Disclaimer: Well, now isn't this a pickle? We spent all our effort protecting ourselves from Disney since we don't own Zootopia and forgot that we don't own the The Princess Bride either (*sigh* if only, if only…)
Chapter 6 - A Dark and Scary Night
"But what about Butterfluff?" Ridley asked with impatient worry as Ellaine flipped another page, and Ella's long ears perked up as if their grandmother might give away some spoiler to the story.
"Well… I could tell you…" Ellaine started saying contemplatively before flashing them a sweet grandmotherly smile. "But that would be cheating. I think it's best if I just keep reading."
There were two groans from the kits as they sat, impatient to the point of fidgeting as she adjusted her position in the chair and began to read,
"By the time Butterfluff started coming to, it was already dusk…"
Everything seemed dim and hazy as Judy's awareness started returning. It took her a few moments to realize that she must have been out for at least a few hours because the afternoon light had turned to that of evening dusk. She tried to move but found her paws tied behind her back, then tried to speak only to find that she'd been gagged.
Her view of the world seemed to sway suddenly as the ground shifted, wooden planks appearing below her as she caught sounds of water splashing. Judy concluded that she was being taken aboard a ship. A ship would make these kidnappers were…
The word shot through her mind bringing with it an old white hot rage and she began struggling furiously. She'd never forgive any pirate, not after what they had taken from her, and someday she'd track down that hateful Dread Pirate Roberts and see him face justice for what he'd done by taking her one true love away from her forever.
But it did not seem that day would be today. Her struggling only accomplished getting her picked up off the oversized fennec fox's shoulder and roughly dropped into an out of the way corner of the boat.
Judy fumed for a few moments at the seeming indifference the pirate bandits were showing her before she settled her emotions and startled looking around for something, anything, she could use to escape.
She watched for a few moments as the Spaniard and the strongman started going about the boat preparing to pull away from the small dock while the weasel fiddled with something along the shore.
Well if they thought she was helpless and just ignored her… she could use that to her advantage. Judy scooted back into the corner of the boat where she'd been tossed and started slowly and quietly to work at her bonds.
"Fezzik!" shouted the weasel's irritable voice from the shore, "I thought I told you to bring me a piece of her dress!"
"You said we needed to get the boat ready before you said anything about the dress," Grumbled the fox in a low slow mumble as he turned toward Judy and she stopped working at her bonds.
"Yes… but I need the dress now and the boat after!" the weasel said rolling his eyes as if explaining to a simpleton.
The fox muttered something low under his breath about 'stuff him in a dress', before reaching Judy and with another slightly louder murmur of, "Sorry for the mess", ripped part of the hem of the beautiful red fabric off.
There was a snicker from the Hare as he passed the fox and patted him on the shoulder and whispering, "I think Vizzini's in a bit of a hurry, I guess," right before there was a shout from the weasel again.
"Hurry up you slow gelatinous tub of lard! We don't have all day!"
"Guess he's wants a quick… egress," the fox whispered back to the hare behind a paw before moving back down the ship's gangway to where the weasel seemed to be cutting up some piece of clothing.
"What's that?" The fox asked as he handed over the ripped cloth.
"It's fabric from the uniform of an Army officer of Guilder." The weasel said imperiously, holding up a patch he'd cut off the uniform.
"Whos' that?" the fox asked perplexed and the weasel gave him a withering look.
"Guildor?! Guilder is the country across the sea you oversized twit! The sworn enemy of Florin!"
"No, I mean who's uniform is that? Which officer did you take that from?" the fox asked with an eyeroll.
"Don't you go rolling your eyes at me you ingrate and it doesn't matter whose it is! Once the princess fails to arrive at the port, the prince will have his guards sniff out her trail. When they arrive here and find the fabric and the patch he'll suspect that the Guilderian's have abducted his love. And then when her body is found dead on the Guilder frontier, all his suspicions about the peace treaty the Guilderian's have been asking for will be proven completely true!" The weasel said with flourish at his apparently brilliant logic before wedging the pieces of fabric into a cracked side of one of the mooring posts of the dock.
"Wait, you never said anything about killing anyone in this hustle." The fox said sounding, if anything hurt. "I thought you just needed a bit of muscle to knock some heads around."
"I've hired you to help me start a war!" The weasel said straightening up pompously. "Duke Weaselton would describe it as a noble and prestigious line of work with a long and glorious history." He tried curling the end of one of his crooked whiskers in what was probably supposed to be a refined and dignified way… and totally failed to be, then added, "And anyway, I was offered what I couldn't refuse… Money. Lots and lots of money."
"I just don't think it's right." Mumbled the fox discontentedly in his deep voice. "Killing an innocent girl and all."
The weasel's attempt to look refined disappeared and her turned back on the bigger fox.
"Am I going mad or did the words 'think' just escape your lips?!" he jabbed the fox in his chest, "You were not hired for your brains you hippopotamic land mass!"
"I agree with Fezzik," The Spaniard hare at the prow of the boat said, taking a second away from his work with the lines and looked over at the two and added. "Plus Fezzik is a fox not a hippo, I don't think you can call him 'hippopotamic' even as big as he is."
The furious weasel with his finger still pressed into the surprised foxes chest blinked, and then his face turned beat red as he glared at the hare.
"Oh. So the sot has spoken has he? You two couldn't even spell hippopotamic!"
"H. I. P-" Fezzick started saying, counting each letter off on his fingers, before the weasel flew into a rage and cut him off.
"Shut up! What happens to her is nothing of your concern! You're paid to do your jobs and I'll be the one to kill her since you two imbeciles won't. And remember this!" he said marching up the planks and over to the hare, jabbing a finger at him too, "When I found you, you were so slobbering drunk you couldn't even buy brandy and were waving a carrot around thinking it was your sword!" the weasel turned back around the giant fennec fox, "And you! Friendless, Brainless, Helpless, Hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were, unemployed in Greenland! Trying to hustle popsicles!"
The weasel glared at him for a few more seconds before he turned and stormed over to the edge of the boat, undoing the mooring lines and pushing them away from the dock.
The hare finished unfurling the sails and came over to the fox and patted him on the shoulder.
"They weren't popsicles, they were pawpsicles," the fox mumbled.
"And good pawpsicles too," the hare added, then shrugged. "Though maybe Greenland wasn't the best place to try and sell them."
"-and what dumbass named an entire island covered in ice, Greenland…" the fox muttered darkly.
The hare shrugged again looking over at the weasel who'd stomped over to the small boats wheel like he was some grand fleet admiral.
"Probably someone with no sense of fun," he emphasized the last word.
The fox snorted and replied, "Ya... someone who can't understand a pun."
"And to think for someone so smart, he can't even rhyme a single part," the hare said grinning
"For someone so brainless, I sure find it far less painless." The fox returned a bit louder and there was an irritated shout from the weasel.
"Enough of that idiocy! Do I have to do all the work around here?!"
The hare turned around and saluted before running up to the prowl of the boat and hanging off a line to look out forward.
"Hey, Fezzik, are there rocks ahead?" He called back jauntily, making an over obvious attempt to look around for any.
"If there are, we'll all be dead!" The fox called back smirking out of sight of the weasel as his crooked whiskers twitched in irritation.
"Stop that! No more rhymes, I mean it!"
The fox finished tying off a line and pulled a bag out of his pocket offering it to the hare.
"Hey Inigo, you want a peanut?"
Even Judy had a hard time trying not to smile as the weasel let out a frustrated scream.
For the next couple of hours Judy sat quietly in the corner of the boat like a good little frightened captive as the hare and the fox traded rhymes and the weasel seemed to almost literally smolder with annoyance. They had to be the oddest group of pirates she had ever encountered (though that wasn't many) and she reasoned they really weren't pirates exactly, given the plan the weasel had been spouting about so proudly.
And while she might have looked it, she sure hadn't spent the time being a good little captive. She'd managed to spit the gag out to see how they'd react, but they hadn't done anything, so she'd spent the remaining hours slowly working on the ropes tying her wrists. She'd had to be more careful that her efforts didn't alert them once the two had stopped rhyming and the only remaining sound was the rocking of the boat and the water splashing against it in the silent dark night, but in the end she'd managed to loosen the rope to the point she could slip her paws free.
Now, she just needed the right circumstances and she could make her escape and warn the prince that someone has trying to play on his fears to start a war.
The weasel, Vizzini, yawned and looked back toward the hare sitting at the rear of the boat.
"We should reach the cliffs by dawn at this rate." He said lounging back against the rail of the boat.
The Spaniard hare nodded inattentively before glancing back toward the dark waters behind them like he'd been doing for a while now.
"Why are you doing that?" The weasel snapped seeming rather irked at the lack of attention to his brilliant statement.
The hare looked back at him for a second and shrugged, simply saying, "Making sure nobody's following us." Before his attention returned to the stern of the boat.
"That," Vizzini said with utter self-assured confidence, "would be Inconceivable." He took a second to leer smugly at Judy, "Everything is going just according to my plan, wouldn't you say princess?"
Judy's ear twitched and despite her resolve to try and look as helpless as she could until she made her escape, she bite out sharply, "Despite what you think, you all will be caught."
The weasel snorted and Judy continued not really able to stop herself.
"That had to be the worst framing job I've ever seen and I've seen quite a few over the last couple of years. Nobody is going to believe that Guildor did this because a piece of my dress and a uniform patch conveniently ripped free and got left behind on the dock. Clothes don't just rip and leave clues sitting behind like that; You basically left a big sign over the dock screaming 'Frame Job!', only a true idiot would believe something so contrived!"
Meanwhile back at the castle…
"Your highness, Your highness!" a messenger came barging into the prince's office out of breath, "Your highness! The Princess! She's been taken! When the princess didn't arrive before the support at the port, the town guard went out to find her! They found these after two wolves of the guard tracked her trail to a dock south of the town!" The messenger held out two pieces of fabric which the prince took. "The kidnappers must have left it there on purpose to-"
The prince stood up suddenly, waving the insignificant messenger rabbit to silence.
"A piece of my dearest love's dress?! And a Guilder officers badge!" Prince Lionheart proclaimed dramatically, "Why those traitorous Guiderians! I've always said they meant to backstab us! And to think that we might have not known if fortune had not graced my magnificence with such a clue!"
He shook his mane theatrically, "But that is the way of thieves and scoundrels; they shall always mess up and leave clues to their foul deeds behind that the righteous will inevitably find!"
Lionheart turned, setting his face in his most regally commanding visage he could before the insignificant rabbit that was surely stunned by his sheer grandeur and called out, "Countess Rugen! Gather my personal guard and send word to have my fastest ships readied to depart immediately!... And have the tailor prep my best fighting clothes!"
"-and when you all are caught, you'll end up hanging for your crimes!" Judy finished with a huff. Normally she'd have thanked her lucky stars at such incompetence from criminals, but this weasel brash belief in his infallibility, despite all the evidence to the contrary, just got under her fur. That and the fact that she'd been captured by such a dolt, probably didn't help.
The weasel just smirked at her, apparently unfazed at her long list of every mistake he'd made so far.
"Of all the necks on this boat, your Highness Butterfluffness," he said disingenuous, "the one you should be worrying about is your own."
The weasel sneered and looked over at the hare as if expecting applause at his remark, only for his face to fall as the hare continued to look out past the rear of the boat.
"Will you stop doing that! We can all relax, it's almost over!" he snapped.
The hare looked back at him with a worried expression and asked, "You're sure nobody's following us?"
"As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways, inconceivable. No one in Guilder knows what we've done. And no one in Florin could have gotten here so fast." The weasel finished confidently with a dismissive gesture, then frowned ever so slightly.
"Just out of curiosity, why do you ask?"
"No reason." The hare said with a shrug, "It's only I just happened to be looking behind us and something is there."
"What?!" Vizzini said in shock before scrambling to his feet and hurrying toward the back of the boat, followed by Fezzik.
The three of them stood there for a few moments staring into the gloomy fog covered night while Judy strained to hear over the sound of water splashing against the ship's haul. Her hopes dropped, then suddenly soared, recognizing the faint sound of another ship plowing through the seas somewhere in the distance behind them.
This might be the perfect chance! Judy thought and looked up. She could probably take them. All three of them, especially with their backs turned… but that would leave her on a boat she didn't know how to control…
I really should have become more familiar with boats and the waters around Florin if I want to take down pirates, she berated herself.
Well now's not the time to learn. Make your escape to that other boat and enlist their help to bring these brigands in. She thought and slipped her paw free of the loosened ropes, hurriedly starting to undo the bindings tying her feet.
"It's- it's probably just some local fisherman," the weasel stated as if it was obvious, though he sounded distinctly nervous. "Just some fisherman out for a pleasure cruise… at night… through eel-infested waters…"
Judy had only a moment to wonder what the weasel was talking about but put it out of her mind since she was already diving overboard.
She hit the water, arcing through it in a shallow dive, then breached the surface and started swimming powerfully toward the ship in the foggy distance.
There was an enraged scream from Vizzini back on the boat and Judy smirked as the three kidnappers started squabbling.
"Go! Go in and get her!" the weasel screamed only for the hare to shrug helplessly.
"I don't swim."
"Then you go get her you brute!" he shouted at the fox who shrugged too and made little paddling motions in front of himself.
"I only doggy paddle,"
"Then turn the boat around! Veer left. LEFT!"
"Do you mean to port?"
"Did I say PORT, you oaf! Stop thinking and start doing! Turn this boat to the left so we can get her!"
Judy was already passing the rear of the ship and starting to put distance between them before it even started to turn and she grinned in triumph… right up until the first shrieking sound pierced the night in the distance.
"Do you know what that sound is, Highness?" Vizzini called to her menacingly as the boat started its slow ponderous turn. "Those are the Shrieking Eels! If you doubt me, just wait. They always grow louder when they're about to feed on mammal flesh!"
Two more shrieks pierced the night each sounding closer and Judy threw all her strength into swimming as fast as she could. But there was another shriek, closer, and the other ship now seemed very far off in the distance behind them.
"If you swim back now, I promise, no harm will come to you. I doubt you will get such an offer from the Eels!" Vizzini called toward her and she would have scoffed if she hadn't been swimming for all she was worth.
Another shriek pierced the night from right behind her and she felt something disturb the water right behind her outstretched hindpaw.
She jerked the limb forward as something made a snapping sound like the clattering of lots of teeth coming together and then kicked back hard.
Her foot connected with something tough and rubbery. This time the shriek that filled the air was pained and angry as the rubbery slithering mass grazed against her as it passed by. But before Judy could congratulate herself, three more shrieks, all from different sides and closing, sounded loud through her ears.
Judy saw the first one coming in from her right and tried to twist away, but the ginormous eel slipping toward her just under the surface of the water was far more agile than her in the sea. It opened its tooth filled maw to bite and Judy twisted, slamming her fist down on top of it, and instead of being bitten was only rammed, the air exploding from her lungs as she rolled over the eels back while it passed below.
More shrieks filled the night and something bit the long trailing sleeve of her dress and ripped part of it away. Judy twisted, trying to keep her head above the water to gasp in air and dodged the next eel more by luck than anything else.
She gasped, starting to slip below as instead of trying to tread water she yanked another limb out of the way of a snapping mouth. The passing eel shoved her hard and she rolled trying desperately to stay afloat as another shriek pierced the night right in front of her and she looked up, only to see the dark night blocked out by a maw filled with row upon row of razor sharp teeth about to snap down on her-
"She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time," Ellaine said, looking at the two kits sitting right at the edge of the bed with wide eyes.
Both kits blinked owlishly before little Ella burst out with a confused, "What?"
"The eels don't get her. I'm explaining because you two looked nervous," Ellaine said with a grandmotherly smile, and okay she might have had just the tiniest touch of a grin in that smile, she admitted to herself
"We're not nervous!" Ella protested and Ridley added in a slightly quavering voice. "Ya, n-not nervous, like at all!"
Ellaine leaned back in her chair, keeping her muzzle tightly shut so she wouldn't giggle at the way Ella's paws were tightly gripping the tip of her brother's tail that was wrapped around her in a petrified puffed out manner. Still leaning back, she gave them one of her patented, 'Are you sure that all those cookies just up and disappeared by themselves?' look and Ella squirmed while Ridley bit his lip.
"Well… maybe I was just a bit… concerned," Ella said shooting her brother a glance and he nodded quickly.
"Right. Just a little concerned. But that's not the same thing as worried! For one they are spelled a lot differently." Ridley continued and Ella nodded vigorously.
Ellaine gave them another one of her looks right out of the grandmothers arsenal and added in a 'worried for my grandkits' tone while hiding her smile, "Because I can stop now if you want."
"No!" both kits immediately shouted and looked at each other.
"You… ah, could read a little bit more… if you want…" Ridley said after a moment and she let a little bit of her smile slip through as she looked back down at the book in her lap. The two of them were simply too cute at times.
Clearing her throat, she intoned in Vizzini's voice. "Do you know what that sound is, Highness? Those are the shrieking eels!"
"Where past that, Grandma!" Ridley interrupted and Ella pitched in with a... "You read that already!"
"Oh. Oh my goodness I did!" Ellaine said a little dramatically and smiled at the two kits now back to leaning forward on the edge of the bed. "I'm sorry. Beg your pardon my dears," she added grandmotherly before moving her claw down a bit on the page murmuring. "All right, all right, let's see. Mysterious boat behind them. Butterfluff was in the water, the Eels were coming after her. She was frightened, but still fighting. The Eel started to charge her and was about to bite. And then-"
And we'll stop here for a second while we go get more of Grandma Wilde's cookies before we hit the really insane cliffhangers!