• 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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114. The Defendant

Radish lay on his back on his jail cell’s cot, clothed in a black-and-white striped prisoner’s uniform. He stared out the barred window, watching squirrels run across the fence outside. A watchpony appeared at his cell door and pulled out a key ring.

“On your hooves, Root.” he said. “Your girlfriend paid your bail.

Radish walked down the hall, out a door and into the next room. He found Princess Celestia at a counter, signing forms. She turned and saw Radish.

“Major! Are you all right?”

“Princess Celestia? You paid my bail?”

“Of course.”

“Princess, you shouldn’t stick your neck out for me like this. I don’t want you to get all caught up in my problems.”

She approached him. “Radish, how many times have you stuck your neck out for me?”

“That’s a guard’s job.”

“And this is a princess’s duty. Now, come with me.”

She touched her horn to his forehead, and they both teleported away, leaving the prisoner uniform behind to fall to the floor. They reappeared in Radish’s quarters in the palace.

Celestia put her hooves and wings around Radish and hugged him tightly.

“Ma’am?”

“I can’t believe the Watch would just toss you in jail like that. I’m sorry, Radish. They’ve had it in for you ever since you exposed the corruption in their ranks.”

“Thanks for coming to get me.”

She let him go. “Does Light know about this yet?”

“Oh. She’s, uh, out of town right now.”

“Really? But what did she… what are you doing?”

Radish had opened his closet and was digging through his clothes. “Putting on pants, ma’am.”

“I don’t object to your cutie marks, and neither should this accuser of yours,” Celestia said. “She is merely a pestiferous busybody seeking attention.”

“Her young daughter saw my marks, ma’am.”

“She should have used it as a teachable moment to educate her child, not run whining to the nearest police station.”

“Even so, it’s a pretty open-and-shut case. I don’t know how I could possibly win this.”

She walked up to Radish and put a hoof on his shoulder. “By relying on your friends, of course.” She turned her head to the door. “Spatterdash?”

Radish’s door swung open, and Spats entered, dressed in a sharp suit and carrying a briefcase.

“Your troubles are over, Rad! I’ve got just the ponies who can get you off!”

“I’m sorry?”

“I’m talking representation of the finest quality, Rad.” He pulled a business card out of his breast pocket and gave it to Radish. It had a law firm’s name and an embossed logo of three gavels.

“What’s this?”

“One of my law school professors has friends at the Law Offices of Dewey, Treatemfairly, and Howe. And the firm has agreed to take on your case, pro-bono!”

“Why?”

“Why!? The hero of the Battle of the Brides- and my best bud- being treated as a lowlife criminal? Not on my watch! We’re going to have the charges dropped like a hot potato.”

“Spats, I can’t thank you enough.”

“No thanks necessary, Rad.” He put his briefcase on Radish’s coffee table and popped it open, spreading out piles of document folders. “I’m here to brief you on the firm’s strategy. Now, you’ve been charged with three crimes: Indecent Exposure, Corruption of a Minor, and Breach of the Peace.”

“I know,” Radish sighed.

“Don’t be intimidated by the terminology. Charges like these are so vague, juries usually dismiss them.”

“Oh. That’s good.”

“Just the same, we’re preparing a multi-pronged defense, using precedents from rulings on cutie mark discrimination, artistic expression, bodily integrity, and the right to satirize public officials. Why, your cutie mark can easily be viewed as a political cartoon. Are they going to ban the editorial columns next?”

“Political?” asked Celestia. “But what, then, is it saying?”

“That’s just it, your highness! Art is open to interpretation- nopony can say what it means. And we’ve got experts from the Canterlot Institute of Fine Arts willing to testify that Radish’s cutie mark is an artistic treasure on par with the Statue of Livery.”

“That may be a hard sell,” noted Celestia. “The prosecution may argue that art requires an artist. And if there is some cosmic artist behind cutie marks, ponykind has never discovered it.”

“Then we’ll argue that Radish’s marks are a unique natural wonder of Equestria, like Neighagra Falls or Rainbowstone. Would you demand a mountain put on pants?”

Radish picked up a folder containing information about the witness. “So this is the mare, huh? The mother of the filly whose life I ruined.”

“Ruined, my hoof,” scoffed Spats. “Kids these days pass worse things around the playground. This is simply a mare trying to earn a quick payout off of an Equestrian hero.”

Celestia leaned over and looked at the folder. She frowned. “They’re from Red Stick?”

“Yes, ma’am. Visiting town for the derby.”

“I see. Would you two continue this without me? There’s an avenue of investigation I need to pursue.”

“Aye, ma’am,” said Spats.

She stood up. “Oh, and Radish? Don’t worry. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“Princess,” said Radish, “some things are out of your control.”

“And some things just need reminding of who’s in charge.”

She left the room. Radish picked up a folder and leafed through its contents. “Spats, what’s this?”

“Ah, the prosecution has lined up experts, as well. They’re going to be calling the co-directors of a childhood development research center to the stand.”

“Who?”

“They’re brothers, actually. Flim and Flam. Of the Flim and Flam Foal Rearing Institute.”

“What?” said Radish. “Twilight’s written about the Flim Flam Brothers. They’re a pair of hucksters who Applejack keeps running afoul of. They’re not experts in anything but scamming ponies.”

“Really?” asked Spats.

“Yeah. Should we say something to somepony?”

“Not at all! Let them bring in phony experts. We’ll discredit them in front of the jury and win the case on the spot.”

“I’m starting to feel better about this.”


Princess Celestia walked down an upper hallway of the White Oak Remand Center. She stopped before a door, narrowed her eyes, and magicked it open.

Inside, Worthy Wagoner lay in bed, hooked up to a heart monitor and reading a newspaper. He flipped its top down to peer over it.

“Oh. Celestia. I was not expecting a visit from you. How have you been?”

She stomped up to the bed. “Save it. I warned you not to go after my friends.”

“To what do you refer?”

Don’t. Radish Root has been arrested for his cutie marks. I know you had something to do with it.”

“Not so. But something like that was bound to happen eventually. I’m surprised it hadn't happened sooner. The boy is not appropriate for public consumption, Celestia. He has no business going among decent ponies.”

“His accuser is a mare who lives hundreds of miles from Canterlot. And yet she just happened to run afoul of Radish in just the right place at exactly the wrong time. Now, what are the odds of that?”

“Well, it sounds like a conspiracy to me. Luckily the boy seems adept at unraveling those.”

“You’re going to undo it. Now.”

“I don’t know what leverage you think you have over me. I am already incarcerated. And the terms of my plea prevent you from altering the particulars of my incarceration.”

“Only because you took certain particulars for granted, Worthy. Like the decor, for example.”

“The… decor?”

“Yes,” Celestia said, looking around the room. “These plain white walls are awfully dull. I think you’d benefit from something more… stimulating.”

She lit up her horn, filling the room full of light. When it subsided, the walls had been repainted to realistically resemble the inside of a thick jungle. The ceiling was a now dense, dark canopy with a staggering illusion of depth, and what had been a checkered floor was now indistinguishable from a rough patch of earth covered in moss, vines, and fungi.

Worthy sat up in his bed and inched into the headboard. “I do not approve of this motif.”

“And why is that? It seems like pleasant scenery to me.”

“I would ask you to change it back.”

“Ah, that’s right- your first ex-wife mentioned over tea that you had a bad experience in a South Equestrian jungle in your youth. It must have been terrifying for one so young to be so lost.”

“You… have been prying into private affairs…”

“And she mentioned that there were some details of the ordeal you were never willing to discuss. What did you see, Worthy? Or… did something see you?”

There was a sound of rustling vegetation in the distance. Worthy whipped around, then staggered forward to discover he was no longer sitting in his bed, but standing on damp earth. The furniture of his room was gone. Celestia was nowhere to be seen.

Worthy inhaled a gulp of moist air. He heard a stirring on the ground behind him. He turned to see a large snake slither across a log and disappear behind a rock. He backed into the rough bark of a towering tree. He felt ants crawl up his rear left leg, and he shook and swatted them off.

“Celestia, my heart is still weakened following Tirek’s attack. Not that I blame you for that, of course! But this risks further damage.”

There was no response.

“This is cruelty! I will sue!”

There was no response.

“Celestia! Do you hear me!?”

The rustling in the vegetation grew closer. He backed away.

“Princess, it was not me!” he hissed in a desperate whisper. “I did not make this move against the boy!”

“Who, then?” demanded a booming voice from high above the treetops.

“I’ve no idea!”

“You’ll have to do better than that, Worthy.”

“You are thinking like a noble- seeking ponies who bear a personal grudge against Radish! Think like a businesspony instead! His arrest is an opportunity!”

“An opportunity for what?”

“To exploit his position, his skills, his connections! Look for the pony who would profit off those! And see who comes to him with a deal in his most desperate hour!”

The jungle went pitch-black. Worthy huddled in the dark, holding his breath.

“Thank you, Worthy. Please, take care of your heart.”

Worthy sat up in bed, gasping. He looked around his room. The walls were white. The ceiling was white. The floor was checkered. His newspaper lay folded on his side table. Celestia wasn’t there, but there was now a nurse at his bedside.

“Your heartbeat spiked while you were sleeping,” she said, putting on a stethoscope. “Were you having a dream?”

He looked aside and muttered, “Princess Celestia…”

The nurse laughed. “Yep, that would do it.”

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