FOREWORD

I had the original idea for this story a few days ago. I shared it with other SVTFOE fans, and the interest they shown motivated me to write it down properly. So, here it is. Expect a 5 / 6 chapters long story, maybe a little more (my imagination tends to go wild while I'm writing). Let me just describe your further the story's setting. It takes place in a slight AU based off S3A, where I assume Star and Marco confessed to each other. Tomstar never happened, and this story bifurcates from the canon after Sophomore Slump (ep. 13), to an extent where the end of S3A hasn't happened yet. It might contain small spoilers on S3A. You should also be aware that I'm not a native english speaker, therefore expect mistakes and poor wording. Thanks for clicking, and have a good read !


PROLOGUE

- Marco, my boy! Have you finished cleaning my boots? Shouted sir Lavabo from afar on the training field.

Marco wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, and responded :

- I'm almost done, sir! They'll be clean as a whistle!

Sir Lavabo's travel boots were so covered with dirt that one couldn't even see the leather when Marco was given the task of cleaning them; it took him a whole afternoon to have them shining as a new penny.

- Don't forget that we're leaving tomorrow at dawn, my boy, told him sir Lavabo when he came inspecting his squire's work. Make sure to pack everything you'll need on the road, the travel to the castle of Dunham Shelt is a week long.

- It's already done, sir. I'm not overloading myself this time.

Lavabo smirked.

- Very well, my boy. Learning from your errors is the first step to become a worthy knight.

Marco sighed, as his master walked away. He was so tired by his training he could have fallen asleep on the grass. Archery gave him blisters on the fingers, his bruises collection gained great specimens from sword training, and his mind was hazy with everything he learned from Mewnian history in the morning. Once finished, he sighed while leaning back to ease his aching back.

- Boy, I should've thought this through when I had the chance …

Sensei's hardest karate training was a pleasantry compared to what he was living since he became, on River's proposition, squire to Sir Lavabo of the Wash. Every day, Sir Lavabo wakened hip up at five in the morning. They were having breakfast until half-past five, followed by the first session of physical training – mostly push-ups and abs, to get started – until seven in the morning. From seven to nine, Marco was taught the manners of chivalry, and afterward Mewnian history and geopolitics until midday. They were having lunch until one in the afternoon, directly followed by a brief nap until half past one. From half past one until half-past six, Marco was taught martial arts and horse-riding. He was having free time until dinnertime at half past seven, which he always tried to spend with Star since it was their only chance of the day to see each other. After dinner, from half-past eight to ten, he was studying Mewnian classical poetry and literature, but more often than not sir Lavabo used this time to tell Marco his adventures around the Butterfly Kingdom and beyond.

Marco had not seen Star for three days now, either because he was late in his training and could not benefit from the usual free time, or because Star was not free on her side. After all, as a Butterfly, she was one of the travel reasons: the Mewnian royal family was paying a diplomatic visit to one of its most distant but powerful vassals, the Duke of Dunham, whose son was thirteen years old and a serious contender to Star's hand. Although Moon and River were well aware of the close bond between their daughter and the squire-in-training, the visit had been long planned and calling it off would have caused a diplomatic incident, at the very least.

As Marco was packing up his master's equipment, the latter approached him and said:

- I've seen king River today. He wants to see you in the throne room in twenty minutes from now, at seven o'clock.

- But I was supposed to …

- To meet Star on the wall walk, I know. But a knight always does as his lord commands, no matter what.

- What have I done to be summoned by the king in person?

- He didn't tell me. It must be a personal business between the two of you, I assume. After all, you're to become …

Sir Lavabo never ended his sentence, as he had already said too much.

- What am I to become? A knight? I should hope so!

- You'll know it soon enough, anyway. You should probably go, a knight is never late.

Marco handed his things to his master and ran away towards the city. The streets were crowded with people going home, and he struggled to arrive in time in the throne room. River was there, alone, standing by his throne. When Marco came in, he warmly welcomed the squire.

- Ah, Marco, my boy! Here you are. I've been wanting to see you all day, but Lavabo's training being what it is …

- Is there something I can do for you, Your Majesty? asked Marco while kneeling, quickly remembering his etiquette lessons.

- Well, not for me, answered River while caressing his long beard. But that's not the point. I summoned you here today for a very special reason. I have something to give you. Come here.

Marco ceremoniously walked to the king, who handed him a long, decorated wooden box. He recognized the Johansen coat of arms carved on the upper part.

- What is this? Asked the squire, carefully holding the present.

- Open it, my boy!

Marco pulled the golden latch and opened the box. It contained a finely-crafted bastard-sword, whose silver hilt was encrusted with sapphires. The pommel represented a bear head, the totem animal of the Johansen family. Its blade was engraved with undecipherable runs.

- What does it say? Asked Marco, pointing the strange letters.

- Oh, it is written in old Mewnian… Have you not studied this yet? Anyway, it says: "Cursed be the one to brandish this weapon for himself and not for the greater good". According to the legend, this blade once belonged to the first Johansen knight to serve a Butterfly queen. He also happens to be my seventh grandfather.

- I'm not worthy of …

- This kingdom has never known someone worthier of this blade than you, Marco. Accept it, since you're to pass under my direct orders at the end of your training.

- I'm … I'm very grateful for this gift, Your Majesty.

- You will use it more than me, now. I only ask you to treat the blade as your life depends on it. A day will come when you will have, as the First of the Queen's Knights, to pass it down to the next generation, like I just did with you. Here, take its sheath.

Marco attached it to his baldric and covered it under his blue, mud-stained cape.

- It's a great honor, my king.

- Now, I'll let you have a good dinner. Moon and Star are already waiting for me in the dining room – I can feel them waiting for me as we speak.

- Could you … Just, Your Majesty, send my greetings to Star? A-and to queen Moon, of course!

- Count on me, young man, answered River with a conniving smile.

He greeted Marco and left for his apartments. Marco was walking out of the throne room when the voice he was so eager to hear called his name.

- Star? Is that you?

He turned around several times, unable to spot the princess. He muttered to himself:

- Now I begin to hear her voice from nowhere … You're getting crazy, Diaz …

- No, Marco, I'm here! Said she again, leaving her hiding spot behind a tapestry.

As she revealed herself, Marco wondered how could have she fit behind there with her large blue dress. Her hair was arranged in a long tress.

Without knowing how it happened, they were in each other's arms by the following second.

- I've been sitting here, hidden, for an hour! I knew my father would summon you here, so I took advantage of it …

Marco inhaled a deep breath, filling his lungs with Star's light fragrance. This time, she smelled like spring flowers. He suddenly realized he was probably stinking after a hard day's training, and felt guilty for spoiling a fragrance as delicate as Star's.

- Star, I … I'm not … I mean, I haven't washed since this morning, I …

- Marco Diaz, I missed you too much to care about how you smell. Your knight-training thing really went to your head, didn't it?

- Well, I … Uh …

River's voice troubled their moment.

- Star? Where are you, dear? Dinner is served!

- Seems like I must go, for now, sighed the princess with a disappointed look. You have no idea how hard I wish your training to be shorter, duh … We've barely seen each other this week!

- I know, I know … And it's not going to change for the coming weeks, isn't it?

- Well, I could sneak out of the caravan during lunch pauses, but that's all … Once we arrive at Dunham Castle, I'll be trapped for two weeks in a net of ladies maids, butlers and boring suitors … I don't even know if …

- Am I boring? Asked Marco, interrupting her – thus transgressing every single knightly manner he learned.

- You're neither boring nor a suitor, cheekily answered Star.

She kissed him on the cheek and ran to the royal apartments' door in a swirl of blonde hair. Marco stared at her until she disappeared, feeling alive again.

- Beautiful … he whispered.

On his way back to the apartments he shared with sir Lavabo, he felt like he could walk on air. He breathed heavily, trying to feel Star's scent again, but all he could remember was her sapphire blue eyes and her clear skin.

- The fairest maid in the land, indeed … he muttered to himself, mimicking an old book he studied during his Mewnian literature and poetry lessons.

He remained silent during the dinner, dwelling on his time with Star. He was hoping to spend more time with her during the travel to Dunham Shelt. While he and sir Lavabo were eating the dessert, the latter said :

- Marco, my boy! I know what's troubling your mind. But don't let it disturb your training. Mark my words: the best thing you can do for princess Star is to succeed at this training, and become a worthy knight to enter her service.

- King River told me I'm to pass to his service, though, pointed Marco – although he much liked the idea of being at Star's exclusive service.

- Yes, whatever, you're going to serve the Butterfly family. That's all you need to know, for the time being. That means you could get to spend more time with Star if you follow me …? Isn't that what you want the most, right now? Spending time with the fairest maiden in the land, the one you love?

Marco sighed, for sir Lavabo was perfectly right and he knew it.

- Try to empty your mind, or think of something else. You'll need a good night of rest if you don't want to fell asleep on your saddle tomorrow.

When Marco finally got in bed after a deserved shower, he remained to lie on the sheets, staring at the ceiling. Sir Lavabo was already snoring at the other end of the room. The squire could not find sleep, for his thoughts kept going back to Star. Since he was coming along as a member of the royal guard (in his quality of squire to sir Lavabo of the Wash) and had been assigned to the rearguard with his master, he wasn't going to get many occasions to be with Star. And afterward, the stay at Dunham Shelt… He was aware of what was to come, for Star and for himself. Star was going to be courted during two weeks by suitors, especially the duke's son, and would have to take part in dances and hunting parties in which she had not the least interest. Despite that, Marco was going to be pretty close to her during the stay, as a member of the guard. So close, and yet so far. River warned him the time he told him about the diplomatic visit, and he still remembered the words crystal clear: "Moon and I don't care about your closeness to our daughter, in fact, we're pretty happy about it. But it's not the case for everybody in the kingdom. If a suitor sees you, a squire, that close to the future queen he hopes to marry, it could have bad diplomatic consequences. You see, many high-ranked lords are hoping to betroth their son to Star. And while enforcing such a choice on her is the last thing Moon and I would do on Mewni, they are convinced that they can get Star's hand. Don't let yourself be upset by those petty games, Marco, my boy. You are far above that. My daughter's welfare is far above that."

- Man, I don't know… Two weeks of seeing her with other guys… If only I could be a prince of some sort, or whatever…

As soon as the lady's maid left the room, Star walked to her bed and laid down on the floor to catch something underneath the bed base. She pulled out an old, stained, holed red hoodie. The first hoodie she stole from Marco when she had to leave Earth in a hurry a few months ago. After rescuing it from sir Lavabo's good intentions, it sort of became a cuddly toy for her, and she could no longer sleep without it. Marco's scent was practically gone, but the boy's memory was crystal clear in Star's head, and the hoodie acted as a catalyst.

The thought of the upcoming events popped up in Star's head, as she was trying to sleep. She almost burst into tears, but a great inspiration and the thought of Marco holding her tight helped her keeping her tears buried. She remembered how her heart beat wildly when Marco entered the throne room earlier, while she was hiding behind a tapestry. With Marco in her head, she could not think of anything that could sadden her. But the visit was going to be three weeks long – one week of travel, two of staying at Dunham Shelt – and she expected to be able to count times with Marco on one hand with fingers left.

- I'm sick of waiting for his training to end… Muttered she.

Although her parents didn't tell her anything, she perfectly knew – at least she thought so – why her father had proposed such a hard training to Marco. If their relationship went any further… No, she could not even think of it without turning red. But that thought led to another, a less happy one. She was going to be heavily and clumsily courted for two weeks, and Marco risked to witness it. She feared that it spoiled their relationship.

- Marco Ubaldo Diaz, I love no one but you …