Hardships on the Seas
Over the next week they gathered supplies as well as warmer cloaks and bedrolls, they knew the weather was going to get colder as they traveled. Lily was looking forward to a proper home for the winter. Their first winter together they stayed at an Inn, but it just didn't feel like home. The villagers were sad to see them go but were very helpful gathering the supplies they needed. One woman even made an extra-large blanket that would cover the three of them when they had to sleep outside.
There were several routes they could take to Salthole; walk over land or take a ship. When Lily said she'd never been on a ship before that made the decision for them. There was a town called Porthaven east of the Elven woods; it being closer than Fairwinds they decided to skirt the woods and take their chances there. They mostly slept outside, saving money for their passage and the three enjoyed their time traveling; the weather was mild during the day and the hunting was good so they ate well every night. When Taren brought back a large deer one night it made Lily think of Quincy and she said a small prayer for their lost friend as Taren prepared it for the fire.
They reached Porthaven around mid-morning three weeks after they left the village. As they walked the docks a boat called 'The Beautiful Bee' caught Lily's attention. "Let's try that one." She pointed at it and walked up to the downed plank. A large man with wild red hair was sitting on a stool whittling a little horse. "Excuse me sir?" He looked up and scratched his temple with the side of his knife. "What can I do for you priestess?"
"My friends and I were wondering if your ship was heading towards Salthole and if so, might we barter a ride?" She asked with a smile.
"Oh! Well two priests of Otto are always welcome on my ship! Shaggy Dan's the name and the 'Beautiful Bee' is mine. The only payment I require of you and your priest friend is a blessing or two on my ship and my men as we travel." Taren peaked around Dante and held up his hand, "What about me?" He asked with a friendly smile. Dan pointed at Taren with his knife, "You gotta pay." Taren nodded and started digging in his money pouch and produced ten gold pieces. "This enough?" Dan took the gold, counted it, and gave him back three gold. "That'll do, thank you son. Come aboard, we're just about to get underway." Dan stood and walked up the plank and the trio followed him onto the ship. "Thank you very much Captain, we really appreciate it." Lily said.
"Think nothing of it lass." He pointed to a door with a pretty stained glass window. "That there's my cabin, that's the only place you can't go. You'll be staying below with some other travelers. Eat with the men or your own food either way. Feel free to walk the boat but don't get in the way of me crew and we'll get along fine. If you have any problems with them, let me know. They know better than to harass paying passengers."
"Sounds good to us." Dante said shaking the man's hand.
"Why don't you bless the voyage before we get underway Father."
Dante nodded and walked to the front of the boat. "Otto, great god of the sea. The Beautiful Bee is about to travel on your waters, I pray that it be a safe and swift journey for all aboard. Thank you blessed Otto." Dante walked back to the group and took Lily's hand. "Thank you Father, it's much appreciated." Dan walked up the helm and started yelling at the crew. "All right men, raise the sails the winds are with us! Let's not insult them by missing out!" The men yelled their response and started running around the boat. Dan's crew seemed to have been together a long time, Lily may have never been on a boat but she spent many hours as a child watching the boats and their crews that were docked in Fairwinds and she thought Dan's crew worked in perfect harmony.
"Let's go below, see who we're sharing a room with." Lily's lead the three down some stairs and they found themselves at the beginning of a long hallway. Immediately to their left was a big room with seven people; well five adults and two small children. They walked in and Dante gave the introductions. "Hello, my name is Dante, this is Lily and Taren." They smiled and sat down by the family. The man held out his hand and introduced his family as he shook Dante's hand. "Ed, my wife Mary, our son Lucas and our little pixie Deidre." Dante ticked the little infants chin and she giggled and twitched like babies do. Lily laughed and playfully squeezed the baby's arm, "She adorable."
"Thank you." Mary said. The group put their burdens down in a corner as Taren spoke up. "Let's go watch the boat pull out." He said and pulled Lily to her feet.
"Well if you insist." She laughed as he continued to pull her back up the stairs. They stood at the railings and watched as the 'Beautiful Bee' cast off from docks and made its way into the open waters. The smell of the ocean reminded Lily of home and she let the sea air whip her hair around her.
Dante watched Lily enjoy the wind, She looks so lovely he thought to himself as he wrapped his arms around her waist. Lily leaned back and nestled in his chest. "I still can't believe it's your first time on a ship Love. I hope you don't get sick."
She chuckled, "Me too. I'd like to enjoy the trip. Not walking for once is nice."
"It certainly is." He said nuzzling her neck.
They stayed up on the deck for a few more minutes before heading down below. Taren had spread out their large quilt for them to sleep on and the other passengers had done similar things. The three other men were merchants and they tried to peddle their wares but no one had enough money. Lily talked with Mary as they played with the baby and Dante soon joined them in the fun. It had been so long since Lily had been around one so young she almost forgot how much she liked babies. She also thought Dante looked adorable with the squealing child, but the call of the wind was strong and Lily spent most of the day outside enjoying the sea air.
When Lily woke the next morning she felt awful. She was nauseous and every time the boat rocked she fought hard not to be sick. Taren rolled over he saw her face, "Jeez Lily-Lo you look green!" She nodded her head; Lily felt if she opened her mouth to speak, words weren't the only thing that would come out. Taren reached over her and quickly woke Dante, "Hey wake up Lily's sick." He said nudging the priest.
Dante opened his eyes and saw Lily had a pained expression on her face and her lips pursed tightly. "Oh I'm sorry Love, I wish there was something I could do." She shook her head and patted his face, trying to tell him it was okay without words. "Man I'm starving." Taren said. Lily's eyes widened at the mention of eating and all she could think of was the stew they ate last night. She scrambled for the bucket in the corner and barely made it as the contents of her stomach made it into the bucket several times. The merchants left quickly, but the others either cared or it didn't bother them. The bucket was almost full when Lily finally laid back down. Dante patted her hand and said he'd take it up top and empty it for her while Taren sat with her and squeezed her calf, "Sorry Lily-Lou, didn't mean to make you sick."
"S'ok." She moaned into the quilt and held her stomach. Soon Dante came back with a nice clean empty bucket. "Maybe we should have walked." Lily's voice was small and scratchy and she heard Mary clear her throat, "Why don't you boys get something to eat and let me take care of her for a while." Dante looked at Lily, her eyes closed in concentration. "Is that okay Love?" She nodded very slightly. "All right then." He kissed her hand and the men walked out. Mary's husband took the toddler with them leaving Mary her infant and Lily alone. "Is this your first?" Mary asked. Lily nodded and groaned a little. "Don't worry it'll pass." Mary said.
Mary chuckled, "Of course it will."
Lily groaned and rolled over, "All I can think about is last night's dinner."
"Yeah that's not a good thing to think about now. Hopefully Dante will bring you some bread, it helps."
"Good. I hate feeling like this."
"I image being used to healing the sick and not being able to help yourself is a little frustrating."
Lily nodded and slowly sat up, "Okay I think I'm good now." She burped and held her stomach, "Oh excuse me, that was awful."
Mary laughed, "It's all right it's just us girls." Lily leaned back on a wooden support and tried to ignore the nausea. She didn't think she'd get sick anymore but her stomach was not happy. "Goodness how can you be nauseous and hungry at the same time?" Her stomach felt completely empty from its recent expulsion but she was always ravenous in the morning. "I know it's odd. The trick is to find the right food." Mary said.
"I'll remember that." The baby started to fuss so Mary put it to her breast and it ate quietly. Lily was sitting up rubbing her belly when Dante walked in and just as Mary had predicted, he had a nice piece of crusty bread for her. He knelt down and touched her stomach lightly. "You're sitting up that's good."
"I brought you some bread, I didn't want you not to eat." She took it and inhaled deeply, "Smells good." She tore little chunks and started eating. "Is it nice out today?" Lily had dreamed all night of going back up on deck and feeling the wind. "Just like yesterday Love."
She finished the bread chunk and sighed, "Well not hungry but still nauseous."
Dante chuckled, "Sorry Love, it won't last forever."
"That's what Mary said." The young mother looked up at her and gave her a little wink.
Lily spent the day trying not to expel the bread she had eaten. That afternoon she had the room to herself and took a little nap. When she woke she felt a little better and decided to brave the outside. It was almost sundown when she joined Dante on the deck. She enjoyed it until her stomach overwhelmed her again and she leaned overboard to the sound of the laughing crew. When she came back up she turned to the sailors, "Ha ha ha, be glad I don't get sick on the boat. Bet that would stop you from laughing."
That actually made them laugh harder. Dante picked her up and carried her back down. When Mary saw her being carried down she shook her head, "Poor girl." Dante laid her on the quilt and she settled on her back; eyes closed trying to concentrate on holding back the sea sickness. "Jeez Lily-Lou, you really got it rough don't you." She waved her hand at him to show some kind of acknowledgment. "I can watch her Dante if you want to get some-" Lily interrupted with a groan and a wave of her hand, "stuff you put in your mouth and chew." Taren said slowly and Dante tried not to chuckle, "All right, I'll be back in a bit." He kissed her hand and walked back up the stairs. Taren piled some of the quilt under Lily's head and made a pillow for her. "There ya go Lily-Lou."
She groaned and heard Mary whispering to her husband, "Dante looked worried, you should talk to him"
"All right." He kissed her on the cheek and Lily heard him walk up the stairs.
Ed looked for the priest in the galley, but didn't find him. After circling the ship he finally found Dante at the back of the boat leaning on the rail. He came up behind him and slapped a greeting on his back, "Mind if I join you?"
Dante looked up, "No not at all."
Ed leaned his back against the rail. "It's hard watching them go through it isn't it."
Dante nodded, "Yeah, but she'll be fine in a few days."
"That's what I thought." He said as he pulled a pipe from his pocket and began stuffing leaves into the chamber. Dante turned to him, a little confused, "What do you mean?"
"Oh you know, everything's a surprise with your first child." Ed's statement didn't help curb his confusion, "What child?"
"Hope you don't mind Mary telling me." He lit the pipe and inhaled deeply.
"Yours and Lily's." Ed's eyes narrowed, "What other child would I be talking about?"
"She's not pregnant its sea sickness!" He tried to keep the panic out of his voice.
"Sure about that? Mary asked if it was her first child and she said yes." Dante's mouth dropped and he held onto the railing for dear life. "She said she was pregnant?" Ed nodded, "Lily not tell you yet? Don't worry, they wait sometimes to make sure." Dante's head was spinning, if Lily was pregnant it wasn't his child. It would be Henri's he had no doubt. An overwhelming sense of sadness filled him. He loved Lily, no one else should have been that close to her. It should have been me, he thought to himself. "Hey are you all right?" Ed touched his shoulder.
"I don't know, I don't know." He rubbed his face and ran his hands nervously through his hair. Ed chuckled, "It'll be all right Dante, kids are great you'll see. The second you see their face you fall in love I guarantee."
"I have to talk to her." He started walking back to the stairs.
"Don't be too hard on her Dante, women are odd when their with child; give her the benefit of the doubt." Ed called after him.
When Dante got to the room he saw Taren was laying down on the blanket next to Lily playing with the toddler. The image terrified him, what if it was Taren? Would his best friend sleep with the woman he loved under his nose? "What's wrong Dante you look as green as Lily." Taren asked.
Dante cleared his throat, "Is she asleep?" he asked.
"No I'm awake." Lily opened her eyes and saw how upset Dante looked, "Gods Dante what's wrong?"
He held a hand out for her, "I need to talk with you." Lily took his hand and he helped her up. She was unnerved at how serious he looked and followed him up to the port side of the boat. "What on earth is wrong?" she finally asked. Dante let go of her hand and she watched him rub tears from his eyes, "Lily why?" He asked quietly.
"Why what?" She reached up to dry his cheek but he gently turned away from her. "You're scaring me Dante."
He sighed heavily and turned to her, "Why did you sleep with Henri?"
She gasped, "I didn't, where did you get that idea?"
"Well I'm not the father that's clear. Who else would it be?"
"Father? You're not making any sense-"
"Why didn't you tell me you were pregnant?" he interrupted. The look on Dante's face froze her blood, it was a mix of pain and anger, Lily never thought she'd see him look like that. "Who told you that?"
He shook his head, "It doesn't matter who told me. What matters is you lied about sleeping with Henri."
"I believed you that night in the water, I truly did."
"Good! I was telling the truth!"
He shook his head, "Just stop, please. You could have stayed with him. You didn't have to come back and put us through this."
Lily stared at him like she'd never seen him before, "Dante Foss what is wrong with you? I would never sleep with anyone but you! You know what your problem is?"
"My problem? I'd say it's your problem!" He yelled over her.
"You are so scared that I'm going to leave you, you're trying to push me away!"
"Push you away? I don't have to push if you want to go you're free to go I'm not stopping you!" He yelled. Lily felt her chest tighten and tears poured down her cheeks, "You bastard." She whispered and slapped his face. Dante's head jerked with the force and before he could do anything Lily ran downstairs. She ran as far down as she could go and ended up in the very bottom of the ship. It was so cold, and she sat down among the ribs of the ship and wept.
Taren was playing 'how long can the drool spittle get' with the toddler when he saw Dante walk back down. "Hey, where's Lily-Lou?" He asked, handing Mary her son. Taren looked at Dante's face and saw a red mark above his beard. "Dante? What did you do?" He stood up and walked over to his friend but Dante shook his head, "Nothing." He tried to sit down but Taren grabbed his arm.
"No what happened? It looks like she slapped your face." He said as he examined the red mark. "Dante what did you say? I told you it was normal for them to act a little odd." Ed said.
"Them? Odd? Dante what's going on, where's Lily?" Taren was getting scared. Dante had never looked the way he did now in all the years he had known him, he was so sad and angry. "I don't know where she is." He said with absolutely no emotion in his voice. Taren's eyes widened and his jaw dropped in shock, "What? It's a ship there's only so many places she could be!" He still had a hold of Dante's arm and he shook him, "What happened?"
"You want to know what happened Taren? Fine! Lily slept with Henri and now she's pregnant! Happy!" Dante yelled in Taren's face.
"What! Are you insane Dante! She'd never do that! Besides she's not pregnant you idiot!"
"How the hell do you know!" He yelled in his friends face. The infant started crying and Taren apologized as he dragged Dante up the stairs.
He made sure they were alone before he started talking. "How the hell do I know?" Taren whispered harshly, "Let's start with she loves you more than life itself and she'd never do anything to hurt you. Secondly, being a werewolf I can see, hear, touch, taste and smell better than a normal human and as hard as she tries to hide it, I always know when she's having her moons blood and she wouldn't have had it last week if she were pregnant would she?"
Dante's face went from anger to shock, "I-"
"Would she!" he shook Dante again.
"No, no she wouldn't."
Taren let him go and Dante took a step back. "Oh gods what have I done?"
"Did you let her explain? Did you listen to her or did you just accuse her of being a loose woman?" Taren was angry at his friend for acting like a jilted lover and scared that Dante was going to chase Lily away forever. "I, I didn't let her explain." Dante said quietly. "Well maybe you should have done that." Taren said angrily as he crossed his arms over his chest. Dante rubbed his face with his hands over and over, "Oh Otto what have I done?"
"Forget what you've done and think about what you're going to do. You have to find her and apologize."
Dante looked up and nodded, "Yes." He ran down the stairs and started looking in every nook and cranny he could find.
After an hour he felt he had scoured the entire ship, but still hadn't found her. "Oh Otto where is she, I'm so sorry Lily honey I'm so sorry." He whispered as he ran back to the room. He was hoping Taren could help him look since his own senses were apparently so dull. Dante ran down the stairs and stopped halfway when he saw Lily, she was asleep in Taren's arms. He was sitting against the wall with his arms around her and his eyes met Dante's as he walked in. "I looked everywhere, I couldn't find her." He whispered as he sat next to them. Lily's face was dirty and red with streaks of her tears down her cheeks. Just looking at her in that state broke his heart. "She said she was in the bottom of the boat, it's how she got so dirty." Taren whispered.
Dante sighed and tentatively reached for her, but stopped. "I don't want to wake her." Taren looked at Lily's face a moment before looking back at Dante. "She was right you know. You're pushing her away."
Dante sighed, "I am aren't I." The realization made his chest tight.
"You're not used to being with a woman, especially not one so young." Taren said, "You have to get over that you think she'd be better off with a younger guy, no one is better than you. Not for her, you're it."
He shook his head, "I probably screwed that up."
Taren gently shrugged his shoulders, "If you love her, truly love her then you're going to have to give her time. She'll come around I know it. Lily loves you more than anything. Have faith in her love Dante." He looked at Lily's sleeping face and felt a tear fall down his cheek. " I will." he whispered.
Lily woke up when little Deidre started crying. She opened her eyes and saw she was still sitting against Taren. "Morning Lily-Lou." Taren started stretching so she sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. Memories of last night floated in her mind and tears started forming as she laid down on the quilt, "Morning." She whispered and felt Taren rub her arm. "Dante went looking for you last night." She didn't say anything, she just closed her eyes. "You should talk to him Lily-Lou."
"Lily?" She thought Mary sounded sad, "I'm so sorry for assuming you knew I meant first baby and not first boat trip, it's all my fault."
"It's not your fault Mary, he just, didn't want to hear me." She said choking back the tears. "Come on Lily-Lou, let's get something to eat." Taren started lifting her up, "You need to eat something you didn't have dinner last night." As if on cue her stomach growled loudly so she cooperated and followed Taren out of the room. She didn't see Dante as they walked and he wasn't in the galley. Lily ate a little, though she didn't really feel like it. "I want to go up top, feel the wind." She said to Taren as she pushed away her plate.
He nodded, "All right, I'll be up in a while." Taren still had a big plate of food to eat, Lily figured he must really like the cook; he hadn't missed a meal on the ship yet. When she got upstairs the wind hit her immediately. The smell was wonderful and Lily walked to the railing and watched the waves. It didn't make her sick now, it comforted her. She reminded herself that she was on Otto's domain and let her Gods love embrace her.
"Lily?" His voice was like a shock to her system and she jumped a little. "Sorry I didn't mean to startle you." he said. Lily turned, he was standing about five feet away from her. "Lily, I can't even begin to convey how wrong I was and how sorry I am." He looks awful she thought, very tired and sad. The imprint of her hand was still on his cheek. "You were right Lily, I was pushing you away I see that now. I have no excuse for what I did. I can only promise that I'll never do it again." He kneeled in front of her and she let him take her hand. "Once I told you I'd wait forever for you. I haven't kept that promise very well." His fingers rubbed her skin lightly. "I love you Lily, I should have listened to you and not my own insecurities. Can you ever forgive me?"
She looked down at his face and felt tears fall. "I don't know whether to kiss you or walk away Dante." He lowered his head and covered her hand with slow little kisses,
"I understand if you need time." He looked up and his face broke her heart. "I love you Lily Vale. You and no other and I promise to never treat you like I did last night, ever again." He stood and she let him kiss her cheek, "Come find me when you're ready." He whispered. As he walked away Lily turned back to the ocean; the wind was so strong it dried her tears as they fell. "Otto it hurts so much, what should I do?" she whispered.
"Ship on the horizon!" A voice from above called out and Lily looked up. There was a sailor in the crow's nest pointing north. She looked out to sea and indeed, far away was a ship with no flag raised. As she stared at the distant ship her father's voice rang in her head, 'If you're ever at sea and come upon a ship with no flag it only means one thing, pirates.' "Otto help us." Lily whispered.
The captain ran past her and scurried up to the crow's nest. Lily watched as Dan took the hand held telescope from his man and looked north. He watched for what seemed an eternity, then lowered it slowly. Lily walked up to the mast as he came back down. "Captain is it pirates?" she asked calmly. He sighed heavily, " 'Fraid so lass. You better start praying to that god of yours; we're gonna need him." He took a few steps away and started barking orders to the crew. "Hard to port, we need to get closer to the coastline!" The men acted quickly, running around pulling jigs and so forth. No one questioned, they just acted.
When Taren came up from the galley he saw how agitated everyone looked. Lily was standing still by the rail and he thought she looked a little pale and walked. "What's going on Lily-Lou?" He saw the captain furiously turning the ship toward the coast. "Pirates."
"What?" He looked back and saw her eyes staring deep into his.
"Pirates are coming Taren."
He glanced out to sea and sighed, "Good thing we're on Otto's turf then huh?" He said.
"Yeah, good thing." But he thought Lily didn't sound grateful at all.
The 'Beautiful Bee' was on high alert all day and into the night; it seemed to take the other boat forever to catch up to them. As the slivered moon rose high in the sky Lily was at the railing again, she couldn't stop staring at the other ship, even though at the moment it was too dark to really see anything. "Lily?" Once again his voice made her jump but she didn't turn. "Can you see anything?" he asked.
She shook her head, "No, not yet." He walked next to her and leaned on the rail.
"Do they know who it is?"
"If they do they haven't said." She said quietly. Dante sighed and hung his head,
"We really should have walked." Surprisingly his words made Lily laugh, but tears fell with the laughter. "Yes we should have." He chuckled and slid over until his arm touched hers. "I'll do whatever I can to keep you safe." Lily looked over at him and his face was so sincere it made her heart ache. "We'll keep each other safe." She whispered.
"Wait." She touched her finger to his lips, "I need to say something." He nodded and let her continue. "The things you said, hurt me so much. I felt as if my heart would wither and die in my chest. My sweet Dante was saying I had slept with another man and the worst part?" Tears started pouring down her cheeks, but she was able to keep her voice strong. "He wouldn't listen to me. The one person besides Taren in the whole world who would never lie to me; never hurt me and never ever betray me was killing me because he wouldn't hear me out. Where are we to go if we don't trust each other?" She turned to the sea and her hair began whipping around her arms. "We stand here helpless on the edge of battle and I know I can trust you at my back." She turned back to him and felt a tear roll down her cheek. "But can I still trust you with my heart?" Lily pushed away from the rail and left Dante alone on deck.
She walked back to the room and laid next to Taren. "Have you talked to Dante today?" He asked her. Lily nodded her head and closed her eyes. "I have." Taren gave her a hug and tucked some of her hair behind her ear. "Everything will be all right Lily, I promise."
She looked up and kissed his hand. "I pray it will be."
As morning arrived everyone could see the other ship and it was indeed moving quite quickly in their direction. It had also raised a flag during the night but none of the trio recognized it. Red shackles around boney arms over a black background waved over the intruding ship. The captain was still at the helm and he looked like he hadn't slept all night. "Captain, will we make port before they reach us?" Lily asked.
"Doesn't look that way lass." He said keeping his eyes forward.
"You know who it is don't you." Taren said.
Dan nodded sharply, "Renn the Dreaded." None of them had ever heard of him.
"Is he known for anything?" Dante asked.
"Generally slavery. He takes the survivors and sells them where he can."
"Survivors? So at least we have a chance to defend ourselves." Taren said.
"Otto will be with us Captain." Lily said.
"Hope you're right lass." Lily ran down the stairs to warn Mary and Ed and found them cuddling on the trio's blanket. "You should stay down here and protect your family Ed. We'll do our best to keep them out but the captain says we won't make port in time. If you have to fight, then know the battle hasn't gone in our favor." Lily said. Mary cradled her children and Ed put his hands on her shoulders. "I'll do my best." He said.
"Did the captain say when?" Mary's voice was small and frightened.
"No he didn't, but we'll make sure and give you plenty warning."
"Thank you Lily." She nodded at Ed then made her way back up to the deck. Taren was polishing his rapier and Dante was pacing back and forth, stealing looks at the ever closing ship. When he saw her back on deck he walked over to her, "We may be in Otto's territory but he can only do so much."
"I agree." She turned to the ship, it seemed much closer than when she went downstairs. "It's so fast, I wonder if they have magical help."
"Wouldn't surprise me a bit." Dante said. Captain Dan walked by and leaned over the priests. "They'll be in bombard range within the hour, I suggest you start prayin." He walked into his cabin and slammed the door. Dante put an arm around Lily and pulled her close. "Otto will guide us." She said, wrapping her arms around him. Dante kissed the top of her head as Taren walked over and hugged Lily from behind, making her favorite kind of hug that the young man had dubbed 'a Lily sandwich'. "I hope you're right Lily-Lou." He said against the back of her neck.
The crew prepared for bombardment while Lily and Dante prayed for the crew, for their safety, and the ability to stay brave in the face of certain doom. Lily walked over to Taren and touched his rapier, "May Otto bless your sword and let you strike your enemies true."
He smiled weakly, "Thanks Lily-Lou." He kissed her cheek and walked off. The captain came out of his cabin dresses in full regalia. He wore a big fancy coat and his hat had a rather large feather in it. His sword was curved and Lily hoped he knew how to use it. Dante walked up to him as he straightened his belt, "May Otto bless you and your crew Captain."
"Thank you Father, let's hope he favors us this day." When the captain reached the helm Lily heard something a loud whistling on the air. "What is that?" They looked around but saw nothing. "In coming!" They heard a second before a cannon ball hit the railing of the ship; splinters scrapped at everyone on deck as the ball bounced and skipped off the other side. "Otto be with your faithful in their time of need!" Lily yelled and ran to the stairs. "Ed they're close!" She yelled down.
The captain started barking orders, "Bring in those sails, men at your stations get ready for a bloody battle!" The men cheered with their captain but it was all for show. Lily could see the fear in their eyes as they did their captains bidding. One of the deckhands came up to Lily, "Noticed you didn't have a weapon Miss. Thought this might be better than nothing." He handed her a club.
"Thank you." She said and took it from him, Lily hated causing others pain but she realized why it might be necessary to at the moment. The pirate ship fired four more times on 'The Beautiful Bee' and only one missed. Luckily the boat hadn't started to sink but it kept Dan's crew busy as they scrambled to patch holes and douse small fires that had started on the deck. Renn's ship was so close they could see him and his crew on the other boat, not remotely worried that the 'Bee' had finally started to fire on them. "What are they waiting for?" Lily asked to know one in particular.
"To board Miss," She looked down and saw a cabin boy with a bloody cheek staring at the pirates, "they intend to board."
"Come here son." She kneeled down and touched his cheek, but he backed off.
"There'll be more hurt soon miss. Don't waste a prayer on me." He ran up the stairs and stood next to the captain. Lily turned back to the pirate ship in time to see them lowering a plank between the two ships. One of Dan's men tried to kick it away but an arrow burst into him and he fell into the water below. The wooden plank hit the deck with a loud clank that made Lily jump. "Renn! You will rue the day you stopped my boat!" Dan yelled out. Renn laughed loudly and Lily could see his black teeth. He was smaller than Dan but most men were, he had long dread locks that were graying at the temples." Ha ha ha I think not!" Renn laughed as his pirates rushed the ship and started swinging their swords; Dan's men met the pirates head on and started fighting for their lives.
Taren was clearly the best swordsman out of all of them and Lily watched as he went from one pirate to the next, putting stunning if not lethal holes in them. Dante helped the crew men who were hurt as Lily prayed for them. "Otto we need your divine influence!" Lily yelled into the heavens. Dan's men felt elated, like if they kept fighting they would live and win the day. They knew that Otto wouldn't let them down so they fought more ferociously than ever and Renn's men started to back off. "All right men we got 'em on the run! Press forward!" Dan yelled triumphantly. Lily was helping the cabin boy who now had an arrow in his leg and was oblivious to the danger around her; but Taren saw Renn was heading straight for Lily and abandoned the pirate he was fighting. "Lily look out!" He ran between her and Renn, his rapier poised in a defensive posture. The dirty pirate laughed, "I'm gonna get your priestess boy and I always get what I want!"
"Lily move!" Taren yelled and pressed the attack on Renn. He lunged forward but was deflected by Renn's rapier. "Might as well give up boy you're gonna lose!" Taren heard Lily speaking behind him, "Otto give him hope!" He had never felt anything like it before; it was as if Otto was inside him, telling him he could win. Their rapiers flashed quickly like a well-choreographed dance but Taren was so focused on Renn's sword that he didn't notice the treacherous pirate reach into one of his pockets. "You're good lad, but can you fight blind!" He flung his hand at Taren's face and a handful of black powder flew into his eyes. Taren yelled out in pain as his vision darkened, he panicked and frantically tried to wipe his eyes. Lily watched in horror as Renn's rapier sank deep into Taren's chest. He made a horrible gurgling noise and fell back onto the deck. "Taren!" Lily screamed, her voice was so full of panic it made everyone turn in her direction. She leaned over him and saw blood spreading quickly on his tunic. "Otto help him-"
"Lily!" She looked up and saw Dante was running towards her. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. She turned and saw Renn reaching for her, Lily was torn over healing Taren or protecting herself. If she protected herself she'd be able to heal him properly later, but not if he died first. She made her choice and laid her hand on his chest and finished her prayer, "His wound is too grievous." She felt Otto's love flow from her hands into her friend and she knew he wouldn't die from this wound.
Before Lily could turn she felt a hand grab her roughly by the hair and pull her to her feet. Dante was halfway to her when Renn pointed his rapier her throat. "Not another step priest or the priestess will join your god!" Dante stopped in his tracks, breathing hard at the sight. Lily struggled against the hand that held her hair, oblivious of the blade at her neck. "Quit squirming girl." He pressed the tip of the blade on her neck and Lily gasped as she felt a trickle of blood running down her neck. "Put your weapons down or I kill the priestess!" Renn yelled out to the crew. No one was fighting at this point, all eyes were on them. The sailors looked to their captain, "Far be it from me to be the death of a servant of Otto. Put down your weapons."
They dropped whatever they were holding onto the deck and Renn's men moved in and started bunching the crew together. "Seems they care about your well-being girl, you're lucky." He let go of her hair, in that split second Lily tried to move away but he grabbed her neck and squeezed. Dante saw the pain on her face and wanted to kill Renn. "Let her go and we won't kill you!" He yelled. Renn started laughing, "You're brave priest I'll give you that. Tie 'em up lads! I have a feeling they're going give us a lot of trouble." Lily tried to slowly move down out of his grip, but it was too much. "That's not gonna work lass." He lifted her up so she was standing on her tiptoes and the pain made her yell out. "Please," She managed to whisper. "Please let us go." She was out of ideas; pirates weren't really known for their ability to sympathize but she had to try. "Please?" Renn said, "Did you say please?"
"Yes please, let us go."
He leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "If I let you go, what do I get?" She struggled to turn around, but his grip was like iron. "What do you want?" She tried to keep it quiet but it wasn't enough, she could see Dante's face twist in horror. "Lily no don't!"
Renn chuckled, "This your woman lad? She's really pretty."
"If you hurt her I will kill you myself!" Dante tried to rush them but was soon overtaken by Renn's men and Lily watched in horror as he was viciously beaten to the deck. "Doubt that lad." Renn forced Lily up the stairs toward the captain's cabin. She groaned every step of the way. "Renn don't do this, there's no need for it." Dan said.
"We'll see if your young priestess can free your ship; think she's that good?" Renn laughed and kicked open the door and shoved Lily down so hard she stumbled onto the floor. The blood rushing back to her head made her dizzy and she tried to scramble out of reach when she heard the door shut, but Renn grabbed her robe and roughly helped her to her feet. "Now, what's your name pretty one?" he said in a low voice.
An hour later the door opened and Lily and Renn walked out Dan's room, laughing. "Lily!" Dante saw her through his one good eye, the other was so swollen it wouldn't open. He was surrounded by Renn's men and couldn't move to her, but he still managed to hold his hands out towards her. Lily smiled sweetly at Dante as Renn spoke. "All right men, let 'em go and get back on the boat!" He yelled out.
"We're not taking them sir?" One of the pirates called out.
"No we're not, now don't disobey me or I'll flay you alive!" The pirates quickly untied Dan's men and filed back onto Renn's boat. The second Dante could, he ran up the stairs and pulled Lily into a hug. "Are you all right Love? Gods I was so afraid for you." Lily looked up into his eyes, "I'm fine." she said, gently stroking his bloody cheek. "Otto heal this man's wounds, let him see me through clear eyes." Dante felt the pain melt away and slowly he could see out of both eyes. Renn cleared his throat, "Lily?" She turned with a smile, "It was a pleasure meeting you, don't forget my message."
She shook her head, "I won't forget I promise." He held out his hand and she shook it as Renn looked up at Dante, "You take care of her you hear?" Dante looked completely confused and Renn walked back to his boat, laughing at the priests reaction. Before Dante could recover Lily ran over to Taren. He was still laying on the deck with his eyes closed, she could hear his breathing was ragged and coming in quick gasps. When she kneeled next to him he opened his eyes, "Lily-Lou, did he hurt you?" He tried to reach up and touch her face but she took his hand and laid it back on his lap. "I'm fine don't worry about me." Lily laid her hand on his chest and he felt the familiar warmth of Lily's divine magic spread through his body. There was no more pain and he took a big breath. "What happened?" he asked. Lily didn't notice that Dante had moved behind her as she took out a handkerchief and started cleaning Taren's face. He had been in so much pain he had forgotten all about the soot in his eyes. "Thanks Lily-Lou."
"You're welcome Taren." She put the handkerchief back in her pocket and helped Taren stand. "Lily will you tell me what happened before I explode!" Dante said.
"Yes I think I'd like to know that as well." Captain Dan strolled up behind him. His crew was moving around the ship like mad men trying get back on course and far away from Renn. "All right calm down it's all right," she said calmly, " Let's go in your cabin and talk privately." Dan nodded and lead the way but Dante was the only one that went with them; Taren decided to check on Ed and his family. The three of them walked into the cabin and took seats around a small table. "So what happened?" Dante was still quite worked up. "Not what you think, he didn't touch me." He sighed and leaned back in his chair, "I was so worried about you."
Lily stood behind Dante and stroked his hair. "I know my love I was scared for you too. My heart fell to my knees when I saw them beating you." Dante sighed at her touch and brought her around to his lap where she sat down with a smile. "So what happened?" Dan asked. Lily sighed and hugged Dante, "Well, after he shoved me in here he pulled me to my feet. I remember scowling at him, I hadn't planned on making anything easy for him. He looked confused for some reason. Then he asked my name,
"Why do you care?" I asked.
I stared at him and hoped if I played along it might buy me some time for something, anything. "Lily Vale."
"Vale! How old are you?"
"You're about twenty, twenty one aren't you?" He said. It shocked me that he knew that. "How did you know?" He let go of my arm and I stepped back a bit. His eyes seemed to roam over me. "It can't be, but now I got a good look at you I see it."
"Your father's Etienne Vale, isn't he?"
I gasped, "How did you know that?"
Renn laughed good and deep, "I thought I recognized that scowl!" He kept on laughing.
"What's so funny?" I yelled at him. He sat down at the table and kicked out a chair,
"I know your father lass!" I was shocked, how could my father know this despicable pirate. "You do?"
"Yes! Did he not tell you about his pirating days?" he said proudly.
"Sort of. I knew he was one."
"Sit down girl I ain't gonna hurt ya now. The seas'd open up and swallow me if I hurt any of Vale's blood. What did he tell you?"
I slowly sat down in the chair, I didn't really trust him yet. "That he was a deckhand on a ship that broke up outside of Fairwinds."
"Yeah I remember that day, bad storm it was. Just snuck up on us. Captain tried to get us to shore quickly but the gods were against us that day."
"The boat still broke up."
"Aye lass it did, If it weren't for your father I would be dead."
"What did he do?"
Renn leaned back and crossed his hands over his stomach. "Said he was a deck hand eh? He wasn't, he was the captain. It was his quick thinking that got the ship so close to the shore and so many of us survived."
I was shocked, "He was the captain? But he was so young!"
"Age don't matter lass, it's instincts and who you know."
Lily was still on Dante's lap, stroking his face. "Over the next hour he told me stories about my father. I told him how he was and what happened after he left. It was so odd and yet relieving at the same time. When I told him about you Dante he genuinely seemed happy; like an uncle."
Captain Dan sat back much like Renn, and smiled, "So your father's Etienne Vale?" The captain asked in the same surprised tone Renn had. "Don't tell me you know him too?"
"No, no but I heard of him, practically a legend among us. Took on a whole band of pirates himself to save his crew when he was a deck hand; the captain didn't make it but made him captain before he died. He was forceful yet fair, a lot of new sailors wanted on his boat."
"I had no idea." Lily smiled at the thought of her papa.
"Seems his legend still helps others; you should thank him next time you see him." Dan said. "I have a lot of words for him actually." She said smiling.
Within the hour Renn's ship was out of sight and everyone relaxed. Many of the men thanked Lily for whatever it was she did and she thanked them for their bravery. The priests had set up a little triage in the galley and they spent the rest of the day tending to the worst of the hurt sailors. "I can't believe it." Lily said to herself.
"Believe what?" Dante asked, sitting next to a sailor with a deep cut in his arm.
"No one died. Everyone lived." She smiled like she couldn't believe it. "Everyone gets to live today."
Her smile grew and Dante chuckled. "It does happen Love."
"Not enough." she said, returning her attention to the cabin boy.
Soon Taren came clunking down the stars, "Ed and Mary are all right. No one went downstairs thankfully. How's everyone in here?"
"Alive." Lily said, beaming at her friend. He laughed and walked up her to.
"That's the way it should be." He kissed the top of her head and looked up at Dante. "So, how are you two?" Dante looked over at Lily, she was still smiling at him.
"I had some sense knocked into me." Dante said. Taren chuckled and playfully hit Dante in the shoulder, "Good. You two belong together."
"We do." Lily said, smiling at her priest.
That night found the clerics deep in the bowls of the ship. Dante was sitting on the floor, Lily was on his lap and their arms were around each other. She sat up and slid her hand to his cheek where she had slapped him the night before. Dante closed his eyes and nuzzled her palm, letting her icy scar chill his lips. "My beautiful Lily." He whispered against her skin. "I never thought I'd feel your touch again." His eyes glittered with tears of relief but he didn't let them fall. He took her hand and kissed the tops of her fingers. "I have never, ever in my whole life have done anything as shameful as what I did the other night. I cannot begin to atone for my behavior and I am profoundly sorry that I caused you so much pain. I will never take anyone's word over yours again. I can't believe I did it in the first place."
He gently wiped away a few of Lily's tears that started falling. "You were right Love, I was pushing you away. I had this insane notion that you'd be better off with a younger man. But you're not. You're meant to be with me Lily and I'm meant to be with you. Otto gave us to each other." She smiled through the tears and kissed him. Their lips mingled furiously like they'd been parted for years instead of hours. They both tasted the salt of her tears as their tongues licked at lips and teeth. Slowly they parted, trying to catch their breath. "I love you Dante. I can't image my life without you." She sat up and ran her fingers though his beard and he pulled her close to his lips. "Kiss me my beautiful Lily." He whispered. Lily obeyed quickly and covered his mouth with hers and gently bit his lip as she slowly sat back, "I would, give myself to you Dante." She whispered.
He smiled and caressed her cheek, "I would gladly accept your body, but I would be angry at myself for letting the past day's events lead us to bed. I want your first time to be because we love each other, not because I have some primal need to claim your body."
She chuckled, "I'd like as well." Lily laid her head on his chest and let the sound of his heartbeat calm her.