• 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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42. The Suitor, Part 10: That Kind of Power

Radish and Spike pressed their faces to the glass of the games room’s claw machine.

“Look! There it is, in the corner!” yelled Spike.

The scroll was indeed inside the machine, in a back corner, under a stuffed seal.

“Told you no one ever wins at these things,” said Spike. He rolled a quarter-bit across his knuckles, flicked it into the air, and caught it. “You go get the key. I bet I’ll have won it before you get back.”

“Just guard the machine, okay?”

Radish rushed to the front counter. A clerk was leaning on his hoof, sipping a soda, and reading a magazine.

“I need someone to open the claw game!”

The clerk glanced up. “Sorry. A separate company is in charge of those games.”

“You don’t even have a spare key!?”

“Nah. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: everything in there is cheap junk. Worth way less than the cost to win them.”

“Ugh.” He upturned his coin purse onto the counter. “Just break all these into quarter-bits.”

Radish returned to Spike, who now had the stuffed seal and several more plush dolls around his feet.

“Spike! You’re supposed to be grabbing the scroll, not toys!”

“I had to move all this other stuff out the way to get the scroll out of the dead zone. Trust me. I have a method.”

He scampered around the sides of the machine. “First, you gotta check out the angles.”

He returned to the control, and dropped in a quarter-bit. A timer started counting down from ten. “Then you gotta get the claw just right…”

He maneuvered it into position above the scroll. “Wait for it…”

The countdown timer showed two seconds left.

“Spike!”

“Then… bam!”

He slammed the button. The claw descended. It closed on the scroll. It dragged it out of the pile of toys.

Radish held his breath.

The claw swung back and forth as it went. It stopped above the chute and released. The scroll fell sideways, then wedged into the chute, stuck.

Radish slammed his head against the glass. “Oh, come on!”

“Relax, Rad. Check this out.”

Spike stuck his face into the bottom of the chute, then blew fire. It whooshed up and engulfed the scroll, turning it into smoke once again. The smoke flew out of the machine, stopped in front of Radish’s face, then popped back into a scroll again. Radish snatched it and held it tight.

“Pretty cool, huh?” said Spike, gathering up the stuffed toys. “That may have been my shortest-range delivery ever!”

Radish sat down on the carpet, and fell over on his side. He started to laugh.

“Radish?”

Radish wiped his eyes and looked at the scroll in his hooves. “Come on. Let’s see what makes this so important.”

“I thought you were worried about breaking federal law.”

“Spike, somehow this was the most stress I’ve had all week.” He pulled Spike into a headlock and gave him a noogie. “No matter what happens to me, no matter what Halcyon turns out to be, nothing could possibly be any worse than you.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No, thank you. Here.” Radish dropped his bag of quarter-bits into Spike’s arms. “Fifty bits, just like I offered.”

“Then, you take this.” Spike gave Radish one of the plush toys, a blue whale.

“Thanks. Wow, that clerk was right about these things.”


Radish and Spike locked themselves in a private study room in the library.

“So, want me to read this out loud?” asked Spike, hopping onto the table and opening the scroll.

“What, like you’re reading me a bedtime story?”

“It’s an advanced study technique. I do it for Twilight all the time.”

Radish cradled his stuffed whale and sat back in his chair. “Sure. Have at it.”

Spike cleared his throat and read.

“LOG #857-67.5. THURSDAY. 0900 HOURS.”

That means Celestia went down to Secure Storage hours after this, thought Radish.

“PRESIDING: PRINCESS CELESTIA. ON DUTY: CAPTAIN SHINING ARMOR, COMMANDER BARREL ROLLER, CORPORAL SAGUARO SHADE.”

The senior officers were all there.

“APPEARANCES: ROYAL ARCHEOLOGICAL SOCIETY HEAD CELADON, GUEST PETITIONER HALCYON. ALSO PRESENT: ROYAL PET PHILOMENA.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: I call today’s session to order. I understand we have a very special guest from very far away.

HALCYON: Greetings, Princess Celestia. I am Halcyon.”

“Uh, Spike,” interrupted Radish, “you don’t have to do the voices.”

“Yes, I do. Now, hush.”

He returned to the scroll.

“PRINCESS CELESTA: Greetings, Halcyon. I have been told quite the tale about you. I admit, I was a bit skeptical when I heard it.

HALCYON: That is understandable. I can scarcely believe this new world I have entered into, myself. I could have never imagined what wonders awaited beyond my homeland.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: And your homeland would be?

HALCYON: It has no name like yours.

CELADON: Your highness-

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Hello, Celadon. I wasn’t expecting to see you again for years.

CELADON: I believed Halcyon was important enough to personally escort here.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: How did you meet?

CELADON: We found him in the region of the Far Eastern Edgelands our cartographers designate “FC-78”.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: That is quite far, indeed.

CELADON: But he says he spent over a moon traveling from his homeland before we found him.

HALCYON: I was sent to seek help. I am a weary survivor and hopeful emissary of a once-magnificent people.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: The precursor race to all hoofed beings?

HALCYON: I believe so. There is much I do not know about the lands and peoples outside my own. Your ‘archeologists’ have taught me a great deal already.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: And Celadon, you believe his story?

CELADON: I can only tell you that we encountered Halcyon in the wilds- dehydrated, famished, injured, and alone.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: What manner of injury?

CELADON: Some very serious lacerations. They were infected.

HALCYON: A beast I had never seen before attacked me. I drove it off, but not before it clawed me.

[HALCYON turns to show claw scars on right foreleg.]

HALCYON: Had your people not found me, it no doubt would have kept returning until it finished me. I owe them my life, and as you are their leader, I owe you my life, as well.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Please, your life is no one’s but your own. What happened next?

CELADON: We nursed him back to health, and he told us of his people’s situation. He also demonstrated his primordial powers to us.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Primordial powers?

HALCYON: Yes. My people are not divided into tribes as ponykind. We have not what you call magic, and none of us can fly to shape the skies. But we have a close connection to all aspects of the natural world. It is like an extension of our bodies. May I demonstrate?

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Please do.

HALCYON: [claps hooves]

[A small whirlwind appears in front of Halcyon.]

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Quite impressive.

[The whirlwind dissipates.]

HALCYON: Through this connection, we marshaled the sky, as your pegasi do, we bonded with the land and its life, as your earth ponies do... [raises hoof]

[Swallows fly in from the balcony and perch on Halcyon, then chirp.]

[HALCYON points at PRINCESS CELESTIA.]

[The swallows fly circles above PRINCESS CELESTIA. They coo at her.]

PHILOMENA: [squawks appreciatively.]

PRINCESS CELESTIA: [smiles]

[The swallows fly out of the throne room.]

HALCYON: And we guided the sun, moon, and stars… as I have been told you do.

HALCYON: [stomps hoof]

[THE SUN sets.]

CAPTAIN SHINING ARMOR: [brandishing spear] Whatever you just did, you had better undo it. Now.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: At ease, captain. [to Halcyon] But he is right. This sudden loss of the sun will frighten my people. [horn glows] [exertion] [frustrated gasp]

HALCYON: Forgive me. [stomps hoof]

[THE SUN rises.]

PRINCESS CELESTIA: But… hmm. Thank you. [INTO THRONE’S PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT MICROPHONE]: Attention. We just experienced a temporary lapse in sunlight due to a magical anomaly. Everything is under control. Thank you, and have a wonderful day.

HALCYON: I meant no harm. Ages ago, the sun and moon started to move on their own, and we assumed they had learned enough from us that they no longer needed our guidance. We had no idea the duties had actually been taken up by others.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: I had no idea the duty belonged to others before the unicorns of old. Is it your intent to reclaim that duty?

HALCYON: I have not come to lay claim to anything. I have come to beg for help.

[HALCYON kneels.]

HALCYON: Please, Princess Celestia, my people are dying. I believe this power of “friendship” can save them. Will you teach it to us?

PRINCESS CELESTIA: We will do all we can. I will send for my student and her friends. They are the nation’s experts on the subject. In the meantime, we will prepare shipments of relief packages for your people.

HALCYON: Thank you, Princess Celestia.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Palace lodgings will be provided to you in the meantime.

HALCYON: Me? Live here? Surely not. I am unworthy of such splendor.

PRINCESS CELESTIA [smiling]: I disagree. [Approaching Halcyon] You risked your life for your people. Though you possess amazing power, you begged humbly for help. This speaks volumes about your worth. And Philomena seems to like you, too.

PHILOMENA: [squawks in agreement.]

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Please, stay with us. I believe you have as much to teach us as we have to teach you.

HALCYON: Thank you, your highness. I humbly accept your hospitality.

PRINCESS CELESTIA: Welcome to Equestria, Halcyon. [Extends hoof.] And to the palace.

HALCYON: I believe I will like it here.

[HALCYON kisses PRINCESS CELESTIA’S hoof.] [PRINCESS CELESTIA smiles.]”

Spike put down the scroll. Radish crossed his hooves, pondering it all.

“So Halcyon caused the blackout,” said Spike.

“And the senior officers knew the whole time,” noted Radish.

“But why keep that a secret?”

“Like Celestia said, it would frighten everyone. Heck, it frightens me now. The last beings with that kind of power were Discord and Nightmare Moon. And Celestia couldn’t bring back the sun on her own- she had to wait for Halcyon to do it. Things are starting to make sense now.”

“They are?”

“Spike… Halcyon isn’t Celestia’s guest. She’s his hostage. We all are.”

“What are you saying?”

“That demonstration in the throne room was a show of force. He was letting Celestia and Shining Armor know that he can take away the sun at any time, and there’s nothing they can do about it. With that kind of power, we’re all at his mercy. Heck, we’re all at his whim.”

Radish got off his chair and paced the floor. “This whole time Celestia’s been playing host to him, she’s been placating him. Keeping him happy while keeping him close. That way, she can suss out his intentions, study his powers, and work out a strategy against him.”

“You think so?”

“I hope so.”

“If he’s a threat, why wouldn’t Celestia just get the girls to blast him with the Elements of Harmony?”

“He hasn’t actually made a move against Equestria. Would they activate against an implied threat?”

“Like, a pre-emptive harmony strike? I dunno. Those jewels kind of have a mind of their own.”

“Besides, the Elements take time to work. When the girls used them against Discord, it took about forty seconds for them to complete that whole rainbow firing sequence. That’s more than enough time for Halcyon to stomp away the sun again.”

“How do you know how long it took?”

“Special intel.”

“Wouldn’t the Elements just undo anything Halcyon could do during those forty seconds?”

“There’s been some debate on that subject. They got rid of Discord’s chaos locally, but left some of his stuff in the world. Same thing for Nightmare Moon’s lairs and experiments. And Halcyon’s powers are a big unknown. To take on someone like him, you’d need a sure thing, plus the element of surprise… and overwhelming power.”

“Like with, say, a concealed spear supercharged with alicorn powers?”

Radish slumped against the wall. “Yeah. Celestia must be planning on taking him on, alone. That’s why the Guard ranks are being kept in the dark. That’s why she sent the girls back to Ponyville. And that must be why she… pushed me away.”

“Pushed you away? How?”

Radish put a hoof on his flank. “Convincingly.”

“So, what do we do?”

“First things first. Can you smoke the scroll back to where it was?”

“Sure.” He blasted it with a flame, and the smoke slipped under the door. “Now what?”

“I want you to return to your duties. Pretend like everything’s normal.”

“What are you planning?”

“Halcyon wants to wrestle? Fine, then. I’ll wrestle him.”

“What good will that do?”

“I’m going to up the stakes. Make him a wager he can’t resist.”

“He’ll pulverize you. He’s like four times your size.”

“The finest dust does the greatest damage.”

“Is that a guard saying?”

“No, I just came up with it.”

“I should write that down. Twilight loves stuff like that.”

Radish walked up to Spike and hugged him.

“Uh, Rad?”

“Twilight’s a good pony. Promise me you’ll take care of her, okay?”

“You’re scaring me, Radish.”

“Don’t be scared. This is almost over.”

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