• 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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85. The Forest, Part 3

Prince Blueblood’s carriage landed in the barrens just north of Ponyville. Its driver opened its door and rolled out a red carpet for his prince. Blueblood strutted out of the carriage wearing a top hat, cravat, greatcoat, and jodhpurs. He carried a swagger stick tucked in his forehoof.

“I don’t know how long this will take. Keep at the ready until I return,” he told his entourage.

They nodded. He walked up to a large burrow hole angled diagonally into the ground. He used his stick to rap upon its side.

Ahem. Hello down there!”

Two burly diamond dogs in rugged armor poked their heads out of the burrow.

“Who are you? What you want?” barked one of the guard dogs.

“I, my good pup, am Prince Blueblood, the sovereign ruler of Equestria. I have come to speak with your top dog.”

“Prince? There’s no pony prince. Pony leaders all girls,” the other dog responded, suspiciously.

“As much as I would love to discuss the finer nuances of the Equestrian royal family, I am on a tight schedule. Now, ‘take me to your leader’, as they say.”

The guard dogs eyed each other. They grinned. “Oh, we take you, all right. Come right in, Pony Prince.”

They stepped aside and led Blueblood inside the burrow. The entrance collapsed behind them.


Radish followed the corridor of vines.The longer he walked, the darker it was. He attached his flashlight to his breastplate and clicked it on. He could now see the nothingness before him a little better.

The tunnel opened into a large forest clearing, fenced in by a lattice of the vines. Radish stepped into it and looked around.

“Major! Welcome! You’ve got to see this!”

Radish recognized the voice. “Spruce? Timber Spruce? Is that you?”

“Yes! Over here!”

Radish noticed a shadowy figure in the center of the clearing. He cast his light on it.

“What the-”

It was Timber Spruce, in a manner of sorts. Plant matter was covering most of his body. He was rooted to the ground, with his lower hooves encased in thick black tree bark. Dark stems grew up his legs and wrapped around his body, budding black vines, fern leaves, and flowers. Radish ran forward and drew his sword.

“Stay still! I’ll cut you out of this!”

Timber Spruce laughed. “They’re not attacking me, major!”

“What?”

“I’m in communication with these plants! I’ve formed a symbiosis with them!”

What?”

“It’s the truth! Watch this!”

A vine sprouted under Radish’s hooves and produced a long, wide leaf. It scooped up Radish and grew tall, lifting him high.

“See?”

Radish hunched low and wobbled on the leaf. His hooves started to break through it. “Okay, I get it! Put me down.”

The leaf turned sideways and dumped Radish to the forest floor. Radish landed hard, barely managing to avoid falling on his sword.

“Oh, sorry,” said Timber. “It’s hard to gauge weights and distances through the stems. They don’t feel like proper limbs.”

Radish approached him. “How are you doing this?”

“With my earth pony abilities, of course! I reached out to these black vines like any other plant. But they responded unlike any other plant!”

“I reached out to them, too. They attacked me.”

“Yes, they seem to have an aversion to you. Why is that?”

“They’re creations of Discord. He’s taking over Equestria again.”

“That’s impossible. The princesses said that Discord is on our side now.”

“He’s not. Have you seen Marble Pie or Scatter Shot?”

“No. Why?”

“They’re missing somewhere in this forest! Didn’t you hear her scream?”

“I didn’t hear anything.”

“I’m going to search for them. I want you to get out of that stuff and get to Ponyville where it’s safe.”

“I’m perfectly safe here, major. This entire section of the forest is responding to me.”

“It’s just another one of Discord’s tricks. He takes what you’re proud of, what you’re good at, and twists it. You’re an earth pony botanist, so he’s using plants to toy with you. And he’s using you to delay me.”

“You’re being paranoid. This is a gift from the Everfree. It wants to be friends.”

“Spruce, get out of that stuff now.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“You can’t order me around like one of your cadets. You guards are here to protect us researchers, and now that the forest has accepted us, we don’t even need you for that anymore.”

“If you don’t need me, then why did you summon me here?”

“The vines have run into a problem. They’re encountering resistance, and they need extra help to defeat the enemy.”

Radish gripped his sword extra tight. “What enemy would that be? The girls?”

“No, the hounds.”

“What hou… you mean the diamond dogs?”

“Yes. They’re occupying territory that the roots need. They’re preventing the vines from expanding further north.”

“That’s good.”

“No, major. They have no right to stand in the way of the Everfree’s growth. But I had an idea to get rid of them.”

“Yeah? What idea?”

“You’re an earth pony- surely your parents must have taught you about that… old earth pony tradition?”

Radish frowned. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am. But I can’t split my focus, so I’ll need you to do all the crafting and quickening. Make a few dozen, to start.”

“Not a chance.”

A vine shot up from the ground and wrapped around Radish’s neck, pressing thorns into his throat. More vines snatched away his sword and spear.

“Come on, major. Be a team player.”

“Spruce,” gasped Radish, “Discord’s plants are messing with your head. I’ve seen it happen before. I know that deep down, you’re fighting them. And you can beat them.”

“It’s not a fight, it’s a partnership. I’ve formed a mutualistic bond with the Everfree- something no other pony has ever achieved! Much more impressive than playing a guitar, isn’t it?”

“Guitar? Wait… are you doing all this because you think it’ll impress Twilight?"

“And why wouldn’t it? I’ve done the unprecedented- formed a perfect bond between plant and pony! Imagine the possibilities once I’ve spread the Everfree across Equestria. I’ll be the mind inside every tree, blade of grass, and patch of moss in the world. I’ll protect, shelter, and nourish everypony on Earth with just a thought!”

“And what about civilizations that get in the way, like the diamond dogs?”

“They’ll be mulch.”

Great, an earth pony gone mad with power, thought Radish. That’s got to be a first.


Prince Blueblood stood in a dirt-walled jail cell, tapping a hoof impatiently. A squat brown diamond dog lumbered up to the bars.

“Well! It’s about time,” said the prince. “Is this how you treat a foreign head of state?”

“Pony Prince was foolish to come! Diamond dogs not surrender to ponies, no matter how many vines ponies sic on diamond dogs!”

“Vines? Ah, I see. Now it all makes sense. I can assure you, Equestria is not behind them. In fact, I do believe we have a mutual enemy. Let us join forces. You help me, and I’ll help you.”

The room rumbled. A wave of black thorny vines burst from the floor and spread out in all directions. The small dog whimpered. “Pony Prince can help himself! Bye bye!”

He fled for the nearest exit, leaving Blueblood in the cell. Vines started to fill the room, crushing furniture, crates, and stalagmites in their path. The prince took a step back and scoffed.

“Well, I never.”


Radish struggled against the choking vine. He got enough slack to open his left saddlebag with his mouth and looked inside to see what he could use. Eddie the rattlesnake was coiled up inside, staring fearfully at him.

“Eddie?” Radish whispered. “You were in there the whole time?”

Eddie nodded.

“I need you to go slither for help.”

Eddie shook his head. He opened his mouth and pointed at his own fang with his tail, then pointed in Timber Spruce’s direction.

“No. You’re too young to control your venom. You could accidentally give him a lethal dose.” Radish then looked at Timber. “Oh! But he would have that same fear, wouldn’t he?”

Eddie nodded.

“Okay, I think I know how to distract him.”

The vine around Radish's neck dragged him closer to Timber Spruce. Timber regarded Radish with curiosity. “Were you talking to yourself, major?”

“Yeah. Just thinking out loud. About Twilight.”

“What about Princess Twilight Sparkle?”

“You two seemed to be getting along at the party, so why are you so desperate to impress her now?”

Timber Spruce frowned. The vine leashing Radish drooped and slackened a bit.

“We were getting along at the party. It was all going so well. We were chatting, laughing, getting to know each other. And so, naturally, I showed her my… my…”

Radish narrowed his eyes. “Your what?

“My library catalog system. But she didn’t like it.”

“She didn’t?”

“No. She said that it was too narrow in scope. That it wouldn’t meet most users’ needs. That I’d have difficulty expanding upon it.”

“Ooh. Sorry. No guy wants to hear that.”

“But she’ll have to be impressed by this, right?”

Radish leaned forward. “Look… I know what it’s like to want to impress a princess. Sometimes you can do everything right, and still not be good enough. That’s just life.”

Timber Spruce frowned. “No. This has to be enough. It just has to be.”

“But that’s okay. You don’t have to live for somepony else’s approval. You can be your own stallion.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course I do. You know my cutie mark, don’t you?”

“No. Why? What’s your cutie mark?”

“Go on. Have a look.”

A vine whipped at the straps of Radish’s saddle plate. His armor fell off. Timber leaned forward to see. He gasped.

“What in the world? What did you do?”

“It’s a long story. Oh, and Timber?”

“Yes?”

“Watch out for the snake.”

Eddie sprang up hissing from the ground, rattling his tail and baring his fangs. Timber screamed and flailed backwards, ripping himself out of the chaos plant matter. The fencework of vines surrounding the clearing drooped and collapsed. The vine holding Radish’s neck went limp. He tossed it off and approached Timber Spruce, who lay on the ground, breathing hard.

“Spruce, are you okay?”

Timber Spruce groaned. “Major… I’m sorry…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“No… you’ve got to get out of here. You were right… the vines were just using me…”

Radish picked up Timber Spruce and slung his hoof over his shoulders. Eddie climbed back into Radish’s bag.

“Come on. We’re leaving.”

“...using me to trap you…”

The forest shook. The ground under their hooves turned soft, then fell out from under them. They tumbled down a deep dark hole.

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