• 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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54. The Wedding, Part 7: Honeymoon

Radish became aware of a dull pain in his left forehoof. He opened his eyes and saw an IV needle inserted into it. The glare of fluorescent lights overhead forced him to full consciousness. He looked around and saw that he was in an infirmary bed. Twilight was in a chair at his side, reading.

“Twilight?” he said through a dry throat. She snapped her book shut and perked up.

“You’re awake! How do you feel?”

“Weird all over. What happened?”

“We found you unconscious outside. Cadance said the changelings drained your love to critical levels!”

“Drained my love? What does that mean? I can’t love anyone anymore!?”

“You’ll be fine. Shining and Cadance filled the city with a big burst of love and blasted the changelings out!”

“They’re gone? All of them?”

“Yep. Every last one. The bat ponies have been dispatched to hunt them down. They were really fired up to avenge you.”

“Did we lose anyone?” Radish asked apprehensively.

“Everyone’s fine. Celestia took a hit when she fought the changeling queen, but she says her ego is more bruised than anything.”

“What about Luna?”

“You’re going to love this. The impostor maneuvered you into the role of Luna’s protector because she saw in your file that you left your post during the Nightmare Moon crisis. She expected you to do it again. She even had Shining fill your squad with inexperienced guards so the tower would be easy pickings!”

“Why would I love that?”

“Because it wasn’t easy pickings! You fortified the tower so well, even a squad of novices held it. The changelings never got to Luna- she slept through the whole battle! It was really clever to have her sleep in a cask in her wine cellar. No one went looking for a princess there.”

“I’m glad she agreed. If we have flying enemies, those big balconies are just inviting trouble.”

“The real wedding happened while you were out. I’m sorry you missed it.”

“What, you didn’t postpone a royal wedding just for me? The nerve.”

Twilight smiled. “Luna said not to worry, because you were safe in a beautiful dream. She wouldn’t tell us what it was, though.”

“Oh? That was...? Huh.”

“Why? What did you dream about?”

“A nice dance.”

“Aww. Maybe you’ll get to dance at Rarity’s wedding. She caught the bouquet.”

“Good for her. Who caught the garter?”

“Garter? Oh, that's not really a Canterlot thing.”

“Oh. Well, how was the cake?”

“We saved you a slice! And some apple fritters. Oh! And then there’s all this!”

She gestured to the table by the side of his bed. A pile of get well cards were stacked on it, overflowing the gaps between several vases of flowers.

“Oh yeah, and here's your keys back,” she said, putting them on the table. “They were a big help.”

Radish shifted his weight, staring up at the ceiling.

“Twilight… I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you about Princess Cadenza.”

“Thanks. But I know I didn’t argue my case very well. And nopony could have imagined that we’d be dealing with a changeling queen.”

“You should have heard the rumors she was spreading about you.”

“Yeah, we don’t need to talk about that. Ever.”

“Then, can we talk about how you saved Equestria again? How many times is this, now?”

“Who can keep track anymore?” asked Celestia merrily, entering the room with Luna in tow.

“Princesses! I barely did anything this time,” said Twilight.

“Nonsense!” said Luna. “Revel in your accomplishments, for we are most proud of you!”

“And most contrite for ignoring your warnings,” added Celestia.

Twilight looked down and blushed.

“Lieutenant,” said Celestia, “Shining Armor is taking his well-earned honeymoon, but he left commendations for those who distinguished themselves during the attack, like you.”

“Me? I was a pawn in the enemy’s plan from the start.”

“Indeed! But your intricate planning and clever battle tactics made a fool out of the enemy and saved me!” said Luna, joyously. “Thus, I bestow upon you this favor.”

Luna leaned over and kissed Radish’s cheek. He gasped and sheepishly muttered a thanks, fidgeting his hooves. Twilight and Celestia smirked.

“He actually had this in mind,” said Celestia, pulling out a small box and opening it to reveal a peytral-shaped medal. “The Iron Barding Award, for heroic defense of Equestria.”

“Whoa! I mean, I’m honored ma’am. I’m glad everyone’s okay.”

“As am I,” said Celestia. “And seeing as how we’re bestowing favors now…”

She bent down and kissed his cheek. Radish froze, jaw dropped, letting out a barely-audible wheezing sound. Celestia winked and took her leave. Luna rolled her eyes and followed her out.

Radish was able to breathe again when they were out the door. He turned to Twilight, leaning on his hoof.

“So, uh, you bestowing any favors today?” he asked with a grin.

“Ha! That’s for princesses only. But it’s been too long since we’ve hung out. How about we hit one of those poetry nights you’ve always wanted to go to?”

“That’d be great.”

“One condition, though. Don’t hide your cutie marks.”

“Come on. No one needs to see these. I know they’re indecent.”

“I did need to see them, because their indecency let me know it was you. No changeling would ever come up with something like those! Cadance and I could confront the impostor with full confidence knowing a friend was guarding Luna. Besides, the Canterlot night scene is all about distinguishing oneself using individualistic identifiers. You’ll fit right in.”

“There could be kids there.”

“No way. I’ve read that Midtown Canterlot poetry nights get really blue. Real bottom-of-the-barrel filth.”

Radish laughed.

“Okay. I’ll do it.”

A nurse pushed Radish out of the infirmary in a wheelchair. Radish carefully stepped off and thanked him.

He walked to the long-term care wing, and checked in at the reception counter. He entered Harold’s room to find him still asleep. Princess Celestia was at his bedside, holding a small sunflower in a bud vase.


“Oh, lieutenant. You came to see him, too. That’s very kind of you.”

“Well, he’s the whole reason we knew about the threat. It could have gone a lot worse without him.”

“Indeed.” Celestia placed the flower on Harold’s side table. “Radish, have you wondered why the changeling swarm didn’t simply infiltrate Canterlot society cautiously and quietly using their shapeshifting?”

“I haven’t had time to reflect on their strategy.”

“Their queen enjoyed taunting and ranting at Cadance while holding her captive. Cadance learned a lot of details about them that way. The queen was scouting out Canterlot all last week, intending to replace me.”

“Why didn’t she?”

“Once Luna found her torturing Harold, the castle went on high alert and Shining raised his shield. She was trapped, cut off from her minions, and unable to get near me. She targeted Cadance in order to undermine Shining.

“Because of the alert, the changeling army had to deal with the shield, the heightened security, and all the obstacles you put between them and Luna. In absence of their queen, they defaulted to instinctual swarming behavior.”

“If it hadn’t been for Harold, we all could have been replaced, one-by-one,” realized Radish.

“Yes. And Luna says he refused to give her any information, even under torture. I feel like our accounts are squared now. I can forgive him for his deception… and it feels good to forgive. It also feels good to give him this.”

She pulled out a small circular medal.

“The Citizen Medal of Bravery. He earned it.” She put it next to the sunflower, and placed her hoof on his. “Get well soon, Harold. I would like to start over, as friends.”

She turned to leave, but was stopped by Harold's hoof still holding onto hers. He made a guttural noise, and opened his eyes. “Princess Celestia… I would like that as well.”

“Harold!” exclaimed Radish. “How do you feel?”

“Better. And I bring news of the enemy.”

“The changeling queen?” asked Celestia.

“Yes. I saw her sinking into a coma just as I was slipping out of mine. She is now stuck deep in a mire of her own nightmares.”

“Ah, that’s good news,” said Celestia.

“And she was screaming. She bellowed her name at her nightmares in an attempt to intimidate them.”

“Her name?”


“Chrysalis? Hmm. I’ll have the name researched at once. Thank you, Harold. You’ve done well.”

“It is my honor, Princess Celestia.”

“I’ll fetch your doctor. Once you’re up for it, let's take a look at your plans to upgrade the orrery.”

“I look forward to it.”

Celestia nodded smiling, then took her leave.

“Need anything?” asked Radish.

Harold leaned back tranquilly. “Nothing at all.”

Radish walked through the palace’s back halls toward his bunk room. He found Saguaro Shade staring out a large window overlooking Canterlot. He was chewing a stalk of stinging nettle in his mouth- a habit that was banned from most areas of the palace.

“Root. Good to see you up and about.”

“Corporal, how are you?”

“Ashamed, Root. That changeling queen made a damn fool of us. Especially me. Guarding the train station- I should have known. This almost went very bad.”

He unsheathed his sword and showed Radish the engraving of his wife.

“Still haven’t gotten blood on her,” he said. “Or whatever those things are filled with. Don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to make that claim. We won the battle, Root, but the war has just begun.”

“Sir, what are we going to do? We have enemies that could be anyone, anywhere. You don’t even know if I’m a changeling or not right now!”

“Princess Cadenza says the repelling spell has created a no-changeling zone in most of Central Equestria for the time being. If any come close, the ambient background love will overwhelm them and foul up their disguise. And they got hit pretty hard, too- they may be limping along for a while.”

“Harold reports that their queen is comatose now,” said Radish.

Saguaro Shade re-sheathed his blade.

“Good to hear. But that may not last forever. We’re going to have to completely rethink the way we handle security. That means changeling-checking any way we can- spells, passcodes, even blood tests. I hear Sparkle first got suspicious because the queen didn’t know a nursery rhyme. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all be singing ‘Sunshine, Sunshine’ to each other now.”

“Hmm. The theme song for a new era of paranoia.”

“Beats no new era at all. I heard your cutie marks made a good shibboleth, too.”

“True. That was Twilight’s idea, too.”

“Damn clever of her. Special gal, that Twilight Sparkle. Brainy and brave. Not a great dancer, but quite a good singer. Building up a good track record in my book.”

“Mine too.”

“Bet she’d look good engraved on your sword.”

Radish chuckled. “I doubt the captain would approve of a customization like that.”

“The captain will probably be moving on now that he’s a prince. Princess Celestia will probably have him ruling over some other corner of the kingdom.”

“You think? I hadn’t considered that. No more Shining Armor around here. End of an era.”

“And the start of a brand new one.”

Radish looked out the window. The city was bathed in late afternoon sunlight. He smiled. “Let’s make it a good one, then.”

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