Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Enjoy Chapter Seven of the Second Adventure of The Many Adventures of the Dread Pirate Roberts--a Fan-Fiction Tribute to The Princess Bride!



Having raided the impossible-to-raid Harshtree Prison and freed Fezzik, the intrepid pirates of the Revenge escape into the night, their legend even greater. Captain Montoya promised them that when Fezzik was safely aboard ship, that they all would learn to swim. It wasn't acceptable that half of them, including the captain himself, didn't know! They just need to escape the Florin navy, hot on their heels, and find a friendly, hidden cove somewhere so that the captain can begin lessons. Read on!


7.
Big Ship on the Run
~~*~~


I stood with Captain Montoya as he addressed the passengers.

   “We are sorry,” he said, “but we will not be sailing to High Tanes. Not immediately. We will be sailing non-stop to Porto. At that point the ship will turn around and sail south for High Tanes.”

   The passengers stared. The word had gotten around: This was the Dread Pirate Roberts!

   We were crowded in the ballroom—probably three hundred or more. A good portion spilled out into the corridor. As the captain finished speaking, a fading murmur could be heard as those nearer the front told those behind them what he had said.

   A hand near the middle shot up. A man’s hand. He appeared middle-aged, and was almost too short to see.

   “Why should we trust you?”

   The crowd grumbled. Some tried shhh!-shing him; others quietly nodded, but very slightly, afraid that the captain would notice.

   Someone else in the crowd shouted, “He saved us! He deserves our trust!”

   “It is true,” said the captain when the noise level dropped enough for him to speak without raising his voice to a yell. “It is indeed true. I am a pirate. We are pirates,” he added, motioning to me, Stacie, and Hindi. The others were seeing to the injured and helping to repair the damage to the Rolot’s hull—what they could do, at least, without hauling canvas or the dropping the anchor. “And such a ship carrying such sweet booty would have made a fine haul.”

   He shrugged. “As is, we are only interested in passage to Porto. We of the pirate ship Revenge do not as a matter of course harm innocents when we plunder. Do not believe the stories you hear of us that claim otherwise. The governments of our world are responsible for spreading most of those lies in order to create fear and revulsion of us. Choose to believe me or not: in any event, we will not harm you, nor will we take any of the green sugar when we depart, nor will we rob or harm any of you. We ask in payment only for our help in ridding this vessel of its mutinous crew and the brute scalawag seeking to destroy it your patience.”

   The crowd began murmuring again. Another hand shot up, this one a woman’s.

   “Will the pirate ship return?”

   “I do not know,” answered Captain Montoya. “A bigger concern is the government of Bavus-Naguty. The pirates, it is clear, were commissioned by that government. The Admiral Rolot, and all of you, should be dead at this point. We should fear the Bavus-Naguty Navy as much as the scalawags.”

   This led to shouts of outrage. Several men shouted over the din: “I work for the Bavus-Naguty government. What he just said is true!

   This brought a round of gasps, followed by more silence.

   “What will happen to us once we dock at High Tanes?” came another question from an unseen woman. “Think of it! We know the government is involved, that they expect us to be dead! Aren’t we in just as much danger as we were before, maybe even more?”

   When the crowd finally calmed enough for the captain to speak, he said: “That is a very intelligent and valid question. You must accept that she may be right.”

   “I cannot believe it!” exclaimed a well-dressed older man with a bald head. “I am a viscount of the court! I enrich Bavus-Naguty! How can any of this be real?

   “Sadly, it is real, my good man,” said Captain Montoya very soberly. “The facts of this day do not lie.”

   “I know the royal family!” the man blurted, red-faced. “How dare they—!”

   “One more thing,” the captain called out once the crowd had settled again. This time it took a good five minutes. They were frightened and angry. I could hardly blame them!

   “Until we arrive at Porto,” he said, “this boat will tolerate no classes. This ballroom and the casino are open to all, and so is the liquor for those able to pay. If after we depart you wish to separate yourselves once more, be our guest. Understood?”

   Most of the crowd looked relieved, if not elated. That included, surprisingly, most of those who appeared by their dress and jewels to be first class. There were some grumbles of disagreement, yes. But they were few and scattered, and went silent quickly.

   “The crew of the Admiral Rolot, and those present from the Revenge, will be your hosts for the next few days. I have accepted the role as acting captain for that time. Please do not hesitate to find me if you have a problem or concern.”

   With that, he stepped off the box he was standing on and waded into the crowd, who began applauding and whistling. They gathered around him and me, more, I believe, to make it real: that we were in fact from that legendary pirate ship.

   I wondered how she was doing—how they were doing.






Many of the crew—and a surprising number from first class—were ex-military, and were eager to help. To that end they came to the captain and asked how they could serve. He pulled them aside. “We can’t make the mistake of assuming this is a luxury boat. This is a military craft now. We’re going to be hunted.”

   “Agreed,” said Colonel Bauer, who hailed from the Spanish Army but emigrated to Bavus-Naguty years ago for his retirement. His silver hair and moustache shone in the day’s late-afternoon light. “What are your recommendations, Captain?”

   Captain Montoya shook his head. “Nothing less than yellow alert, I should think. Constant presence at the cannons. Hard shifts for the crew. Four hours on, four hours off.” He glanced at me. “Do we have the numbers for that?”

   “We do now, sir,” I said. The men standing around us, maybe thirty in all, nodded.

   “Your dozen and this motley crew,” said Colonel Bauer, chuckling. “That should do it. I can handle the assignments if you’d like,” he added.

   Captain Montoya glanced around. “Any objections?”

   The men shook their heads.

   Captain Montoya held out his hand, not just for Colonel Bauer to shake, but for all of the men to shake—another first. “Thank you for this,” he said to each of them. “Thank you.”

   As night fell, the Admiral Rolot, with full sails, became, for all intents and purposes, a scalawag.






Morning came. I woke after my 2 – 6 A.M. shift to find the captain, Stacie, Domingo, and Hindi all working the galley, where they were serving passengers breakfast.

   “Come in, Paloni, come in! Fresh eggs for you!”

   I was ten back in the line waiting to be served. When I got to the front, I took the eggs, toast, and two slices of bacon and came around the counter. “I’d like to help.”

   “Eat first,” he said. “You can take my spot. I need a little shut-eye, I think.”

   He sidled up close. “Something interesting. Not a single passenger availed themselves of the casino last night. A few drank a little, but no one gambled. No one played music. The passengers are scared.”

   “They should be.”

   “Something else I found interesting,” he went on. “Many first-class passengers offered to make room for third-class ones in their cabins, including the good viscount. Most of third class is empty now.”

   “Now that makes me happy,” I said.

   “Me as well. When you’re finished here, head on up to the bridge. Colonel Bauer has taken bosun duties. He’s a fair man, the good colonel is. Tough, but fair.”

   “I’m surprised he’s anything close to knowledgeable on the water.”

   “He served as a first lieutenant as a young man aboard a frigate. He left the navy and joined the army, which is where he stayed. He’s quite competent.”

   “You don’t usually hear about those things—sailors becoming soldiers.”

   “He believes we should claim the green sugar. He is very bitter about our present circumstances. He believes the sugar should be our compensation for the betrayal we’ve been faced with, and for the perilous circumstances in which we find ourselves.”

   “Honestly, Captain, I’m inclined to agree with him. There’s enough aboard to make every man, woman, and child rich.”

   “Provided it can be fenced,” replied the captain, “and provided those men, women, and children survive once on shore.”

   “Provided, aye, sir.”

   “Best guess: four days to Porto?”

   “Navigator thinks so. We have passed the Athyca Lighthouse. We should be passing High Tanes within twenty-four hours.”

   “We’re still sailing Baby Irminger?”

   “Aye.”

   He shook his head. “We’re sitting ducks as long as we do. They’ll know exactly where to look.”

   “Agreed. But sailing away from it will slow us down considerably. That won’t help in any chase scenario.”

   “Take us west anyway. Get us out of the current. We’ll adjust course north at midnight. They’ll look for us first in the current. That should buy us some time.”

   “I’ll run the calculations with the navigator. It’s not a fool-proof strategy by any means.”

   “What are your suggestions? You have much more experience than I do.”

   The golden age of the Revenge. Yes. A captain actually asking for advice. A captain eager to learn from underlings. A captain who can take command of a big boat like the Rolot and get ex-military to help him out—the very same sailors and soldiers who once hunted his predecessors. A captain who eschews class distinctions and serves crew and passengers breakfast.

   “I think, sir, that you’ve thought of the best plan. I’ll pass it along to the crew. If we’ve got ideas, we’ll get them to you ASAP.”






Out of Baby Irminger three hours later, our speed dropped to two knots. We were barely moving. Then again, no one would in these virtually calm breezes.

   “Been keepin’ a steady eye out, sir,” said Aledar, concern furrowing his brow. “Nothin’ on the horizon yet. Any chance we sunk the scalawag?”

   “Always a chance of that,” I replied. “But we can’t assume it.”

   “No,” he grunted, “we can’t.”

   Angus joined us. He had spent the morning in the kitchen cooking. He looked tired but happy.

   “I’d forgotten what cooking for hundreds was like. Used to do it back in the day. Hard work, it is. What’s the word?”

   “Bobbing along at two,” Aledar murmured.

   “I think the captain’s right,” Angus said. “They’ll be looking for us in the current. What we sacrifice in speed we make up for in stealth.”

   “The mainmast on this tub is a hundred fifty feet!” Aledar laughed. “We’re a sore thumb out here!”

   “We’re a sore thumb anywhere,” I countered.






The sun was setting when the sailor atop the crow’s nest whistled, followed by a shout:

   “Two warships on the horizon, due west!”

   We jerked about to look. I had been keeping a steady eye on the horizon all day, but had seen nothing. That was the story for all of us. We had gone about our day keeping busy, seeing to the wounded, talking to the passengers, even joining a few in the casino for a few quick games, trying to lighten the mood a little. In the late afternoon we gathered for the fallen. Captain Montoya gave the eulogy.

   He didn’t have much to say. How could he? The bodies, wrapped in linen, were tipped overboard one by one, where they sank. The passengers wept; some of the Rolot’s regular crew as well. He went to the injured, some of whom attended the service, and then disappeared belowdecks to assist Fan with those who were still on the serious side. Thankfully, it appeared that all were going to pull through.

   “Damn!” yelled Chevor, who had been up in the crow’s nest as well. “Damn! They’re hiding in the sunset!”

   “Are you sure?” yelled Colonel Bauer up at the nest.

   “Affirmative!” came the response.

   “I’m going up,” I announced, and ran down the stairs to the mainmast. I began climbing it.

   When I was first starting out aboard the Revenge, I pulled many days in its nest. It’s tough, occasionally terrifying duty. You need a strong stomach to handle it. Fortunately, I had one.

   But this mainmast dwarfed the Revenge’s. I fought the urge to glance down. Below me, the Bandileros and the Rolot’s crew were urging passengers to safety. Captain Montoya had surfaced; he was at the railing now with a scope. “Paloni! ...” he shouted.

   The nest was large enough for three men. I climbed into it and took my scope off my belt and pulled it open and peered west into the brilliant yellow-orange orb of the setting sun. The sailor next to me did the same thing.

   “Due west, sir! Hiding in the sunlight!”

   It took repeated attempts to see it—to see anything. My eye had begun to water, a bright yellow afterimage following my gaze when I glanced away. But sure enough ...

   Two high masts peeked above the solar arc, one just ahead of the other.

   “Could be civilian ships,” I offered.

   “Paloni! Talk to me!” shouted the captain.

   “I can’t tell by their trailers!” I returned.

   “I can!” said the sailor.

   “You’re sure?” I demanded.

   “Quite sure, sir. Those are Bavus-Naguty warships. Both are coming straight for us. Maybe a couple hours away.”

   “Bavus-Naguty warships due west!” I yelled. “Heading straight for us!”

   A few screams sounded out, ostensibly from the passengers.

   Captain Montoya yelled, “All hands to general quarters!”


~~*~~