The princess bride, p.23
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       The Princess Bride, p.23

           William Goldman
 

  "Who?" Falkbridge called from inside the alehouse.

  "The Chief of All Enforcement in Florin City, accompanied by Brutes," Yellin replied. Completeness was one of his virtues.

  "Oh." Falkbridge opened the door. For a power, he was very unimposing, short and chubby. "Come in."

  Yellin entered, leaving the two Brutes in the doorway. "Get ready and be quick," Yellin said.

  "Hey, Yellin, it's me," Falkbridge said softly.

  "I know, I know," Yellin said softly right back. "But please, do me a favor, get ready."

  "Pretend I did. I'll stay in the alehouse, I promise. I got enough food; no one will ever know."

  "The Prince is without mercy," Yellin said. "If I let you stay and I'm found out, that's it for me."

  "I been paying you twenty years to stay out of jail. You're a rich man just so I don't have to go to jail. Where's the logic of me paying you and no advantages?"

  "I'll make it up to you. I'll get you the best cell in Florin City. Don't you trust me?"

  "How can I trust a man I pay twenty years to stay out of jail when all of a sudden, the minute a little extra pressure's on, he says 'go to jail'? I'm not going."

  "You!" Yellin signaled to the noisy one.

  The Brute started running forward.

  "Put this man in the wagon immediately," Yellin said.

  Falkbridge was starting to explain when the noisy one clubbed him across the neck.

  "Not so hard!" Yellin cried.

  The noisy one picked up Falkbridge, tried dusting his clothes.

  "Is he alive?" Yellin asked.

  "See, I didn't know you wanted him breathing in the wagon; I thought you only wanted him in the wagon breathing or not, so--"

  "Enough," Yellin interrupted and, upset, he hurried out of the alehouse while the noisy one brought Falkbridge. "Is that everyone then?" Yellin asked as various Brutes were visible leaving the Thieves Quarter pulling various wagons.

  "I think there's still the fencer with the brandy," the noisy one began. "See, they tried getting him out yesterday but--"

  "I can't be bothered with a drunk; I'm an important man, get him out of here and do it now, both of you; take the wagon with you, and be quick! This quarter must be locked and deserted by sundown or the Prince will be mad at me, and I don't like it much when the Prince is mad at me."

  "We're going, we're going," the noisy one replied, and he hurried off, letting the quiet one bring the wagon with Falkbridge inside. "They tried getting this fencer yesterday, some of the standard enforcers, but it seems he has certain sword skills that made them wary, but I think I have a trick that will work." The quiet one hurried along behind, dragging the wagon. They rounded a corner, and from around another corner just up ahead, a kind of drunken mumbling was starting to get louder.

  "I'm getting very bored, Vizzini" came from out of sight. "Three months is a long time to wait, especially for a passionate Spaniard." Much louder now: "And I am very passionate, Vizzini, and you are nothing but a tardy Sicilian. So if you're not here in ninety more days, I'm done with you. You hear? Done!" Much softer now: "I didn't mean that, Vizzini, I just love my filthy stoop, take your time...."

  The noisy Brute slowed. "That kind of talk goes on all day; ignore it, and keep the wagon out of sight." The quiet one pushed the wagon almost to the corner and stopped it. "Stay with the wagon," the noisy one added, and then whispered, "Here comes my trick." With that he walked alone around the corner and stared ahead at the skinny fellow sitting clutching the brandy bottle on the stoop. "Ho there, friend," the noisy one said.

  "I'm not moving: keep your 'ho there,'" said the brandy drinker.

  "Hear me through, please: I have been sent by Prince Humperdinck himself, who is in need of entertainment. Tomorrow is our country's five hundredth anniversary and the dozen greatest tumblers and fencers and entertainers are at this very moment competing. The finest pair will compete personally tomorrow for the new bride and groom. Now, as to why I'm here: yesterday, some of my friends tried rousting you and they said, later, that you resisted with some splendid swordwork. So, if you would like, I, at great personal sacrifice, will rush you to the fencing contest, where, if you are as good as I am told, you might have yet the honor of entertaining the Royal Couple tomorrow. Do you think you could win such a competition?"

  "Breezing."

  "Then hurry while there's still time to enter."

  The Spaniard managed to stand. He unsheathed his sword and flashed it a few times across the morning.

  The noisy one took a few quick steps backward and said, "No time to waste; come along now."

  Then the drunk started yelling: "I'm--waiting--for--Vizzini--"

  "Meanie."

  "I'm--not--mean, I'm--just--following--the--rule--"

  "Cruel."

  "Not--cruel, not--mean; can't you understand I'm..." and here his voice trailed off for a moment as he squinted. Then, quietly, he said, "Fezzik?"

  From behind the noisy one, the quiet one said, "Who says-ik?"

  Inigo took a step from his stoop, trying desperately to make his eyes focus through the brandy. "'Says-ik'? Is that a joke you made?"

  The quiet one said, "Played."

  Inigo gave a cry and started staggering forward: "Fezzik, it's you!"

  "TRUE!" And he reached out, grabbed Inigo just before he stumbled, brought him back to an upright position.

  "Hold him just like that," the noisy Brute said, and he moved in quickly, right arm raised, as he had done to Falkbridge.

  S

  P

  L

  A

  T

  !

  Fezzik dumped the noisy Brute into the wagon beside Falkbridge, covered them both with a soiled blanket, then hurried back to Inigo, whom he had left leaning propped against a building.

  "It's just so good to see you," Fezzik said then.

  "Oh, it is ... it ... is, but..." Inigo's voice was winding steadily down now. "I'm too weak for surprises" were the last sounds he got out before he fainted from fatigue and brandy and no food and bad sleep and lots of other things, none of them nutritious.

  Fezzik hoisted him up with one arm, took the wagon in the other, and hurried back to Falkbridge's house. He carried Inigo inside, placed him upstairs on Falkbridge's feather bed, then hurried away to the entrance of the Thieves Quarter, dragging the wagon behind him. He made very sure that the dirty blanket covered both the victims, and outside the entrance the Brute Squad held a boot count of those they had removed. The total came out right, and, by eleven in the morning, the great walled Thieves Quarter was officially empty and padlocked.

  Released from active duty, Fezzik followed the wall around to a quiet place and waited. He was alone. Walls were never any problem for him, not so long as his arms worked, and he quickly scaled this one and hurried back through the quiet streets to Falkbridge's house. He made some tea, carried it upstairs, force-fed Inigo. Within a few moments, Inigo was blinking under his own power.

  "It's just so good to see you," Fezzik said then.

  "Oh, it is, it is," Inigo agreed, "and I'm sorry for fainting, but I have done nothing for ninety days but wait for Vizzini and drink brandy, and a surprise like seeing you, well, that was just too much for me on an empty stomach. But I'm fine now."

  "Good," Fezzik said. "Vizzini is dead."

  "He is, eh? Dead, you say ... Vizz..." and then he fainted again.

  Fezzik began berating himself. "Oh, you stupid, if there's a right way and a wrong way, trust you to find the dumb way; fool, fool, back to the beginning was the rule." Fezzik really felt idiotic then because, after months of forgetting, now that he didn't need to remember anymore, he remembered. He hurried downstairs and made some tea and brought some crackers and honey and fed Inigo again.

  When Inigo blinked, Fezzik said, "Rest."

  "Thank you, my friend; no more fainting." And he closed his eyes and slept for an hour.

  Fezzik busied himself in Falkbridge's kitchen. He really didn't
know how to prepare a proper meal, but he could heat and he could cool and he could sniff the good meat from the rotted, so it wasn't too great a task to finally end up with something that once looked like roast beef and another thing that could have been a potato.

  The unexpected smell of hot food brought Inigo around, and he lay in bed, eating every bite Fezzik fed him. "I never realized I was in such terrible condition," Inigo said, chewing away.

  "Shhh, you'll be fine now," Fezzik said, cutting another piece of meat, putting it into Inigo's mouth.

  Inigo chewed it carefully down. "First you appearing so suddenly and then, on top of that, the business of Vizzini. It was too much for me."

  "It would have been too much for anybody; just rest." Fezzik began to cut another piece of meat.

  "I feel such a baby, so helpless," Inigo said, taking the next bite, chewing away.

  "You'll be as strong as ever by sundown," Fezzik promised, getting the next piece of meat ready. "The six-fingered man is named Count Rugen and he's here right now in Florin City."

  "Interesting," Inigo managed this time before he fainted again.

  Fezzik stood over the still figure. "Well it is so good to see you," he said, "and it's been such a long time and I've just got so much news."

  Inigo only lay there.

  Fezzik hurried to Falkbridge's tub and plugged it up and after a lot of work he got it filled with steaming water and then he dunked Inigo in, holding him down with one hand, holding Inigo's mouth shut with the other, and when the brandy began to sweat from the Spaniard's body, Fezzik emptied the tub and filled it again, with icy water this time, and back he plunged Inigo, and when that water began to warm a bit back he filled the tub with steaming stuff and back went Inigo and now the brandy was really oozing from his pores and that was how it went, hour after hour, hot to icy cold to steaming hot and then some tea and then some toast and then some steaming hot again and more icy cold and then a nap and then more toast and less tea but the longest steamer yet and this time there wasn't much brandy left inside and one final icy cold and then a two-hour sleep until by mid-afternoon, they sat downstairs in Falkbridge's kitchen, and now, at last, for the first time in ninety days, Inigo's eyes were almost bright. His hands did shake, but not all that noticeably, and perhaps the Inigo of before the brandy would have bested this fellow now in sixty minutes of solid fencing. But not too many other masters in the world would have survived for five.

  "Tell me briefly now: while I've been here with the brandy, you have been where?"

  "Well, I spent some time in a fishing village and then I wandered a bit, and then a few weeks ago I found myself in Guilder and the talk there was of the coming wedding and perhaps a coming war and I remembered Buttercup when I carried her up the Cliffs of Insanity; she was so pretty and soft and I had never been so near perfume before that I thought it might be nice to see her wedding celebrations, so I came here, but my money was gone, and then they were forming a brute squad and needed giants and I went to apply and they beat me with clubs to see if I was strong enough and when the clubs broke they decided I was. I've been a Brute First Class all this past week; it's very good pay."

  Inigo nodded. "All right, again, and this time please be brief, from the beginning: the man in black. Did he get by you?"

  "Yes. Fairly too. Strength against strength. I was too slow and out of practice."

  "Then it was he that killed Vizzini?"

  "That is my belief."

  "Did he use his sword or his strength?"

  Fezzik tried to remember. "There weren't any sword wounds and Vizzini didn't seem broken. There were just these two goblets and Vizzini dead. Poison is my guess."

  "Why would Vizzini take poison?"

  Fezzik hadn't the least idea.

  "But he was definitely dead?"

  Fezzik was positive.

  Inigo began to pace the kitchen, his movements quick and sharp, the way his movements were before. "All right, Vizzini is dead, enough of that. Tell me briefly where the six-fingered Rugen is so I may kill him."

  "That may not be so easy, Inigo, because the Count is with the Prince, and the Prince is in his castle, and he is pledged not to leave it till after his wedding, for he fears another sneak attack from Guilder, and all the entrances but the main one are sealed for safety and the main doors are guarded by twenty men."

  "Hmmm," Inigo said, pacing faster now. "If you fought five and I fenced five, that would mean ten gone, which would be bad because that would also mean ten left and they would kill us. But" and now he picked up his pace even more, "if you should take six and I took eight, that would mean fourteen beaten, which would not be as bad but still bad enough, since the six remaining would kill us." And now he whirled on Fezzik. "How many could you handle at the most?"

  "Well, some of them are from the Brute Squad, so I don't think more than eight."

  "Leaving me twelve, which is not impossible, but not the best way to spend your first evening after three months on brandy." And suddenly Inigo's body sagged and in his eyes, bright a moment ago, now there was moisture.

  "What has happened?" Fezzik cried.

  "Oh, my friend, my friend, I need Vizzini. I am not a planner. I follow. Tell me what to do and no man alive does it better. But my mind is like fine wine; it travels badly. I go from thought to thought but not with logic, and I forget things, and help me, Fezzik, what am I to do?"

  Fezzik wanted to cry now too. "I'm the stupidest fellow that was ever born; you know that. I couldn't remember to come back here even after you made up that special lovely rhyme for me."

  "I need Vizzini."

  "But Vizzini is dead."

  And then Inigo was up again, blazing about the kitchen, and for the first time his fingers were snapping with excitement: "I don't need Vizzini; I need his master: I need the man in black! Look--he bested me with steel, my greatness; he bested you with strength, yours. He must have outplanned and outthought Vizzini and he will tell me how to break through the castle and kill the six-fingered beast. If you have the least notion where the man in black is at this moment, relate, quickly, the answer."

  "He sails the seven seas with the Dread Pirate Roberts."

  "Why would he do a thing like that?"

  "Because he is a sailor for the Dread Pirate Roberts."

  "A sailor? A common sailor? A common ordinary seaman bests the great Inigo Montoya with the sword? In-con-ceiv-a-ble. He must be the Dread Pirate Roberts. Otherwise it makes no sense."

  "In any event, he is sailing far away. Count Rugen says so and the Prince himself gave the order. The Prince wants no pirates around, what with all the trouble he is having with Guilder--remember, they kidnapped the Princess once, they might try--"

  "Fezzik, we kidnapped the Princess once. You never were strong on memory, but even you should recall that we put the Guilder uniform pieces under the Princess's saddle. Vizzini did it because he was under orders to do it. Someone wanted Guilder to look guilty and who but a noble would want that and what noble more than the war-loving Prince himself? We never knew who hired Vizzini. I guess Humperdinck. And as for the Count's word on the man in black's whereabouts, since the Count is the same man who slaughtered my father, we can rest assured that he is certainly a terrific fellow." He started for the door. "Come. We have much to do."

  Fezzik followed him through the darkening streets of the Thieves Quarter. "You'll explain things to me as we go along?" Fezzik asked.

  "I'll explain them to you now...." His bladelike body knifed on through the quiet streets, Fezzik hurrying alongside. "(a) I need to reach Count Rugen to at last avenge my father; (b) I cannot plan on how to reach Count Rugen; (c) Vizzini could have planned it for me but, (c prime) Vizzini is unavailable; however, (d) the man in black outplanned Vizzini, so, therefore, (e) the man in black can get me to Count Rugen."

  "But I told you, Prince Humperdinck, after he captured him, gave orders for all to hear that the man in black was to be returned safely to his ship. Everyone in Florin kno
ws this to be so."

  "(a) Prince Humperdinck had some plans to kill his fiancee and hired us to carry them out but (b) the man in black ruined Prince Humperdinck's plans; however, eventually, (c) Prince Humperdinck managed to capture the man in black, and, as everybody in all Florin City also knows, Prince Humperdinck has a terrible temper, so, therefore, (d) if a man has a terrible temper, what could be more fun than losing it against the very fellow who spoiled your plans to kill your fiancee?" They had reached the Thieves Quarter wall now. Inigo jumped on Fezzik's shoulders and Fezzik started to climb. "Conclusion (1)," Inigo continued, not missing a beat, "since the Prince is in Florin City taking out his temper on the man in black, the man in black must also be in Florin City. Conclusion (2), the man in black must not be too happy with his present situation. Conclusion (3), I am in Florin City and need a planner to avenge my father, while he is in Florin City and needs a rescuer to salvage his future, and when people have equal needs of each other, conclusion (4 and final), deals are made."

  Fezzik reached the top of the wall and started carefully climbing down the other side. "I understand everything," he said.

  "You understand nothing, but it really doesn't matter, since what you mean is, you're glad to see me, just as I'm glad to see you because no more loneliness."

  "That's what I mean," said Fezzik.

  IT WAS DUSK when they began their search blindly through all of Florin City. Dusk, a day before the wedding. Count Rugen was about to begin his nightly experiments at that dusk, gathering up his notebooks from his room, filled with all his jottings. Five levels underground, behind high castle walls, locked and chained and silent, Westley waited beside the Machine. In a way, he still looked like Westley, except, of course, that he had been broken. Twenty years of his life had been sucked away. Twenty were left. Pain was anticipation. Soon the Count would come again. Against any wishes he had left, Westley went on crying.

  IT WAS DUSK when Buttercup went to see the Prince. She knocked loudly, waited, knocked again. She could hear him shouting inside, and if it had not been so important, she would never have knocked the third time, but she did, and the door was yanked open, and the look of anger on his face immediately changed to the sweetest smile. "Beloved," he said. "Come in. A moment more is all I need." And he turned back to Yellin. "Look at her, Yellin. My bride-to-be. Has any man ever been so blessed?"

 
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