The princess bride, p.32
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       The Princess Bride, p.32

           William Goldman
 

  You still can't get to One Tree Island by boat because of the surrounding whirlpool, so I rented a helicopter, wandered. (One Tree is where they went to get their strength back.) It's where Buttercup and Westley first made love, where poor Waverly was born. Probably I shouldn't call her "poor" Waverly, she had a great time for a while, parents who loved her, the world's greatest fencer as her guard, the world's strongest man as her baby-sitter. Can't ask for a whole lot more.

  Of course, everything changed with the kidnapping, but I better shut up now, before I get ahead of the story....

  BUTTERCUP'S BABY

  S. MORGENSTERN'S GLORIOUS EXAMINATION OF COURAGE MATCHED AGAINST THE DEATH OF THE HEART

  ABRIDGED BY

  WILLIAM GOLDMAN

  One

  Fezzik Dies

  1. Fezzik

  FEZZIK CHASED the madman up the mountain, the madman who carried the most precious thing, for Fezzik, ever to be on earth, the kid herself, Buttercup's Baby.

  "Chased" was perhaps the wrong word. "Lumbered after" might have been more accurate. However you wanted to put it, the news was not good, because Fezzik, try as he might, was falling farther and farther behind. There were two reasons. The first: size. They were fifteen thousand feet in the air, the rise was sheer, and Fezzik had terrible trouble finding footholds that might make him secure. His huge clumpy feet would touch here or there, seeking sanctuary, but it took too much time.

  And the madman used that time to his advantage, increasing his lead, occasionally glancing down with his skinless face, to see how much farther Fezzik had fallen behind. Even to Fezzik, his plan was clear: get to the crest, run across the plateau, start down the far side, leave Fezzik helpless, still trying for the ascent.

  The second reason for Fezzik's lack of success was this: fear. Or, to be more specific, fears. Being the biggest and strongest, no one realized he also had feelings. Just because he could uproot trees, people didn't want to know that the little squirmy bugs that lived in the roots spooked him. Just because he had defeated the wrestling champions of seventy-three countries, people didn't believe that his mother had to keep candles burning all night long when he was (comparatively speaking) little. Of course, the idea of public speaking was beyond thought. But Fezzik would rather have spent the rest of his years in constant speechmaking than face what was staring at him now. The possibility of

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  With nothing but rocks to crush his body at the end.

  True, he had climbed the Cliffs of Insanity, but that was different. He'd had a rope to hold on to so he knew which way to go, and he'd had Vizzini insulting him, which always made the time pass more pleasantly.

  If only the madman possessed some other baggage, Fezzik would have stopped and crept back down to safety. If only it was all the silver in Persia or a pill that you only took once and you weren't a giant anymore.

  Easy to stop the chase then.

  But this was Waverly, his blessing, and though he knew in his great heart he would lose this pursuit, knew he would somehow slip, Fezzik lumbered on.

  He glanced up. She was rolled in the blanket she had been kidnapped in--and how long ago was that now? Fezzik chose not to remember because the kidnapping had been his fault. He had allowed it somehow--it had happened on his watch. Fezzik blinked back quick tears of remorse. Her body was still. The madman probably gave her some potion. To make her easier to carry.

  Above him, the madman stopped, pushed, kicked out--

  --and giant rocks were coming down toward him.

  Fezzik did his best to get out of their way, but he was too slow. The rocks grazed his feet, knocking them loose from their holds, and now he, Fezzik the Turk, was swinging high in space, holding on by just the strength of a few fingers.

  The madman cried out with delight, then climbed on, rounded a mountain corner, was gone.

  Fezzik hung in space. So very afraid.

  The winds picked at his body.

  His left hand began to cramp so Fezzik took it out of the hold, reached a yard up to a better one.

  He hung there, thinking, and what he thought was not how very afraid he was but that he had just gone up three entire feet, using only his hands. Could he do that again? He reached up another yard, found another hold. This is all very interesting, he told himself. I actually went up without using my feet. I went up faster than before, without using my feet.

  Hmmm.

  And then suddenly he was moving. Just using his hands to reach, grab, then the next, reach, grab, and never mind using all fours, just use the upper twos--

  --and then he was moving fast.

  Fezzik flew up the mountain now. Somewhere on the other side was the madman, probably taking his time, feeling sure that Fezzik was gone. Fezzik increased his speed, up to the crest, then to the plateau, racing across it with enormous strides, and when the madman got there with the babe, Fezzik was waiting.

  "I would like the child," Fezzik said softly.

  "Of course you would." The madman had no mouth. The sound came from somewhere inside his skinless face. He still held Waverly's body.

  Fezzik took a step nearer.

  "I can breathe fire," the madman said.

  Fezzik knew that it was true. But he was unafraid.

  Another step closer.

  "I can change shape," the madman said, louder now, and Fezzik knew that it was true. But he also knew this: fear had entered the heart of his enemy.

  "These are my final words," Fezzik said. "When I tell you to give me the child, you will give me the child."

  "I will use all my magic on you!"

  "You can try," Fezzik said softly. "But even though you have no face, I can see how frightened you are. You are frightened that I will hurt you." He paused. "And I will." He paused again. "Badly."

  The fear inside the madman was pulsing now.

  Fezzik's great hands reached toward the blanket. "Give me the child," he said, and the madman started to do that very thing, but then, instead, he flipped his hands so that Waverly rolled out of her blanket, spun high into the mountain air--

  --the momentum carried her over the edge where the two men were standing, and as she spun, her eyes fluttered open, and she looked around wildly, saw Fezzik, reached out toward him as she fell from sight, said the word she alone called him: "Shade."

  Fezzik had no choice. He dove into space after her, gave up his life for the child....

  ***

  Well, what do you think?

  It's exciting, I'll give Morgenstern that. A 'grabber,' as TV guys say. But this is a novel, you have time to develop plot and character, no one's changing the channel here. So I'm not nuts about it. I also don't like calling Chapter 1 'Fezzik Dies.'

  Do you believe that Morgenstern's really going to kill Fezzik? I sure don't, not for a New York minute. Forget that he's my favorite. But think what he did for Buttercup and Westley: he let himself get set on fire, just before the castle storming; he found the four white horses they all rode to freedom on; and don't think for a minute Inigo would have made it down through the Zoo of Death without Fezzik right there with him, so in a way, he saved Westley.

  And, I'm sorry, you don't knock off someone like that. It's wrong. Just to get your story off with a bang.

  In other words, I disapprove of this opening. There are, in fact, a number of things I'm not happy with in this chapter. But you know the reasons I have to go along.

  And I'm also not sure I should be including this next section about Inigo. I had a big fight with my publisher, Peter Gethers. He's against putting it in, finds it confusing. Before I give my reasons, I think you better have a chance to see for yourself what we're arguing about.

  2. Inigo

  INIGO WAS IN Despair.

  Hard to find on the map (this was after maps) not because cartographers didn't know of its existence, but because when they visited to measure its pr
ecise dimensions, they became so depressed they began to drink and question everything, most notably why would anyone want to be something as stupid as a cartographer? It required constant travel, no one ever knew your name, and, most of all, since wars were always changing boundaries, why bother? There grew up, then, a gentleman's agreement among mapmakers of the period to keep the place as secret as possible, lest tourists flock there and die. (Should you insist on paying a visit, it's closer to the Baltic states than most places.)

  Everything about Despair was depressing. Nothing grew in the ground and what fell from the skies did not provoke much happy conversation. The entire country was damp and dank, and why the locals all did not flee was not only a good question, it was the only question. Locals talked about nothing else. "Why don't we move?" husbands would say each day to wives, and wives would answer, "God, I don't know, let's," and children would jump and shout, "Hooray hooray, we're out of here," but then nothing would happen. Bindibus live in more hideous conditions but they don't travel a lot either. There was a certain comfort in knowing that no matter how bad things were, they couldn't get worse. "We have endured everything," the locals would tell themselves. "Whereas if we pick up and go, say, to Paris, we would get gout and be insulted by Parisians all day."

  Inigo, however, had a warm spot for the place. For it was here, years and years ago, that he had won his first fencing championship. He had arrived shortly before the tournament was to begin, and he had come with a heavy heart. Tears always behind his eyes. He could not shake his mood, because of what had just happened to him in Italy, on his first visit there. A journey he had begun with such hopes....

  BY THE TIME he turned twenty, Inigo Montoya of Arabella, Spain, had spent his last eight years wandering the world. He had not yet begun the hunt for the six-fingered man who had killed his beloved father, Domingo. He was not ready and would not be until the great swordmaker, Yeste, pronounced him so. Yeste, his father's dearest friend, would never send him out if there were flaws. Flaws would not only bring death but, far worse, humiliation.

  Inigo knew one thing and that only: when he finally found his tormenter, when he was at last able to face him and say, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die," there could be no question in his mind of defeat. The six-fingered man was a master. And so, preparing for such a master, Inigo had wandered the world. Getting stronger as he grew, learning from whoever could teach him mysteries that needed solving. Lately, he had begun to specialize. His talents were past phenomenal, but still not good enough to get the blessing of Yeste.

  He had recently been to Iceland, to spend months with Ardnock, the great frozen terrain expert. Inigo had already mastered fighting from below and from above, fighting from trees, from rocks, in rapids. But what if the six-fingered man was from the far north, and they battled on frost, or freshly watered ice? And what if Inigo, helpless and slipping, lost his balance, lost the battle, lost everything?

  After Iceland, he spent half a year on the equator, studying with Atumba, the master of heat, because what if the six-fingered man came from a steaming country, and what if they battled in the heat of the hottest day, temperature at 150, and what if the grip of his sword went wet for a moment in his hand?

  Now, having just turned twenty, he was in Italy, to see Piccoli, the tiny ancient, the acknowledged king of the mind. (Piccoli was from the most famous line of great Italian teachers--another branch was centered in Venice and taught singing to every famous Italian tenor whose name ends in a vowel.) Inigo knew he would not be able to think when his death battle came. His mind had to be a spring day, and his movements had to come on their own, his spins and twists and thrusts all had to leap unbidden.

  Piccoli lived in a small stone house, in the employ of Count Cardinale, the strange and secret man who controlled most of the country. Piccoli had heard of Inigo because although Yeste was the greatest and most famous maker of swords, there were rumors that when he was confronted with a task that was too much even for him, he would go to the town of Arabella, high in the hills above Toledo, to the hovel of one Domingo Montoya, a widower who lived with a young son.

  It was there that the six-fingered sword had been forged.

  Could it truly be the wonder of his world? Piccoli had heard of it for a decade, yearned to see it dance before he died. The greatest weapon since Excalibur and where was it now? Gone with the child Montoya from the house of Yeste. And where was that child?

  Piccoli had spent his entire long life training his mind, so that he had the ability to sit for a day in the middle of a mad battle and know nothing of the screams and slaughter going on around him. When he was in his mind, he was as if dead. And every morning at dawn he would go into his mind and stay there 'til noon. No power could disturb him.

  He had gone into his mind at dawn, one day, there to stay 'til the sun was highest--but on this one morning, at eight o'clock, a strangeness.

  He was in his mind as he always was at six and at seven and at half-past seven, and at quarter 'til eight, and ten 'til, and five and four and three--

  --and then Piccoli was pierced by something so dazzling even he had to open his eyes--

  --to see a young man approaching, tall, blade-thin, muscular, spring-legged, who was handsome enough but would have been more than that, save for the two scars that paralleled his cheeks--

  --who held such glory in his hands, the sun was dancing there.

  Piccoli could not breathe as the young man approached. "I want to see Mr. Piccoli, please."

  "I wish to see your sword."

  Piccoli trembled as he took it in his tiny hands. "What could you possibly want from me?" He could not take his eyes off the weapon. "You have the world here."

  Inigo told him.

  "You want me to teach you to control your mind?" Piccoli asked.

  Inigo nodded. "I have come from very far."

  "A waste, I fear. You are young. The young have not the patience. They are stupid. They think their bodies will save them."

  "Let me learn."

  "Pointless. Go wage your battle without me."

  "I beg you."

  Piccoli sighed. "All right. Let me show you how stupid you are. Answer my queries: what on all the earth do you want more than anything?"

  "Why, to kill the six-fingered man, of course."

  And with that Piccoli started screaming: "Wrong, wrong! Listen--see what I say." His voice grew soft, seductive. "The six-fingered man has his sword in his hand--he thrusts--see what I say, Montoya, watch the sword. He has thrust the sword toward your father, now the sword is entering your father's heart, Domingo's heart is shredded and you are ten and standing there, you are helpless, do you remember that moment? I command you, remember that moment! "

  Inigo could not stop his sudden tears.

  "Now you are watching him fall. Look--look at him--watch Domingo die--"

  Inigo began sobbing out of all control.

  "Tell me what you feel--"

  Inigo was barely able to speak the word: "Pain..."

  "Yes, right, of course, pain, killing pain. That's what you should want more than anything, an end to your pain."

  "...yes..."

  "That pain is with you, every moment every day?"

  "...yes..."

  "If you think of ending your pain, you will kill the six-fingered man. But if you only think revenge, he will kill you, because he has already taken the thing on earth you treasured most, and he will know that, and when you battle he will say things, he will taunt you, he will talk about your pathetic father and he will laugh at your love for a failure like Domingo, and you will scream in rage and your revenge will take control and you will attack blindly--and then he will cut you to pieces."

  Inigo saw it all, and it was true. He saw himself charging and heard himself screaming and then he felt the six-fingered man's sword as it entered his body, drove through his heart. "Please, do not let me lose to him," he finally managed to say.

  Piccoli looked
at the shattered young man before him. He gently returned the six-fingered sword. "Go dry your tears, Montoya," he said at last. "We start your training in the morning..."

  IT WAS SAVAGE work. Inigo had never imagined it would be anything less, but Piccoli was merciless beyond human reckoning. For eight years Inigo had sprinted two hours each day, to make his legs muscular and strong. Now, with Piccoli he could not sprint at all. For eight years he had squeezed apple-size rocks two hours a day, so his wrists might deliver the death blow from any and all positions. Now, rock squeezing was banned. For eight years he had never skipped and dodged less than two hours a day so his legs would be quick. Now, no skipping, no dodging.

  Inigo's body, so lash-strong, so whippet-quick, the body he had shaped for lethal combat, the body that was the envy of most men. That body? Piccoli hated it. "Your body is your enemy while you are with me," Piccoli explained. "We must weaken it for now. It is the only way you can grow your mind. As long as you think you can fight your way out of trouble, you will never be able to fight your way out of trouble."

  For eight years Inigo had gotten by on four hours' sleep. Now, that was all he did. Sleep. Doze. Rest. Snooze. He catnapped under orders, siestaed constantly. It seemed to him he was grabbing forty winks every time eighty winks had gone by. And while resting, he had to think about his mind.

  Weeks passed. He was sleeping twelve hours a day at first, then fifteen. Piccoli's goal was a fat twenty, and Inigo knew the torture would never stop until his goal was reached. He did nothing but lie there and think about his mind.

  His only job was to think about his mind. Get acquainted with it, learn its ways.

  His sole exercise was fifteen minutes each day while the sun went down. Piccoli would send him outside, the sword in hand. And nod. Just once. And Inigo would flash in the dying light, the sword alive, and his body would leap and duck and the shadows moved like ghosts. Piccoli was very old, but once he had seen Bastia and this was Bastia again, alive again on earth.

  One more nod from the tiny ancient head and back to rest. To bed. To lie there and think about his mind.

 
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