• 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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66. Hearts and Hooves Night

Light lay back onto her bed, stretching out and sighing contentedly. Radish stretched out next to her.

“You were right”, she said, “Every mare should be treated to a spa day once in a while. And dinner at Chez Foin was so good. Thanks for the best H n’ H ever.”

“Thanks for my first H n’ H ever,” said Radish.

“Well, it’s not quite over yet.”


She reached into her bedside dresser drawer and pulled out a costume Celestia wig. She fixed it on her head. Radish’s eyes widened.

“What do you think?” she asked, leaning forward seductively. “Want to live out your cutie marks at last?”

Radish’s shoulders drooped. “Light, I think my feelings for Celestia have changed. I still care about her, but I don’t have that same… fire… for her anymore.”

Light took off the wig. “Okay, I thought you might say something like that. But I’ve got a backup.”

She reached into the drawer again and came back up wearing a sparkly blue Princess Luna wig. “Forsooth, mine Champion! Unsheathe thine spear for thy Princess of the Night!”

Radish winced. “I… can’t do that either. Luna is… precious to me. It would be like betraying her.”

Light rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine. Final offer.” She pulled out a Princess Cadance wig. “Well?”

Radish shrugged. “I honestly don’t find Cadance all that attractive. She’s kind of lanky.”

“Oh, is that so?” Light put the wig on, lay down onto the bed, and dramatically put her hoof to her forehead. “Lieutenant Root! What are you doing in my royal bedchamber!? If my husband, your prince, caught us together, he’d have you exiled!”

Radish narrowed his eyes. He crawled on top of Light and firmly took hold of her shoulders. “I’m not afraid of him. And I can do things to your royal highness that the prince has never dreamed of.”

“Oh, cruelest of fates! How could I, the Princess of Love, fall for the charms of such a knavish scoundrel? Take me now, in my connubial bed!”

Radish growled. Light giggled, then gasped, then moaned.

Twilight Velvet, Night Light, Shining Armor, and Princess Cadance sat at one end of a long table in Starting Gate’s, a fine dining establishment in Uptown Canterlot. There were eight empty chairs at their table.

“Shiny, dear,” said Twilight Velvet, “are you sure Twilight and her friends know to come here?”

“They’ll be here!” he insisted. “Twilight’s the best at scavenger hunts. And the clues I left her are foolproof!”

Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie stood at the outskirts of Canterlot, examining one of the city’s large gates in its outer wall.

“See anything?” asked Twilight.

“Sorry, Twilight,” said Spike. “There's no clues here.”

“I don’t get it! The last clue scroll we found referenced ‘the gate where it starts’. And this is the first gate ever built in Canterlot. I’m sure the translation from Middle Ponish is accurate. There has to be something here to point us to the next clue.”

“You know, there is a rather nice restaurant Uptown called ‘Starting Gate’s’. Their souffle is divine,” said Rarity. “Perhaps that’s what it meant?”

“That’s impossible!” said Twilight. “That restaurant can’t be more than thirty years old. These scrolls appear to be from centuries before that.”

“Maybe the clues are just a mean old ancient prank?” suggested Fluttershy.

“Wait, I know!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie. “It’s wordplay! It’s supposed to be ‘gait’, like walking! And where do you start to walk? A nursery!”

Twilight shook her head. “That pun wouldn’t work in Middle Ponish. But… if you switch out the words with contemporary homophones… you’d get a phrase that roughly translates to ‘field of holes’! That’s it! The next clue must be in the ancient cemetery!”

“Cemetery?” said Rarity. “Oof, this treasure hunt is more befitting Nightmare Night than Hearts and Hooves Day.”

“Oh, right. It’s Hearts and Hooves Day,” said Twilight, slowly. “If any of you had somewhere else you needed to be, we could pick this up some other day.”

Twilight’s friends looked at each other, then shook their heads.

“Get real, Twilight,” said Rainbow Dash. “Like some lame-o mushy holiday would be better than exploring a spooky crumbling cemetery for ancient magic!”

The others nodded in agreement, and the friends set off for the cemetery. Spike walked up close to Rarity.

“Don’t be afraid, Rarity. Just stick close to me, and I’ll protect you from any ghoulies, ghosts, or goblins that pop out.”

“My, how brave. Thank you, Spikey-wikey,” Rarity said, patting his head. She then leaned over and whispered into Fluttershy’s ear. “You know, dear, if you indeed had Hearts and Hooves plans with a certain… someone… just take off. I’ll cover for you.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” whispered Fluttershy.

Applejack matched pace with Twilight. “You okay, Twi? You’ve been a bit… out of it… today.”

“I’m fine, Applejack. This treasure hunt is helping me take my mind off, well, a lot of things. I’m really happy you’re all here with me.”

“Any time, anywhere, sugar cube.”

“Maybe we should order now?” suggested Night Light.

“Just give them five more minutes!” said Shining Armor.

Cadance counted the chairs at the table. “Shiny, who’s the eighth chair for?”

“Root is supposed to be here, too.”

Shining Armor! Don’t you think Radish should spend Hearts and Hooves Day with his girlfriend?” admonished Cadance.

“Whoa, Radish has a girlfriend?” asked Night Light. “That’s great! He’s such a nice boy.”

“Now, son, it was sweet of you to invite him,” said Twilight Velvet, “but a couple only gets to have one first Hearts and Hooves Day,”

“But I really would like to see Radish again, and meet his girlfriend, before we move to the Crystal Empire,” said Cadance. “Oh! We could double-date!”

“That’s a great idea! Take our box at the opera!” said Twilight Velvet.

Shining Armor frowned. “Yeah. Great idea.”

Murk the bat pony trotted up to their table, wearing a hairnet and apron. “Hello, Prince Armor!”

“What the-? What are you doing here?” asked Shining Armor.

“Brother Radish will be unable to join you for dinner this evening. Knowing I’d be working here tonight, he asked me to convey his sincerest apologies, his warmest Hearts and Hooves wishes, and his gift for Twilight Sparkle.”

See, Shiny?” said Cadance pointedly.

“What do you mean, you’re working here tonight?” Shining asked Murk.

“We bat ponies normally devote hours each night to consuming our weight in insects. We discovered we could get paid to do so, by devouring the pests which infest many of Canterlot’s restaurants.”

The four at the table looked uneasy. “Are you saying Starting Gate’s has a bug problem?” asked Night Light.

“Not anymore!” Murk announced proudly. “I have just finished eating them all! Every last flour beetle, grain weevil, and fridge millipede!”

“Son, I’m not so sure about this place,” said Twilight Velvet.

“You said something about a gift for Twilight?” Shining Armor asked through gritted teeth.

“Yes! Brother Radish composed for her a poem, to express his regret at rebuffing her kindness and to elucidate how dearly he values her friendship.”

Murk placed a thick cardstock paper on the table. Neatly written on it was a poem entitled, “To a True, True Friend”. The four gathered around it to read it. Cadance gasped. Night Light’s eyes got misty. Twilight Velvet leaned against her husband, holding her hooves to her heart.

“Oh my, what a beautiful sentiment,” said Twilight Velvet.

“Our baby girl is lucky to have a friend like that,” agreed Night Light. “What a standup guy.”

“That’s… that’s the sweetest thing from a stallion I’ve ever read,” said Cadance, wiping her eyes. “We’ve just got to see him again.”

Shining Armor stared blankly. “Uh huh.”

“Hey! You!” bellowed a furious voice. A heavyset blue pegasus stallion stomped up to their table. “You owe me ten million bits!”

Shining scowled. “I told you, I wasn’t being serious!”

The pegasus pointed at Shining. “Can you believe this guy!? I bet ten bits on Radish Root, and it turns out he actually won! But Mr. Bigshot Prince here won’t pay out!”

Would you get out of here!?” Shining hissed. “I am having dinner with my family!”

“Shiny?” asked Cadance, “What’s he talking about?”

Radish and Light held each other, panting.

“Ooh, Lieutenant Root, you’ve positively scandalized me,” said Light. “My servants must have surely heard our cries of passion.”

“Who do you think let me into your royal bedchamber?” asked Radish, deviously.

“Mmm, remind me to thank them.” She snuggled into Radish. “Now it’s been the best H n’ H ever.”

“I wasn’t too rough?”

“No, babe, you were perfect.”

“Do you think this has been my special talent all along?”

“Could be. I’d need a lot more data before making any conclusions, though.”

“Well… would you like to try…”

He whispered into her ear. She groaned. “You’ve been talking to Bold Roast, I take it?”


“I’m not into that.”


“Wait, do you think that’s what Little Radish is doing to Little Celestia?”


Light lifted her head and stared at Radish’s mark. “Huh. Yeah, maybe. Well… all right. We can try it.”


Next Hearts and Hooves Day.”

“You promise you’ll still be with me a year from now?”

She kissed him. “Quit acting surprised I like you. You're the best. Even if you have weird, complicated relationships with princesses.”

Princess Celestia sat on a bench by the castle lake, watching the moonlight ripple across the surface. Frogs at the water’s edge were singing slowly and steadily. Princess Cadance walked up to her.

“Hi, Aunt Celestia.”

“Cadance? You should be with your husband on Hearts and Hooves Day.”

“My dear husband is in the doghouse. He neglected to tell me about what happened between you and Radish. He also neglected to check the restaurant’s health inspection record.” She sat down and hugged her aunt. “How are you?”

Celestia nuzzled her. “I’m tired. And a little hungover.”

“Celestia, I think it’s time you finally let me help you with your love life. At least let me feel into your heart.”

“You don’t want to go in there. It’s a cold, sorrowful citadel.”

“No, it’s a dam. And it’s been holding back a reservoir of love for far too long. Please- let me try. I may be able to find the answers you’ve been looking for.”

Celestia kissed Cadance’s forehead. “Not tonight. You need to go make peace with Shining Armor. Cherish every moment with him that you can. Don’t make my mistakes.”

Cadance sighed, resignedly. “All right. But you know I’ll always be ready to help you.”

“I know. Thank you, dear.”

Harold found himself alone in a quiet clearing in a dark forest, lit only by luminescent mushrooms and soft starlight filtering through the canopy. He stood at the head of a barely-noticeable trail leading deeper into the woods, where light didn’t follow. He gathered up his courage, then stepped forward. He felt a hoof on his shoulder.

He turned to see Princess Luna at his side. “Stop. Only danger lies that way.”

“Princess Luna, the last time I explored the deep understory of the dreamlands, I discovered Chrysalis planning her invasion. Who knows what other threats I can uncover lurking down that path?”

“You barely escaped that path with your life. As did I.”

“My self-inflicted mutation has given me greater awareness and control in my dreams. I have been training this power every night. I am willing to take on the risk. I believe this is the best use of my talent.”

“There is a reason that even I, the Princess of the Night, rarely venture that way. There are things lurking in the deep dreamlands worse than changelings- things best left slumbering. Rather than gathering information about our enemies, you may alert unknown horrors to Equestria’s existence.”

Harold took a fearful step back. “Very well. Thank you for coming to stop me. I am sorry for having taken up your time.”

Luna shook her head. “I was not eager to begin tonight’s dream patrolling, anyway. It is Hearts and Hooves Day, and the night that follows this holiday is always full of nightmares about loneliness. I am… unskilled at helping ponies with affairs of the heart.”

“Do you help these ponies individually, or in groups?”

“Individually, of course. I never cross-contaminate nightmares.”

“But if the nightmares are of loneliness…”

Luna’s ears pricked up. “...then these ponies don’t need me, they need each other! I could arrange a dream mixer for every lonely heart in Equestria! Ooh- perhaps a masquerade ball, like in the old days!”

“That sounds fun,” said Harold. “I am sure they will enjoy it.”

Luna took hold of Harold’s hoof. A flash of blue light flowed over their bodies, and they were suddenly in elegant ball attire. Harold looked down at his new tuxedo in surprise.

“Come!” said Luna. “Even at the speed of dreaming, we will have precious little time to prepare the festivities and gather the guests.”

“You wish me to help?”

“I believe this is the best use of your talent.”

Maxilla, Scion of the Hive and Supreme of the Warrior Caste, shuddered awake in the dark. She was on a hard flat surface. She was chained down. There was something heavy clamped onto her horn.


“Ah, welcome back to consciousness, dear,” said a stallion’s voice. She looked for its source and only saw the shadowed outline of a large unicorn in the corner.

“...starving…” she coughed.

“Yes, you feed on love, don’t you?” he asked, dispassionately. “Poor girl, you landed face-first in Kludgetown- there’s not a place on earth more devoid of love! You were so cold and stiff, the merchant who found you thought you were dead. He was going to butcher you for parts, but I knew that insects can enter deep states of hibernation to survive unfavorable conditions.”

“You… saved me?”

“I purchased you. For a sizable sum.”

“Who… are you?”

“Why, I’m your date for tonight- I’ve brought you to Canterlot for Hearts and Hooves Day! I suspected that all the love in the air might revive you. And so it has. Eat up. You’ll need your strength.”

“What do you want from me?”

“I need your help, dear. This nation is living in fear of changelings now. It’s a distraction from the real issues. We need information on your species to develop effective countermeasures. I have to know everything about you- mind, body, and magic. As well as every detail about your people’s history and culture- sources of pride and shame, everything that drives you, offends you, and terrifies you.”

“I will never help you.”

He stepped forward, his glowing horn illuminating his gray mane. “Never say never.”

Twilight Sparkle cast a scanning spell across the backmost corner of Canterlot’s oldest cemetery. She detected nothing out of the ordinary. She clicked her tongue.

“Well, girls,” said Twilight, turning to her friends, “This was the last quadrant. I think it’s time to call it. We’re not going to find that ancient magic tonight. But we did rediscover the lost tomb of Thorny Thicket, one of my favorite authors of the Dark Neoclassical Movement! So, not a total loss.”

“Are you kidding? This was the best day ever!” said Pinkie Pie. “Who knew so many old tombstones had dirty limericks on them?”

“And rediscovering a lost tomb was like, the number one thing on my bucket list,” said Rainbow Dash.

“And I finally got to meet a barghest!” said Fluttershy. “He was such a good boy.”

“Anypony wanna get some food?” asked Spike. “We missed dinner, after all.”

“Ooh, I can recommend a nice little late-night spot downtown,” said Rarity. “It made Trenderhoof’s ‘In Right Now’ list.”

“I’d like to get some grub in me right now,” said Applejack. “Lead the way!”

They seven friends left the cemetery behind. Spike walked alongside Twilight.

“You know, for a minute there,” said Spike, “this was reminding me of those scavenger hunts Shining used to set up for us. Remember?”

“I remember. We always had a lot of fun figuring those out. And the prizes were alway pretty good, too.”

“I’m sure someday we’ll uncover the prize at the end of this one, too, Twilight.”

“I wonder- maybe whoever left these clues was really trying to teach the lesson that the real magic is a fun day spent with good friends.”

Spike scoffed. “I sure hope not. We already knew that.”

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