"Land Ho! There's the river!" Dano yelled down from the crowsnest. A cheer came from the crew below and Jenner went to go wake the Captain. He opened the door to Nathaniel's cabin and went over to the bunk. Upon seeing Clarice in the captain's arms he walked right back out of the cabin and quietly shut the door behind him. Jem came running up to him and asked, "Is he coming out?"
"Don't disturb him. He'll wake on his own." Jenner replied cooly.
"But Jenner he would want to supervise as the ship turns into the river." Jem protested.
"I said not to disturb the captain. That's an order Mr. Halloway."
Jem stormed off angrily back to the upperdeck to steer the ship. Jenner stood there and whispered to the wind, "Oh Andrew, your son has grown so much. you would be very proud of him. I think it is time."
Nathaniel awoke to find Clarice sitting on the floor digging through her pack. "What're you doing?" he asked.
She pulled out a light blue dress. "I'm going to get dressed. Now leave so I can change."
Nathaniel got up and left the cabin. He saw his first mate talking to a few other crewmembers and went over to him and said, "Morning Jenner, Has anything new occured?"
"Yes, Dano has spotted the river and i'm making sure everyone is ready to turn into it."
"Good. Is Jem ready?"
"Yes sir. also Nathaniel i'd like to talk to you for a moment. Come with me."
Nathaniel followed Jenner belowdeck. Jenner went over to his bunk and pulled a small box out from underneath it. He blew the dust off and gave it to Nathaniel. "What's this?" He asked.
He opened the box and saw what looked like a bunch of junk. He rummaged through it with his paw and felt something cold and metalic. He pulled out an old revolver. He set the box on a small table and examined the gun. It had the Danisham seal engraved upon it. "This was his wasn't it? Why didn't dad give me this earlier?"
"He said to wait until you were ready. I beleive that you are ready now."
Nathaniel stuck the revolver in the sash around his waist and began rummaging through the box again. There were a few love letters that were written to his mother, a small velvet pouch filled with bullets, polished shells, gold dablunes, and at the bottom of the box was something wrapped in pale blue satin. He picked it up and unwrapped it. It was a beautiful silver ring with tiny emralds and sapphires set into it to look like waves. Nathaniel stared at the ring, it was much to small to have been his fathers and it definatly wouldn't fit him. "That was supposed to be your mothers." Jenner said. "She left before your father could ask her to marry him."
Nathaniel slipped the ring into his pocket and put everything else back in the box. "Thank you for keeping this stuff for me Jenner. I hope you know that you were like a second father to me."
Jenner smiled. A rare sight to see. "I know. Now go back above and make yourself look like a captain."
He looked down at himself and realized that he didn't have a shirt on and his trousers were terribly wrinkled. He also hadn't bothered to put his boots on either. He took the box with him and was about to knock on the door of his cabin when Clarice opened it. There she stood wearing that blue dress. It had medium length sleeves and a low cut front. She had combed her fur and had tiny silver ear rings that looked like water droplets. She looked beautiful. "What are you staring at?"
Her voice brought Nathaniel back to reality. He blushed, "Uh..Nothing. I'm going to get some different clothes on."
He went into his cabin and locked the door. Clarice giggled and went to go find Willow.
Nathaniel came out dressed in his full captains attire. Black leather seaboots, black trousers, red sash, white shirt, black frock coat, cutlass and black trihorn hat. He went up to the upperdeck where Jem was. "Are you ready to turn into the river?" Asked Nathaniel.
"Of course. Why do you want to steer?" the blonde furred otter replied.
Nathaniel shook his head. "No I trust you to get my ship into that river safely."
"I was hoping you'd say that."
Just as the prow past the riverbank Jem turned the wheel as hard as he could to the left. The ship lurched sharply and nathaniel had to grab the railing to keep himself from falling overboard. when most of the ship was in the river Jem started to steer back to the right to straighten it out into the river. Once they were sailing smoothly again Willow came up to the main deck from her galley covered in something she had been cooking. "Jeremy Halloway!" She screamed. "I swear I will throw you overboard for doing that!"
Jem ducked behind the wheel. "Why did you let me steer the ship?"
"Oh come on I don't think she's serious."
"My wife dosn't make idle threats. When she says something she means it."
"At least you can swim."
Nathaniel went down to the main deck to find Clarice. He found her sitting on the bowsprit. He walked out and sat beside her letting his legs dangle in the air. "How far are we from the ford?"
"Not far. Just keep going."
By mid afternoon they made it to the ford and anchored the ship. Rigg's two sons, Mast and Boom, volunteered to stay and guard the ship with Willow's brother August. August was tall and thin with long sinewey muscles. Canvas wanted to stay with his brothers to help guard the ship, but Rigg wouldn't hear of it. He ended up having to hold Canvas so he wouldn't run back to the ship. As the crew walked along the path to the Abbey they tied to keep a happy mood by singing comical ditties. Nathaniel even joined in with them.Clarice had to admit that he had a strong berritone voice. They kept singing and marching and before they knew it they had made it to Redwall.
Two hares were posted on the walltops and when they heard the otter went rushing down to open the gate for them. Clarice entered followed by the sea otters. The Abbess was there to greet them and told them that she had sent some other redwallers to set up a makeshift sleeping area in Cavern Hole for the otters. As they were walking into the Abbey building the Abbess whispered to Clarice, "I had a seperate room saved for you and the captain."
"Thank you mother abbess. I'll let him know."
"No, don't trouble yourself dear. i'll let him know."
Clarice nodded and went upto the room where she lay down on the soft bed still dressed in her day clothes.
Being a mouse the Abbess was tiny standing next to Nathaniel who was tall even for a sea otter. She told him about the room and he thanked her and said that would be up after he knew his crew was settled in.
Later Nathaniel went up to the room and sat down on the bed beside Clarice who was already fast asleep. He stroked her headfur softly and leaned over to kiss her forhead. He got up and plopped down in an overstuffed armchair and swiftly fell asleep.
The next morning Clarice found a note scrawled in neat handwriting saying that Nathaniel had gone down to breakfast. Clarice went down to breakfast and saw Nathaniel sitting with his crew. She sat at the end of a table and grabbed a plate and began piling it with food. As she was eating Triss, the squirrel recorder came to sit by her. "It's been so long since i've seen you!"
Clarice smiled at her friend, "The same to you Triss, Hey I haven't seen skipper yet. Where is that crazy riverdog?"
All the happiness drained from Triss' face. "He's dead."
"Skipper is dead. Marina did give birth to a son, but she didn't make it. Skip told Sister Violet to take the babe so he could be alone with Marina for a while. When nobeast was there Skipper killed himself. Drove his own dagger through his heart he did."
"I can't beleive he'd do such a thing."
"Neither did we. He must have made up his mind while watching her die."
Clarice nodded sadly. "Triss, have you seen my daughter this morning?"
"Yes, she was out playing with some other dibbuns."
Clarice sprang up from the table and ran outside. Nathaniel saw her and was quickly on his feet and running after her. Being trained by the long patrol Clarice was much faster than the average otter. As she rounded the corner of the abbey building she saw her. Rose.
All of a sudden Rose stopped playing and stared at that all too familiar face. She ran as fast as she could toward the female otter in the blue dress yelling, "Mommy!"
Clarice ran and embraced her daughter tightly. Tears springing to her eyes. "My baby Rose! Oh how i've missed you!" She relaxed her embrace and took a good look at her daughter. "Look at how big you've gotten."
"Mommy you came back!"
"Yes, I did." She kissed Rose's little head.
Nathaniel came panting and out of breath around the corner. "Clarice why did you..." He stopped mid sentence as he saw the tiny ottermaid in Clarice's arms. He went over to Clarice and knelt beside her on the grass. Rose gasped when she saw the big sea otter and buried her face in her mother's bosum. "It's alright Rosie. He wont hurt you. Rose this is your father, Nathaniel Danisham."
Rose peeked up at him with her huge brown eyes and shyly asked," Are you really my fader?"
"Yes. You have no idea how long i've waited to see your pretty face."
Rose smiled softly. Clarice handed her to Nathaniel. He was at a loss for words as he held his daughterfor the first time. She was so small and soft and seemed so fragile. He held her close and asked, "How old are you?"
She held up six tiny claws. "I bes six seasons old!"
"Six seasons. My gosh you're almost half grown!"
Clarice smiled at them both. The two most important things in the world to her were finaly together with her.
Later that day as they ate lunch in the orchard Nathaniel went on a walk with Clarice through the fragrant and blooming fruit trees. "Clarice, there's something I have to ask you." said Nathaniel.
"What is it?"
He reached into his pocket and closed his paw tightly around the ring and took a deep breath. He got down on one knee and took Clarice's paw in his. His big brown eye looked lovingly up at her. "I know we still have a lot to learn about each other, but....Oh Clarice Consfortingtam will you marry me?"
Clarice smiled and bobbed her head up and down excitedly. "Yes!"
Nathaniel stood up and pulled her into a warm embrace. He pulled out the ring and put it on one of her claws. She stared at the ring with awe. "It's beautiful! Where did you get this?"
"It was supposed to be my mother's, but she left before she could wear it. My father kept it along with some other things for me."
Clarice kissed his cheek. "If your father was anything like you i'd say he deserved someone better than her anyways.Who did she leave him for?"
"My father never told me."
"Oh, well let's get back to the table. They're probably wondering where we went."
Nathaniel nodded and they walked back paw in paw back to where eveyone else was eating lunch. What the two lovers failed to notice was that Bescarum Whippscutt had been eavesdropping on them and had gone back the opposite way to report back to Dagwood.
When Clarice went to go put Rose to bed Nathaniel went to see the Abbess in her study. He told her about the engagement and the Abbess agreed to marry them before they left Redwall.
The next day Nathaniel awoke before dawn and decided to go for a walk around the grounds. when the sun was just coming up he went to the pond and dipped his footpaws in the cool water. He laid back on the bank and closed his eyes letting the rising sun warm his fur. "Good marrow Captain. What are you doing up so early?"
Nathaniel opened his good eye and saw Major Dagwood standing beside him. "I could ask you the same thing Major Consfortingtam. I know that you wouldn't talk to me without a reason so what is it that you want?"
Dagwood smirked at him. "A smart one you are. I really must've missjudged you, wot."
Nathaniel stood up and put his boots on. "Get on with it Major."
"Anyways a little bird told me that you had asked my daughter for her hand in marriage. Is this true?"
"Aye, it is. Do you have a problem with that?"
Dagwood rubbed his mustache casually. "I'm afraid I do. You see she needs to come back with me to Salamandastron where she belongs. I will not allow her to live on a dirty ship with you seascum."
"We are not vermin! Call me what you like, but do not say a bad word about my crew. They are the most loyal beasts I have ever met."
"I'm sure." dagwood said sarcastically."Also I don't see how she loves that little sea spawn of yours. She seems to be quite a nuisence, wot."
Now Nathaniels blood began to boil. "Do not speak of my daughter that way rabbit!" He drew his cutlass and pointed it at the hare.
"I see that you have drawn your weapon. Does this mean you wish to fight me?"
Nathaniel growled at the overly smug hare. "Why not? You've already made me angry. Don't tell me that you're afraid that you'll lose to me rabbit!"
dagwood drew his long rapier. "Don't make me laugh. Me lose to you? Don't hold back you blinking rapscallion!"
"Don't worry, I wont." Nathaniel said dangerously.
And so the fight began.....