• 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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48. The Wedding, Part 1: Invitations

Shining Armor paced the briefing room podium determinedly. Radish and the rest of the guards leaned forward in their seats, eager to learn more about the alert status.

“Guards,” said Shining, “we’ve got a situation. Last night, Princess Luna intercepted intel about an imminent attack on Canterlot. We don’t know the exact nature of the threat, but it doesn’t matter- you train every day to face the unknown. I want all of you to stay alert and watch each others’ backs.

“The palace will be closed to tourists for the time being, freeing up guards to concentrate in critical areas. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna will be suspending their typical duties to take turns as Royal Overwatchers.”

The guards muttered amongst themselves. Royal Overwatching was an ancient tradition, during which a royal visibly stands alert over their domain, scanning the land for trouble using spell-enhanced scopes. It was largely symbolic, but symbols have power, even to Equestria’s enemies.

“The citywide shield will be up until further notice. City Watch is enforcing an eight o’clock curfew, and the Wonderbolts will be doing regular sky sweeps. Travel in and out of Canterlot will be restricted, and communications will be limited and monitored. Your letters home will have to wait until this is over.”

The muttering in the ranks turned to grumbling. No one had lived through anything like this before. Some of this seemed borderline unconstitutional.

“But there is some positive news. Canterlot will soon be hosting a royal wedding.” He smiled. “Mine. Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was silly enough to accept my proposal.”

The crowd erupted with cheers and applause.

“The ceremony is going to be held in the palace. All of Canterlot is invited. Princess Celestia herself will officiate…”

The cheers got louder.

“...and it’s all going to happen this Saturday!”

The crowd stopped applauding, and the cheers shifted into a confused din. The guards all eyed each other nervously. Several hooves shot up.

“Yes, I know, it seems sudden. But Cadance and I had a long talk about it. She doesn't want to wait to start our new lives together, and neither do I. And Equestria’s been through a lot the past couple years- Nightmare Moon, Discord, all those parasprite infestations. We owe it to the people, to our guests, and to ourselves to throw the wedding of the century.”

One guard, Colonel Spearhead, gave up on raising his hoof and just spoke up.

“Sir, we can’t make security arrangements in that amount of time!”

More guards took their cue to shout out their misgivings.

“Don’t guests need invitations months in advance?”

“How can we have a wedding during a threat!?”

“Who’s even planning this!?”

“Guys!” laughed Shining Armor. “I’ve been thinking about this wedding every day since I started dating Cadance. You’ve all guarded large-scale events in the palace before. As far as I’m concerned, we’re all prepared. All we’ll need to secure is a few buildings where the guests will concentrate.

“The invitations are going out by dragon mail as we speak, but Canterlot society doesn't need an invitation to come party at the palace, all they need is an excuse. And as for the threat…”

He looked sternly at his guards.

“If we let this enemy derail a royal wedding, they’ve already won. We’re not going to let that happen. We are going to hold our heads up high and say ‘I do’, without fear. That’s the Equestrian way.”

Radish had never heard “the Equestrian way” defined in those terms. He had never heard that phrase before at all.

“And as for who’s planning this, who else? I’m choosing my own sister, Twilight Sparkle, as the wedding planner… and my best mare!”

There were some more positive mutters now. Everyone had a lot of confidence in Twilight. Radish did.

Well, at least she’s going to be happy to hear about this.

“Now, most of you have never interacted with Cadance before, but you should consider her to have every bit of authority as the royal sisters. And when it comes to the wedding, her word is absolute. Her own guards and staff are staying with us, so I want you to get along with them- we’re all one big happy family here. AG1 will be handling a lot of the preparations, too, so give them the usual amount of latitude. Oh yeah, and Spike thinks he’s in charge of the bachelor party- just humor him.”

Shining Armor continued his briefing and doled out assignments. As the crowd filtered out of the room, Shining Armor approached Radish.

“Root, Cadance would like to meet with you now. Come with me.”

He led Radish down several halls, into the parts of the palace that he rarely patrolled and that tourists never saw. They reached tall double doors, beyond which Radish had never been.

Shining stood aside, and Radish pushed open the doors, revealing a large, expensively-appointed drawing room. Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was languidly reposing across a plush red divan. Radish entered, and the door locked behind him.

Radish got his first good look at Princess Cadenza. She was lankier than Celestia and Luna- almost gangly- with a thick pink mane and tail which didn’t magically move like theirs. She wore a small crown. Her cutie mark was a crystal heart flanked by bits of gold lace. She was eating chocolates out of a heart-shaped box and drinking pink champagne from a deep goblet.

“Radish Root?” she asked with her mouth full.

“Yes, princess. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Radish said with a bow.

She swallowed her mouthful of chocolates and washed it down with a gulp of champagne. "Oh, the pleasure is all mine. Come, sit down."

She motioned to the divan she was lying on. Radish hesitated, then sat down at her side. She leaned over to him.

“Mister Root, I need your help for my wedding," she said, pleadingly.

“Oh? Uh… anything, your highness.”

She held up Radish’s personnel file in her aura.

“It says here that you used to guard my Aunt Luna’s tower.”

“Yes, ma’am. It was an honor.”

“I would love, love, love it if you would guard it during my wedding.”

“Oh? Princess Luna will be in her tower during the wedding?”

“No, of course not. She’ll be right up there with Aunt Celestia when Shining Armor and I say our vows.”

“I see…”

“Is that a problem?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No, ma’am! I just thought… uh… nothing. Never mind.”

“What, you didn’t think you’d be attending my wedding, did you?”

Radish did.

“No, ma’am. Of course not.”

“Listen," the princess said, leaning in closer to Radish, "whoever is threatening Canterlot might see Luna’s tower as easy pickings during my wedding. Someone could steal all the ancient, powerful artifacts she's keeping in there.”

Radish wasn’t aware of any powerful ancient artifacts in the tower. Cairn said she had a foosball table delivered last week.

The princess touched Radish's shoulder. “I need you there protecting it, so I can have peace of mind on the happiest day of my life.”

“You can count on me, your highness.”

Good."

“Who else is assigned with me?”

“No one. It’s just you.”

“Ma’am?”

“That tower is on the other side of the palace from the wedding hall. It’s outside of… what did Shiny call it? The prime cartoon zone?”

“Uh, primary cordon zone?”

“That’s it! Gee, you’re smart!” she giggled, playfully nudging Radish.

“Thank you, princess.”

“Basically, we can’t afford to spread any more guards out that far away from the ceremony. But I'm sure a big, strong stallion like you can handle it all by yourself, can't you?" said Cadenza, brushing her hoof up Radish’s foreleg.

Radish swallowed hard. “I can handle it, ma'am. During my Ranger days, I was responsible for a much larger and much more remote territory all on my own.”

“Thank you, Mister Root." She lifted a wing to his chin and drew his face toward hers. She grinned entrancingly. Radish's tail twitched. "I knew you were the pony for the job."

"Thank you, ma'am," he said softly.

"Let's toast on it," she said, floating glasses of champagne between them. She clinked his glass. “To a perfect wedding.”

Radish wasn’t allowed to drink on duty. He drank his glass in one gulp.


Radish shuffled out of the drawing room. Shining Armor was still in the hallway, staring out the window.

“Root? That was quick.”

“We, uh, didn’t really talk about my… issues. She just gave me an assignment for the wedding.”

“You’ve already got an assignment for the wedding. Commander Roller wants you on parapet patrol.”

“Princess Cadenza wants me guarding Selenic Spire.”

“What are you talking about? Wait here.”

Shining Armor entered the drawing room. Radish could hear the muffled sounds of something akin to an argument behind the doors. A moment later, Shining Armor reentered the hallway, wincing and rubbing his forehead.

“She was right, Root. Go report to Luna.”

“Aye. Oh, and congratulations on your engagement.”

“Thanks.”

“Is your head okay?”

“My head is none of your business, lieutenant.”

“Sorry, sir.”

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