• 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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74. The Evaluation

Radish Root and Barrel Roller sat at a table of an outdoor café opposite the Ponyville library. Barrel Roller was squinting at it. Radish was taking notes.

“Well, Root. What do you think?”

“I think Twilight should relocate to Canterlot where she can be secured.”

“That’s retreating. You fancy yourself a security whiz, secure her here, where she lives.”

“She lives in the public library,” Radish said. “Anyone is literally allowed to walk into her home during most of the day. She’s never really mentioned having library staff. Does she work as the sole librarian?”

“Sort of. The library is mostly on the honor system. But Ponyvillians aren’t big readers, anyway.”

“And she doesn’t want guards here?”

“She says it’s ‘disruptive to the adventure of reading’.”

Radish sighed. “Dammit, Twilight. Okay, then, we need to have her home monitored, without her knowing.”

“Which means inserting our own ponies into the neighborhood.”

“Yes, but we should start within her home. We need to get Spike and Owlowiscious trained on spotting suspicious behavior, and repelling intruders if need be.”

“Oh, they are,” said Pinkie Pie. “We all are.”

Radish and Barrel Roller turned to see her sitting at their table, eating a sundae.

“Pinkie Pie?” said Radish, incredulously.

“Come on, this is Ponyville,” she said, mouth full. “Everyone loves Twilight. The whole town is pitching in to watch her back. Nopony’s going to lay a hoof on her.”

She swallowed her mouthful.

“Pinkie, we have our orders,” said Radish.

“Celestia’s being silly. Tell her I said we got this.”

“You hear that, Root? The town’s party planner says she’s got security covered,” said Barrel Roller.

“Hmm, don’t I outrank you?” pondered Pinkie Pie out loud. “Being the Element of Laughter and all, I’m kind of like a noble lady of the royal court, right?”

“That’s never been made official,” said the captain. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re a consultant for highly specific situations.”

“Look, the palace may be full of holes and moles, but there’s no place safer for Twilight than Ponyville.”

“This town has been attacked several times. You’re on the outskirts of a monster-riddled forest, and frankly, no one in this town is qualified to protect a princess.”

Pinkie Pie giggled. “What’s the Royal Guard’s track record on that, again?”

Barrel Roller bristled. “Look here, missy! We are-”

“Duck!” yelled Pinkie Pie. She grabbed Radish and Barrel Roller and dragged them under the table.

“What are you-” started Radish.

“Shh! It’s Twilight!”

They looked from under the table. Twilight was leaving the library.

“Now watch. Watch, like guards,” Pinkie said.

Radish looked at Twilight, then let his focus extend to the world around her. He saw what Pinkie Pie was getting at. Ponies greeted her as she passed, but took an extra glance before moving on. A unicorn on a park bench was pretending to talk to her friend, but was actually keeping an eye on Twilight. A window washer was doing his job, but was keeping her in view through the window’s reflection. Store clerks watched her from inside their shops while arranging window displays.

Radish looked up. A weather pony was dispelling clouds, but was following a route that shadowed Twilight’s. The local school teacher walked along with Twilight, chatting with her, while surreptitiously scanning around them. She said goodbye to Twilight, but then doubled back to examine an alleyway.


“I see it too, Root. The whole town really is watching over her.”

“Mmm-hmm,” said Pinkie Pie, still eating the sundae.

“But what if someone actually tries something? What could they do about it?” Radish asked.

“The same thing we did to that dragon. Ask them nicely to be better.”

“Ugh, this town,” grumbled Barrel Roller. “Okay, Pie. The rest of you Elements can be in charge of Twilight’s safety in Ponyville, but only if you send me weekly reports on everything even remotely suspicious or threatening. And if I still don’t feel she’s safe enough, I’m putting a garrison here- I don't care how much it disrupts 'the adventure of reading'.”

Pinkie Pie finished her ice cream.

“You got yourself a deal. Can you stay for lunch?”

Radish and Barrel Roller stood on the platform of the Ponyville train station. Barrel Roller read over a poster advertising the upcoming Princess Summit in the Crystal Empire. Radish was staring at a large map of Ponyville tacked to the wall featuring various tourism highlights.

“You know, ma’am, we could still get guards close to Twilight. If the palace were to conduct long-term studies of the Everfree Forest, we could turn this old lake camp into a research outpost,” Radish said, pointing to the map. “Twilight would be delighted to have a bunch of scientists near Ponyville. But in a place like the Everfree, the researchers would need guards. And if the guards were given lots of free time, they’d spend it in town.”

“You like doing things the sneaky way, don’t you, Root? That’s an interesting idea. I’ll talk to the research department.”

“I want to be one of those guards, ma’am.”

“You want to transfer? Don’t you have a girl in Canterlot?”

“She’d want me to be here, keeping Twilight safe.”

“You’ve got a lot to learn about mares, Root. And it’s best that Twilight Sparkle has guards who can remain objective when protecting her.”

“Well, who doesn’t love Twilight?”

“Now that’s the million-bit question. I think that-”

She was interrupted by the sound of a ticket clerk cursing out a visitor. He shooed the girl away, then went to the trash bin and dumped a pile of leaflets into it.

“What was that?” asked Radish.

“She was trying to sneak in her own fliers with the rest of the tourist guides," the clerk said. "Dumb nonsense. Not even worth looking at.”

He wrapped up the garbage bag and headed off to the dumpster. Barrel Roller produced one of the flyers from her wing.

Radish looked at it in surprise. “How did you-”

“He dropped one, I snatched it up. These wings do all kinds of tricks.”

She read the flier. She cursed. She looked to see where the pony who brought them had gone.

“What, ma’am?”

Barrel Roller gave it to him. Radish read it and cursed. The flier read:






“Ma’am? What do we do about this?”

“You know anything about politics, Root?”

“No, ma’am.”

“It’s the most reliable means by which any pony, no matter who they are or where they came from, can ruin your day.”

“We should show this to Twilight.”

“Show what to Twilight?” she said, seizing and crumpling the flier into a ball. She stuffed it in her pocket.

“Good thinking, ma’am. Crisis averted.”

“Our train’s here. Get onboard, Root.”

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