|Prepare to die.|
At the end of The Princess Bride, Westley says to Inigo, "You'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts!" Here are the many adventures of the new captain of the Revenge! Read on!
I woke the crew at first light. It wasn't like me to impose strict military discipline on them, but I felt it appropriate for some reason, one that I could not define. I knocked at the captain's door half an hour later. He was already awake.
"Come in, Paloni."
I opened the door.
Captain Montoya was in a fresh change of clothes. He was making his bunk. "I heard bootsteps.”
I misunderstood him.
"I should have told the men you were still sleeping, Captain; my apologies—"
"Never wake me again after the crew," he ordered, his face very serious. "From now on you wake me first, then the crew. Do we have an understanding?"
I was completely taken aback. The captains previous to this one, including Westley, enjoyed what I'd long ago termed "the grand entrance": ascending to the quarterdeck well after the men had gone about their chores. It was one of the perks of being a captain—the salutes, the "good morning, Captain" greetings, the (what I imagine) feeling would be to come up to see your men busying themselves about your ship, following your orders from the night past, awaiting your presence.
He stared at me. I must've looked like an imbecile—my face blank, gaping. I caught up to the moment. "C-Certainly, Captain. My apologies."
He nodded once, sternly, then went back to making his bunk. I didn't have the nerve at that point to tell him that was for one of the crew to do, as well as seeing to it that his papers and other effects were in order. It was obvious from the quick sweep of the room I took then that he'd taken care of those tasks as well.
"Have the crew taken their breakfast?"
"I believe so, yes," I answered.
"Starting tomorrow, we all have breakfast together, in the … er … the place where they eat."
"The crew mess?"
"That's it. The 'mess.' "
He eagle-eyed me. "Problem, Paloni?"
I jerked my head left, right. "Uh … no. No, sir."
A captain eating with his men! With his officers, sure … but the grunts, the scrubs?
Having spent time on Her Majesty's vessels in my youth, this kind of break of decorum would be seen as court martial offense!
But this was a pirate vessel. And even though some of Revenge's crew were castoffs from various navies, the fact remained that they now sailed under a pirate flag.
I was already nervous for breakfast tomorrow.
Captain Montoya's gaze didn't waver. I had once again drifted off. I rallied, stiffening. "Orders, sir?"
"I'm hungry," he said.
"I'll bring you some grub.”
"Bring some for yourself as well. And then let's sit and discuss how we're going to free my friend Fezzik."
"Orders for the crew, sir?"
"Uh …" He looked at me blankly. "Uh …"
"Might I suggest, sir, that they make ready to set sail for Harshtree?"
"Yes. That would be good. Do that, Paloni. Harshtree."
"Yes, sir," said I, saluting. I felt breathless and utterly discomposed.
The tentative plan turned out to be the expected one: a full frontal assault on the fortress. We'd begin with cannonfire: it was my bet that no prison the likes of Harshtree had ever been fired on by an offshore vessel. We pored over maps.
"Can the cannons reach that far—two miles?" he asked. Dredskull Point, where Harshtree was located, was like the partially submerged skeletal finger of a giant or a god.
"No, sir," I admitted. "But—look …" I pointed at the map. "See where Harshtree is? At the base of the point itself. We could approach from the west. There are cliffs there. Not too high, but enough to shield us from view from their parapets with a little luck and some fog. From the cliffs the walls of Harshtree are less than a hundred yards. If we can get up close, if we have calm seas, we aim the cannons up. We fire over them. We probably won't do much damage, but that's okay: our objective is to convince them that they're under heavy attack. From the point itself, meanwhile, we could send in men to make an assault on the main gates."
He looked at me as though I was crazy. Then he smiled.
"There were sixty men guarding the front gates of Humperdinck's castle," he reminded me unnecessarily. "We lit Fezzik on fire and wheeled him towards them. What a sight it was, Paloni," he added with a dreamy grin. "The fire singed my moustache." He twisted one end of it.
"The men scattered at the sight," I said. "That's how you got in."
He shook his head. "That's how we got access to the gates. Humperdinck's top henchman was the only one left to stand his ground. The Man In Black—" he stopped—"Captain Westley ordered him to give us the gate key. He said he didn't have it. I told Fezzik to tear his arms off." Captain Montoya shrugged. "Just like that, we have the gate key." He stared at me. "Is that what you're suggesting—some sort of deception at the front gates of Harshtree?"
I shook my head.
"Well?" he demanded. "Out with it, Paloni!"
"One of the prison administrators is … friendly to the Revenge. Sir," I offered quickly.
Captain Montoya grinned. "Friendly?"
"He was once a crewman aboard ship. His name is Bacco. He has many talents, most of them very dubious."
"How can we get word to him that we're coming?"
I shook my head. "We can't. But I don't believe we need to."
"He'll surely have heard of your becoming captain of this vessel. And since everyone in
Florin knows of you, they'll know of Fezzik as well. That
includes Bacco. He's a very clever man. He'll know you'll make an attempt to
break him out. He's probably already plotted out the moves and made
preparations. He's probably waiting right now."
The ship lurched and settled that moment, which told me that the Revenge had cast off lines and was leaving port. He brought his gaze up from the map. "What do I do next?"
"It might be good for you to man the wheel for a little bit, sir. Let the crew see you."
He nodded in agreement. "Yes. Yes. Good idea, Paloni."
I turned to leave the cabin. He grabbed my shoulder, stopped me.
"Don't go too far. I don't know how to steer."
"No, sir," I said. "I won't."
I have to admit he looked grand at that wheel.
I showed him a little about how to navigate as the coastline shrank behind us. I pointed out the many facets and parts of a tall ship, all of which, I'm sure, did not stick. I brought him tea, which he grudgingly took. I sipped mine with him while we watched the crew work under the bosun's steely stare.
Later, in the mess, he shared our plans. The crew looked unsure at first—not of the plans, but of the presence of the captain in their mess. But his affability quickly won them over. Soon he was sharing ribald jokes and laughing.
Our new captain did not have his sea legs yet, and as the Revenge dipped and rose on swells kicked up by a strong breeze, another problem came up. I noticed a green pallor creeping steadily up his face maybe two hours after he ate breakfast.
"The crew will understand, Captain," I said consolingly.
He gave me a look that told me he would not tolerate another comment of that kind ever issuing from my mouth again.
"You have your own private john," I informed him up close. "No one will know."
He looked close to losing it.
"Let me help you, Captain. Follow me ..."
I barely got him down the stairs and into his cabin when he vomited.
"Aughghgh!" he croaked, bent over.
"It won't last long, sir. You'll get used to the motion over time."
"How long?" he coughed. “I don’t understand! When I crewed that singleship to the Cliffs of Insanity, I didn’t get seasick! Why now?”
"You probably crossed calm seas and weren’t sailing for too long. That’s my guess. You shouldn’t be sick too long, sir. Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes a couple of weeks will take care of the problem."
He gave me a look that told me unequivocally that two weeks of seasickness was not an option.
"Mint tea, sir, is what I recommend."
"Mint—?" And he threw up again.
"I will prepare it now. And I'll have the bosun send someone to clean up the mess—"
"No! No, Paloni! I'll do it ... aughghghgh!"
That Spanish pride. I couldn't even imagine the Revenge's prior captains stooping to such menial, not to mention disgusting, work. Even Captain Westley wouldn't have done it. This captain, though, did not want his crew to see him defeated by the sea.
"Mint ... aughghghgh! ... Mint tea, Paloni. Get me some. Anything. Now. Now!"
"Yes, sir," I said, and quickly closed the door to the cabin.