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The Proposal

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1. The Proposal

Guilder's Annuale Faire and Exhibitione was an enormous sprawling event that took over most of Guilderville for a week every summer. Fezzik and Inigo's tent was one among hundreds, and more ragged than most. The most famous fighters for leagues around came to engage in friendly combat and churn several large fields into oceans of mud. Queen Noreena put up a big cash prize as well as various smaller ones for particular skills, but all generally agreed that the real value lay in getting people signed up for one's mailing list.

It was evening on the fourth day of the F&E, as it was called in fighting circles. The day's exhibitions were over, except for a melée that kept going into tiebreaker rounds, and the food and beverage stands were doing a brisk business. Fezzik preferred to buy beef sausages by the pound from Fleischer's in Lower Guilderville and fry them up himself (especially as he could easily eat ten pounds for dinner and a whole additional chicken for dessert), and Inigo had never been too fond of crowds, so the two of them were sitting by the campfire in front of their tent, far away from the noise and greasy smoke of the arena, and dressing the day's injuries. Inigo only had a few nicks and scratches, but Fezzik had fought an impressively coordinated group of Scandinavian septuplets and taken some hard hits before throwing two of them into a fence and using the third as a club to batter the remaining four.

"I have to tell you, Fezzik," Inigo said, "I sometimes think we should have accepted Westley's offer." He finished wrapping bandages around Fezzik's right ankle. "Pass me the liniment, please." (This was well after liniment, which was first created by the ancient sage Miracle Madhu and distributed by Silk Road traders under a variety of brand names.)

"At least I didn't hurt my knees," Fezzik said, handing him the bucket of liniment. The local miracle man had given him a nice discount for buying in bulk.

Inigo got a good double handful of it and began working it into Fezzik's left shoulder, which sported a bruise twice the size of Inigo's head. Fezzik grunted. After a bit, he said, "Do you think piracy would be better than this?"

Inigo winked at Fezzik. "I think that best of all would be a kiss."

After Westley and Buttercup's farewell kiss, osculation experts agreed to start the rankings over for the sake of fairness. In the dozen years since, there had been three truly spectacular kisses and some very nice runners-up. Inigo and Fezzik's kiss, though sincere and technically proficient, didn't meet minimum qualifying standards for length; Fezzik didn't want to distract Inigo from massaging his shoulder.

"You didn't—oof—answer my question," Fezzik said as Inigo dug his elbow into a muscle knot the size and consistency of a bowling ball. (Bowling has been around almost as long as liniment.)

Inigo waved his free hand. "Better, worse... who's to say? But I feel as though we are doing too much of the same thing over and over. We fight people, we mostly win, we lose a little to keep it interesting, we treat our wounds, we go on to the next fight. To tell you the truth, I'm bored."

Fezzik's brow furrowed. "Well, that does... strike a chord," he said. "But surely you don't want to give up... your sword!"

"A double rhyme!" Inigo cried. "You outdo yourself, Fezzik. And no, no, the sword is part of me. But I do not have a quest anymore, and I must confess my life feels empty without it."

"I never had one of those," Fezzik mused. "I just had my father to tell me what to do, and then Vizzini, and now you."

"I, too, spent my whole life being my father's son," Inigo said. He set aside the bucket and leaned against Fezzik, being careful to avoid the bruise. The menthol tang of liniment mingled with the almond scent of Inigo's hair oil and the campground reek of dust and dung and smoke and sweat, so familiar he hardly noticed it. "Now I suppose I am learning how to be... myself."

Fezzik wrapped an enormous arm around him and rested a hand the size of a ham on Inigo's thigh. "At least you are not... on the shelf!"

"We are not technically married," Inigo pointed out. "And when did you start using Guilderian slang?"

Fezzik shrugged, which felt like a small earthquake happening directly under Inigo's ear. "I liked how it sounded when I sang."

The glum tone of his voice did not escape his companion's notice. "Fezzik," Inigo said slowly, "do you want to get married?"

The skin beneath Inigo's cheek grew warmer than could be explained by the menthol. He looked up and saw that Fezzik was blushing. "You do!" he exclaimed. "But why did you not say anything?"

"I didn't know what to say," Fezzik said. "I've never asked anyone to marry me before. In my village the women did all the arrangements."

"In mine too," Inigo said, "but when have we ever allowed custom to dictate our path? We are extraordinary men, and for us the world must make exceptions."

He leapt to his feet and took Fezzik's enormous hand in both of his, or tried to. He mostly ended up holding the thumb and pinky finger. Fezzik didn't mind; the meaning was clear. "Fezzik, my dear fellow," Inigo said, "nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be married to you. Will you be my husband?"

Fezzik frowned, deep in thought. Inigo began to get nervous. Finally, Fezzik said, "Inigo, I'm sorry, I can't think of a good rhyme for husband."

"That's fine, that's fine," Inigo said impatiently, "but please, give me your answer!"

"Oh, yes," Fezzik said, embarrassed. "I got distracted. Yes, Inigo, I would like that very much."

Inigo laughed with delight, threw his arms around Fezzik's neck, and kissed him warmly and repeatedly. Whether this barrage qualified to be graded as a single kiss was a matter of some debate (three judges nearly came to blows over it), but there can be no question that both Fezzik and Inigo thoroughly enjoyed it.

Inigo was so excited that he began to pace around their campsite. "A wedding!" he said. "This will be a grand endeavor—an enormous challenge—a proper quest! If only we had Westley here to help us strategize!"

"I don't see what's so hard about it," Fezzik said. "All we need is an imam, a flag, and some henna."

"What are you talking about? We must hire a church—no, a cathedral! We must conduct a Mass! We must invite every cousin and every cousin's cousin! We must serve a feast! We must have gold rings! We must be fitted with splendid clothing!" Inigo looked Fezzik up and down. "Perhaps it would be best if I wore the dress. I do not think we will be able to find one that fits you."

Fezzik frowned. "That sounds complicated," he said. "Spanish weddings are very different from Turkish ones."

"Oh," Inigo said. "Forgive me, Fezzik, that was thoughtless of me." He sat back down. Fezzik put an arm around him again. They cuddled in silence for a bit. (This was long after cuddling. Only huddling predates cuddling, and only by about ten minutes.)

"I think," Fezzik said, and then he stopped. Inigo waited patiently. Fezzik was gradually getting in the habit of allowing himself to think out loud, but it still took him a while sometimes. "I think," Fezzik finally said again, "we should get married our way."

"What's our way?" Inigo said. "The only way I know is the way of the sword. That is not terribly useful for weddings."

"Miracle Moe said that Florinese people jump over brooms. So maybe... we could jump over your sword."

"Fezzik!" Inigo said, delighted. "When were you asking Miracle Moe about weddings?"

Fezzik ducked his head, blushing again. "When I bought the liniment," he said. "It just came up."

Inigo elbowed him teasingly in the ribs, and then winced and rubbed his elbow. Fezzik's ribs were harder than his muscles, and Fezzik's muscles were hard enough that Inigo sometimes cracked eggs against them when making breakfast.

"But I don't see how to make use of my strength," Fezzik said. "Mostly I break things. That doesn't seem appropriate."

"Ah!" Inigo said. "That one is easy. At Jewish weddings the groom steps on a glass and breaks it. I am certain that we could find a suitably large glass for you to step on. Perhaps a punch bowl." (Punch had only recently been invented, and was all the rage in Guilder.)

Morgenstern now spends twenty-six pages on Inigo and Fezzik discussing every particular of the wedding, including where to have it (they decide on Guilder as a convenient neutral location), when to have it (seven of those pages explain the relative virtues of spring, summer, fall, and winter weddings, with digressions into the weather patterns of the villages where Fezzik and Inigo grew up), whom to invite, what accoutrements to have, where to acquire them, and so on and so on. Most of this information is repeated in the following chapter, in which the wedding itself takes place, so why did Morgenstern feel the need to put it here and spoil the surprise? Who can say? At any rate, we return to the narrative with the plan settled and agreed upon, and Fezzik frying up the sixth panful of sausages over their campfire.

"It is perfect!" Inigo declared. "It will be the most splendid wedding Guilder has ever seen."

Fezzik shook the pan to turn the sausages. "I see what you mean," he agreed. Frying sausages took a lot of concentration and left little for creative rhyming.

Inigo tapped his chin. "It has been a long day," he said. "After dinner, we had better rest."

"You are right, that would be best." The sausages were smoking. Fezzik speared one with a stick and handed it to Inigo, who blew on it to cool it. Fezzik watched him intently.

"What is it?" Inigo asked, the tip of the sausage an inch from his mouth. "Am I doing something wrong?"

"No," Fezzik said. "I hope eating dinner does not take... very long." He put a heavy emphasis on the last word.

"Oh," Inigo said, grinning. "I see. But I must warn you, I am about to take a bite."

"As long as you only bite the sausage," Fezzik said, "that will be all right."

Inigo winced. "If I tried to bite you," he said, "I think my teeth would break."

"Then don't do that, for goodness' sake!"

They ate in a hurry.

With the flap down and the heat of the fire shut out, the tent was cold. The ground was damp and their carpet was threadbare. Fezzik's bulk had compressed the straw of the bedroll until they could feel every rock beneath it. Neither of them minded.

Here Morgenstern commits his one and only attempt at erotic writing. Obviously my father skipped it while reading the book to me, and I was somewhat surprised, which is not to say shocked, to stumble across it. I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded guy, and I would have been willing to leave the section intact if it weren't for the inescapable fact that Morgenstern's clever wit and skill with prose all go right out the window when it comes to describing the pleasures of the flesh. Fezzik and Inigo's tender encounter falls flatter than a pancake. I hoped the error was in translation, but a friend who speaks Florinese (I didn't dare ask Professor Bongiorno) read the scene in the original, and when she stopped laughing she assured me that the translator was not to blame. In addition, my publisher seems to think this is a book for children, and he's the one paying me. So I'm cutting the scene, but I feel obligated to note that it does exist, and anyone who really wants to read it can hunt down a copy of the unabridged book.

And that's it for chapter one.