It was a dark and stormy night, well, really Grandpa, it was in the middle of the afternoon and I had forgotten my umbrella. It began as a sunny morning, but the fickle winds blew storming clouds over and as I left the station, my plans were ruined as my suede jacket would have been. I popped into one of those dingy storefronts that had old books out on an even older library cart. The hurried out to bring the paperbacks out of the rain and hustled me in. He offered me coffee as I waited for the shower to subside.
Meandering through shelves built from unfinished wood, with the topic announced with neat, handwritten labels, I thought I saw something familiar. The leather binding was old, but the patterning was meant to remind one of pirates, giants and true love. When I first heard about true love, I only knew a boy’s love for his mother and was embarrassed by the kissing and other mushy stuff. But I had grown since then and had my first kiss and, at one time, thought I had found true love. The latest captor of my heart was the one who had my umbrella.
Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. I had never known any of these, but my grandfather and I had often mused about them while watching different movies or reading different stories. And I began to read and knew that I had to buy the book and could hardly wait until Sunday afternoon when I traditionally called my grandfather to talk about how storming the great castle called college was going. And so it began again.
When Westley kissed Buttercup as both sat on two of the four great white stallions from Prince Humperdinck’s stable, Buttercup was truly a queen in the eyes of the world and Westley was a pirate king. Fezzik sighed and thought of large women. Inigo remembered a certain woman in his past, one he had left in his quest to avenge his father’s death.
Westley, who had only just a day ago been mostly dead, felt a little lightheaded but attributed this at first to true love. Mindful that Prince Humperdinck would soon be found, Westley and Buttercup broke apart, still gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.
Inigo alerted them to the approach of the Brute Squad led by Yellin. Before Westley could say anything, Buttercup still clad in her white bejeweled wedding dress and her sparkling crown rose in her saddle and announced in an authoritative voice that she was the Queen and that Prince Humperdinck needed to be rescued as she had been sent away to safety with her guards. Buttercup was actually, only a queen in training and that would have been only if she had married Prince Humperdinck and the prince’s father, the king had died, but this was no time for specifics.
A few might have recognized Fezzik who had, until recently, been a leading member of the Brute Squad and that lent authority to Buttercup’s words. They might have been suspicious of the man in black, the man who might have seen small in comparison to recent reports about the Dread Pirate Roberts who had recently stormed the castle, but it was only after the Brute Squad had left them alone that Buttercup, Inigo and Fezzik noticed that Westley had slumped in his saddle. Fezzik and Inigo tried to remember just exactly what Miracle Max had said about the pill, beyond the difference between being mostly dead and slightly alive and all dead and looking for loose change. They weren’t going swimming tonight although surely an hour had passed.
Buttercup, who had been practicing being queenly for months, took command again and had Fezzik prop up Westley and they rode away from the castle. Having spent every day riding and having been raised in Florin, Buttercup had a good idea of the terrain yet she worried about Westley and her dress which was, resplendent with pearls and diamonds–something she now thought of as a dowery to bring to her future household or at least into the pirate ship hold. She chose to ride toward the farm where she had Westley had once been happy, remembering that beyond her family’s famous dairy cows and some of those rolling hills were some caves hidden by a grove of trees. Prince Humperdinck had over-hunted the area so there were few bears left in the forests of Florin living in those caves and she was sure they could hide out for a few days and find friendship and food among the neighboring farms.
So they rode, with Buttercup leading the way and Fezzik propping up Westley and Inigo worried that the Prince would be freed and soon set upon them, but Inigo said nothing because he too was feeling rather lightheaded. At first he put it down to confusion. He had been in the revenge business since he was eleven and how, having finally found the six-fingered man and had killed him, avenging his father’s murder, he was facing an identity crisis. Sure, he was still Inigo Montoya but he was no longer prepared to die in a duel with someone whom he would warn to “prepare to die.” What Inigo didn’t realize was that he was nearer to death than he had been a few months ago.
By the time Buttercup had found the appropriate cave, Inigo was feeling even more woozy and began to sway as if he had had two bottles of wine. By the time Fezzik had carried Westley and laid him down inside the cave and assessed the situation, being by far the most familiar with caves and life in caves of the three still conscious outlaws, Inigo was walking like a man on a stormy ship though the ground was still. Fezzik turned just in time to put out a great arm to catch Inigo who had realized that his shirt was warm and wet. Hard riding even on the smoothly gaited white horses had taken its toll. Buttercup quickly tore the inner most of her 11 soft white petticoats to make bandages and, after Fezzik built a small fire, Buttercup sent Fezzik for a doctor.
Since he had, after all, until recently been a member of the Brute Squad, Fezzik was the logical person to send off alone. Fezzik took all of the horses away, thinking that this would confuse the trackers. Fezzik meant to go past the Zoo of Death and the Pit of Despair, past the castle and the confusion there. But between Miracle Max and storming the castle, Fezzik hadn’t eaten and being a giant burns a lot of calories. Giants react differently to hunger. Some giants get cranky and when one decides to punch a wall, that wall might fall down, and kill ordinary people who just happen to be there. Some giants might be okay until they faint. People, dogs and cats have been killed, crushed under the weight of a falling fainting giant. Hungry giants are dangerous.
There was a big feast that was going to waste because the wedding had been a small disaster and a man had been killed in the banquet room. For some people, that was off putting, but even those who weren’t so squeamish were worried about being around Prince Humperdinck while he was angry over the “kidnapping” of his bride, distraught over the death of his best friend and annoyed by the theft of his great whites. Not to mention, because only his best friend Count Rugen had known and he was dead, that the prince was outraged that his carefully planned campaign against Guilder which involved killing his new bride and framing Guilder had, after years of careful planning, come to naught. The only bright spot was that Count Rugen had not lived to see the prince humiliated by a man in black who had run away with Prince Humperdinck’s bride who was not officially his bride because the prince had rushed the ceremony causing the impressive clergyman to skip an important part of the ceremony. For the moment, Humperdinck forgot that he would eventually have to inform the countess who, being busy in Paris with her highly fashionable exclusive salon, that her husband was dead and she tended to be snarky and might even ask for compensation, especially if she found out that bit about Humperdincks momentary act of cowardice.
The ceremony had gone by so fast and completely bypassing the feast, so his father, the king and his mother, the queen, had already forgotten the whole thing, thinking that there might have been a short play for entertainment (the queen didn’t think her son had adequately played his part as princely enough) or perhaps that had been a rehearsal for a play or possible future wedding. The king and queen had been sent to bed without a meal and that made them a bit cranky because that is what parents were supposed to do to children so perhaps the prince was a bit confused. After a discussion which never went well because the king kept on forgetting what exactly they were talking about, but their stomachs ultimately led back to the salient point: they were hungry.
The kitchen staff has slaved for days over the wedding feast had thought that they were going to have a few days of rest as everyone drank and ate themselves into a food coma. They might have wondered about the castle gate being opened and there was something about a pirate. That made no difference to them because pirating was a business and that will be explained later. Some had fallen asleep in the kitchen, snoring as they dreamed of self-baking ovens and quick baking that would later become microwaves, but this was long before even automatic toasters. The kitchen staff were rudely awakened by the king and then the queen, who slept in different chambers, ringing them and inquiring if they could have a small snack of Mutton Lettuce and Tomato and a pie or maybe even a roast something with a baked potato and a pie or a rack of lamb with pasta salad. Then poor kitchen maid scurried about, back and forth from the royal chambers to the kitchen because the king and queen weren’t sure if white wine or red wine was called for. There had been a shortage of wine and beer because the Brute Squad had hired a giant.
As Fezzik passed the castle he noticed a general panic that involved food as much of the local food had been used for the original feast and now the kitchen staff made calls for more. There were people being sent out for eggs, milk, meat, bread, fruit and cheese and, soon enough, people coming back with loads of food. Thinking that everyone at the cave would be as hungry as him and that the horses need to have weight on them, Fezzik helped unload some of the horses and loaded up his horses with food from the now cancelled banquet and supplies for another new banquet fixings. No one questioned him as the horses were obviously from the prince’s own stables and the prince and princess would undoubtedly need supplies for a honeymoon. As Fezzik continued on his way to the Brute Squad doctor, he took a wrong turn.
Now, Inigo had promised Miracle Max “humiliations galore” and so far he had kept his promise. Miracle Max was one of the doors knocked on because the cooks needed a miracle and some eggs. If they had known Miracle Max had chocolate, they would have taken that, too. Miracle Max was cackling and all too happy about his miracle. “So he married, but the princess bride left him? Kidnapped you say? By a man in black? And the Dread Pirate Roberts came to the banquet and broke down the castle door? And stole Prince Humperdinck’s favorite great white horses? You mean the ones he searched for years to find who were exactly the same height with exactly the same stride and the exact same creamy white of a full moon? Those horses? ”
Miracle Max was still cackling delight and dancing as he hadn’t danced in decades and maybe even centuries with his wife Valerie when a large and heavy knock came to the door.
Buttercup had as part of her queenly duties learned to sew; as a farm girl, she had learned to stitch up and bandage minor wounds, but she had no needle. She only had the knife she had intended to use to kill herself before Westley had asked her not to ruin her perfection. She wasn’t the least bit squeamish which would be handy on the pirate ship when the time came. But Westley, her true love, and Buttercup were now miles if not days away from returning to the Dread Pirate Roberts’ ship. The pirates, quite frankly, were getting restless. Some had hoped to plunder the many wealthy guests that were expected at the wedding banquet of Prince Humperdinck. Truly, some would have preferred to rush in before the banquet and get the jolly travelers before they made the banquet, but Westley or this edition of the Dread Pirate Roberts ,had put forth that drunken, happy people with wedding swag would be far easier targets but they would have to hit many of them in many different directions immediately after the festivities while the prince would undoubtedly be attending to both his new bride and acting as host to the few hundred guests who stayed and the hundred who overstayed.
As agreed upon weeks prior, the pirates had a regular scout boat going to a different site at the appointed time each evening depending upon the day of the week. News of the wedding disaster soon reached the crew as well as some weird rumor that the Dread Pirate Roberts has himself stormed the castle, but they paid that no mind because this version of the captain was reportedly a giant, nearly ten feet all and over 600 lbs. That was indeed not their Dread Pirate Roberts, nor any version of the pirate captain yet. Just having a 600 lb. giant would have required special maneuvers and drilling as anyone who knows a thing about giants would understand. Some pirates suggested that their captain had gone to investigate such rumors because one can’t have more than one Dread Pirate Roberts sailing the seas. It would dilute the brand. But as you know, Westley been busy, kidnapping the Princess Bride from a trio led by a Sicilian, climbing the Cliffs of Insanity, dueling with a master Spanish swordsman, wrestling with a giant, outsmarting said Sicilian, surviving the Fire Swamp and battling the ROUS, being tortured by Prince Humperdinck in the Pit of Despair, then he had almost died, miraculously survived and outwitted a prince before escaping on a great white horse before kissing his true love and being overwhelmed into a relapse. That’s a tight schedule, even for one so young, dashing and used to life as a pirate.
The ship and its lookouts had been noticed by someone who also had devious designs on the rich attendees of the banquet and was ready to make a deal.
Having re-routed himself after his wrong turn, Fezzik found himself further confounded and slightly befuddled when finally on his way back to the cave, Buttercup’s horse lost a shoe. Few blacksmith shops were open except on the road to the castle which Fezzik had thought best to avoid, but a few swift knocks that shook the whole hut roused one particular blacksmith–the one who had been made wealthy by the Prince Humperdinck but held a grudge against Count Rugen for shorting him on all of his sword commissions, something that the Count had also encouraged Humperdinck to do because one never gets richer giving away money and paying peasants the amount that their work was worth.
As it turns out, the blacksmith had a guest and the guest had a carriage and the guest who was wearing considerable jewels was a bit nervous about traveling. So having a giant who was formerly with the Brute Squad along seemed like an obvious solution and the guest had a carriage and was glad to carry about 460 lbs–give or take 10 lbs–of food away from the castle for the price of protection. He was not, however, so eager to share the carriage with the wizened old man who was smiling overly brightly and mumbling to himself and from time to time cackling with unbridled delight, but the giant explained that they must hurry for someone might die.
Buttercup was worried and the time passed slowly as she worried about true love and the pursuit of Prince Humperdinck who, once upon a trail, never gave up. She did not worry about the mice in the cave because she had, after all, survived a journey through the Fire Swamp and the ROUS. She shewed them away and when she heard rustling far back in the deepest darkest depths of the cave, she just thought it was the mice. Yet there was something else even farther back in the cave than the mice would dare scurry, but it too seemed to have retreated. Buttercup had no way of knowing that the caves were part of a network and there was something large and furry and growly living there. After the initial sounds, the furry beast decided it was probably the mice because sometimes Guilder was visited by ROUS, occasionally one has escaped from Humperdinck’s Zoo of Death or sometimes larger things came out of there, especially when Humperdinck was on the hunt and it was best to wait until the horses had left, especially the great whites. That’s how wildlife survived in the wilds of Florin. It wouldn’t be until Fezzik brought back the food that the growling in the stomach of the beast would arouse it again and it would venture toward the part of the cave where Buttercup, Westley and Inigo were.
Buttercup was beginning to worry about the possibility that she had lost a giant–not an easy thing to do and she was surprised when she heard not just the beat of four horses, but the wheels of a carriage coming up the trail. When the carriage stopped, she heard mumbling voices and she quickly armed herself with Westley’s sword and was ready to defend true love and good friendship when she heard Fezzik’s low, slow voice and another one that she recognized.
The Impressive Clergy hesitated at first in entering a cave, but the withered man with him told him, “What robber would come knocking at the door? Look, there’s no door,” Fezzik added, “And what’s more, it has a sturdy floor,” stomping his feet. One ever wants a giant stomping his feet, even in castles and cathedrals although some architects got wise and started hiring giants to test castles and cathedrals for the discerning owners. That’s another story.
The old man was introduced to Buttercup by Fezzik. Buttercup knew him, Miracle Max, by reputation only. Although Fezzik and Buttercup thought it a miracle, the old man also brought forth some long-burning torches to light the way. As Miracle Max was performing two more miracles, having regained confidence from the success of the chocolate-covered pill, Buttercup and Fezzik were setting out the banquet of cold cuts, cheese, fruit, bread, meat pies, fruit pies one the red satin and red velvet pillows which they had been pack in. It was as Fezzik was watering and feeding the horses that something began moving in the back of the cave, but no one heard it. Miracle Max had mostly prepared his potions before leaving and his wife Valerie had packed everything that he needed according to Fezzik’s report. There were a few things she had added, which at first made Miracle Max disgruntled (“Woman, let me work. I’m performing miracles again. Miracles do not have to be tasty” to which Valerie would reply, “What? A miracle has to be bitter? Would it be so bad to work on presentation?”) but after seeing the tender light of true love shining in Buttercup’s face he understood both Valerie and Buttercup’s concerns. Valerie and Max had known true love and theirs had lasted for longer than Miracle Max or Valerie was willing to admit, particularly since Valerie tended to shave off a few decades depending upon her mood. Max even regretted that Valerie wasn’t there, but someone had to be sure that Humperdinck wasn’t on the trail any time soon.
Once Westley was brought back from being Mostly Tired because being Mostly Dead isn’t for the timid, and Inigo had his wound properly disinfected by Miracle Max and sewn up by Buttercup using a special needle and thread from Miracle Max and Inigo was given a pep-up pill from Miracle Max (coated with chocolate thanks to Valerie), the new and real wedding feast was ready. With Humperdinck on their trail and the problems associated with pirating, who knew what tomorrow would bring? Their special guest, the Impressive Clergy was glad to not be giving last rites, but performing a wedding. He thought he recognized the bride, but one doesn’t get to be an Impressive Clergy without performing a few hundred weddings.
In the back, the furry beast was again awake having heard the carriage. Prince Humperdinck never road in a carriage and that mean some fat fool had stopped and once the snoring began one could creep up. Then the smell of food had drifted to it and the hungry beast began to creep forward.
Clearing his throat, the Impressive Clergy began, “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam…” The sound of a great horse thundered to the entrance and abruptly entered as the Impressive Clergy was saying, “And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…” Worried that this was a new trend, the Impressive Clergy was afraid he’d be asked to “skip to the end” again. You know how people are when the royals do something, the rest of the populace from counts to peasants want to follow suit.
The arrival of this new guest did two things. It made Miracle Max sigh and smile so wide that some of his wrinkles cracked into greater wrinkles, but that didn’t matter because his face was beaming. Valerie dismounted from Buttercup’s horse and Fezzik ran to help Valerie dismount and get the horse. When a giant runs in a cave with a rock floor, the shaking gives the animals inside a warning. The animal at the back was almost in the light cast by the torches when it recognized Fezzik. Fezzik due to his giant thunderous snoring was well known in the forests of Florin and weighed at least two hundred pounds more than most of the beasts left roaming the Florin forests. The beast quickly withdrew, shivering as it shuffled into another cave that opened up elsewhere. These people would be gone soon and knowing Fezzik, undoubtedly there might be a few crumbs because although Fezzik was a good eater with a healthy appetite, he was also a poor housekeeper. The beast went to sleep dreaming of leftovers from a giant’s feast.
With Valerie and Miracle Max acting almost as the parents of the bride, the Impressive Priest continued on, happy that he wasn’t asked to hurry, happy that he was allowed to continue until the end of the vows, happy that the groom had a ring, happy that this couple both said ‘I do’ and kissed. This couple didn’t run away down some castle hall either. They smiled and invited him down to a proper feast. They feasted until dawn, then after a brief nap, the group would then traveled on to the Impressive Priest’s equally impressive cathedral and home where he was grateful to have two swordsmen who could now stand and look impressive as they continued to recover and a giant who was frightening even when he belched. Ordinarily, the Impressive Clergyman would have expected an escort paid by the prince because it was, after all the prince’s wedding, but under the circumstances–the full extent to which the Impressive Clergyman would only learn much later and in a confusing tangle of gossip that mixed truth with fantastical fake news. Yet the facts were that the prince had literally been tied up and at least half of the guards had fled when the terrifying Dread Pirate Roberts had stormed the castle. The clergyman had heard the pirate was a giant, but the Impressive Clergyman was sure that his giant was more impressive since there was no report of giant maneuvers in previous reports of the Dread Pirate Roberts. Still, the Impressive priest sighed with relief when he finally was back and could put his golden threads, be-jeweled cross and sashes away behind the protective walls and guards of his own sanctuary.
Miracle Max and Valerie were happy to go along for the ride, mostly because Miracle Max was so happy that Humperdinck was so miserable. After giving the Impressive Priest a few tips and some ointment for a few aches and pains that comes from living in a cold stone building, they were sent back home in style in the Impressive Priest’s own carriage. Miracle Max had the kind of smile that beauty queens have when they win a pageant over one of their fiercest rivals or the kind that a cat has after it has eaten your poached salmon for breakfast and you’re blaming the dog. Buttercup and Westley’s marriage brought Miracle Max and Valerie’s home joy that lasted for most of the year, even warming them up during the cold of winter when they drank hot cocoa and toasted to that chocolate-covered pill for true love and the mysterious pill that Valerie had secretly given Humperdinck who had been thirsty from calling for help and from trying to swallow the bitter memories of his cowardice.
Miracle Max had instructed Buttercup on the recovery plan for Westley and that would make pirating a bit more difficult. It would be a few months before Westley could swash and Inigo could buckle, but they did have some booty that Fezzik had acquired from hasty travelers, wedding guests to Buttercup’s first wedding and untrustworthy castle servants who upon seeing Fezzik offered up their valuables on their way home–some of the items may have been pilfered from Rugen’s quarters and the finer rooms in the castle on the way out. To board the pirate ship, Buttercup had been rolled up red velvet and a Persian rug that the Impressive Clergy had gifted to the foursome. Carrying it on his shoulder, Fezzik said it was a rug for the captain’s cabin. What Westley and Buttercup didn’t expect was that three strangers would arrive in Florin looking for revenge.