• 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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4. The Palace

“And that’s all you need to know for now,” said Shining Armor, Captain of the Royal Guard. “If selected, you’d begin with ground floor duty. It’s basically watching over the tourists. I know that sounds like a demotion from what you were doing in the Plains Rangers, but the smallest job in the palace is bigger than the biggest job outside it.”

Radish had his doubts about that, but kept quietly standing at attention.

“Still, there are plenty of opportunities for advancement for ponies who distinguish themselves. And I’m liking what I’ve seen from your time in the Southern Plains. The letters from your sergeant and the local buffalo chief speak highly of you.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Radish, “it was an honor to work with them.”

“There is one more thing, though. We need to talk about the bugbear in the room. Sit down.”

Radish took the seat in front of Shining Armor’s desk. Shining Armor looked at the door, and cast a spell to lock it.

“Sir?”

“Years ago, every pony in Canterlot was talking about a colt down south who got a cutie mark of the princess… engaged in sexual activity. Gossip always moves on quickly to the next thing, but I don’t forget a thing like that. You can wear all the clothes you like, but every rangepony’s mark is on file. I know the cutie mark of every pony under my command, and of every pony I’d consider for a position here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I don’t judge a pony by his mark. We’ve seen marks of every kind in the guard, and our armor covers them, anyway. But I need to know: did you enter the Academy, join the Plains Rangers, and work your way up to apply for the Royal Guard, just to sleep with the princess?”

“Sir! I’ve had to answer this accusation in every step of my career!”

“And you’ll answer it at this one. Why do you want to be a guard?”

“To follow in Saguaro Shade’s hoofsteps, sir. He’s a legend at the academy.”

“You should know, a lot of ponies want to become guards in hopes of catching the princess’s eye. They think some heroic deed will make her fall madly in love them, then lead to a whirlwind romance, marriage, kids, whatever.

“But let’s get something straight. I don’t tolerate any inappropriate talk about her. Absolutely no one touches her. And even if you save Equestria a hundred times, even if you take a spear in the gut for the princess herself, she doesn’t owe you a thing- not a kiss, not a ‘thank you’, not even a glance.”

“I know that, sir.”

“If I thought for a moment that you posed a danger to the princess, I’d have trashed your application. But you have a fine record, and I was willing to take you on. However, the princess herself has asked to speak with you first, and it’ll be up to her. Go meet with her. Courtyard A.”

“Yes, sir.”

Radish sighed as he exited the captain’s office. He recalled where Courtyard A was, and as he started for it, he heard an angry young female voice behind him.

“You! Hey you!”

Radish turned and looked. It was a waifish purple unicorn, with a cutie mark of a large star surrounded by several sparkles. She was wearing saddlebags loaded with what looked like way too many books for her to carry alone. Although he hadn’t met her before, he knew who she was- the captain’s kid sister and Celestia’s star pupil, Twilight Sparkle.

“How may I help you, miss?” asked Radish politely.

“Don’t give me that! I know who you are! Everypony knows who you are. You’re that sicko with the gross cutie mark. What, you think the princess would do that with someone like you?”

“I’m sorry, miss,” said Radish, allowing a soupçon of sarcasm to come through his words, “but this is an inappropriate topic for discussion. Is there anything else I could help you with? Perhaps I could direct you to the nearest exit?”

“Ooh- you- you’re disgusting! If you so much as go near the princess, I’ll turn you into a-”

“Twilight! That’s enough!” yelled Shining Armor, emerging from his office. “You don’t go around picking fights with ponies in the palace!”

“Shining! How could you even think of letting this… this… pervert in here?”

“I dunno, Twily, maybe I’m trying to find you a boyfriend,” Shining Armor said with a mocking grin.

“Ugh! I’m serious! Everypony knows he only came to Canterlot to try to… get with… the princess. He should be imprisoned. He should be banished. He should be defenestrated.”

Radish rolled his eyes.

“Pardon me, miss. Pardon me, captain. But I’m required elsewhere,” he said, turning to take his leave. “The princess shouldn’t be kept waiting.

Shining nodded, and Radish walked away, suppressing a smug grin. As he left, he could hear Twilight Sparkle sputter angrily and complain more to Shining Armor.

Radish walked down the halls and out into the courtyard, one of many in the palace. This one was home to several fruit trees and berry bushes, which royal gardeners tended, and royal chefs used for ingredients in royal meals. Celestia was there, sitting on a stone bench, sipping from a delicate teacup.

Radish felt his hooves get heavier and his heartbeat quicken as he approached her. He took a deep breath, stood before her, and saluted.

“Ranger Radish Root, reporting as requested, your highness.”

She looked upon him. She sipped her tea.

“Hello, Ranger Radish Root.”

“Hello, ma’am.”

“You’ve come a long way in a short time.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“And now you want to be in my Guard.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I thought I told you to drop it.”

Radish shifted his hooves uncomfortably. “Ma’am?”

Don’t. I told you we were friends all those years ago, and friends don’t lie to each other. I want you to speak freely, but honestly. You aimed your whole career path towards fucking me, didn’t you?”

“Ma’am! I…”

She gave him a glare.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, caught in her piercing eyes.

“You realize, that a princess may not sleep with a member of her Guard? You’ve applied to one of the few professions which makes what you desire impossible. Frankly, you would have had a better chance of sleeping with me if you worked at the crêpe shop down the street.”

“I imagined you’d make an exception.”

“Never.”

Radish’s gaze kept steady.

“Then, may I fetch you a crêpe?”

Celestia snickered, nearly fumbling her teacup.

“Come,” she said, scooting over to one side of the bench, “sit.”

He sat beside her. Somehow, she seemed just as tall compared to him now as when he was a young colt.

“The finest minds in Equestria have been studying cutie marks for ages, and there is still so much we don’t know. Yours was an interesting case study for them back then. They never reached any meaningful conclusions about it. May I see it again?”

He pulled back his pants, exposing his mark. She studied it.

“It hasn’t changed,” she said.

“No, ma’am.”

“My answer still hasn’t changed.”

“I understand, ma’am.”

“But you have changed.”

“Uh, thank you, ma’am?”

“That is a compliment. I’ve seen your record. As you declared you would, you have grown strong and smart. And yes, handsome.”

Radish made a tiny gasp.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“You now much more resemble the stallion in the mark.”

“Yes, ma’am. I agree.”

“I believe your cutie mark is leading you on a unique path, and I don’t know what that is. But you’ve made your choices, and I must make one now.”

She finished her tea, and put the cup aside. She looked up at an orange tree in front of them. It was tall, with branches full of lush, broad leaves and large, heavy fruit.

“That tree was a gift from the city of Balencia. The soil is different there. The climate is on a different schedule. We weren’t sure if it would even survive up here, much less thrive. But it surprised us all.”

She turned to Radish.

“It didn’t belong here. You don’t belong here. So I am giving you the same chance to thrive as this tree. Let’s see what kind of fruit that bears. Welcome to the Royal Guard, Radish Root.”

Radish stuttered, then jumped off the bench and saluted.

“Thank you, princess!”

“Dismissed. But help yourself to an orange as you go. They’re delicious.”

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