The princess bride, p.28
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       The Princess Bride, p.28

           William Goldman
 

  "And our assets?"

  "Your brains, Fezzik's strength, my steel."

  Westley stopped wiggling his toes. "That's all? That's it? Everything? The grand total?"

  Inigo tried to explain. "We've been operating under a terrible time pressure from the very beginning. Just yesterday morning, for example, I was a hopeless drunk and Fezzik toiled for the Brute Squad."

  "It's impossible," Westley cried.

  "I am Inigo Montoya and I do not accept defeat--you will think of something; I have complete confidence in you."

  "She's going to marry Humperdinck and I'm helpless" Westley said in blind despair. "Lay me down again. Leave me alone."

  "You're giving in too easily, we fought monsters to reach you, we risked everything because you have the brains to conquer problems. I have complete and absolute total confidence that you--"

  "I want to die," Westley whispered, and he closed his eyes. "If I had a month to plan, maybe I might come up with something, but this..." His head rocked from side to side. "I'm sorry. Leave me."

  "You just moved your own head," Fezzik said, doing his best to be cheery. "Doesn't that up your spirits?"

  "My brains, your strength and his steel against a hundred troops? And you think a little head-jiggle is supposed to make me happy? Why didn't you leave me to death? This is worse. Lying here helpless while my true love marries my murderer."

  "I just know once you're over your emotional outbursts, you'll come up with--"

  "I mean if we even had a wheelbarrow, that would be something," Westley said.

  "Where did we put that wheelbarrow the albino had?" Inigo asked.

  "Over by the albino, I think," Fezzik replied.

  "Maybe we can get a wheelbarrow," Inigo said.

  "Well why didn't you list that among our assets in the first place?" Westley said, sitting up, staring out at the massed troops in the distance.

  "You just sat up," Fezzik said, still trying to be cheery.

  Westley continued to stare at the troops and the incline leading down toward them. He shook his head. "What I'd give for a holocaust cloak," he said then.

  "There we can't help you," Inigo said.

  "Will this do?" Fezzik wondered, pulling out his holocaust cloak.

  "Where...?" Inigo began.

  "While you were after frog dust--" Fezzik answered. "It fit so nicely I just tucked it away and kept it."

  Westley got to his feet then. "All right. I'll need a sword eventually."

  "Why?" Inigo asked. "You can barely lift one."

  "True," Westley agreed. "But that is hardly common knowledge. Hear me now; there may be problems once we're inside--"

  "I'll say there may be problems," Inigo cut in. "How do we stop the wedding? Once we do, how do I find the Count? Once I do, where will I find you again? Once we're together, how do we escape? Once we escape--"

  "Don't pester him with so many questions," Fezzik said. "Take it easy; he's been dead."

  "Right, right, sorry," Inigo said.

  The man in black was moving verrrrrry slowly now along the top of the wall. By himself. Fezzik and Inigo followed him through the darkness in the direction of the wheelbarrow. There was no denying the fact that there was a certain excitement in the air.

  BUTTERCUP, for her part, felt no excitement whatsoever. She had, in fact, never remembered such a wonderful feeling of calm. Her Westley was coming; that was her world. Ever since the Prince had dragged her to her room she had spent the intervening hours thinking of ways to make Westley happy. There was no way he could miss stopping her wedding. That was the only thought that could survive the trip across her conscious mind.

  So when she heard the wedding was to be moved up, she wasn't the least upset. Westley was always prepared for contingencies, and if he could rescue her at six, he could just as happily rescue her at half past five.

  Actually, Prince Humperdinck got things going even faster than he had hoped. It was 5:23 when he and his bride-to-be were kneeling before the aged Archdean of Florin. It was 5:24 when the Archdean started to speak.

  And 5:25 when the screaming started outside the main gate.

  Buttercup only smiled softly. Here comes my Westley now, was all she thought.

  IT WAS NOT, in point of fact, her Westley that was causing the commotion out front. Westley was doing all he could to simply walk straight down the incline toward the main gate without help. Ahead of him, Inigo struggled with the heavy wheelbarrow. The reason for its weight was that Fezzik stood in it, arms wide, eyes blazing, voice booming in terrible rage: "I AM THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS AND THERE WILL BE NO SURVIVORS." He said that over and over, his voice echoing and reverberating as his rage increased. He was, standing there, gliding down through the darkness, quite an imposing figure, seeming, all in all, probably close to ten feet tall, with voice to match. But even that was not the cause of the screaming.

  YELLIN, FROM HIS position by the gate, was reasonably upset at the roaring giant gliding down toward them through the darkness. Not that he doubted his hundred men could dispatch the giant; the upsetting thing was that, of course, the giant would be aware of that too, and logically there must somewhere in the dimness out there be any number of giant helpers. Other pirates, anything. Who could tell? Still, his men held together remarkably staunchly.

  It was only when the giant got halfway down the incline that he suddenly, happily, burst into flame and continued his trip saying, "NO SURVIVORS, NO SURVIVORS!" in a manner that could only indicate deadly sincerity.

  It was seeing him happily burning and advancing that started the Brute Squad to screaming. And once that happened, why, everybody panicked and ran....

  Eight

  Honeymoon

  ONCE THE PANIC was well under way, Yellin realized he had next to no chance of bringing things immediately under control. Besides, the giant was terribly close now, and the roar of "NO SURVIVORS" made it very hard to do any solid thinking, but fortunately he had the sense to grab the one and only key to the castle and hide it on his person.

  Fortunately too, Westley had the sense to look for such behavior. "Give me the key," Westley said to Yellin, once Inigo had his sword securely pressuring Yellin's Adam's apple.

  "I have no key," Yellin replied. "I swear on the grave of my parents; may my mother's soul forever sizzle in torment if I am lying."

  "Tear his arms off," Westley said to Fezzik, who was sizzling a bit himself now, because there was a limit as to just how long a holocaust cloak was really good for, and he wanted to strip a bit, but before he did that, he reached for Yellin's arms.

  "This key you mean?" Yellin said, and he dropped it, and after Inigo had taken his sword, they let him run away.

  "Open the gate," Westley said to Fezzik.

  "I'm so hot," Fezzik said, "can I please take this thing off first?" and after Westley's nod, he pulled the flaming cloak away and left it on the ground, then unlocked the gate and pulled the door open enough for them to slip through.

  "Lock it and keep the key, Fezzik," Westley said. "It must be after 5:30 by now; half an hour left to stop the wedding."

  "What do we do after we win?" Fezzik said, working with the key, forcing the great lock to close. "Where should we meet? I'm the kind of fellow who needs instructions."

  Before Westley could answer, Inigo cried out and readied his sword. Count Rugen and four palace guards were rounding a corner and running toward them. The time was then 5:34.

  THE WEDDING ITSELF did not end until 5:31, and Humperdinck had to use all of his persuasive abilities to get even that much accomplished. As the screaming from outside the gate burst all bounds of propriety, the Prince interrupted the Archdean with gentlest manner and said, "Holiness, my love is simply overpowering my ability to wait--please skip on down to the end of the service."

  The time was then 5:27.

  "Humperdinck and Buttercup," the Archdean said, "I am very old and my thoughts on marriage are few, but I feel I must give them to you on this most happy of days."
(The Archdean could hear absolutely nothing, and had been so afflicted since he was eighty-five or so. The only actual change that had come over him in the past years was that, for some reason, his impediment had gotten worse. "Mawidge," he said. "Vewy old." Unless you paid strict attention to his title and past accomplishments, it was very hard to take him seriously.)

  "Mawidge--" the Archdean began.

  "Again, Holiness, I interrupt in the name of love. Please hurry along as best you can to the end."

  "Mawidge is a dweam wiffin a dweam."

  Buttercup was paying little attention to the goings on. Westley must be racing down the corridors now. He always ran so beautifully. Even back on the farm, long before she knew her heart, it was good to watch him run.

  Count Rugen was the only other person in the room, and the commotion at the gate had him on edge. Outside the door he had his four best swordsmen, so no one could enter the tiny chapel, but, still, there were a lot of people screaming where the Brute Squad should have been. The four guards were the only ones left inside the castle, for the Prince needed no spectators to the events that were soon to happen. If only the idiot cleric would speed things along. It was already 5:29.

  "The dweam of wuv wapped wiffin the gweater dweam of everwasting west. Eternity is our fwiend, wemember that, and wuv wiw fowwow you fowever."

  It was 5:30 when the Prince stood up and approached the Archdean firmly. "Man and wife," he shouted. "Man and wife. Say that!"

  "I'm not there yet," the Archdean answered.

  "You just arrived," the Prince replied. "Now!"

  Buttercup could picture Westley rounding the final corner. There were four guards outside waiting. At ten seconds per guard, she began figuring, but then stopped, because numbers had always been her enemy. She looked down at her hands. Oh, I hope he still thinks I'm pretty, she thought; those nightmares took a lot out of me.

  "Man and wife, you're man and wife," the Archdean said.

  "Thank you, Holiness," the Prince said, whirling toward Rugen. "Stop that commotion!" he commanded, and before his words were finished, the Count was running for the chapel door.

  It was 5:31.

  ***

  IT TOOK A full three minutes for the Count and the guards to reach the gate, and when they did, the Count could not believe it--he had seen Westley killed, and now there was Westley. And with a giant and a strangely scarred swarthy fellow. Something about the twin scars banked deep into his memory, but now was not the time for reminiscing. "Kill them," he said to the fencers, "but leave the middle-sized one until I tell you" and the four guards drew their swords--

  --but too late; too late and too slow, because as Fezzik moved in front of Westley, Inigo attacked, the great blade blinding, and the fourth guard was dead before the first one had had sufficient time to hit the floor.

  Inigo stood still a moment, panting. Then he made a half turn in the direction of Count Rugen and executed a quick and well-formed bow. "Hello," he said. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

  And in reply, the Count did a genuinely remarkable and unexpected thing: he turned and ran. It was now 5:37.

  KING LOTHARON AND QUEEN Bella arrived at the wedding chapel in time to see Count Rugen leading the four guards in a charge down the corridor.

  "Are we too early?" Queen Bella said, as they entered the wedding chapel and found Buttercup and Humperdinck and the Archdean.

  "There is much going on," the Prince said. "All, in due time, will come matchlessly clear. But I fear there is a strong possibility that, at this very moment, the Guilderians are attacking. I need time alone in the garden to formulate my battle plans, so could I prevail upon you two to personally escort Buttercup to my bedchamber?"

  His request was, naturally, granted. The Prince hurried off then, and, after one stop to unlock a closet and remove several pairs of boots that had once belonged to Guilderian soldiers, he hurried outside.

  Buttercup, for her part, walked very slowly and peacefully between the old King and Queen. There was no need ever to worry, not with Westley there to stop her wedding and take her away forever. The truth of her situation did not take genuine effect until she was halfway to Humperdinck's room.

  There was no Westley.

  No sweet Westley. He had not seen fit to come for her.

  She gave a terrible sigh. Not so much of sadness as of farewell. Once she got to Humperdinck's room, it would all be done. He had a splendid collection of swords and cutlery.

  She had never seriously contemplated suicide before. Oh, of course she'd thought about it; every girl does from time to time. But never seriously. To her quiet surprise, she found it was going to be the easiest thing in the world. She reached the Prince's chamber, said good night to the Royal Family, and went directly to the wall display of weaponry. The time was then 5:46.

  INIGO, AT 5:37, was so startled at the Count's cowardice that for a moment he simply stood there. Then he gave chase and, of course, he was faster, but the Count made it through a doorway, slammed and locked it, and Inigo was helpless to budge the thing. "Fezzik," he called out desperately, "Fezzik, break it down."

  But Fezzik was with Westley. That was his job, to stay and protect Westley, and though they were still within view of Inigo, Fezzik could do nothing; Westley had already started to walk. Slowly. Weakly. But he was, under his own power, walking.

  "Charge it," Fezzik replied. "Slam your shoulder hard. It will give for you."

  Inigo charged the door. He slammed and slammed his shoulder, but he was thin, the door otherwise. "He's getting away from me," Inigo said.

  "But Westley is helpless," Fezzik reminded him.

  "Fezzik, I need you," Inigo screamed.

  "I'll only be a minute," Fezzik said, because there were some things you did, no matter what, and when a friend needed help, you helped him.

  Westley nodded, kept on walking, still slowly, still weak, but still able to move.

  "Hurry," Inigo urged.

  Fezzik hurried. He lumbered to the locked door, threw his bulk against it hard.

  The door held.

  "Please," Inigo urged.

  "I'll get it, I'll get it," Fezzik promised, and he took a few steps back this time, then drove his shoulder against the wood.

  The door gave some. A little. But not enough.

  Fezzik backed away from it now. With a roar he charged across the corridor and when he was close he left the castle floor with both feet and the door splintered.

  "Thank you, thank you," Inigo said, already halfway through the broken door.

  "What do I do now though?" Fezzik called.

  "Back to Westley," Inigo answered, in full flight now, beginning chasing through a series of rooms.

  "Stupid," Fezzik punished himself with, and he turned and rejoined Westley. Only Westley was no longer there. Fezzik could feel the panic starting inside him. There were half a dozen possible corridors. "Which which which?" Fezzik said, trying to figure it out, trying for once in his life to do something right. "You'll pick the wrong one, knowing you," he said out loud, and then he took a corridor and started hurrying along it as fast as he could.

  He did pick the wrong one.

  Westley was alone now.

  INIGO WAS GAINING. He could see, instant to instant, flashes of the fleeing noble in the next room, and when he reached that place, the Count would have made it into the room beyond. But each time, Inigo was gaining. By 5:40, he felt confident he would, after a chase of twenty-five years, be alone in a room with his revenge.

  BY 5:48, BUTTERCUP felt quite sure she would be dead. It was still a minute before that as she stood staring at the Prince's knives. The most lethal looked to be the one most used, the Florinese dagger. Pointed at one end, it entered easily, growing into a triangular shape by the hilt. For quicker bleeding, it was said. They were made in varying sizes, and the Prince's looked to be one of the largest, being wrist thick where it joined the handle. She pulled it from the wall, put it to her heart.
r />   "There are always too few perfect breasts in this world; leave yours alone," she heard. And there was Westley on the bed. It was 5:48, and she knew that she would never die.

  Westley, for his part, assumed he had till 6:15 for his hour to be up. That was, of course, when an hour was up, only he didn't have an hour; only forty minutes. Till 5:55, actually. Seven minutes more. But, as has been said, he had no way of knowing that.

  AND INIGO HAD no way of knowing that Count Rugen had a Florinese dagger. Or that he was expert with the thing. It took Inigo until 5:41 before he actually cornered the Count. In a billiard room. "Hello," he was about to say. "My name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father; prepare to die." What he actually got out was somewhat less: "Hello, my name is Ini--"

  And then the dagger rearranged his insides. The force of the throw sent him staggering backward into the wall. The rush of blood weakened him so quickly he could not keep his feet. "Domingo, Domingo," he whispered, and then he was, at forty-two minutes after five, lost on his knees....

  BUTTERCUP WAS BAFFLED by Westley's behavior. She rushed to him, expecting to be met halfway in a wild embrace. Instead, he only smiled at her and remained where he was, lying on the Prince's pillows, a sword beside his body.

  Buttercup continued the journey alone and fell onto her very one and darling Westley.

  "Gently," he said.

  "At a time like this that's all you can think to say? 'Gently'?"

  "Gently," Westley repeated, not so gently this time.

  She got off him. "Are you angry at me for getting married?" she wondered.

  "You are not married," he said, softly. Strange his voice was. "Not in my church or any other."

  "But this old man did pronounce--"

  "Widows happen. Every day--don't they, Your Highness?" And now his voice was stronger as he addressed the Prince, who entered, muddy boots in hand.

  Prince Humperdinck dove for his weapons, and a sword flashed in his thick hands. "To the death," he said, advancing.

  Westley gave a soft shake of his head. "No," he corrected. "To the pain."

  It was an odd phrase, and for the moment it brought the Prince up short. Besides, why was the fellow just lying there? Where was the trap? "I don't think I quite understand that."

 
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