• 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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12. The Voice

Radish sat in the Guard breakroom reading a spy novel. He didn’t like where it was going. A dragon fire scroll popped into the air and landed on his table. He eyed it suspiciously. A guard at the next table, a wiry female earth pony named Maple Bar, looked at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s from Twilight Sparkle.”

“Yeah? So?”

“She just… writes about her life in Ponyville a lot. And I’m running out of things to write back to her.”

“Oh, sorry, is protecting the most important ponies in existence is too dull to write about?”

“You know most of what we do here is classified, right?”

“Isn’t Twilight Sparkle some kind of court official? She’s on hugging terms with Princess Celestia. She probably has the highest clearance.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve never seen that in writing.”

“Then just write about the stuff that isn’t classified.”

“What have you done in the last week you would write a friend about?”

“I did awesome at target practice. Oh, and I saw a weird squirrel today- it was black with a red tail.”

“That’s Chet. I’ve already written about him.”

“So what’s her ladyship writing about today? Just riff off that.”

Radish sighed and opened the scroll. He read through it.

“Well, Rarity- that’s the fashion one-”

“Uh huh.”

“She made dresses for the others for the Grand Galloping Gala…”

“That’s nice. Wait, for free?”

“But they all didn’t like them…”

“Geez, what a bunch of ungrateful-”

“So they got her to make new ones that turned out awful and they held a fashion show where some fashion bigwig came…”

“You get a story like this every week?”

“Pretty much.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Well, sometimes there’s action.”

“Oh, I know- just lie! Tell her the Royal Guard held a fashion show of our own! And I looked amazing in heels!”

“What was Chet doing?”

“He had a pecan. He was running off with it.”

Radish took a pen in his mouth and wrote.

Dear Twilight Sparkle, Pecans are in season now in Canterlot, and the palace residents are excited about all the possible ways to enjoy them. Do you have a favorite nut? We should exchange recipes some time! Your Pen Pal, Radish Root. P.S.: Maple Bar says hi.

“‘Favorite nut’, huh? That’s a winner.”


Radish mailed off his letter and checked his pocket watch. The Night Shift would start soon. He donned his armor in the locker room and made his way across the parapets. The palace was now closing to tourists, and the last few stragglers were meandering toward the exits.

As he passed a group of four tourists, he heard one of them gasp.

“That’s him! Told you he comes this way!”

Radish kept walking.

“Hey! You!”

Radish stopped and turned to them.

“Pardon? Are you addressing me?”

“You’re the pervy mark guy, aren’t you?” one asked.

There were dozens of regulations regarding interactions with tourists. One of Radish’s favorite was that, outside of an emergency, he didn’t have to allow tourists to delay him on his way to a post.

“I’m sorry. I’m due for a shift. If you’ll excuse me.”

One of them jumped in front of his way.

“Yeah, it is you! The guy whose cutie marks are porn of Celestia!”

“I’m sorry. I’m due for a shift. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Show them!”

Radish moved to walk around him, but the others surrounded him.

“Come on. Let’s see them!”

“Get out of my way.”

“Or what?”

“I said, move aside from the Royal Guard!

“Not until you show us your cutie marks,” the one behind him said, holding up his camera.

Radish took his spear from his back and extended it to its full length. He slammed the butt of it into the bricks at his feet, cracking one.

“And what do you think you’re going to do with that?” the one to his left scoffed.

Radish narrowed his eyes. He couldn’t do anything with it.

Technically, he was authorized to escalate to physical force with tourists should the need arise. During training, Shining Armor had made a point of saying that need would never arise. Radish didn’t want to be the one to prove Shining Armor wrong. Radish went over his options in his mind.

Then, he heard the loudest thing he had ever heard in his life.

“INSOLENT PEASANTS! WAYLAY NOT A ROYAL GUARDSTALLION UPON HIS COURSE TO HIS PRINCESS! BEGONE!”

It was Luna. It wasn’t so much she was screaming, but as though her voice had been boosted to a higher level of existence. The sound was coming from everywhere, echoing off the palace walls and scattering birds from the trees. The grass of the commons was flattened by the sheer force of it.

The tourists yelped and fled. One of them dropped his camera behind him. Radish picked it up. He looked at the top of Selenic Spire, but saw nopony. His ears were ringing.

Radish entered Luna's tower. The duty officer waved Radish over with a terrified expression on his face.

“What was that about!?” he yelled. “She’s not answering us!”

Radish could only stammer.

“You better get up there!” another guard from down the hall called. “You’re the only thing in this palace that calms her!”

Radish made his way to the spiral staircase. A pegasus guard landed before him.

“Come on, no time to lose. I’m taking you the fast way up!” she said.

She grabbed Radish by the armor and flew him up the well of the staircase, depositing him on the landing outside Luna’s hall. Radish watched her fly away, not quite believing what just happened.

He entered Luna’s hall. Her door flung open.

“Guardstallion. To us.”

Radish entered her bedroom. She furrowed her brows at him.

“We observed thee upon thy approach. Those… tourists were most ill-mannered. We commend thee for not drawing blood. Mercy is a quality not easily found in a guardstallion.”

“Thank you, your highness.”

“Thanks are not needed.”

“But…”

“But?”

“A guard should protect his princess, not the other way around.”

Luna smiled.

Radish took a step back and inhaled sharply. He had never seen her smile before. The sight hit him like a gust of warm air.

“‘Tis true, Radish Root. However, a princess must correct a peasant when she sees them in need of correction. This is for their benefit.”

“I understand. Was that a… voice spell?”

“Ah! ‘Twas our proper royal voice! ‘Tis meant for addressing crowds of commoners. We’ve not needed to do so until now. Did it sound… good?”

“It was amazing.”

“Excellent. What is that?”

He realized he was still holding the tourist’s camera.

“Oh! A camera. One of them dropped it. I should give it to Lost and Found.”

“Nay, we will have it. ‘Tis their penalty.”

“Oh. Okay.”

He gave the camera to Luna. She turned it over in her hooves.

“Celestia has informed us of these. Wilt thou show us how it works?”

“Sure!”

He walked up to her side.

“You point it at what you want to take a picture of, adjust the focus, look through the viewfinder, then push this button here.”

She snapped a photo of the bottom of her dresser. She looked at Radish expectantly.

“Then?”

“See this number? That’s how many pictures are left on the roll of film. Once you use up the roll, you drop it off with a developer. They give you your photos in an hour.”

“We see. Come. Let us ‘use up the roll’. Stand at attention.”

“Okay.”

She snapped several photos of Radish at odd angles.

“Now, us, as well,” she said, shoving the camera in Radish’s chest.

“Oh… okay…”

Radish felt weird about taking photos of a princess in her bedroom. Yet, orders were orders. She stared into the lens and he took a photo.

“How about some more… interesting poses?” he asked, immediately regretting phrasing it like that.

“Yes,” she said. “Try this.”

She stood on her balcony, then reared up on her hind legs. Radish took a few of her like that. She sat at her tea table, striking a coquettish pose while holding an empty teacup. Radish took more. She put on an artist’s smock and pretended to paint at her easel. Radish snapped a few more.

“These should look great,” Radish said.

Luna trotted up to him and looked at the camera again.

“What is this switch here?”

“A timer. So you can set it down, then go stand in front of it. The camera then takes a picture ten seconds later.”

“Then, the two of us may be in a picture concurrently?”

“Yes…”

“Activate this timer, Radish Root. We wish to have one of thee at our side.”

“Really? Okay.”

He placed the camera on a shelf, hit the timer, then stood by her.

“Look fierce! Thou be a guardstallion defending thy princess!”

Radish extended his spear and brandished it at the camera, striking a fearsome expression. Luna stood tall and serene behind him. The camera clicked.

“Thou wilt ‘develop’ these for us?”

“Yes! I can’t wait.”

“Excellent.”


Radish waited in front of the counter of the palace’s photo department. The developer came from the back room with a stack of photographs in his aura.

“Lieutenant, I may need to have these evaluated for security risks. And propriety. They're photos of a princess… in her bedroom.”

“Did you not hear her yesterday?”

“The whole palace heard her yesterday.”

“So, you want to make her that mad again?”

The developer made a squeak and gave Radish the photos. He flipped through them, then held up the picture of himself defending Luna.

“And we’ll need two of these.”

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