Chapter 1: Butterfly Follies
A lone prison tower jutted out of the cracked ground like a splinter erupting from a wound. Black spires stabbed the empty, gray sky above, angrily piercing the heart of the magical dimension of Mewni. It almost seemed like a passing cloud would get snarled on the spiky roof and torn to bits. Below, stringy pine trees leaned around as if they were haphazardly stuck in the mud. A stiff breeze would have had enough force to knock them over if it were not for the red vines that coiled around trunks. They acted like barbed wire to keep the mysterious prisoners in and intruders out. Silence locked the isolated forest in an unshakeable grip until a blinding light exploded from the windows. Another followed shortly after, then another and another. Soon, the sky flashed like strobe lights at a party and noise sliced through the quietness. The once sleeping solitary tower was alive with the clanging of swords and the crumbling of stones.
A cluster of knights raced down the stairs, clutching their swords and maces to their armored bodies. They stampeded towards a single unarmed enemy but were immediately blown back by a tidal wave of angry, fat whales. “Narwhal Blast!” The princess yelled again, releasing more of her powerful creations at the knights.
The ones that didn’t jump out of the way went flying out the window. Whirling around, she unleashed another Narwhal Blast, reveling at the raw power in her veins. Wandless magic packed a serious punch, tapping deeper into her innate abilities than the wand. Glossaryck, her mentor, told her about the powers of being a dipper instead of a skimmer, and now she understood what he meant. “I can get used to this!” She sent a purple blast into another knight and marveled at her glowing hands.
“Star! Look out!” A panicked voice caught her attention just as a mace swung towards her face.
Star flipped out of the way to avoid the attack, then sent a spell screaming at her opponent. “Thanks, Marco, but heads up!” She yelled.
Her battle partner shoved a warrior with his katana and ducked to let the knights collide into each other with a metallic bang. “Thanks!” Marco nodded and charged to engage another enemy.
Anytime, Marco, her blue eyes lingered on him for another moment before turning towards the next group of knights. Raw determination propelled Star into them with a torrent of magic. The sounds of battle roared in her ears and drove her into a frenzy. “Rainbow Fist Punch!” Colors swirled around her fist, and she flattened the knights like bowling pins. Ha! She smirked. Around her, the endless stream of knights continued from the bottom of the castle, but they were no match against the princess, her squire, and her father, who chewed on the leg of a knight.
“Star!” She heard Marco shout, but it was too late. A mace knocked her out of a window with a decisive blow across the side. Only the points on her rhino boots prevented her from careening to her death below. Phew! She sighed in relief until she felt her pulse slide off her shoulder. “Oh no, you don’t!” Her quick reflexes caught it before it slipped out of reach.
Something yanked her back inside, and Star found thudding with Marco’s chest as they fell to the floor. “Star!” He cupped her cheek. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I promise,” she replied sincerely.
He kissed her forehead, “I know. Just worried about my new girlfriend getting hurt.”
Girlfriend. Star wasn’t used to him calling her that, but it had been several weeks since they had gotten together. A lot happened after Meteora’s defeat. Alone in the crumbling remains of the castle, Star and Marco spent the night together, confessing fully the feelings uncovered during the “incident” at Ruberiot’s wedding. After being trapped in a photo booth for hours, they kissed. Star never forgot about it. Her lips still tingled when she imagined his pressed against them, and her heart raced when her fingers remembered his suit jacket brushing against them. It had been a shocking yet perfect moment…except for the fact that she was dating Tom. For several days, Star dreaded the inevitable talk she needed to have with him, but after helping her fight Meteora and save Marco, Tom seemed to back off. The last time they spoke, he told Marco to “take care of her” before leaving for the Underworld. It was rather cryptic, but she didn’t stop him. The signs that she still liked her squire were rather obvious in hindsight. With nothing else in the way, starting a romantic relationship with Marco was the most natural course of action.
“You know me, Diaz. I’m as tough as they get,” she bragged. “You don’t have to worry about me.” The chaos of the world shrunk to just the two of them, and they leaned in for a kiss when a knight crashed into the ceiling above their heads. Startled, the couple disengaged.
“Star! Marco!” River raced towards them, ending the moment. “I found a door!”
Oh right, I’m supposed to be finding my mom. Star had forgotten the main objective of the quest between the fighting and her cute boyfriend. Marco was such a distraction sometimes. The teens rushed to a giant wooden door covered in a host of locks and chains. Something valuable must be on the other side. Maybe treasure or weapons. Maybe a queen! With a mighty kick, Star slammed the door open. “WHERE IS MY MOM!” She roared at the top of her lungs.
Disappointment set in when she saw the room was empty, except for jailer tightening the chains of a prisoner hanging on the wall. “Star Butterfly,” the jailer sighed. “For the third time, your mother is not in this tower!”
Has it really been three times? The princess could have sworn the tower was a different one. Her eyes saw the other holes she had busted into the wall only days ago. Shame flooded her mind, and she buried her face in her hands. How had she been so oblivious? Marco placed a supportive hand on her shoulder to try and cheer her up.
“Things have been hard enough as is since you gave the throne to that Monster Lover, Eclipsa,” the jailer piled a rock in the hole. “I can’t throw monsters in jail anymore, so I’ve had to settle with Mewmans instead.”
“Yeah!” The prisoner said.
Star narrowed her eyes, “Maybe you shouldn’t throw anyone in jail.” Why were the Mewmans so insistent that everything was her fault? Their society was horrible and backwards, and the act of giving the wand to Queen Eclipsa felt right. She was the rightful heir and the only true Butterfly. The Magic High Commission wronged her by imprisoning her for three hundred years and erasing her daughter from history, just because she fell in love with a monster. The punishment certainly wasn’t worthy of the “crime.” Plus, as Acting Queen, Star had the authority to make whatever decision she felt best for the kingdom.
Her common-sense suggestion fell on deaf ears, and the jailer grumbled something under his breath while checking the manacles on his prisoner. “You don’t tell me how to run my life, and I won’t tell you how to ruin the kingdom.”
Rage filled Star’s blood and made her fists glow, but a gentle glance from Marco calmed her down enough to prevent her from blasting a hole in the wall. With a huff, she led the rest of her small band back to their camp in the Forest of Certain Death. How didn’t she know it was the same tower? It looked different…from the side, maybe. She could have sworn it did, but maybe the quest to find Moon was finally getting to her brain. They had been at it for several weeks, and the constant fatigue and stress started to poison her mind. What if they never found her mother? For the first time, the frightening possibility seemed real. What would she do then? Where would she go?
The glum mood possessed Star, Marco, and River all the way back to their small clearing in the middle of the forest. A puny fire pit sat in the middle of three thin sleeping bags arranged in a small triangle. Star went to sulk on her own while her father charged into the forest to hunt for dinner. She knew hunting was how her father dealt with stress besides partying with his friends. Marco joined her on the log, wrapping an arm around her. “We’ll find Moon, I promise.”
Bitter and frustrated tears leaked from her eyes and stained his hoodie, but Marco rubbed her back to soothe her. His scent, soured by weeks of questing and infrequent bathing, stung the back of Star’s nose in a comforting way. It reminded Star of when she used to secretly keep a stinky hoodie of his on her bed. The real deal was so much better though.
“Thanks, Marco,” she sighed into his shoulder.
“Now,” he pulled out a map. “Let’s just scribble this tower off the map to avoid coming back here ever again.” Star glanced over his shoulder to see red Xs litter the paper like fallen leaves. There was hardly a place in all of Mewni they had not checked yet, except for the Underworld. I don’t think Mom is down there, the princess decided. Scratching her chin, she combed the Forest of Certain Death and spied an unchecked area between red marks. Maybe they should head there—just in case.
“How about this spot in the Forest of Certain Death?” She pointed. “It’s the only place we haven’t crossed off yet.”
Marco tapped the marker against his chin as he made his adorable “thinking face.” His thick eyebrows creased, and the tip of his tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth. Why did he have to look so kissable all the time? Marco’s cuteness drove her crazy. “I guess checking there wouldn’t hurt,” he drew a circle on the empty spot. “We’ll go on one condition: if we don’t find Moon there, we’re taking a few days off to regroup. Okay?”
The possibility of still not finding Moon gave Star pause. She had to be out there. Just had to be. The idea of her mother being gone forever was not even feasible. But what if she isn’t there? Doubt crept into the princess’s mind, worrying her tired heart until Marco placed a hand on hers. “I’m not saying we’d give up,” he added. “But taking a small break isn’t a bad idea. Okay?”
“Okay,” she nodded.
“It’ll be alright in the end. We just gotta get through this rough spot, but I know we can do it—” Marco intertwined his fingers with hers. “As long as we do it together.”
The confidence in his eyes gave her courage and a smile crept on her face again, “Agreed.”
“So…” He stood up. “I think we should relax for the rest of the night. Wanna go on a walk?”
Star tapped her chin, pretending to think about the offer. Of course, she would love nothing more than to spend a lazy evening with Marco before kicking major butt in the morning. “I like the sound of that, Mr. Diaz.”
“Oh absolutely, Ms. Butterfly,” he reached out his hand. “Come with me.”
The sun sank lower in the sky, pulling darkness over Mewni from east to west. Through gaps in the canopy, stars started to twinkle, matching the fireflies flirting in the shadows caused by foliage. Deer and other grazing animals slipped down slender paths traced through the heart of the forests. On one of these secluded trails, Star and Marco strolled leisurely through the dew-wet bracken. The fronds grazed her leggings, tickling her with each step. Eventually, the path opened to a wide glade that bordered a tall cliff. The moons of Mewni rose among the starfield, creating a halo that bathed the area white like fresh snow. Since it was a mild night, Marco unzipped his hoodie to set on the ground for them to sit on. They lay side by side, snuggling close together as the night continued to fall.
The rhythm of Marco’s chest rising and falling soothed Star, easing her into a relaxed state. While the past months had been full of pointless quests, fighting, and mud, it was great to spend the nonstop days with her boyfriend. She gave him the chance to go home, but he refused to leave her side. I’m so lucky to have you, she sighed lovingly. He was her most trusted advisor, faithful confident, and very best friend. “You know, Marco,” she traced a finger on his chest. “I have a feeling.”
“About what?” He looked at her.
“That we’ll be together forever,” she smiled.
“Of course, Star. That’s how it’s supposed to be—just you and me,” his voice vibrated against her ear.
“You know what we should do when this is all over?” Marco kissed her head.
“Go on a real date,” he said happily. “In fact, Star, let me ask you: would you like to go on a date with me?”
Joy seized her heart, and Star practically threw herself on him, “I would love to!”
Marco ran a hand through her hair, pulling her in closer for a kiss. “Then it’s a date then,” he smiled. “Also, shouldn’t we get back before your dad notices we’re gone?”
A tinge of concern edged his question, but Star read his eagerness to stay with her for tonight. She laughed, “You know how my dad gets. He comes home and falls asleep. He wouldn’t notice if we snuck back before dawn.” They had gotten really good at sneaking in and out of camp in the middle of the night, why not add a few hours to their adventures? The moons rose high as Star and Marco cuddled in each other’s arms in the calm of the night.
The next morning, Star felt like utter crap. Perhaps the rangy deer River brought back the night before refused to settle in her stomach. Stress had a way of messing with the body like that. The princess leaned against the lower branches of the tree she had hidden behind for privacy. Just thinking about hiking through the Forest of Certain Death, which was usually a fun activity, made her queasy again, but she choked the rising vomit back down. There was no time to be sick—they had to find Moon or die trying. Ignoring the slimy taste in her mouth, Star willed herself to return to the trail. River was busy scouting ahead, leaving Marco alone with their possessions. “Star…are you alright?” He set down the map. “You look a little green around the eyes.”
She threw on a wide smile, playing off the fact that she had disappeared for half an hour to throw up behind a bush. “I’m fine, Marco. Just green with excitement!”
“Is that how it works?” Hints of skepticism sharpened Marco’s tone.
“For us Mewmans, yes,” Star nodded briskly. Please just buy it, she silently added. Although, she knew Marco didn’t buy her excuse. He was too smart to believe that a species of humanoid beings turned sickly green for a positive reason. Gingerly, he held a hand to her forehead for a moment, then studied her.
“You feel kinda warm,” he observed. “Maybe…we should take a few hours to see—”
“I said I’m fine!” She snapped and instantly regretted doing so. Marco staggered backward, and his eyes blazed with hurt. Why did I do that? Star slapped a hand over her mouth. After recovering from the initial shock of her sudden outburst, “I’m sorry…let’s just keep moving.”
Marco shrugged on his backpack, muttering, “Okay.”
Great, you’ve upset your boyfriend, Star could kick herself, but doing so would jostle her stomach too much again. Feeling awkward, she kept her distance from Marco for most of the hike, although she inwardly longed to hold his hand and cry. She didn’t know why she wanted to cry, but the idea of shedding tears seemed cathartic after weeks of empty searches. What if today ended with another false lead? I just want my Mom, Star’s chest heaved as she fought the oncoming wave of moisture tinging the corners of her eyes. A moment later, a full sob shook her body, bringing her to a screeching halt in the middle of the forest. Fear and anxiety spiked without explanation, which scared Star even more. What’s happening to me? The crying was so stupid and unnecessary, but the tears refused to let up. Suddenly, two arms wrapped around shoulders, bringing her wet face into a wall of dyed red cotton. Marco tucked her head under his chin and held her tightly against him.
“I’m here,” he said softly. “I’m sorry if I upset you earlier.”
“I wasn’t mad at you,” she sighed. Deep inside, Star knew there was something wrong, but she couldn’t put a name to it. Whatever it was, it felt big and scary and dreadful like a haunting premonition from the calzones that could predict death. Part of her thought nothing of the feeling, but…it nagged her mind. Something was about to change forever. “It’s just…” she began again. “A lot is going on and—”
Her mirror buzzed in her pocket, and she opened it to see that Tom was calling. Curiosity replaced sorrow, and she let go of Marco to answer the call. The demon had a wide smile on his face as he sat in a beanbag chair in his room. Fire flickered around the frame of the video call, and in his red eyes. “Hey, boo, long time no see!” He greeted her warmly.
Did he just call me “boo?” Star exchanged a glance with Marco. “Uh…hi, Tom,” she tried to ignore it. “I’ve been out looking for Mom with my Dad and Marco.”
“Oh,” he noticed the boy standing beside her. “What’s up, bro?”
“Nothing much,” Marco smiled. “Just on a cool adventure with Star.”
“Aw, I wish you’d invite me,” the demon pretended to pout. “In fact, I was thinking about going on a date soon.”
“A date?!” Star and Marco exclaimed.
Tom rubbed the back of his neck, “Yeah…I mean, when’s the last time we snuggled on a beach?”
But that was before the battle! She wanted to say but didn’t. Her mind drew a blank on what to do. She had no idea Tom thought they were together. A lot happened after the demon left…Words were said, and pent feelings were fully expressed. The invading memories painted a faint blush on her pale cheeks, yet she felt ashamed too. Not because of what happened between her and Marco, but because she knew the truth would hurt Tom if he knew. And he had to know—for both his sake and to allow Star and Marco to be together guilt-free. Just thinking about having to face her problems made her stomach queasy again. Part of her wanted to slam the phone shut, chuck it off a cliff, then puke in the woods. But she knew that her days of running from problems were over. A responsible princess and Mewman faced battled head on, and this was one she had to do alone.
She motioned for Marco to give her space and turned to the demon. “Tom,” she sighed. “Remember how you kinda left after the battle and told Marco to take care of me…?”
“Oh yeah,” he nodded. “You’d had a tough day, and I figured you that you deserved time to unwind with Marco.”
Star paused, thinking over her next response. How should she approach telling Tom that she thought he broke up with her, leading her to forge a relationship with Marco? There was no good way to phrase it. “Yeah…” she nervously played with her hair. “Well…about that…”
“Why are you so upset, Starship? It’s not like you and Marco got together because you thought that I ended our relationship or anything.”
The demon maintained the same happy expression on his face, making it difficult to read him. Was he fishing for an answer or painfully oblivious? “You see…Marco and I—”
“Star, look out!” Marco yelled a split second before an arrow whizzed past her face, slicing off a lock of hair. What the—? Suddenly, River exploded through the underbrush, clutching his crown tightly to his body as he fled deeper into the woods. A gang of pirates, armed with swords and bows, followed in hot pursuit.
“Curse you, Pie Folk!” The former king hollered as he disappeared.
A few of the pirates halted when they saw the teens and decided to turn on them instead. Marco defended the clearing by unsheathing El Choppo and charging at the group. Swords clashed together as he fought them off single-handedly, but Star knew he could not win on his own. Her real boyfriend needed her.
“Star?” Tom started to scowl. “I’m waiting…”
One of the pirates broke from the group Marco fought and tried to attack Star. She disarmed him with a blast of magic, then punched his face. “Look, Tom,” she said through gritted teeth when she found herself in a circle of marauders. “Marco and I—” Her sentence was cut off by a lance striking her leg. Can you leave me alone! She howled in pain and rage. I’m trying to break up here!
“Crystal Dagger Heart Attack!” She summoned a flurry of razor-sharp hearts at her enemies, which sliced their skin and leather armor.
“You and Marco…?” Tom’s voice vibrated in her palm. “What did you do?”
She turned to him briefly, “We were alone and—Cupcake Blast!” She launched another offensive attack at a lunging pirate. “You see, things happened…Rainbow Fist Punch!”
“What kind of things?” Frustration snarled in his voice. “What could have possibly happened between you and Marco that you can’t tell me about?”
Everything! Star wailed while trying to fight and carry a phone conversation with one hand. She jumped over a pirate and swept him off his feet with a roundhouse kick she learned from Marco. It gave her just enough space to return to her conversation. “Look, Tom, I think we should—”
An arrow pierced the phone’s screen, spreading a fatal crack that crumbled the device to glass dust in her hands. “No!” She shrieked. Blood roared in her ears and boiled like lava in a volcano. “That is it!” She caught an arrow meant for her and snapped the shaft in her fist. Quickly, she pulled Marco to her chest. “I’m ending this! Thermonuclear Butterfly Blast!”
The spell produced a glowing rainbow mushroom cloud over a section of the Forest of Certain Death, leaving trees and rocks in a gust of mighty wind. When the flash subsided, the sore bodies of pirates and bowed trees littered a charred crater. Only Star and Marco remained unscathed from the attack. “Wow…” he blinked. “I think you’ve gotten stronger with magic.”
“Thanks,” her eyes remained glued on the destroyed phone at her feet.
Marco put the dots together and placed a hand on her shoulder, “It’s okay, Star. You’ll have time to talk to Tom after we get home.”
“I guess,” she sighed. “I just feel bad because I should have known better…”
“We all make mistakes, plus you know I’m not going anywhere.”
“Although, I think you should.”
“I’m about to throw up.”
The sun had just reached zenith by the time Star and Marco left the Forest of Certain Death in direction of home. After the battle and the loss of all of their possessions, the quest to find Moon ended on unceremoniously. As much as it pained Star to put her search on pause, she knew taking a few days off would be beneficial, especially since her sickness refused to go away. Poor Marco had to witness her puking on and off for an hour, although he helped by rubbing her back and holding her hair out of the way. How does he deal with me sometimes? She wondered while leaning against his shoulder. Out of the wilderness, the ruins of Butterfly castle guarded the remains of the once-prominent town around it. Meteora had leveled every building where the Mewmans used to live, reducing them to piles of bricks and wood. Even in the weeks after the event, nothing was rebuilt. However, the townspeople remained, stubbornly clinging to the destruction. They eked out a living amongst the rubble and ate trash like wild animals. I thought Eclipsa was going to invite them to live in New Monster Town, Star glanced over her old home.
As they ventured further along the dusty streets, dirt-covered faces peeked out of the shadows to watch their every move. Their eyes flashed warily and full of anger. “Ignore them,” Marco whispered to Star as they passed the square.
In the middle, sat a pile of dust where an old stage used to sit. I don’t wanna think about it, Star frowned. The last time she came here with River and Marco, the Mewmans put on a satirical play lampooning her family. After a long day of traveling the last thing Star wanted to see where her former subjects making fun of her for trying to help monsters. Needless to say, the stage was destroyed by an enraged blonde, and the townspeople were still bitter about it. They crawled out of their hiding spots to gawk at Star limping through the streets. Not in the mood, she snarled under her breath. If they picked a fight, she would not hold back.
“Oh look, it’s Acting Queen Star Butterfly, here to ruin our lives again!” A Mewman heckled.
Another one spat at her feet, “I live in a box with my wife and three kids, wanna take that way too? Wanna give that to the monsters too?”
“That Monster Lover of yours took our land and called it ‘justice!’” Added another.
“We have no food!”
“Our wells are dry!”
Star pressed herself closer to Marco, hoping his presence would blot out their harsh words. Yet she knew they were right. A queen was supposed to be responsible, and she let them descend into ruin. Where’s Eclipsa? She’s their leader now.
Suddenly, a large Mewman blocked their path, “Oh, look at this…Mommy is still gone, huh? Failed at finding her too.” The townspeople laughed at the crude remark. “Aw…is the rebel failure crying? How cute! I wonder how else you’re going to mess up your life!”
“Hey! Leave Star alone,” Marco took a brave step forward when Star started to tear up. “We’ve been through a lot, so let us pass.”
“And who are you?” The Mewman smirked. “You’re just her lowly human squire.”
“Watch what you say to my Marco,” she felt strength ebb into her limbs.
“And what are you gonna do, eh?”
A bolt of blue magic zapped the Mewman on the nose with a targeted strike. He yipped in pain and ran with the others backing off as well. “Whoa…” Star glanced at her blue hands. Her magic was normally pink or purple, but never blue. This feels different, she let the sensation fizzle away. It felt like the magic belonged to…someone else. “Okay, that’s enough adventure for one day,” she panted.
“Yeah, let’s go straight home,” Marco agreed.
Without stopping, they journeyed through the rest of the town and into the monster settlement on the other side of the plain. While the Mewmans lingered and faded, the monsters thrived in the shadow of the Monster Temple, the new seat of the Butterfly royal family. Clean streets were surrounded by bustling shops and businesses that catered to the tastes of monsters. Houses of all sizes contained happy families with children playing in front of them. It was great to see the formerly oppressed monsters take advantage of their new freedoms. On top of the tallest hill, the Monster Temple gleamed like a crowning jewel. A fitting image of the new era of Mewni. Inside, servants continued renovations to make the space fitting for the new queen. In the midst of the change, baby Meteora crawled along the base of the main staircase babbling to herself.
“Hey, cutie,” Star scooped her in her arms. “Nice to be home again.” Meteora curled her tail and thrummed contently until Marco showed up. Her innocent, round eyes narrowed into tight slits, and she hissed at the boy.
Marco stood a safe distance away until Star placed the monster on the ground. “I don’t think her memories are completely gone,” he blinked.
“Nonsense,” Star dismissed his concerns. “She’s just a cute little baby.”
Archibald, the new head servant, fluttered into the main hall with Eclipsa following him. “Star Butterfly and Sir Marco are home!” He cheered. The queen was about to celebrate as well until she noticed they were tired, and that Moon and River were missing. She dismissed her servants and hugged both teens.
“I’m sorry the quest didn’t go well,” she said sincerely. Despite the fact Eclipsa was responsible for Moon’s disappearance, Star took comfort in her arms. They were not family by blood, but the queen had always been like a mother to the princess.
“We’re just taking a few days to rest,” Star replied when she pulled away. “A lot’s been going on, and I’ve been feeling sick lately.”
“Sick?” Eclipsa placed a hand on her forehead. “You do feel warm, sweetie. Tell me what’s wrong.”
A laugh from Glossaryck interrupted the moment, and he flew around Star. “I see we’re having a magical surge, my dear.” Star wasn’t used to him being able to speak yet, and his new voice startled her.
“What surge?” She asked.
“You’re using magic that isn’t yours, Star,” the blue man smiled cryptically then disappeared out the door.
Marco and Star shared a questioning glance at the comment. What was that all about, and what did Glossaryck mean about using magic that didn’t belong to her? Eclipsa cleared her voice, catching their attention. Concern swirled clearly in her pale purple eyes, chilling the blonde to ice. Her mentor loved to speak in vague riddles, and Eclipsa knew the truth behind his words. “Marco, dear,” the queen called. “Why don’t you head to the market and fetch Star some stomach medicine?”
“On it!” He kissed his girlfriend’s cheek and raced out of the castle, eager to fulfill his duties.
Uneasiness gnawed at Star’s guts, and she felt Eclipsa place a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s go to my study,” the queen said urgently. “We need to speak in private.”
Why? Star raised an eyebrow but followed obediently.
They went to the queen’s study on the top floor of the castle, high above the dimension. Star could see the sun sinking in the west just beyond the Spiderbite and Pigeon kingdoms. Its orange rays dragging across Mewni like spilled flame chased by the darkness coming from the east. The princess could lean on the windowsill and watch the night envelop her home, but fear pricked her mind when she sat on the cushioned seat under the window. Eclipsa’s expression was difficult to read, and the seriousness of her gaze seemed uncharacteristic for the easy-going queen. What about Glossaryck’s words scared her?
Eclipsa sat beside Star, and rested a hand on her lap in support, “So you mentioned you’ve been sick lately. For how long?”
Star shrugged, “Maybe a few days or so. It’s weird because I feel worse in the mornings, and I’m fine later on.”
The queen nodded, “Tell me, do you get mood swings and hot flashes?”
“Yeah, but I think it’s just stress. Sometimes, I want to skip around and have fun, other times I want to fight or cry.”
“One more question, when was the last time you’ve had your monthly visitor?”
That’s a weird question, Star wrinkled her nose at the idea of sharing personal information with Eclipsa, but she figured there wasn’t much to lose. As she thought about it, she couldn’t really remember the last time it happened—likely before battling Meteora—but stress had a way of messing with the body. “It’s been awhile…like a few months maybe—”
“Oh…oh dear,” Eclipsa recoiled and gasped.
“What?” Star tilted her head. “Am I dying?”
After a few moments of shock, Eclipsa calmed down again, “No, no, it’s just…I don’t know how to tell you this, but—” she took Star’s hands and gazed directly into her eyes. “Star, I think you’re pregnant.”
“WHAT?!” Star leapt to her feet and nearly choked in disbelief. Her mind went completely blank in fear. There was no way. There had to be a mistake. Just had to be. She couldn’t be pregnant at fifteen…no way! “It can’t be…”
Eclipsa squeezed her hands, “Have you and Marco been… questing?”
“Like questing or questing?” Star asked. Oh, …she blushed vividly, which answered the question. “But how do you know that…y’know.”
“All of the signs point to morning sickness, and Glossaryck mentioned you using different magic.”
“Yeah, it was blue.”
“That’s the baby’s magic,” Eclipsa nodded. “I first knew I was expecting Meteora because my magic randomly turned green.”
“So…I really am pregnant then…?” The news was overwhelming, and Star wanted to faint or scream or cry. Out of everything she had been through, the idea of being a mother on accident was the most terrifying thing she had ever experienced by far. What was going to happen now? And what about Marco…? The baby was definitely his, and Star could now pinpoint when it happened: the night they got together. Their relationship was only two months old….
“I know it’s scary,” Eclipsa sat her on the bench. “Trust me, when I found out about Meteora, I was too afraid to leave my room for days. But know this, I’m here for you, and we’re going to get through this.”
Star threw herself in her arms and started to cry. Her emotions swamped her in a great wave, choking her sobs in her chest. Eclipsa patted her shoulder, “Now, there’s one thing I can’t help you with. You have to tell Marco on your own.”
“But he’s going to freak out, and we just got together…” Star shivered at the thought of Marco leaving her. He easily could and had a right too. She messed up big time.
Eclipsa smiled, “Marco loves you, dear. I can’t imagine him responding with anything less of true love and support for both of you. I know you can’t see it, but he’s a wonderful young man who’ll make a wonderful father.”
“Yeah,” a faint smile formed on Star’s lips. Her adorable dork would be so attentive and devoted to ensuring their child grew up safe and healthy. I hope he lets the baby have fun once and a while, she snickered, thinking back to the day they had to babysit the Buff babies. Towards the end, he lightened up on the rules. Regardless, Star needed time to decompress before dropping the bombshell revelation on him. “I need some time alone.”
“I understand,” Eclipsa nodded. “Go ahead to your room. I’ll tell Marco you’re sleeping so he won’t disturb you.”
“It’s the least I can do,” the queen replied warmly. “I wished someone had been there for me, so I will be here for you.”
They hugged once more, and Star returned to her room and cried until sleep claimed her.
Several hours passed, and Star sat in silence on the top bunk, waiting for Marco to return. When Star had woken up a couple of hours ago, she briefly thought that everything from the previous hours had been a horrible nightmare. She wasn’t pregnant. Her exhaustion from the quest simply made her delusional, and she imagined the talk with Eclipsa. The symptoms were just in her head or came from the bowl of squirrel stew River cooked a few nights ago. Yet she noticed a blue glow in the darkness of the room, and it came from her hand. Blue like Earth sky, indicating her parentage. At first, anger flashed in Star’s mind. How could she have let this happen? Her life was plenty stressful as is with Mewni in ruins and her mother gone. Go away! She tried to force the glow to disappear but failed. Then curiosity and...love replaced the anger. How could she hate something she created? Especially since the baby also involved Marco, whom she loved more than anything. They did this together. Hi there, she smiled, I’m not mad at you, I promise. As if in reply, the glow disappeared.
“What am I going to do?” She sighed aloud and rolled onto her back. For now, the first priority was telling Marco because he had a right to know. Thinking about the inevitable stressed Star out, and she fished in her purse for something that would help her relax—a picture of her and Marco at the beach. They hadn’t gone to the beach together, but it assured her that one day they would. And we’ll be happy, she melted at the sight of the wide grin on Marco’s face. No matter how bad today appeared, there was a better tomorrow. While she stared at it, she heard a knock on the door.
“Are you okay?” Marco peeked his head in. “I was going to check on you earlier, but Eclipsa said you needed time alone.”
“You can come in,” she sat up, providing a place for him to sit next to her. Marco was already dressed for bed in his cute striped pajamas, and he passed her the bag of medicine. “I don’t need it right now, but thanks.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” he said with a confident smile on his face, “To make you feel better.”
He would be an amazing father, Star giggled slightly.
“What’s that in your hand? I never took you to the beach…”
“Oh, this?” She showed him the picture. “It’s a present from Father Time. You see—”
“What?!” Marco gasped. “So you’re telling me you’ve been carrying around a picture of the two of us from the future?! This is going to cause a major time paradox and—”
She placed a hand on her lap, “—Marco, that’s not the point. I look at this picture to remind me that one day we’re going to have this awesome beach day, which means all the bad things we’re going through will be over. I couldn’t be this happy otherwise.”
“Oooh,” Marco breathed. “While I still don’t like the idea of time paradoxes, I’ll make you this promise. After we find your mom, we’ll go on a beach day. Just the two of us.”
Yeah...the two of us, Star sighed wistfully. Before she could say anything, Marco kissed her cheek and hopped to the bottom bunk. “Try and get some sleep,” he told her. “You know I care about you.”
The lights shut off, and Star almost let the moment slip away. She could have too, but she couldn’t keep the truth from Marco. I’m not letting anything interrupt this conversation, she exhaled as she swung into his bunk. “Ow!” Her boyfriend whined when she landed on his side.
“Sorry,” she apologized and slid off. “Marco…there’s something I need to tell you…”
He instantly got up and took her hand, reading the terror on her face. “What’s up?”
Anxiety was palpable in the room like the mugginess before a storm, and Star felt tears well in her eyes. She counted two ways of delivering the news: getting straight to the point or meandering to it. The first option felt too jarring, and the second didn’t convey the urgency of the situation. Therefore, she opted for a little of each. “You know how I said I was sick earlier,” she started.
“You’re not getting worse, are you?” Marco worried. “Is it some kind of Mewnian disease I don’t understand?”
Here we go, she took his hand and faced him, “No, it’s not that. I talked to Eclipsa and…Marco, I’m pregnant.”
“What?!” He sharply gasped. “I got you pregnant…” His pupils shrunk to pinpoints, and he nearly fainted off the bed.
“I’m sorry,” she started to cry as the words tumbled out. “I truly am, and I don’t know what to do and—” A hug silenced her, followed by a tender pat on the back.
“No, I’m sorry,” Marco’s voice quivered. “I messed up on this too. And I know you’re scared—I am too—but it’s okay. I’m here, and I’ll always be here. I’m not leaving you.”
He looked her directly in the eyes to convey his affection and uttermost seriousness, “I didn’t expect this at all… but I could never abandon you because I love you, Star. Actually, I love both of you.”
“I love you too.” Happy tears rolled down her heart-marked cheeks, and she kissed his lips. They stayed together for several moments, letting the moment fully settle. A million questions and “what ifs” floated in the air, begging for fate to solve them, but the most important question had been answered: Marco was going to stay.
Marco pulled her into bed with him, and they snuggled close together, “I always wanted to have a family with you. I didn’t expect one day to be today, but I guess we have a head start.”
“Yeah,” Star laughed gently at his attempt to lighten the mood.
“So wait, the blue magic earlier…?”
She nodded against his chest, “Yep, that was the baby.”
“I see she’s already talented with magic, just like you,” he remarked happily.
“How do you know the baby’s a girl?”
He chuckled, “I have a feeling. Am I wrong?”
“Nope, I think she’s a girl too.”
“Also, may I?” He held out his hand.
“You won’t feel anything,” Star pulled up her nightgown and placed his hand on her belly. “But I appreciate the thought.”
Marco rested his head on her chest and rubbed his hand over the place where their child rested deep inside of Star. “Hey, baby,” he crooned. “I know you can’t hear me yet, but I’m your father and I love you. I promised your mother that I’m staying, so I’m making that promise to you too.”
A soft blue glow emanated from Star’s hands, making the new parents smile. They held each other, basking in each other’s arms while moonlight fell on them. A yawn roared from Marco, and his eyelids drooped, “I think it’s time to call it a night. We have a lot to do to make sure our baby is happy and healthy, and rest is at the top of that list.”
“Agreed,” Star snuggled closer to him. Welcome to the family.
Morning came swiftly, and Star and Marco kissed while tangling their limbs together. After the shock wore off, a celebratory mood settled on the pair. Despite how strange their sudden happiness seemed, they enjoyed the feeling. They were having a baby! They created life together. She pinned Marco to the mattress, cupping his cheek in her hand. “Good morning, Marco,” she giggled. “Are you excited about being a new dad?”
“Of course,” he played with her hair. “I’m glad we have these few days off. It’ll be just you and me and—”
“LEVITATO!” Star shot Marco and the top bunk into the air with a spell when River barged in. Her father failed to notice.
“Quick!” He waved his arms. “I found a lead on your mother. She’s on Pie Island, and we have to save her from those dreaded Pie Folk!”
Chapter 2: Escape from the Pie Folk
A silver-haired Mewman gasped, dropping a pan of half-baked pie to the ground. The runny dough and pie filling oozed all over the black volcanic stone, running in crooked streams towards the edge of the island. The outburst brought work to a grinding halt. Before that, the bakers had been working with the precision of an assembly line, each executing their part of the process in harmony. The butter-churners beat dairy and salt into creamy perfection, the stompers mashed berries, leaves, and twigs underfoot into a thin paste, and the bakers at the table combined the raw materials into tins, ready for the oven. When phase one ended, phase two began when the piemakers offered their delectable treats to a mysterious Mewman woman, who tended the oven at the heart of the volcano. There, something inexplicable happened. She formed the pies into perfectly baked, delicious creations made in a likeness that no mortal could achieve. Anyone who ate the pies claimed that they were beyond words when it came to taste and craft. Only a goddess could tie butterfly bows so neatly. But that all came crashing down as the woman’s knees buckled, and she started clutching her head.
Who was that? She gazed around the caldera and saw that no one had spoken to her. She had heard the voice as clear as day—as cheery and energetic as the fire that fed the oven. There was something familiar about it. Something she knew so intrinsically that it jump-started her instincts. But I don’t have a child, the woman pursed her lips. Then again, she wasn’t sure—her mind was frustratingly fuzzy about certain details of her life. Who am I?
“Sky Baker! Is everything alright?” A man shoved through the crowd and raced to her side. He was an odd fellow—thin and spindly as if he were an animated scarecrow. Green facial hair framed his face, and he also had a long mustache that curled in on itself. His most peculiar feature was the steel spatula that replaced his right leg below the knee. It clinked as he paced around the factory, so everyone knew where he was at any given time. His bird-like nose pointed to the ground as he looked at the ruined pie. “Oh no, you’ve dropped another, Sky Baker,” the man shook his head. “That’s the third today, Sky Baker, shame on you.”
“Is that my name?” She asked. It didn’t seem right, feeling clunky on the tongue. At night she looked up at the moon through the vent and smiled. If only her name was something like that. Moon. It sounded regal and ethereal.
“Of course, it is,” he nodded. “You’re the Sky Baker who came to us from the sky and perfected pie making. That’s all you’ve ever been.”
“Are you sure?”
“Quite sure. Now, please get back to work.”
He turned to leave when Sky Baker reached out, “Wait, Pie King. Do…do I have a family? I heard a girl—I think—call me ‘mom.’”
The Pie King swiveled on his false leg and stared at the woman with his good eye, “Nope. You’re the one and only Sky Baker. You come from nowhere and from no one.”
“Oh…” she sighed, but his words didn’t feel right either. Deep inside, Sky Baker knew that she was a part of something bigger even if she did not remember what it was. Seeing her sorrow, the man placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Hey, why don’t you clean up this mess and take a break?” He suggested, “Then we’ll come back and make more delicious pies.”
Agreement murmured among the workers, and the lunch bell rang, dismissing them from their labor. Once alone, the Sky Baker magically swept the remains of her failure off the stone and brought them to the dumpster out back. Outside of the volcano, the sun was high above the waves that beat the sandy shore far below the ledge. Seagulls squawked overheard, lazily floating along the thermals that rose from the heated water. They’ll love the surprise I have for them, she giggled to herself. The other Pie Folk chased them away, but Sky Baker like to feed the gulls. Her favorite was a fat gull she named River—for an unknown reason. River landed on her shoulder, and he wolfed down a piece of pie eagerly. “Silly bird,” she smiled as he flew away.
Honestly, the gulls were the only part of the island Sky Baker liked. The land was too exposed, the air was too heavy and briny, and the people were too strange. I don’t belong here, while her head did not remember much, her heart did. It conjured pictures of green, rolling hills, a castle, and a golden-haired girl. Maybe those images were nothing more than her mind’s way of dealing with stress, but she welcomed them. Looking at the sundial etched into the stone, Sky Baker realized that she had to hurry back. She opened the lid of the dumpster to deposit the pie when she noticed the garbage bags rustle. Her hands glowed with magic, “Who are you, and what are you doing in the dumpster?”
At first, the creature remained hidden, revealing only a pair of glinting mint green eyes. “I knew I’d find you here, Queen Moon,” a nasal voice rasped.
“Queen Moon?” Sky Baker rocked back on her heels. “Who’s that?” Although the name did seem familiar. Maybe it was hers.
Out of the trash, a warrior with purple pigtails exploded into the sun of Pie Island. She smelled horrible and flakes of food debris slid down her body, attracting the seagulls and a few ravens. Ew, Sky Baker plugged her nose. “Don’tcha remember me?” The strange woman asked.
“Why would I?” The repulsed Sky Baker grimaced. “I don’t even know who I am.”
“Well, I do,” the woman smirked. “You’re Queen Moon Butterfly, daughter of Comet Butterfly, who was killed by a bunch of evil monsters.” Parts of the stranger’s words rang a bell, but Sky Baker was still unsure. She recalled a place called Mewni, and the name Moon felt right when she played it over in her head. Then again, how could she be so sure since her informant appeared out of a dumpster?
Intrigued, however, Sky Baker asked, “What are monsters? We don’t have those on Pie Island.”
The other woman studied Sky Baker for a moment, and shook her head, “Wow…that pesky Realm of Magic musta did a number on ya, Moonie. You’re kookier than a warnicorn doing the can-can. Pop a squat and let ol’ Mina Loveberry spin ya a yarn.”
Although Sky Baker considered her off-putting and stinky, she listened to the warrior’s tale. “You see,” the one called Mina climbed out of the trash. “You’re the queen of a place called Mewni across yonder sea. Nice place. I used to be a warrior for you and your mother and her mother and all the way back to Queen Solaria. She was the best of the queens because she did the most to rid us of our most hated threat: monsters.”
“You said something about them…killing my mother…” Tears inexplicably welled in Sky Baker’s eyes, and her mind immediately opened again. She remembered being a happy teenager, who grew up in the protection of a castle far away until the Septarians came. Her mother had ridden out to meet them with a treaty, hopeful to bring peace between the warring Mewmans and monsters, but the one they called Toffee murdered her in cold blood. Mommy…Sky Baker still couldn’t remember her identity, but she knew that the monsters stole something from her.
She shook her head, the light returning to her pale eyes, “Parts of your story make sense…”
“Excellent,” the warrior replied. “Eclipsa, the new queen, has been ruining life in Mewni for us Mewmans, and we have to do something about it. Your subjects are hungry and homeless without you.”
“They are?” She had subjects? Faint memories of a throne room and crown came to mind out of the fog. Yes, her mother had been queen—she could feel her purple hair in her fingers and see the jewels of the crown sparkle like stars. Why is the word ‘star’ so familiar too? Sky Baker wondered.
“Yes,” Mina grew adamant, “I need you to use your magic to revive the Solarian warriors to liberate Mewni from that monster lover and her filthy monsters, once and for all.”
“But my magic can only make pies.”
“Nonsense,” the crazy woman laughed, “It can do things the rest of us can only dream of.” She grabbed Sky Baker’s shoulders, startling her, “I know you’re in there, Moon. I can see those memories comin’ back to ya. Might take a few days, but I know you got the message.”
“You’re scaring me…” Luckily, the bell rang again, and the deranged warrior vanished into thin air as if she were an apparition. It was all a weird dream, Sky Baker decided.
“Meet me where the river runs up, Moon,” she heard Mina’s voice on the wind all of a sudden. Sky Baker shook her head. She was neither a queen nor was her name Moon. She was just a humble baker on Pie Island…and that’s that! Came from nowhere and from no one.
However, a sudden fear gripped her heart and ignited a fire in her soul. What if Mina was right about her identity…what if her kingdom was really in grave danger? “I must get out of here,” she heeded the warning.
It was imperative that she leave this place. Now. Sky Baker knew deliveries came from the east side of the mountain around noon. Which is exactly the time, she glanced at the sundial. Perhaps if she made a run for it…she could escape the Pie Folk and discover the truth. Instinct carried her body halfway to freedom when a band of pirates blocked her path.
“And where do you think you’re going, Sky Baker?” The Pie King sneered, his spatula foot impatiently tapping the ground.
“My name is not Sky Baker,” the Mewman growled.
How on Mewni did we get into this mess? Star’s fear-filled eyes swept over an angry mob of Pie Folk, armed with pitchforks and torches. Their jeers pierced the air like the cries of the gulls overhead, hurting her ears and driving deep uncertainty into her soul. A rotten tomato sailed at the princess, hitting the wooden stock that held her, Marco, and River—in that order—in place. You missed, cornhead! Star bit her lip to hold in the stingy retort. When another mushy fruit hit just above her billowy, pink hat, the princess lurched forward, not caring about the splinters embedding into her wrists and neck. If they wanted a fight, she would gladly indulge. The mix of pregnancy hormones and anger fueled a fire in her belly after a long day of pointless shenanigans caused by her menfolk.
This was supposed to be a simple quest. Simple! All they had to do was search for Moon on Pie Island, which was nothing more than a glorified sand dune in the middle of the sea. It shouldn’t have taken more than a few hours with three sets of eyes, ears, and feet. There were only so many colorful buildings spiraling up the side of the steamy volcano. If Marco and River had stuck to the plan, they would have surely found Moon by now and be sailing on the next boat to Mewni. But no, they had to mess it up.
Next to Star, Marco squirmed in his awkwardly shaped pie-wedge costume, averting his gaze from both the crowd and his disappointed girlfriend. Honestly, the trouble began with him, and they both knew it. Shortly after docking on the island, Marco ran off to find something to aid the group on their search. At first, Star thought he would buy a map or something like that. Her lover’s specialty was overly-practical and safe things, which was why he bought fanny packs for his parents on their anniversary. Instead, Marco appeared with a screeching, spitting white monkey, claiming someone had told him that it had better tracking ability than a bloodhound. Of course, the claim turned out to be false, and the conniving beast stole the boy’s wallet and scampered away.
The whole fiasco prompted River to show the naïve teens the best way to deal with Pie Folk: steal from them. He threatened a poor pie salesman, forcing him to give up his cart for their use. For a few moments, the cart-jacking had been successful, but a mob surrounded them before they got halfway out of the town, leading to their arrest. Now, Star, Marco, and River were at the mercy of a foreign criminal justice system and even further away from finding her mother. To make matters worse, the princess could feel another round of morning sickness rumble in her belly. Can we do this later, sweetie? She swallowed a mouthful of slime, wincing as it crawled down her throat. The baby definitely had her father’s motion sickness genes. Star had spent much of the voyage to the island sending her Sugar Seeds to a watery grave, lending to her cranky mood.
Marco seemed to pick up on her queasy indignation and reached out to hold her hand. “I’m so sorry about this,” he sighed.
The gesture softened her heart, “I’m not mad at you. Just…I feel like everything has been conspiring to keep me from my mother.” They were so close. Star could practically taste victory on the salty and sweet-smelling breeze. Moon was definitely here. Somewhere.
“It’s not over yet,” he reminded her.
“Oh, but it is!” A judge with a hook in place of a hand waddled to them, carrying a heavy law book. The crowd quieted down, eager to hear the sentence he would hand to the trio in the stocks. “As judge of Pie Island,” he intoned. “I sentence these three hooligans…to death by beheading!”
The crowd cheered while the color drained from Star and Marco’s faces. “Actually, I take back what I just said…” the boy gulped when an executioner parted the crowd.
The black-shrouded man lugged a huge double-sided axe on his shoulder. It shined wickedly in the noonday sun. Just imagining the cold, lethal edge resting on her throat made Star shake. So this is how I’m going to die…she shuddered. Not from old age or in a blaze of glory in battle against evil but cornered and tied to a stock on an island of pirate freaks. And while eight weeks pregnant. Dread kicked in, and she squeezed Marco’s hand. She had to tell her father before they died, even if he flipped out. “Dad!” She hissed. “Dad!”
Her father remained rather unphased by the instrument of death looming forward and turned to Star, “Yes, Pumpkin?”
Here we go, she gulped before saying, “Dad…there’s something Marco and I need to tell you.” Her tongue felt weighed down, and it struggled to form the truth-telling sentence. “You see… Marco and I are—”
“Wait!” A shout halted both the executioner’s blade and Star’s confession. “Look at her hands.”
Everyone stared at the purple and blue light flickering from the princess’s hands. Apparently, her anguish caused a discharge of magic that combined hers and the baby’s. “Judge, do you think she’s a sky baker too?” The Pie Folk asked.
A what? Star and Marco exchanged a glance.
A murmur rippled among the confused townspeople, and the judge tapped his chin. “I call off the execution!” He announced. “Take the girl and the old man to the pie factory and the Pie King.”
“What about me!” Marco whined.
“Oh, and the boy too!”
The Pie Folk had their captives blindfolded and bound in chains before loading them on a cart destined for an unknown location. Star could tell they were going uphill by the pitch of the cart on the road. The front end was higher than the back. “Where do you think we’re going?” She asked Marco.
“Probably up to the volcano where we’ll become virgin sacrifices to a pie-baking god,” he panicked.
“Uh, first of all, how on Mewni did you come up with that scenario? And second—” she scooted closer to keep River from hearing, “—We don’t qualify as virgin sacrifices anymore.”
“True…I guess I did a good job,” Marco chuckled. “But I have a feeling this is like Mackie Hand III: Escape the Cannibal Isle. The people saw your magic and think you’re a goddess, so they’re going to bring us to a creepy temple to be examined and worshiped.”
“Oh, Marco, my imaginative boyfriend. Do you really think that these weirdo people think I’m a goddess?”
“Of course, because you’re my goddess,” he sighed lovingly.
“Aww,” she smiled. “And you’re my cutie pie. I’m kinda sad they didn’t let you keep your pie suit.”
“I’m not. It made me feel silly.”
“But you’re the cutest thing in the universe besides the—” Luckily, Star stopped herself before accidentally revealing the existence of their child. If she had, River would have likely thrown Marco out of the cart. There was a time and place to deliver the news but not right now.
After what felt like an eternity climbing uphill, Star’s senses picked up more clues about their destination. The air had grown hotter and drier, sucking the moisture from her skin and burning it raw. Even her hair became more brittle as if it were replaced by dried grass that was ready to combust at any moment. Yet there was something off about the air too. Since she used to date Tom, Star knew a lot about volcanoes. They all had a rotten egg smell to them from the burning sulfur and brimstone cooking in the heart of Mewni, but the air here was sweet. It created images of dainty desserts in the princess’s mind. Sugary, fruity, doughy little foods that graced tables during royal suppers to show off to the other royal families. It’s like Mom’s pies, the memories made Star’s stomach rumble gently. So, this is what you want to eat instead of my Sugar Seeds, she laughed to belly. Silly girl.
The cart slowed to a stop and rough hands dragged Star away from Marco. “Star!” He yelled her name while struggling against whatever tried to constrain him.
“Marco!” Star snapped the chains and ripped off her blindfold to the shock of Pie Folk. That’s right, Warrior Star is here, she smirked at their fright. It fed her rage and surged the magic in her blood. No one was taking Marco away from her. “Super Strawberry Shake Quake!” A torrent of magical berries shot from her hands and exploded the wagon to smithereens. She caught Marco in her arms and broke his chains.
River whimpered, “What about your old man?” With a bolt of magic, she zapped off his chains, and the three fighters banded together in the face of a dozen angry Pie Folk.
Bring it, Star narrowed her eyes, summoning magic to her fists. She had spent the last couple of months fighting knights, the elements, and vomit—a bunch of rando bakers would be easy opponents. Now that her blindfold was off, the princess noticed that the volcano’s caldera contained a bustling pie factory. The smiling workers packed ingredients into neat pie tins but ceased when they saw the commotion at the entrance. Some of them brandished their swords, ready to aid their comrades.
“By the way, I told you we were going to the volcano,” Marco smirked to his girlfriend.
“Yeah, but I’m not about to become a sacrifice—Rainbow Fist Punch!” She bowled the oncoming tide of Pie Folk with a colorful punch. Marco jumped in with a roundhouse kick to repel the survivors back. They were about to continue their attack when they noticed that the Pie Folk were lying prostrate on the ground in reverence. “Uh…excuse me?” She raised an eyebrow, “I’m supposed to be kicking your butt right now, and you’re making this rather difficult.”
“It’s the child of the Sky Baker!” They chanted.
“What?” The teens questioned.
“The Pie King said you would return.”
One of the Pie Folk pointed to a mural on the far side of the volcano. It depicted two women standing on a mountain of steaming pies. Their glowing hands were raised to the sky, which rained down even more desserts. “Nice primitive art,” Marco whistled. “It looks hundreds of years old.”
“Because it is,” a newcomer approached. He was a weird, thin man with green hair and a spatula for a foot. His one good eye beheld Star with a sinister glint, making Marco move in front of her protectively. “Welcome to Pie Island, Child of Sky Baker. We’ve waited for your return ever since The One was taken away.”
“Okay, look,” Star clasped her hands together, “I’ve had a long day, and I’m not in the mood for riddles.”
The strange man wrapped his arm around her, which Star batted away. “Forgive me,” he sounded apologetic. “Where are my manners? I am the Pie King of Pie Island, and that mural over there depicts part of an ancient prophecy about the return of the Sky Baker. You see, hundreds of years ago, The Fire Woman emerged from a portal and took The One far, far away to learn magic. At first, we were hesitant, but The Fire Woman promise the baby would return one day with her daughter and make pies with us forevermore!”
“Praise the Sky Baker!” The pirates chanted.
Star frowned, “I’m still not following…” Suddenly, she pieced together the story—Hekapoo came here to take a baby girl back to Mewni to replace Meteora. I’m related to these creeps? Great…Star groaned. The mystery of her lineage just kept getting better ever since she found out that she wasn’t a real Butterfly. But if she was the daughter of the Sky Baker, then…“Where is my mother…?” The realization made her lips quiver from adrenaline. The quest was over; Moon was here.
“What was that?” The Pie King held a hand to his ear. “Did you say that you’re going to stay with us forever?” Hope uplifted the Pie Folk, and they started to cheer. Their discussions of holding Star, Marco, and River captive on this wretched island started to set her off. She didn’t want to stay with these freaks—she just wanted her mother to return home with her.
A set of hands grabbed her, leading Star deeper into the volcano. No! Her cheekmarks turned a dazzling white, filling the cavern with an unsettling glow. “Sparkle Lightning Blast!” She commanded a streak of blue lightning to shoot across the cave. The display startled the celebratory Pie Folk, drawing their eyes off of Marco and River and onto the enraged princess. “Give me back my Mom!” She snarled, ready to level the entire mountainside to find her mother. I’ve had it with this quest!
The Pie Folk trembled as ominous thunderclouds formed above and green-tinted lightning cracked like whips, licking the walls of the cave. Star took a step forward but abruptly collapsed under the mental strain of everything that had happened since Meteora’s attack: the weeks spent scouring the Mewnian countryside, the sorrow of not finding her mother, the discovery of the baby…It all descended in a deluge of emotion and gagged Star with salty tears that funneled into her nose and mouth. Her breathing exploded in ragged gasps—coughing and spitting until her chest hurt. What am I doing? The stupidity of the reaction made her feel worse—she was supposed to be a strong warrior princess, not a weakling crybaby.
Around her, the storm worsened. Gusts of wind swept Pie Folk into the lava below, and hail pelted them until they fled for shelter. A bolt of lightning struck an outcrop, showering stones upon anyone underneath. Star could only watch in horror as her magic raged out-of-control, ripping the factory in half and driving pirates away. Stop! She tried to will the storm to cease. This isn’t what I want! But the magic and her emotions refused to obey.
“Star?” Marco ran to her despite the mini-apocalypse destroying everything. “I’m here; it’s okay,” he pulled her into a hug.
“No, it’s not!” She cried and thunder boomed. My mega mood swings are ruining everything!
“Shh…” he kissed her forehead. “Even if it isn’t, I’m staying right here with my family.”
Torrential rain fell, but Marco refused to let go even as his clothes became soaked. Despite the chaos, a gentle calm possessed Star’s spirit as a song lilted in her mind. Although she couldn’t quite remember the lyrics, she recalled the creaking of a rocking chair, fire spitting in a hearth, and a pair of arms cradling her in comfort. When the wind started to die down, Star began humming.
“Over, under, around and through~” a tender voice crooned. “Grab the little Mewni rabbit, pull him through~”
At first, Star thought the memory was singing to her, but her eyes lifted to see a figure materialize through the fog like a ghost. It was hard to believe it was Moon. That after so many weeks of questing and failing, she could just appear out of thin air. “~Pinch it and fold it and tie it in a bow~” Moon continued to sing with tears forming in her eyes. “Like two little bunny ears made out of dough~”
Excitement brought Star to her feet, and she ran into her mother’s arms as they finished the song, “Over and under, wherever you roam~” The words were muffled by tears and each other’s arms. “Sweet little Mewni rabbit, hop back home~”
“I’ve missed you so much,” Star wept. Part of her was convinced that she was dreaming, and her mother would disappear when she opened her eyes. But Moon was there, still holding her daughter.
“I’ve missed you too, Star,” her mother smiled. At last, the storm dissipated, and sunshine returned to the ruins of the Pie Factory. The outburst had leveled the chimney, cooled the lava into a crust, and ruined all of the baking ingredients..
“MOON PIE!” River leapt into her arms, which forced Star apart. “It’s really you!”
An amused giggle made the former queen blush, “Oh, River, you silly goose. It’s nice to see you too, Marco, I hope my husband and daughter haven’t been driving you crazy.”
“Not in the slightest, Moon,” he wrung out his wet hoodie.
The reunion was cut short by an arrow whistling through the air. Marco dropped into a fighting stance in front of his girlfriend, eyes blazing like a fire. Out of the rubble, the Pie King limped forward on his false leg, “You miserable runt!” He snapped. “You ruined everything with your temper tantrum!”
“And you kept her mother hostage,” Marco retorted. “How’s that any better?”
The angry Pie Folk formed a tight circle around Star and her family, armed with weapons. “Seize the girl and the bearded man. Have them brutally executed! I want Sky Baker for myself!”
“What about me?” Marco frowned. “I’m a part of this too!”
“That’s not the point right now, Marco,” Star urgently whispered to him.
They held each other, waiting for fate to end their lives until a loud screech caught the Pie Folk’s attention. A hot air balloon sailed through a crack in the ceiling, piloted by Foolduke, Ruberiot, and the white monkey. “Monkey!” Marco cried out. “You came back for me!”
“Actually, I saw him with your wallet and am returning it to you,” Foolduke said when the balloon drifted closer. “Now, come on—let’s get off this infernal island.”
The four captives quickly shuffled into the basket, dodging arrows and jeers. And just like that, the fantastical quest to find Moon ended. Pie Island shrank into a pale smear as the balloon lifted higher into the sky. Relief washed over Star, and she exhaled loudly, “You saved our butts, Foolduke. What are you doing on Pie Island anyways?”
She sighed, “I’m from here…I hate visiting my parents, but they really wanted to see Ruby.”
“What happened to his clothes…?”
The songstrel shivered in the corner, clad only in a pair of flimsy boxers, “My in-laws swindled me out of everything.”
“I told you not to play games with them,” his wife shook her head. “They cheat.”
While the grownups talked, Star curled into Marco’s lap and slept. I’m just so glad we’re all going home now.
Later that evening, the orange ball of the sun sank below the western horizon, turning the waves into liquid fire below the drifting hot air balloon. The warm breeze smelled of salt, but Star could taste the earthiness of dirt mixed in there—musty and comforting after being on Pie Island. If they kept traveling at this pace, they should reach Mewni by morning. We can’t get there fast enough, she stretched her limbs. The adults were asleep, except for Foolduke, who was busy arguing with the monkey and piloting the balloon. Seeing Moon still among the group put Star at peace, and she snuggled closer to her boyfriend. The action caused him to stir. “Sorry,” she mumbled when his brown eyes peeked open.
“It’s fine,” he yawned. “Was getting up anyways.”
“Not just for that, but for earlier too…” Star hadn’t lost control of her magic like that since the wand was cleaved. The terror and destruction still haunted her hours later.
“You’re going through a lot,” Marco took her hand. “Don’t beat yourself up over it. Mood swings are a part of…y’know. How is she doing?”
Star wanted to be mad at the baby sometimes for ruining her breakfast and magic, but how could she hate her precious child? Smiling, she rubbed her belly, producing a faint blue glow on her hand. “She likes air travel better than boats,” she whispered.
Marco chuckled, “I bet. Oh, I have something for you. I was going to keep it a surprise, but I want to cheer you up.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I know, but I want to do something. It’s not fair that you have to bear the pregnancy alone. Now, close your eyes.”
“Alright, they’re closed.”
“Hold out your hand.”
I call the shots, bub, she jokingly pouted but complied with his demands. She usually only saw this side of him in bed. Whatever he placed in her hands was pleasingly soft and lightweight on her fingertips. I’m just glad it isn’t another monkey, she giggled as the intrigue made her antsy. “Can I open my eyes now?” She asked.
She almost squealed, but Marco gently covered her mouth to prevent her from waking the adults. A blue onesie draped across her hand with the words “Sweet as can be,” written on the tummy in pink letters.
“I got this from the same place where I got the monkey,” Marco beamed with pride. “I want to get our baby souvenirs from our travels across the multiverse. Plus, it’s blue like her magic, so I just couldn’t resist.”
“Although we’re never taking her to Pie Island,” Star laughed.
He really is a dutiful father, Star gave him an appreciative kiss on the cheek. The toughest part of the journey lay ahead as they had to tell their parents soon. Maybe not too soon since they had to unwind from the adventure, but the baby couldn’t stay a secret forever. Marco had already brought up dietary changes and doctor’s appointments and a whole bunch of things Star had to be mindful of going forward. But that can wait until tomorrow, she decided. Marco brought her in for a tender kiss on the lips. “I love you,” he smiled.
“And I love you too.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Star noticed that they had an onlooker. Foolduke watched with amusement dancing in her eyes. “Congratulations, you two,” she leaned against the basket. “Before you freak out, I won’t say anything.”
“Thanks,” Marco nodded. “We just found out last night, so the shock is still new.”
“I bet,” the jester replied. “You two are brave. I’m nowhere near ready for that yet. Also, what happened to that demon boy you brought to the wedding? I assume he plays no part in it.”
Star shook her head, “We broke up, so the baby is Marco’s.”
“I’d never doubted that for a second. You two have always been close. Anyways, you might wanna hide that present before monkey sees it and waves it around your folks. If you ever need anything, you can always ask.”
Marco slipped the onesie away in his pocket for safe keeping, and let Star rest her head on his lap again. One adventure had ended, but a whole new one was about to begin.
Early the next morning, the balloon touched down at the Monster Temple, and Star hopped out eagerly. Finally, they were home away from the sinister pie freaks. She was so happy she could almost kiss the ground. Marco unloaded their belongings and went to fetch Eclipsa. “There’s so much I have to show you,” Star pranced around the basket containing her parents. “Eclipsa has made this old place pretty nice if I say so myself.”
“That’s nice, dear,” Moon’s pensive tone ended the princess’s happy mood. Something clouded her mother’s clear eyes with emotions she couldn’t definitively read.
“Is something wrong?”
The former queen replied frankly, “It’s just…I’m not ready to see Eclipsa yet since she did cause all of this to happen. Plus, I want to take some time off from Mewni to relax with your father.”
“You’re leaving?” Star’s shoulders sagged. I just found you, she wanted to wail.
“Not forever,” Moon kissed her forehead. “Just for a while. You and Marco are big enough to handle being on your own.”
No, we aren’t! The girl bit her lip to keep her emotional surge in. “Please keep in touch. You know I like letters,” she tried to sound brave.
“We will, Pumpkin,” River leaned over the basket to give her a hug. “Take care, now.”
Foolduke prepared the hot air balloon for another flight, and Star squirmed. Should I tell them? She deliberated. Would this be a good time to spring news about their grandchild upon them? Her mother wanted to relax, and dealing with her pregnant daughter was far from it. By the time Star came to a decision, the balloon had shrunk into a round dot in the pink sky. Why couldn’t I just say anything? She confessed to Marco—how was this any different? An impending sense of doom filled Star—as if she knew that keeping the baby a secret would come to bite her one day.
“Are you okay?” Marco returned to see her crestfallen.
The princess forced a smile on her face, “I’m fine.”
Chapter 3: Ransomgram
High in a tower in the Monster Temple, an alarm clock rang dutifully at seven in the morning. I forgot to cut it off, Marco’s eyes groggily opened, and he dispatched the source of noise with a sweep of his arm. Glorious silence returned, settling the boy’s heart rate to a steady pulse as he took in a deep breath. Being home was amazing. He had almost forgotten what his room looked like or what a mattress felt like beneath a sore spine. There were no sticks, weather, or animals seeking to ruin his deep slumber, and Marco’s body slowly woke up. Glancing at the clock, he realized that he had been asleep for twenty hours, but even that wasn’t enough to replenish the energy depleted during the quest. I’m going to take it easy for a long time, the boy gingerly stretched his tender limbs, noting the bruises discoloring his skin.
The alarm had also woken Star, who laid curled into a ball next to him. Shortly after they arrived at the Monster Temple, the magical princess summoned their rooms into existence near the top of the structure and promptly collapsed into his bed without another word. She may have mentioned something about wanting to talk to him, but Marco was too tired to press her for more details. Star stubbornly buried herself deeper under the covers. “Go away…” she mumbled into his white shirt as if pleading her squire-boyfriend to bring back the night.
I wish I could, he yawned. Having another three years’ worth of sleep would feel amazing, but Marco knew that they had to get up. Gently, he lifted the blankets off the mess of her golden hair, parting the locks to reveal a sleepy face. So beautiful, he lightly traced a thumb over one of Star’s heart-shaped cheekmarks, admiring the subtle blush he drew from them. “Star~” Marco whispered in her ear. “It’s morning. Wake up.”
In response, she shut her eyes tighter and flipped over. I know you’re awake, Marco rolled his eyes, feeling her heartbeat quicken against him. Star was notoriously bad at acting—her eyes betrayed her every time. They sparkled like a summer’s sky when she was happy, shrunk into sinister pinpoints when she became possessive of Marco, and blazes like an inferno when angry. There was another emotion that danced in them as of late. One that made him warm like when they used to cuddle and watch telenovelas on Friendship Thursday. Love. Marco always knew Star loved him, and he felt the same for her. It was why he continued to pursue her while she dated Tom. She obviously preferred being around her squire than her old boyfriend. They shared secrets and adventures the demon prince could only dream of, and although Marco was thrilled to be so close to Star, he knew it wasn’t right. She had to make a choice, which was why he pressed for an ultimatum during the photo booth incident a few months ago. It wasn’t healthy for her to essentially have two boyfriends, and if they valued their friendship, then they needed honesty. Marco would’ve accepted her decision either way as long as it made her happy. In the end, they confessed their feelings and consummated them in the ruins of Butterfly castle after Meteora’s invasion. Just the two of them seeking release and comfort in each other after a long period of drama. And I think I know just how to wake her up, a scheming smile formed on Marco’s lips.
Sweeping Star’s hair aside, Marco exposed where her neck dipped into her collarbones—prime kissing territory. He brushed his lips along the hollow of her collarbones, just to see her reaction. Although she tried to remain still, her complexion reddened. “Star~” Marco sang her name again. “C’ mon…” He pressed ticklish kisses into her soft skin while his fingers ran through her silky hair, letting the strands slip through like rays of sunlight.
Intimacy was her greatest weakness. Their friendship was marked by a closeness that turned heads: full of hugs, handholds, and casual touches. As their bond grew, the gestures became longer and more frequent because they both craved each other’s touch. Naturally, the physical side of their relationship carried over. When they stole away from camp during the nights on the quest, they loved each other slowly and tenderly with an affection that rivaled seasoned lovers. Of course, Marco took his boyfriend duties seriously, worshipping every inch of her body.
Star squirmed as he moved lower and bunched up her dress so he could reach her bare skin. “Good morning, baby,” he murmured into her belly. “Are you gonna help me wake up your mother?”
The news of being a father at fifteen should have freaked him out. Many young fathers would have heard the life-changing words quivering on their girlfriends’ lips and ran. Marco heard the scandalous rumors circulating in the halls of Echo Creek Academy about guys who accidentally got their girlfriends pregnant and learned about the grim statistics in sex ed. Aside from scoring a few high-fives from friends, nothing good came from being a teen parent. But even with the odds stacked before him, Marco was defiant. He wasn’t going to abandon his family or take the easy way out. He was staying with Star, and they were raising their daughter together. Plus, how could he walk away from such a wonderful miracle? I can’t wait to meet you, Marco placed a hand on Star’s belly. One day, heartbeat and movement would greet him.
He noticed Star’s bright eyes beholding his affection, and she cupped his cheek. “You could’ve waited five minutes, boo,” she giggled.
“We need to get back into a routine,” he replied earnestly. “And when was the last time you’ve eaten? The baby needs food.”
Part of Marco’s responsibilities involved ensuring that Star received proper prenatal care. He spent hours reading a bunch of articles on his phone about diet, exercise, and doctor’s visits. I need to book the first one soon, he remembered that Star needed to receive monthly checkups during the first two trimesters, which required frequent trips to Earth. Luckily, the boy remembered the name of his mother’s OBGYN. He’d call her tomorrow and use his parents’ insurance information to set up an appointment. After the doctor’s visit, maybe he’d break the news to his parents.
“You don’t need to worry, Marco,” Star insisted, “But I’ll get something to eat soon.”
“And take the vitamins I bought you,” he pointed to the prenatal gummies he purchased shortly after finding out about the pregnancy. A diet of mostly Mewni corn had to be deficient in the major nutrients the baby needed for proper fetal development, although he had no idea if Mewman babies had the same requirements. It can’t hurt, Marco figured.
Star playfully batted him, “I know.”
“If you hurry out of bed, we can fulfill the promise we made that one night…”
“About going to the beach.”
Star nearly exploded out of bed, “That’s right! Our first date.”
“Mmhmm,” Marco winked. “A lot’s going to change really soon, but first, let’s just go on an amazing first date.” Just the three of us, he smiled. With Meteora defeated and Moon found, it was time to be teens again on a simple, safe Earth adventure. Marco twined his fingers with Star, leaning in for a kiss when the door slammed open.
“Excuse me!” A small green monster burst into the room, causing Star to accidentally shove her boyfriend out of the bed. Ow, he rubbed his tush after it smacked the ground. The monster wore a navy-blue mailman suit with a matching hat balanced on a shaggy mop of hair. She asked, “Is this Marco Diaz’s residence?”
“It is,” Star nodded for him. “It’s also my residence too, so can you please start delivering my mail here instead of the bunk-bed room?”
“I’m not in charge of that,” the monster shook her head. “I’m just a ransomgram monster.”
Marco raised an eyebrow, “What’s a ransomgram?”
“You know, someone takes something or someone you love, and they send you a message about wanting something in return. Now, do you want it in C major or B-flat?”
“What?” Marco looked around his room. All of his important stuff was here: El Choppo, his clothes, the laser puppies, and his wallet. What could be missing since Star recreated his room just yesterday?
“You’re giving me a g-minor kinda vibe.” The monster pulled out a pitch-pipe and started singing, “You took something from us, so we have done the same. Bring us back the sword of flame or your dragoncycle will perish. Signed the Neverzonians~”
“That didn’t rhyme,” Star frowned.
The mail carrier shrugged, “It’s hard to rhyme on the fly, so it costs extra.”
The Neverzonians have Nachos! Images of a barren, cold wasteland flickered in Marco’s mind like the shadows behind a flame. Hunger clawed at his lean belly, frost nipped his toes, and crushing loneliness ate at his resolve. There were Traxian wolves—which were like normal wolves but with five eyes and three mouths—howling in the distance, waiting for him to die so they could have an easy meal. All a terrified twenty-four-year-old Marco had with him were his diminishing wits and memories of Star to get him through the night. He had to get those scissors back for her. Next to him, Nachos purred in her sleep, rubbing her head against the young adult to cheer him up. “I’ll always be here for you too, buddy,” he kissed her snout…
“Are you okay?”
Marco snapped back to the present when Star waved her hand in front of his face. Must’ve had another flashback, he realized with a grim scowl. He preferred to keep his Hekapoo memories suppressed in his subconscious mind like old nightmares. Traveling around her cruel dimension sounded like fun, but there were many long, grueling years he wanted to forget. But I won’t forget Nachos, the boy reached for El Choppo, letting the steel blade catch the sun.
“Oooh,” the ransomgram monster’s eyes grew wide in awe.
“I’m getting my friend back,” the determination in Marco’s soul drove away his apprehension. While he may have sworn an oath to never return to the Neverzone, he had to free Nachos and get his revenge on her kidnappers. Taking out his scissors, Marco sliced open a portal, “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Star. At least only a few minutes here—I don’t know how many years this’ll take.”
“Wait!” She grabbed his hand. “I wanna come. You’ll need my help if you’re going to Hekapoo’s dimension. Hey, isn’t that where you get all buff and rugged?”
“It’s too dangerous,” he objected. “You have no idea how many times I almost died there.”
“Buff and rugged…” Star started to drool.
“Plus, you’re pregnant and need to start thinking about the baby’s health.”
“Buff and rugged…”
“The age difference makes things weird.”
“Abs…” Star swooned, and Marco knew her stubborn mind was made up.
I’m not getting out of this one, he sighed, resigning himself to bringing the princess with him. On the positive side, having an extra set of eyes and fists wouldn’t hurt. “Fine,” he said in resignation, “But you’re staying close to me.”
“Oh, that’ll be easy, Wild Man,” she kissed his cheek. “Let’s go!”
They stepped through the portal together but emerged years apart in age. Star stayed the same since she hadn’t lingered in the dimension long enough, but Marco instantly assumed his thirty-year-old body. It was a weird experience. He was too old, too tall, and too jaded about life to be her boyfriend. In fact, just thinking about their relationship made him feel creepy. Meanwhile, Star loved his body and spent several uncomfortable seconds massaging his abs. “I own these,” she blushed.
Although he knew better, Marco liked her reaction to his older form. It made him feel manly. “Let’s try keeping the PDA to a minimum,” he said in his husky adult voice. “It’s a little…strange.”
Star pouted, and Marco tensed, digging his heels into the slick, black mud. He badly wanted to kiss her and scoop her in his arms for a hug. She was so petite that the warrior could probably lift her with one hand and hoist her onto his shoulders. Why must Star be so adorable and tiny? Let’s focus on finding Nachos, he channeled his pent-up energy into the search and away from forbidden thoughts. The moratorium on affection was going to be the hardest part of the quest.
Despite thousands of years passing since his last visit, the Neverzone forest looked eerily familiar except the fairy kingdom had long since decayed into the mud. Pale moons glared like evil eyes from the gray sky, cowering ancient black trees, whose branches dragged wearily. Marco could taste coldness coming on the frosty wind and reckoned they only had a few hours to search before night fell. Once it did, the cruel winter would kill them if they didn’t find shelter beforehand. But I’m not staying that long, he decided.
“Look at the fairies, Marco,” Star pointed to a swarm of floating blue orbs hovering around a bush. Apparently, they had evolved away from bodies since Marco had last seen them, but they had enough magic for a basic summoning charm.
He crushed one in his beefy hands, smearing the paste on a Crying Willow, “I know that seemed harsh, but we’re gonna need help from an old friend.” If she’s still alive, Marco added while wiping the goo on his torn pant leg.
A flash of lightning struck the tree, summoning a warrior on a white, horned Ice-Bear. “Whoa…” Star blinked. “Does everyone have abs in this dimension?”
“Only the best of us warriors,” Marco replied flatly, then turned to the woman. She twirled her axe in a display of might and leapt out of the tree. Lightning crackled around her, and thunder roared like an army of bears. Oh boy with the histrionics, Marco rolled his eyes.
“Why look who came crawling back?” The warrior woman folded her arms with a crooked grin. “I thought Yammy swore to never return ages ago.”
“Desperate need has brought me here, Brunzetta,” he sighed. “Before I can hang up my sword for good, I have one last task to accomplish.”
Brunzetta approached and slapped his back, cracking every vertebrae in his spine, “Well, it’s good to see ya again, Yammy. And who’s this, your niece or daughter or something?”
“I’m actually his girlfriend,” Star answered innocently, and Brunzetta’s wide, disturbed eyes darted between the two.
“We’re the same age in our home dimension,” Marco explained while trying to ignore the awkwardness in the air.
“Never figured you for that kind of person; don’t worry,” Brunzetta held up her hands. “I’m guessing this is Star Butterfly? You know, Yammy told me all about you while we quested.”
“Do you mean like quested or quested?” Suspicious spiked in the princess’s voice.
He whispered in her ear, “Wasn’t like that—I told you that you were my first.” And he meant it. Though he ran across many women on his travels, only Star claimed his body and affection.
“I could tell,” she replied with a giggle.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He narrowed his eyes. “I thought I did a good job, and how would you know since I was your first too?”
“I’m kidding, and I think you did too much of a good job.”
“Am I missing something…?” Brunzetta blinked at the couple bantering back and forth.
Marco cleared his throat, hiding his blush, “Nothing at all. So, we’re here to find Nachos. The Neverzonians took her.”
“That is urgent business,” the warrior nodded. “We might not make it all the way to the Ice King’s Castle tonight, but we can get a good start. Climb on, and let’s go!”
They crowded on the bear with Star sandwiched between Marco and Brunzetta. The princess’s eyes beheld the rugged warrior behind her with such warmth, it almost made him forget how to breathe. Why must you be so cute? Marco swallowed to suppress his usual instincts of wanting to kiss and hold her tight. Luckily, Brunzetta’s chatter about the Neverzone kept him engaged on something else while they traveled deeper into the frigid domain. The air stung his bulging muscles, and Marco began to worry about his girlfriend. She had never experienced cold like this.
“Think we’re gonna have to call it a night,” Brunzetta slowed the Ice-Bear by a cave.
They used the remaining warmth of the evening to find resources to make the den cozy. Pine boughs were woven into makeshift cots by Star while Marco and Brunzetta forged for food and precious firewood. They pooled together rabbits, edible lichen, berries and mushrooms to create a rich stew. As the cold wind seized the land, turning the mud solid, the three warriors huddled around the fire with bowls of hot food.
“So, Brunzetta,” Star set down her second empty bowl. “Why do you call Marco ‘Yammy?’”
Oh no…Marco groaned seeing his friend fall over laughing. “Now that’s a story,” Brunzetta smiled. “Marco and I had been hunting together for three years when it happened. He insulted a necromancer’s cooking and got turned into a talking yam for an entire year.”
“Rather not talk about it,” he remarked swiftly.
“Then we don’t have to,” the warrior shrugged. “We have tons of other adventures to talk about. Say, Star, has Yammy told you about the Mountain Whales of Upside-Down Ridge or about the time we saved the last dragon of the Innermost?”
The princess shook her head, “I haven’t heard much of anything about the Neverzone.”
“Then sit back and lemme tell you.”
Marco zoned out during Brunzetta’s recounting of their exploits because he didn’t want to hear them. Not even the cool ones drew him in. While there were certainly awesome experiences in Hekapoo’s dimension, they all paled in comparison to the ordinary adventures he had with Star. In fact, Brunzetta failed to mention the millions of times he pined over Star or wished she could be fighting with him.
“Yammy,” Brunzetta called his name, “What exploits have you been up to since you left?”
He scratched his stubbly beard, “A lot of cool things. I left high school, broke up with my ex-girlfriend, helped save Mewni a few times… and, I also became a squire along the way. But the greatest thing that’s happened to me is...well, I’m a father now.”
“No way…” the warrior’s eyes darted between him and Star.
“Way,” he folded his arms proudly.
“And you’re both her age back at home?”
“Mhm, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t wait to have a family.”
A strange silence befell his friend, which was far from the praise he expected to receive. Brunzetta seemed like the last person to stress over risk. Finally, she formulated a response, “Seems like you’re settling in kinda young. Don’t you worry about missing out on adventures?”
Marco and Star exchanged a glance, and he could see the uncertainty in her eyes. There was truth in Brunzetta’s words—the baby would change everything. They were no longer carefree teens. He replied coolly, “I guess, but it’s not a big deal for me.” The conversation awkwardly ended there.
When the darkness deepened, the fire was allowed to burn to coals, and the cave-dwellers settled on their pine mattresses to sleep. Marco huddled in the back of the cave and closed his eyes, only to open them again when something soft snuggled against his chest. “Star?” His voice cracked as she pressed her body close to his. You know we shouldn’t, he almost corrected her but decided against it. He needed her touch, and it was cold. Sighing lovingly, he wrapped his arms around her tiny frame, cradling Star closer as he tangled his legs with hers. “Goodnight, Star,” he inhaled the sweet scent from her hair and fell asleep.
Marco woke up at the first light of the muted dawn. His dark, dreamless sleep revived him physically but not mentally. No one could ever truly relax in the Neverzone, not with its predators and perils stalking in every shadow. We’re lucky a Traxian wolf didn’t get us, Marco counted two other dozing heads in the dim cave and relaxed. All were safe. He settled back down beside Star, listening to her heartbeat against his as more light grayed the black sky. If only he were younger again—watching her snuggle closer tugged at his heartstrings. Suddenly, her eyes opened, and a smile spread across her face, “Good morning.”
“Morning,” he said curtly. “Sleep well?”
“I think so,” she stretched. “This was better than camping with my dad.”
They both giggled and saw the sun rise behind the thick veil of clouds in the sky. While doing so, Marco told her about the Killer Har bird screaming nearby. They were as large as a car and had razor-sharp teeth, which Marco learned about the hard way. “Never try to swipe an egg from their nest,” he concluded his tale. “Not even if you’re starving.”
“Sounds like fun though,” Star smiled, taking his breath away. “I bet you had a lot of cool adventures and met a bunch of cool people…” There was a wistfulness to her voice that made him frown.
Star turned her face to him, emotion swirling in her blue irises. “You wanna know what’s wrong?” She choked back the pain in her tone. “You didn’t give me a ‘good morning’ kiss.”
“Is that really what’s wrong?” He frowned because he knew there was something more behind her sadness. “Star…we’ve been through this. We’re off fifteen years in either direction.”
“But you’re still Marco, and we’re still the same age,” she sat up.
“Yeah…but it’s weird and—” he was silenced by her lips crashing into his. Star pulled back, grinning ear to ear while Marco’s face turned red. “Uh, good morning?”
His girlfriend laughed gently, laying back in his arms, “Now, was that so bad? Also, your beard feels nice.”
“Don’t get used to it,” he said, “I didn’t get a full set of facial hair until nineteen.”
“I can wait. Also, aren’t you going to greet our baby?” She pointed to her belly.
That’s a step too far, he scowled and opted only to rest a hand on her stomach instead. “Morning, baby,” he crooned. “Daddy loves you, but we’re gonna have to save kisses for later.”
“Yeah, Yammy, that was pretty weird,” Brunzetta leaned against the wall, studying the couple.
Marco rose hastily and headed for the Ice-Bear, “Let’s just go.”
They rode into the heart of the Ice Kingdom, which began abruptly from the forest. Here, the land stretched into a slippery, freezing plain for a thousand miles in any direction—all of which Marco traveled alone before meeting Brunzetta. It took him two years to figure out how to find north thanks to the featureless land, raging blizzards, and magnetic poles that flipped around daily. Aside from the year trapped as a yam, that had been one of the worst periods in his travels, but Nachos saved his life.
The deeper they treaded into the treacherous country, the thicker the snow fell until whiteout swallowed them. I hope we don’t get lost in here, Marco hugged Star tighter. She shivered even in her pink snowsuit.
“We’re here,” Brunzetta pointed to a desolate castle rising out of the ice.
In front, Nachos lay curled into a ball, chained to a statue of St. Vardic the Meager—the king who once owned El Choppo. Marco wished he had the time to tell Star about one of the high points in the Neverzone phase of the quest. The king had found the young man one day and taught him the art of sword-smithing until a fire demon attacked and killed him in battle. Wanting to avenge his master, Marco picked up his sword—El Choppo—and saved the Neverzonians from a terrible fate. I wonder why they want El Choppo back? But Marco did not ponder the question too long for his feet carried him straight to Nachos. She came to life under his touch.
“It’s okay, Nachos,” he kissed her snout. “I’m here to take you home.”
“Not so fast!” A voice spat, drawing out every syllable into a hiss. A host of red eyes appeared out of the gloom of the castle, followed by phantom bodies cloaked in white cloth. What are those? Marco squinted, drawing his blade protectively. Star and Brunzetta joined him and formed a protective wall around the weakened dragoncycle.
“What happened to you guys?” Brunzetta waved her axe.
Yeah, what happened? The Neverzonians used to be a noble group of fierce, bearded warriors, but they had wasted away into mere wraiths in the wind. Thousands of years had a way of changing things. Their king arrived in front of them—a large wraith with a jagged crown and two sets of white eyes. “I see you have my ancestor’s sword,” his voice thundered.
“I do,” Marco nodded firmly. “King Vardic fell before me in battle, and I took his sword to avenge him, making it mine.”
The wraith narrowed his eyes, “I see. I am King Wyric III, and I heard your friend ask what happened to our forms. You see, I made a deal with the gods of the skies, trading our mortal flesh for the power to destroy our enemies. The fire demons took much from us, so I have decided to deliver the payback they deserve. I require the sword back in order to complete the ceremony.”
“What ceremony?” Star raised an eyebrow.
“It’ll allow us to create ice demons to go into the fire demon’s domain and kill them all.”
“Kill them all! Kill them all!” The other Neverzonians chanted.
Star shook her head, “You can’t do that! That’s not what justice is at all.”
“It is to us, little girl,” King Wyric said.
“No, Star’s right,” Marco gripped El Choppo and took a brave step forward, “Vardic would never stand for it. If you want El Choppo back, then you’ll have to take it from my dead hands!”
He launched himself at a Neverzonian, slashing the wraith cleanly in half with his blade. El Choppo carved through with ease, and Marco couldn’t help but laugh in exhilaration. Star and Brunzetta fought alongside him, and the rush of battle practically possessed Marco. The warrior took on five wraiths at the same time without fear. They were simply no match for someone with years of experience wielding the sacred blade. Let’s make this even more fun, Marco tossed El Choppo like a throwing axe at Nacho’s chains and snapped them off the dragoncycle. With a tremendous roar, she unfolded her iced wings and flew to Marco.
“Let’s do this,” he hopped on.
She breathed fire on the wraiths while her rider held them at bay with his sword and picked off the survivors. This is so much fun! A flood of other memories filled his mind of the moments that were truly great on his quest. While most of it had been arduous, the bright spots of learning languages and fighting techniques, meeting his friends, and discovering new lands had made it worthwhile. Instinct quickened in Marco’s blood; for the first time, he was alive again.
After mowing through a few more wraiths, he saw Star holding her own below him. Her spells ripped across the landscape, demolishing a tower in a cloud of purple smoke. That’s my girl, he smirked and ordered Nachos to swoop down to her. “Hey, Star,” he called to her. “Wanna ride?”
She shot another enemy with a targeted rainbow strike before replying, “You know I’m always up for riding y—oh, you mean Nachos.”
I’m going to ignore that, he rolled his eyes. When the dragoncycle came close, Marco scooped her on board, and they fought side-by-side. Their attacks lit up the dimension and laid waste to Nacho’s kidnappers. “We did it!” Star threw her arms around her boyfriend’s neck after they landed on the ice.
“I knew we would,” he laughed. “I’ve had years of practice with this blade ever since it was bequeathed to me.”
Brunzetta wiped the ectoplasmic slime of her weapon, “Now, that’s the Yammy I remember. You’re a serious machine.”
“I learned from the best,” he smiled contently.
More Neverzonians emerged from the castle, but their actions were not hostile. Instead, they placed crowns on Brunzetta and Marco’s heads, screeching praise into the air. “I think they want us to rule them,” the warrior woman folded her arms. “What do ya say, Yammy? We can spend a whole lifetime together reforming the kingdom and going on adventures. It’ll be better than the old days.”
“Yeah!” he nodded and drew his sword to the glee of the Neverzonians and Brunzetta. They gathered around to hear his speech. Above them, clouds thinned and snow stopped falling, revealing a clear sky filled with uncountable stars. “People of the Neverzone,” Marco addressed his people. “I am honored to be chosen as your next leader and as the heir of Vardic’s blade. I’ve missed the rush of adventure and the frenzy of fighting. This place has taught me many things!”
Marco turned to the statue of his fallen friend for courage to accept his true calling. “But,” he set the sword down to the utter shock of his supporters, “The Neverzone taught me the most important lesson of all. My place is with Star. I may have been an awesome fighter with a cool sword, but I was nothing without her. I would gladly give up a million lifetimes of fame and glory to live one simple life with her and our daughter.”
He walked over to Star, and kissed her forehead, “Let’s go home.”
“Are you sure?” She questioned. “If you want to stay, I won’t mind. It’ll only be a few minutes on Mewni.”
“I’m not living another lifetime without you.”
Together, they climbed on Nachos and flew through a portal to Mewni. Marco never looked back. In their room, the three exhausted travelers collapsed on his bed, recovering from the long quest. Only thirty seconds had elapsed, which reminded the boy of another thing he hated about the Neverzone. The emotional whiplash of suddenly being home and fifteen years younger was hard to get over. I’ll get those fifteen years back, he poked his flabby tummy. The bed creaked as the princess wordlessly shifted on top of him.
“You owe me two days’ worth of kisses, Marco,” she teasingly licked her lips.
His fingertips itched to caress her skin and show his utter adoration. “Appears I do,” he flipped her on the bed, attacking her lovingly.
“Do we have everything for the beach?” Marco tucked the last towels into his backpack and arranged the smaller items on top. Bottles of sunscreen, water, and pair of matching sunglasses rested in easy reach just under the zipper. The backpack practically bursting at the seams when he zipped it shut, putting a smile on his lips. One day, Star’s belly would be as round and swollen as their child grew. It would stretch shirts, rise out of covers, and obscure everything below it from her view until the day came for the baby to be born. Right now, it felt hard to believe there was another little being inside of his girlfriend, but in a few months, she’d start showing.
We need to tell people before that point, Marco nodded. Their daughter couldn’t remain a secret forever, but she could stay one for at least today. The morning was still only an hour old, so the couple decided to keep their date plans. Nothing could get in the way, and they needed to unwind before life became hectic again.
Star’s flip flops smacked the floor as she paced around, “Honestly, Marco, if you don’t have it, then it doesn’t exist.”
“You’ll thank me when you don’t get melanoma,” he said.
“The sun doesn’t turn people into melons.”
That’s not what melanoma is, the boy was about to say it out loud but didn’t want to upset her. “I know what I’m forgetting,” he realized. “My swim trunks! Have you seen them?”
“Nope,” Star replied. “Check the closet.”
Marco opened the closet door and screamed when he saw Tom crouching under their clothes. His expression was difficult to read. On the surface, it seemed placid and happy but in an unsettling and unnatural way. The smile was too perfect, creating no discernable wrinkle around the mouth or eyes. It was like Tom wore a rubber mask over his real face to conceal his true intentions. “I didn’t see your trunks in here,” the demon replied glibly. When he saw Star standing behind Marco, Tom’s third eye twitched so subtly it looked more like an involuntary grimace.
“How long have you been sitting there?” Marco knew it was possible to see through the slats in the door and worried about what the demon saw depending on his arrival.
“I just got here,” Tom’s answer was too hasty to be genuine, “Also, I can’t believe you’re going to the beach without me. C’mon, Star you know how much your super cool boyfriend loves beaches.”
“How’d you know about the beach?” Star’s eyes grew wide, and Marco moved closer to her protectively. Tom had to have been spying on them again because no one had spoken to him since the quest. Then the question in Marco’s mind changed: why had the prince been eavesdropping on their lives? I need to play along to see what he knows, the boy strategized. As much as he wanted to believe the old rivalry days were over, he had to protect his family.
Tom shrugged nonchalantly, “I just heard Marco talking about swim trunks. I can’t wait to hang out with my girlfriend.” The possessiveness in his voice did not go unnoticed. She’s mine, Marco lifted his chin slightly, still shielding Star behind him until he felt her hand take his.
“Hey, Tom,” she said in a small voice. “Look, I need to tell you something. You see—”
The Monster Temple rumbled somewhere deep downstairs, and Star let out a loud sigh. “Why does this keep happening to me! Marco, stay here with Tom while I investigate. We’re so talking when I get back.” She raced off before he could dissuade her otherwise.
Please don’t leave me with him, flashbacks of the Blood Moon Ball frightened Marco greatly. The demon could easily murder him and leave not a single trace for Star to find. Yet he reminded himself that Tom was his friend and that maybe there wasn’t anything suspicious going on. New fathers tended to magnify any threat poised against their families. Nevertheless, the room suddenly felt uncomfortably small with the demon watching his every move. His face contained the same unmoving expression, further unnerving Marco. Can you make another face or something? To stay busy and out of Tom’s arm-length, Marco continued to search for his trunks, but he didn’t want to go to the beach if the demon tagged along. This was supposed to be a relaxing, silly date with Star, and already it had been ruined three times. Maybe I should tell him the truth, he weighed the pros and cons of confessing the secret. Would Tom kill him? Would he hurt Star? The truth would break any guy. I’ll wait for him to come to me first, Marco rifled through the drawers.
“So,” Tom broke the silence. “How’s Starship doing?”
“Oh, she’s fine,” Marco kept his tone flat. “Just readjusting to normal life after the quest.” And adjusting to mood swings, morning sickness, and being my girlfriend.
The conversation ended there, and Marco went back to searching. He had a sudden epiphany—it was probably in the underwear drawer. When he opened it, he first saw Star’s lacy panties and bras, which made him blush. Luckily, Tom didn’t seem to notice. Shuffling them to the bottom, he found a note where the trunks should have been. Hope you don’t mind me borrowing these, signed Glossaryck, it read. P.S. if you need trunks, just wear mine. A yellow pair of small shorts poofed into existence, and the boy sighed. “I’m going to change,” he announced to Tom, whether he listened or not. And to get away from you.
In the safety of the bathroom, Marco slipped the trunks on and instantly saw a problem with them: they were too small. The constricting fabric turned his legs blue, but on the plus side, they hugged certain areas of his body…Certain areas Star would love. I should show her, Marco reached for his phone with a pleased smile on his lips. “Hey, how’s my girl doing?” He crooned when Star’s face appeared on the phone.
“This isn’t a good time…” she ducked under a bolt of purple magic hurling her direction. In the background Rhombulus’s limp body floated in a whirlpool of dark magic, writhing in tremendous pain. Eclipsa yelled something at Star, but the princess refused to respond. Where is this in the castle? Marco had never seen a room so large and dark. It almost looked like a sanctuary dedicated to a great force or a place where sacrifices were conducted.
Refusing to let the location damper the mood, Marco ran his hand through his hair and panned the camera downward., “I’ve got something to cheer you up. I couldn’t find my swim trunks, so I’m wearing Glossaryck’s. They’re kinda tight, and they really enhance my—”
Star’s cheeks turned bright red, “Ooh...”
Her reaction made him laugh—he loved seeing her flustered. “Indeed, I can show you more if you want…” He tugged on the waistline.
“What are you showing Starship?”
“HOW DID YOU GET IN HERE?!” Marco shut the phone off and covered himself with a towel.
Tom reacted casually, “I’m a demon. I can float through walls.”
“But this is a bathroom!”
“Besides, it’s not fair if Star can see your trunks, and I can’t,” the demon’s remark creeped Marco out. “C’ mon, what do you have under that towel…?”
It’s for my girlfriend’s eyes only! Marco almost blurted out, but instead went with a more logical response, “Look, man, you’re my best friend and all, but you’re acting weird today.”
Don’t play innocent on me, Marco huffed, “You were in my closet, and now you’re in my bathroom! What is up with you?”
“Nothing, I just missed my best friend,” Tom maintained the same face and tone of voice throughout.
Best friend. The term made Marco squirm uncomfortably. How could he be his “best friend” after all that happened between him and Star—the night they shared together, the relationship they forged out of their friendship, the baby they unexpectedly created but swore to raise…Even though Marco didn’t entirely feel guilty, he knew that Tom had to know. “Come with me,” he led the demon back into the room and sat him on the bed. “A lot’s been going on,” Marco breathed, “And I can’t keep this kind of secret from my best friend.”
For the next moment, Marco took time to consider his words for he knew what he had to say would hurt both of them. There was no simple apology that could fix the wound about to be afflicted. “Look…” the boy exhaled slowly. “Star and I are—”
Suddenly, the section of floor crumbled, sending the boys deep into a secret part of the Monster Temple. Climbing out of the rubble, Marco saw Eclipsa and Rhombulus poised to strike each other down in front of a giant, roaring monster trapped in the crystal. The snarling giant had outstretched claws reaching the sky, half attacking and half pleading for something to change. In fact, Marco swore he saw anguish pulling on the corners of the monster’s mouth—the pain of someone losing the person he loved.
Tom shakily stood to his feet, holding his head, “What happened?”
Star threw herself in between the opposing magic-wielders, her cheekmarks blazing in rage. “Enough!” Her voice echoed. “Look what you two have done!”
“I want my husband back,” Eclipsa gripped her umbrella wand tighter. “Do you have any idea what the Magic High Commission did to us? Rhombulus will either help me break my Globgor out of that crystal, or I’ll make him.”
“Lemme see you try, evil witch-lady,” huffed Rhombulus. “Hit me with your best spell, I dare you!”
The dark queen twirled her wand at him, “Low Self-Esteem Nightmare Dream!” Rhombulus ducked and the beam bounced off of the crystallized monster, zapping Tom instead.
“Are you okay?” Marco tried to help him, but Tom pushed him away.
“I’m ugly,” he wept bitterly.
“No, you aren’t.”
“Yes, I am, and I have horrible friends. I bet Star doesn’t even love me. She’s always acted like Marco is her real boyfriend—in fact, I bet he is or something. What if they’re sleeping together behind my back and aren’t telling me?”
Uh…Marco hung his head, unable to say anything. Whether or not Tom remembered what he just said, his worst nightmare was true. This time, Star directly intervened, using her magic to freeze Eclipsa and Rhombulus in place. “Look, Eclipsa,” she directed the queen. “You shouldn’t have lied to Rhombulus and possessed his body. Keeping secrets only hurts more people the longer they’re kept. You gotta be honest.”
Star released them from the spell and watched Eclipsa and Rhombulus slink away without another word. When peace settled again, she sought Marco’s arms for comfort. “Thanks, Marco,” she sighed in his arms.
“May I ask what happened?”
She sighed, “Eclipsa wants to free Globgor, her monster husband. I didn’t even know he was alive—no one but the Magic High Commission knew he was alive. I’m just so done with all these royal secrets! They’ve ruined the Butterflys in the past, and I thought Eclipsa would have learned from the mistakes of the old queens.” She whimpered into Marco’s chest for a moment. “I’m having a lot of regrets. Was giving the wand away a mistake? What about... y’ know...”
“Do you not want—?”
“I do,” Star replied firmly, “But I never got to tell Mom and Dad—that’s what I wanted to tell you when we returned yesterday. I’m making the same mistakes...”
“It’s okay, Star,” he rubbed her shoulders. “We’ll figure out what to do.”
“Where’s Tom?” She asked, and the teens discovered that he was suddenly missing.
“I dunno,” Marco kept his eyes glued to the pile of flooring where he last saw him. “But we’re going to start telling people.” Even if the truth caused a storm.
Chapter 4: Lake House Fever
“Hello?” Star stifled a yawn, bringing her compact mirror closer to her face.
Tom grinned, “Morning, Starship, how’s my girl?”
“Great…yeah, just woke up,” she forced a smile on her flushed face. “What brings you up so early today?”
“Oh, the family’s headed to the old lake house, and I was wondering if you wanted to come with.”
“But Star, when’s the last time we went lava-surfing at Lava Lake Beach? Plus, Mom and Dad wanna see you.”
“And Aunt Exasperella has a new boyfriend, remember her?”
Star shrugged, “I don’t think she likes me too much, and I’m kinda busy today...y’know?”
The demon sighed, his eyes growing heavy with longing, “Honestly, I just really miss you, and we never get to spend time together.” He paused for a second, wilting like a neglected flower, “Can we please just have a day?” Crestfallen, the demon’s shoulders sagged until he shrank almost out of the picture. The display was absolutely pitiful—even the fire behind the prince weakened to a dull, bleeding red.
“Alright,” resignation pulled the words slowly from Star’s lips, “I’ll come with you.”
He perked up immediately, “Yes! I’ll be there to get you in an hour. I love you.”
The words caught Star off guard, preventing her from formulating a response other than, “Yeah, love ya too.” While it made the demon smile, the sentence rang hollow, the clanging syllables dry and unsatisfying.
She wanted to banish the memory of the sentence from the universe and scrape the sacrilegious taste off her tongue. She hated the fact Tom made her say the sacred words she only said to Marco. It was a worse offense than pretending that he didn’t break up with her. With Marco, the word “love” blossomed with life and color. It blazed with the intensity of the stars that bore witness to their first moments together in the ruins of Butterfly castle. When she lay in his arms afterward, feeling his skin brush against hers and his lips press onto her neck, Star could feel the word crackle kindling into dancing flame. And that fire never diminished—not even after the quest and life-changing news about the baby. With each moment, their love grew stronger. When Star told Marco she loved him, it encapsulated everything he meant to her as her best friend, adviser, confidant, boyfriend, and soulmate. The word was uttered with the fullness of her being, but Tom received none of that. In fact, he was lucky to receive the deepness that floated on her shallow breath.
The call ended, and Star slammed the mirror shut, tossing it to the end of her bed in disgust. Part of her considered blasting it with magic. Even the baby seemed to favor that idea, judging by the blue magic pulsing on the princess’s fingers. Extinguishing the magic, she leaned over the bed, “You can come back, Marco.”
“Good,” the boy eagerly climbed beside her. “Also, do you know where you tossed my shirt? Couldn’t find it on the floor.”
“It’s around…somewhere,” Star briefly glanced over the mess of her room but failed to see Marco’s shirt. Her boyfriend groaned and started searching. His cute, boxer-clad tush wriggled while he dug into a pile of weapons, and the princess blushed.
Eventually, he found it and slipped it on, “Next time, let’s try to keep our clothes close to the bed.”
“I wasn’t expecting a phone call.”
“Still, what if Eclipsa walked in? I don’t think she knows that we’re sharing a room…”
“Yeah, but I’m pregnant. I’m sure she can put two-and-two together.”
There was none of the usual laughter between them, and only a tense silence communicated what they wanted to say. They couldn’t keep playing the everything-is-normal game with Tom, especially not after the close calls they had. Ever since they saw him a week ago, the demon constantly called early in the morning or late at night as if he knew Star and Marco were in bed together. A storm was brewing, and the couple knew something had to give soon. I’m going to face it head-on, determination roared in Star’s blood. Usually, she ran from her problems, but not anymore.
“Are you sure?” Marco seemed to pick up on her decision. “I can come with you.” His worry transmitted through his voice and the creases in his thick eyebrows. Anything could happen once Tom knew since the demon wasn’t known for having the best temper. Even though the old days were far behind them, the double-whammy of the breakup, and the fact Star was pregnant by another guy could easily bring out a bad reaction.
Star took Marco’s hand, “I appreciate the thought, but I need to do this on my own. I’m fifteen; I can handle a demon.”
Marco scowled at the comment, likely remembering the Blood Moon Ball, “If you say so. But if you need me to be your hero, I’m only a phone call away.” They exchanged a quick kiss and dressed.
“Don’t forget about the doctor’s appointment at five,” he reminded Star when the time came near. “We’re also having dinner with my parents afterward.”
Star nodded, “I’ll be there.”
“Nah, it’s just a big checkup.” The coolest part of the appointment was that they were going to find out the due date, which would likely be sometime next summer. Just knowing the day solidified the baby’s existence in a different way than the usual morning sickness and blue magic. One day, Star was going to hold her daughter in her arms, staring into wide, beautiful eyes and feeling her soft skin. I wonder who she’ll take after more? The princess wondered. Also, what kind of cheekmarks would she have? I can’t wait to find out.
“I meant about telling my parents,” Marco clarified.
Shrugging, Star replied, “Your parents are super chill about everything. I bet they’ll be thrilled.”
“Yeah…although I guess this’ll make Marco Jr. an uncle.”
“Are you sure your mom is having a boy? I got a ‘girl vibe’ the last time we visited.”
“I guess we’ll see.”
The anticipation of being on Earth with the Diazes again canceled out the dread she felt about confronting Tom. No matter what happened in the Underworld, there would be something fun on the other side. Glancing at the clock, Star knew Tom would arrive soon to whisk her off on a sorta-date, and she groaned. She would rather spend the morning in bed with her boyfriend, then head to Earth early to have an adventure before going to the doctor. But so be it, Star saw a pillar of fire sprout into the middle of her room, scaring the laser puppies. Tom emerged wearing a torn pale shirt and black swim trunks with orange flames. “Ready to go on a date, Starship?” He held out his hand.
“I am,” she replied curtly. “See ya later, Marco.”
“Bye, guys!” Marco called after them.
“Yeah, later, bro,” Tom herded her out the door almost possessively. The sun crept higher into the sky, staining the sky red along the horizon. Red like blood.
Star gasped when she popped the stuffy air helmet off her head, feeling the acrid Underworld wind fill her lungs. The fine particles of ash from the gray beach coated her throat, making the burnt toast smell more pronounced. It was something the baby rebelled against. We’re leaving soon, she deeply exhaled to soothe her raging stomach while letting the rubber lava suit slide down her periwinkle jumper. Lava-surfing was fun, but having to wear bulky, protective clothing was a hassle. If only she had fireproof demon skin.
“Quitting so soon?” King Dave Lucitor set his drink next to his lounge chair. “The best waves are just starting.” The notes of disappointment in his voice brought a tinge of guilt upon the princess. Star only agreed to go lava-surfing with Tom to work off her nerves before confessing. She couldn’t just spring the news on him the second they got to the beach, especially with his family around. They were nice enough to let her tag along, so Star felt compelled to welcome their hospitality. But now with adrenaline numbing her apprehension, she knew the time to get honest had come.
“I’ve appreciated the beach trip, King Lucitor,” Star replied politely. “But I have urgent business on Earth soon.”
“Earth?” Dave rubbed his shaved chin. “What’s on Earth besides that Marco kid? I mean he’s just your squire—postpone whatever business you have with him and stay with us.”
He’s also the father of my child, but Star couldn’t tell the king what was really on her mind. Instead, she pretended to consider the offer, “I’ll think about it.”
The response sufficed, putting a smile on Dave’s face, “I’ll let the missus know to make extra dinner.”
In the meantime, Star sat on the beach and watched Tom tackle some high waves. He drove his board up the tallest one and performed a backflip, creating a graceful arching plume of lava in the air. It was decidedly impressive, but no one caught her eye like Marco did. Just imagining his shirtless chest glistening with sweat down his abs and the stiff wind ruffling his dark brown hair made Star drool. If he were here, she would have dragged him to a secluded part of the beach for some serious cuddling—like the kind Tom’s phone call interrupted earlier. But thinking about Marco also made her homesick. We’ll be together soon, she sighed. Going on adventures without him wasn’t fun.
Queen Wrathmelior snapped another picture of her son, gushing over him in a series crooning noises. Dave reached down from his seat to pat his wife’s massive thigh, “That our sweet baby boy, honey. Did you see what he just did, Exasperella?”
The smaller red demon turned her horned head and lifted her sunglasses, “I see my nephew, but I’d see more of him if this giant sack wasn’t in my way.”
“Huh?” Her boyfriend, Gloominus, lifted his one of his flabby, green arms to his ear, “What did you say?”
Pursing her lips, Exasperella slipped on her sunglasses, “Nothing.”
Suddenly, Star felt something warm press against her body, and she gasped when lips pressed into her cheek. “Did I scare you?” Tom chuckled. “Guess I still got it, huh?”
She recoiled from the surprise kiss and felt the baby protest in her belly. I know he’s not your father, but don’t blow our cover just yet, she swallowed to keep her sickness at bay. “You totally got me this time, Tom,” she rushed a giggle. “Sorry I had to stop surfing. I was feeling a little motion sick.”
The demon furrowed his thin brows, “You aren’t feeling well?”
Crap! She played it off, “I skipped breakfast this morning. I’ll be fine after we relax for a bit.”
“I can take a break. Besides—” he whispered low in her ear, “—Why don’t we check out those guest rooms? I mean, when’s the last time we cuddled?”
“Never,” she responded, trying hard not to act too repulsed at the idea.
“Then I think it’s time we take this relationship to the next level. It’d be great sharing our first time where we had our first date.”
Too late, bub. She gave Marco that honor weeks ago, and the memory reminded her that it was time to come clean to Tom. Star took the demon’s hand, “Can we go on a walk instead?”
“Absolutely,” he led her off. “I gotta get you in the mood first.”
“Don’t have too much fun,” Dave waved after them. You don’t have to worry about that, Star kept her sardonic reply to herself.
They walked along the coastline, stirring up thin clouds of dust with each step. Crabs scuttled out of the way and vulture-like lava-gulls circled overhead waiting for something to die. The tide started to roll in, creating waves that reached further up the shore with every pass and eroding the dark sand. One day, it would carve a completely new shoreline out of the old—giving birth to something new out of destruction. For some reason, it reminded Star of where she was in her relationship with Marco and Tom. As one relationship ended, another, more beautiful one would be allowed to fully grow. I gotta rip the band-aid off, she gripped Tom’s hand tighter. Keeping everything a secret was only wearing more of her heart, just like the waves and sand. “Hey, Tom?” She breathed. “Now, that we’re alone…I need to talk to you.”
“Sure thing, Starship,” he smiled. “What does my amazing, beautiful girlfriend have to tell me?” His tone threw her off. It tried to sound happy, but there was a hint of pain lurking beneath the surface.
Just rip off the band-aid, she chanted her mantra again. There were two possible outcomes from the encounter: either Tom would take the news maturely, or he’d end the world. There was no middle ground. Sighing, she continued, “Something has been going on with me and Marco, and—”
A bolt of lightning struck the ground right in front of Star, clipping her sentence short. Tom cast a shield of fire around them as glass shards rained from the impact. “Are you okay?” He checked her arms for bruises.
“I’m fine,” she panted. “Just kinda freaked out. What the heck was that?”
“Looks like a storm is rolling in,” Dave suddenly appeared behind the pair and pointed to an ominous black cloud rolling over the lake. Where did you come from? Star eyed both the king and the storm suspiciously. “I haven’t seen a storm come up this fast in years,” he commented.
Exasperella folded her arms when she joined the group, “She’s coming in fast. I think we need to head inside before it gets worse. What do you say, you two, wanna take this party to the cabin?”
“Thanks for inviting me, guys, but I need to get home.”
“You’d be safer here with us,” Dave replied. “What’s the rush? It’s only three.”
“I know, but I have to be somewhere with Marco at five.” Mentioning her squire’s name put a slight frown on the king’s face—one that happened so quickly, Star almost didn’t catch it. As if on cue, lightning struck Cloudy, sending him shrieking into the sky as fire burned his pink fluff.
Tom caught Star in his arms when she fell, “Just wait. I’m sure it’ll blow over. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
Reluctantly, the princess nodded, spying her spell smoking and screaming in fear, “Okay, I can stay a little while longer.” But she prayed that the storm wouldn’t last too long.
The beachgoers gathered inside of the prominent Lucitor lake house, which sat on a perch of shiny obsidian rocks next to a lighthouse. The living room contained a red sofa and chairs that sat in front of massive windows. For the most part, everyone sat in silence, staring at each other or the décor while glowing acid rain pelted the beach. Thunder rattled the windows, which produced the only sound in the cabin for a long time. Dave got up to pace around in silence. Wrathmelior, watching her husband ponder something deeply, grumbled something in Demon that Star couldn’t understand, but the rest of the Lucitor family nodded cryptically. “Mom’s right,” Tom translated for Star’s sake. “The storm could last days.”
“Days?!” The princess started to panic. “No, I can’t stay here that long, I really have to see Marco this afternoon.”
Lightning split the sky with spitting rage, and the lights momentarily shut off. Scared, Star huddled closer to Tom, and he kissed her hand, “Shh…it’ll be okay. How about we play a little game of Scrabble to take our minds off of things. Who’s in?”
“I’m in!” Dave smiled.
“Guess I’ll play,” responded Exasperella.
“Words are fun!” Gloominus said absentmindedly.
“And we can’t forget Grandpa Relicor,” Tom rapped his knuckles against a painting of a wizened, gray demon hanging on the wall. It swung open on squeaky hinges, revealing a screeching figure of the same countenance hidden in the small compartment behind it. I thought he was dead, Star shied away. Suddenly, Relicor locked his pale snake-slit eyes on the princess and pointed his bony finger. He landed on her head and gave her a sniff before shrieking again. What is going on!? Star tried to bat the shriveled being off her head. This was supposed to be a simple trip to the Underworld, and now everything seemed to be devolving into madness!
“Can someone help me here?” Star yelled when the noise became unbearable but noticed something changed about the Lucitors. They sat stark still with eyes widened to a point that they looked fake—as if someone replaced them with marbles. They all stared at Star and reflected her face like mirrors pointed at her soul—cold and revealing. Outside, the clouds darkened into a coal-black with streaks of green on the undersides. Although Star had no idea what was going on, she felt incredibly uneasy.
Eventually, Relicor flew off and sat on the couch next to Star, much to her chagrin. Wrathmelior snorted and stalked into the kitchen without a word. “What was all of that about?” Star asked Tom.
He shot her a faltering smile, “Nothing, just a little family drama. Now, let’s start playing Scrabble.”
Yeah, Star smiled at the idea of a friendly game. Hopefully, the storm would be gone by the end of the match. Exasperella played the first word: betrayal. “Look at that,” she said smugly. “I bet no one can beat that.”
Dave frowned a bit, “You took all the spaces I wanted, but that’s okay.” He played the word lecherous to rack up his score.
“I have one,” Gloominus played liar, earning much praise. Why are all of these words so negative? Star stuck to her lexicon of mostly happy words, but they were buried under terms like adultery, unfaithfulness, guilty, shame, and traitor. For some reason, the accusatory nature of them made Star fidget restlessly. What if the Lucitors were playing the words on purpose…?
Tom nudged her gently, “It’s your turn.”
“I’ll… uh, pass this round,” she stammered.
“Suit yourself,” he shrugged. “Because I have a perfect word to get me in the lead.” On the right side of the board, he lined up the word cheater, which pointed directly at Star. The letters bore holes into her conscious, and the room spun into a blur of oranges and reds. What if…what if they were trying to tell her something? There’s no way Tom knows...Star studied the neutral expression on his face. Even though it was quite friendly, it drove the princess away instead of relaxing her guard.
She hastily got up, “I’m going to help Wrathmelior in the kitchen.”
None of the Lucitors stopped her, and Star quickly retreated into the other room. Here, the atmosphere felt less repressive, allowing her to breathe again. That was weird, she reached for a glass of water to cool off. Maybe she was reading into things. The Lucitors loved playing disturbing words to flex their vocabulary and creepiness. Star remembered one match where they only used synonyms for murder, and Tom won with the word disembowelment. The explanation soothed Star—it was just typical Lucitor weirdness. In that case, she would play along too—she had all the letters for infidelity in her possession. Before she happily skipped away, she spied Wrathmelior glaring at her with a gaze that could sharpen daggers.
“Hey, Queen Wrathmelior,” Star waved to be sociable. “When’s the last time we’ve hung out? How’s life?”
The queen did not move or say anything in reply.
Star went on, hoping to draw out a conversation even if she could only understand her side of it, “My life has been pretty cool. I found Moon with my dad and Marco. They were both such tremendous helpers, especially Marco, my squire. In fact, he—”
The queen hurried out of the room passed her, shaking the house with each stomping footstep. What is wrong with people today? Star rushed after her and gasped at the sight of the living room in flames. Tom and Relicor stood over a flipped over Scrabble table, pointing at each other while the others looked on in horror. A section of ceiling fell to the ground. “That totally is a word Relicor!” Tom spat. “There’s no space in milkshakes!”
Relicor screeched and flailed his arms in disagreement.
“Yeah-huh!” Tom snarled. “Why don’t you go outside more often!”
Wrathmelior intervened, gurgling something that forced them to calm down. Satisfied, she retrieved a black book from the shelf. “Mom…not in front of Star!” The prince buried his face in his hands.
Ignoring his cries, the queen placed an entire album of Tom’s baby pictures on the table for all to see. Aww! Star gushed over the demon’s chubby purple baby body. He’s so weird looking that it’s kinda cute. Dave narrated the precious moments of his son’s life, showing his favorite ones like the time Tom summoned his first fire spell and when he got his first Love Sentence CD. “He wouldn’t stop singing ‘Amazing Feelings’ for days!” The king laughed after his tale.
“It’s ‘Awesome Feelings,’” Tom corrected him. “Get it right.”
Laughing, Wrathmelior flipped the page and revealed pictures from when Star and Tom first met at the Silver Bell Ball. We were so young and happy then, the princess reminisced, Happy together. If only the princess could warn her past self about the times ahead—the fights, the pain of watching their relationship decline into mutual uncaringness, and the fiery breakup at the end that banished her to Earth. But then again, she was glad that she couldn’t meddle with the past. Doing so would have prevented her from meeting Marco. In a way, their relationship was Tom’s doing.
“Oh, here we go,” Tom’s interjection brought Star back to the present, and she saw Wrathmelior sobbing over a picture of her son next to his famous black carriage.
“What happened?” She asked.
“Just looking at some Blood Moon Ball pictures,” the demon replied flatly. “You know I made that carriage for you, thinking we’d have a neat time…but we all know how that went.”
Deep in despair, Wrathmelior ran off and Dave followed. The weird feeling in the air returned, but this time Star refused to accept it as normal. Something was going on with the Lucitors, and it was up to her to figure out what. “May I speak with you alone?” She took Tom’s hand.
“Of course,” he eagerly followed her to an alcove in the reading room next door.
Once hidden, Star met his gaze firmly, “Okay, Tom, what’s going on? Everything was going fine, but now it’s all strange again.”
“What are you talking about?” He answered defensively, kicking the carpet with his flip flop. He’s hiding something, Star watched him avert his gaze and shift uncomfortably in the small space as if the floor was ice.
She refused to accept his answer, “How are you not seeing what I am? The Scrabble game, the storm, your mom—I feel like this is all related somehow to something I did…”
“Then tell me what’s going on.”
Tom took in a deep breath, “It’s just my parents are afraid of you hurting me again.”
That’s a strange assumption, Star frowned, “Why would they think that?”
“It’s not like we don’t know the truth. We all know that you’ve been having sex with Marco behind my back and that he got you pregnant.” The response was neither a guess nor a question, and Star could taste the scorn. It all made sense now—Tom’s appearance last week during their attempted beach date, the phone calls, the entire day at Lava Lake. He had been testing her to confirm his suspicions, which meant…
“And you’ve been spying,” she accused. “When did that start happening, huh?”
“At first, I was going to let you tell me what was going on when you were ready…,” Tom went on, “But you didn’t. I mean, if Marco and I were sleeping together, don’t you think I’d tell you?”
Star grew hot under the skin, both out of shame and rage, “Don’t make yourself the victim here, Tom! You left me in Butterfly castle after telling Marco to take care of me. I honestly thought we were breaking up.”
“I didn’t mean it like that!”
“Then why were you acting so weird that day?”
“Because I was trying to get over what Marco told me…”
“What did he tell you?”
“That you two kissed!”
Anger flashed in his eyes like lightning, and Star recoiled in fear when he balled his hands into fists. While she had seen Tom’s wrath before—manifested in burnt furniture and forests—she never thought he’d hurt her. Should I call Marco? Her hand reached for her phone in her jumper pocket, feeling the safe smoothness of the plastic, but Star pulled her hand away. This was her mess and her battle. Bringing Marco into the situation would make it worse. It’s okay, baby, she clutched the fabric above her belly. Mama’s got this.
“What do you want me to say?” She replied bitterly. “It’s all true. I am pregnant with Marco’s child, and I’m not ashamed of it because I love him. I’m sorry I misinterpreted things, but I did try to tell you…I really did. Both when I was in the Forest of Certain Death and when you visited last week. I was going to tell you everything.”
Please believe me, she begged with her eyes and let the words linger in the air. Thunder rumbled softly, and the blinding rain slowed to a gentle trickle that drummed on the roof. The two teens remained silent even as the adults in the other room started talking in hushed voices. Star kept her guard high, but guilt racked her mind. Maybe she should have done more to tell Tom. Maybe she should have taken the time to visit him and tell him about the baby. And what about Mom and Dad? She let them slip away because she was too indecisive on how to present the news. How were they going to react when she eventually told them?
While she contemplated the future, Tom pulled her in for a hug, “It’s okay, Starship. You messed up, but I forgive you.”
“Thanks, Tom,” she accepted his hug.
He held her closer, “We can still make this work. I can raise your daughter as my own—it’s no big deal.”
Star pulled back sharply, backing into the shelf behind her, “What?”
The demon simply shrugged nonchalantly, “I’m saying we don’t have to let this ruin our relationship.” He grabbed her hand, dragging her towards the rear of the lake house. “Come to bed with me, and we can play this off as something we did. No one has to know—”
“—Why the heck would I do that?!” She was so thoroughly disturbed that she didn’t care if her shout attracted the Lucitors or not. “I love Marco, and I will never betray him like that.”
“Oh c’ mon, we’re just teenagers, and it’s just sex. I bet it didn’t mean anything.”
“Do you even hear yourself right now, Tom? That’s ridiculous!” How could he ever suggest that the tender moments she spent with Marco didn’t mean anything to her? It was extremely insulting. I don’t have time for this, Star rushed out of the reading room to leave—not caring about the raging storm—but the Lucitors blocked the exit.
Get out of my way! She lowered into a fighting stance with her magic glowing at her fingertips. No matter what, Star vowed to protect her child and get home to Marco—even if it meant a serious case of regicide. Calmly, Dave took a step towards her and held out a hand. “Princess Star Butterfly,” he said cordially. “I say let’s rethink Tom’s idea. I mean, I bet the kingdom would love to hear that their responsible princess has been having an affair with her squire—which she isn’t supposed to have in the first place. Imagine the shock if the news got out—I imagine it’d be like Song Day all over again.”
“You want me to stay with Tom for appearance’s sake…” Star eyed the king.
“‘Royal secrets from royal shame,’” Dave quoted the ballad Ruberiot wrote for her. “A lot is going on in the Butterfly kingdom, and it grows more unstable by the day with the divide between Mewmans and monsters. Eclipsa isn’t doing a great job running the place, and who knows what’ll happen in the future? You and the baby will need a stable home and protection—both of which Tom can give you as a prince.”
“But the baby is going to be part-human…” Star tilted her head.
“We can say the looks came from my side of the family. Now, what do you say? Think about your child…who do you want her to claim as a father: a prince or a lowly squire?”
Without hesitation, Star raised her chin in defiance, “I don’t care if Mewni knows the truth. I love Marco, and I’m going to be with him no matter what! Fantastic Exit Beam!” The spell blew her through the house and out into the storm. Though the waves battered the shore and lightning streaked across the sky, the princess trudged through the hot, wet sand and found Cloudy. Tom called her name above the thunder, urging him to come home, but Star stubbornly ordered her spell to climb above the black clouds and opened a portal to Earth.
The orange sun cast its fiery ray on Echo Creek as if coating the city in spilled lava. Usually, the sight was awe-inspiring and something Star loved to watch with Marco on the tallest hill in the local park. They’d eat burritos from Britta’s Tacos while the western horizon drew the color and warmth out of the day, replacing it with the dark coolness of night. But today, the princess’s spirits were low, and the reminder of the Underworld seized her heart with sorrow. The Lucitors were not going to forget about this day. They held grudges for a thousand years. I bet he’s spying on me right now, the thought roused deep resentment in Star to the point her hands flashed purple and blue and green. How dare Tom act innocent when he had kept his own dark secret too—that he knew about what was going on the entire time! If his family wasn’t around, Star would have taught him a serious lesson about respecting her space. This was his fault too! When he left her that night, all signs pointed to the end of their relationship. He wasn’t interested, and Star was ready to embrace her feelings for Marco. Yet Tom had the audacity to play off his distance during the battle as something else. He didn’t act like a boyfriend the entire time. A boyfriend would have planned a counterattack or comforted her or tried to protect her for his sake. I hope he stays away for a long time, Star fumed.
Outside of the hospital, Marco was waiting, sitting on a bench in a small courtyard next to the parking lot. “There you are!” He got up to meet her. “I got tired of getting weird looks in the waiting room, so I came to wait out here.” The smile evaporated when he saw his distraught girlfriend, and he reached for a hug. “Everything okay? What happened with Tom?”
What didn’t happen with him? She sighed loudly and held Marco tighter, communicating everything through touch. His eyes widened first with shock, sharpened with anger, then relaxed to comfort her. “It’s okay,” he whispered gently. “Just focus on having a nice evening. We’ll talk later.”
“Kids? What are you doing here?” The couple sprang apart when Marco’s parents stepped out of a car.
“Mom, Dad!” Marco rushed to hug them. “We had to make a quick stop at the doctor’s before coming over.”
“At the OBGYN?” Angie raised an eyebrow questioningly. “But you don’t need to see one, Marco.”
“I know…” he sighed, “It’s just…hey, where’d your stomach go?” Star immediately noticed the difference too right as she was about to hug Mrs. Diaz. The last time they saw Angie, she was as round as a bowling ball from the growing child within her, and now she looked more normal. The parents both smiled, and Rafael stepped aside to reveal a giant car seat strapped in the back of the car. No way, Star and Marco exchanged an excited glance. “When did this happen…?” The boy asked.
“Two weeks ago,” Angie grinned. “We wanted to keep her a surprise until we met in person.”
“I feel bad about missing the birth. And her? The baby is a girl?”
“I knew it!” Star cheered. Her mother’s intuition had been correct.
The Diazes gently unbuckled the sleeping baby and set her into her older brother’s trembling arms. Grinning, Star gathered around Marco and beheld the tiny being wrapped in a soft, sky-blue blanket. There was even a little mole on her cheek in the same place Marco had his.
“Marco and Star,” Rafael whispered proudly. “This is Mariposa Diaz. We named her after you, Star because we love you so much.”
“You really named your daughter after me?” Star squeaked. “I’m such a screw-up.”
Angie shook her head, “Nonsense. You’re a part of our family, sweetie.” In more ways than one, Star smiled inwardly. The Diazes truly raised her into the person she was today, even more so than her own parents who often neglected her thanks to royal duties.
Suddenly, two hazel brown eyes opened, and the baby cooed at the new family members before snuggling contently into Marco’s hoodie. Aww, Star couldn’t help but tear up, thinking both about this moment and the future one where Marco would meet his daughter for the first time. Just imagining his joy overwhelmed her with intense emotion that it leaked into her hands, worrying her former host family.
“Star, are you okay?” Mrs. Diaz pointed to the blue magic.
Should we tell them? Star sent a worried glance to Marco, and he took her hand while still cradling his sister. “Mom, Dad,” he began softly. “There’s a reason why we’re here. Star’s my girlfriend, and we’re having a baby.”
“REALLY?!” The Diazes’ mouths flung open. At first, Star feared that they would be upset like the Lucitors, but Angie and Rafael’s hug assure her that the news did not diminish their love for her.
“I know you’re probably feeling many things, but we’re here for the two of you,” Angie promised. “I can’t wait to meet our grandchild.”
Rafael wiped a tear from his eyes, “Me too. This is so exciting! Mariposa is going to be an aunt before she walks!”
The reunion was cut short by a nurse calling Star’s name for her appointment. Angie and Marco headed to the waiting room to talk and Rafael kept Mariposa outside and away from potential germs. As for Star, she traveled with the nurse down a set of long halls to various rooms where she went through a bunch of tests. The nurse weighed her, drew blood, measured a bunch of body parts and examined them closely as if the meaning of life were etched in Star’s skin. It was an uncomfortable adventure. On Mewni, doctors never examined their patients this closely unless they were on death’s door. In fact, the nurse saw places Star had only ever shown to Marco. This is so awkward, she winced at the touch of cold instruments.
“We’re all done, Ms. Butterfly,” the nurse scribbled something on a notepad. “You can get dressed. The doctor will see you soon to talk to you.”
Praise corn, Star clothed her goosebumps-covered skin and sat on the hard, padded seat. A lot of time elapsed, and the princess nearly dozed off when an older lady in a white lab coat entered the door with a stethoscope around her neck. Her hair—black with white streaks—was pulled into such a tight ponytail that every strand straightened into a harsh line. The woman’s steely-gray eyes reminded her of Moon, but there was a compassionate softness to them that the former Undaunted queen did not possess. “You must be Star Butterfly,” the doctor genuinely smiled and held out a hand for a handshake. “I’m Dr. Henderson, and it’s nice to meet you.”
Star returned the gesture, “Nice to meet you too. I thought you’d be weirded out because…y’know.”
She encouraged her, “You’re not my youngest patient, rest assured. And even if you were, I don’t judge. I’m here to help you through the next several months.”
“That’s a relief.”
“It’s natural to have a lot of questions about what’s going to happen during pregnancy,” the doctor grabbed the notes the nurse left and sat on a stool. “So you can ask as many questions as you want during the appointment, and if you need to reach out afterward, leave me a message anytime. Now, you are my first Mewman patient, but I see that you are very anatomically comparable to humans, which is great. Everything is working in proper order. Now, when did you first suspect that you were pregnant?”
“About two weeks ago,” Star prepared herself for an onslaught of questions.
“And how many periods—if you have those—did you skip?”
“Two. I didn’t notice that I skipped the first one because I was busy on a quest to find my mother in the Mewnian wilderness.”
Dr. Henderson scribbled something down, muttering the information under her breath. “Okay, that should bring you to about ten weeks. That’ll help me calculate a due date for you. Tell me about yourself.”
“Well, I’m a magical princess from another dimension who lives with her sorta-but-not-really grandmother queen in a creepy Monster Temple who rules over a disgruntled kingdom that’s deeply divided. Oh, and I fight dangerous bad guys on the side.”
“Mhm…now, are you in a relationship?”
“I am. My boyfriend, Marco Diaz, is out in the waiting room.”
“I know the Diaz family very well,” the doctor smiled. “In fact, I delivered Marco. He’s an excellent young man. Is he the father?”
Star couldn’t help but blush, “Of course.”
“Any previous relationships?”
“I have an ex-boyfriend, but he’s a demon with serious anger issues,” she sighed. “We just broke up again, and it was messy.”
“Were you sexually active with him?”
“Oh, heck no,” the harsh answer echoed in the room. “Sorry, didn’t mean it like that, but no.”
Dr. Henderson nodded, “It’s alright; I’ve had my share of bad exes. Also, is your hand okay?”
Star giggled and held up her glowing blue hand for the doctor to see, “It’s just the baby’s magic. It tends to flare up when I’m stressed.” The doctor marveled at the sight and even took a picture as a record.
“My main advice for you Star is you need to manage your stress,” Dr. Henderson passed her a few pamphlets on diet, exercise, and stress management. “The baby is receptive to everything you feel, and I know life must be hard as a teenager and a princess. Try to take it easy. You seem to have a good support network.”
Star nodded, “I have Marco and the Diazes. I have some other people to tell, but I think my friends will be on board too.”
“Good. You’re lucky. A lot of teen moms are left to fend for themselves because their parents throw them out and their boyfriends leave them. I really wish the best for you and the baby.”
There was a knock on the door and another doctor rolled a massive white machine into the room. It had a probe attached to a long leash and a small TV. What is this? Movie time? Star wondered.
“We’re going to take some pictures of the baby and listen for a heartbeat,” Dr. Henderson scooted closer to the machine. “Would you like me to invite Marco and Mrs. Diaz in?”
“Sure, and you can listen to the heartbeat already?” Star nearly leapt off her seat. “What kind of witchcraft is this?”
“An ultrasound,” the doctor replied. “Now, you’re gonna have to lay down and lose the leggings.”
Oh bother, Star groaned at the thought of being cold again, but it was worth it to meet her daughter. Marco and Angie arrived at an awkward moment, and the boy sheepishly averted his gaze. As if you haven’t seen anything before, she rolled her eyes but welcomed him by her side. A fuzzy gray image appeared inside of a black oval, and the couple could scarcely believe their eyes. “Is that…?” They exhaled together, excitement quivering on their breath. Angie put her hand over her mouth.
Dr. Henderson couldn’t help but laugh at their awe, “I was right…ten weeks along and everything looks great. That brings the due date to about...July 20th of next year. A summer baby. Now, I’m going to switch this so we can listen to a heartbeat.”
Through the speakers, a steady pulse echoed amidst swirling, squishy sounds. It was a strong beat too, announcing the presence of a tough fighter—just like her mother and father. Marco cried. He couldn’t hide the tears cascading down his cheeks, and Angie rubbed his back. “You’re just like your father,” she laughed. “He cried for hours when he found out we were going to have you and Mariposa. Need a tissue?”
“Can I get a whole box?” His voice cracked.
You’re such a dork, Star cried a bit too, albeit stoically. “She’s perfect,” Marco squeezed his girlfriend’s hand. “This is the happiest moment of my life.”
“Mine too,” Star sniffled. In an instant, her crappy day had redeemed itself and gave her hope again. No matter what happened on Mewni or with Tom, she had her precious family.
Chapter 5: Yada Yada Berries
“I don’t wanna eat this!” Star roughly shoved the small bowl of oatmeal across the table. It bobbled, struggling to remain upright, as it spun like a top until equilibrium decided its fate. What saved it from spilling over were the round berries embedded in the mushy oats. They gave the bowl just enough weight to resist the pull of gravity. If it had not been so, the breakfast would have slammed into Globgor’s crystal in the middle of the room, possibly testing the strength of the hundreds-year-old prison that contained him. I’m glad we’re not going there today, Marco wiped sweat from his brow. Once he knew they were safe from catastrophe, he turned to his girlfriend, who huffed like a raging bull.
She’s cute when she’s angry, he’d never said it to her face, but the way her eyes ignited into blue infernos and thin brows sliced downward over them was kinda attractive. Then again, Marco loved everything about her—even her hot temper—though he knew better than to let his mushiness over Star cloud the reality in front of him. She was a supernova ready to rip the universe apart. Her wrath could level castles, melt the flesh off evil lizard people, and put dread into the evilest foes. In other words, not even Marco dared to play with her fire, especially not with her pregnancy hormones adding fuel to it. When Star’s hands started to glow bluish-purple, he gentled her by resting a hand on them. The raw power pulsing in her skin vibrated warmly under his own. “You need the vitamins from a nutritious breakfast,” he reminded her kindly.
“I’m already taking vitamins, Marco!” She gestured to gummies resting on the napkin beside her juice. “Why do I need more?”
“You don’t necessarily need them, but the baby does.”
After the ultrasound a few days ago, Dr. Henderson handed out pamphlets of information explaining everything Star needed to do to make sure the baby developed properly. Since she hated lectures, Marco took it upon himself to listen and take detailed notes about what to expect until the next appointment in a month. For starters, her morning sickness would start to ease around eleven weeks, allowing Star to put on the weight her body needed to maintain the pregnancy. But not too much—Dr. Henderson stressed that gaining too much would do more harm than good. By the end of the first trimester, Star should be a couple of pounds heavier only.
“Okay, fine,” Star dragged the oatmeal back with magic. “But I wish I didn’t have to eat this crap. It looks ugly.”
Marco bit his lip to keep from laughing at the adorable pout on her face, “Oatmeal and berries are healthy and wonderful. You’d enjoy it if you tried it.”
She rolled her eyes, “If they’re so healthy and wonderful, then why are you eating pancakes?”
She got me there, Marco, wounded by her snark, gazed at the fluffy, golden-brown pancakes stacked high on a silver platter. They were crowned with a royal pat of creamy pig-goat butter and slathered in honey-colored Mewnian corn-syrup. Unlike the Earth variety, corn-syrup was rich and complex in its sweetness, tasting of corn, sunshine, and summer rain. On the taste buds, it eventually melted into a lingering sensation, which mellowed into something savory. Such a contradiction of flavors could only exist on Mewni. And yes, Star had a point about his sinfully rich breakfast. He should watch his eating habits too, lest he gain “sympathy weight.”
“Alright, you win,” Marco put up his hands in mock surrender. “But I got extra pancakes on purpose...”
“Why’d you do—oh!” A smile brightened Star’s face, and she squealed. “Thanks, Marco! You’re such an amazing boyfriend.”
“Anything for my amazing girlfriend,” he kissed her cheek.
I wish I could do more, Marco sighed while watching her skim the first few pancakes off the stack. It wasn’t uncommon for new fathers to feel left out of the pregnancy process. Mother Nature designed mothers to handle all of it alone, and it seemed unfair. Marco did everything with Star. They were a team perfected by years of friendship and fighting monsters, but even the bonds of their partnership had limits. Star was going to experience changes he would never fully understand. Even though I can’t share what’s happening, I’m going to make sure she’s happy and comfortable, Marco vowed. He took his squire, boyfriend, and father duties seriously.
“Yes?” He began to worry when he saw Star not eating her pancakes. “Are you feeling sick?”
She shook her head, “No, it’s not that. Do you think it’s getting noticeable?”
“What do you mean?”
She made a face at his cluelessness and poked her belly, “Do you think I’m starting to show?”
Typically, women—especially first-time mothers—didn’t start showing until late in the second trimester, but Marco noticed a difference already. Of course, he’d be the one to track the subtle changes on Star’s body—he paid very close attention to every inch of her. There was a slight swell above her hips, rising with the gentleness of a grassy knoll in a meadow. The books said any type of pudginess before the second trimester was probably just bloat, but Marco liked to believe it was really their strawberry-sized baby growing inside of Star.
“Well, yes, but actually, no,” Marco answered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Did she want a “yes” or “no?” He gulped as guilt set in. A simple answer from either side sounded dry and insulting. If he said “yes” it would blow the situation out of proportion as she wasn’t visibly pregnant. However, a “no” might make her feel bad about the baby’s progress. I’ve messed this up, Marco cringed and tried again, “Let’s just say you’ll always look beautiful to me.”
“You’re afraid of telling me the truth aren’t ya…?”
She giggled, “You’re such a weirdo, Marco. I can handle it.”
“Can you now?” A wicked grin spread across the boy’s face, spurring him to straddle Star on her chair. She squirmed as his fingers unfastened the straps on her jumper, so he could access her belly.
“You’re not seriously gonna…?” Her breath hitched when Marco moved lower, kneeling between her thighs.
He chuckled, “I thought it’d be better if I showed you.” Her howling laughter filled the air as Marco went for the kill. By now, Star should have known that he greeted his daughter the same way every day, practicing for when the baby would start hearing noises at eighteen-weeks-old. He was determined to ensure she knew his voice and her mother’s laughter. Star’s ticklish joy vibrated under his lips, encouraging him to continue his onslaught and ignore the parts of his brain worrying about getting caught. In hindsight, he probably should have paid more attention to his surroundings.
“Enjoying your meal, Marco?”
An unexpected yet painfully familiar voice caused Marco to smack his head against the table. Aside from Meteora and maybe Tom, there was only one other person in the entire multiverse who could strike fear in his heart, and she casually leaned against the doorway. Like an evil spirit, Janna had a habit of materializing out of thin air. I’m probably not wrong, Marco decided while he smoothed his ruffled hair. To his credit, Janna was the most unnatural human in existence. She hung out in monster car junkyards, collected shrunken heads, and probably slept in a coffin. Some of the kids at school used to joke that she was probably a vampire, and Marco never saw them again afterward...
“It’s not like that, I swear,” he hissed between gritted teeth. “I’m a gentleman.”
“Really?” Janna raised an eyebrow. “Then how come I’m going to be an aunt?” When Marco and Star didn’t reply, she added, “I know you got Star knocked up.”
“How’d you know?” The couple exchanged a glance.
“Oh please, I know everything,” Janna replied. “Congrats on finally losing the V-Card. I never thought Captain Safety was into risky rides.”
Star blushed, “It was a heat-of-the-moment kinda thing, but yeah, we’re having a baby.”
“Sweet,” the girl pulled up a chair next to her, “Now, I have someone to teach my secrets to.”
“Oh no you won’t,” Marco objected. No one would to corrupt his precious baby girl on his watch!
“Suit yourself,” Janna shrugged, placing a hand on Star’s belly. “But don’t be surprised if the baby loves Aunt Janna more than you.”
“She’ll love me too,” he snorted and folded his arms. I’ll take such good care of her when she’s born, Marco liked to think of the calm nights where he’d hold his daughter close, singing her asleep. Even though there wasn’t much he could do while Star was pregnant, he planned on pouring his soul into tending the baby’s needs after her birth.
“Sure thing, Sir Killjoy.”
Marco turned to Star, “Won’t the baby love me?”
“Of course,” she nodded. “You’re her father. Why wouldn’t she love you?”
“Don’t mind him, sweetie,” Eclipsa stepped into the room. “It’s common for fathers to second-guess themselves. Globgor worried himself sick when I was pregnant. It’s what husbands do for their pregnant wives.” She placed a hand on the crystalized monster and sighed lovingly.
“We’re not married,” Star and Marco said together, blushing immediately after.
“Not yet,” Eclipsa winked. “No need to be so shy. You’re already expecting a baby.”
I guess we did skip a few steps, Marco mused, and the idea of marrying her greatly intrigued him. Even when they were friends, he used to fantasize about their wedding. Would she gallop down the aisle on a warnicorn or set off fireworks in the sky announcing their love? Would she wear white like an Earth bride or dress like a young queen? Although they didn’t need a wedding to solidify their commitment—nothing could cleave them apart—Marco wanted to show her how much she meant to him one day. But let’s try to get past eighteen before going through another major life event. “One day” didn’t have to be anytime soon.
Manfred appeared out of the kitchen and set a bowl of oatmeal at Eclipsa’s place-setting along with goblet of mulled wine. The queen took a sip of her drink, then asked, “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Janna. She’s a friend from Earth,” Star introduced her. “She’s super cool and into dark, magical things.”
“‘Sup?” The dark-haired girl glanced up from the phone for a second. How charming, Marco rolled his eyes.
Eclipsa dipped her head in greeting, “Welcome and feel free to stay here as long as you like. There’s a spare bedroom down the hall from Star and Marco’s room, but I suggest getting some earplugs if you know what I mean…”
“Eclipsa!” Star’s hearts glowed pink.
“What? She’s telling the truth,” Glossaryck suddenly floated onto the table out of nowhere. Who invited you to breakfast? Marco raised an eyebrow but declined to say anything. Trying to understand Glossaryck was more difficult than unraveling the mysteries of the universe, so why bother?
Star put a hand on her hip. “Where’d you come from? You don’t like being around people.”
The little blue man grabbed a berry out of Eclipsa’s bowl, “I like all people except for sassy pregnant princesses.”
“I’m not sassy!”
“Why can’t you be more like Comet? She was such a perfect princess, and I miss her so much. One day, Star, you’ll—”
In mid-chew, Glossaryck’s body hardened into stone with red juices dribbling from his opened mouth. Marco heard Eclipsa and Star scream, but terror simply paralyzed his vocal cords. Just like that, Glossaryck was gone again. Possibly forever. I can’t believe it...Marco remembered the other times they lost the magical being when Ludo kidnapped him and the Book of Spells and then burned both of them in a fire. Despite the dire situations, Star managed to bring him back, but not even the magical princess couldn’t unfreeze him this time. She howled in grief, wetting his petrified body with her tears. “I didn’t mean to be sassy!” She wailed. “Don’t leave me again!”
Suddenly, the color returned to his gray skin, and Glossaryck sprung back to life instantly. “Phew,” he wiped the berry’s remains off his white beard. “Good thing it was a yada yada berry and not a hingle-dingle berry—you know, the ones that make you explode.”
“A yada yada berry…?” Star wiped away the moisture from her cheeks, her voice shaking with relief and fear.
“They turn you into stone if you eat them,” he replied rather casually as if turning into a statue was only a minor inconvenience. “I can get away with eating a few because I’m immortal.”
Scratching her chin, Janna turned to Star’s oatmeal and stabbed one of the berries with a fork, letting the spurting liquid turn the utensil to stone. “Just as I suspected,” she nodded as the others looked on horrified, “Whoever poisoned Eclipsa’s food is after Star too.”
“I bet it was the Mewmans!” Star balled her hands into fists.
“W-what do you think we should do?” Eclipsa placed a hand over her mouth.
The princess shot out of her seat, “We’re gonna round them up and—”
Janna silenced her by placing a dusty book called Deathly Poisons and How to Use Them in front of everyone and opening to the chapter on yada yada berries. “I suggest we do this the smart way,” she ran her finger across the page. “Trying to interrogate a million people is a waste of time. Instead, we’re going to find the supplier and get information on whoever bought the berries. The book says the Cloud Kingdom is the place to go.”
“Really?” Star gasped, “That’s where Pony Head lives.”
“Drugs form the backbone of the Cloud Kingdom underworld—so to speak,” Janna informed her matter-of-factly. “It’s a big business.”
“Welp, it looks like we’ve got a mystery on our hands,” the princess boldly declared. “We’re going to turn over every stone, open every door, and find everyone responsible, so help me, corn! Right, Marco?”
During the whole conversation, Marco clung to his chair as the world sickeningly whirled around him. The oatmeal he ordered for his girlfriend and baby out of the goodness of his heart almost killed them…. Just imagining Star’s lifeless body lying motionless on the floor made him want to vomit. He had one job during the pregnancy—just one—and it was making sure Star stayed alive and healthy. A job which he failed by letting poison slip under his radar. I can’t live with myself for letting this happen, the boy nearly fainted from the weight of despair, but a gentle hand on his gave him courage. Star remained unphased by the attack, her eyes shining with hope and vengeance.
“Don’t worry,” she assured him. “We’ll get them.”
Another bolt of lightning flashed, brightening the black clouds over a dreary city below. The wind howled against brick and concrete, pelting sheets of rain upon three cloaked travelers venturing into the Cloud Kingdom’s dark heart. Marco almost tripped again when the hem of his black garment dragged into another eddy caused by rainwater swirling in a clogged sewage drain. Mud streaked his shoes, and he winced at the feeling of the cold slime on his ankles. On the one hand, he had to thank Janna for the idea of wearing cloaks to mask their identities because it kept him mostly warm and dry. But on the other hand, the fabric trapped moisture, which felt miserable during the hike through the gloomy city.
It was hard to believe that they were in the Cloud Kingdom, which was well-known for fluffy, pink clouds, rainbows, and bright sunshine. According to Janna, however, the pleasantness was exclusive to the area directly around the castle. Most of the kingdom, including the aptly named Monsoon Zone, existed in perpetual coldness and rain. The peasants living in these zones resorted to all sorts of nefarious trade to make money away from the prying eyes of the royal police. There were many gambling houses with fancy neon signs promising “untold riches,” but every time the teens passed one, they heard fighting over rigged odds and lost bets. Brothels shed weak, red light onto the dim streets to draw in desperate customers. A couple of Waterfolk prostitutes tried to solicit Marco, but Star flattened them with a Warnicorn Stampede. I wasn’t going to say yes, he chuckled at the memory. He only needed his warrior princess to satisfy him.
However, he was not satisfied with the quest so far. Marco wanted revenge—not a field trip through scenes of urban debauchery. The people responsible for trying to kill his family were out there potentially causing harm to someone else. When I find them, they’ll wish for death! The young father clenched his fists, feeling rage and determination surge in his blood.
“Yo, Diaz, don’t lag behind,” Janna called to him from around the block.
“Coming!” Marco raced to catch up.
He found the girls chatting near an outdoor market full of vendors hawking their wares, and once he rejoined the group, their guide picked up her pace. Falling rain formed loose, beaded curtains along the edges of colorful tents that protected shifty sellers and goods under them. “Stay close to me,” Marco grabbed Star’s hand.
Her blue eyes glowed from under her hood, “It’ll be fine, Marco. Unless those stupid hookers come back for round two…”
Laughing, he wrapped an arm around her, “You know I only have eyes for you.”
“And with the baby, you’re mine forever.”
“I’ve always been yours—with or without a baby.”
“Are you okay?” She asked more seriously. “You haven’t seemed yourself since this morning.”
Because someone tried to kill you! While he admired her tenacity and bravery, he wished she took the situation more seriously. If she had eaten the berries…neither Marco nor Eclipsa could save her. I can’t keep Star safe, he felt disheartened again. Who was he besides the princess’s lame human squire? What power did he have? I don’t even have El Choppo anymore, he sighed bitterly at the thought of the sword he surrendered to the Neverzone. Part of him wondered if the dark words the Lucitors told Star were true—that Tom would be a better father. The demon prince had magic, title, and the means to adequately protect Star and the baby. I’m being selfish, in hindsight, maybe Marco should have told her to stay with him, but the thought of her loving anyone else made him queasy. The moments he shared with her were sacred—their touches, kisses, and warm embraces belonged to each other only. He also didn’t want the baby to grow up without him. I can’t give either of them the universe, but I can give them my love. That had to be worth something.
“Earth to Diaz,” he refocused when Star waved a hand in front of his face. “You in there?”
“Just a little tired,” he forced a fake yawn, hiding his somber thoughts.
Star frowned at the weak excuse but chose to leave the matter alone.
The teens ducked into a narrow, brick alley just beyond the marketplace, descending into a thick darkness that shrouded the dusty street. If Marco didn’t know any better, he would have assumed the universe ended beyond the opaque wall in front of him. There was a single faulty street lamp flickering weakly a few feet into the alley, shedding barely enough light to outline the silhouettes of busted windows, discarded boxes, and dumpsters. I have a bad feeling about this, Marco sensed someone watching them in the shadows. Drawing closer to Star, he kept his senses on high-alert—his ears, eyes, and nose attuned to every minute detail. I’ll protect my family this time, he promised firmly.
Suddenly, three Pony Heads drifted under the streetlamp, each wearing a brown hood to conceal their faces. An uneasy silence settled over the alley, broken only by the soft murmur of rain and distant thunder. Either Janna was leading them to great information about their assailant or to their doom—Marco couldn’t decide which. After sizing up the other group, one of the Pony Heads spoke in a gruff voice, “Does the truth set you free?”
“Free as a stone,” Janna replied with the second part of the cryptic password.
“What do you seek here, girl?”
“We’re looking for information on someone who bought yada yada berries recently. I know you’re the biggest supplier around here.”
The stranger thought about it for a second but replied coldly, “I don’t rat on my customers.”
“What?!” Star spat. “We really need the information, kind sir. I know you probably have an honor code, but please help us. Innocent people almost died today.”
“No ratting,” the Pony Head declined. “Now, get out before I make you!”
“We aren’t going anywhere!” Marco challenged by taking a bold step forward. “Not until I find the depraved soul who tried to assassinate the queen and the princess!”
The stranger continued his hardline stance. “No ratting.”
That is it! Without thinking his actions over, Marco seized the Pony Head by the cloak, causing Star and Janna to gasp. “Look me in the face!” He yanked off his hood to show his deadly seriousness. “I am Sir Marco Diaz, squire to the Princess of Mewni and father to the next heir to the throne! I’ve fought Ludo and Toffee and Meteora. I’ve survived the horrors of the Neverzone and subdued a thousand dangers there. You will tell me who tried to poison my family, or I’ll gut you with my bare hands!”
“Marco…your cheeks!” Star pointed to the red moons that mysteriously sprouted on his burning cheeks. The light flooded the entire alley, revealing a hidden doorway, several piles of berries neatly stored in labeled crates, and more Pony Heads. They also wore hoods and were armed with swords. I’ll take you all myself! The squire balled his hands into fists. Adrenaline vanished any trace of fear from his blood.
The Pony Head squirmed in his grip, “I’m sorry! I didn’t know it was you, Earth Turd…”
“Earth Turd?” He raised an eyebrow at the address.
“Yeah, surprise!” A familiar blue face popped out of the brown clothing. Princess Pony Head laughed along with her sisters as they too cast off their disguises.
“Pony Head?!” Star exclaimed loudly. “You sell yada yada berries?!”
The other princess snorted, “Well yeah, how else do you think I get funding for my new online talk show?”
“You have an online talk show?”
“B-Fly, you wound me,” her friend blinked fake tears in her eyes. “The Pony Head Show is like mad popular right now, and we’re about to seriously expand! My sisters convinced me to get into the berry business to help buy a new studio. We’re makin’ a killing—isn’t that right, Pamanda?”
The younger, spectacled sister nodded, “We’re on track to gross a million in profits.”
“We also sell other kinds of berries for your convenience,” another sister, Angel, continued. “Poisonous, culinary, medicinal—”
“—Psychedelic,” the twins, Shonda and Shinda, said creepily together.
Jan-Jan shushed them, “Remember, we don’t talk about those.”
“Sorry,” they apologized and disappeared back into the shadows.
“Nice,” Janna smirked. “If you need another middleman, I know a ton of people to sell to on Earth.”
Before a deal could be struck, Marco stepped in, “This is all well and good, but we need to know who tried to poison Star and Eclipsa this morning.”
Pony Head nodded, “Oh right. Since it affected my bestest sister in the whole universe, I’ll gladly spill the beans. A Mewman by the name of Apothecary Sherry came by a few days ago for an order of yada yada berries. I don’t know what she did afterwards, but that’s none of my business.”
“Thanks,” Star shot her a grateful smile. “That’s all I wanted to know.”
“Also, whatchu mean Turd got you pregnant? I thought you were still with Demon Boy?”
The couple sighed, “It’s a long story.”
“Y’all gonna tell me, right? I gotta know all the details!”
Marco opened a portal back to Mewni and corralled the girls through, “We can talk about this anywhere but here. I’m sick of the rain.”
The sun had sunk to the edge of the horizon by the time Marco, Star, Pony Head, and Janna reached a Mewman town on the outskirts of the main road. In the distance, the ruined Butterfly castle was faintly outlined by moonlight against the blackening sky, giving it a ghost-like appearance. The more Marco looked at it, the more chilled he became until he peeled his eyes away. Even months after the battle, the legacy of the old queens continued to haunt the entire dimension, especially the Mewmans. They still lived in their hovels carved out of crumbled stone, clinging desperately to the past just as the sun’s dying rays clung to the sky at dusk. Small cooking fires dotted the desolate wasteland like cool, orange stars, and dirty faces huddled around them for warmth. Marco could see the weariness in their blue, green, and brown eyes, flashing with the rising embers. They watched the teens go by, but there was none of the coldness or rudeness as there had been the last time Star and Marco had walked among them. Instead, they looked defeated and scared—it almost made the boy pity them.
Suddenly, he heard sounds of a struggle and saw Star tackle a woman carrying a basket to the ground, her hands shedding bright purple light. The other Mewmans gasped, whispering hoarsely to one another, but did not dare to intervene. “Where’s the berries, Sherry?” She shouted. “I know you’re the one who tried to poison me and Eclipsa!”
“Poison the queen?!” The Mewman gasped in shock, “Why would I do that? Oh! You’ve mistaken who I am. I’m not Apothecary Sherry; I’m Sherry Apothecary—it’s my surname.”
Star refused to yield, “Nice try! I know you’re lying.”
“Yeah, you evil snake!” Pony chimed in. “Trying to kill my bestie!”
“Actually, she isn’t,” Janna parted them. “I can tell when people lie. Unless she’s really good and has me fooled, she’s telling the truth.”
Marco raised an eyebrow, “Are you sure?”
“When have I been wrong today?” Janna folded her arms.
Fair point, the squire conceded to her wisdom. Rolling away, Star motioned for Marco to help her to her feet, and the Mewman woman hurriedly gathered her things, placing them back in her basket. Surprisingly, there was no malice in her eyes—in fact, she kept them low apologetically as if she had been the one who erred. “Forgive me, Your Highness,” she curtsied. “The woman you’re seeking lives in the town closer to the castle. It’s funny that we share similar names and live on similar streets, but I’m not an herbalist. It’s a common mistake.”
Star still remained poised to attack, “A likely story…”
“It’s true,” she insisted. “No one here would ever dream of hurting you or Eclipsa. We’re loyalists—we believe in the new queen.”
“Of course, Your Highness. We aren’t like the Mewmans who live closer to the castle—they’re such a spiteful bunch. Now, do stay with my family for the night. It’s dangerous walking around. Come. I can take you to the right destination tomorrow morning.”
Should we trust her? In his mind, Marco thought of a thousand ways this could go wrong. While walking around a strange town at night was dangerous, so was staying with someone they didn’t know. As he opened his mouth to decline the offer, he had a swift change of heart when he saw tiredness creep across Star’s face. The adventure had worn her out quicker than anyone else because of the pregnancy. And she needs to eat, his own stomach rumbled too. Reluctantly, he answered on behalf of the group, “We’ll stay with you, but mark my words: I am the princess’s squire, if you hurt her, you’ll have to face me!”
The ferocity in his statement and eyes made Sherry dip her head, “Absolutely, good sir, I assure you that you’ll be safe with me.”
She led them through the twisty, dirt paths that snaked around the small shelters in the town. More Mewmans gathered outside of their makeshift homes to get a glimpse of the princess as she passed by. Many of them waved or bowed in reverence. This is a first, Marco noticed the teenaged girls among them admired him too, though he wasn’t interested. At last, they arrived at a demolished house at the end of the street. It used to be a proud, two-story building—Marco could tell by the number of bricks piled at the base of the three-sided shelter. The windows were blown out, framed by rags attempting to form curtains. I can’t believe this nice lady lives here…
Pony Head studied the place and gawked, “Wow, this place is a dump! I wouldn’t stick a dead Deadhorse in here!”
“Pony, shhh!” Star clamped her mouth shut. “Be nice.”
“I’m sorry it’s not much,” Sherry ducked her head. “It should get us out of the wind at least. Let me get a fire started.”
As she did so, three young kids raced out of the house, “Mama, Mama, is this the princess?”
Once a fire sprung to life in the firepit, Sherry smiled, “Why, yes, children, but mind your manners in front of our guests.”
“Sorry,” the oldest, who looked about eight, curtsied to the teens. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Thank you,” Star smiled.
“Nice teeth you got there,” Janna smirked. “I always wanted fangs.”
At first, Marco didn’t notice anything peculiar about the girl in the dim light, but then he picked up on a set of fangs peeking out of the corners of her smile. No way…Marco and Star glanced at each other. Was she really half-monster? The kids raced away to another figure joining them out of the house. He was a tall, hairy monster with long fangs and a bobbed tail. A sleepy yawn parted his jaws as he stretched, buttoning the loose buttons on his flannel shirt. “Sorry, I slept in. I had a long day building homes in Monster Town.”
Sherry greeted him with a kiss, “It’s quite alright, dear, but look, Princess Star is here to visit.”
The monster’s eyes grew wide, and he slipped the hat off his head, “I am honored to be graced by your presence, Your Highness. My name’s Bengy, and welcome to my home.”
“I don’t understand…” Star breathed.
“Eclipsa’s not the only Mewman who’s taken a monster for a mate,” Sherry smiled. “There’s not a lot of mixed couples around, and most don’t live as openly as my husband and I do.”
“Yeah,” Bengy sat across from them. “We got lucky. Our parents were so accepting, and, of course, the town has grown to love us too. They’re part of the reason we’ve stayed here instead of living in Monster Town.”
“So, not all of the Mewmans are a bunch of backwards, Renaissance hillbillies, huh?” Janna asked bluntly.
Sherry laughed, “I like the description—definitely matches some of my extended family—”
“You mean most of them, dear,” Bengy bristled slightly.
She sighed at his point and continued, “However, not all of us are closed-minded. I don’t condone what the settlers did and hope for a united future.”
“And the monsters aren’t a thousand percent clean either,” her husband said while starting a cauldron of soup. “I like Eclipsa as a queen, but she did align herself with him.”
“Who?” Star wondered.
“Globgor, the Prince of Darkness,” Bengy said in a hushed tone. “He’s quite the polarizing figure in our community. Some love him as a freedom fighter who aligned with the brave Septarians. Others said he made Monster-Mewman relations worse after destroying the Spiderbite kingdom.”
“Shh…you’re upsetting the princess,” Sherry placed a finger over her lips.
Bengy closed his mouth, muttering his apologies, and turned back to cooking. Quiet fell upon the family with the night—aside from the chatty children who took a while to calm down for dinner. Stars twinkled overhead, and Marco let his girlfriend lean against him, their fingers twinning together. I can tell she has a lot on her mind, he knew Star was never one to stay still and quiet otherwise. She hardly even talked to Pony Head, who was busy hawking her show to the new potential viewers. However, the talk would have to wait—the smell of supper made Marco unfocused. Whatever soup simmered in the pot smelled amazing.
“I think we’re ready,” Sherry gave it a taste. “It’s deer, carrot, and corn stew—an old monster recipe. It also has alpine berries in there for extra vitamins for the baby. Don’t act surprised—I’m a midwife, and I can tell the difference between a protective squire and a protective father.”
“You’re good,” Star lifted her head.
The Mewman nodded, “I have to be to run my business and my household. Now, you wanna be careful fighting people in the future. The baby is protected deep inside you now, but soon it’ll expand into your abdomen.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Marco kissed Star’s forehead. The entire group sat around the fire and ate their food out of crude bowls. Sherry said that she bartered the last of her family’s heirloom jewelry to get them because feeding her family meant more to her than gold.
“It’d be nice if I kept them,” she exhaled slowly. “They were quite lovely and old.”
Bengy comforted her by taking her hand, “It’s alright. I’ll work to get enough money to buy them back.”
“I have a question,” Janna spoke up. “You said you were loyalists. How do the Mewmans feel about Eclipsa? Obviously, something is going on if they want to bump her off.”
The fire crackled as Bengy and Sherry sat in silence, both staring at the bowls in their hands. Even the kids stopped their games to listen. “You see,” Sherry began. “We Mewmans are very…divided on a number of things. Some are happy about Eclipsa and monster rights, others aren’t. And even some of us who are happy want the queen to improve our lives too. I mean, we peasants have suffered under the old queens too: subjected to unfair laws and caught between war with the monsters. We hoped Eclipsa’s reforms would help all of us…but—”
“It landed millions in even worse shape,” Bengy finished the sentence when his wife became overcome by grief. “I know the Mewmans stole our land but is taking what they own really justice?” His question floated into the night air along with the embers rising from the fire. It stung like a challenge—not to Eclipsa but to the princess and squire in their presence. What were they going to do about Mewni? “Either way,” the monster finished his meal. “Eclipsa has a lot of enemies on both sides. She needs to clean up her image.”
“I think it’s time for bed,” Sherry collected the empty bowls placed them to a nearby basin to be washed later.
Her husband unleashed a mighty yawned that attracted the attention of other families nearby, “I agree. I’ve had a long day at work, and tomorrow, I gotta clear another patch of woods for more monster houses.”
The family led Marco and the rest of the group into their shelter, which consisted of two mattresses in a bare room. The ceiling opened to a night sky full of a million colorful stars—vibrant and rich in ways the boy hadn’t seen since his first time with Star. Even though Mewni lacked electricity, light from oil street lamps usually diminished the beauty of the celestial orbs, but not during that night and certainly not here either. Too bad we have to share a bed with Janna and Pony Head, Marco smiled when Star leaned against him, her eyes glittering in the starlight.
“Aw, man,” Pony Head snorted. “I gotta share a bed with Earth Turd.”
“We won’t even be near each other,” he claimed a spot next to Star on the edge. “See? You’ll be next to Star.”
Skeptical, Pony Head narrowed her eyes but eventually tucked herself between Janna and Star. It was a tight fit with the four teens struggling to account for each other’s limbs and bodies. A few times, Marco was almost shoved out of bed, but he lasted until the girls settled down. Once Pony stopped complaining about space, everyone welcomed sleep to their weary bodies except for Star and Marco. They laid awake, holding each other close while watching the stars move across the sky. Something pricked their minds but neither wanted to speak until the other was ready. At last, Marco broke the silence, “What’s on your mind?”
Star thought about it for a moment, then whispered, “I thought I knew Eclipsa, especially after learning the truth during the trial. But there’s a lot I don’t know about her life and Globgor.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it today,” Marco answered. “But I think we should question more what she’s planning with Globgor.”
“Agreed, and I think I need to advise Eclipsa on how to rule the kingdom. I never thought I’d have to do my princess duties again, but Mewni needs me.”
“You mean it needs us,” he took her hand. “I’m in this with you as your squire.”
“And you’re an amazing one,” she smiled.
“Yes, you are, mister. You almost killed Pony Head in the alley.”
“I had to protect my girlfriend and our child,” Marco said sternly. It was his job as her squire and partner. His seriousness must have caught Star off guard for she sat up in bed and faced him.
“Are you still worried about what happened today?” She asked.
He nodded wearily, “I almost lost you.”
“But you didn’t,” she firmly replied. “The breakfast scared me too, but I’m Star Butterfly. It takes a lot to kill me and my daughter.”
I hope so, Marco admired her can-do spirit. If she had confidence that all was well, then he could too. Gathering her closer to him, Marco planted a kiss on her lips, “You know I worry because I love you.”
“And I tell you to relax because I love you,” she yawned, “Let’s get some sleep. We have a long day of butt-kicking tomorrow.”
“Yeah, we do,” Marco closed his eyes and let sleep calm his mind. He wasn’t going to fail her ever again.
Morning came swiftly, but Marco rose valiantly to greet it and the baby sleeping inside her mother. “Shhh,” he gently placed a hand over Star’s mouth, continuing to pepper her belly with kisses. It was risky conducting their ritual in close quarters with others, but he couldn’t resist the princess’s invitation. Why did she have to look so cute first thing in the morning?
Suddenly, the squire became aware of two shocked faces staring at him loving on Star’s belly, and he hastily separated, averting his gaze. “You know what, I don’t even wanna know,” Pony Head muttered.
“Now we can see why they’re having a baby,” Janna smirked. “Couldn’t keep their hands off each other.”
“Oh, quiet, Pony Head,” Star rolled her eyes. “Don’t pretend you’re innocent.”
“I didn’t get knocked up,” the other princess snorted.
“Can we not argue about this in front of other people?” Marco hissed, glancing to make sure the host family didn’t hear what was going on. Unfortunately, Shelly and Bengy were very much awake, snickering knowingly at the shenanigans on the other side of the room. Sighing, Marco got up and headed out of the shelter and into the rising sun, “Let’s go.”
After a quick breakfast, Sherry led the Marco and the group into town. The dirty faces of the Mewmans peered out of their shacks, sneering specifically at the princess and her squire. Many of them stopped their menial chores of cooking, cleaning, and rummaging through the trash to gawk at them, murmuring urgently to one another. Stop glaring at Star, he stared down an old man harshly. This was the Mewni he bitterly remembered from the quest. Whenever he, Star, and River found their way through the town, the disgruntled Mewmans heckled and cursed them for their misfortunes. Luckily, Sherry showed Marco that not everyone was despicable and cruel.
“Here we are,” Sherry pointed to a small shack along a dusty road. “I come here to get medicine when I need it but let me warn you of something. Apothecary Sherry is in league with some sinister folk. I’ve seen them coming in black cloaks with red fringe.”
“Don’t worry about us,” Star channeled magic to her hands. “We’re professionals. Now, let’s roll!”
She charged into battle with Marco and the others following behind her. Magic slammed into the walls of the shack and scattered the crowd on the street, trapping the woman in a wall of smoke. When she tried to bail inside the shop, Marco picked up a brick mid-stride and hurled it to scare Apothecary Sherry away from the door. You’re not getting out of this! He snarled in rage. Janna and Pony Head slipped past to block the woman’s escape route. Surrounded, Sherry cowered as the angry princess pinned her against the wall.
“I think you know who I am,” Star’s cheekmarks blazed white. “I am Princess Star Butterfly, and I’m here for answers, Sherry. I know you sold those berries to try to assassinate me and Eclipsa. Why’d you do it?”
“I…I didn’t do it,” she whimpered. “Not directly. Look, they came and told me if I helped them, good things would happen.”
“Who?” Marco raised an eyebrow.
“Them!” She cried as Star moved her fist closer to her face. “I swore not to tell, and you’ll never get the truth from me.” Shakily, she reached in her pocket and quickly popped a berry into her mouth.
Marco’s eyes grew wide, “Star! She’s got a yada yada berry!”
Swallowing, the Mewman laughed, “You and the Queen can yada yada my—” Her voice caught in her throat as stone consumed her body, and the mysteries held with her final breath. Shocked, Star stepped back and dropped the statue, shattering it into a million pieces.
Janna took a picture, “Well, I guess we stopped the supply at least.”
“I guess we did,” Star turned to her friends slowly. “That was weird.”
Marco nodded, “Yeah…but at least we know Apothecary Sherry and her very scary berries are gone.”
His joke made Star burst out laughing, but Janna and Pony Head narrowed their eyes, unamused.
“Never do puns again, Turd,” Pony huffed.
Meanwhile, hidden behind a spire on the old Butterfly castle, three figures in black robes watched the commotion through a telescope.
“Plan Yada Yada failed,” one commented bitterly.
The second turned to the companions, “It wouldn’t have if somebody didn’t try to poison the princess!” Glaring at the third membered, they went on, “Why the heck did you pull such a dumb stunt?”
“I had my reasons,” the third person defended. “Yes, Star wasn’t on your hit list, but she’s on mine.”
Smirking, the third person said, “Let’s just say she’s concealing a mighty secret…one we can use as an advantage.”
“What do you mean?”
The declaration made the others gasp, causing the deliverer of the news to grin wickedly, “You heard me. And that squire of hers is the father.”
“Hmm,” the second speaker considered the news. “We can use this to our advantage, so I’ll forgive you this time. Now, come, it’s on to phase two.”
Chapter 6: Scandalous
It was early in the morning when an urgent knock on the door summoned Marco out of bed. The sun had just emerged over the horizon, slanting orange rays onto his bed which created a pleasant warm spot on his chest. Yawning, he debated whether or not he should answer. Something told him a whacky adventure awaited on the other side—something he didn’t need after the yada yada incident a few days ago. Couldn’t he have a day where he stayed in bed and enjoyed the normalcy of life? But he knew better than to hope for that. This was Mewni, and “normal” and “Mewni” did not belong together in the same sentence. The knock echoed against the door again, and the boy pried himself out of bed to answer the call.
Opening it, he found the ransomgram monster holding a folded piece of paper in her tiny hands. Even though she bore a cheerful smile on her face, Marco broke out into a cold sweat. What was missing this time? He quickly glanced over his shoulder to make sure everything was in order. Star was still peacefully dozing in bed while bathed in the morning’s light. Check, Marco made a mental note. Unless something had changed, Nachos was where he saw her last night—in the stables with the royal warnicorns. Since they had knights guarding them, Marco didn’t worry about his dragoncycle’s whereabouts. Check. Brunzetta had El Choppo, so the Neverzonians had no reason to bother him anymore. Check. As for the laser puppies, his clothes, and furniture, nothing seemed out of the ordinary with them either. Check, check, and check.
With his world in order, Marco fearlessly engaged with the visitor, “Good morning, how’s it going?”
“Good morning to you too, Sir Diaz,” she tipped her hat kindly. “I have a message for you. It’s not a ransomgram this time—I’ve diversified my business.”
Phew, the boy exhaled, “I’m glad to get good news for once.”
“Here ya go,” she handed him the flyer. “Enjoy it with your wife, good sir.”
“My what?!” Marco’s face turned red. “Star’s not my wife.”
A sleepy yawn turned both of their heads, and they saw Star stretch in Marco’s bed. The ransomgram monster smirked, “Coulda fooled me.”
She skipped away, leaving Marco thoroughly embarrassed and concerned about the mail in his hands. His parents better not be sending him weird “couple’s gifts” again. If he ever received another box of tight lingerie and other things, Marco was going to change his mailing address. Again. Thankfully, the paper was only a flyer for a baby supply blow-out sale at Quest Buy. The interdimensional store promised to provide everything a growing family needed: clothing, furniture, child-sized weapons and more. Satisfaction guaranteed! Although Quest Buy didn’t bring back the fondest memories, the offer sounded enticing. Except for the part about weapons, he frowned at the idea of the baby holding a sword. I think we’ll pass on that for now.
Should Marco choose to accept the mission, he could have everything his daughter needed before she grew into the size of a lime at the eve of the second trimester. It would be a game-changer to not worry about buying things later on. But can I put myself through another blow-out sale? Marco recoiled at the flashbacks from his last visit to Quest Buy. He and Star weren’t on the best terms back then, and he remembered the other squires alienating him because they thought he wasn’t working as hard as they were. All he wanted was to be the best squire for Star, and now, Marco’s motivations shifted to becoming the best father to his child. In that case, the potential trauma of racing through the death-trap store seemed worth it.
“Whatcha looking at, Marco?” Suddenly, a pair of pale arms wrapped around him from behind, and Star’s morning breath tickled his neck, sending chills up his spine.
He leaned into her for a kiss, then replied, “Just a flyer for a baby supply blow-out sale at Quest Buy.”
“Aw!” Star squealed in delight. “How adorable! We could start getting things for the nursery.”
“Mhm…we could.” Marco had it all planned out in his head. They would go to the sale, survive the horrors of Quest Buy, and then stop by Britta’s Tacos for a celebratory lunch. Even though the boy preferred to have a quiet day, he didn’t mind having fun with his girlfriend, especially since their time of adventuring was waning. Soon, dimension-hopping would be too dangerous for her health, which was a shame because it was their thing. It brought them together as friends. Imagining life without adventuring with Star across the multiverse was like imagining the sky without the sun or moon. But he did look forward to taking their daughter with them questing one day, introducing her to the mysteries of the cosmos.
“Ugh, stupid royal luncheon—that’s today. I wish I could go to Quest Buy,” Star’s reply ruined Marco’s fantasy. Oh, right, the squire almost forgot about the royal meeting he and Star arranged to introduce Eclipsa to the other rulers of Mewni. It acted as the first step to improving the kingdom. Queens often sought counsel from the other monarchs.
Marco assured her with a gentle smile, “It’s alright. We can go shopping later.”
“You can still go.”
“I believe in you, Marco.”
“But I’m your squire. I should be by your side.”
“Yeah…but this is a royal thing.”
She hesitated for a moment, “It’s kinda complicated with them…”
What could be so complicated about a bunch of royals in a meeting? Marco found it odd that he never met any of the ruling houses aside from their children during the Monster Bash. If he didn’t know better, he’d sworn that Star was hiding him from them. He shoved the misgivings away when he saw Star struggle to zip up her princess dress. “I’ve got it,” he rushed to her side. It resisted mightily over her lower back.
“Whew,” she exhaled after Marco finished. “Getting a little tight. I might have to look into maternity clothes soon.”
He kissed her neck. “You’ll look so cute in baggy clothing. You can wear one of my hoodies in the meantime—they have more room.”
“Thanks, and I’m serious about you going to Quest Buy. If you don’t wanna go alone, then why don’t you take Janna?”
I can give you a million reasons, Marco furrowed his brow at the suggestion. The only thing worse than dealing with Quest Buy and its dangers alone was doing it with their creepy new neighbor. Knowing her, she’d buy traps and poisons to mess with him later.
“Yeah, why not?” Janna suddenly appeared out of nowhere, causing Marco to leap into Star’s arms.
“Will you stop doing that?!” He exclaimed. His poor heart couldn’t take another of her random appearances.
“When you and Star stop screaming into the night,” she replied dryly. “I wanna grab some headphones to block out your girly screams.”
“They aren’t girly,” he protested. Sometimes Star elicited strange noises out of him, but he preferred to think of them as his manly roar than girly moaning. My girlfriend doesn’t mind my performance, Marco narrowed his eyes.
Janna rolled her eyes, “Sure thing, princess.”
“Also, you can’t go on Star’s behalf because you’re not a squire. You have no authority.”
Really? Is that your best excuse? Star shot him a glance. The princess shook her head and placed a hand on Janna’s shoulder, “Please kneel.”
“You can’t be serious…?”
“I’m a princess,” she said. “I can have as many squires as I want.”
But being Star’s squire was his thing. It gave him purpose on Mewni and a place by her side. Otherwise, who was he besides a lame human boy? Even if a squire occupied the awkward position between servant and apprentice, Marco gladly accepted the role.
Sensing his disappointment, the princess gave him a quick kiss on the cheek to reassure him. “I’m not replacing you. You’ll always be my favorite personal squire.” In a low whisper, she added, “You fulfill duties no one else can.” It made him blush.
“Don’t get so butthurt, Diaz,” Janna said. “Honestly, shouldn’t you be a prince or something?”
Maybe? Marco wasn’t sure if Star could give him such a promotion.
Regardless, Star had Janna kneel before her, and she placed a hand on her shoulder as she recited the squire vows, “I hereby declare you, Janna Ordonia, to be my second royal squire. To stay by my side in times of peace or danger, as my loyal adviser. To accompany me on quests, to go where I command you, and most importantly, to be my friend and the best aunt to my daughter. As long as you shall live. Amen. Do you accept?”
“Yeah, sure,” the girl nodded.
“Rise, Sir Janna,” Star bade her. “Now, your first quest is to accompany my boyfriend, Sir Marco, on a mission to buy baby supplies from Quest Buy.”
“And headphones,” the newly dubbed Sir Janna added.
Star nodded, “And headphones. Now, go, ye valiant squires out. Go out into the world!”
My vows were better, Marco couldn’t help but gloat with a smug grin on his face, but he reached for his scissors and sliced a portal open to Quest Buy.
The two squires stepped into the chaotic world of consumerism and magical beings. Quest Buy always gave an overall vibe that fell somewhere between a big-box store and a medieval dungeon. Tall shelves formed a convoluted maze that various beings of all kinds wandered to find whatever they needed. Sometimes, shoppers got lost in the cavernous realm for years looking for obscure items. Sometimes, they never returned. “This place is pretty cool,” Janna eyed the vile of embalming fluid on a buy-one-get-one-free promotion.
“Attention, shoppers,” a sloth slowly intoned over the loudspeaker. “We have a special sale on baby supplies, torture devices, and edible explosives. Stock up while supplies last. Also, clean up on aisle Q. We’ve got a massive blood spill.”
Marco shuddered, feeling uneasiness rumble in his belly. Nevertheless, he had to soldier on for Star and the baby. They relied on him to provide, and he wasn’t going to leave until he had a cart piled high with provisions.
At the sound of the announcement, Janna smirked, “Yep, I was right about this place. It’s wickedly cool. Also, look at this—” she held up a box. “It’s a ‘Baby’s First Ouija Board.’ I’mma get it.”
“How about no,” Marco pushed it away. “My baby isn’t going to contact the dead.”
“It comes in handy, but whatevs,” she put it back. “I’m getting my niece something, whether you like it or not.”
“Just nothing too sharp, dangerous, or scary.”
They followed the signs plastered on the walls to another section of the store where the blow-out sale would take place. In front of the starting line, a bunch of new parents—mostly fathers—fiercely guarded their horse-shopping carts, sizing up their competition for vital resources. The tension was palpable in the air—parenting was serious business. “Sheesh, it’s shopping, not a battle,” Janna muttered, climbing on a horse. She patted the plastic steed, “It’s not black, but she’ll do.”
The other adults stared as if Janna and Marco had grown a second head and a fifth eye. This isn’t exactly what you think. Guessing what they were thinking, the boy flushed hotly under his hoodie in embarrassment. He almost forgot that his situation was most unusual most places in the multiverse. At least it can’t get any worse. But he should have known better. The worst can always happen at Quest Buy.
“Oh, look what the Mewni mountain cat dragged in!” A shrill voice grated in Marco’s ears like nails on a chalkboard. Throughout his young life, the squire had made many enemies, but none bothered him as much as Higgs. The redhead and her two henchmen still haunted his deepest nightmares, preying on his deepest insecurities about being Star’s squire. What if he wasn’t good enough? What if his job wasn’t real? Even though Star insisted that he didn’t need a title to impress her, Marco wanted to prove himself worthy of his place by her side. I’m ready to face you, he exhaled to dispel his fear. After all, who was Higgs other than a redheaded braggart who palled around with an old man and a baby-faced giant?
“What are you doing here?” Marco snorted. “You don’t strike me as the motherly type.” Or the type that can get a boyfriend, he added to himself.
She folded her arms, “Do I look like a teen mom to you? Sir Stabby’s wife is having a baby, so we’re on assignment to get him stuff. And where’s the princess? Did she dump you already?”
I’m not going to reply, Marco tuned out their laughter and focused on the task at hand. Let Higgs bully him all she wanted—she wasn’t his target. Be strong for the baby, Marco closed his eyes, turning the mantra over and over in his head. With each breath, tension dissipated from his shoulders, replaced with tranquility. He thought of Star and her bubbly laughter. Her arms pulling him into a loving embrace…
Then it happened. While he meditated in his happy place, the redheaded squire noticed Janna sitting in Marco’s cart and sneered, “Wow, not only is Nerd a lame dropout, but he’s a teen dad too. Lemme guess, the Earth girl’s your baby mama, isn’t she?”
Marco snapped. It happened so quickly, so effortlessly that the response was just about second nature. In an instant, the skin on his knuckles turned red then white as he gripped the cart’s handle hard enough to leave an indention of his fingers. Blood roared in the boy’s ears, drowning out the common sense begging him—pleading him—not to confess the truth poised on the tip of his tongue. But he did. “Janna’s not the mother of my child—Star is!”
The words echoed off the walls of Quest Buy, stopping everyone in their tracks. Shoppers dropped their bags, cashiers stopped ringing up products, and the fathers gasped in shock. Suddenly, Marco became aware of thousands of eyes drilling holes into his soul. As the last syllables of the confession dissolved into the air, the entire multiverse knew that Marco Diaz, the human squire of the princess of Mewni, got her pregnant.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Janna shook her head.
Marco popped his hands over his lips, which still tingled from the forbidden utterance. Oh no.
It took a moment for Higgs to recover from the revelation. “Wow…” she breathed. “I can’t believe you managed to ruin the princess’s life…”
“I didn’t ruin her life!” He countered sharply.
“You got the princess pregnant at fifteen! I can’t even…fathom how you let this happen.”
Marco stared at his shoes, fidgeting awkwardly as the rumors floated around among the stunned patrons. Was it an accident? Was it a one-night stand? Were they drunk when it happened? They swirled like a whirlwind in his ears, stealing the breath from his lungs he would have used to defend their relationship. Why couldn’t any of them believe that the baby was created out of the love shared between him and Star? Why must it be a clandestine, forbidden thing?
“I’m surprised you Renaissance hicks even know anything about sex education,” Janna casually glanced at Higgs.
“Doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I just wonder when the princess is gonna ditch Nerd-boy over here for someone better.”
“Isn’t she with Prince Lucitor?” Babyface asked.
“Oh yeah, him,” Higgs remembered. “Nerd’s got nothing on him. What’s he to a Butterfly princess?”
“Alright,” a sloth showed up with a broom, “Let’s break it up and get to shopping.” On cue, the shoppers rushed into the aisles in search of supplies. Wheels spun and rattled against the metal frame of the carts as the fathers swerved around each other to reach the shelves. Despite the fighting and thrill of racing, Marco hung back at the starting line, too dejected and humiliated to enter the fray. This is a mistake, his body trembled as he held back tears. Everything was a mistake: agreeing to come to the sale, blabbing his secret to Higgs, and his relationship with Star. He should just leave. Walk away from everything and go back to Earth where life made sense again. I don’t belong here.
Janna prodded him, “Aren’t we gonna get a bunch of stuff?”
“No,” he said bitterly. “Let’s just go home.”
“Why? You’re not really going to let a bunch of squires tear you down.”
“It’s not just them…” he sniffled. “It’s a lot of things.”
Sighing, Janna set her phone down and scooted over on the horse, “C’mon, let’s talk. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy, Diaz. I’m trying to help here.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Maybe cuz I’m your friend,” she uttered so quietly and quickly, Marco almost didn’t catch it. “Enough with the mushy stuff and get your butt over here.” Once he joined her, Janna asked, “Now, what’s on your mind?”
Marco fiddled with his fingers as he talked, “I don’t feel good enough to be Star’s partner. In fact, I have no idea why Star chose me…” He stared at his plain, non-magical hands in defeat. “Higgs is right—I’m a nobody.”
“You’re not a prince like Tom, but so what?” Janna shrugged. “If Star really wanted someone else, she would have left you a long time ago. Maybe boring and non-magical is what she wants.”
Gee thanks, Marco frowned at the thought of his girlfriend with another. “I’m trying to pay you a compliment here,” Janna said. “It doesn’t matter what you aren’t. You’re here for your family. That makes you cool in Star’s book. And mine too. Not a lot of guys stick around when they get their girlfriends knocked up.”
“C’ mon,” Janna slipped off the horse and began pushing the cart. “We’ve come all this way to buy shit for my niece, and we’re gonna finish the mission. Just to spite the other squires. Okay?”
“I’m thinking about buying her a flamethrower.”
“No, you aren’t,” Marco put his foot down, although he could see the innocent mischief in her dark eyes. She only wanted to cheer him up out of his funk. Who knew Janna had a human heart under her weirdness? Plus, she was right. The baby only cared that her father loved her. But is it enough for everyone else?
“Hey, head in the game,” Janna jostled the cart to get Marco’s attention. “We have squire duties to attend to.”
“Thanks, Sir Janna,” he smiled at their budding friendship and braced for the long battle ahead.
For the hundredth time that hour, Star lifted her eyes to the clock above the stone hearth in the dining room and watched the minute hand continue to march towards its zenith. When the royals started to trickle into the Monster Temple, the hour hand was two places lower on the clock face, and the appetizers were still piping hot from the kitchen. Now, they were either cold or gone, and the royals were only kept entertained by conversation and free-flowing wine from the kitchen, but Star knew the tentative peace would not last past the dawning of the second hour. How could Eclipsa be so late? She had reminded the queen several times in the upcoming days about the royal luncheon. It would be at ten o’clock and in the upper dining room, which contained a smartly decorated table and a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. The walls were even dressed up with colorful, abstract art and other small hanging statues. The idea behind an early lunch was to make sure the royals could return to their kingdoms promptly. And Eclipsa swore she would be on time. So much for a queen’s promise, Star rubbed her throbbing temples, trying to relax for the baby’s sake.
She took a sip of her nonalcoholic punch and ran her fingers through her updo. Regardless of if and when Eclipsa decided to show up, someone had to run the meeting and lead Mewni. That was non-negotiable, especially after seeing the state of the kingdom. If the queen failed to act soon, everything was going to fall apart. Even though the monsters were fine, the Mewmans were starving and restless. While some of them, like Sherry Apothecary’s family, would endure and remain loyal, but others would not. I guess it’s up to me, Star resigned herself to expanding her role.
But did she have the courage to actually lead by herself? In a normal timeline, Moon would have led for several or more years, giving Star time to be a teen and prepare for queenship. Also, she would have a prince to help her as a partner. Of course, the princess had Marco, but that was different. A squire hoped to become a knight one day—a protector of the realm subservient to the crown. There was no equality in such an arrangement. Back when Star made Marco her squire, she never meant it to be an official, lifelong post. Maybe it’s time to make him something more, she pondered how that would work since her boyfriend didn’t have a title. However, that would have to wait; it was time to govern the meeting.
Star cleared her throat, which caught everyone’s attention immediately. King Pigeon stopped cooing to King Johansen and King Pony Head. The Kelpbottoms stopped munching on the remaining finger sandwiches, and the Spiderbites sat attentively in their chairs. “Uh, good afternoon, monarchs of Mewni,” Star began, trying hard to sound polite yet strong. “I’m sorry for the delay. Queen Eclipsa is still not here yet, so I think we’re going to start without her.”
“What about the Lucitors?” asked Queen Spiderbite. “They haven’t arrived yet.”
“Oh,” Star realized the Underworld rulers were not in attendance. After how they treated her at the lake house, she wouldn’t mind never seeing them again, especially since they were likely scheming how to get their revenge. Lucitors were known for their long grudges. “I don’t see why we can’t go on without them,” Star tried to play it cool. “We are over time as is.”
“True,” the minor queen nodded. “In that case, I’ll go first. The Spiderbite kingdom is overwhelmed with homeless Mewman refugees. We’re trying to assimilate them into society, but many of them have a hard time with our new laws on equitable monster rights. Also, we have a new addition to our royal family. Please welcome Prince Slime, who is recently betrothed to our daughter, Princess Penelope.”
A round of applause serenaded the blushing young couple sitting next to the proud parents. Penelope was the oldest of the next generation of royals at eighteen, so it made sense for her to consider marriage. I need to ask her about Slime’s promotion, Star wanted to know how conferring a title to a commoner worked.
“With the prince’s coronation,” the queen went on, “We are actively righting the wrongs of the past. Finally, the monsters have an advocate in the royal house.”
“How inspiring,” Star grinned knowing peace was indeed possible with the right approach. “I extend my congratulations to Penelope and Slime and hope they have a great future together.”
“And what of you, fair princess?” King Spiderbite asked. “How are you doing since the disappearance of your mother?”
Before she could respond, a fiery column announced the arrival of King and Queen Lucitor, who were fashionably late as usual. Even though the other royals greeted them, neither of them spoke in return as they settled into the farthest chairs at the table, directly across from Star. Ignore them, the princess exhaled sharply to cage her riled emotions. She refused to make herself vulnerable to them. Queen Wrathmelior took a sip of her drink and then murmured something to her husband. “My darling is right,” Dave translated on her behalf. “Where is the queen? I thought we finally had an audience with her.”
C’mon, find a way to stall, Star urgently summoned Archibald with a panicked look and whispered into his ear to find Eclipsa and something to keep the royals entertained. “I’ll see what I can do about both, Your Highness,” he dipped his head and flew off.
The butler sent a small dance troupe to stall for time, comprised of monster children in garish teal and blue tunics. They wore golden bells on their necks and limbs, which jingled pleasantly with each movement—no matter how subtle. They also wore fanning hats on their head, majestic and proud like the peacocks Star saw on Earth at a zoo once. Intrigued, the royals sat up in their seats as the dances formed a semi-circle in front of the hearth. The oldest of them spoke, “Good afternoon distinguished guests. On behalf of our new queen, we perform our sacred dance.”
Right on cue, nasally reed instruments wailed in the air, set in rhythm by booming drums and the tinny bells on the dancers’ bodies. Their movements were slow and graceful, full of reverence as if acting out worship to a higher power. Ooh, Star’s eyebrows raised in awe. It was almost hypnotic, creating a trance over all who watched. The illusion was promptly shattered by another dancer leaping from behind them with a ball of blue flame attached on a rope. Suddenly, the dance became violent and frantic, the drums hastening like a racing heart inside of a nervous chest, and the bells thrilling as the dancers spun. Despite the smiles on their faces, the fire and music set everyone, including Star, on edge. The Spiderbites especially recoiled in fear. After several torturous minutes, the dancers stopped in unison, shouted a triumphant war cry, and bowed low to one of the pieces of art on the wall—the one of Globgor breathing fire and demons onto a black canvas. Oh dear, Star’s eyes widened in fear.
It took a few moments for anyone to speak, and King Spiderbite placed a hand on his frightened wife, “I think we’ve seen enough here between the art and dancing. Eclipsa is still allied with the Prince of Darkness!”
“His name is Globgor,” Eclipsa said, turning everyone’s head to the entrance where she stood. “And of course, I’m still allied with him. I love him.”
“But do you love everything he did?” the king stared. “You can’t pretend those war crimes didn’t happen?”
“What war crimes?” Star sent Eclipsa a glance. All she knew about the queen’s monster lover was that he fathered Meteora after they ran away together. There had been no mentions about war crimes in the quasi-romantic tales of rebelling against the status quo. Star was then reminded of her talks with Bengy, which mentioned the Septarians being involved in Globgor’s schemes.
Queen Spiderbite folded her arms, “Looks like we have another Butterfly queen keeping harmful secrets. Why don’t you tell the kind people here the truth?”
“About what?” Eclipsa frowned. “He was just trying to defend his family from your evil ancestor, Shastacan!”
“I’ll admit my many-times-great grand uncle was a horrid man and deserved to be eaten for giving Meteora away. But did Globgor need to destroy the Spiderbite kingdom with his armies, killing millions of innocent peasants in retaliation? What did they do to him?”
“Colonize the forests that belonged to monsters.”
“You didn’t answer the question, Eclipsa, what did the women and children and elderly do to deserve death?”
The queens glowered at each other, creating tension strong enough to choke the others in the room. Meanwhile, Star could scarcely look at Eclipsa. Why didn’t she tell her? She was supposed to be the cool mentor, whom she could trust with her deepest secrets and frustrations about life on Mewni. Like a grandmother—supportive and warm and kind. And I gave her the throne and the wand, the realization only further sickened Star. This was a terrible mistake that could not be undone. Unless Eclipsa abdicated, the kingdoms were stuck with her and her descendants forever.
After the shock died down, Queen Kelpbottom spoke, “Well, isn’t it lovely that we find out all of this a few months before the coronation? Are there any other secrets we need to know about the Butterfly family?”
“Royal secrets, one last to tell,” Dave sang mockingly after being unusually quiet during the whole luncheon. The words of the Song Day ballad sharpened into knives, poised at the guilty princess across the table from him.
“Don’t do this here,” Star warned.
All eyes flickered between the two royals, emboldening Dave to reveal the answer. A sinister smile drew across his face. He had had Star cornered. He had her right where he wanted—in front of the royal houses of Mewni, the very people she needed on her side. “You know our fair princess is literally carrying a major secret right under our noses,” he said.
“What do you—oh…” Queen Spiderbite’s eyes grew wide once she connected the dots, and she covered her mouth. Her husband and the other royals gasped too, their mouths hanging on the hinges of their jaws. Penelope dropped her phone in Slime’s arm, mid-text. “Oh, King Dave, you can’t possibly be serious…” the queen’s words were muffled by her hand.
At first, no one knew how to take the news. Star was the youngest princess to be with child in the history of all the kingdoms. Even her grandmother, Comet, was seventeen when she had Moon. The royals sent glances across the room, keeping them away from Star and focusing on Dave and Wrathmelior instead. “Uh…may I say congratulations on the grandchild, Dave,” King Pony Head’s words came out more like a question as if wondering if he should be happy for his comrade.
“I wish,” the king chuckled wistfully. “I wish I could lay claim to such a fortuitous accident.”
“What do you mean?” King Pony Head raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, why are you being so cryptic, Dave?” asked Queen Spiderbite. “I mean, isn’t your son dating the princess?”
“Who is the boy in the earthly attire?” Dave began to sing.
Star protested, “Don’t you dare use my song against me—”
“—The prince of the princess’s deepest desires,” he continued. “I don’t need to show it, I think we all know it, but just to be certain, I’ll say it again.”
“—Star Butterfly is pregnant with her best friend. And his name is Marco Diaz.”
The royals reacted with silence, now turning to Star with imploring eyes. Tell us this isn’t true, they said with their stiffened bodies. She tried to open her mouth to speak, but the air had been sucked out of the room, moved by the oppressive atmosphere. She wanted to run. She easily could spring into her Butterfly form and be out of the castle in the twinkle of an eye, but Star knew she had to face the music. There was no more fleeing—no more sidestepping around the truth anymore. Like a warrior during a last stand, she had to battle the enemy. Royal secrets put her family into this mess—covering up the dirty work of the old queens in the name of good appearance. That would end here. Come what may, Star felt her fear vanish, pushed away by the magic searing her blood. There was nothing Dave or any of the royals could say that would diminish the love she felt for the father of her child.
“It’s true,” she said. “My squire, Marco Diaz, is the father. Not Tom.”
Deadening silence hung in the air, draining the color out of the royals’ faces. Only the Lucitors remained unphased, both king and queen gloating through the smugness dancing in their eyes. “She admits it,” Dave pointed. “The princess of Mewni, daughter of Moon Butterfly, fornicated with a common boy and got pregnant.”
“Stop it, Dave,” Eclipsa came to her defense. “It’s about time we stopped ridiculing people for who they love.”
“Says the Monster Lover,” he sneered. “Maybe that’s where the princess got her ludicrous tastes in mates from. Breeding with commoners, how disgusting.”
Star grew hot from the continual insults, “I’m a commoner too! Eclipsa and Meteora are the last true Butterflys. My mother’s line descends from a random Pie Folk girl.”
Surprisingly, the revelation of her real lineage did not move the other royals. “I mean who expects to have a singular dynastic line reign forever?” said King Kelpbottom.
“Doesn’t matter,” the Lucitor shrugged. “I only care about the here-and-now. You need to put the kingdom first and stay with my son. He can provide for you and Mewni with a strong alliance.”
“I agree too,” chimed in King Kelpbottom. “A Butterfly-Lucitor alliance would be amazing.”
Many of the other royals threw in their support, and Star found herself in a similar situation to the lake house. The desperation of the Lucitors made her sick to the stomach, and the baby protested similarly. There was only one thing to do, and Star found the courage to ball her hands into fists and get up out of her seat. “I will never hurt Marco and my child by abandoning him for any reason,” she said firmly. “I don’t care what you think of me.”
“If you walk away, I’ll tell all of Mewni!” Dave threatened as she turned to leave.
Star lifted her chin, “Then do it. This meeting is adjourned.” She walked away.
This day was a disaster, Star could still hear the royals argue even from upstairs near her tower. The fight between her and Dave was far from over and had actually gotten worse. Since she knew he’d keep his word about spreading the news, Star expected the whole dimension to know within a few hours. The ramifications would be enormous, resulting in more pressure for her to accept Tom’s offer. I bet he’d try proposing to me at this rate, she sighed, reaching the door of her room—her sanctuary. Right now, she just wanted to lay down and forget the day happened.
When she opened the door, she was greeted to a pile of furniture and clothing for the baby: a crib, dresser, changing table, onesies, diapers, bottles. Everything. And in bed, her valiant squire slept, presumably exhausted from the blow-out sale. In an instant, stress melted away, replaced by warmth that made Star’s body tingle and face hurt from smiling. No matter what the others said, Marco was perfect. On the dresser, a gilded dagger glinted on top of a black gift box with a note attached. I got my niece a dagger, it read. Safe Kid told me that you should keep it until she’s older. Whatever. By the way, the groove in the middle can store poison. P.S. The shopping trip took a lot out of Marco. Be easy on him or something.
I wish the world would be easy on us, Star sighed and slipped into bed beside him, letting Marco’s scent and warmth and heartbeat cancel out the hurt of the day.
Chapter 7: Curse of the Blood Moon I
Sorry for the hiatus on this! I was so busy with school and life and my other works that I had to shelve this for a while. That said, I was without Wi-Fi for a week, so I couldn't access drafts to my other stories. Since I wanted to write something, I dusted off Royal Secrets. I promise not to let that much time get between updates again. Enjoy "Curse of the Blood Moon Part 1!"
“We might have a problem.”
A shadowy figure emerged into the moonlit hollow deep in the Forest of Certain Death. Two others had already congregated there, and they swiveled their cloaked faces towards the newcomer, eyes glinting with cold familiarity.
“Well, spit it out,” said one of them—the leader. “Haven’t got all night.”
“Star and Marco are affected by the curse,” the first said.
“Curse? What curse?”
“The curse. I’ve noticed how they’ve been acting lately.”
The leader scoffed, “I don’t believe in that ol’ mumbo-jumbo.”
“It’s true though—”
“—Horseradish! I asked for dirt on them two, not childish rumors.”
“Actually, it isn’t mumbo-jumbo,” the third member spoke up, causing the other two to stop bickering. “My family knows the curse well. If what you say is true, then Star and Marco can potentially ruin everything.”
Tense silence fell upon the group like an executioner’s blade, disturbed only by the ominous hoot of a distant owl. The leader paced around, considering the possible ramifications for a moment, and came up with a conclusion. What if their companion was right? There was a lot they didn’t know about magic—that knowledge was reserved for the queens—so maybe they should treat this matter with caution. Just in case.
“So, what do we do?” the leader turned to the others. “I personally think we should dispose of them the hard way.”
The third speaker shook their head, “Not necessary. The curse can be broken.”
“No need to get hasty. I’ve personally looked into it. It should be done in a few days’ time.”
“It better,” the leader growled. “Can’t have anything get in our way.”
“And nothing will. I’m just as invested in this as you are, trust me.”
The leader rocked back on their heels and nodded, “Good. Meeting adjourned for now, but we need to keep an eye on those two. Y’all better be right about this.”
They went their separate ways into the cold night, and above them, the moon turned to blood.
Star sighed again and slumped further into her chair, scraping her back on the cold wood. The continuing tick-tock of the cuckoo clock in the alcove made her restless. He should’ve been here by now. He promised an hour ago. A bored yawn parted her lips, followed closely by a sigh that cooled her nerves. She should be more appreciative of Marco. After all, he insisted on treating her after such a difficult week dealing with the royals, her princess duties, and the baby. Most baby-daddies—the Earth term was hilarious—didn’t put much effort into their families. We’re lucky you have such a good Daddy, Star smiled and ran a hand along her gurgling stomach. The contact produced a subtle blue glow on her fingers. They were going to be such an amazing family one day, and that day was coming soon. Midnight marked the start of the second trimester, and from then on, the pregnancy would become more involved, which was why Marco wanted to make tonight perfect.
From the far end of the hall, an orange glow grew brighter on the stone walls.
“What took ya so long?” Star complained in a whisper. “I’ve been waiting forever!” She didn’t mean for her words to sound so harsh, but her hormones got to her.
“Sorry,” Marco whispered as he set the candelabra on the round table along with a couple of bowls. “I went the long way because I hate walking past Globgor at night. Gives me night terrors.”
Oh, Marco, she smirked. “So whaddya bring me?”
“Why don’t we just take a little peek?” He grabbed his hoodie and swiftly pulled it up to reveal a box of Captain Blanche’s Sugar Seeds pressed close to his body. The box expanded once freed.
“Why are you so good to me?” she swooned over their favorite cereal.
“Special edition too,” he proudly proclaimed. “With extra marshmallows.”
“Shh,” she playfully put a finger to his lips. “You’ll wake the baby.”
He gave her a quick kiss, “You two make me so happy.”
The clock struck midnight, giving the couple the perfect cover to rip the box open and pour their breakfast into their bowls without disturbing anyone sleeping in the castle. The Secret Tunnel was the perfect place for a late-night rendezvous. It was even decorated with string lights and a table for two.
By the time the final toll dissipated in the air, the teens had their cereal bowls full of sugary food and milk. They smiled and tapped their wooden spoons together. “Cheers,” they said and dug in.
Star didn’t mean to wolf down her food, but her body needed every morsel. Milk dribbled out of the corners of her mouth and down her chin. It was kinda gross, but there was no need to act proper. She and Marco knew each other with a familiarity that almost rivaled old married couples. I’m not the only one who’s hungry, she snorted as Marco also inhaled his cereal. To finish their meal, they slurped down the sugary milk and set the bowls back on the table.
“Done,” they said together.
Something blue caught Star’s eye, and she noticed a marshmallow remaining in Marco’s bowl. “You gonna eat that?” she asked.
“Nah, I’m stuffed,” he patted his belly in reply.
“I don’t want him to get all lonely,” Star murmured. Since she didn’t want to eat it either, she spat up a marshmallow and placed it in the bowl.
Marco wrinkled his nose, “Ew…but I’ll admit that was kinda adorable.”
“In fact, everything about you is adorable,” he leaned forward and grabbed her hands. Their eyes met, and Marco poured out his heart to her. “Star, I love you so much. I know the past few months have been intense with your mom and the baby and dealing with Eclipsa, but I don’t want to be with anyone else. You’re my soulmate forever.”
Her cheeks turned pink, and tears formed in her eyes as she gushed, “Aww, Marco. I love you too. I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together with the baby.”
They leaned in for a kiss, but Star heard footsteps in the distance. At first, she thought it was Eclipsa, but the smell of burnt toast told her otherwise. Trouble was coming again. Marco immediately sprang from his seat when Tom appeared. The demon prince leaned against the wall to catch his breath. “Hey, Starship, good evening,” he said cordially.
“Tom!” Star gasped out of both fear and anger. “I told you we’re over!”
Before he could answer, Marco jumped between them, his cheekmarks glowing in rage. “Back away from my girlfriend and my baby!” he snarled. “I heard about what you did to her. I heard everything! You’re lucky I don’t rip you apart right here!”
Tom shrunk away, “Look, man, it wasn’t a good day…”
“‘Wasn’t a good day?’ Is that all you can say to me?” Marco yelled, and it echoed in the tunnel. “You’re supposed to be my friend!”
“I could say the same of you,” the demon lifted his chin. “But we can have that conversation later. I’m here to tell Star some bad news.”
“What bad news?” Star and Marco said together and exchanged a glance.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re cursed,” Tom said after a sigh.
“What do you mean?” asked Star.
“Remember the Blood Moon Ball?” Tom began.
“What about it?”
“The Blood Moon bound you and Marco’s souls together and made you fall in love. I didn’t recognize the signs until a few days ago, but what you feel isn’t real.”
The words—if Tom said anything after that—didn’t register in her ears. What did he mean her feelings weren’t real because of the Blood Moon Ball? She hardly remembered that stupid night aside from Marco sneaking a dance with her. There was no way what she felt was anything less than a thousand percent real. Plus, how would Tom know, unless…?
“You were trying to use the Blood Moon Ball to bind our souls together, didn’t you,” her words were an accusation, not a question.
Tom gulped and rubbed the back of his neck, “That’s not the point.”
“Answer me, Thomas,” she got up. “Did you try to force us together?”
He didn’t answer for a moment but then said, “Maybe... Look, I’m just concerned for you, Starship. I really am. You’re pregnant, and you and Marco don’t really love each other. Imagine trying to raise a family like this?”
His words gave her pause. She was an unwed teen mom, and her courage to face the pregnancy came from Marco’s support. Without it, she had no one. Her parents were gone, Eclipsa was busy trying to be queen, her friends had lives. Without Marco, who would help her? It can’t be true, the world spun around her. It can’t be…She closed her eyes to prevent the dizziness from overtaking her. In the darkness, she thought. She thought about their first kiss in the photo booth, when they got together, finding out about the baby, their adventures…None of what she experienced could’ve been faked in a million years! Let the Blood Moon be damned! Her feelings for Marco were just as real as the ground beneath her feet. Why should she let Tom—her desperate, conniving ex—convince her otherwise?
“I think what you’re saying is bullshit!” she took a brave step forward. “I know I love Marco, and there is no such thing as the Blood Moon curse!”
“Just hear me out before I leave,” Tom’s eyes grew dim as he spoke. “There is something strange going on between you guys. You sometimes speak in unison, you almost know each other’s thoughts, and look at Marco’s cheeks. Humans don’t have cheekmarks.”
“I mean, there’s a chance your love isn’t real, so why not try and break the curse? If it isn’t real, you’ve lost nothing.”
“Out, Thomas! You’re not welcomed here!” She pointed harshly to the exit. Her romantic meal was ruined, and she wanted this nonsense to be over.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Tom turned away, his blood-red eyes glowing like the moon. “Like I said, just think about it. Call me when you’ve made your choice.”
“I can’t believe him!” Star stormed into her room and buried her head in her pillow so she could scream. He always did this! He always found a way to weasel into her life no matter how many doors and windows she closed. It was like he didn’t understand what no meant. In fact, she knew he didn’t. He never respected her space or boundaries, which was why the lake house incident happened the way it did. If he really loves me, then why doesn’t he leave me alone! The only curse in Star’s life was him. Forget the Blood Moon! “I can’t believe this idiot is still trying to win me back!” she sighed. “The nerve of him to sneak into my home and ruin my date!”
She expected a reaction from Marco. He was supposed to agree with her sentiments and comfort her with a foot rub and kisses. Instead, he simply stared at her as if she’d grown a third eye on her back. You better not believe my manipulative ex-boyfriend, she scowled at Marco.
“But what if he’s right?” Marco wondered.
“No, no, a thousand times no!” Star groaned. “This is his schtick. He comes back with some stupid bullshit, and I fall for it every time. He did that with the Blood Moon Ball and with club snubbing at the Silver Bell Ball—”
“It’s a long story, and I don’t wanna get into it right now,” she grumbled. “Anyways, don’t let him get to you.”
“It’s hard not to,” Marco sighed, letting his thick eyebrows rise to the top of his head with worry. “So much weird stuff happens on Mewni...”
“Weird stuff—not cursed stuff!”
“Don’t get mad at me, Star! I’m just trying to understand what’s going on!”
“I’m not trying to get mad, Marco!” She was hurt and pregnant and tired. “I just want us to forget Tom ever existed and go back to being our loving selves!”
“But what if we don’t love each other?” Marco’s voice raised in anguish. Star wanted to argue, but the tears in his eyes stole the words she wanted to say.
Don’t get so upset, she reached out to hug him, but he pulled away. “Marco…” she recoiled in hurt.
“It’s just…I need a moment,” he turned to sit on the bed. After collecting his thoughts, he asked, “What do you remember about the Blood Moon Ball?”
She joined him, “Aside from Tom, I remember the light turning red and our dance.”
“And what did you feel during the dance?”
She thought about it for a long time. Honestly, she didn’t have a straight answer. When the Blood Moon fell on them, she felt a million things at once. She was mad that Marco crashed her “date” but was also relieved he did so. She was amazed by his dancing and the shadows moving around them. And she was happy—full of a rapturous joy she only experienced when they spent the night together in the Butterfly castle. Thinking about the two of them twirling around a room of watchful demons as the Blood Moon proclaimed that they were something more than super-awesome-monster-fighting best friends gave her chills.
“To answer your question,” her lips trembled as she began. “I dunno how to describe it, but I never felt the same way around you before.” Although, maybe I did? Being around Marco always made her feel good.
“Is that when you fell in love with me?” he asked.
“I…really can’t say.” She took Marco’s hand, “Look, I don’t care about the Blood Moon or curses. But I do care about you.” He pulled away, and Star sighed, biting her lip to keep the hopelessness gnawing in her heart at bay. “I see nothing I say is reaching you,” she got up and headed to the door. “I’m getting a second opinion on this.”
Star headed down the hall to Janna’s room for advice. If the Blood Moon involved a creepy curse, her friend would know about it too. Before she even knocked on the door, Janna opened it. “I heard your lovers’ spat,” she yawned. “Can you guys learn to have existential crises during normal business hours?”
“Sorry,” Star muttered. “I just need your expertise on the weird and supernatural.”
Instantly, Janna perked up, “Say no more. I got everything you need. What’s up?”
“We’re here to learn more about the Blood Moon Ball,” Marco said as he joined them. “More specifically about the Blood Moon curse.”
“There is no curse, Diaz!” Star spat. “Stop being so dramatic.”
“I wouldn’t be so dramatic if I knew we weren’t forced to love each other!”
“For the last time—”
“Will you two knock it off!” Janna yelled to make them stop. “I miss you two screaming each other’s names, geez. Now, get your asses in this room, and let me find a few books.”
Star refused to look at Marco, and she brushed past him in a hurry. Stupid worrywart! She stomped inside her friend’s large room. Janna took over the ancient library, and her bed sat in a forest of towering bookshelves filled with scrolls, books, and old instruments. A mural of the Mewnian zodiac was painted on the ceiling above them, and the jewels mimicked the stars outside. The feuding couple sat on opposite ends of Janna’s bed while she scoured for reference material. She heaped them in her arms and placed them on the floor.
“Now,” she flopped between them and picked up the top book. “The Blood Moon is an old-timey demon ritual extending back before Mewni was founded.”
“Oh,” Star and Marco’s eyes grew wide. “What does it do?”
Janna stared at them for a moment.
“We’re doing that thing, aren’t we? Ugh, this is a bad time, so stop!”
“Let’s keep going,” Janna silenced them. “To answer your question, no one knows what it does. It’s a mystery lost to time. However, the Blood Moon curse can be broken.”
“How? We need to know.” Marco demanded.
“Easy there, lover boy,” hissed Janna as she flipped through the book. “I was just getting to that part. Breaking the curse isn’t an easy thing to do because…hey, the page is missing.”
“No! It can’t be!” Marco panicked and yanked the book from her only to confirm the answer was indeed lost. His cheekmarks blazed in despair. “I didn’t want this!” he cried. “I wanted to fall in love and have a family…now, it’s all ruined.”
“Stop speaking like that!” Star grabbed his wrist. “Don’t you love me?”
Marco slowly dropped his gaze, “I—I don’t know what I feel anymore.”
Star sniffled and let go of him, and Janna patted her shoulder. Her dream world had devolved into a nightmare. Marco had never hurt her like this before—not even when he dated Jackie. His eyes softened at her pain, and he sighed.
“This is why you should break the curse.” Tom—the destroyer of all nice things—stepped out of the shadows, uninvited. This time, Marco didn’t defend Star; he simply stalked to a corner of the room to calm down. Thanks for being concerned about your child! The princess bristled. Tom continued, “If you break the curse, you can find out your true feelings.”
“Or breaking the curse will fuck up something,” Janna countered. “Magic—especially powerful magic—requires an equivocal exchange. You gain something; you lose something. What if Star and Marco get hurt?”
Everyone fell quiet under the weight of her words. The magic of the Blood Moon was something deeper than even queen magic. Something deeper than Mewni itself... Its effects on Star and Marco must have deep significance. I think we should be more careful with this, she grew worried—a first for her. Usually, she was the one to rush into things.
Tom broke the silence with a glib answer, “Breaking it won’t hurt them. I know someone who broke the curse and lived.”
“I doubt this person is even alive,” Star said. “You told me the Blood Moon Ball happens once every 667 years.”
“667 is nothing to a demon,” said Tom.
“You’re not talking about your weird great-grandpa Relicor from the lake house.”
Great, more Lucitors, Star folded her arms and groaned. Just when she thought she could finally be free of them for a while.
Tom snapped open a portal to the Underworld, “C’mon, I promise he won’t hold a grudge about our last date.”
“You mean breakup,” she corrected him harshly. “And for the record, we need to deal with the fact that you tried to make me fall in love with you at the Blood Moon Ball.”
“Oh, gee, look at the time! We better get a move on!” Tom shoved her into the portal along with Janna and Marco. They landed in the grand Lucitor library, right next to a suit of armor and a red velvet couch.
Janna marveled at the gothic décor, “I wouldn’t mind living in a place like this.” She picked up a young dragon skull resting on a nearby shelf and slid it over her head. The sight of her disguise made Tom laugh gently.
“I’m glad someone likes the macabre theme,” he smiled. “Not every outsider takes to it so nicely.”
“Are you kidding? This shit’s rad. Oooh, look at that picture!” she pointed to a portrait above the couch of Relicor and a mysterious woman. Her face was torn by crisscrossing claw marks. How odd, Star studied the gashes. It struck her that they were made in an act of desperation—as if whoever saw her face wanted to drive the pain of remembrance away.
“We don’t have time to study art, Janna,” Marco snapped.
“Take a chill-pill, Diaz,” she narrowed her eyes. “The world isn’t ending.”
“It is for me,” he sat in a chair. “I just want this curse gone forever. I don’t care how we get rid of it.”
Suddenly, Relicor popped out of nowhere and landed on Marco, causing him to roll to the ground. Get off my man! Star unleashed a Rainbow Fist Punch to bat the Lucitor away. She prepared for another blast, but Tom put a hand on her arm. “No need to be hostile,” he said.
“Well, tell your grandpa to leave my Marco alone!” she hissed. Her heart swelled as she noticed Marco flash her a small smile.
After shaking off the attack, Relicor studied Star and Marco with his slit pupils and started to screech.
“What did he say?” the princess asked Tom.
The prince’s third eye twitched, but he cleared his throat so he could translate, “He knows why we’re here and said he can take us to the Severing Stone in the Heart of the Underworld.”
“Severing Stone?” Star and Marco shared a glance.
“Oooh, I know about it,” Janna practically squealed. “It’s a powerful stone that can sever any kind of bond imaginable: physical, psychological, spiritual…et cetera.”
Relicor nodded and screeched again.
“Yes, they’re sure,” Tom answered what appeared to be a question. “They have to break the Blood Moon curse because it forced them to fall in love.”
Relicor snorted and crawled to a bookshelf on the far side of the room. He removed a book, and the wall opened to reveal a secret passageway. Star and the others stared into the darkness ahead of them.
“Let’s get to it,” Tom remained undeterred, and he ventured into the unknown with Janna eagerly following him. Relicor locked eyes with Star for a second and waddled after them.
As Marco turned to follow, Star grabbed his wrist. I don’t wanna do this, her eyes pleaded to him. Several thoughts came to her as she thought over breaking the curse. What if doing so destroyed their relationship? They were moving too quickly on very little information. Neither Relicor nor Janna supported Tom’s assumption that the Blood Moon forced their feelings, and Star knew from experience the prince of hasty solutions.
“We have to do this,” Marco shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket. “I don’t want to force you to love me.”
“I don’t either.”
“Then you’ll go through with this?”
Only because I love you, and I want you to be happy, she wanted to say, but instead nodded, “Sure.”
Marco disappeared behind his friends, and Star lingered for a moment more, feeling dread growing in her belly. The baby similarly expressed her misgivings too through blue magic materializing on her mother’s hand. I know, sweetie, but Mommy and Daddy will be okay, Star promised. Red light rested on her shoulders from a strange moon rising outside. It almost pleaded for her to reconsider. “But I have to,” she whispered. “For Marco.”
Be careful, the Blood Moon watched the princess merge with the darkness ahead, powerless to undo the hands of fate.
Chapter 8: Curse of the Blood Moon II
I had to step away from this story because of work/ school, but it's back and with more updates to "The Sign of the Moon" coming soon.
What am I doing here? Marco winced when an ember hit his cheek. A bubble of fresh magma had burst just inches away from his sneakers, raining red-hot shards of cooling glass onto the narrow pathway that separated him from the fiery death below. The Underworld was by far the worst dimension in existence. Everything threatened to kill him. Souls from green rivers hissed when he waded through them. Skeletal beasts glared from shadows blacker than the darkest nights. Even the subterranean caldera he walked beside gurgled and spat oozing magma, breaking the crust resting above. While Marco always hated the Underworld, he felt like the dimension harbored a deeper grudge against him specifically.
“Everything alright, Twinkle-Toes?” Janna called to him from the far side of the caldera, her voice echoing in the cave.
“I’m fine,” he replied. “I’ll catch up.”
She shrugged and disappeared into another tunnel with Tom and Relicor behind her. The two demons bickered about something in a series of low growls and screeches. They had been fighting on and off since they left the Lucitor castle many, many miles ago, and it formed a rumbling backdrop to the quest. I better not lag behind too much, Marco decided to pick up the pace, but he froze at the sight of doleful, blue eyes watching him.
What are we doing here? Star’s question served as a sort of challenge too.
I—I dunno, he answered both her question and the one he asked himself earlier.
The whole night had rushed by in a whirl of frantic emotions and confusing events. Once upon a time—only several hours ago at most—Marco was the happiest boy on Mewni. He indulged in a bowl of Sugar Seeds with his beautiful girlfriend to celebrate the start of her second trimester. While he insisted that Star stick to her pregnancy diet—much to her dismay—it felt right to mark the transition with something fun. He saw forever in her dazzling eyes and felt it in her warm smile. Her laughter reminded him of the amazing adventures to come with the birth of their child. For a moment—as fleeting as a thought and as long as eternity—he believed in the fantasy that he lived in a perfect world.
However, it all changed when Tom interrupted with a devastating revelation. Everything was a lie. The Blood Moon forced Star and Marco’s feelings with creepy demon magic. In mere moments, the fabric of the universe unraveled into red strings that coiled around Marco’s heart, squeezing it to a standstill. How could his feelings for Star be anything but true and consensual? She was his light, his home, his everything. He survived so many crazy things to be with her, and the suggestion that he acted on anything but pure intentions gutted him. And what about the baby…? He thought about the precious life she carried inside of her.
Star’s sudden cry snapped him out of his thoughts, and he spied a pair of eyes forming in the swirling magma. The cave shuddered as a fire-giant rose out of the caldera and yawned. Strings of molten drool flung about when it shook its horned head. Tom, Janna, and Relicor reappeared, gasping at the sight of the creature looming over Marco. His terrified face reflected in its glowing, blood-red eyes and on its obsidian fangs that crookedly protruded from white gums.
“Oh, shit! A Surturian!” Janna gasped and whipped out her cellphone for a picture.
Marco remembered the name from one of her creepy books on demons. Surturians were ancient giants who spent most of their lives sleeping in pools of lava. Usually, they left mortals alone, preferring only to fight each other over coveted territory, but this one growled when it spotted Marco trembling.
“Run, you fool!” Janna’s shout spurred him into action, and Marco sprinted towards the safety of the group.
The Surturian bellowed and flung magma at him, destroying a section of path right in front of him. Panicked, Marco wheeled around to head back only to be cut off there too. I’m going to die! He pressed himself against the wall and faced his doom. If the heat didn’t finish him off first, then the fangs would certainly tear him apart. What am I doing here?! The question replayed in his mind. Why had he put himself in harm’s way? He should be at home on Earth with his human friends and family. He should be in school like every other teenager his age—not on a quest into the unknown to prove his love for his girlfriend and child!
The Surturian closed in, but it flinched when a rock smacked its horn. Janna had an armful of coals and hurled another one to get its attention. “Over here, sulfur-brains!” she taunted. “Come and get me!”
The giant trudged its way towards Janna, giving Marco enough time to plan his escape. There was a seven-foot span between him and the others. Either he jumped for it or chose to wait for death to return. I gotta make this, he swallowed, knowing that one wrong step would be the end. I can do this! I can do this!
“Star!” Marco heard Janna shout.
His heart stopped when saw the Surturian swing its arms at the princess while Janna tried desperately to pelt it with more rocks. Star repelled it with a few blasts, but she was perilously close to the edge of the path. If she fell, then Marco would the two people he loved more than anything.
“Get away from her!” A surge of courage replaced the fear in his body, and Marco cleared the gap without a second thought.
His cheeks burned as red crescent moons glowed against his skin. He pried a boulder off the ground and tossed it at the Surturian’s head, breaking off a horn with a sharp crack. It screamed in pain, lashing out blindly with its tail. The tip slashed Marco across the chest and bowled him over. Magical energy left his body at once, and he hissed in pain. Now, he was going to die…the Surturian’s wrath was squarely on him.
Star wedged herself between the demon and Marco with purple magic blazing around her fists. “Stay away from the father of my child!” she yelled. “Winterstorm Hyperblow!”
Ice formed on the Surturian’s body, causing it to sizzle as the fire went out. She attacked again and again while Marco watched. Her raw determination never ceased to amaze him. Star poured her soul into every fight and looked pretty hot taking on such a huge enemy. But he also hated knowing that she felt obligated to defend him. She deserved a partner who could stand on equal footing with her as a warrior and royal. Marco was none of those things.
When the demon sent a blast her way, Marco stopped moping and tackled Star out of the way, rolling to shield her belly from the ground. For a moment, their eyes found each other, and uncertainty prickled between them. Thanks? She blinked at him.
“You’re welcome,” he murmured softly.
The fire and doom of the Underworld melted into the ruins of the Butterfly castle. The night brimmed with a million stars, and it was just him and Star alone under the splendor of the heavens. They were so close that they became one—a tangle of limbs and a mess of passionate confessions. Nothing compared to the softness of her skin brushing against his or the feeling of her lips pressed to his. Neither of them could get enough of each other, and the hunger that quickened within them still sent warming electricity down Marco’s spine. He had never loved anyone so deeply and completely before...
“Marco…?” Star frowned at him.
“Hey, lovebirds, a little help?” Janna’s shriek shattered the moment.
Marco got up and helped Star to her feet. Their eyes still lingered on each other. What if it was real…? He felt a heat rising in his blood.
Maybe it was, her eyes spoke to his soul.
Suddenly, Tom sprang into action and summoned chains out of the magma with a growl. The Surturian hissed as the spell dragged it back into the caldera, ending the battle in mere seconds.
“Thanks for finally stepping in,” Janna folded her arms.
“Yeah, I was wondering when the Prince of the Underworld was going to show up,” Star huffed.
“Well, I helped, didn’t I?” Tom remarked. “Besides, it’s Marco’s fault for dragging behind. That probably caught its attention.”
He rolled his eyes, “Thanks for the support, Lucitor.”
“We need to keep moving,” Tom inserted himself between Marco and Star. “It’s not safe to camp here. We need to think about Starship and the baby.”
“As if I don’t know that,” Marco glared. If anyone was an expert on pregnancies and Star, it was him. “I agree we should go a little further to find a place to rest for the night, but not too far. We’re tired.”
The boys glowered at each other until Tom snorted and dropped his gaze. “C’mon, Star,” he herded her with a shove of his shoulders. “I’m here to keep you safe.”
“Get over yourself, Tom!” she spat and hurried off ahead of the group, tearing past Relicor.
She’s my girlfriend, not yours! Marco kicked a pebbled into the magma out of spite, although he knew that he forfeited the right hours ago when he agreed to the quest. He had no idea if she felt anything for him—Blood Moon or not. The truth lay somewhere hidden in the heart of the hellish kingdom, but was he brave enough to face it? Could he really break the curse and potentially give Star away to someone else? To Tom? Guess we’ll find out, he turned towards the yawning darkness and followed his friends.
They traveled for a few miles out into a charred meadow surrounded by a forest of black trees. By then, night had fallen, revealing a stunning display of beauty from the orange, glowing outlines of volcanoes and the twinkling of the fake, crystal stars embedded in the roof of the Underworld. After a quick meal of tasteless pasta, the group settled down to rest. The campfire kept the prowling beasts at bay and made the hollow warm. Surprisingly, the Underworld got very cold at night.
“There,” Tom smiled when he finished setting up a tent. “Our shelter for the night.”
Star frowned, “That’s got to be the smallest tent in the world, Tom.”
“Oh, I know,” he sidled up to her, nudging her towards the tent. “I’ll make sure you stay nice and warm…I even brought a sleeping bag to share.”
Marco nearly bent his spoon in half as he watched, and Janna grew concerned.
Unamused, Star zapped the shelter with magic, making it big enough to accommodate the entire group. “There,” she smirked. “Now, we can all stay warm. I threw in a few extra sleeping bags, so no one has to share.”
She flicked her hair at the crestfallen demon and went inside with Janna to prevent Tom from following too closely. He tried to set his sleeping bag next to hers, but Star got up and squeezed herself between Janna and the corner. If things were different, Marco would have been the one protecting her from the prince’s advantages, but he stayed close to the entrance to keep watch and to wallow alone. He lay awake even after everyone else fell asleep. There was too much space in the sleeping bag without Star next to him. He missed her constant rolling and cute snores. The hours wore on, and Marco snuck out of the tent to get some air after sleep continued to elude him.
The stars twinkled coldly as he sat by the dying fire, which he stoked to rekindle into a gentle blaze. He still had no idea why he was in the middle of the Underworld.
He turned to see Janna emerge from the tent. She yawned and drew her beanie over her ears to keep them warm. “Don’t worry about Tom. Nothin’ freaky’s gonna happen with Relicor in there. What a creep.” She laughed softly and sat beside Marco on a wide tree stump. “Since we’re out of danger and stuff, are you sure you wanna go through with this?”
Marco snapped a twig and tossed it into the fire, disturbing the embers, “I dunno. I’m still confused about Star and Tom and this Blood Moon thing.”
“Then why rush off on this quest?” she asked seriously—completely devoid of the usual sarcasm in her voice. For the first time ever, Janna expressed concern so genuine that it gave Marco pause. If she thought the quest to break the Blood Moon curse was a bad idea, then he truly messed up.
He sighed, “How would you feel if someone told you the life you always wished for was a lie? That every perfect moment wasn’t real? The past few months have been this awesome fairytale, and I can’t go on if it isn’t something Star and I entered freely. I don’t want her to love me because she has no choice. If it’s true that our love is forced…then, I really blew it by getting her pregnant. I know the statistics about teen parents. I couldn’t live with knowing that I ruined her future.”
Janna nodded and mulled over his words for a minute. “First, Marco, we aren’t normal kids. Those stupid factoids don’t apply to a magical princess in a weirdo, fantasy world of demons, monsters, and flying horseheads. All of us have been through more than practically any adult on Earth. Second, you really think you and Star don’t love each other? Man, Jackie’s right—you are denser than a fruitcake in a black hole—”
“What? You and Star looked ready to bang during the middle of the battle. I doubt a moon can forge feelings like that. Plus, remember what I said about equivocal exchange earlier? Maybe you should wait and see what the Blood Moon is really about.”
“There’s obviously something going on. I’ve got these cheekmarks, and I know the Blood Moon has meddled in my life before…back when I was with Jackie. We were kissing when I saw it and thought of Star. I guess it wasn’t a bad thing since she was in danger, but…I don’t know anymore.” Was the moon interfering because he was destined to fall for his best friend or because he had no choice?
“I guess it depends on how you see it.”
“Do you think we should call off the quest and go home?” Marco gazed directly into Janna’s eyes. The fire crackled as they stared at each other in silence. “I’m asking for your direct opinion as a friend.”
“That’s up to you,” she replied solemnly. “I can’t tell you how to live your life, and you have an out at any time. Don’t let demon boy convince you otherwise—Fate is never set in stone.”
She yawned again, “Well, I’m all out of advice. Think about it, but don’t stay up too late. We have a long day ahead of us.”
Marco waited for her to disappear back in the tent and for the silence of the night to descend again. “I don’t know what to do,” he whispered as red light fell on his shoulders. “I don’t know what’s real anymore…”
He sat among the stars and pondered the questions burning in his mind—questions only the Blood Moon could answer.
Star awoke the next day feeling both deeply annoyed and deeply nauseous. Usually, the two were tied together. Even after three months of the morning purge, she hated the sensation of last night’s dinner traveling up her throat because of instinctual paranoia about the poisons lurking in her food. Thankfully, the worst of the morning sickness was behind her as the pregnancy progressed into the second trimester. From now on, she had to gain weight and take in the nutrients the baby needed to properly develop. Star tried to keep that in mind while gagging at the sight of food. It would all be worth it in the end, which was something she couldn’t say about the quest.
Her current frustrations stemmed from her boyfriend’s decision to drag her on a stupid quest because of her ex-boyfriend’s stupid story about the Blood Moon. Marco was supposed to be the logical one between the two of them. He paid attention in class, read books, and stopped to think about things where Star normally charged headfirst into danger. But no. That Marco was replaced by stubborn, unthinking Marco, who thought that a trip through the most dangerous dimension in Mewni with his pregnant girlfriend was a great idea.
Fuck him! Star grumbled and cocooned deeper into her sleeping bag, shielding her tired eyes from the light streaming into the tent. In the new darkness, she felt warm and safe as she listened to Janna’s snoring and the sound of heck birds screeching outside. Now, I know how the baby feels, she yawned. If only she had the luxury of riding around in the comfort of a warm womb, blissfully unaware of the teen shenanigans that threatened to tear her family apart. If only Star were home again in bed with Marco, holding him and covering his face with tender kisses. Kisses that often led to a different kind of cuddling…
“Starship?” The outside world invaded her fantasy as Tom poked her side. “Psst! Are you in there?”
She wriggled her head into the light and saw his eager face only inches away from hers. “Morning, Star,” he smiled.
“Fuck off, Tom,” she snarled.
“Oh, that’s no way to greet your boyfriend, is it now?” he tried to brush off her jeer by smiling harder.
“You’re not my boyfriend!”
“Well, maybe not officially, but I am a friend and a boy.”
“You aren’t even my friend,” she said harshly. “Ugh, just go away and let me sleep!”
This time, he flinched at her tone and pouted, “Geez, I just wanted to spend some alone time with you this morning…”
“Not with me around,” Marco cleared his throat and glared. His brown eyes spoke a clear message: Mine. Star hadn’t seen him act so invested in her since the quest started. She was his girl and thinking about the fact made her blush.
Tom lifted his chin in challenge. Janna and Relicor woke up and watched the boys’ silent standoff. Eventually, the prince ceded and threw his hands up in the air. “I didn’t mean it like that, Marco,” he muttered. “Anyways, I’m going to get breakfast started. I bet Starship is hungry.”
He made sure to stay out of arm’s reach of Marco as he slipped through the tent flap. The atmosphere settled, but Star sensed something was different in her partner. The confused, docile Marco who let Tom walk all over him was gone, but she knew not to get her hopes up. He still wanted to find the Severing Stone and know the secret of the Blood Moon. Whatever you say, she rolled her eyes.
They broke camp and hurried through breakfast, mostly to avoid another blowup between Marco and Tom. Afterwards, everyone filed behind Relicor, and he led them out of the forest and into darker territory where the residual light from the Overworld—the demon name for the land of Mewni—could not penetrate. The path sloped down into another cavern, and the growing shadows consumed the travelers in despairing darkness that rivaled a starless midnight. They were approaching the Heart of the Underworld—a place so mysterious that even the denizens of the Underworld spoke about it only in hushed whispers. A place most Lucitors even feared to tread. Dark energy radiated off of the stones, tubes of lava, and eyed-trees that watched the group pass, disturbing Star’s soul.
It’s okay, little one, she rubbed her belly. She noticed Marco watching her. They were alone—Relicor, Janna, and Tom had vanished around a narrow bend. “I have a bad feeling about this, Marco,” she said.
“Me too,” his voice echoed. “I don’t know what awaits us down here, but it’s important.”
“Marco…do you love me?” Star asked. Her heart raced in anticipation as he took a moment to think about it.
“There you are!” Tom rounded the corner towards them. “Janna was joking that you two had stopped to makeout, which is absurd since your feelings aren’t real.”
Marco dropped his gaze ruefully while Star considered snapping off a stalagmite and sticking the sharp end up Tom’s ass. The further into the Underworld they went, the more she utterly despised him. This was his fault more than anyone else’s. Tom wasn’t clear about his feelings after the battle against Meteora and refused to let go once he found out the truth. Why did he always have to weasel back into her life again? Why did he cling to her so hard when there was a multiverse of other girls out there?
Tom took her hand and began pulling her into the tunnel. “Here, you can lean on me if you’re tired, Starship,” he insisted.
I’d rather lean on the Stump, she waited until the tunnel widened again and moved away.
“You can be nicer to me, y’ know,” Tom frowned. “But I get it: the Blood Moon and those pesky pregnancy hormones are clouding your mind.”
“When will you get it through your thick-ass, pointy head that I don’t love you!” she yelled. “I never did, and I never will! This isn’t pregnant, moon-possessed Star speaking. This is me telling you the truth! You keep insisting that Marco and I are the blind ones when it’s really you!”
The smile melted off of his face, and anger flashed in his eyes. For a second, Star feared for her life. She was in a tight spot with her controlling, demon ex-boyfriend who had a temper shorter than one of those Planck-lengths Marco told her about. Do your worse! She bared her teeth and summoned magic to her fists, illuminating the entire tunnel. If it took a Rainbow Fist Punch to make him wake up, then so be it.
“Star!” Marco barged in. “What’s going on?”
Before either she or Tom could strike, they heard Janna shout from somewhere below them. “This is it! Creepy Grandpa and I found the Severing Stone!”
The news returned the stiff smile to Tom’s face in an instant. “That’s great news, Janna,” he said. “We’re coming!” He moved Star in front of him and corralled her the rest of the way.
With each step, her reluctance grew, but she had a date with destiny and some hard truths, whether she liked it or not. The bottom of the cavern opened into a simple room with a raised platform in the middle. There, sat the Severing Stone above a plaque bearing a glowing inscription written in demon runes. The stone emitted a light blue glow that softened the harsh, jaggy rocks in the chamber. Star could practically taste the familiar bitterness of intense magic that shrouded it. Such ancient, powerful magic that could break a bond as mysterious as the Blood Moon.
“Imagine the chaos we can cause with this thing,” Janna schemed. “We can destroy worlds, nations, marriages…maybe even split some atoms and recreate the multiverse in our own image!”
“Are you always this intense?” Tom wondered.
“Being the ruler of a dark dimension is on my bucket list,” she said.
While they joked, Star stood at the base of the Severing Stone and stared into its glowing heart. “This is it,” she whispered.
“I know,” Marco appeared beside her and took her hand. “Look, Star, I just wanna say—”
Suddenly, the Severing Stone turned red, focusing a beam of light on them. “What’s it doing?” the teens stared at each other.
Relicor cleared his throat and started screeching. The stone replied by changing colors in a wordless language only the old demon seemed to know. The others looked on until Relicor whimpered and scurried to Tom. He wept bitterly, and the prince translated his pained sobs.
“Long time ago,” he began, “Relicor and his wife—my great-grandma—were chosen by the Blood Moon to be soulmates, but they grew apart over the years. So, one day, they came to the Severing Stone to break their bond, but it came with a price. They had to sacrifice the memory of the moment they fell in love. Of course, the Severing Stone broke the curse, but my great-grandma became so depressed over losing the memory of their love that she died. Relicor has been alone ever since.”
Relicor wailed louder, and Tom translated, “He asked the stone if he could get the memory back, but it’s gone forever. The effects of the severing are permanent—which is totally what we want.”
Janna sent a worried glance to Marco, but Star was too busy thinking about the story to care. Why would anyone want to do this? What if the same fate happened to her or Marco? We have to stop, she signaled him with her eyes. I’m not risking our lives for this.
Me neither, Marco nodded. “Tom,” he said sternly, “I’ve been thinking and—”
A rough shove forced Star and Marco onto the platform, and white light filled the room.
When vision returned to Star, she found herself standing in the middle of a large gathering inside an ancient temple. Haunting organ music lilted in the air, creating an atmosphere that was both romantic and foreboding. Torchlight flickered against towering sandstone walls and cast stark shadows on the monsters and demons crowded around cheap, plastic tables below. Nobody noticed the princess standing in their midst. They were too busy complaining about how Prince Lucitor turned a very important demon ritual into a boring dance for teenagers. They aren’t wrong, Star silently agreed. In hindsight, the Blood Moon Ball was just another of Tom’s schemes to get her back.
Yet there was something about the fateful night that intrigued her, and it had something to do with the red, crystal moon glinting in the ceiling. Its ruby sheen—deeper than a pool of fresh blood—whispered wordless destinies in her soul. Star couldn’t take her eyes off it for a second.
“Come,” a raspy voice said. “Let it be revealed.”
Let what be revealed? She wondered. The Severing Stone had transported her into her memory of the Blood Moon Ball, so she knew everything that was about to happen. Tom would wander off to berate the organist’s taste of music, leaving a chance for Marco to dance with her for about thirty seconds. There was no mystery to the ritual. However, Star noticed two major deviations from the original Blood Moon Ball: Tom was missing, and her pregnant belly swelled under her red dress. Maybe the creepy voice was right—something was going to be revealed this time.
A demon priest tapped the microphone on the podium to gather everyone’s attention. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” he greeted them cordially. “It is my pleasure that I request you now to turn your heads skyward. When the light of the Blood Moon drobbles down and selects two lucky souls, binding together for eternity in its hypnotic, ruby brodum, it forms a bond that transcends all understanding and all knowledge.”
Star didn’t remember the priest talking this long last time, so she paid close attention.
“Normally, the Blood Moon Ball happens only once every 667 years,” the priest went on. “But the ritual was not completed, so Fate has allowed the dance to happen again. To finish the work just started.”
The hand in the ceiling descended, and the attendees gathered around the marble dancefloor and waited with rapt attention. This is a little intense, Star’s skin prickled from the energy and music building towards an inevitable crescendo. The uncanny déjà vu set her on edge.
“Marco?” She gasped when his hand took her. The room turned red.
They stared at each other until the urge to dance took over, pulling them into a familiar waltz across the dancefloor. Marco wore the same black suit and skull mask from the last Blood Moon Ball, yet somehow, he was even more handsome after a year of maturation. She felt his strong muscles rippling under his jacket and blushed.
“You don’t really think that, do you?” he said.
“Of course, I do,” she giggled. “You’ve always caught my eye, even though you had corn chips stuck on your tie last time.”
“Aw, man,” he scowled under his mask. “I tried to be neat.”
“Let me guess, you were comforting-eating because I went to the Blood Moon Ball without you?”
“Oh, c’mon, Marco, I won’t judge.”
“Fine, I was. I even ate them without cheese because I was too busy sulking to get any.”
“That’s so adorable, boo,” Star snorted from laughter. Even he joined in once he realized how silly his petty jealousy had been.
Marco looked up, “You know, this is the part where Tom shoved me out of the way.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him,” Star said. “You heard the priest—this is our dance now.”
“You’re right. Hold on, my princess.”
Marco pulled her in tighter, flashing her a daring smile that took her breath away. He lifted her, rocked her back, and twirled her again but quicker. All the while, Star grinned out of giddiness. Who knew her shy, dorky boyfriend had such a daring side when it came to dancing? She swooned when he kissed her neck and let his hands slip lower on her hips. Then again, she’d seen this side of him before but only in bed.
“I gotta show off for my amazing girlfriend,” he said with a wink.
The music slowed to an intimate waltz tempo, giving Star and Marco a chance to catch their breath. As they swayed and their adrenaline tempered into a simmer, the happiness faded between them, replaced by a cautious pensiveness that made each retreat into their thoughts. Star fidgeted as a painful truth manifested in her soul. No matter what awesome revelation the Blood Moon had in store for them, the Severing Stone was going to tear everything apart: her love for Marco, the Blood Moon bond, and the memory of the dance. The knowledge overwhelmed her senses, blurring the room into a whirl of frenzied colors.
“Star, are you okay?” Marco asked.
“Marco, I’m really scared,” her voice shook as she confessed. “I—I don’t want my destiny controlled by some creepy curse but—” she gripped his hand tighter. “—I like this.”
Marco took off his mask and sighed, “Yeah, so do I…. I think Tom is wrong. I was too panicked to see it at first, but it wasn’t the Blood Moon. It was us. Honestly, I’ve always liked you since we first met.”
His cheeks turned red as he went on, “What I’ve felt for you has been there since the start and has only grown more intense the longer we’ve been together. I’m not a little kid—I know you don’t just fall in love at first sight. But I did.”
“And I did too,” Star said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I want you to know the truth.”
They shared a passionate kiss, and the cryptic, zodiac symbols on the dancefloor glowed with dazzling white light. Star and Marco pulled away and were astonished at the sight of their cheekmarks blazing with crimson light. They danced again, becoming one in body, mind, and soul as magic swirled all over the temple. Enraptured demons watched the consummation of the Blood Moon—the true ending of the dance—unfold in such glory that it put the sun, moon, and stars to shame. But to Star and Marco, the true splendor lay in the ecstasy of their love. Before, they knew only in part as if looking into a dim mirror, but now they understood clearly. Now, they knew the true depths and heights of their feelings in such a way words could never describe.
But a sudden fear gripped Star’s heart when the music started to slow towards its conclusion. “Marco,” she cried. “I don’t want to forget this.”
He held her close, wetting her shoulder with his tears, “I don’t either. Star…I’m so sorry I dragged you through all of this.”
“Hey,” she kissed his cheek. “At least we got to finish the dance.”
Their cheekmarks grew hot, and the light from the crystal above blazed like an inferno, burning in fury…
A loud crack caused Star’s eyes to open, and the dreamlike trance dissolved into reality. An empty, dark cavern spread below her with Janna, Relicor, and Tom staring in awe. What just happened? She clutched her throbbing head, trying hard to remember why on Mewni she was standing on a glowing platform with a stupid rock. The memories returned slowly, retelling the story of a foolish quest spurred by rumors of a curse and Tom’s clinginess. But there has to be more... her mind struggled with what happened after they arrived in the Heart of the Underworld.
“Star?” Marco called to her. “Are you alright?”
Marco! She instantly remembered when she saw the red moons pulsing on his cheeks. They went to another Blood Moon Ball inside the Severing Stone and finished the dance. She remembered everything! “Marco, we did it!” She embraced him tightly.
“I’m so proud of us,” he choked back tears. “Star, I meant what I said. I’m so sorry for endangering our love. I hope you aren’t mad and—”
“Don’t ruin the moment,” she shushed him with a swift peck.
Janna rushed towards the couple and studied them intently. “I—I don’t understand,” she said. “You were gone for like a second, and I thought the Severing Stone broke the curse.”
A screech from Relicor alerted the teens to a huge crack cleaving the Severing Stone in two. Somehow, Star knew understood what happened. Their magic, formed anew by completing the Blood Moon dance, destroyed the Severing Stone to preserve their soul-bond. Nothing could separate them now.
“No!” Tom wailed and desperately tried to piece the broken stone back together with his demon magic. “It was supposed to work! It was supposed to bring her back to me! This was my last chance!”
The remains of the Severing Stone turned to dust, and the prince’s eyes turned white with anger. An uncaged snarl rattled his body, and he ground his teeth in agony.
“Oh, fuck…” Janna pointed as Tom transformed before their eyes into a creature like a dragon: gnarled, ghastly, and cruel. He scratched his black nails against the stone in a grating hiss.
“We’re getting outta here!” Marco opened a portal and tugged Star and Janna through just as blue-hot flames incinerated the cavern, consuming rocks and all.
“She was supposed to be mine!” Tom’s cries shook the Underworld with terrible wrath, crumbling mountains and caves into rubble. “What else do I have to live for!”
Star, Marco, and Janna stared at the destruction from the safety of the Monster Temple until the portal evaporated into nothing. Although Star still wanted to kick his butt, Tom brought his true torment on himself. He’d have to live with his failure forever, which was punishment enough.
“So,” Janna leaned against the wall of Star and Marco’s room. “We went through all of that to reach the world’s most obvious conclusion: that you two are going to be madly in love forever. I told ya, Diaz! I fucking knew it! Janna for the win, motherfuckers!”
“You don’t need to rub it in…” Marco muttered.
“Yeah, I do! Geez, Marco, way to be denser than a neutron star.”
Don’t worry about it, Star snuggled into his shoulder. Being able to dance with you was worth it.
Thanks, Star, he took her hand. Wait, how are we doing this?
Doing what? We’ve been kinda reading each other’s minds for months.
“Oh, Marco,” Star sighed.
“Welcome back from the honeymoon, eternal lovebirds,” Glossaryck appeared out of thin air. “I’ve seen many Blood Moon Balls, but yours was the most dramatic.”
“Uh…thanks?” Star and Marco replied together. “Wait? How’d you know?”
“I’ll answer you one at a time,” Glossaryck replied. “I’ve always hated the mental thing that happens to soul-bonded pairs. Anyways, I asked Relicor to put in a favor. No need to have my plans ruined.”
Star frowned, “What plans?”
“They’re confidential,” he shrugged. “But let’s just say Mewni won’t be the same after them. I’m surprised that you two believed Tom. The Blood Moon bond isn’t a curse in the slightest—well, to the couple. Your mushiness gives diabetes to everyone else.”
“Hey!” The couple protested, but they all shared a laugh after the momentous day they had in the Underworld. Above them, the moon turned red, weaving a future not even Fate herself could imagine.