• 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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104. The Monsters, Part 6

Radish lay in the dirt, drifting somewhere between consciousness and cognizance. He was jolted awake by a pastel rainbow searing the skies above him.

“Radish? Can ya hear me?” called a familiar, down-home voice from his left.

“Radish! OoOOOoooooo! Step into the liiight!” called a familiar, squeaky voice from his right.

He groaned and looked skyward. Applejack and Pinkie Pie stood above him. They looked different. Their manes and tails were massive, elaborate, and multicolored. Their hooves were covered in stamps of their cutie marks.

“What in the world?”

“Howdy, Radish!” cheered Applejack.

“Applejack? Pinkie Pie? What’s going on?”

“You died, Radish,” Pinkie Pie said solemnly. “We’re here to convey you to the Land of the Dead.”

“…what?”

Applejack smacked Pinkie Pie on the side of her head. “Pinkie Pie! Don’t joke about that kind of thing! Yer fine, Radish.”

“What’s happened to you two? How did you get here?”

“Remember Twilight’s big chest?” asked Applejack.

“Uh…”

“Well, we found all six keys, opened it, and these amazing rainbow powers popped out!” said Pinkie Pie. “And we’ve, like, ascended to a higher plane of existence to restore all the magic that Tirek stole from ponies all across Equestria!”

“He did what!?”

“Oh, guess you wouldn’t have heard about that,” said Applejack. “See, after Discord betrayed us all and joined Tirek-”

“HE DID WHAT!?”

“Don’t worry!” assured Pinkie Pie. “Tirek betrayed him right back, and he learned a valuable lesson about friendship.”

“That’s… ugh. Look, can you help my friend Scorpan? He’s hurt. Girls?”

Radish looked around. Applejack and Pinkie Pie were gone. So was Scorpan.


A warm light bathed Spats from above. He cracked open his eyes. The sky was ablaze with gentle colors, and two mare-like figures floated in the air above him. Oddly enough, he recognized them.

“Princess Twilight Sparkle? Miss Rarity?”

“Hello, friend!” cheered Twilight Sparkle. “Tirek has been defeated through the Magic of Friendship! We’re spreading the good news and returning all the magic he stole!”

“Oh, nice.”

“It was quite brave of you, defending your fellow ponies from Tirek, sir,” said Rarity. “May I ask your name?”

“I’m Spats.”

“Oh! Radish has mentioned a chum named Spats! Though he neglected to mention what a… striking stallion you are.”

Spats sat up and leaned towards her. “Miss Rarity?”

“Yes, dear?” asked Rarity, batting her eyelashes.

“What on earth did you do to your mane?”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s got yellow, magenta, and cyan stripes in it. It looks like a printshop accident.”

Rarity scowled. “Well! Of all the nerve! Twilight, I think we can leave this one on the ground.”

“We’re saving everypony, Rarity.”

“Hmph.”


Radish sat up and stretched out his legs. He felt strong and connected to the world under his hooves- his earth pony powers were back. He looked around.

“Scorpan?”

“Here, Major Root.”

Scorpan came lumbering out from behind some trees. “I left to search our environs for anything useful, and I witnessed… that event with the rainbow ponies. I felt like I should not intrude upon it. Were you expecting that?”

“No, but I’m not very surprised by it. It’s very in-character for those girls. How’s your wound?”

Scorpan looked down at his gut. “It is closed, but it will leave a very prominent scar.

“Hey, chicks dig scars.”

“Is a scar what caused that?” Scorpan asked, pointing to Radish’s flank. Radish looked.

The return of Radish’s magic had caused his cutie mark to reassert itself on his fur, and now it was mixed in with the remains of the painted radish mark. It looked like a red splotch with colored smears crossing through it.

“Nah, that’s just a bit of camouflage. Now, we need to find a way back to Canterlot."

Scorpan squinted into the sky. “Perhaps they bring our answer?”

A team of uniformed Wonderbolts landed next to Radish and Scorpan, towing an ambulance cart.

“Hey, champ. Need a lift?” asked their leader, lifting her goggles.

“Captain Spitfire?”

“We got your message. Sorry it took so long to find you. We were out of commission for hours. We found Midnight Castle in ruins. What the heck happened there?”

“Just a little skirmish.”

“Anyway, we were tracing the path back to Canterlot when Soarin’ here spotted your airship wreckage. Hop on in.”

“Thanks.”

Radish and Scorpan took a seat on the cart. Laminar opened his medical kit and examined them. Radish noticed a lumpy tarp in the cart.

“What’s this?”

Soarin’ pulled up the tarp. Radish’s armor and weapons were under it.

“This was all we could find of you in the castle. We were dreading telling Celestia that. I’m glad we found the rest of you.”

Radish picked up the Ferrum Flats knife and examined it. He smiled. “Me, too.”


“Root, come in. We’ve got some housekeeping to do,” Barrel Roller said.

Radish sat down in front of his captain’s desk.

“First of all, everything regarding Midnight Castle and the Rainbow of Darkness has been classified.”

“I understand. I think that’s for the best.”

“Pigeon 55 will be retiring with honors. As for you, you’ve earned another Iron Barding award, another Lunar Defender ribbon, plus a medal from Scorpan’s kingdom, as well. Congrats. The medal ceremony’s next week.”

“I’m honored.”

“Second, I understand you’ve named your successor for Station Chief at PEERS.”

“Yes, ma’am. Maple Bar will do an excellent job there.”

“That’s fine. Celestia wants to speak with you personally about your next assignment.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

“Now, as you’re probably aware, Princess Twilight Sparkle is taking charge of Discord’s punishment.”

“Which means he’s getting off scot-free. Again.”

“Yes. So this next part is off-the-record.” She leaned over her desk toward Radish. “Root, in the past, you’ve hinted that you had some way of… ‘dealing with’ Discord.”

“You said that the Royal Guard doesn’t plot to ‘deal with’ state allies.”

“I know what I said. Do you have something or not?”

“I do. I keep it close to my heart.”

Radish took the container of anti-chaos spores from around his neck and placed it on her desk.


“Radish, come in. We’ve got some housekeeping to do,” said Celestia.

Radish entered Celestia’s office and sat down in front of her desk.

“I’m glad to see you’re safe and sound, princess,” he said. “I heard about what happened to you, Luna, and Cadance.”

Celestia sighed. “Go ahead and say it, Radish. Everypony else has.”

“Say what, ma’am?”

“Oh, you know darn well what. You warned me about Discord. And he turned on us without barely a second thought. So, just get it over with and hit me with your best ‘I told you so’.”

“Ma’am! You really think I’d be so petty as to rub a national crisis in your face?”

“Hmm. No, I suppose not.”

“I know that everything you do, you do for the good of Equestria. Being a leader means taking on bold ideas and making difficult decisions.”

“Yes, it does.”

“And sure, trusting Discord was a far higher-risk gamble than most ponies would even entertain…”

Celestia narrowed her eyes.

“...but I’m sure having to live through the consequences of that gamble failing in such a spectacular way is a far greater punishment than any comment I could make.”

Celestia sighed. “Thank you, Radish. You’re too kind. The next thing I have to tell you is that there will be a shakeup in the Guard hierarchy. Luna will now have her own contingent of guards under her own command, a unit that I will have no veto power over. She will no longer have to resort to ordering guards around my back.”

“That sounds cool. Uh, where do I fall in this hierarchy?”

“For standard duties, you’ll still report to your captain. But now this ‘Champion’ thing you have going on with her will carry official weight. You and the bat ponies will form a special team to handle her most important tasks as they arise.”

“Like an Action Group Two?”

“Luna wanted to call it the ‘Night Guard’.”

“Oh. That sounds like a dental apparatus.”

“Indeed. And lastly, we’ve just received news regarding the Wagoner trial.”

“Ma’am?”

“Worthy’s representation is willing to make a deal. He will change his plea to ‘no contest’ in exchange for carrying out his sentence in a facility of his choosing- the White Oak Remand Center in North Cartolina.”

“He’s just trying to get sent to some minimum-security country club prison staffed by ponies in his pocket.”

“Radish, White Oak is a medical prison.”

“What, is he sick?”

“He was among the unicorns that Tirek stole magic from. His doctors are claiming it exacerbated an old heart condition, and that a lengthy trial would put too much stress on his heart for him to bear.”

“They’re lying. He’s faking. It’s a ploy.”

“Perhaps. But his heart condition is real enough, and it’s a matter of public record that Tirek sapped his magic. Most of the claimants on our side- Chief Shortshadow, the Plains Rangers Admiralty- are willing to accept the plea. And I am, too.”

“Well,” sighed Radish, “I wasn’t really looking forward to testifying- I was afraid they’d hammer me with questions about my cutie mark.”

“Our side would have immediately shut down that line of questioning as irrelevant.”

“Thanks. But I still think Worthy is up to something. I bet he’ll try to fake his death and sneak off to his family’s island or something.”

“Radish, be proud of yourself. Even if it’s not what you were expecting, you’ve put a powerful criminal away. It’s just that not all of our enemies will rate a sentence in Tartarus.”

“Hmm. All right, princess. Speaking of Tartarus, I’m sorry I never got to the bottom of how Tirek escaped.”

“Don’t worry- I did. It seems that every time the Superintendent checked on Tirek, Tirek absorbed a bit of magic from his mechanical brain. After a thousand years of cumulative power drain, the Superintendent started making errors in counting prisoners. And telling time.”

“Can he be fixed?”

“I’ve got experts working on it.”

“No wonder Tirek looked so shriveled. An artifact-to-organic power transfer like that would have a deleterious effect on his digestive system.”

Celestia looked surprised. “Why, major, you sound just like Scorpan.”

“Yeah. I’m glad he's okay.”

“He speaks highly of you, which is quite a feat. He is not easily impressed.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“What was your impression of him?”

“Oh, uh, he’s very… erudite. Kind of stiff, but he’s good people.”

“That’s how I remember him.”

Radish took a deep breath. “Princess, I want you to know that I’m happy to have brought him back into your life. And if you’d like to pick up where you left off with him… you have my support.”

Celestia cracked an awkward smile. “Radish… I think you may have the wrong idea about me and Scorpan.”

“Oh? I thought you two were… close.”

“Certainly, we developed a strong bond while fighting Tirek, as life-and-death battles tend to forge. And after the danger was over, he was given a hero’s welcome in the castle. We dined together, shared each other’s cultures, and we even taught each other magic. But there was no romance. The wound from my first love was still raw back then.”

“Oh, I see.”

“And now that I think of it, Scorpan actually spent much more time with Luna in those days.”

“Luna? Really?”

“Yes. They saw operas and plays together, strolled the menagerie, and toured Canterlot by coach.”

“Oh. That’s… nice.”

“In fact, I believe I saw the two of them taking a walk by the lake just a while ago.”

“I’m, uh, going to go now.”

“See you later, major.”


Radish took a walk along the palace’s back parapets.

“Radish!” called Twilight. She landed next to him. They hugged.

“Hi, Twilight. Thanks for-”

“Please don’t say, ‘thanks for saving the world’ again.”

“Okay. But I’m thinking it.”

“And please, no lectures on Discord, either.”

“Oh, I’m not worried about Discord anymore.”

“Good.”

Radish walked over to the edge of the walkway. Twilight joined him. They gazed at the newest landmark on the Equestrian landscape, a massive tree-shaped crystalline castle just on the outskirts of Ponyville.

“Isn’t it amazing?” remarked Twilight.

“Hey, if anyone deserves a castle, it’s you.”

“I don’t think the Tree of Harmony intended it as a reward. More like a responsibility. Did you hear? I’ve got a new title.”


“The Princess of Friendship?” Light Fantastic asked incredulously.

“Yep,” replied Radish.

“What does that even mean?”

“Well… she’s, you know, good at friendship.”

“I’ve had friends longer than she has. Can I be Queen Mother of Friendship?”

“I’ll ask. She’s showing me her castle this weekend.”

“Yeah? You sound excited.”

“Fanny, that castle was seemingly spawned by the Tree of Harmony itself. That means it was designed by a magical intelligence. There’s nothing else in Equestria like that. It might represent some kind of… magical ideal of how a castle is supposed to be! If I study its design, it would be like learning castle-building from a higher being! Defense strategies of transcendental origin!”

“Ah. You want to plumb the secrets of Twilight’s inner sanctum.”

“With every tool I have.”

“Sounds exhausting.”

“I’ll go slowly.”

“That could take all night.”

“I won’t stop until I’m satisfied.”

“What if her friends are there?”

“They can watch.”

They shared a laugh. Light kissed Radish.

“Well, have fun. But seriously, don’t sleep with Twilight.”

“What? Where did that come from?”

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