• 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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106. The Castle: Saturday

Twilight Sparkle climbed into her chair at her parents’ breakfast table. Her mother floated her a glass of orange juice. Her father folded the paper he was reading and slipped it under the classifieds.

“Oh, are you done with that section? May I see it?” she asked.

“Honey, I don’t think you’re going to like it,” he said.

“Why not?”

“It’s about you.”

“What? Let me see that.”

She took the paper in her aura. It was a popular tabloid. The front page had a picture of her and North Westing setting up his model rocket.

Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, seen frolicking in Whinny Park with new beau. Do we hear wedding bells, or is she only interested in the… thrust of his rocket?

Her mother let out a laugh. Twilight frowned.

“It’s not funny. This could disrupt North’s life, you know.”

“It already has,” said Night Light. “Read on.”

The stallion declined to comment, as did his family, neighbors, co-workers, old schoolmates, and… dentist? Ugh. I should give these parasites a piece of my mind.”

“Honey, the tabloid news cycle lasts hours,” said Night Light. “Everypony will forget this by tomorrow.”

“Well, I’m not going to let them ruin my new friendship. And they’re going to get an earful about journalistic standards.”

“Dear, maybe you should have breakfast first,” said Twilight Velvet.

“Yes, and don’t read the bit at the end,” warned Night Light.

Twilight read the bit at the end.

Meanwhile, her on-again, off-again lover… Private Radish Root… was spotted sharing a romantic candlelit meal with her own employee, Rainbow Dash, in her Ponyville castle. He’s not a private! She’s not my employee! And there’s not even a candle in this picture! And does everypony think I have a thing for Radish?”

“We sure did,” said Night Light.

“So did Shining and Cadance,” said Twilight Velvet.

“Your aunt Milky thinks you live with him,” said Night Light.


“Oh, sweetie,” said Twilight Velvet. “You’re going to have to get used to gossip if you’re a princess. Just think of all the tabloid headlines Celestia has had to deal with over the years. She never pays it any mind.”

“That’s right,” said Night Light. “Why, when Radish got a job at the palace, that rag claimed she was hiring him as a secret consort.”

“I remember.”

“Oh! And when Shining got promoted to captain, they claimed he slept his way to the top!” laughed Twilight Velvet.



“Okay, never mind. But I’m still going to talk to North.”

“Invite him to dinner! We’d love to meet him,” said Night Light.

Spike entered the kitchen, sleepily rubbing his eyes.

“Hey. Is that you in the paper?”

Twilight disintegrated the tabloid.


Radish sat back from the castle doors and wiped his brow. Installing locks was easy. Doing it with the materials available on-hoof so he wouldn’t have to abandon the castle to visit the hardware store- that had been difficult. Placing tripwire where it won’t be noticed would be a real challenge.

But it’s what Twilight needs.

“Dashie! Look! You made the papers again!” said Windy Whistles, holding up a tabloid for Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash looked up from her bowl of Wonderbolts-branded breakfast cereal. “For the Tirek thing?”

“No, for a scandalous celebrity love quadrangle!” she said, cheerfully. “Isn't that great?”

“Huh? Let me see that.” Dash read over the article, muttering. “Heh, they think Twilight’s dating some toy rocket dork. But where’s… employee!? Romantic!? Ugh. Radish wishes.”

She started to ball up the paper.

“Don’t crumple it!” said her father. “We're going to frame it next to the others!”


Rainbow Dash watched her mother flit through the kitchen, preparing multiple breakfast dishes at once.

“Hey, uh, do you think I could help with dinner tonight?”

Her mother turned to her in surprise. “You want to cook?”

“It’s not weird. Lots of the Wonderbolts cook. The Plains Rangers even have their own cookbook.”

“All right!” her father cheered. “Best chef in Equestria!”


Luna stepped into Cat’s Howl. Light Fantastic looked up from her counter.

“Oh, welcome back, princess!”

“Miss Fantastic!”

“Call me ‘Fanny’.”


“Just ‘Light’, then.”

“Light, I had a lot of fun with you and Splash Page yesterday, learning of this new age of sequential art. Now I would like to reciprocate.”


“I want to show you my most private place.”


“A hidden sanctuary in town, known only to myself. I set it up thirteen hundred years ago, and it has remained hidden and sealed since my… well, you know. Descent into madness and evil.”

“Wait, like some kind of secret moon princess hideout?”

“Yes. Back then, I often needed to get away from the palace, and relax in a place with no guards, servants… or sisters.”

“That sounds cool! Can we go after work?”

“Yes. We can fly there together.”

“I’ll bring us dinner.”

“How thoughtful! And to think, Celestia finds you off-putting. Shows what she knows, eh?”


Apple Bloom knocked on the door of Twilight’s castle. A weighted net fell onto her.

“Hey! What in the-!”

Radish sprang from the bushes with his sword in mouth. He raised an eyebrow.

“Uh, Mister Root?”

He spit his sword into his hoof. “Major.”

“Sorry. Major Root. What’s with the net?”

“I had intruder problems yesterday.”

“Oh? That’s terrible!”

“What are you doing here?”

“Delivering a gift for Twilight’s new home. A genuine Apple Family apple peeler/corer! We hoof-make them ourselves!”

She held up the peeler/corer. Radish peered at it suspiciously.

“Oh yeah? If it’s really what you claim it is, then let’s see it peel and core an apple.”

“Uh… alright.”

She pulled a red delicious out of her bag and stuck it in the device, giving its crank a few turns. It peeled and cored the apple with ease.

“Ta-da!” she said. "No fuss, no muss. You can order one, but give six to eight weeks for delivery.”

She chomped the peeled and cored apple, savoring its crunch.

“Okay,” said Radish. “That checks out.”

Radish let Apple Bloom out of the net.

“If you’ve got sneaks around here, I can lend you Winona!” she said. “She’ll sniff them out, lickey-split!”

“Thanks, but it could be dangerous for her. These intruders are professionals- they didn’t even leave a trace.”

“Then how do you know they were here?”

“I could hear them laughing at me.”

“Oh. You know, I’m gonna go.”

“Stay safe, Apple Bloom.”

“Tryin’ to.”

“Hey. You. Get up.”

Summer Breeze cracked open her eyelids. She was on a couch in a dorm room.

“What time is it?”

“Time for you to leave,” said the dorm's resident. "Party’s over.”

“What happened to me?”

“You drank half my booze, is what happened.”

“I did you a favor. That stuff was rotgut.”

“Could you please go now?”

“Oh, I’m going, all right. I’m going to give Light Fantastic a piece of my mind.”


Light Fantastic and Princess Luna stared at an ancient brick wall by Canterlot’s riverwalk.

“It was here, I am sure of it,” said Luna. “Ah! Here we go!”

She pointed her horn at a single brick, which flipped around. The whole wall slid open.

“Whoa!” exclaimed Light. “Thousands of ponies must have walked past this wall over the years, and no one knew this was here.”

“Come! Let us see how time has treated my hideaway.”

They descended a long brick stairwell. Luna lit the way with her horn.

“Ugh, it is really dusty in here,” said Light, coughing.

“Here,” said Luna, and cast a glow over the two of them. “This is an air filtration spell, to protect our lungs. Used by miners, chemists, and palace maids.”

“Aww, thanks. I can see why Rad likes you so much.”

“Oh? He said that?”

“Not so much in his words, but in his tone.”

They reached a solid stone wall. Luna tapped it in three places, and it vanished, revealing a large round room with a sunken center. A soft blue glow emanated from a large ring inset into the ceiling. There were tables, chairs, sofas, and a bed.

“So this is furniture from thirteen hundred years ago?”

“Yes. Nice, isn’t it?”

Light looked at the bed. It was massive. “You ever take guys down here for a little fun?”

“Light, that is personal. Our friendship has not yet reached the level at which we may discuss our sexual histories.”

“Well, we’ll get there some day.”

Luna led Light over a workbench.

“As Nightmare Moon, I tinkered with fiendish weapons and evil plots. But before that, I would come here, and tinker with small creative projects that soothed me.”

“No kidding? You’re an artist?”

“Hardly. A dabbler. A dilettante.”

Light examined the tools on the bench.

“Oh, woodworking! That’s tough to do. Is anything you made still here?”

“Uh, let’s see.”

She opened a cabinet.

“Ah! Behold!”

She pulled out a small painted wooden figurine of a dragon.

“Whoa, cool! That looks great!”

“You flatter me. It was frustrating to get right. This is the product of many failed attempts.”

“You know, I could sell your art in my shop.”

“Light, friends should not go into business together.”

“That would go for seven hundred bits. Ten times that with your autograph on it.”

“And your cut?”

“Twenty percent.”



“Deal! Oh dear, are we walking back our friendship and becoming business partners? Quick, let’s have the dinners you brought, so we can deepen our personal bond over a shared meal.”


“And if that is successful, then we may speak of who I brought down here for dalliances.”

“All right!”

Summer Breeze stomped up to Cat’s Howl. The store was dark, the door was locked, and a “CLOSED” sign hung inside it.

“Yeah? Close this,” she said, casting a spell to open it. She shoved her way in and looked around.

She stumbled through the aisles, derisively scoffing at Light’s merchandise. She knocked over a display rack of paintbrushes with a sarcastic “Oops!”

She sat on the stool behind the sales counter and spun around. She put a hoof to her chest and made the dumbest face she could muster.

“Look at me! I’m Light Fantastic! I’m a bitchy little stallion-stealer who sells overpriced trash for hipsters!”

She picked up a Nightmare Root figurine and wiggled it in the air.

“Durr! I’m Radish! Can I please bang you, Celestia?”

She held up a Princess Pain figurine in front of it.

“Nope! I had one bad date in ancient times, so I’ll never love again! But don’t worry, I’ll still tease you for the rest of your life!”

She found an Eclipsa toy and put it between them.

“Forsooth, mine Champion! Verily dance with me all night instead of doing your job!”

The bell above the door clanked. Summer Breeze looked up to see a Watch pony with a truncheon in his wings.

“Don’t move. You’re under arrest for magicking and entering.”

“Oh, eat it, copper.”

Summer Breeze teleported away.

Applejack trotted up to Twilight’s castle. She tried the door, but it didn’t budge.

“Radish?” she called.

“Stop right there,” said a steely voice from above.

She looked up. Radish was at the balcony, with his hooves on a large cauldron.

“Uh, Radish?”


“Apple Bloom said you had problems with burglars. Uh… is that a vat of boilin’ oil?”

“Twilight didn’t have that much oil. And it takes a long time to boil this much liquid. So, this is a vat of tepid, oily water. Still, it won’t be pleasant. It could ruin your hat.”

“Oh. Well, maybe I can help you.”

“Do you have more oil?”

“Yes, but fer fritters. Not fer this.”

“Come inside.”

“I can’t. The door’s stuck. What did you do to it? It shouldn’t even have a lock on it.”

“Crazy, right? Stay there.”

Radish disappeared from the balcony, then opened the front doors. Applejack entered.

“Stay out of the side corridors,” warned Radish. “They’re rigged with snares.”

“Then how are we supposed to get to the other rooms?”

Radish laughed. Applejack looked at him uneasily. “Radish, you seem mighty tired.”

“Good. Then they’ll underestimate me.”

“The intruders? You think they’ll be back?”

“I know it. They didn’t get what they came for last time.”

“What’s that?”

“The dimensional mirror.”

“What!? You think someone would steal it? Why? It won’t even work for another… uh… twenty five moons, I think?”

“Lots of reasons. Maybe they want to escape Equestria. Maybe they want access to human technology. Maybe they want to manipulate Twilight by holding Flash Sentry hostage. Whatever they want, I’m not letting them get their hooves on it. Twilight trusted me with it, and I won’t let her down.”

“Well, that’s right noble of you and all, but that thing weighs a ton. I should know. I helped get it here.”

“There’s always someone stronger. There’s always someone smarter. There’s always someone faster. Being a guard means overcoming all of that. We power through the odds.”

“Have you been up all night fortifyin’ this place?”

“I can sleep when the burglars are caught.”

“Radish, I see what’s going on here. You’re right. I’ll help you guard the mirror.”

“What’s the trust password?”

“Uh, we don’t have one.”

“Well, that’s a problem, isn’t it?”

“How about, ‘apples’?”

“Good. Easy to remember.”

“You guard the portal. I’ll whip up something that will help.”

She left the room. Radish entered the library and looked at himself in the mirror. He leaned close to it and whispered.

“If any of you can hear me, guard your side of the portal with your most powerful weapons.”

Applejack trotted in with a potion bottle of white liquid.

“Here you go, Radish. This is a mighty powerful concoction to help you do your duties.”

“I’m not supposed to take unauthorized potions.”

“I’ve got a throne here, Radish. I am an authority.”

“That makes sense. What’s the trust password?”


“Okay. Good.”

He drank.

“Wait… that was…”

“Warm milk. Nothin’ better to help you sleep.”

Radish sagged to the floor. “You… lied…”

He slumped over.

“No, I didn’t. I said it would help you do your duties. And a good sleep will. Let’s get you to bed.”

She carried him into Twilight’s room, worked off his armor, and put him under the covers.

“Applejack…” he muttered, trying to fight to stay awake. “Can’t sleep…”

She ruffled his mane. “I know what it’s like, thinkin’ you have to take on the world yourself. Just get some rest.”

“I’ll get you for this…”

“You’ll thank me for this, sugar cube.”

He dozed off. Applejack heard a clank from within the castle. Her ears pricked up.

She entered the throne room. No one was there. She went to the foyer. No one was there. She looked out the front doors. No one was there. She heard the crunch of grass to the side of the building, and ran to check it out. No one was there.

“Now, what’s goin’ on here?”

Twilight Sparkle walked through Whinny Park. She saw North Westing setting up a launch pad.

“North! There you are!”

“Oh… hi, Twilight.”

“Look, I’m sorry about those tabloids. Please, don’t let them ruin our friendship. I had a lot of fun yesterday.”

“So did I. But my girlfriend saw the paper, and she’s really upset.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

“Oh, he didn’t mention me, huh?” said a deep voice behind Twilight. She turned to see a massive rust-colored earth mare looming over her.

“Oh… hi. I’m-”

She seized Twilight by the neck and put her in a headlock.

“Lander! Stop!” cried North.

“Listen here, princess,” she said. “North is mine. I don’t care if you’re an alicorn, a draconequus, or a purple worm. I’m tired of you hobby shop groupies sniffing around him.”

“We’re…just… friends…” Twilight gasped, eyes bugging out.

“Yeah? Like how you and Radish Root are ‘just friends’?”

“Exactly!” Twilight squeaked.

Lander grit her teeth. She put her muzzle right in Twilight’s.

“You like the thrust of his rocket, huh? Then let’s get you into orbit.”

“Honey! No!”

“Please…” said Twilight, struggling.

Lander gave her a noogie.

“I’m just bustin’ your balls, princess!” she laughed. She let Twilight out of the headlock and gave her a tight bear hug. “You think anyone believes what tabloids say?”

“Ohh… okay…” said Twilight, seconds away from unconsciousness. Lander let her go, and she stumbled back, gasping for air.

“Honey, you really scared her,” admonished North.

“Ah, she eats supervillains for breakfast. She’s not afraid of little ol’ me.”

Twilight chuckled nervously.

“Careful… careful… aha! Light, this is my finest work!”

Princess Luna set a freshly-carved figure of a tumbleweed in front of Light Fantastic.

“Aww, cute.”

“It is not cute, Light. This is the Overbush, a mutant plant Celestia and I defeated long ago. It was a thousand meters in diameter, and as it rolled across the plains, it crushed whole villages and snatched up ponies in its brambles.”

“That’s fucked up.”

“Indeed. It is the very reason we built Canterlot on the side of a mountain, far off the ground.”

“How’d you beat it?”

“We rolled it into a lava field. I will never forget the stench of its burning brambles.”

“Wow. You know, all this time I thought you and Celestia were couple of royal prisses. Just sitting in your towers, primping your magic hair, spritzing expensive foreign perfumes, and gobbling premium chocolates. But you’re actually badasses, aren’t you?”

“Thank you, Light Fantastic. And here I was afraid Major Root had settled for a mousey, ninny-headed shop girl. But you have the forthrightness of a griffon and the charm of a chorus line dancer.”


“And, if I may say so, a fine set of hips, quite suitable for birthing Radish Root’s many children.”

Light’s smile faded. “Oh, um, I got my tubes taken out years ago. I’m not going to be birthing anything.”

Luna frowned. "Is Radish aware?"

"Oh, he’s aware,” chuckled Light. “He learned during our third date.”

“Light Fantastic, this will not do. As my Champion, Radish is charged with founding a heroic bloodline, so that his descendants may take up his mantle and serve me after he has passed. This must continue through the ages.”

Light felt her insides churn. “What? What are you talking about? That’s not going to happen.”

Luna narrowed her eyes. “Light Fantastic, I will not be denied.” She leaned into Light’s face. “If you will not bear Radish’s heirs… then I will.”

Light hunched over and spread her wings in a warning display. She bared her teeth.

“You are not going to lay one hoof on his-!” She noticed the corners of Luna’s mouth quivering, trying to suppress a smile.

“Oh. You’re fucking with me.”

Ribbing you. Yes.”

Light relaxed. “Okay. You got me good. No, actually, you scared the shit out of me.”

“Oh my, I took it too far?”

“I guess I worry about something like that really happening someday.”

“Light, I would never.”

“But he’s doing Celestia in his cutie marks. What if that’s really his special talent? His destiny? What if they’re supposed to be together? Start a dynasty? Did I, like, fuck up the course of history by taking Rad from Celestia?”

“There is no ‘supposed to be’. There is just what is. Celestia and Radish are not destined for one another. Besides, has his special talent not been revealed through you?”


“I’ve long assumed the Celestia of his marks was meant to be a generic symbol. That the act depicted was the talent.”

“You thought his marks meant he was really fantastic at sex?”


“That he could make any mare make that face?”

“Did I not assume correct?”

Light leaned back in her chair and smiled. “If we’re talking about our dalliances now… you go first.”

Luna smiled. “Very well. Let me tell you about a certain handsome burro count I once knew…”

“Okay, what’s the first step?” asked Rainbow Dash to her mother.

“First, you bring the water to a boil,” replied Windy Whistles.

“All right.”

Rainbow Dash clicked on the kitchen stove burner under a pot of water.

“Whoo hoo!” cheered her mother. “You did that perfectly! Best water boiler in all of Equestria!”

“Ugh. Now what?”

“Great question, Dashie! Now you peel the potatoes.”

“Okay,” said Dash, picking up a potato. “Please don’t shout in my ear while I’m handling the sharp implement.”

“Good thinking, dear! Who’s the safest little chef in the whole wide world! Rainbow Dash, that’s who!”


“So, after Underglaze, I realized that every guy I’ve ever dated was pretty much the same- whether they were a pony, a zebra, or a donkey,” said Light, chewing on the eggplant parmesan sandwich she had brought. “I was looking for something different.”

“Ah, and Major Root was unlike any male you’ve ever met?” Luna asked.

“Well… yeah. You could say that.”

“What qualities in him do you find most attractive?”

“He’s so cuddly.”

“Oh? I… uh… was unaware of that. Light, I want you to know that Radish has been most happy since you came into his life. And now I am happy that you are a part of mine.”

“Aww. I’m glad you came by the store. This was a lot of fun.”

“Indeed. Is our friendship… secured?”

“You bet!”

“Excellent! The two bits will be mine!”

“The what?”

Sew Buttons knocked on the door of Celestia’s personal suite.

“Your highness? Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine!” called Summer Breeze. “Go away!”

“Don’t listen to her!” called Celestia. “Get in here now! That’s an order!”

Sew Buttons opened the door. Celestia’s coloration was back to normal, but she was gripping a bottle of yellow hair dye in her aura, seemingly trying to fight it away from herself with her hooves.

“Get the guards! Tell them to arrest Summer Breeze!” cried Celestia.

“But… you are Summer Breeze?”

Celestia turned her head around. The other side of her body was still dyed as Summer Breeze.

“That’s right, you can’t get rid of me that easily!” she growled in Summer Breeze’s voice. “I’m the you that you always wanted to be! The you that you deserve to be!”

“Ma’am! What the fuck!?”

Celestia turned back again.

“No, you are not! I am princess of this land, and I order you to yield!”

Summer Breeze turned around. The bottle of dye moved closer to her body.

“Not this time, princess! I’m finally going to have all the fun you were too afraid to have! And I think I’m going to start by spending some quality time with Radish Root!”

“You… will not… touch him!”

Celestia slammed her own face into the wall, knocking herself unconscious. Her aura died out and the bottle of dye spilled to the floor. Sew Buttons stared, afraid to move.

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