They rode through the night. It was as if the horses were luminescent, lighting their way along the forest paths and over the hills -- well, they were from Prince Humperdinck’s stables, and he could afford to have his horses groomed with pearl dust and their hooves gilded with gold leaf if he felt like it.
But the soft ghostly glow of the horses made them visible to Humperdinck’s guardsmen, who had been sent to patrol the border to prevent a Guilderese invasion. The fact that this invasion was purely an invention of Humperdinck’s twisted mind had not been publicized, at least not to them.
So they stood in a long line, on parade rest, facing outward, under orders to keep out anyone who dared to cross the border into Florin, while from behind them four ghostly horses and their less-visible riders pressed onward.
Only a few hundred yards from the shoreline, Westley swayed on top of his horse. Inigo reached across to try to keep Westley from falling, but felt his own sword wounds begin to ache fiercely. He gripped the horse with his legs, one hand on himself to stop the flow of red through the bandage and one on Westley. Although Buttercup was a fine horsewoman, she could help neither of them; her slippery silken wedding dress kept snagging on the bushes and tugging her off balance. She cried out for help, and Fezzik’s horse surged forward between Westley and Inigo. Fezzik grabbed each of them and told his horse, “Steady, and be ready,” and the horse switched his ears back and forth, put his head down and ran, smoothly as a stream over sand.
Buttercup leaned down over her horse’s neck and whispered in its ear, and it dashed out in front of the other three. Although she would not have said it aloud, she had become weary of always being the one who had to be rescued. Tired as she was, what with the wedding and almost committing suicide and escaping from Prince Humperdinck, she was determined to lead the charge this time. Westley and his friends all had been acting like heroes, and she was fed up with being the baggage. She kicked her horse into a faster gallop and leaned in. Her horse stretched out its neck and ran as if the Shrieking Eels were at its heels.
She could see the guardsmen, standing a few yards apart. She could see the delicate embroidery on their uniforms. She looked back; the others were a length behind her, coming on fast.
And the four of them galloped through the line of Florinese guardsmen, who did nothing to stop them.
“Wot? “ exclaimed one guard. “We’re ‘ere to watch the border, right?”
“Right you are, Bud,” said another, a sergeant. “And watchin’ the border is wot we do. We don’t let none of those Guilderese into Florin.”
“Right. An’ we don’t let in none of them Shillings or Francs, neither.” He ducked aside to keep from being trampled by the troika of horses behind Buttercup. “But nobody said nothin’ about keepin’ people 'ere that want to leave.”
“That’s not our job.” The sergeant raised a hand and waved at the riders. “Thanks for visiting Florin! Have a nice day!”
The eastern sky was only beginning to lighten, but Buttercup could see the crow’s nest atop the Dread Pirate Roberts’s tall-masted ship just ahead of them, sitting at rest by a dock. She let her horse slow and find its own trail down the hill. “This is your ship, isn’t it, Westley?”
Westley nodded. “We shouldn’t just leave it here; it’ll collect dust.” He fished a mask out of his back pocket and put it on. “Ahoy the ship!”
“We cannot wait here,” Inigo said, turning in his saddle to peer back through the shadows at the guardsmen, who smiled and waved from the top of the hill. “We’ll have to leave the horses and go for it.”
“We can’t leave the horses here.” Fezzik frowned. “The Fire Swamp is just over there, and the R.O.U.S. will hurt them.” He slipped down from his horse and stared at it, eyebrows lowered. “I could lift them into the ship.”
“You’re mad,” Buttercup said. “And the horses won’t like it.”
“No, no, he’s very strong,” Inigo assured her. “And very careful.”
She stared at the flimsy gangplank from the ship to the dock. “Can’t we lead them across?”
“You’re all taking too long. Humperdinck will be sending people after us,” Westley said. “And I’d really like to sit on something that I don’t have to hold onto.”
“Talk, talk, talk.” Fezzik walked out into the water, which was waist deep on him. “If I tie the ship over here, and use this rock…” He did something with ropes and trees, came back to shore and led his horse into the water, where he picked it up, stood up on a rock and lifted the horse into the ship. The horse stepped carefully into the center of the deck, shook off the water, and stood watching the rest of them.
“Well, then,” Westley said. He slid down, his knees buckling, but pulled himself up with the hand that was entangled in his horse’s mane. Buttercup dismounted and ran to slip her arm around him and hold him up. “Welcome to the Revenge, my lady.” They carefully walked up the bouncy gangplank and onto the ship, where Westley sank down onto a bench near the captain’s cabin and looked pale.
“Are you all right, my love?” Buttercup touched his face anxiously.
“It’s nothing.” He attempted to wave a hand, but it was too much trouble. “I was dead earlier in the day; it takes some time to recover.”
“Only mostly dead,” Inigo said as he watched Fezzik lift the other horses into the ship. “You’re letting the water hold them up, right?”
“Uh-huh. They don’t seem to mind, I find.”
Inigo grinned. His side didn’t hurt as much now. He jumped onto the ship from the dock without using the gangplank, bouncing a little on his toes, and then fell over, winded.
“Boys.” Buttercup shook her head.
“How was that?” Inigo asked Westley.
“Very piratical, except for that last bit. I’m sure you’ll strike terror in the hearts of all who see you, once you’re feeling better. You should try on the mask.” He slipped off the mask and handed it to Inigo; the effort seemed to tire him. His smile looked thin but valiant as he leaned back against the wall.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Buttercup asked. Westley’s face seemed heated under her hand.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted,” Westley said. “I’ve been in a swordfight, and experimented on by a mad albino and a six-fingered man, and I’ve been not quite dead and then got resuscitated with an absolutely enormous, horrible-tasting pill. I've faced down an insane prince. And after all of it I've gone galloping cross-country. It’s not exactly a walk in the park.” He leaned back against the wall and shut his eyes.
“Actually, the parks are quite dangerous in this country. You’d be amazed.” Inigo told him. Inigo’s own hand, clamped over his side, was dark red with blood, but the flow seemed to have stopped. He glanced at his hand. “I don’t suppose there are any bandages around?”
“In the cabin behind me,” Westley said. “Left cabinet, top shelf. Next to the spare masks.”
Buttercup rose from her place next to Westley. “Sit here. I’ll go find supplies.” She paused. “It would be good if I knew your name.”
Inigo nodded in acknowledgment. “You are correct. We were not introduced properly before. My name is Inigo Montoya.” He hesitated, as if about to say more, but instead leaned back against the planking and smiled a little.
Buttercup gave him a regal nod and swept into the cabin. They could hear thuds and clanks and clattering and then a startled “oof!”
“What’s going on?” Fezzik asked. “The horses are hungry.”
“There should be water in the galley below, and buckets, if you want to give them something to drink,” Westley said. “I don’t think there’s any hay, but I’ve been surprised before.”
Fezzik eyed the ladder to belowdecks. “I’m not sure I’ll fit. I think I’ll wait. Getting stuck is something I hate.” He went back to the horses and began leading them in a circle on the deck, as large as they could manage considering that it wasn’t a large ship.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Inigo said.
“Cooling them down, so they don’t get sore.” Fezzik turned to the horses. “Would you like some more?” They nudged him to keep walking. “We’ll stop when we get underway, especially if there’s hay.”
The door to the cabin burst open and a little round man emerged, rubbing his backside with one hand and carrying a bottle in the other. “Easy does it, miss. Easy does it. It’s rude to go a-waking strangers like that.” Buttercup followed him, carrying a basket that held bandages, half a loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese, a few apples and pears and some less recognizable things. She took out a small bottle labeled ‘Restorative Elixer’, handed it to Westley and supported his arm as he drank from it.
“Ah, just the man we need,” Westley smiled and opened his eyes. “Simon, these are my friends. We have to sail north to the Straits of Florin immediately, before the prince’s guards get tired of wondering what we’re doing and come downhill and ask.” He moved a finger toward the forest, where the guardsmen were still standing at parade rest.
Simon’s jaw dropped. “Captain! Your Pirateness! Wonderful to see you again!”
“Actually, I’ve decided to give up being the Dread Pirate Roberts.” Westley nodded toward Inigo, who was helping Buttercup bind up his wound. “This is the new Dread Pirate Roberts, only he hasn’t had a lot of experience aboard ships. Plenty of experience at swordfighting, though; he might be willing to give lessons if you ask nicely.”
“Oh, I’d like that,” Simon said. “But you know, sir, the ship sails herself, near as possible, given the chance.”
“In that case, cast off and aim her toward the north border of Florin, and we’ll figure it out as we go.”
“But don’t you need a crew?” Buttercup asked, her hands full of bandages.
“Not really,” Westley told her. “It’s possible to sail the Revenge with only one other person, and I’ve done it alone at times. But it’s a lot more fun with a crew. People wouldn’t be nearly so afraid of the Dread Pirate Roberts if he didn’t have a lot of other unnamed Dread Pirates along with him.”
Simon smiled and nodded to her. “Most of the others wanted to go to the festivities in Florin, what with the royal wedding and all, but I wasn’t interested." He shrugged. "We can always find more pirates when we need them. Just have to look in the right places.” He started to set his half-full bottle down but Inigo took it.
“Don’t waste the good stuff.” Inigo took a gulp and choked a little. “That has … bite.”
“’s not that good, Captain Roberts, sir.”
Inigo gave him a crooked smile. “Don’t waste the bad stuff, either.”
Simon nodded and turned back toward the bow to cast off, only to stop to let four large white horses and a giant walk past. “New crew, sir?”
“No, passengers,” Westley said. “Fezzik, Inigo, Buttercup, this is Simon – Mr. Morgenstern -- the first mate. I’m not sure of the horses’ names.”
“They haven’t told me yet,” Fezzik said. He smiled at Simon, who looked startled.
Simon edged around the horses, who viewed him with curiosity but stayed in their places, and cast off the bow and stern lines. He unfurled the mainsail and pushed the tiller to steer the ship away from the shore, and the ship moved out into deep water and headed upriver with the wind.
“… And that’s what he’s doing,” Westley told Inigo. “You’ll need to learn all of this.”
“It’s complicated.” Inigo shrugged. “But it’s interesting, and I’ll get to see new places.”
“You’d better try on the mask,” Westley suggested.
It was a little more difficult to get the mask in place over Inigo’s long hair than it had been over Westley’s shorter crop. Inigo turned toward Westley and Buttercup and smiled. “What do you think?”
Westley nodded. “I think you’ll do fine.”
Inigo slapped his hand on his chest, and looked startled. “I forgot.” He stood up and took off his brown leather vest and reached into the pocket. “This isn’t my old vest; it was wearing out. I got this one from Fezzik, who got it from Miracle Max, who said it went with the Holocaust Cloak and it didn’t fit him any more. But I forgot to look in the pockets.” His hand disappeared into what looked like a watch pocket, and then his arm, up to the elbow. “Something I learned long ago — when someone gives you clothes, look in the pockets.”
“What are you doing?” Buttercup asked.
“Aha! Finding more provisions.” As Inigo pulled back, the pocket stretched and produced two bottles of wine, several wrapped sandwiches and a large chunk of cake. “This might help.”
“I don’t suppose you can find any hay?” Fezzik asked. “They’re getting hungry.” A horse reached up to nibble on his hair, and he scratched between its ears to distract it.
“No hay.” Inigo reached into the other pocket. “But I’ve got a bag of something.” He pulled out a sack of grain, which he handed to Fezzik. “Oats. Will that do?”
Two of the horses nudged Fezzik aside while a third grabbed at the bag. “Easy, now,” Fezzik told them. “You’ll get them soon enough.” He picked up some small burlap bags and fashioned feedbags for the horses. “Do you want anything else?” They were too busy eating to answer.
“That must have been terribly heavy to wear, all this time.” Westley eyed the vest with increasing respect.
Inigo shook his head. “It’s magic; it weighs nothing.” He dropped down into the hold and handed up to Fezzik four buckets of water for the horses, and climbed back out again. "Ah, food. I'd forgotten food." He made short work of an apple and much of the cheese from the basket.
“Isn’t that cake from the wedding banquet?” Buttercup asked. She swiped a bit of frosting on her finger and licked it off. “Much the best use for it, I think – feeding us.”
“I knew there was a romance going on,” Simon said. “Congratulations!”
Buttercup started to speak, shook her head and took another bite of cake. “Thank you,” Westley said. “Does anyone want a sandwich?” He handed two of them down to Fezzik and one apiece to the rest of them. “Mr. Morgenstern? Sandwich? Or a bit of cheese?”
“No thank you, sir. I’m a mite busy.”
Inigo raised an eyebrow. Westley said, “The first mate is usually called by his last name.”
“Ah. So much to remember!” Inigo exclaimed.
“You’ll do fine, I’m sure.” Westley turned his face toward the sun’s warmth and smiled. Buttercup leaned against his shoulder. “Mr. Morgenstern? Follow the river north, if you would be so good, and take her toward the hills. We want to go up near the border with Shilling.” He put his arm around Buttercup, who nestled in. “There’s a farm waiting for us, if it’s still there.”
“Aye, sir.” Simon accepted a sandwich and sat back down at the tiller, where he ate and steered and occasionally eased or pulled on a line to turn the sail when the wind changed quarters.
Buttercup sipped from the bottle of fizzy wine. “When I left, I asked the neighbors to take care of it for me. I don’t think it will have gone anywhere.”
Fezzik and the horses settled amidships, in the shadow of the mainsail. The horses lay down on old burlap bags that Fezzik and Inigo found for them, in lieu of straw, and Fezzik lay down with them, pillowing his head on one horse’s pearly flank. At first Inigo sat next to Simon and asked him questions, but after an hour he began to yawn and he also stretched out on the deck and gave in to sleep.
Westley watched Buttercup’s face from under his eyelashes. It had been so long since he’d had the luxury of time to catalog all the little things about her that he thought were perfect: the curve of her eyebrow, the tilt of her nose, the fullness of her lips. When she bit her lip thoughtfully, her perfect teeth putting a dent in it, his eyes came open all the way.
“What is it, my love?”
“I can’t help thinking that it was my own fault that all of this happened. If we’d just been content with the farm, if you hadn’t gone away –“
“Then other adventures would have happened to us. We were destined for them, you know.” Westley’s voice was soft. “That’s what happens when there’s True Love. It’s all a matter of being prepared.”
“You were prepared; I wasn’t.” She nestled into his arms. “You always did know more than I expected. And apparently, you were right. True Love. It doesn't just happen every day."
Westley considered. “Well, it’s not as if we took a survey. I’m sure there may be many people who find True Love, but how many recognize it when it arrives?" He shifted position; his arm had been going to sleep. “It’s possible that I was a little optimistic about our chances.”
“But you didn't let it stop you." She kissed his cheek. "And if you hadn’t been, I’d be married and dead.” She shivered. “And you’d be tortured and dead. Let’s not ever get married. It just leads to bad things.”
“You’re just saying that because you nearly married an evil homicidal prince who thought he was brilliant when he was just evil.” Westley kissed her. “So, you don’t want to marry. How about if we agree to live happily ever after?”
And at that point, if anyone were looking, it would be obvious that the story had become a kissing story indeed.
Fezzik and the four beautiful white horses (technically grays, but the horses never mentioned that to Fezzik and he never asked ) became known as Fezzik the Great and The Marvelous Horses, a circus act in which the horses chose the stunts that they performed perfectly. They toured Florin, Guilder, Franc, Groat and Shilling for many years together and were enormously successful.
Inigo Montoya became the greatest Dread Pirate Roberts ever known, the Scourge of the Straits, but only in the summer. In the winter he was the greatest fencing master in the world, and students arrived hopefully from all the known world to attend classes in his studio, in the little village downhill from Buttercup’s farm. Some of the better students came with him in the summers as apprentice pirates, learning to sail and fight and sing and drink and live romantic piratical lives. Eventually many of them formed their own crews and went off to be pirates elsewhere, or mercenaries, or (in one case) the founders of a musical theatre dedicated to performing sea chanteys. In later years Inigo passed along the mask of the Dread Pirate Roberts to Cholmondley Worcestershire, who found Roberts so much easier to say and spell that he changed his name legally. After his retirement, Inigo came to live on the farm with Buttercup and Westley when he wasn’t accompanying Fezzik and the horses on tour.
Buttercup had been so traumatized by the events surrounding her almost-marriage to Prince Humperdinck that even hearing the word “marriage” gave her hiccups that lasted for days. But she and Westley lived long and happy lives on the farm with their children. All their lives they were renowned for their tender affection for one another. Their children spent much of the their childhoods rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, must you?” as their parents kissed again and again, at every reasonable opportunity and also at many they thought were unreasonable.
Prince Humperdinck was assassinated by poisoning, through the use of iocaine powder in the royal bathwater. His last words were reputed to be, “I told you that bathing was danger--” Since no woman in her right mind would marry Humperdinck after the debacle with Buttercup, and he had no illegitimate children, the throne passed to his distant cousin, the Duke of Guilder, who united the two countries.
Simon Morgenstern never became the Dread Pirate Roberts. He sailed with every Roberts that came along for fifteen years, because he enjoyed the work. In his spare time he wrote down the adventures of his friends. When he retired from the sea, he took the 1100-page handwritten manuscript to a printer, who looked it over and said, “Hmm. The Princess Bride. There might be money in that. People like stories about royalty and weddings, don't they?” And he published it.