• 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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72. The Coronation

Princess Celestia strolled down a sidewalk in Midtown Canterlot. She stopped in front of Cat’s Howl and pushed open the door, making the bell hanging above it clang out loudly. Light Fantastic popped up from behind the counter.

“Whoa, princess! Welcome!”

“Hello, Miss Fantastic. I’m here to pick up my poster.”

“Aw, you could’ve had it delivered.”

“I don’t get to the cultural district much these days. I wanted to feel the vibe, as they say.”

“Midlo is a great part of town. Lots to see. Lots to buy, as well,” she said, gesturing around her store.

“It’s called ‘Midlo’ now?”

“‘The Midtown Canterlot Arts and Entertainment District’ was always a mouthful.”

Light passed her a cardboard tube. Celestia opened it and pulled out the poster inside. She examined it, smiling.

A small leaflet that had been clinging to the back of the poster fell to the floor. Celestia lifted it up to look. It was an advertisement for an upcoming line of merchandise based on Radish’s and Celestia’s bout, including T-shirts, mugs, stickers, and figurines.

“Oh, my. How did that get in there?” Light asked with insincere innocence.

“Seriously, Light? How much more are you going to milk those ten minutes?”

“Ponies have been clamoring for it! You know, there’s a ton of Celestia merchandise out there, but it’s all of you being regal and elegant. Now that everypony knows you’re a scrapper, they want to see you in action poses! Princess Pain taking on all comers!”

“Do I get a cut of this?”

“You’re a public figure. And Princess Pain is a legally distinct parody. So, no.”

“Does Radish?”

“You mean, Nightmare Root? No, but he gets a slice of me.”

“These other characters…”

“Yeah, I expanded the line. We’ve got fighter versions of everyone in the works! Eclipsa, the Moon Mistress! Jumble, the Mixed-up Monster! The Big Black Bug! And Shadowfall, the Tragic King. Lots of interest in that one- some ladies really love a bad boy. Not us, though, right?” she said with a wink.

“What about Twilight and her friends?”

“Oh, nopony really buys stuff of the Pastelles. They’re just too wholesome, I guess.”

“The Pastelles?”

“It’s, uh, kind of their nickname around Midlo. On account of them being, you know, a bunch of pastel girly girls.”

“I see. Perhaps they’ll broaden their appeal someday.”

She rerolled the poster and leaflet, and put them back in the tube. She slung it over her back.

“Good day, Light Fantastic. I enjoy our encounters.”

“Wait! Before you go, I had something else for you. A gift.”

“That’s not necessary.”

“I think it is. See, I was thinking about what you said about Rad’s cutie mark. How you find it insulting.”

“Please, Light. I feel bad about that.”

“No, you were being honest. But I think the reason it seems insulting is because there’s no context. It’s just one frozen image of him, eternally taking you from behind.”

Celestia sighed, and waited for her to continue.

“But what if there’s more to the story? What if that’s just one moment out of a long, beautiful encounter? So I made this!”

She slapped a homemade comic book on the counter. Celestia looked over her shoulder, then approached it.

“See?” said Light, showing her the pages. “It’s you and Rad. Making love.

“Really, now, Light. There is such a thing as going too far.”

“No, look. Now, there’s a whole romantic evening leading up to the two of you acting out the mark. There’s dinner, conversation, dancing, and in the end, you cuddle. And you're the big spoon, princess. It was never about him dominating you, it’s about mutual, loving exploration of each other’s passions. It’s the context that the cutie mark is missing.”

Celestia stared at the comic. She flipped through the pages, then turned to the end. It depicted her and Radish snuggling in bed. They whispered sweet nothings to each other before drifting off to sleep.

“What do you think?” asked Light.

“You’re a talented artist, Light Fantastic.”

“You do like it!”

“This is one of the oddest gifts I have ever received. I appreciate what you’ve done here. And yes, it puts Radish’s cutie marks in a much more agreeable context.”

“That’s great!” she said, slipping the comic into a brown paper bag.

“This is the only copy, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Does Radish know about this?”

“Oh, he’d freak out if he knew.”

“Let’s keep it between us girls, then.”

“Sure.”

“Have a nice day, Miss Fantastic.”

“See ya when I see ya, ‘stia.”

Celestia reached the door and opened it. She turned her head back.

“Oh, and do take care of Radish. I have a feeling his life is about to get a great deal more complicated.”

Celestia walked out the door. Light Fantastic sat back on her stool.

“Now, what could she mean by that?”

A flush came from the bathroom in the back of the store. Splash Page trotted out. Light looked at him. He looked at Light.

“Was that really the only copy?”

“Get out of here.”


Light Fantastic set a mug of coffee in front of Radish, then sat next to him at her kitchen table.

“So, Underglaze said the new installation is almost up. Took them long enough," she said.

“They used migratory birds to build it,” noted Radish. “Of course it takes long when your workforce is gone half the year.”

“That’s art, baby.”

A wisp of smoke seeped into Light Fantastic’s kitchen. It coalesced into a scroll, and Light caught it with a wing.

“Hey, you got a dragon mail. Uh, it’s marked ‘urgent’.”

“Let me see that.”

Radish unfurled it and read.

“Let me guess,” scoffed Light, leaning back with her mug. “The Purple Squirt’s friends not getting along again? ‘Dear Radish, Rainbow Jack said the awful-est thing to Pinker Fly. How will we ever save the world again without our constant sing-alongs? You’re the only one I can ever write to because I don’t have a boyfriend of my own.’

“Mmm. Mmm hmm,” Radish said, reading the scroll.

“Well?”

“Fanny… it’s Twilight. She… she…”

“What?”

“Twilight just became a princess!

“Whoa, she got married? Eloped with… who’s a prince… Blueblood? Weird pair, but I don’t judge.”

“No. She invented new magic and turned into an alicorn.”

“Oh, come on.”

“She’s got wings now.”

“You can do that?”

“And she’s going to be crowned soon. In the palace.”

“Is this an invitation? Do we get VIP seats? Free champagne?”

“She’s saying Barrel Roller is adamant that security will be adequate. But Shining Armor insists on bringing in Crystal Empire guards for the coronation…”

“Big surprise. Throwing his big floppy authority around.”

“But she wants to know if I have any suggestions for improving the main tower’s security, like I did at Luna’s. She could pass them along to the right ponies.”

“Aw, she’s a nice kid. That would be a big deal if you could.”

“Yeah. The main tower is huge. It’s ancient. It’s busy all day, every day. And four princesses will be inside at one time.”

He put down the scroll. He got a far-off look on his face.

“Honey, you know Shining and Barrel will never listen to your suggestions, even coming from Twilight.”

“By ‘the right ponies’, she meant AG1.”

“The Pastelles?”

“They’re not the ditzes everypony thinks they are. They’re taking major roles in the preparations. They have free rein of the palace and a lot of latitude.”

“So?”

“Nah, nevermind. There’s no way the main tower has any security issues. Celestia’s worked there for a thousand years. She hasn’t ruled that long by being careless. And four princesses mean it’s the safest place in the world- no one’s going to mess with that kind of power. Although…”

“Although?”

“I’ve always hated the sight lines around the base. Most buildings at the palace are really big, round, and crowded together. A lot of the perimeter of that tower is obscured from a lot of angles. The kitchen door on the ground floor is constantly left open with nobody inside…”

­­“Why?”

“The garlic smell.”

He grabbed some paper and a pencil. He started sketching the tower’s floor plans.

“And those colonnades. They’re so easy to hide in. There’s no checkpoints along them. Somepony could just run or fly right down them.”

“How long have you been thinking about this?”

“Since the wedding. The balcony floor is nice and isolated, but the floor right below, that’s the throne room. It’s huge and open. Under that is Celestia’s office. It’s also huge. There’s air ducts in these walls that pass through those three floors…”

“How could you possibly know that?”

“It’s in the Guard book. No one’s watching the office during a coronation, and it has a lock that Celestia opens with her horn.”

“So, nopony else can get in there?”

“No, it has a backup keyhole. It’s nonmagical, and it’s centuries old…”

Radish looked down at everything he had drawn.

“Somepony could slip in the kitchen, sneak through the colonnades, pick the lock to her office, get up through the ducts, and come out through the vents on the roof above the balcony where the four princesses will be.”

“Rad, I know you dig this spycraft stuff, but if you bring that to your bosses, they’re going to say you’ve been watching too many movies.”

“Fine. It’s just a thought.”


Radish lay prone on a parapet tower balcony. He focused his binoculars on the palace’s main tower.

Why is this taking so long?

He looked at the vent on the roof. No change. He looked at the balcony below it. He could make out Celestia and Luna inside. He didn’t have an angle on Twilight, but he could tell from the roar of the crowd inside and the start of a song that she had just been crowned.

Good on you, Twilight. And here they come.

Celestia and Luna led the newly-crowned Princess Twilight Sparkle to the balcony. She waved, not looking too nervous. Celestia whispered something to her, and Twilight started a speech. She waved her five friends onto the balcony with her.

No, not them. Don’t put all the eggs on one balcony.

Almost every important pony in Equestria was now within ten meters of each other. If anyone was going to attack, now would be the time. He tensed up, scanning the roof, the windows, then random points of interest in the environs.

He looked across the cheering crowd. He changed position and looked at the other towers, then glassed the sky for oncoming flying threats. No changeling swarm this time. No rogue dragon popping in for a pony roast.

Shining Armor should’ve thrown up his shield. This whole thing was reckless.

He looked back down. The princesses were just now moving back in. He breathed for the first time in five minutes. His heartbeat returned to normal.

He looked in the windows of the main room. He could see the throng inside slowly filtering out. Twilight was now fully visible through one of the windows. She turned her head right in Radish’s direction. She made a series of covert hoof gestures, then continued on.

It was Plains Rangers signal code. The gestures meant, in order, “all clear”, “thank you”, and “come to me”.

Twilight, you little nerd. You should have been way too busy to memorize those.

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