• 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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14. The Ride

Radish sat in front of Barrel Roller’s desk. She glared at him.

“Root, you ever get candy from the gift shop?”

Oh no, she’s starting with a metaphor.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I like the nougat bars. But a lot of ponies like the nougat bars, so they’re always out of nougat bars. I’ll never get to have a nougat bar. And I’ve come to terms with never getting to have… a nougat bar.”

Radish kept silent.

“But some ponies might say, ‘Why not just get the closest thing to a nougat bar? There’s a cookies and cream bar, and they’re the same price, even.’”

“Ma’am?”

“It may seem nice. There’s probably something really charming about it. Mysterious. Dangerous. Taboo, even. But the cookies and cream bar is just as off-limits as the nougat bar, Root, even if it tells you otherwise.”

“Please, ma’am. I’m lost.”

“Princess Luna has the right to put her guards where she wants, when she wants. If she wants the same pony to guard the same door for weeks on end, so be it. But you don’t just guard her door, do you, Root?”

“No, ma’am. Princess Luna likes to interact most nights.”

Interact, huh? At night. In her bedroom."

“MA’AM!”

“Root, it’s reached the point where I have to ask for the record, just so I’m not implicated. Is there anything improper happening between you and Princess Luna?”

“No, ma’am!”

“What do you do in there all night?”

“I… lots of stuff. I help her rearrange her furniture. We listen to operas, and she critiques them. We play board games. I watch her paint. We have our own book club. I listen to her rant about Celestia. And lately, I’ve been helping her practice telekinesis.”

“Are you qualified to help somepony practice telekinesis?”

“Well, I’m mostly there as the weight.”

“She practices by lifting you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Does it feel good, Root, having her aura all over you?”

“Ma’am, I do what I’m ordered to do. My interactions with Princess Luna have been completely professional. And she’s not a substitute for nougat! I have no desire for nougat anymore!”

Radish regretted saying that last part loudly. He regretted saying it at all. Barrel Roller stared at him, then wrote something down on a form in front of her.

“Go start your shift, Root.”

Radish approached his position in Luna’s hallway. Before reaching it, Luna opened her door.

“Guardstallion Root. Come.”

Radish entered Princess Luna’s room. It smelled of lavender incense now. Luna was arranging something on a wooden cutting board.

“Ma’am?”

She held out the board in front of him.

“Behold. Parsnips.”

He looked down. There were indeed several long parsnips.

“Ah, yes?”

“They are ours.”

“They… oh! You mean you’ve regained your earth pony ability to grow plants. That’s great!”

“Indeed. You have farmed, have you not?”

“My family grows beets. Red and golden.”

“Beets! ‘Tis a most challenging crop. Thy family must be skilled, indeed.”

“Thanks.”

"We need thy seasoned appraisal. Evaluate these.”

Radish took one. He turned it over in his hooves, inspecting its color.

"It looks great."

He thumped it on the back of his hoof.

"It sounds great."

He sniffed it.

"It smells great."

He crunched into it.

"It tastes delicious.”

“Truly? We require thy honesty more than thy obeisance.”

“I mean it. These would win a blue ribbon.”

“We are pleased,” she said, putting the rest away. “Now, there is another reason we require thee tonight. Our pegasus flight power is also returning to its former strength.”

“That’s fantastic.”

“Yes. Behold.”

She jumped into the air and fluttered her wings. She hovered over the floor for a few seconds, then dropped back down. Radish stomped his hooves in applause.

“Thank you. But this room is too small for full flight practice. We require more space. You will watch us jump off this tower, and judge our form.”

“You’re going to what?”

She walked over to her balcony.

“Ma’am!”

She jumped off.

“Princess Luna!”

Radish ran to the railing and looked down. He didn’t see her anywhere. He frantically scanned the skies, seeing nothing but darkness.

“LUNA! PRINCESS LUNA!”

He hung his head.

“I lost her. I lost her!” he said, stunned.

He turned around. Luna was right behind him. He yelped and flailed backwards, tripping over the railing and plunging off the balcony.

He screamed on the way down. Luna caught him at the halfway point. He screamed all the way back up. She deposited him on the balcony floor, cradling himself and whimpering.

“Guardstallion Root. How feel you?”

“F…fine… th…thank you,” he said through chattering teeth.

She kneeled down to his side.

“Nay, we thank thee. We did not think ourselves strong enough to catch and carry a fully-grown and armored pony on our back. Was this a challenge thou devised for us?”

He looked at her. He stopped shivering.

“Yes?”

“‘Twas most brave. Foolhardy, but we admire a guardstallion who leaps headlong into danger for his princess.”

“Thanks.”

“Now, how do you judge my form?”

“It’s fantastic.”

“Excellent. You serve me well, guardstallion. Thy appointment to this palace was not folly, after all.”

“Thank you. Wait, who said it was folly?”

“Thy commander, Barrel Roller.”

“Oh.”

“But we will correct her.”

“Oh?”

Radish sat up. He trotted over to the rail again, and looked down at the palace.

“Do you see that lit window down there? That’s her office. Looks like she’s still working.”

“You wish this correction now?”

“No, better idea. Pegasi in flight training like to do this thing called ‘buzzing the tower’. It’s when you fly so quickly and closely past the trainer, you terrify them.”

“And you wish to see Barrel Roller terrified thusly?”

“Think you could do it with me on your back? I’d love to see the look on her face. And she’s not going to bust a guard helping a princess train.”

“Ah, we see. Courtly intrigue. Betrayal and revenge. Backstabbing and spite. Deceptions and manipulations. We never participated in such dealings in our day. We found them beneath us. Now you would have us wreak your revenge?”

“I… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be asking you to do that.”

“We did not say we would not. We found Barrel Roller brusque and dismissive. This measured retribution you have devised is appropriate.”

She kneeled down.

“On our back, lieutenant. We shall buzz her tower.”


Barrel Roller sighed, staring down at the training schedule. She hated this nitty-gritty work. Too many moving parts in this system. Too many systems in the system, too.

She heard a whoosh of air blow past her window, powerful enough to shake its panes.

That’s odd. No gales scheduled for tonight. Was that a large bird of prey? They know they’re not allowed here.

She poked her head out her window and looked around. Her eyes grew wide as a missile of blue and yellow streaked out of the darkness and blasted past her. She flailed her hooves and wings while crying out. She allowed herself to fall out the window, then took a hovering position. She scanned the air around her. Then, her mind finished processing what she saw blow past her.

Root.”

She reentered her office, then dug up her file on Princess Luna. In it, Princess Celestia had outlined a recovery regimen for Luna, giving a long timetable for each power she expected her sister to regain. She drew a hoof down the paper, and found the schedule for Luna’s flying ability.

If that was Luna and Root, she’s a month ahead of schedule for a maneuver like that.

She leaned back in her chair and smiled.

“Root. Heh. Who would've thought?"

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