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!
The Birth of the Bandileros
“Wait ... wait!” yelled Captain Montoya. “Wait!”
We quietened. The entire crew had gathered by this point. The captain stood in the center with Crissah,
and Kelale. Crissah, crying, was being consoled by Hindy and Liliana. The
captain had his arm around Rye’s
shoulder and was gazing around. When he was satisfied with the silence, he
gazed at me.
“How long back to
Florin at full sails?”
I shook my head. “Good weather? Two weeks? Two and a half?”
“That would give us more than enough time to rescue them,” he said. “But something is telling me we should think this through.”
“It won’t be that fast,” declared Stacie and Ruhdsami together. “The
navy will be looking for us,” continued Ruhdsami. “We won’t get within a hundred
miles of any Florin port. That’s probably
their real intent—to sink us before we even get within sight of land.”
“Agreed,” said Marcell. The crew began murmuring amongst themselves.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” said the captain.
He gazed at Kelale. “How long over land, do you guess, my good man?”
“By horse,” said Captain Montoya.
The crew gasped.
“All of you?” laughed Kelale disbelievingly.
“This is my crew’s fight. Two of our crew are being threatened. That means all of us are being threatened!”
The crew shouted agreement.
Kelale shook his head thoughtfully. “I honestly don’t know. I don’t even know how many kingdoms are between ours and
“Just two,” declared Kalvban, our boatswain. Kalvban was a burly man in his mid-thirties with deep-set brown eyes and curly hair. Generally, when the women of the Revenge swooned over their male comrades (if they did, that is, which was never a given), it was Kalvban who usually got first mention. “
Portugal, Guilder, then Florin. We’re looking at ... I don’t know ... nine hundred
“Nine hundred miles ... in two months?” I shouted.
“It’s workable,” said Ruhdsami. “A little more than fifteen miles a day. On horseback, that is more than comfortable.”
“It’ll be more than that,” said Hindy, who stepped away from Crissah to address the crew. “Nine hundred miles as the crow flies. The true distance will be greater, possibly much greater. We need time to plan. We need time to organize!”
“Agreed,” I said. “ I remember my boyhood training now. Twenty miles a day by horseback is entirely doable. That should get us home in time. We can do this.”
“The problem is,” said Kalvban, “where are we going to get twenty-four fresh horses, and what are we going to do about the Revenge while we’re gone? Who’s going to take care of her, look after her?”
Kelale thought for a moment. “I have a friend—he lives in
Portugal. His name is Mauro. He
owns a ranch. He’s got horses; he’s got lots of them. He raises them for
noblemen. I could send a courier to him. He’d get there before you did. The
only problem is, he’ll demand top dollar. His horses are the finest Arabians.”
Captain Montoya glanced at me. “Do we have enough, Paloni?”
I shook my head and shrugged. I didn’t know.
“He owes me quite a few favors,” said Kelale. “I got him started in business. I introduced him to his wife, who holds the family’s true wealth. She has no love for monarchies, especially
Florin’s. Give me tonight to write
the letter, and together, Captain, we’ll go to Noush in the morning and get the
courier on his way, what do you say?”
The captain gazed around at all of us. “This is all of our decision,” he said. “What say you, Revenge?”
The crew looked around at each other, then nodded. No one shouted. It didn’t seem appropriate given the gravity of the moment.
The captain woke me well before dawn. “I want you to come along, Paloni.”
I nodded groggily and struggled to a sitting position. I was back in my cabin.
Captain Montoya waited in the dark.
“I’ve been up all night,” he said. “I can’t stop thinking of what those monsters will do to Crissah’s and
family if we don’t get back there in time. We’re going to need help. I don’t
think we can pull this off otherwise.”
I pulled on my trousers and shirt.
“I’ve asked Kelale to bring extra horses. I may not have the gift of strategy, but my crew does,” he said. “Pick three to accompany us, Paloni. We can strategize while we ride.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
He nodded, then left me to finish dressing.
The sun was still a good hour from rising. We set out from the beach, climbed the steep and rocky slope to Kelale’s fields, then got on the trail leading into Noush.
I’d selected Ruhdsami, since tactics were his stock-in-trade, and Marcell, and also Dauchkin, whose decades of experience pirating had to help. Too, he was also an expert rider and knew how to judge horses, like
Rye, whom I chose to leave back at the camp.
friendly with Guilder,” said Kelale, bringing up the rear. “They have been for
centuries. The royal families of each are related down the line. Portugal’s king
has spoken more than once of allowing Guilder to become a province. The only
reason they haven’t is because Spain
has repeatedly threatened to invade both if they do.”
“Guilder,” I said, looking over my shoulder, “has always been very friendly to the Revenge. In fact, the Revenge’s original home port is in Guilder, and we are considered an honorary member of their navy. For that reason we do not plunder Guilderian vessels. We have no such understanding with
Portugal, or with Spain, for that matter, which makes me concerned
once we enter into Portugal.
On more than one occasion we have had profitable run-ins with their merchant
vessels, and with Spain’s
“But long ago, sir,” piped up Dauchkin, who rode in the middle. “It must be five years or more, at least with
“But not with
Ruhdsami. “We ransacked one of their passenger ships just last year with
Captain Montoya listened. “Do you think they’d remember us?
Portugal, that is?”
“On the high seas, no one can forget us,” I said with not just a little pride. “But over land?”
“Agreed,” said Ruhdsami, who smiled. “We’re pirates, not bandits.”
“There are many who’d say there is no difference,” said Marcell just behind me.
“My point ...” started Ruhdsami.
“I know what your point is,” grunted Marcell. “Pirates operate on the water; bandits over land. Got it.”
“It is a valid argument,” said the captain, who with Ruhdsami shook his head at Marcell’s gruffness. (Marcell was not a morning person.) “Our faces are recognizable on the water, but land might confuse our countenances. Kelale, my friend, what do you think?”
“I think, my dear captain, that Ruhdsami has a real gift for strategy. I’d wager he’s right.”
“It still leaves the problem of what to do with the Revenge,” I went on. “We’ll take a serious chance sailing into Portuguese waters. We avoided them coming down here. If we’re spotted, our mission likely ends right then and there.”
“I’ve thought of that,” said Kelale. “Our capital city is three days’ journey up the coast. There are passenger ships leaving for
Guilder, and Florin.
My friend’s ranch is just outside Amarante, no more than a week’s journey from Porto. Providing that he’s willing to deal, you could
make it back to Florin well before the
deadline, even with snags. The question is: are you prepared to spend a fair
amount of your booty?”
“Without a doubt!” shouted Dauchkin. “The Revenge has always taken care of me, and so I am going to take care of her and her crew!”
“I think Dauchkin speaks for all of us,” I said. “Captain?” I glanced back at Captain Montoya.
“It looks, gentlemen, as though the crew of the Revenge are about to become bandileros!”
“Here, here!” we yelled. “Here, here!”
By the time we reached Noush, we’d made up our minds.
Half of the Revenge would board a passenger ship bound for
once the courier returned with the rancher’s answer and his price for a dozen
of his champion Arabians. The courier told us the round trip would require
three weeks at full speed, maybe a day or two less given good weather and
agreeable roads. That was acceptable. We paid her and sent her on her way.
The remaining crew would take the Revenge north towards
Florin. Their task was reconnaissance: they would hug
Florin’s coast once there, getting as close as they dare, and gauge the actions
of the navy and possibly land for an attempt at saving Crissah’s and Rye’s parents.
Taurdust was mentioned. If the Revenge could recruit some mercenaries (if they could even get within sight of its port!), all the better. It all came down to the price the rancher was going to ask for his horses, and if we could even drop anchor there.
We debated skipping the rancher altogether and shopping around for horses here, in Bavus-Naguty. But locating a dozen horses, road ready, healthy, and not desperately needed by their owners was no easy or simple task, no matter what we were willing to pay for them. Kelale assured us that it would be far better for us to select those who would go with the Revenge and the Bandileros, and take the time to strategize.
“But what if the price is too high?” I asked. “What if the rancher will sell us a dozen horses, but we can’t afford it? We’re screwed!”
Kelale sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s the best we’ve got. Mauro is a good man. Very fair sort. He was once very poor. Like his wife, he too has no love for the
monarchy. I think my letter will prod him to part with his animals for a good
price. We must have faith—and lots of patience.”
We spent the time back at the cove in furious strategizing sessions. To rid ourselves of the tension, Captain Montoya got even more militant about swimming lessons. We took the Revenge out of the cove to open ocean and swam miles offshore and practiced lifesaving techniques. A small storm billowed in one day; we sailed out and practiced in rough seas. We were getting quite good. The crew of the Revenge could swim, all of us, and quite well.
And swordfight. Those practices were filled with extra urgency, extra concentration. It felt like boot camp. The parties ceased. The rum was stowed. We became soldiers, guided by the hand of a bona fide master who freely shared his secrets. Even Fezzik, that lovable giant, added some nimbleness to that awesome brute strength of his.
Eighteen days after sending the courier on her way, Kelale woke us in the middle of the night. He had the response from his friend Mauro in Amarante. The captain opened the letter and read it aloud:
I am honored to be thought of by the legendary Revenge.
I have a dozen fine steeds waiting; 3 gold per.
Anything to help punish Florin slime.
Be here soonest. Looking forward to meeting!
Chapter Four will be coming in August!