I offer my humble apologies for the delay in the posting of this story. Circumstances of life intervened, but that is of no excuse. Please accept my apology along with the immediate posting of this next chapter. The following chapter will be posted on Monday, so it is not as long of a wait! Please enjoy and let me know what you think!
Chapter 6~ Engaging Lessons
Justin had never been so glad to see Tommy and his wife. The Guardian Star had actually docked and the plank lowered before Justin allowed Sheron to get Dabria and Salena from their cabin. He acknowledged them with a nod, but didn’t speak to them. Dabria’s head hung low. Salena looked at him briefly and stuck close to Dabria, holding her hand. It was a solemn threesome walking down to the dock.
Tommy and Kiliki took one look at the girls and focused on Justin. The girls huddled together while Justin explained in no uncertain terms what had happened.
“Your sister is impossible. She almost got herself killed. It was quite on deck until Salena started screaming. Your sister managed to sneak her way onto the rigging and climbed halfway up it without telling anyone.”
“She did what?” Kiliki interrupted loudly, turning to stare at Dabria, who ducked her head lower, if that where possible.
“She climbed the rigging. She got halfway up before we were able to stop her. And after I told her to come down, she went higher!”
“Dabria!” Kiliki exclaimed.
“She almost fell coming down. She’s luckily I made it up to her on time or you’d be short one sister,” Justin finished.
Kiliki looked shocked for a moment, before moving to wrap Dabria in a very tight hug. After a few moments, they parted and Kiliki immediately smacked Dabria on the shoulder. Her sister grabbed her stinging arm and looked at Kiliki in surprise.
“You ever try that again and I’m going to kill you myself. You have got to learn to think, Bree! If anything happened to you… just don’t let it. Got it?” Kiliki asked.
Dabria nodded. “I’m sorry, Sissy.”
“Yeah, I know. Just, never again. Or I will kill you,” but she said it with a smile and gave her another quick hug. “You really climbed the rigging halfway up?” Dabria nodded and Kiliki shook her head laughing. “You aren’t afraid of anything.”
Justin shook his head and looked at Tommy, who was watching the scene with an impressed look. “She faired as well as you.”
“You guys are no help,” Justin complained.
“Kiliki told her not to do it again, didn’t she?” Tommy questioned.
“Yes, but you’re proud of her!” Justin accused.
Tommy looked at him amused. “She climbed the rigging at eleven without fear. You especially should recognize that as an achievement.”
“She’s eleven! She shouldn’t be climbing the rigging!”
“No, she shouldn’t. But you obviously already punished her.”
“I put them both in their cabin until we arrived here,” Justin admitted.
“So, what else do you want us to do to them? They are both safe, and I doubt she climbs the rigging again,” Tommy paused, then amended, “or at least, anytime soon.”
Justin shook his head and then turned to watch the girls talking.
“You were scared, weren’t you?” Tommy asked softly.
Justin stilled for a moment, but then nodded his head. “I saw both our lives flash by me and neither one was long enough. If her other hand had lost its grip she wouldn’t be here, Tommy.”
Tommy put a hand on his shoulder. “But she is. God protected her and we can thank Him for that. He has His work cut out for Him with her, but I like to think He is just as amused as we are with the things she gets into. Remember, her sickness almost didn’t allow her to live. Don’t let her go rampaging, but also do not be too hard on her, Justin. In many ways, she is making up for lost time.”
“Does she have to do it so dangerously?” Justin muttered.
Tommy laughed. “If she wasn’t in some type of danger, I’m not so sure it would be our Dabria.”
“You do a good job with her, Justin. She loves traveling with Captain Justin. She looks forward to your trips as much as she does staying with us and this is only her second time. Don’t let this ruin that.” Tommy gave his shoulder a squeeze and then called to his wife, “Kiliki, Aunt Jada is waiting and I have no wish to endure her wrath for holding up the girls’ arrival.”
Kiliki smiled. “No, we defiantly don’t want that. Are you two ready?”
“Their things are loaded, milady,” Sheron answered, coming from behind the carriage.
“Thank you,” Kiliki replied. “Come on, girls, you are not going to believe how big your nephew has gotten.”
Dabria and Salena both let out a squeal and headed for the carriage.
“Are you coming by later?” Kiliki asked, turning to Justin.
“Of course,” he replied quickly.
“Good. We shall see you soon,” she said following the girls.
Dabria had stopped at the entrance to the carriage and was looking back at Tommy and Justin. Tommy nodded to Justin and then headed to the carriage himself.
“Dabria, come here,” Justin called.
Dabria willing walked towards him, but slowly and her eyes were fearful.
Justin knelt down so that they were more on eye level. The girl was still so small for being eleven.
“I’m not mad at you, Dabria. I didn’t want you to get hurt and that is a very good way to get extremely hurt. Understand?” Justin asked.
“You were furious with me,” Dabria said softly.
Justin sighed and nodded. “Yes, but that was because you could have gotten badly hurt and I was scared.”
“You got scared?” Dabria asked, looking at him in wonder.
“Yes, and I’d rather it not happen again. So, you stay out of danger and I won’t have to be. Deal?” Justin asked, putting out his hand.
Dabria smiled and bypassed the hand to give him a big hug. “Deal.”
Justin was taken by surprise, but he put his arms around her and hugged her too. When Dabria stepped back, he shook his head at her. “I’m going to have to watch saying stuff literally to you, aren’t I?”
Dabria shrugged innocently.
“Hmm. Get in the carriage. I’ll see you later,” Justin spoke amused now.
Dabria dropped into a curtsy and then grinned at him. “Thank you, Captain Justin.”
Justin straightened as he watched her run back to the carriage and climb in. That girl was something else.
“And that will work?” Justin asked skeptically.
“Provided you do it right, yes. It is a tricky maneuver because the stern of the ship is moving so fast, but it is possible,” Tommy replied confidently.
“Okay, but what if…”
Justin was interpreted when the door to Tommy’s library flew open. Kiliki stood in its entrance looking completely steamed. Justin swung back around to look at Tommy, who was gazing at his wife, totally unruffled.
“Yes, dear?” He asked amused.
“You two had better get downstairs for supper right now.” Kiliki said firmly, her violet eyes flashing dangerously.
Tommy didn’t seem to feel the need to head that warning. “Why?”
“It’s time for supper! You already missed breakfast and lunch and you will not miss another meal!”
Tommy grinned sheepishly, while Justin ducked his head in case something starting flying besides words.
“Actually, Aradon brought them up to us.”
“Tommy Jacer Brent, you get downstairs for supper right now or I am banning all ship talk in this house for… for a month!” Kiliki yelled.
Justin looked up wide eyed. Jacer wasn’t Tommy’s real middle name, but it was the fake last name he used in his Black Panther sailing days. And banning ship talk for a month seemed more than a little harsh. Tommy grinned at Justin then stood and walked over to his wife, who had her arms crossed defiantly against her chest.
“We are all done, Kiliki. In fact, we won’t even come back up after supper. We’ll spend the whole time with you, Adem, and the rest of the family. How does that sound?” He asked, as he moved his wife’s arms gently down to her sides.
“Well, it’s a start at least,” Kiliki muttered.
Tommy laughed, and put his arm around her, causing Justin to duck his head again, so he couldn’t see.
“Did you really miss me that much?” Tommy asked, in a low voice.
Kiliki didn’t answer for a few seconds then replied slowly, “No, I just figured you needed a good yelling to remind you our lives consist of more than just ship talk.”
Tommy shook his head and laughed. “Do they now?”
“Yes and don’t you forget it! Now get down to supper!” Kiliki’s voice held more amusement than anger now, as she slipped from her husband’s arms and moved down the hallway.
Tommy grinned. “Come on, Justin, I believe we are being summoned.”
“Loudly too,” Justin added as he joined Tommy.
Tommy clapped him on the back. “Yes, but don’t let Kiliki hear you say that!”
“Not if I want supper anymore,” Justin added as the two went downstairs to join the waiting family. Obviously, strategy lessons were over for quite some time.
Dabria watched highly amused as Evyn turned around and entered the garden walls again. She had seen him enter and exit five times now. She was good at keeping track and she was pretty sure he wasn’t trying to get lost inside it as she usually tried to do. That meant he was up to something else. Dabria thought hard as she tried to figure out what her big brother’s secret could be. Making her decision, she raced down the stairs and hurried out the back door. Careful to keep an eye on the garden entrance, she crossed first the porch and then the yard. Pausing against the garden wall, she waited for a moment before slipping inside. She let out a little giggle and then quickly covered her mouth, glancing around. This was fun, but she didn’t want to get caught, not yet anyways. She moved, quiet as a mouse, along the edge of the maze until she heard Evyn’s low voice. He was talking to himself.
“You are the greatest and I can think of no one else who …no, no…I’ve waited for only you…ugh…When I look into your eyes… I am in so much trouble,” he muttered.
He was working on a proposal! The thought filled Dabria with glee. At the same time, it struck her as hilarious and she laughed out loud.
Evyn spun around quickly. “Who’s there?”
Dabria stepped around the corner. “It’s me.”
“Dabria. Well, I guess you heard.”
“Are you practicing for Emalia?” She asked innocently.
“Yeah, I am. I want to ask her to marry me.”
“About time!” Dabria exclaimed happily.
“You and everyone else,” Evyn muttered.
“What’s wrong?” Dabria asked more concerned.
“I don’t know how to say it,” Evyn admitted.
“Don’t you love her?”
“Of course. I love her more than my own life. I would give everything to make her happy.”
“So, why don’t you tell her that? And end with ‘Please marry me and make me happy too,’” Dabria said simply.
Evyn laughed. “Is it really that easy? Will it be enough?”
“Sure,” Dabria stated. “Why? Don’t you think so?”
“I think it’s perfect, Bree. Now, I just have to tell her,” he said thoughtfully.
“Can I watch?” Dabria clapped her hands excitedly.
Evyn smiled and ruffled her hair. “No, but if she says yes, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Come on. Walk me back to the house. Then I have to go find Emalia.”
“You’re going to ask her now?” Dabria squealed.
Evyn laughed. “No time like the present. We are supposed to be going for a horseback ride.”
The girl took her brother’s hand and pulled him all the way back to the house. Inside, Dabria quickly found Salena in the kitchen with Tadi. Talking very fast, she explained what was happening. Tadi looked at both as if they had lost their minds when the girls screamed simultaneously.
“I don’t get it,” the boy commented.
“That’s because you’re a guy,” Dabria said exasperated.
Salena just smiled, looking highly amused.
Dabria turned to her friend. “I’m going to grab my drawing stuff and find Kiliki and Adem. Are you staying here?”
Salena nodded. “For a little longer.”
“Okay. Then get your writing stuff and come find me. I have an idea I want to try.”
Salena looked at her suspiciously.
Dabria raised her hands. “It’s good. It’s good!”
Dabria found her sister and nephew in the upper drawing room. Adem was exploring the newest toy his Uncle Evyn had brought him and Kiliki was taking the few precious quiet moments to read. She looked up when Dabria entered.
“B’ee!” Adem called out his own greeting.
“Hello, Bree. Where have you been?” Kiliki asked with a smile.
“Outside, but I got the urge to draw, so I came to find you,” Dabria replied.
“Are you trying family portraits again?”
“No,” Dabria said as she sat down on the floor and put her pad on her lap. “I just wanted to be close to you.”
Kiliki smiled. “I’m glad.”
The two began their separate tasks, but it was only a minute or two before Adem launched the first toy at Dabria.
“Hey!” She looked at her nephew. “You just gave this guy a huge nose!”
“I think he wants your attention,” Kiliki laughed.
“I hadn’t noticed,” Dabria muttered. But she smiled and put down her supplies to play with her nephew.
When Salena and Tadi entered, Salena put her own things by Dabria’s and joined in the fun with the toddler.
It was almost time to head to the parlor to gather for dinner when Evyn and Emalia walked into the room. Dabria looked at Evyn quickly and jumped up. Evyn caught her eyes with his own immediately and gave her a wink. To which Dabria’s only response was to squeal loudly and jump up and down.
Kiliki looked up from her book quickly. “Bree, what on earth…” her voice trailed off as she spotted her brother and best friend. “You did it?” She leapt up out of her chair and her book went flying.
Adem took one look at his mother and started bawling. Kiliki immediately turned to her boy and gathered him in her arms. “Hush, hush, Adem. Mommy’s okay. I didn’t mean to startle you. Hush, little one, everything’s fine.” Her voice was softness itself and Adem responded by calming down and laying his head against his mother. When her child was calm again, she turned back to the couple. “Explain. Did you finally ask, Evyn?”
It was Emalia who answered. “He did.” She walked to her friend and wrapped her and the baby in a hug. “He was so sweet and honest, Kiliki. It was perfect.”
Dabria grinned at Evyn, who bent down and opened his arms. She ran into them and gave him a large hug.
“Thank you, Bree. It went perfectly,” he whispered for her ears alone.
“Told you,” she whispered back.
Just then, the door opened and Tommy and Justin burst in. Tommy went directly to his wife, while Justin surveyed the scene.
“What happened?” Tommy questioned Kiliki, focusing completely on Kiliki and his son.
She smiled and explained. After which, congratulations were exchanged again.
“We must have a celebratory supper!” Kiliki said. “I shall tell Cook to make something extraordinary for dessert at least. Tomorrow, we shall do it proper, so Maath and Namid can attend as well.”
Justin nodded. “I’ll be sure to invite them.”
Tommy groaned. “Aunt Jada will not be happy she is among the last to know.”
Everyone looked at each other as all four adults said together, “You tell her!”
“Ulrich and Jasmine are 500 leagues apart…”
“No, they’re not,” Justin interrupted.
Maath glared at him. “It is an example. Now, listen. Ulrich and Jasmine are 500 leagues apart. Tristen leaves Ulrich at 75 knots and you leave Jasmine at 167 knots. How long will it take for the two ships to cross?”
“Argh!” Justin groaned loudly and dropped back onto his bed in the Great Cabin. “This isn’t ship talk its math!”
“It is ship math and you have to know it,” Maath explained patiently.
“Why? I don’t care! I know already know I’ll beat Tristen in a race any day.”
Maath crossed his arms and leaned back in the green chair. “Oh, do you? The great Captain Justin can defeat any ship on Ula Ocean,” he mocked, using Dabria’s nickname for Justin.
“With The Guardian Star I can,” Justin answered calmly.
Maath shook his head. “You don’t even know what that means.”
Justin sat up, suddenly interested in the discussion. “What are you talking about?”
The older pirate looked at Justin for a long minute, before finally replying, “You need to talk to Tommy about this ship of yours.”
“Why? What don’t I know?” Justin’s voice held the suspicion that something had been kept back from him.
“I think that the BlackPanther…”
Maath was cut off by a large crash and the yells of furious deck hands. The two men looked at each other for a split second before leaping to their feet and heading out of the Great Cabin. On deck, there was a good sized hole in a spot where there shouldn’t have been. Whoever the attackers were, they had over shot. Deck hands were already making minor repairs, as others loaded canons, and still others turned the ship onto a new heading. Namid was at the helm shouting directions.
He waved to Justin and Maath when he saw them, then shouted a new order to a deck hand who thought it was a good time to take a nap. Justin looked at Maath then leapt up the stairs two at a time to reach Namid’s side. Maath shook his head at his young captain and followed more slowly.
“Ho, Captain,” Namid greeted and pointed out to the starboard side.
A ship, waving a black and purple flag, bobbed in the waters. Her deck was alive with scrambling pirates.
“Did we attack them?” Justin asked.
“Well, not exactly…” Namid responded.
Justin swung around to look at him more closely. “Not exactly?”
“It’s the crew we traded insults with back on Dietreick. I guess they figured they would even the score.”
“I remember. They were a bunch of idiots. I thought we’d taken care of that. Don’t they know whose ship this is?”
“The name wasn’t facing them until I maneuvered the ship to avoid their little fanfare. That’s when all the scrambling stated on their deck,” Namid explained calmly.
“Well, let’s give them a reason to be scared. Are the canons loaded?” Justin asked, excitement lacing his voice at the challenge.
“Then get in close, Namid, and give the order to fire when ready, Maath.”
The two men nodded and expertly worked both the ship and crew into the perfect positions. Namid glanced at Maath and nodded, then swung the wheel hard to the port side as math called out the fire command. Cannons boomed on the deck as the ship turned. Three of the five balls made exact hits. The forth ball nicked the figurehead and the fifth fell harmlessly into the water. The crew cheered riotously at their success. The other ship faltered in its course, then turned to head away from the famous Guardian Star. Justin grinned.
“The Black Panther wins again.”
Beside him, Maath nodded. “Back to lessons, Black Panther.”
Justin groaned in defeat.