So what is this story. Well it's set in SVTFOE but it borrows elements from a lot of other works. Dresden Files, Prey 2017,
Star and Moon return to the castle before fleeing to the shrine but River stays behind and the castle faces siege from Ludo and River is captured.
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"We must remember that Satan has his miracles, too." - John Calvin
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I ascended the steps of the Memoratorium with my hand clasped tight. The looming eye in the hall approached me unblinkingly and uncomprehendingly. I unclenched my hand and held up the photo of Star to the eye, then I turned to glance at the monitors.
This place was where all of the universe had its history recorded. It could be viewed at will by those who knew where to find it and what to look for. It was undeniably the most useful feature of the Plains of Time. Though, perhaps also the most dangerous.
But right now? I was just here to see Star. I made myself as comfortable as I could when I watched. Star was born and growing up fast before my eyes.
"Back again? Mr. Díaz?" A voice in the hall made me jump into my martial stance. I went for a weapon I didn't have, borrowing muscle memory from a body I no longer possessed, and instinct left over from fifteen years of adventure.
I took the speaker in as they walked into the Memoratorium. He was taller with a wider build but seemed about the same age as me. His eyes were all violet and his hair was a pitch coal color. He wore a buttoned up purple shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of jeans so he looked normal enough, to a degree.
"Relax Mr. Díaz, I'm the last person who will judge you for spying on Princess Butterfly." The other boy continued, his eyes literally glinting at me in mirth.
When I said his eyes were all violet I meant all violet. Scalera, pupil and all.
I pointed at him, between me and my exit. "And who are you, exactly?" I looked around at the monitors playing Star's early childhood. "Were you here to use the Memoratorium?" That had never happened before. Marco had assumed that he wasn't one of the only ones who knew about this place, but the knowledge that others could use its power made the hall of screens a little more disgusting in his eyes.
"No. I was here to see you."
Me? Just who was he? And how did he knew where I was?
"You were spying on me," I accused, feeling a little vitriol.
"I was," The boy admitted easily, stepping towards me across the long hall. Star had already turned five in the monitors around us. "You see I have a proposition for you."
"Well excuse me but I don't want to hear it. I just want to-"
"Spy on Star and go back home?" The boy smirked. He walked, indian style with one foot in front of the other, closer to me. "You don't want to help Star?"
I took a step back. What was this? Some kind of game?
"You know, you spying on Star is a little like you nodding to Jackie for years. Never pushing forward. Always trapped." The boy was standing right in front of me.
"How long have you been watching me." I looked the other over closer and didn't see any weapons but I'd spent enough time around magic to be wary. Toffee hadn't carried any weapons either, afterall. I pointed from the mysterious stranger over to the monitors. "Using them? Why would you do that?"
"I know I said I wouldn't judge you for invading Star's privacy but you're really throwing stones from a glass house here." He said with some condescension. "Besides, I like to know about my future business partners."
"I'm not doing any sort of 'business' with you." I said drawing out the word 'business' moving my fingers in a circle to emphasize the word.
"Not even to save Star?" The boy gestured around the room.
"You haven't even told me your name." I protested easily, not even bothering to touch on what a fucking creep he was being.
"Well, where are my manners." He looked like he had made a joke of some kind. "I'm Attar."
"So… Attar…" I searched my brain for a plan and came up with zilch. "What does Star need saving from?" I asked slowly, trying to buy time to think. "Her mother whisked her away to their castle and she's been safe there ever since." True to my word the monitors were reaching recent events and were now on Star locked in her room in the Mewni castle.
"Come now, Marco. Can I call you Marco?"
"No." I said with some heat.
"Marco," he emphasized, "what if Toffee wasn't a threat to Mewni anymore? What if Star could come back to Earth? You could go back to adventuring and playing your little games with each other." The boy was almost beginning to lecture. "You could both go back to being oblivious. Come on Marco. You're a smart boy. What if you could keep Star safe."
"I do keep Star safe!" I returned passionately. How dare he? She was my best friend.
"You do? Do you still have that score sheet of who saved who how many times?"
Alright so this guy had done his research. No sweat. Marco Diaz was totally calm. Totally in control.
"Attar." Attar corrected.
"Look Attar, how do you know I even want to save Star. Maybe I don't care."
Attar gave him a look. "I already said you were a smart boy, don't insult me in return." Attar reached behind himself; I tensed and drew my scissors by my side. I could always stab the guy. Or run. Running was a good plan.
But Attar didn't draw a weapon. Instead it was a set of cards. The cards were larger than your everyday playing set and I was pretty sure there wasn't fifty two of them in the stack. Like, there was way more than fifty two.
Attar shuffled them in a bridge and held the deck out to me. "Draw one, any one, from anywhere."
"Is this some kind of trick?" What? This stalker hunts me down and wants to play cards? That was really… not that odd for my life to be honest. Living with Star made things more than a little weird.
"These are magic cards, do you have Tarot cards on Earth? These are like those except these are magical. Go ahead, draw one."
I drew one and flipped it over.
"What is it?" Attar asked.
"A burning tower." I answered, confused. "So I'm going to jump from a burning tower? Like these two?" True enough there was a burning tower struck by lightning during a storm with two people jumping from the structure as it crumbled. At the top of the card was a roman numeral; XVI.
"Ugh." Attar gave me a suffering look. "The Tower isn't a place. It's an event. It's sudden upheaval. It's eureka. It's a shift in perspective. Its an abrupt strike or the moment of clarity that sends the tower that is your life tumbling down," Attar explained slightly exasperatedly. "I think we both know what that is."
No I was just reading into it. It was so general that it could fit anyone at nearly any point in their lives. Couldn't it?
"So what?" I pressed. "My best friend left me at the drop of a hat. That doesn't mean this card has anything to do with that."
"Draw another card." Attar commanded gently.
Something in his tone compelled me and I drew.
The card was upside down after I turned it over, the numeral at the bottom and not at the top. I made to flip it around to see it-
"-Don't turn it right-side-up!" Attar demanded. Startled, I hastily reversed the card to it's upside down position.
Even from this angle I could sort of make it out. It depicted a beastly figure wearing a pentagram. It had rams horns and a monstrous face and sat on a throne above two people who stood at its feet. They were chained by their necks to the beast.
"The Devil," Attar informed him.
"I'm guessing it's not actually the Devil," I tried to capture the pattern here.
"No, it's not." Attar shook his head. "No one anywhere is free. We're all enslaved to something. Friends, family, power, money, laws, liberty...Normally it represents self bondage but upside down it means breaking free. Being empowered. It has some sexual connotations we're going to ignore for right now." Attar gave him a look. "You don't seem old enough for that."
I tried not to blush at that.
"Continuing on, however." Attar cocked his head to the side appearing honestly curious in his entirety but remaining somehow smug at the same time. I was pretty sure that I hated him. "Do you feel weak and tied down, Marco? Look at their chains."
I did. Their chains were loose. Loose enough to slip over their heads at least. They could be free if they so choose but they didn't. They willfully and knowingly opted for what they were doing.
I nodded numbly, I could hear what kind of tune was being played. "I'm… imprisoning myself?" I looked up from the card. "I can be free?"
Free from what? Free from the pain I felt since Star left me?
"You don't have a plan but you're not happy." Attar sounded serious for the first time, everything else seemed arrogant, mocking, and smug. I gritted my teeth, feeling thunderstruck by Attar's words. "You know what you want, to a degree, and you're not doing anything about it. You could go anywhere in the universe with those scissors yet you keep coming back here. Why? You could visit her in a heartbeat. Why not? You're tormenting yourself, Marco. The bars are in your heart. Never forget that." Attar held out the deck. "One last time."
I drew. Feeling something like understanding. I was trapped after Toffee upended my life. I was… letting myself be imprisoned, be tortured, in a way. An emotional way. I could see that now. I could go visit her. I wanted to see her again. Even if she… well.
Even with what I learned the night she left I still wanted my friend.
"Are these cards really magical?" I asked as he reached forward. "Or am I reading into them? What they represent is very… general. It could apply to anyone, right?" Call it playing it safe but I wasn't completely onboard with trusting this stalker.
"Maybe." Attar shrugged. "But have you learned anything, Marco? Have they shown you something about yourself you didn't know?"
"Is that what they do? With a spell or something?"
Attar grinned at my question. "Knowledge is its own sort of magic, isn't it?"
I… certainly was more… certain... about where I am after this than he had been before. I gave Attar a suspicious glance before looking down at the card I drew.
The last card depicted a man hanging by his left ankle from a living cross of some sort. Behind the man's head was a bright light and his feet were crossed in an odd way, it reminded him of the way superman floated in the movies, except upside down.
"The Hanged Man. Pretty obvious name, huh."
"So, am I going to be hung? Executed?" I held the cards back towards Attar.
"Not quite," Attar said. "Did you see his face? He wasn't being hung as punishment. Look at his legs. He looks almost relaxed. Accepting. The Hanged Man represents self sacrifice in the name of progress or achievement. The freedom fighter dying for his cause, the free thinker being executed for his ideals, the man who stands in front of a tank when no one else will."
"But he's willing," I pointed at it.
"Do you feel unable to move?" Without waiting for an answer Attar pushed on. "You didn't just get your red belt, did you? Want it and then instantly have it?"
I shook my head. My red belt, my scissors, I earned them. They didn't come free. Neither did Star's friendship.
"No, you earned it. You sacrificed for it and it meant that much more for the sacrifice," Attar gave me a meaningful look. "All things have a price."
I paused drinking that in, "so what does that mean for my situation?"
Attar smirked. "What would you sacrifice for Star?" The other boy knew that he had my attention and I knew it too. "What would you give up if it meant her safety and your friendship?"
So I thought of Star and their friendship. I thought about how I'd suffered this last week without her.
"What are you offering me?" I asked. "And what will it cost?"
"Really?" Attar asked and I nodded firmly. "I was hoping you'd say that." Attar sounded smug again and he extended the set of cards. "Take these. Go to her. Do something."
"But I'm with Jackie! I have things to do on Earth."
"Are you? When every moment you spend you're actually thinking about Star and how much you miss her?" Attar leered, changing demeanor in an instant, holding out the cards.
I sucked a breath in.
"It's not like that, we're just friends." I dug my nails into the palm of my hands. I opened his mouth to press further.
"Who are you trying to convince? I know you have a bunch of reasons why and explanations for it, but that doesn't make it true. Let's set all that aside she is still your best friend, isn't she?" Attar gestured at the monitors. "Look."
I looked and saw Star running with her mother. I saw Hekapoo and the guy who froze me in a crystal... (I knew that was real!) looking like balloons? Their eyes were dead, black and empty. Star's mother looked desperate and... frightened.
I'd seen her, and I'd learned about what kind of powers she had. What could scare her this much?
"Will you arrive in time? You missed the siege on the castle. It was brutal. I'm not sure her father survived." Attar taunted, condescension slipping smoothly back into the boy's voice.
His tone didn't make him wrong though. I could see the danger, it was impossible to ignore.
I took the cards from Attar's grasp.
"What do I need to do? This power...You mentioned sacrifice and business." I asked, still watching Star.
"Those," Attar nodded at the cards, "and my advice, you can take, free of charge."
That set some alarm bells off. "What?"
Attar nodded along at my confusion as he extended his hand. The monitors stuttered and changed images. Star was in some… temple filled with Glossaryck statues… then the monitor's cut out. "Agree to give me your soul and you'll have the power to save Star and defeat Toffee."
"My soul? You want-" I paused as my voice cracked, "my soul?!"
"It's my price." Attar held up a sheet of paper. "It's in this contract."
I glanced around the empty hall and thought about Star. I looked back at Attar. Attar's clothes were immaculate except on the shirt there was a dark stain that flowed unbroken like liquid had fallen on the fabric and was pulled by gravity.
It may have been blood.
"What would you give to save her, Mr. Díaz?" Attar was pressing, like he could feel my weakness. "She might need you now."
"Can I think about it?" I asked. I needed time. Time to plan, time to think things through. I can't just commit to something like this!
Maybe time isn't on my side in more than one way.
"Do you have time to think about it?" Attar asked back, echoing my own thoughts but still being a prick with a stupid smirk. "Take the contract and read it. If you decide you need the power, you need only sign it." Attar handed Marco the paper. He looked like a shark who could smell blood.
"My phone number is in the contract if you have questions." Attar waved at me. "Don't worry, I'm sure she won't die horribly if you don't sign. Maybe she'll just die painlessly?"
I outright glared at him. "What-" the sound drew up as I watched Attar crumble into cubes.
I stepped closer and saw that the rocks were small and perfectly square, and deeply black.
They're not stones.
There was violet colored numbers on the sides. I talked the pile with my foot and watched the cubes fall and clatter against each other like a bin full of LEGOS.
"Alright Marco, alright. That's not even the weirdest thing you've seen all day." The giant eyeball leaned down towards me and I pointed at it. "You are. You're the weirdest thing I've seen all day."
The only thing I felt confident in was my voice.
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