splendour.
Almost immediately Spike noticed two oddities about the lunar Princess. The first was that she was casually bereft of her usual regal vestments. The second was that she had a passed-out purple pony draped across her back.
“Twilight!” cried Spike.
“Hush, Spike, else you might wake her,” said Luna softly. “Twilight has had a long night.”
“What happened?” asked Spike.
“Ah, well it would seem my sister mistakenly invited Twilight to Canterlot tonight for a private lesson,” explained Luna. “When in fact she was already engaged in an important meeting with the Royal Bureaucrats Association.”
“R-really?” said Spike, nervously avoiding eye contact. “Well I guess we all make mistakes from time to time.”
“Indeed. Regardless, it did not seem right to simply send Twilight back home, so I invited her out for a ‘night on the town’, as I believe it’s called.”
“So how’d she end up like that?” asked Spike, gently prodding the sleeping unicorn.
“Ah, now here’s where it gets exciting,” smiled Luna. “You see, eventually we arrived at an establishment called a ‘club’, where we met a rather boisterous pair of mares who challenged us to a ‘dance-off’. We were victorious, of course, but they were formidable opponents nonetheless. Poor Twilight could barely stand after that.”
“Mmmhh, the club can’t even, mumble, grumble,” snored Twilight, provoking a soft giggle from Princess Luna.
“Perhaps I should bear her up to her bed,” she suggested.
“Yeah, you do that,” said Spike nervously. “Take your time alright?”
Spike waited patiently for Luna to disappear upstairs (with Twilight still snoring soundly on her back), then immediately bolted for the back room. Like a dragon possessed he threw open the door with every intention of informing his Brothers that the coast was clear and now was the time for their escape, but was duly stopped by the sight of Ace and Breezy attempting to shove Pokey Pierce out the open window.
“What are you guys doing?!” hissed Spike.
“Getting out of here, what’s it look like?” snorted Boxy.
“But that window’s too small,” protested Spike. “Pokey can barely fit in there, never mind a big guy like you.”
“Boy, did you just call me fat?”
“What? No, I- Look, Twilight and the Princess are upstairs and the front door’s wide open. So hurry up and get out while the getting’s good!”
“You heard the dragon,” said Ace. “Everypony move!”
With not a moment to lose, the stallions of the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann swiftly and silently scuttled like frightened foals across the library and out the front door, with the exception of Brother Pokey, who (with a little help from Big Macintosh) elected to follow through with his own escape method.
“See ya later, so long, have a good night...” whispered Spike as each of the Brothers hastily filed past. “Hey, where’s our next meeting?”
“My place,” answered Doctor Whoof. “Bring dip.”
“Got it,” said Spike, turning now to the last remaining straggler. “Hurry up, Mr. Waddle; she’ll be back any second now!”
“I’m moving as fast as I can,” said Waddle as he eventually reached the door. “Anyway, thank-you for a most enjoyable night, Novice Spike. You’ll do our order proud, mark my words.”
“Not if Twilight catches us first,” retorted Spike.
“Now, now, hold your horses, boy, I’m out, I’m out. Have a good nigh-”
“Whew,” breathed Spike as he slumped against the door. “That was too close.”
“Spike, who was at the door?”
Princess Luna had finally returned from upstairs, and was now regarding the young dragon with curious teal eyes.
“Nopony!” said Spike suddenly. “There was nopony at the door.”
“Nopony? Then who did you just slam the door on?”
“Oh that! Uh, that was just some random salespony,” Spike quickly lied.
“A salespony? At this hour?”
“Yep. Annoying, aren’t they?”
Luna cocked a skeptical eyebrow.
“Indeed. Also, might I ask what you are wearing?”
Spike’s eyes went wide with panic. His robe! He was still wearing his official Brotherhood habit!
“Uh, it’s a housecoat,” answered Spike. “Rarity made it for me. Do you like it?”
A small smile crept across Luna’s face.
“Yes, I find it most fashionable,” she said at last. “Anyway, I must be going now. Wish Twilight well for me.”
“Sure thing,” said Spike as he casually held the door for the departing Princess. “Have a good night, Princess.”
“Yourself as well, Spike,” said Luna.
The midnight-blue mare strode past Spike and out into the moonlit street. With her eyes fixed on the starry sky, she spread her wings wide and lifted herself gracefully off the ground. As Spike watched the Princess take flight however, she turned her head to look back at him and smiled.
“It is good to see that your Brotherhood still has a sense of style after all these years.”
And she was gone.
“This one goes out to all my bronies! Thanks for reading, keep your stick on the ice.”
- the author