|Probably he means no harm.|
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!
Fog enveloped us as we made our approach to Dredskull Point. Normally I'd be happy about it—fog. It's great for hiding in. But not here. Not at Dredskull Point.
There wasn't a lighthouse to guide us in. That was intentional, to dissuade those like us from attempting a landing and doing what we were planning on doing, which was to break a prisoner out. To get to Harshtree, one must go by foot, over land. The sea provides protection from two sides, and the land side is heavily fortified with thick stone walls, guards, and attack dogs, and a virtually impenetrable forest that stops just feet from the front wall (hence the name "Harshtree").
As a challenging first mission, this was a doozy.
"Aughghghgh!" croaked Captain Montoya when I said this to him. He was on his knees, his head hanging over the bowl of his loo.
Sometimes the best way to motivate a man is to give him a challenge. He rises above himself in the undertaking of it, spurring him on to even greater ones.
But perhaps my timing was a little off.
"Aughghghgh!" was his answer.
He spat into the bowl, then said, "Three days, Paloni. Three days!"
"Would encouraging news help?" I asked gingerly.
"What news?" he demanded, his voice hollow as he spoke into the bowl.
"I've been timing your bouts of nausea and vomiting," I offered. "They're definitely coming at wider and wider intervals. Soon they'll be gone completely!"
He stared up at me. His face was green, his eyes bloodshot. It was quite clear he didn't put that information under "encouraging news,” and it was equally clear that he expected some of the genuine variety, and immediately, the consequences of me failing to give it possibly involving me being offered as shark bait. That was the look in his eyes.
"And ... and ..." I stuttered, "have I told you that Captain Cummerbund's crew landed at Dredskull Point ... which means we can, too?"
"I thought you told me that no one has landed there, that everyone who's tried has died!"
"Yes, sir," I said, "I did say that. It turns out one of our crew served under Captain Cummerbund. He says the captain found a way past the reefs and rocks. They landed only to find out the man they wanted to break free had been beheaded that very morning. They got back to the longboats just in the nick of time, apparently. The prison guards were alerted to their presence and almost captured them."
He stared at me.
"The point is," I pushed on, "that instead of guessing at a landing point, we can use Captain Cummerbund's map. Uh ... provided, uh, that is, uh, that we can find it."
But we couldn't. In desperation I ordered the old sailor who'd landed at Dredskull Point with Captain Cummerbund to accompany me to the captain's quarters, which smelled strongly of vomit.
The captain was sitting at his desk, slumped over it, a mug of lukewarm water in his grip.
The old sailor saluted. Captain Montoya lifted his fingers limply, dropped them. I took that as a return salute and told the man to sit.
"This is Dauchkin, sir," I said.
Dauchkin saluted again, then removed his scarf and used it to wipe down the chair and then to sit on it.
The captain lifted his head and took a very tiny sip of water before rasping, "Paloni says you were with Captain Cummerbund when he landed at Dredskull Point."
"Yes, sir," he said quickly. His thick British accent was even harder to understand with the gravel in it.
"How old are you, Dauchkin?" groaned the captain.
"Sixty-six this year, sir," said the crewman.
"We can't find Cummerbund's map," said Captain Montoya. "We can't find the way in through the rocks and reef. Can you remember the way?"
"It was during low tide, sir," said Dauchkin. "That much I remember. We approached from the east. There is a reef-rock that looks like the Devil's head, sir, when the tide is out. We stayed starboard of that, just enough to keep from grindin' up against it. I don' remember much more n’ that, but I do recall the cap'n yellin' for joy once we got past it. You see, sir, the way comes clear once ya get clear of the Devil. I’m sorry, sir, tha's all I remember."
Dauchkin's answer seemed hardly satisfactory, and I was about to say something like, "The point is miles long and the fog is pea-soup thick! And we'd have to be at the right point at the right time at low tide to see it! Back to your duties, Dauchkin!"
But I stopped. Because a determined grin, albeit very small and tinted sickly green, pulled up Captain Montoya' lips for the briefest of moments. I knew his utter lack of experience made him think that Dauchkin's memories were all we needed, but I weighed that against the last three days and the misery he'd gone through and shut up. The news seemed to drain the nausea from his face a little, and that was a very good thing. I've seen seasickness before, but nothing like the kind that gripped our new captain.
"Dredskull Point," he said. "It was named as a marker for those looking for a way in."
I shook my head in wonder. It hadn't occurred to me to connect the two. The revelation made me feel stupid.
"There is no map," I offered. "I would bet the Crown Jewels on it. Captain Cummerbund was the only one who's done it, and pounds to parrots says he wouldn't have recorded the way. He was a very smart man, as legend tells it, with a fantastic memory."
I could tell the captain was losing the strength and patience to continue talking.
"We can sail to the eastern approach within a half day, given care," I suggested quickly. "We can begin a search for it, longboats, the works."
He nodded and waved both of us out. Dauchkin stood.
"Beggin' pardon, sir," Dauchkin said, turning back to face him, "but I think I can help with your, uh, problem."
He dug into his trousers and pulled out a wrapped bit of what was probably candy and placed it on Captain Montoya's desk.
"What is that?" I demanded.
The old sailor said, "It's a yquaberry lozenge, sir. I make 'em myself. They grow at the edge of the
in Florin. That there will cure the green tide,
sir, mark my words!"
The captain took the candy and unwrapped it. The lozenge was a rough lime-colored oval with specks of red in it. He held it up and inspected it, then shifted his gaze to Dauchkin.
I'd heard of yquaberry before. It was rumored to have all sorts of interesting properties, including sobriety and sexual potency and anti-aging effects. They grew in generally inhospitable, unreachable locations—like the
. Fire Swamp
It wasn't that I was being overly cautious when I said, "Captain, I wouldn't—" I mean, I'd heard all sorts of tall tales about yquaberry. But what I knew wasn't a myth was that an unreasonably large percentage of people couldn't consume them because they often caused fatal allergic reactions.
I'd said, "Captain, I wouldn't—" but it was too late. He'd already popped the lozenge into his mouth.
"I crush 'em and mix 'em with a little lemon n' sugar, sir. Helps with the taste. If I may suggest, sir, suck it slow and be sure to drink plenty o' water after. The green tide'll ebb in no time."
"Thank you, Dauchkin," I said impatiently.
The old man hurriedly saluted and left the captain's quarters.
I gazed at Captain Montoya.
"I've never heard of yquaberry," he murmured lifelessly, the lozenge making his left cheek bulge out. "It's not that bad. Not as far as medicines go ..."
I didn't bother to report my fears of him having a fatal allergic reaction to it. It was a mark of how awful he felt that he was willing to try anything, even a potentially fatal poisonous berry, to get better.
"I'll check on you in an hour, sir," I said.
The captain nodded and lowered his head back to his desk and moaned quietly.
I gently closed the door to his quarters behind me.
An hour later I knocked.
There was no answer.
Fearing that Captain Montoya was in the death throes of a fatal allergic reaction, I opened the door and peeked inside.
He was lying in his bunk. The smell of vomit had dissipated somewhat.
"Captain?" I said.
He didn't answer.
Had I let the old sailor kill him? Good God!
I approached and cautiously reached a hand over his face.
A warm, regular breath greeted my palm.
"Captain?" I tried again, slightly louder.
He didn't stir.
If I was going to screw up, I would do so on the side of caution. I pressed the back of my hand to his forehead.
He didn't have a fever. And it was just then that I also noticed something else that he didn't have—a green complexion.
Was the lozenge actually doing him some good? I knew he hadn’t slept much if at all the past few days. Perhaps the nausea had gone away and he had dropped off for some much needed rest. Could it be that simple?
We were still two or three hours from the eastern approach to Dredskull Point. I resolved to check again on him when we dropped anchor. I covered him against the cold fog and left.
I knocked on the door.
"Come in, Paloni!" he shouted.
He sounded like a new man. I opened the door.
He was cleaning that magnificent sword of his. (To use on me—?)
"Bring Dauchkin to me. Right now."
"Yes, sir," I very quickly responded. I closed his door and went up the quarterdeck and grabbed the old sailor and returned. After another knock we went in. My sense of self-preservation as strong as ever, I let Dauchkin go in first.
"How are you feeling, Captain?" I asked meekly over the old man's shoulder. I noticed he'd put his sword away. A good sign—for both of us.
"Couldn't be better," he said, smiling contentedly. He glanced at Dauchkin and extended his hand, which the old man took.
"Thank you," said Captain Montoya.
One thing that captains do not do is thank their inferiors. It just isn't done. If anything, captainly gratitude is extended with a brief smile, or, if the favor was extra special, an extra shot of rum or helping of food.
Dauchkin was speechless.
"Well, man, what have you got to say for yourself?" I demanded, surprised by the force of my outburst.
"M-My pleasure, sir," said Dauchkin, gawking unsurely at me then at the captain.
"Do you have any more of those yquaberry lozenges?" asked Captain Montoya, releasing his hand.
"A whole jarful in me bunkbag, sir," said Dauchkin, nodding enthusiastically.
Captain Montoya glanced at me, said, "I haven't felt this good since I rode off into the sunset after killing Count Rugen!" Then to Dauchkin: "How long do the lozenges last?"
"Hours, sir," said Dauchkin, "more if you drink at least three glasses of water with each one."
"I drank four," said the captain.
"Well, then, sir," said Dauchkin happily and proudly, "you should be right as rain till tomorra. Take another then, sir. Just one at a time'll do ya."
"Do you get seasick, Dauchkin?" I asked.
"No, sir," he replied, "but a few of the crew do. They wouldn' want me to tell you who they are, and I respectfully ask that you don't ask. I have to live with them after all, sir."
I’m certain he didn’t approach the captain these past three days out of fear. Taking pity on a pirate captain is a sure way to get thrown overboard. I felt frustration well up and rather cynically said: "I suppose they pay you for them.”
"No, sir!" said the old crewman, shocked. "I give 'em away free."
That seemed to impress the captain greatly.
"Double his pay, Paloni.”
Dauchkin blinked. "Thank you, sir!" he cried. "Thank you!"
My mouth was hanging open. I closed it.
"Good deeds should be rewarded," said Captain Montoya.
"Back to your duties, Dauchkin," I said vacantly. "I'll record your new pay in the ledger later."
"And tell the men that if they do good deeds, they'll be rewarded," said the captain. "No man should go through life unappreciated for the good he does for others."
"Yes, sir!" said Dauchkin, who gave as smart a salute as I've ever seen while on this boat. He turned on his heel and marched out of the cabin. Pride fairly radiated from him.
I turned and stared. Captain Montoya was breaking out the moscatel.
Very delicately I said, "Sir, I don't think we can afford to double the crew's salary, not without going broke very quickly."
He gave me a big happy grin and then patted my back. "Then it's time we started doing some real plundering, don't you think, Paloni? But first, let's find a way to break out my friend Fezzik."