Lilly stayed up late into the night waiting for Justin to fall asleep. After slipping the letter of introduction into his bag she found sleep evading her. Staring up at her ceiling she couldn't help but worry about actually letting her son head off on his own the next day.
But should she be that worried? She had been just as old as Justin when she assumed the moniker of Lilly the Skull. Just fourteen when she stole a boat and began a career in piracy with the two sisters Vivian and Charlotte. A relatively short career given what happened, but anything had seemed better than their dull life of laundry work. Despite her room-mates' constant praise for her culinary skills, and her own day-dreams of running her own business, Lilly lacked even a fraction of the necessary funds to begin the Seagull Restaurant. She smiled as she recalled the memory of the time they truly changed their careers. How they crept out of the dorm room and into the night, each now wearing their pirate garb, assembled in frustratingly slowly gained pieces.
There had initially been some reticence from Charl on actually stealing a boat, but Lilly was quick to point out that piracy wasn't exactly legal at the best of times. One more misdemeanor on top of the proposed life of crime didn't seem anything to worry about. Oh, they'd been inelegant the first few days; sailing theory not translating as nicely as they would have liked into sailing practice. They had to overcome their first bouts of sea-sickness, understanding how to adjust the sails and how best to move with the wind. But they never gave up and soon figured out the best way to come alongside attack another ship. They knew the security and defenses of most boats were slim to none; the days of piracy were supposedly long gone. It seemed entirely possible for a trio of girls to take down a boat unopposed. But they needed practice first.
Charl spotted their first target one moonless night; a small vessel chugging it's way slowly away from Parm. The only crew was one young red-headed boy about their age. Lilly had to laugh then. Was no one happy with life in Parm at the moment? They were on board before the red-head could react, slipping into aggressive personas intending to unbalance their victim. The boy turned, one hand reaching for the wooden sword at his waist, but Lilly was faster, her metal cutlass against his throat before he could flinch. It was then she spotted his pendant; a faintly glowing chunk of rock hanging from a leather thong around his neck. She demanded it right then; first loot, first step towards a new life. The boy refused.
This had not been part of the plan. They'd anticipated the threat and the act would be enough to overwhelm most victims, intending to use concerted bluffing for anyone else. None of them were exactly eager to start killing people. But this boy wasn't following the script; he stared back at his aggressor without fear. She threatened again, but he stared calmly back at her. She slowly lowered the cutlass looking at him anew. His face was tight with nerves, but his eyes flashed with determination.
She asked him why he wouldn't give up the stone, why he was making this trip, and what did he hope to accomplish on the New Continent? He told them. How he'd found the stone in the Sult Ruins, that he believed it to be the Spirit Stone. He told them of the long dead Icarians and the ancient history of their world. But mostly his speech became full of excited declarations of adventures to be had in the new world. "Adventures?" she asked. Like the games she'd watched the other kids play in their youth?
"No," the boy had said; true adventures, exploring the unknown, visiting the still only partially explored wilds. She asked him two things then. His name, and if they could go with him. His name was Alexander. And he said yes.
They spent years exploring the New Continent, the four of them forever heading off into the wilderness and circling back to the Adventurer's Society in New Parm. As exciting as it had been, there was a definite edge to their world, a finite area they were forced to explore within. It was impossible to miss the imposing, massive form of the End of the World. It always formed the boundary of every journey, no matter how eagerly Alex wanted to try and scale the structure.
He eventually turned his back on that dream. And he did it for her. The growth of their relationship had seemed so natural that before they realised it they were in love and years after their adventures began, Lilly found herself with a husband and pregnant. They turned back, finally, after gaining a fifth companion. Vivian had met Sid during their final adventure and the two became quickly inseparable. They all traveled back to Parm to begin their new lives. They had money at last and experiences so different to the routine mundanity of the port.
Lilly was able to begin the Seagull Restaurant, and soon gave birth to Justin. Sid and Vivian married not long after, and were overjoyed at the birth of their daughter Sue. Sadly the good times were not to last. They lost both Sid and Vivian in a house fire, both sacrificing themselves to ensure that Sue escaped the inferno. Charl took it upon herself to take care of her niece and eventually moved next door to the Seagull restaurant. Their friends' mortality seemed to weigh heavily on Alex despite his insistence that his adventuring days were done, he still strained and struggled with a mundane life. Eventually Lilly had had no choice but to let him go, insisting on a promise that he would return to her. She never saw him again.
Justin's attempts at moving silently finally invaded Lilly's dreams and she stifled a groan as she sat up in bed. She listened as her son finished packing his bags and tried to sneak quietly down to the living room. Some shuffling below implied Justin had dug out the photo album. Straining her ears, she could just about make out Justin talking. Talking to his father? A smile brushed her lips then as she heard him speak. He left the room inelegantly, his feet clattering on the stairs down to the restaurant.
Lilly crossed to the window then, watching for the last she would see of Justin for some time. A traitorous part of her mind suggested that it might be the last she saw of him ever, much like Alex's last adventure, but she hurriedly pushed the thought out of her mind. Her son would return one day. She was sure of it. Full of experiences and stories. And maybe, just like her, he'd return with the love of his life.
She watched her son hurry out into the mists of early morning Parm, stopping only to murmur something towards Sue's house. What had happened between the two of them yesterday? Had Justin tried to deter Sue from accompanying him?. While the thought of her son abandoning his friend like that stung, she could see that he had her best interests at heart before going adventuring on the New Continent.
Justin vanished into the swirling mists with a final backwards glance at his home. Just as Lilly was about to get dressed and begin prepping the restaurant, another movement caught her eye. The diminutive form of Sue slipped out of her house, gazing in the direction Justin had vanished, and after a moment's dithering, sped off with Puffy in tow into the early morning. She smiled, happy that the two would be together after all, but then frowned. Charl was not going to be happy with Sue's absence. Lilly could tell her now, let her get to the port and prevent her niece from leaving with Justin. But it would disrupt everything. She would visit her later; when the steamer was mid-ocean. And then she would remind Charl of their youth, their impetuousness, their piracy, Vivian, Alexander, Sid and the limits of the New World the children would find.