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!
Swimming Lessons and Swordplay
Great Britain wasn’t much different than Florin, its southeast neighbor, in that regard. Both
countries were always seeking advantage, always spoiling for a brawl, always
wanting to stoke the fires of war. The prevailing philosophy came down to this:
A people at peace is a dangerous thing.
When I was seventeen I packed up and crossed the Channel to
where I shortly learned that nothing changed but my geography. Not many years
after that I was recruited to the crew of the Revenge.
It isn’t a matter of simply signing up. With all due respect to Rye Morgny, the Revenge doesn’t take just anybody. To be a member of this intrepid crew, another serving aboard it has to know the potential recruit personally. When and if the time comes, someone actively serving on the Revenge seeks the candidate out.
In my case the serving member was a former lieutenant of the very ship I had served on in the Navy. He had been framed by the first mate (a truly despicable fellow) for debauchery and left to rot in a British dungeon, which, with his cellmate, they managed to escape, but not without his friend being cut down. On his own, he fled to
Florin. The Revenge found him not long after he arrived.
I couldn’t believe the Revenge wanted me. I hadn’t proved myself in battle or, as the lieutenant, whose name was Ryley, with cunning and daring by escaping a horrible dungeon. I told him. His response stuck with me ever since.
“Perhaps not. But I know men, what’s in them, and I always thought you were a cut above. You were destined for far greater things than scrubbing quarterdecks!”
I met Captain Cummerbund, who was just months from retiring. He interviewed me. He didn’t seem to like me (at all), and I left very disappointed. Three days later Ryley found me slouched over my mead in a pub. “You’ve got the job,” he told me. “Report the day after tomorrow. You’ll be my Ship’s Master First Mate.”
I was floored.
It was with that grand memory that I came up behind Rye Morgny, who was working with Dauchkin to stoke one of four large bonfires we had built, and clapped a hand on his shoulder.
He turned to face me. “Yes, sir?”
“Know how to swim?” I asked.
He shook his head. “You, sir?”
I too shook my head. “Believe it or not, most sailors don’t have a clue how to swim. We’re quite lucky: half of the Revenge knows. That’s much better than most crews, on average.”
“Seems silly, I suppose,” he mused. “I mean, we live on the water. I guess it’d it be like taking a carriage over land but not knowing how to walk.”
I chuckled. “Quite.”
The captain hopped off the long boat and helped pull it in. He glanced at us, then around at the cove. This truly was a peaceful and private little bit of heaven.
We waited for him to speak, which was obvious he was about to do.
“Those of you who know how to swim, please come forward.”
Twelve crewmembers came forward, including all the women and six others, including Fezzik.
He glanced at the rest of us. “We shall entrust your lives to the care of these dozen. I too don’t know how to swim. That is going to end during this stay. I shall assign one swimmer with one non-swimmer. Rank does not matter while you are under their tutelage! While in their care, you will treat them as your superiors. I willingly include myself in that order. Does everyone understand?”
He turned to Marcell, who had waded ashore and stood now next to him. The bosun had the captain’s fine feather hat in his grip, which he handed to him.
“Nonswimmers shall come forward,” Captain Montoya announced, “and take a single name from the hat. That person shall be your aquatics instructor. I shall begin!”
Holding up the hat, he reached inside and pulled out a small rectangular bit of paper and read it and laughed. “I shall be entrusting my life to … Ruhdsami!”
Kay Ruhdsami was our sole Indian crewmember. He was twenty-eight years old and a first-class Master Gunner and Tactician, having defected from the Indian Navy about the same time I fled
He was dark and quiet, and a very good, steady sort. He smiled a lot but kept
to himself. He gazed at the captain and bowed. “I shall not let you down, sir.”
One by one we came up to the hat and drew a name. Fezzik, who, unbelievably, knew how to swim (“I can doggy paddle”), was paired with young Rye; Dauchkin got Stacie (which elicited groans of envy from the men); Marcell drew Hindy (more groans; in fact every man who got paired with a woman received them, along with smirking stares and offers of piles of gold if they traded); and I? I smirked the widest, because I was the last to draw and so already knew who I’d be paired with: Crissah.
Indeed there was a God, thought I, most pleased. I sidled smugly up to her side. She gave me a wink as the captain said, “No trades! And no one in the water who has drink in them! Safety always comes first! Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” we answered in unison.
“We shall begin tomorrow after breakfast. In the meantime, let us relax and enjoy this marvelous place, shall we?”
We yelled our delight and went back to the fires and the rum in canteens waiting around them.
The study was large, circular, and glowing softly orange-yellow by the quietly crackling fire in the large hearth to the left. A bearskin rug lay in the room’s center; on the other side, tall bookshelves and a ladder to get up to the highest tomes waited in homey shadow. Between them and the hearth was a door that led to his bedchamber.
Dynatis Rugen wasn’t looking that way, however. He was staring impatiently towards the right and the corridor that led back into the heart of the castle.
This study once belonged to Prince Humperdinck. It was where he used to hatch his plots and schemes. He and Count Rugen used to sit in here for many idle hours sipping brandy and enjoying their well-deserved privilege and position. Many an evening they’d order the palace guard to grab a villager and haul him or her to the Pit of Despair where, snifters in hand, they’d go so they could make the dirty commoner suffer. They’d have the corpse fed to the palace’s guard dogs.
It was an excellent way to maintain fear, to make sure the rabble knew their place, and to educate themselves on the limits of human suffering, which was always helpful.
Dynatis frowned. The new king didn’t care for the Pit of Despair, only that “the good work” in it continued. The new king was concerned only about tribute. He lived cloistered in his opulent apartment, making only occasional appearances in the palace, and even rarer appearances before his subjects. He was the nephew of the old king, Humperdinck’s first cousin, and lived, in his words, “only to rule.”
That included friendship. The new king—King Ecclesius, as he had been titled—had no use for it, nor for this study, which he simply gave to Dynatis with a dismissive wave. “It’s yours to use as you please. Do your job and you may keep it. Don’t do your job and I’ll give it to someone else. Now leave me!”
The king had been very disappointed to hear that the Dread Pirate Roberts had successfully assaulted Harshtree Prison and had freed one of its inmates. To make his displeasure real he had Dynatis strapped to the Machine and given a “light” disciplining. The crank was lifted to one-half for ten minutes.
The water had flowed and the wheel turned and Dynatis Rugen wished for death. The guards unstrapped him and carried him back to the castle and put him gently to bed, where he stayed for three days, recovering.
He went back to work with twice the desire as before to exact revenge upon that pirate scow and its Spaniard captain.
He sighed and glared at the corridor.
He heard the guard at the end of the corridor come to attention and hurry to the entrance, where he stopped and saluted stiffly.
“Where are they?”
“Forgive me, My Lord. The carriage must be …”
“Must be what?”
“My Lord, it is raining. Perhaps the carriage got stuck.”
“That’s all you’ve got—excuses? Get out!”
The guard saluted quickly. “My Lord.” He turned and hurried back down the corridor.
That damn Spaniard had run his father through and kidnapped the princess. He had humiliated King Humperdinck, who was shortly afterward exiled to
then thrown out and captured back here in Florin,
where he died in Harshtree. The coup spawned talk of revolution. The peasants
saw that tiniest flicker of hope and started talking, started acting like they
The new king was crowned and the rebellion quashed. Dynatis had been selected to follow in his father’s footsteps. The king’s first order: “Crush the citizenry.”
Tirelessly now for over a year, that is exactly what he had done.
But he deserved a little more of the taste of the good life his father had enjoyed! If it couldn’t be the king, then he knew who his second choice would be.
If only he’d bloody get here!
The door swung open that instant, as if fearful of his slipping temper. Multiple footsteps hurried down the hall.
Guards appeared suddenly, one to each side of a very small bald man, who shook the weather off and gave him an evil, lopsided smile.
“My dear Count,” he simpered, inclining his head.
“Bacco!” cried Dynatis. “It is wonderful to see you, my old friend! Come, take off your wet things and have a seat!”
“Indeed I shall,” said Bacco. “I believe we have much to discuss—say, a nasty Spaniard with delusions of greatness?”
“Yes, yes!” said Dynatis.
Just the mention of the captain of the Revenge was enough to cause him to grip the quill in his hand until his knuckles were white. “Let us talk about what we can do about that Spaniard and his quaint little boat, shall we? Guards! Get this man some warm brandy at once!”
These weeks had passed almost without notice. That’s the odd thing about living happily. Time loses all its earth-bound density and floats away. It seemed only yesterday we were drawing names out of a hat to determine partners for swimming practice.
I found myself gazing at the calendar in the captain’s quarters and shaking my head in contented disbelief. That was almost four months ago!
We all learned how to swim. We learned the Australian crawl (Hindy) and the backstroke (also Hindy), and the breaststroke (Emeri). We learned how to hold our breath and how to sidestroke (Ruhdsami). We learned how to “doggy paddle” and float comfortably on our backs (Fezzik, of course). Some of us got so water-proficient that we could dive into the deepest part of the cove for clams and mussels and other shellfish, which we brought up and devoured with great relish. We became much better fishermen-and –women. The water was warm, turquoise blue, and clear as glass.
Speaking of glass:
Rye Morgny surprised us by
informing us his father had taught him glass- and metalwork. To that end he put
together a rudimentary pair of goggles we could use underwater. The first pairs
fell apart; but continued improvements to the design finally yielded a fairly
efficient, leak-proof, and safe pair. Eventually he made two more from spare
portals found in the bowels of the ship.
We took the time to clean the Revenge of barnacles now that we all could do it. It was exhausting and time-consuming work, but rewarding. We effected much-needed repairs to her and today gleamed like brand new.
Our swimming suits were durable and comfortable. We became used to seeing one another traipse about in what amounted to paisley underwear.
The captain promised that we were all going to learn not just how to swim, but how to fight as well.
We were pirates. Fighting was second nature to us. With the exception of
Rye (initially, at least), we were all good in
a scrape. But that’s not what the captain was talking about. He wanted us to
learn some of his godlike skills.
To that end he put us through our paces, teaching us as his father taught him and then as he taught himself after his father was murdered. The lessons of his decades of devoted study he gave to us without hesitation. It was a gift without price and one we accepted it with great thanks. He didn’t want us to be great fighters, he told us. He wanted us to be great peacemakers. If a fight started, he wanted it to be over within moments and with us as the victors. That’s what he meant by “peacemakers.” It was our peace he didn’t want disturbed. This we all agreed to heartily.
When we weren’t in the water we practiced swordplay in the large training circle in the center of the camp. We gave up the rum and the late boisterous nights. The day’s activities were so strenuous that none of us had any desire to make merry after the sun went down. One of us would tell the rest a story as dinner digested and drink becalmed us. They were always stories of grand adventures and daring deeds, and we’d settle in and listened raptly. Marcell and Dauchkin were natural storytellers; so were Liliana and the captain. Like children, many of us drifted off as we listened. It was a rare thing for any of us to be awake after ten. The night’s fires would die down as we slept around them. The stars above twinkled in friendship.
Always the captain would wake before all of us. Many times he’d be busy cooking breakfast—a captain cooking breakfast! We lived off the bounty of the sea and the surrounding land. Just a bit inland was a small farm. The farmer, a genial chap named Kelale, learned of our presence (he saw the smoke from our bonfires) and gave us a whole side of beef, for which we paid handsomely. We dined at his home several times and helped out around the farm when we could. We feasted on sweet corn and huge, juicy oranges and paid him to restock our ship’s stores with wheat, dried beans, and flour.
Bavus-Naguty’s countryside was beautifully green and hilly. A village named Noush was fifteen miles inland; we took several treks there, where a metalworker named Lagesius sharpened our swords and outfitted us with new ones, including
Rye, whose skills as a swordsman had improved
beyond all measure. He was swift, cunning, and inventive with a cutlass, so
much so that the captain noticed and complimented his improvement. The pride in
Rye’s eyes was
something to see. Handing his new blade to him, I could only think about how
he’d gone from a liability to an almost certain asset. He’d already tasted
battle; it was only a matter for him now to become accustomed to it.
I left the captain’s quarters, closing the door behind me, and made my way upstairs to the topdeck. There was no one else onboard besides me. The Revenge sat light and happy in calm cove waters that only this morning had dolphins swimming in them.
I went to the port railing and gazed overboard. I could hear people laughing next to the ship.
Fezzik was floating on his back. Sitting on top of him was Stacie, Liliana, and
Rye. They were splashing each other. Fezzik
was so large and strong that he didn’t seem to struggle with their weight or
Duncan!” he shouted, smiling. “Come in!
There’s room for one more!” His massive right shoulder lifted and dropped a
His passengers glanced up at me. “Yeah, come in!” shouted Stacie. She splashed water that hit the side of the ship but didn’t quite make it up to me.
Just then we heard a cry from shore. It was Crissah. She was motioning frantically for us to go to her.
The captain stood behind her, as did Marcell and … Kelale? The farmer? All were motioning as well.
Other crewmembers were dropping what they were doing and hurrying toward them.
I mounted the rail and dove in and began swimming. Fezzik’s passengers had abandoned ship and were swimming too. Fezzik followed. He wasn’t speedy, but he’d eventually get there.
We gained the warm white sand minutes later. The entire crew was in animated conversation with the captain and Kelale. Fezzik was still a few minutes out at his current speed.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Crissah was crying. I went to her. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
She wouldn’t answer me.
When Fezzik finally lumbered ashore and joined us, the captain, glancing at Kelale, said, “Go on. Tell them.”
“I went to Noush for supplies,” said the farmer. He glanced ominously at
“There was a messenger there … all the way from Florin.
He was sent to deliver notices to all coastal villages as far south as Morocco if need
be. He was sent by the king’s henchman and has been traveling for two months. I
told him he could stop looking, that I knew where the Revenge was and would deliver his message.”
The henchman—the vile Dynatis Rugen.
Kelale held up. It was clear it was bad news. Crissah, who didn’t cry, was proof enough.