• Published 23rd Sep 2021
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The Only Mark That Matters - CocktailOlive



The story of Radish Root, a pony with obscene cutie marks.

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102. The Monsters, Part 4

Radish scrabbled up the spiral staircase. He heard the Scorpan-turned-stratadon scrabbling after him, its claws and wings scraping the stones of the narrow passageway. At the top of the stairs, he stopped and jammed his knife into the central column of the staircase. All the remaining earth power stored within it blasted the stone like months of constant erosion compressed into a second. The staircase collapsed from top to bottom.

Radish sat back and caught his breath, listening for signs of life under the rubble. He heard what he assumed was a roar of impotent rage down below. He moved on, his movement restricted to a shuffling limp. He found a luxurious drawing room and collapsed on a chaise in the dark.

Okay. I got a message back to Canterlot, and I stopped Tirek, dead or alive. Alive, apparently. I technically fulfilled my orders. Congrats on a successful mission, Root.

He felt himself drifting off, then shook himself alert.

Can’t sleep. I’ve got to be awake when the reinforcements arrive. They need to know what they’re dealing with.

He heard a dull thud from far away, then another. Fixtures in the room shook a little, then they shook a lot. Radish heard bricks and timbers shattering. Tirek was trying to blast his way out of the cellar.

Radish looked out the nearest window. With one final blast, Tirek came exploding out of the mountainside, riding the Scorpan-turned-stratadon on its back. They took to the sky, then turned back towards the castle. Radish braced himself.

“Earth pony! If you would force me to damage my castle, then you may keep it! A much finer one awaits its new master in Canterlot!”

Tirek fired off several red beams at Midnight Castle’s foundations. Radish held his ears as rooms around him came crashing in on themselves. The exterior wall of the drawing room gave out and the floor buckled. All the room’s contents tumbled out of the castle in an avalanche of loose soil and free-flowing debris. The chaise Radish was resting on got dragged along with the wave. Radish clutched its armrests with what little strength he had as it sledded down the mountainside. It hit a rock, cracking in half, and then Radish’s half hit another rock and tumbled end-over-end before coming to a rest at the foot of the mountain.

Radish opened his eyes when all the noise was over. The castle had several gaping holes, the mountainside was a mess, and a layer of dust coated him and everything around him. He caught a glimpse of Tirek flying off into the sky.

Can’t let him get away.

Radish limped over to where he had parked Tiffany. She was there, intact. He wiped the dust from her windscreen and approached the port hatch.

He noticed something on the ground in front of the hatch- his moon crest. He picked it up and brushed it on his chest fur.

How did this get here? Could Scorpan have dropped it here for me? Is he still inside that thing?

Radish entered the cabin and sat at the controls. The automatic pilot was set for Canterlot- the place Tirek said he’d be going. Radish pulled the lever to activate it. Tiffany sprang to life, then lifted off. She turned around and sped towards her home.

Radish scanned the skies for signs of Tirek. After a few minutes, he caught a glimpse of a speck in the distance. He needed to change the heading to intercept it.

Okay, I’ve read at least this far into the manual.

He took the steering yoke in his hooves and altered course. Tiffany lurched far more responsively than he was expecting. Radish pointed the ship at Tirek and pulled the throttle. Tiffany picked up her pace.

Tirek looked over his shoulder. He sneered at Radish, then forced his mount to dive out of Radish’s sight.

Radish heard a clunk and felt the airship shake. A curtain of black fog enveloped the ship. Tirek had used the Rainbow of Darkness, but it couldn’t penetrate the airtight cabin.

He looked out the porthole in the port side door. Tirek was flying aside the airship. Radish twisted the control yoke, and Tiffany slammed into him.

Tirek gripped the hatch and blasted its lock, then flung it open. Tirek reached inside the cabin, the doorway not big enough to accommodate his size. He roared as he clawed for Radish. Radish turned Tiffany hard to starboard, dragging Tirek off his mount. He snarled and flared up the Rainbow of Darkness between his horns.

Radish unbuckled his seatbelt, fell towards Tirek, and jabbed his moon crest into the rainbow. The Rainbow of Darkness latched onto the crest, swirling around it and burying it like it did with Scorpan.

Multicolored strips of the rainbow burst away from its main body- the Rainbow of Darkness’s wavelengths had been compromised by the color-changing magic of the crest, and it was tearing itself to shreds. It exploded into a prismatic burst of colors Radish couldn’t name. Tirek howled in pain.

A warning klaxon blared. Gauges on the console went wild. Tiffany listed to one side, and then her nose dipped. Her gas envelope had been ruptured, and she was going down.

A red fireball coalesced between Tirek’s horns. He aimed to blast Radish at point blank.

Something large and brown slammed into Tirek from the side. He lost his grip and plummeted out of sight. Scorpan, restored to his natural form, stood at the doorway, holding out a hand to Radish. Radish took it, and they abandoned ship.

Scorpan clutched Radish as they glided over a vast forest. Tiffany crashed into a cliffside, and Scorpan landed roughly on the top of the cliff. Radish flopped on the dirt. Scorpan fell onto his back, gripping his gut.

“Hey,” said Radish, “thanks.”

“You are welcome, major. I must thank you, as well. The Rainbow of Darkness is no more.”

“I’m sorry about your brother.”

Scorpan gazed out at the forest. “I doubt he is dead, even after that. He may not even remain lost in this forest for very long. But if one little pony could cause him so much aggravation, then perhaps he will reconsider his dreams of conquering the rest.”

He winced in pain. “However, this is as far as I can take you. My injuries are aggravated, as well.”

“Just hang on. Help will arrive. The captain will get the message, and she’ll dispatch the Wonderbolts. They’ll find the crash site, and us with it.”

“That will take hours.”

“Maybe the wind will be in their favor.”

Scorpan made a noise akin to a laugh. “Ponies are eternally optimistic.”

“I guess that’s Twilight rubbing off on me,” chuckled Radish, laying back down on the ground.

“Who is Twilight?”

“A princess. You’ll meet her.”

“Perhaps… not…” Scorpan said, softly and slowly.

“You’ll meet her, and everypony else. Don’t you want to see Celestia again?”

Radish looked over to Scorpan. He was unconscious, and his breathing was shallow. Radish tried to stand up, but couldn’t make it off the ground before passing out.


Captain Barrel Roller burst into the Canterlot throne room. She landed before the princesses and saluted.

“You highnesses! A messenger pigeon just arrived! We have a lead on Tirek!”

“I’m afraid we also have a lead on Tirek, captain,” said Princess Celestia, holding up several scrolls. “And it’s bad news.”

“How ba… Discord?”

“Yes,” said Luna, angrily. “Discord.

“What are our orders?”

“Prepare for the fight of your life, captain,” said Celestia, pointing to the public announcement microphone built into her throne’s armrest.

“For all our lives,” added Luna.

Barrel Roller nodded. She approached the thrones, then took the microphone in her hoof.

“Attention all guards. Threat Level Red. Prepare for imminent attack.”

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