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?”