And in here we finish setting the story up and while we touch on cannon after this point we'll be sailing on our own.

Marco is a sort of Monk crossed Fighter.

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"Those who play with the devil's toys will be brought by degrees to wield his sword." - Buckminster Fuller

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I stopped feeling sorry for myself at some point and picked myself up off the ground. It was time to do what I was really here for.

If Star were here, where would she be? I wondered. I made a mental list. The dungeons for one. Unless she was dead. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

I debated searching the dungeons, but I didn't have a good way of doing much of anything really, even if I did find her.

So what do I have?

"Karate Boy?"

"Marco?"

I whirled around at the sound of my name. "Buff Frog! Queen moon?!" I couldn't believe it, as they sprinted into the kingdom behind me. But if Queen Moon was here, then where was Star? My suspicions were confirmed when the Queen reached him.

"Marco, where's Star?" Queen Moon was on top of him shaking him slightly in her hysterics.

"I don't know." I told the monarch quickly, trying to get the words out as fast as I could. "I just got here."

"Ludo must have-" But whatever Buff frog was going to say was cut off by a pillar of green light which shot into the sky. The air shook as the the beam intensified. I could only watch as the source of the beam detonated. The sound rocked the tower at the beams epicenter.

The noise was enough to rock me on my feet as I felt the sound travel through me and rock my bones.

I scrambled for cover as stone fell from above me and rained all over the city. When I looked back the tower was pulverised and pieces of stone were still falling even as the smoke cleared.

If I were a betting boy...

"There, Buff Frog, we have to get there now." Queen Moon demanded, evidently having the same thought. "Star must be there."

Buff Frog snatched up Queen Moon and I under each scaley green arm and in two giant leaps delivered them to the site of the explosion. As soon as I was able I took off running towards the pile of rubble. Queen Moon was faster and had already reached the broken stone and lumber and was furiously tearing into it. She pulled a little green body from the pile.

"Ludo!" The Queen began to shook the small bird-man. "Where's Star!?"

Ludo opened his eyes to reveal bright and glowing pink eyes which made me think of Attar. I shook my head in an effort to ignore the thoughts, and focus on the present.

"Where is my daughter?" Queen Moon demanded with heat.

Ludo opened his mouth but his voice didn't come out. To my utter amazement it was Star's voice. It was Star's and it sounded like it was from the far end of a tunnel, like it had to echo some distance before it reached Ludo's mouth.

"Mom! Mom!" Ludo said with Star's voice. "I'm in here."

"Star is that you?"

"Yes it me!"

Moon quickly pulled Ludo into a tight hug. "Oh Thank goodness." The Queen said with relief as she stroked the back of Ludo's head. She quickly kissed the green bird twice with smiling eyes.

Star extended Ludo's arm into her mother's face. "Mom, stop it."

Marco looked confused as Moon cupped Ludo's cheeks. "Star where are you?"

"Well, I'm totally fine. But-uh, but-uh…" Star trailed off. "I don't exactly know where I am."

"That's okay sweetie." Queen Moon said with worry. "The important thing is you're safe. Just stay right there. And remember, no matter what happens I lov-"

"Mom? Mo-m" Ludo's face was twitching oddly and there was some static in Star's voice. "Can you rep-t." It was like the call was being disconnected. Which was odd considering Star was inside a person.

This was honestly pretty horrific.

"Sweetie, are you still there?" Queen Moon began frantically. "Star! Star!" She cried shaking Ludo to improve the connection.

Ludo closed his eyes and when he opened them they glew with viridescent light.

"Hello moon." Ludo said with Toffee's voice. Or Toffee said with Ludo's body? The Queen recoiled.

"Toffee." She said fearfully. Ludo's body began to float upwards at that. "Give us back Star."

"Oh, of course," Toffee said animatedly, "But I'd like something from you first." Toffee leaned forward. "Something that belongs to me." He extended his right hand and the missing digit.

The Queen extracted a glass jar. Inside was the missing middle claw. She extended it to Toffee. "Take it!" She almost snarled.

"Now your majesty." Toffee said opening his hand flat to receive his missing limb. "Do we have a deal."

The queen gently placed the finger over the green semi-star from Star's wand and embedded in Toffee's hand. He closed his fist over it and it fit perfectly and a ring of green light wreathed the cut. Toffee's eyes turned black like there was no one home and dropped forward like a puppet with slack strings.

Ludo suddenly extended his hand, and from his replaced finger spread a blueish grey liquid out over Ludo's body. It crawled over Ludo in a process that was familiar to Marco at once. Ribs formed as the sludge poured into place and in a moment Toffee was standing before them. He held his hands out to the sides in a 'come-at-me' fashion but the effect was ruined with he spat out a green ball of mucus.

Inside was Ludo looking shell shocked and horrified.

Toffee looked at his hand and flexed his fingers as the digit finally reconnected.

"Where's my daughter?" The Queen demanded.

"Where's Star!" I followed. I felt the heat that was inside my chest catch fire, like liquid fire in my veins. Like lightning in my bones. This was Toffee. There's no way he was just going to hand Star back to them. Back to me. I felt a tremendous fury and impotence.

Toffee extended his hand and showed them the black semi-star. Then he quickly crushed it into black powder and let it fall to the ground. "She's gone."

I saw the world shrink around me and felt cords strum in my body. I the power rose up and I put my fist straight through Toffee's chest.

I felt the fist at the same time I felt myself strike a wall behind me. Stopping me in mid air.

Toffee turned and walked away, and looking smaller to me all the time.

I looked down at myself. I was becoming a wafting pool. A burning electric purple and black thing.

The Queen gave a snarl of rage and charged forward as Toffee sighed. Toffee turned and blocked tow punches before catching the Queen's hands on the next two swings.

I could see the Queen's tears slowly falling, they fell so slowly..

She pulled back and drew Star's wand thrusting it into Toffee's chest. I could see dark purple lines extending along the queen's skin.

"I call the darkness onto me from deepest depths of earth and sea, from ancient evils unawaken, break the one who can't be broken. From blackest night I pledge my soul and crush my heart to burning coal." I made out dark lines extend further and branching out up the Queen's arms. "To summon forth the deadly power to see my hated foe devoured!"

There was a beat where nothing happened. I felt and watched myself grow another foot.

Toffee took the Queen's wand with his hand. "Are you finished." He said boredly.

What a boring motherfucker!

I felt myself change. Solidify in some place, melt in others and I stood. My body having come back together after Toffee's casual back hand. I raised my fists, black muscles coiling to strike straight through the monster. When I withdrew his hand he could see the shocked looks on the Queen's and Buff Frog's faces at what I knew was a monstrous transformation.

Perhaps as much so as Toffee's transformation from Ludo.

But I really really could bring myself to care. Pain lancing through my as power coiled upwards in my limbs. Liquid flesh cementing and forming in other places. I could hardly feel the pain.

I felt the black grow the rest of the way over his face as his chest plate slid out from within his skin to take its place. I watched furiously as the hole he put into the monster closed.

"Well this is-" Toffee began, but I was already moving. I kicked Toffee in the shoulder and felt bones break under the force of the blow, both mine and Toffee's. Toffee was sent rolling to the side even as my bones healed before I put my feet back on the ground.

Toffee got up quickly, and swing at me. A simple flex of will and I was in his space. Like purple lightning on my tattoos and my hand became solid to catch Toffee's fist and crush the bones inside. I exhaled out of my nose like a bull.

"I'm going to make you regret that." I told him slowly in a monstrous voice that seemed to reverberate so it sounded like two people talking at once. The sound seemed to come from deep in my chest and the noise was allien even to my ears, from a deep part inside of me.

Buff Frog and the Queen stepped back.

Plate closed around Marco's face. Toffee swing in a jab impossibly fast, I ate the blow. It shattered my shoulder plate but didn't reach my flesh. Toffee continued with the swing, bringing his thick tail down on me. I swatted it aside and slammed my heel into the inside of Toffee's knee, breaking the bone. I grabbed Toffee's arm and tore. The flesh was regrowing, rebuilding the lizard's arm from where it had been torn free from the shoulder.

Perhaps it was my imagination but perhaps Toffee's healing was slower. Toffee swung his right arm at me in a swift and martial punch. I leaned down towards Toffee and reached towards his waist for a sword which wasn't there.

Stupid muscle memory!

I swore in his head.

But my fingers closed around something solid. A handle. And instincts of sixteen years of fighting took hold in me. I swung upwards and took Toffee's left leg off. The lizard collapsed onto the humours and ulna of his regrowing bones in his left arm. I kicked those at from under him as Iswung the sword downwards.

I cleaved straight through Toffee's back, nearly splitting him vertically. I kicked again with all his strength right to the side of Toffee's head. He heard and felt Toffee's skull crunch and saw he had nearly taken the beast's head off.

Toffee was sent rolling with the force of the blow and Marco was on top of him swinging again and again to exhaust his regeneration. I cut him in half at the waist and when that started to heal I cut him in half again diagonally. Isliced and slashed and took of Toffee's head and limbs until the sludge that made the reptile's body up stopped moving. I might have kept swinging even after that.

Only then did I drop my sword and fall to his knees and cry. With my anger reseeding, so too did the harsh plates and black flesh.

I sobbed into his hands. Too tired to go on.

The Queen came over to me and put her arm on my shoulder.

"Oh you sweet boy," She said with tears in her eyes too. "What did you do to yourself?"

"I-hic, I made a deal." He said and he saw something in her eyes. "I thought-hic- it would be enough to save her." Icould barely get the words out as I cried. "I was too slow. I'm sorry."

Star's wand suddenly flew from the Queen Moon''s grip on a double helix of light. It flew up and then burst apart before coming back together, entirely whole with a new star. With that star came Star, stepping to existence while made of gold light.

Queen and Buff Frog watched in awe as Star came together and grew a majestic set of wings. I couldn't tear my gaze away either. Her presence was enough to bathe the world in golden light.

"Star!" Queen Moon cried out to her daughter.

"Hi Mom," Star returned in an echoey voice.

"Hey sweetie, don't you look lovely." Moon said awkwardly with a wave.

"Where's Toffee?" Star's voice reverberated.

The Queen quickly pointed to the puddle of goo that was Toffee's corpse.

Star turned towards it and despite Toffee's condition unleashed a wave of horrendous annihilating light. It turned the ground to slag and vaporized the remains.

With that, Star slowly fluttered to the ground and landed on her face. She lay there for a moment before suddenly sitting up and gasping.

Queen Moon and Buff Frog tackled her in a hug.

I just sat exhausted looking on.

"Hey." She said.

"Hey." They said back in unison.

"What happened to Toffee?" Star asked from beneath the pile.

"Karate-boy! He t-"

"It was your mother, with a really long spell." I interrupted giving Buff Frog and Queen Moon a pleading look. Buff Frog looked confused but the Queen just nodded slowly and smiled sadly.

Star… Star didn't need to know about what he'd done and what he'd become.

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"You summoned me, Queen Moon?" I said as he walked into the a large Hall with a long table. I had been allowed to stay in the castle for a few days until he needed to go back to Earth.

"We need to talk," Queen Moon caught me in the castle before I left. A man coming running up to tell me I was being called for by the queen. In an official capacity. "About Toffee," she went on.

I sighed and nodded. She gestured for me to have a seat at the Table next to her and I did. I sat in silence looking down at the table and not meeting her eyes.

"You didn't want Star to know. Because I felt I owed you I agreed. I would, however, like to further thank you for what you did for our Kingdom." The monarch began slowly. She gave me a sad look. "What did you do to yourself, Marco?"

"I'm-I'm not entirely sure," I gave her a nervous look. "I wanted the power to save Star and I- I traded for it."

"What did you trade? Marco?"

I felt uncomfortable and ashamed, but there was also an odd sense of pride.

"I don't really want to say…" I trailed off. "Besides, can you really blame me?" He got a measured look for that. "I saw your arms and I heard that spell you tried to cast. "

"Yes, I suppose I should be thankful you went so far for my daughter." She paused. "And perhaps I also can't throw stones from that particular house. I sacrificed years of my life and my heart to stop Toffee when I was younger, I used the spell you heard earlier to do so. I had to make a deal with Eclipsa, a former Mewnin Queen who ran off with a monster and practiced dark magic. I don't know what the spell was designed to do, and I don't know what I truly gave up."

I said nothing.

"This power, do you know what it is? Can you control it?"

"There's something inside me." I told her at last. "Like a fire. It burns, That transformation is inside me all the time. It's beneath my skin."

"Do you control it, Marco?" The Queen demanded firmly.

I hesitated. "I'm in control when I change, but I don't control when I change."

She gave me a pitying look.

"You know I can't just let something that dangerous wander about." She told him at last.

What?

"But I beat Toffee! I-"

"You did, and I'm thankful for that. I honored your wishes and didn't prevented Star from learning the truth. But you are dangerous, Marco Diaz. As a Queen and a mother I am grateful but as a mother and a member of the Magic High Commission I can't let something so dangerous run about unchecked and unwatched."

'Something?'

She must have seen his face. "Marco, would you keep Star safe?"

I almost snarled. How dare she ask him that after what he sacrificed. I felt black spots stirring slightly and might have grown a little. "Of course!" I snapped.

"How do you know you wouldn't hurt her?" She asked pointedly. "Are you sure that you are safe. Enough to risk it?"

That took the wind out of my sails. I fell back exhausted and ashamed.

"As her mother I know how much her best friend means to her." She told him as he sat silent and stewing. "But as her mother I can't let you close to her. Not when you could rip her in half and neither I, her, the Magic High Commission, or perhaps you, yourself, could stop it." Her tone took on something harsh, where before for the entirety of the conversation it was gentle, pitying, and placating.

"So what are you saying?" I felt a bone deep exhaustion.

"I brought your name up to Hekapoo and she told me an interesting story, imagine my surprise when I discovered that my daughter's best friend was a thirty year old man in a fourteen year old's body." I said nothing to that. "I told my fellow members of the Commission what you did and we tossed around ideas about how to handle you."

She paused, giving him a chance to speak. I remained silent.

"We proposed crystallizing you but… well, I can only imagine how Star would react to that. But then Hekapoo came up with a solution I believe would benefit all of us. Tell me Marco, are you looking for a job? You are a bit old to live with your parents, don't you think."

"What are you asking me?" I felt more and more lost.

"I'm asking you if you like adventures, Marco Diaz." The regent's eyes were smiling at him gently.

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