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!
Adventure One: Freeing Fezzik
Adventure Two: Swimming and Fighting
There are too many great moments to record here
. I want to, though. I want to share with the world all the little in-between moments, some just as glorious in their own way as the big ones. But I am left to offer only the moments where the Revenge
and her crew’s course was adjusted in a significant way and a new bearing was logged and pursued.
We sailed that night out of Taurdust and into history. No one had ever broken out of Harshtree. We not only broke out that hell-hole, but willingly broke into it too.
Word of our exploits got around quickly. The new Florin
monarchy, in many ways just as corrupt and evil as the old one, posted fliers in every village: a hundred gold coins for any crewmember of the Revenge
, dead or alive, and a thousand for our captain: Inigo Montoya, the Dread Pirate Roberts. The poster featured his likeness, bandana wrapped around his head, his face clean-shaven, as he was the night we broke Fezzik out. At the bottom was a warning:
ANYONE CAUGHT HARBORING, AIDING, OR ABETTING THESE PIRATES WILL BE SUMMARILY HUNG IN THE FLORIN PUBLIC SQUARE.
The Revenge is the fastest ship on the Seven Seas, and we proved it the two days following. I was as impressed with the crew then as I was with their performance the night we broke Fezzik out. It was a very tense time.
navy was sent to find us and take us “dead or alive,” so we sailed for Guilder at full speed. Florin
frigates tried to catch us in the border waters between the two lands, but turned away when the Guilderians fired on them.
The Guilderians, bless them, let us pass.
We crossed into their waters, hugging their rugged coastline. We passed the Cliffs of Insanity and marveled that Fezzik had actually pulled himself, the princess, Vizzini, and the captain up them. Once back out in open ocean and no one on our tail, we allowed ourselves to relax a little. The captain had ordered the Revenge to “warm turquoise waters,” and so after some deliberation I decided on Bavus-Naguty, a small, friendly kingdom on the southern coast of Portugal. The trip would take us twelve solid days of full sails.
Speaking of Fezzik, we all chipped in to help him adapt to life on a pirate ship. With some work we fashioned for him an enormous and sturdy canvas bunk at the head of the crew quarters next to the stairs leading up to the topdeck. We fed him (which required several stops along the way to replenish our food stores) and brought him slowly back to health. As he came around, he, like his best friend, wanted to learn how to work a tall ship, so we showed him. It became clear immediately that the extra food he required was more than worth it, as he could do the work of fifteen men. He worked tirelessly and was always of good cheer, and the crew quickly took to him.
Rye Morgny proved to be far less trouble than I thought he’d be. He had never been on a seagoing vessel before, and so, like the captain had, he initially suffered acute seasickness. Like the captain, yquaberry lozenges brought him around. He struggled to gain his sea legs, and he suffered from homesickness. I took a personal interest in him and got him working with the crew. Hard work, I learned long ago from personal experience, is a wonderful palliative for homesickness. And so I worked young Rye Morgny; I worked him very hard. Five days out we pulled into the port village
; it was there we paid the local courier a little extra to deliver mail back to Florin
. Many of the crew, like Rye Morgny, had loved ones back home. I believe it did our youngest member of the Revenge
good to see that many if not most of them were homesick too, that they weren’t so hardened to pirating that their hearts didn’t ache from time to time as well.
I helped him compose a letter to his father and two sisters (he only knew the very rudimentaries of writing), reminding him often that we were fugitives and that, in order to protect himself and them, he’d have to come up with a pseudonym or alias, and not
mention that he was now a crewmember of the Revenge
. After some thought, we decided his alias should be “Toast,” as in rye toast, one of my favorite breads. “Toast” worried that it would only confuse his family; I told him that would be better than them suffering in one of Florin
’s many torture chambers, including the Pit of Despair, which, I was certain, Dynatis Rugen had kept open. He agreed.
Achiad is home to a clothier named Boris
Couz, whom Captain Cummerbund, then only a First Mate, had freed from a slaver making its way back to Florin
. (Truly, the Florin
monarchy has always been vile.) Couz was a great talent, and had fashioned himself a name over the many years since. His shop, near the top of one of Achiad’s many rocky hills, was small and tucked away along a pleasant, winding, vine-covered walkway. With Crissah leading the way, we entered.
It was lighted by several lamps and a smattering of candles. Boris Couz emerged from a back room, a great smile peeking from under his bushy brown moustache. He was at least seventy, but looked twenty years younger. He glanced around, puzzled, at the small crowd (there were seven of us, including the captain), then spied me. His smile exploded out of hiding.
“Duncan Paloni!” he shouted. His Portugese accent, mixed with the flavors of at least four other nearby lands, was just manageable. He lumbered from behind the counter, throwing it open and wrapping his huge arms around me. His big barrel chest pressed into mine. “I was just thinking of you not two days ago! What has brought you to Achiad?” He pulled back and looked at the crew. “Revenge? All of you?”
Captain Montoya came forward and extended his hand. “Inigo Montoya,” he said.
“The captain,” I hastily added.
Boris Couz stepped away from me and took the captain’s hand and shook it vigorously. “Well now!” he said. “This is a first! Never has my humble shop been graced with the presence of the captain of the greatest ship on the high seas! My!” With the captain’s hand still in his grip, he looked him over. “Though I must say, sir, that you don’t look the part! No disrespect intended, please!”
“Which is why we’re here,” said Crissah, who came to the fore. The captain didn’t look offended, but was smiling slightly, as though he had already decided that he liked Boris Couz. Crissah extended her hand, and Boris released the captain’s to raise hers to his lips.
“I do love moving forward with the times,” he sighed. He released her hand and said, “Women—pirates?” He glanced at Hindy, who had come along, and Olive too. “Can it be true?”
“It can,” said Hindy. Boris came around to her, kissed her hand, and then did the same to Olive’s. Rounding out the group was Ryeand Dauchkin, whom Boris spied after reluctantly looking away from the women.
“Dauchkin!” he yelled, and barreled into him. The men shook hands and then hugged.
“How is it you are still alive and kicking?” cried Boris.
“I’m jus’ a tough ol’ seabird,” said Dauchkin with a broad toothy grin.
“Captain,” said Boris, “I would like to tell you that this man saved my life long ago, and that if he represents the general character of your crew, then, sir, you have a grand crew indeed!”
The captain smiled and nodded. “He has been most helpful showing me the workings of the Revenge, sir.”
“No, no—just Boris, please, Captain. Just Boris.” He studied the captain. “You are new to the job?”
“That explains it then,” said Boris, looking him over once again with a critical eye. “Do forgive me, Captain, but you are dressed as a peasant, and that will simply not do!”
Captain Montoya looked down on his person. “These clothes are all I own.”
“Until now,” said Hindy. “The crew believes the captain of the Revenge should look the part. Our recent good fortune brought us to think of you. And since we were sailing through …”
“Oh, this sounds quite exciting!” beamed Boris, twisting his moustache. “May I be so bold as to presume your good fortune is about to become mine as well?”
“Indeed, yes,” said Captain Montoya.
“All of you?” he said very hopefully.
“The entire crew,” I said. “They’ll all be stopping in as their duties allow.” I stepped back and clapped a hand on young Rye Morgny’s shoulder. “This rookie needs your particular attention.”
Boris brought his gaze to him and approached. “Rookie, eh?” he asked while sizing Rye
“Very,” said everyone.
“Everyone starts somewhere!” declared Boris as he took Rye Morgny’s hand, which was hanging limply by his side. The boy seemed utterly out of his element; still, he managed a strained smile.
“You are among friends,” Boris assured him. “The Revenge has given the world the finest souls I have ever had the privilege of knowing. No one will teach you how to be a man better than these. Come! Come! It appears that I have much work ahead of me today! Joy O joy! Come! Come!”
It was quite a sight seeing the captain a week later. As had become his custom, he was awake well before the day crew, and greeted us as we made our way on deck.
He looked … well, picture a Spanish conquistador who had thrown out the king’s colors and chosen the life of a proud scalawag. A magnificent rogue. A dashing rascal.
He wore burgundy trimmed in black and dark pants tucked into new, shiny boots. The ensemble came with a suede-leather hat with feather and a short gold-lined cape, but those were nowhere to be found. In all respects, he looked quite captainly—and handsome. His moustache, which was still growing back, reminded me of our first adventure together, one that had already made his legendary name even more so. He looked at us as we saluted and said, “Pirates. Notpeasants. Those of you with new wardrobes look splendid this morning.”
“As do you, Captain,” said Emeri admiringly.
The women were a sight. Boris had outfitted them beautifully. Instead of trying to make them look like men, he kept the feminine in the details while conveying both a dangerous femme fatale look with one that let everyone know that these women were the equals of everyone around them. Our new duds were designed with work in mind (sailing a tall ship is work—hard work); we paid for multiple outfits for multiple occasions, from scrubbing the deck to crashing a royal ball. Boris hired extra help in the nine days it took him to outfit us; and when we sailed out of Achiad, he was a much wealthier man.
“It cannot be years again,” he sighed as we parted. “Please tell me it won’t be years!”
The captain took his big hand in both of his. “By my word, it won’t be.”
It was still at least a week yet to Bavus-Naguty. We had calm seas and a steady breeze, and weren’t harassed by the various navies of the various kingdoms we sailed by, who saw our colors and largely left us alone.
On the second morning out, anchored over a shallow reef, Captain Montoya greeted us in the mess and said, “Good morning. I have some news for all of you.”
He reached into a big box he’d brought in with him and opened it and pulled out and dumped on the table—
—paisley … underwear?
We stared. No one spoke.
“Boris made them for us,” he said.
Still, no one spoke.
He glanced around at us, irritated.
Everyone looked round to me, so I spoke. “I’m sorry, sir,” I said. “What … are these?”
The crews’ gaze shifted back to him. The girls in particular looked shocked. Their gazes were of concern: Had the captain just revealed a kink in his personality that should best be left to himself?
He gazed around at everybody. “These are swimming suits! Swimwear! Boris made them, a pair for each of us! He used the measurements he’d gotten from us and fashioned these by my request! They’re made of a special material that stays lightweight in water and dries very quickly under the sun! I paid for them myself.”
Emeri reached for a pair of trunks and lifted them, gawking. They were obviously fashioned for a man, with a button fly.
“Those are mine,” said the captain with a completely straight face. He grabbed them from her and held them up. “They hold to your body,” he explained. “The waist stretches but does not lose its form! Look!” He pulled the waist wide and released it. The suit snapped instantly back into shape.
We were speechless.
Emeri reached for another pair of bottoms. These weren’t squarish, as the captain’s were, but cut with a higher, curvier leg.
“Those are probably yours,” said the captain. “Everyone’s names are stitched in small print to the backs of the bottoms, or to the brassieres. Go on, check!”
This she did.
“Are they?” he asked. “Are those yours?”
She nodded vacantly. She lifted another pair, these big enough to double as a circus tent. Fezzik’s.
The giant stared. He was standing in the back. He gave a chuckle, one I could feel in the wood of the kitchen table. He didn’t appear scandalized, as we all did, but deeply amused. He grinned at the captain as though knowing that he might go off the rails every now and again, as he appeared to be doing now.
(Boris made most of his money outfitting Fezzik, it must be said here.)
I think Captain Montoya finally caught up to the general mood of embarrassed shock that held everyone but Fezzik’s tongue, because he slammed his fist down on the table, snapping us all out of it.
“Get over yourselves!” he yelled. “I told everybody that we’re going to learn to swim, and by the farts of Poseidon, that’s exactly what we’re going to do! No seagoing vessel should have a crew the half of which would drown if thrown overboard! We’re going to learn to swim, and that’s the end of it!”
Hindy held up a hand. “Sir?”
He brought his determined gaze to her.
“Will you try your suit on so we can see what it looks like?”
It was obvious that she was trying to contain her laughter.
He caught on right away, and I regretted that she spoke at all, because he gave her an evil grin with a wink. “I would love to. That’s what we are all going to do right now: we will all try on our swimwear and show ourselves on the deck, under the sight of God Himself. All of us. Together. If you want to laugh or be embarrassed, you can do it in the presence of Him and your crewmates! Now get your swimwear and change and go to the deck. You have ten minutes! Anyone not showing themselves in that time will call Achiad their new port o’ call! I will turn about and dump you there!”
We all looked at each other, and then, with his help, silently rifled through the pile of paisley material to find our swimsuits. Soon the crew mess was empty save for, surely, the thick air of shock which must have lingered behind.
What can I say about the hour that followed? Stripped of our clothes and wearing these tight-fitting swimming suits (of which, thankfully, came in varying colors), we tip-toed onto the deck, arms wrapped around ourselves, where the captain, in his swimming suit, boldly waited. Soon the entire crew was standing there and doing our best not to look at each other (and failing miserably), as though to protect ourselves from the dark clouds of embarrassment threatening to unleash themselves on our heads.
The captain stood without shame. He was trimly built, with a strong hairy chest and muscular legs.
The girls, I must admit, looked, well … quite good. Their suits, comprised of a brassiere and bottoms, covered significantly less than ladies’ undergarments of the time, and the male crew had a difficult time not ogling them. The girls noticed. Hindy waved a warning finger and said, “Look, boys, but if you touch you’ll lose the offending hand.” The other girls nodded angrily in agreement.
To their credit, the male crew kept any crude comments they might’ve been tempted to make to themselves.
Fezzik. How can I describe what he looked like? A mountain of flesh covered partially in paisley? The great hair of his chest poofed out like HarshtreeForest
. Still, embarrassment didn’t claim him, not even now. He looked around at everyone and nodded in approval and then moved behind the girls, who crowded protectively into his shadow. He gave the rest of us men significant glances that told us he’d make us part of the woodwork if we reached even a finger for them.
Dauchkin was the last to get to deck. He clearly seemed the most embarrassed of us all. Crissah went to him and took his arm and led him to the group, saying, “Now here is the finest of you lot!”
He had a bit of a poochy tummy, but his arms and chest were still strong and shaped like old granite, his legs too.
Captain Montoya approached him. “Do you know how to swim, Dauchkin?”
The old dog shook his head.
“If you fall overboard, you will die,” said the captain very gravely. “You’ll panic and drown before we can get anything out to you or turn the Revenge about.” He came in closer to him. “And I could not live with myself if that happened. You are loyal and hardworking and irreplaceable. As are you all!” he yelled, looking around at us one by one. “I will not lose any of you to the sea!
“So you’re embarrassed being dressed so scantily. What is embarrassment next to death by drowning? Deal with it, say I! Now go and change back into your clothes and let’s set sail!”
We didn’t cheer; instead we meekly scampered off deck, somewhat ashamed at ourselves for being so precious and modest.
I found myself over the week following unable to get Crissah’s swimwear-clad body out of my head. I mean, she looked very alluring dressed as a “carrot” as we made our assault on Harshtree; and I did avail myself of the occasional surreptitious glance, that’s true enough. But now I felt somewhat consumed by her body … the way her bottoms complimented her hips and backside; her long legs and youthful curves and flawless cream-colored skin.
I wasn’t the only man so affected. I noticed a lot of distracted blinking from all the male crew as we sailed into warmer seas. I kept a tight lid on it; so did Marcell. We made it clear that friendly banter was tolerated, but crude comments were not. To let them know we were serious we worked several offenders to the bone, giving them fifteen-hour shifts. The comments ceased.
The one I was most worried about, though, was Rye. He’d seen Hindy, Crissah, Olive, Emeri, Stacie, and Lilianna in what amounted to less than their underwear, and since that day stumbled around in a lust-filled teenaged haze. I thought he might tip himself overboard on several occasions as he watched one of them pass, and that wouldn’t do at all, so I jumped loudly on his case and put him to work with the real offenders, telling him that if he couldn’t keep the blood in his big head, that his small one would get him and all of us killed. He worked hard, but the vacant, mouth-hanging-open countenance hung on. After another day it started fading a little, which was good enough for me—for the time being.
Eight days later we crossed into Bavus-Naguty waters. A pleasant breeze urged us on. We sailed close to shore, looking for a quiet place to drop anchor. We found it two days later: a small, hidden cove surrounded by high white chalk cliffs. We sailed into it and celebrated, for we were now floating peacefully on warm turquoise waters. We set up camp on shore, and that’s when, after several raucous rounds of rum, the captain proclaimed that swimming lessons would commence the following morning.
Chapter Two will be coming in mid-March!