• 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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47. Their Bond

“So, they refused to move their campsite, and as drunk as they were, there’s no way I could have put them all under arrest without bloodshed,” recounted Radish.

“Then, what did you do?” asked Celestia.

“I, uh, came back at midnight… dressed as a ghost. Made a bunch of spooky moans and rattled chains.”

Celestia gave Radish a stern look. “Radish, don’t tell me that actually worked.”

“They hopped in their cart and sped off. Never saw them again.”

Celestia leaned back in her chair and laughed. “The resourcefulness of Plains Rangers never ceases to amaze me.”

Radish shrugged. “When you work alone, you have to get creative.”

Dinner with Celestia -just as friends- had been going well. They shared a simple meal on her tower’s balcony, and the semi-public setting was putting Radish at ease. He had spent half the night regaling her with anecdotes from his Ranger days, which always flowed naturally from him.

Celestia caught sight of something in the sky. Against the sunset, an ornate pink carriage was coming in for a landing accompanied by multiple pegasus guards.

“Ah,” she said, “she’s here. Ahead of schedule, too.”

“That’s your niece? If you’d like to go meet her, I understand.”

“No, I’ll give Shining Armor some alone time with her first. I believe he has something special planned.”

“I see.”

Radish watched the carriage land behind a building. He sighed and frowned.

“Are you okay, Radish?”

“It’s just… reckless.”

“What is?”

“We knew Princess Cadenza was being targeted, yet she still came in on a very conspicuous transport, along a very predictable route. ”

“You’re concerned about her security arrangements? What would you have done differently?”

“Well, I’d send that carriage, but she wouldn’t be in it- it’d be a decoy. I’d have a royal cargo train arrive the same day, and it would be packed with guards.”

“Radish, Cadance went incognito on a cargo train years ago. Bandits still found out and made a play for her.”

“I know, that’s why the train would be a decoy, too.”

“Two decoys? Then where would the real Cadance be?

"Canterlot gets shipments of ice wine from Quebuck. She could be concealed inside a cask on a cargo cart. It’s a niche product, so robbers would ignore it.”

“That’s a three-day journey. Both ways. You want to cram my niece into a barrel for the better part of a week?”

“It’s still a lot nicer than what kidnappers would do to her.”

“Radish, I appreciate the thought. But one of the privileges of being a princess is getting to travel as a passenger, not freight.”

“Okay. Sorry.”

“But I do want to personally thank you for uncovering the plot to kidnap her,” said Celestia, warmly.

Radish looked aside. “Oh I, uh, just passed some intel along. Their plan never would have worked, anyway.”

“Nonetheless, I am grateful. Thank you, Radish.”

“You’re welcome. I just hope that’s the last time anyone threatens a princess.”

“Wouldn't that be nice?”


Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and Captain Shining Armor stepped into the captain’s home, nuzzling each other.

“I can’t wait to see Twilight again,” she said. “Do you think she’ll remember me?”

“Of course she will!” assured Shining Armor.

“And she really has friends now? True friends?”

“Yeah, it’s great. I’ve never seen her so happy.”

“And one of them’s a guard? A stallion?”

“Uh huh.”

“Is he cute?”

Shining rolled his eyes. He floated a file folder from his desk into her hooves. “You tell me.”

“What’s this?”

“He’s the same guard that you're meeting with.”

“Oh, really?” She read through the file. She smiled. “You must have a soft spot for him.”

“What makes you say that?”

“It says here he abandoned his duties during the Nightmare Moon crisis, but only got cleaning duty as punishment.”

“If you’d seen those tunnels, you’d know that was no slap on the wrist.”

“How come his cutie mark isn’t in here?”

“That’s, uh, a big part of what he needs to talk to you about.”

“Oh, I think I know what this is about. I’ll help any way I can.”

“Thanks.”

“Wait… his name is Root? Luna’s mentioned a Lieutenant Root in her letters. She writes about him with a very fond tone.”

Shining Armor sighed. “Yeah, it’s the same guy.”

“Wow, he gets around, huh?”

“You have no idea.”

Shining Armor led Cadance to a table where dinner for two was set, along with a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket.

“I hope you’re hungry,” said Shining Armor.

“I’m famished,” said the princess. “Thank you!”

He felt the ring box in his pocket. He took a deep breath.


Radish rolled up his left sleeve and showed Celestia a short curved scar on his upper foreleg. “...and I got this one from a joint snake.”

“That doesn’t look like a snakebite,” noted Celestia.

“No, it had a knife.”

Celesia cocked her eyebrows. “Radish, have you been telling me tall tales all night?”

“Ma’am! I would never… what is that?”

A bright pink flare shot out from behind one of the palace buildings. It zoomed spiraling into the sky, then exploded.

The sky cracked like thunder. An expanding shockwave of light burned across the castle’s airspace, heading right toward Radish and Celestia.

“Get down, ma’am!” howled Radish.

He leapt off his chair, vaulted over the table, and hurled himself at Celestia, knocking her to the floor and shielding her body with his own. He held her face tight into his chest as the blast wave passed over them. Radish felt his fur tingle all over. The noise subsided.

Radish looked into Celestia’s face. “Ma’am, are you okay?”

Celestia smiled. “Radish… look.”

Radish looked up at the sky. Hovering above the castle was a massive glowing pink heart, spinning like a top and spitting out smaller hearts. Each of these smaller hearts burst like a firework into a dozen tiny hearts, which were drifting down around the palace like snowflakes.

“What… is that?” asked Radish.

“It’s joy, Radish. A burst of pure joy from the Princess of Love. I believe Shining Armor finally summoned up the courage to pop the question.”

“That came from your niece? Whoa.”

Celestia looked Radish in the eye. “Uh, Radish? You can get off me now.”

“Oh. Forgive me.” He worked to untangle his limbs from her.

“Aunt Celestia! Wonderful news!” called a youthful voice. A pink alicorn in a school blazer flew up from below the balcony. “Shining just-”

She saw Radish laying on top of Celestia. She put her hooves to her mouth and fluttered back a bit.

“Oh! I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were, uh, with someone.”

“No!” gasped Radish, “We were just-”

“Don’t let me interrupt! We can catch up later!”

Princess Cadenza flew away.

“Wait!” called Radish.

She was gone. Radish got off Celestia and helped her to her feet.

“I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Celestia smirked. “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll explain it to her later. She'll understand- Shining Armor has also tackled me for my own protection.”

“Really? What happened?”

“A bee flew too close to me.”

The two walked to the balcony railing and watched the hearts drift down. Celestia caught one in her aura. “I think I’ll save one of these.”

She cast a spell to encase the heart with a crystal ball. She held it and examined it. Radish saw a note of wistfulness in her eyes.

“Ma’am,” said Radish, “I meant what I said, about you finding love. If you ever meet someone who makes you want to fill the sky with hearts, I promise I’ll support you one-hundred percent.”

“That’s sweet, Radish. But I also meant what I said, all those years ago. My duty to Equestria will always come first.” She smiled at the heart in her hooves. “But I can still be happy for Cadance. And when you find that special someone, I'll be happy for you, too.”

"Hmm.” Radish looked at the display of glowing hearts in the sky. “I don't suppose you have any other nieces?"

“Sorry. Can I interest you in a nephew?”

“I’ll pass.”


Princess Cadenza landed on her fiancé’s porch and reentered the dwelling.

“So, how did Celestia react?” asked Shining Armor, eagerly.

She looked down. “She was, uh… occupied. I’ll tell her later.”

“Oh? Okay. Then, how about we start planning the wedding? Or have you been planning it since you were a little filly?” asked Shining Armor.

She smiled. “Oh, I just want something small and simple. And soon.”

“How soon?”

“How about this weekend?”

“You realize that Canterlot society will be expecting something big for a royal wedding? They’ll want the wedding of the century.”

“That’s just not me, Shiny. Fancy dresses, pricey cakes, and a million strangers watching us? I’d rather just have an intimate get-together with close friends and family.”

“All right. But my parents will balk if there’s no cake.”

“Yeah. As I recall, Celestia has a bit of a sweet tooth, as well.”


“Here, Radish, try one of these,” said Celestia, floating a plate of chocolate tortes to him. “They’re my new favorite dessert.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

They heard a knock at the door.

“Excuse me, Radish.” Celestia left the balcony to answer it. She spoke with a messenger pony. She turned back to Radish with a frown.

“Radish… it’s Harold.”

She flew over to Radish, touched her horn to his head, and teleported them both. They reappeared in the medical center lobby. The night receptionist recoiled in surprise. She showed them to Harold’s room, where a doctor stood by Harold’s bed. Harold was sleeping.

“We received your message,” said Celestia. “What’s the situation?”

“He had been responding well to the latest course of potions,” said the doctor. “It’s repaired a lot of the damage he did to himself. He’ll be very weak, but he may live for years now.”

“That’s good,” said Radish.

“But just a few moments ago, he fell into a coma. We can’t determine what happened.”

Celestia looked closely. “Hmm. He’s dreaming. You can tell by his eyelids.”

“Yes, and that’s a new development,” said the doctor. “We think his experiment inverted the dream centers of his brain. It gave him the power to project daydreams, but left him unable to dream while sleeping.”

“But now that he’s lost his power,” said Celestia, “his mind may be making up for lost time. He could be plunging so deep into the dream lands that he can’t find his way back.”

“Can you get him out?” Radish asked Celestia.

“I”m afraid my own skills with dreams are limited. Only Luna can retrieve him.”

“Oh…” said Radish, looking down. “But he caused Luna so much pain…”

“I doubt she’d refuse to help him out of spite,” said Celestia. "But perhaps it would be best if the request came from you?”

“Aye, ma’am. I’ll talk to her. She should be finished with breakfast by now, so she’ll be in an agreeable mood.”


Absolutely not,” said Princess Luna firmly.

“Ma’am…”

“Harold’s mad experiment nearly tore the dream world and my own mind asunder. Being trapped in his own dreams is poetic justice.”

“Princess, you’d really leave one of your own subjects languishing like that, when you could save him?”

“‘Tis a punishment which fits his crimes.”

“What if I made it a personal request?”

“How can you be so forgiving of his misdeeds?” asked Luna. “Look at what he did to you!”

She pointed to an object on her bedroom wall. Radish approached it for a better look. It looked like a framed slab of marble with a small crack running lengthwise through it.

“Uh, what is that?” asked Radish.

“That is a piece of the throne room floor, where he body-slammed you into it!”

“Really? I cracked the floor? And you kept it?”

“It is a testament to your resilience, and a reminder that enemies come in all guises.”

Radish turned to face Luna.

“Princess Luna, I’m all healed from that match. But he may never be.” He kneeled in front of her and bowed his head. “Please. Save him. I beg you.”

Luna sighed resignedly. She approached Radish with a bashful smile and lifted his head to her. “Compassion. Selflessness. Mercy. These are more than just virtues- for a princess, they are duties. Thank you for reminding me of my duties. I will help Harold.”

“We both know you didn’t need reminding. You were always going to save him.”

“Perhaps.” She placed a hoof on Radish's shoulder. “And perhaps I simply wanted to give you an opportunity to make me proud again.”

“I’m always proud to make you proud.”

She bent close to him. “I’ve not yet thanked you for saving me from my agony.”

“I didn’t even know I was doing it.”

She leaned closer. “I know. Even unwittingly, you come to my rescue.”

“Aunt Luna? Are you up?” Princess Cadenza landed on the balcony and entered Luna’s bedroom. “You’ll never guess-”

She saw Luna and Radish, with their faces very close together. Her eyes went wide. Radish froze. She turned around and flew off without another word.

“Niece Cadance? Come back!” called Luna.

She was gone. Radish sighed. “Sorry, Princess Luna.”

“Fret not. What matters now is Harold’s rescue.”

“Thank you, princess.”

“Had you met Cadance before?”

“Just briefly.”


“Well? What did Luna say?” asked Shining Armor.

“She was… also occupied.”

“Wow, busy night.”

“You have no idea.”

They sat on the sofa for a while together, watching the fireplace crackle. Shining Armor held Cadance close.

“So, our first night as an engaged couple. How about we… celebrate?” he said, playfully nodding to his bedroom door. She giggled.

There was a knock at the door. The couple groaned. Shining Armor answered the door and spoke with an officer. They discussed something at length, and then he closed the door with a determined look on his face.

“What’s the matter?” asked Cadance.

“We’ve got trouble. But don’t worry, your handsome Guard Captain will protect you.”

He walked to the patio and shot a beam into the air. A glowing pink bubble encased all of Canterlot.

“Shiny? What’s going on?”

“The princesses have issued a security alert. We’re at Threat Level Grande.”

“Oh, dear. The city may panic. I should get out there and comfort the people.”

“That’s the last thing you should do!”

“Shiny, I have to. It’s my specialty. It’s my duty.”

Shining Armor sighed. “All right. But only in the daytime, and only with me, and a double squad of guards, at your side.”

“Okay. I think we should put the wedding on hold until this is over.”

“Yeah, I understand. But that just gives me all the more motivation to find this threat and stop it.”

“I know you can handle it.”

They nuzzled.

“Hey, check it out,” said Shining, pointing to the window. Multicolored points of light were flashing in his backyard.

“Oh, the fireflies! I’ve missed them.” She walked out to the back porch and gazed appreciatively at the fireflies around her. “They come in so many colors here.”

“Stay there. I’ll bring you a drink.”

He turned and busied himself pouring two flute glasses of champagne. A bright green flash illuminated the room from behind him.

He turned back to his fiancée. “Whoa, that must have been a huge bug!”

She scowled. “What do you mean?

“That green light. It must have been some firefly!”

“Uh huh.”

He went to her and gave her a champagne flute. She held it and sniffed at it.

“Dear,” she said, “how long does that… big shield spell of yours last?”

“I’ll maintain it as long as I need to. And with you by my side, giving me strength, I bet I can keep it up for weeks.”

Weeks?

“But it won’t come to that. I’ll have this threat sorted so fast, we won’t even have to delay the wedding.”

“The wedding. Right. You know, I have some thoughts on that.”

“We can go over the details later.” He draped a hoof across her shoulders. “I believe we were just about to head upstairs…”

She rolled her eyes and brushed off his hoof. “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

“Oh, you do?”

“Yes. And you know what? It looks like you do, too.”

“No, I don’t.”

Her horn glowed green. She grinned and pressed it to his forehead.

“Yes. You do.”

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