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Clarice was awakened by Nathaniel's snoring. She rolled over in the small bunk and opened her eyes. She saw him sitting at his desk slumped forward on top of a map he must've been working on late last night. Clarice got up out of bed and decided to get dressed for the day. She dressed in knee length black trousers and a light green tunic. She left the cabin quickly and stepped out onto the deck. As she began walking towards the other end of the ship she spied a little male sea otter following her. She turned around and placed her paws on her hips. "Are you following me?" she asked him.
The tiny otter shook his head. "I no bes follerin you. I was just..um."
"What's your name?" Clarice asked.
"Canvas. My pa and my brothers work on the ship. they say Canvas is too likkle to work." Canvas looked sad.
"Well, you must know your way around the ship. could you show me the way to the galley. Some breakfast would be nice."
He saluted her. "Foller me!" he said instantly cheered up.
Clarice followed him to the galley where a thin female sea otter was laboring over a cauldron of stew. "Auntie Will! The Capn's mate wants Brekkist!" yelled canvas.
Clarice growled inwardly at the little sea otter. She was not Nathaniel's mate. The thin sea otter turned around and wiped her paws on her apron. "Oh, hello...Um, I'm sorry i don't know your name."
"My name is Clarice Consfortingtam. He called you Will, I'm assuming that's your name."
"What, oh no," she shook her head. "Will is just a nick name. My name is Willow Halloway. My husband Jem steers the ship."
Willow grabbed a bowl and filled it up with steaming hot soup and gave it to Clarice with a peice of fresh bread. "Canvas," Called Willow, "Could you go back above deck. Perhaps you could go help Jem or annoy Jenner. I would like to talk about grownupstuff with miss Clarice."
Canvas left leaving the two females alone. Willow waited patiently while Clarice ate. Clarice ate quickly and when finished said, "That was wonderful Willow. Thank you."
Willow blushed, "You're welcome. So...How did you and the captain meet?" She asked.
Clarice hesitated before answering, "well...um, He came up to me at this tavern and offered to buy me a drink. I said sure. When my comrade came back to the table he saw Nathaniel and they got into a fight. I stood up to defend Nathaniel and then we....Kind..Got together. Then when i found that he had left me during the night my comrade and I continued on our mission to Redwall."
Willow nodded in understanding. "What happened after that?"
"Abot five weeks later i found out that i was pregnant and on my last mission to Redwall i gave birth to a baby girl. That's why i'm here now. We agreed to go get her."
"Did you abandon her?"
"No. I was taken away from her by force of the Long Patrol. Evidently they don't like their officers having children with sea rogues they barely know."
Willow's eyes filled with sadness. "That's awful. I wish I could say that i've lived only a peaceful life, but that would be a lie. I know the cruelness of this world all to well." she said.
Willow shook her head and gripped her apron tightly. "I was a slave most of my life. It hurts to go into detail about it, but let's just say the scars will never leave me. Physically and mentally."
She lifted up her blouse to expose her back. Clarice gasped and placed a paw over her mouth. There were many crisscrossed silvery scars all over her back. She lowered her blouse again to hide the old wounds. "I still have nightmares about the guards who whipped me, and about the night of my mothers death. She didn't deserve to die that night."
"Something tells me that your mother wasn't the only one you loved that died."
"She wasn't. My father died when I was fifteen seasons old. Little did I know that in one season we would be liberated by Nathaniel's crew. Anyways, he died avenging me. One of the guards, A weasel called Bogleach, Beat me until i was unconscious one night when he caught me after curfew. He left me bruised and bloody in a small allyway to die. I wasn't aware of anything until my brother, August, found me and carried me home. There he and my sister tried to clean me up as best they could, but my father came home from his work and saw me still bloody in my brothers arms. He got real angry and began shouting, "Who did this to you?" I managed to say Bogleach and then pass out again. When I woke up the blood had been washed from my fur and I had been dressed in a different tunic. I saw my sister weeping and asked what had happened and when she said that dad had been killed I began sobbing to. I hurt all over so I couldn't sit up so I laid there and cried while Augie held my paw with one of his and held my sister with the other. August was the strong silent type so he didn't want us to see him cry, but at night I could hear him sobbing."
"Where are your siblings now?"
"Only August and I were left of our family by the time we were freed. My sister, Latika, had gotten married to a Slave who worked in the fields with her and she was going to have a child, but she died in childbirth along with her unborn child. She just wasn't strong enough. After my accident August was the only one who went to work to support us both. I could barely walk i was so weak. When we were liberated Jem carried me back to the ship and basically nursed my brother and I back to health. August now works on the ship like all of what's left of the other slaves. Many didn't last very long because they were so weak and malnourished."
Clarice didn't know what to say after listening to Willow's tragic tale. Suddenly there were loud footfalls coming down the steps to the galley. Nathaniel appeared looking tired with dark circles underneath his eyes and his headfur sticking up at odd angles. "Am I too late for breakfast?" he asked.
"Nope. I saved you some." said Willow as she filled up a bowl with stew and gave it to him with a thick slice of bread.
He looked down at the food and said, "Is there any more of that hotroot pepper from the south islands left?"
Willow nodded and took a box off of a shelf, opened it, and put just a pinch of bright red pepper into his bowl. He thanked her and began eating. When he was finished he turned to Clarice. "Can I talk to you for a while in my cabin? I have some questions for you."
Clarice sighed and stood up to follow him. As they left the galley she waved goodbye to Willow. They had to go across the main deck where there were many sea otters at work. One of them bumped into Clarice and quickly said sorry then carried on with his task.
When they made it to the cabin Nathaniel sat down at his desk and picked right up on where he had left off on his map. Clarice stood in front of him with her arms folded across her chest. "Well, what did you want to talk about?" she asked.
Nathaniel looked up at her. " I was wondering who I should avoid at this Redwall place."
"Hmmm...Well i'd stay away from all of the hares and maybe Skipper of otters. He's kind of an iffy subject. Also stay away from those who seem to dislike you."
"Sounds reasonable. So...I was wondering..What does my daughter look like exactly?"
"Rose looks almost exactly like me except for the eyes. She has your brown eyes. Thank goodness she didn't inheirit my ugly gray ones." Clarice replied.
"I think your eyes are beautiful," Nathaniel murmured. "Everything about you is beautiful. The first time I saw yoiu across that smoky bar I knew that you were the one."
Clarice got angry. "I don't believe in love at first sight. How can you truly love me when you know absolutely nothing about me?"
"I know you better than you think."
"Ok then, whats my favorite color?"
"Bla...Hey how did you know?"
"your jacket is black and your sword has black stones in it. That must mean you like black."
"Fine, but that doesn't mean you know the story of my life. And I don't know yours. I mean we were only together for one night!"
He got up and went over to her. "Then maybe we should both tell our stories. I'll go first." He took her paw in his and they walked over to the bunk together and sat down.
Back at Redwall...
Little rose and her best friend Renji were playing in the grounds when they heard someone at the gate. They raced up the wallsteps to the battlements. They peered over the edge and saw a group of hares standing by the gates. "Hellwow down dere! Who bes you?" Yelled Renji.
one hare with a long waxed mustache called up, "Long Patrol hares! Go get your Abbess to let us in young un!"
Renji drew his toy sword, (which was a small branch) and whispered to Rose. "I'll pwotect da Abbey. Rosie go get da Abbess!"
Rose hurried down the wallsteps and ran into Cavern Hole where Abbess Byrony was hosting an elders meeting. "Mudder Abbess! There bes strange beasties at da gate! come quick."
The Abbess excused herself from the meeting to follow the young otter out to the gate. She opened it a bit ond once she saw the hares opened the gate fully for them. "Welcome friends, What brings you to our abbey?"
Major Dagwood answered, "My daughter Clarice will be arriving soon with that one's father." He pointed at Rose.
"Oh my, where did she find him?"
"She didn't have to look. He came to her on his own accord. He's quite the ugly fellow though. Big with only one eye and lots of scars. I have no idea what she sees in him."
"I see. Well you and your hares are welcome to stay as long as you like. Lunch will be served out in the orchard."
The Major nodded and began towards the abbey building with his regiment. As Scarum passed Rose he gave her a look of disgust and then kept moving with the other hares. Rose hid behind the Abbesses robes. "What's wrong Rose?" she asked.
"I know dat wabbit. He tooked me away fwom my mum. Dey taked her away!"
"Hush Rose, Your mother is on her way her and guess who she has with her."
"My fader? I no have a fader, only a mum."
"Well thats what the Major said. we'll just have to wait and see. Hey, where's Renji?"
"Up on da battlemints."
"Oh my goodness! Let's get him down befor he falls!" They raced up the wallsteps and retrieved little Renjji who was pretending to fight vermin and was leaning perilously over the parapets. When they were back on the ground Rose told him about the hares and her mother coming back with a stranger who claimed to be her father. Renji took little interest in this considering he had no parents.
Back on the ship...
"I was born on this ship, but I never knew my mother. Shortly after I was born she left me and my father fo some Galedeep fellow. My father and his crew raised me. He was the captain before me, bless his soul. I don't remember much about my childhood except that I got into a lot of mischeif with Jem and Dano. When my father past on he left the ship and it's crew to me. Being a young captain I sought a lot of advice from Jenner who was a bit more experienced. Anyways i continued my fathers legacy of killing vermin and sinking their ships, but I also decided to do something new. I decided to take my crew ashore to free enslaved woodlanders. Willow was from one of those recues along with her brother. Yup life was good and I thought it would get even better when I met you, but that night everything went downhill. When you had just fallen asleep I was close to doing the same when I heard the door open. When I looked over nobeast was there so I lay back and closed my eyes. No sooner had I done that when i felt something pressing against my neck. When I opened my eyes Scarum was standing over me with his sword at my throat. He motioned for me to get up and I did. I had just put my trousers on when he prodded my between my shoulderblades to get me out into the hall. There he bound my paws together and and kept that blade between my shoulders until we were outside. Thats when he said to me, "You have five seconds to leave before I start to come after you. If I catch you near Clarice again I will kill you." but me being who I am decided to fight him once he cut my bonds. That turned out to be a big mistake. He fought like a madbeast he did. He knocked my dagger out of my reach and cut me down. Before I blacked out I saw him walk away leaving me there to bleed to death. Then the next thing I knew I was on my ship and Willow was stitching up my wound. It hurt the most when she washed away the blood with salt water. My gosh that stuff burned. The pain wouldn't subside even after she had put a healing salve on me and bandaged my chest. Later my body couldn't take it anymore and I passed out from the pain. Once I was fully healed I came to see you."
"Can I see what he did to you?"
"Are you sure?"
She nodded. Nathaniel pulled off his shirt and Clarice stared at his chest in horror. There was a long thick scar that ran from his shoulder across his chest and ended at the top of his hipbone. Tears ran down her face. "How could he do this to you?"
"It was easy for him to hurt me because he hates me."
clarice threw her arms around his neck and sobbed into his chest. Nathaniel held her close to him and tryed to calm her but when that failed he decided just to hold her and let her cry. He could tell that all these tears weren't just for him. They were for Rose and for being betrayed by someone she thought she could trust.
When Clarice's tears began to slow she sat up away from Nathaniel and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her tunic. "I was abandoned by my mother when I was only days old. When Dagwood found me he was assigned the role of my surrogate father. At first I think he was happy to have me ,but when I began to get older he seemed to lose interest. Since I was still young I was very curious and often had the tendency to go exploring in the mountain. I always seemed to end up in a place that I shoudn't be in. When this happened Dagwood would get real angry and yell at me. One time he even hit me. Then he wouldn't speak to me for days. Eventually I stopped wandering and kept to myself in my room with only Bescarum for company. He was the one I thought I could trust the most, but I guess I was wrong. Being an otter I was denied many privleges. One of them was being a member of the long patrol. I tried for many seasons to get them to let me join and eventually Lord Brang gave in and made me a scout. On my very first mission I met you. After my mission when we had been back at salamandastron for a while I found out that I was going to have a child. I only told Scarum because we were going to be going on a mission soon. WHile travelling the time came for Rose to be born. Luckily we were very close to Redwall and we got there in time. After having Rose I didn't want to leave Redwall, but after a season a group of hares, including Dagwood, came to take me back by force to Salamandastron. I refused to go easily and one of the hares knocked me out. The next thing I knew was that my paws were bound behind me and two hares were carrying me. I tried to fight but they held me down. I gave up knowing I wouldn't win. Back at the mountain I was constantly being watched by the hares that worked in secret for dagwood. When you arrived I was secretly happy because I knew I would be able to get away from the hares for a while."
Nathaniel pulled her back into a loving embarce and said, "I will never let them hurt you again."
Clarice kissed him hard and was glad that he kissed back. She broke the kiss and said, "I love you."
Nathaniel kissed her again.