• Published 7th May 2012
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The Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann - Insert Pen Name

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Return of the Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann

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?”

“Hoo.”

“Owloysius? Where are you, pal?”

“Hoo.”

“No, no, where are you?”

“Hoo, hoo.”

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.

“Hoo?”

“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?”

“Absolutely.”

“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.”

“Eeyup.”

“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.

“Touche.”

“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?”

“Eeyup.”

“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.

“Eeyup.”

“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...!”

“Gotcha.”

* * *

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.

“Nope.”

“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.”

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’.”

Boxy sniffed.

“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.

“And what?”

“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.”

“What?!”

“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.

“Aw crap.”

“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.

“Or not.”

“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 the mares in Equestria, 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-”

*SLAM*

“Whew,” breathed Spike as he slumped against the door. “That was too close.”

“Spike, who was at the door?”

“Wah!”

Princess Luna had finally returned from upstairs, and was now regarding the young dragon with curious teal eyes.

“Spike?”

“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.

~FIN~

“This one goes out to all my bronies! Thanks for reading, keep your stick on the ice.”

- the author