"Sorry, father. I tried...I tried," Inigo muttered as he desperately tried to remove the dagger from his stomach. His strength failed him as he slid down the wall and to the floor. Inigo could feel blood pouring out of the wound, soaking his hand and clothes.
Count Rugen strolled forward, his face blank of emotion. "You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. Simply incredible. You've been chasing me your whole life, only to fail now? I think that's the worst thing I've ever heard...How marvelous."
Anger surged through Inigo as he tried to gather strength to remove the dagger, stand up and fight.
20 YEARS AGO
As a young child, Inigo Montoya lived happily with his father, Domingo Montoya, in a small town in Central Spain, set high in the hills above Toledo, in the village of Arabella. The town was small and the air was always clear.
The elder Domingo was a great sword crafter and he was respected by almost all the people in town. They were impressed at his work as a sword-maker, as well as his skill as a single father.
Inigo's mother died in childbirth. Domingo was devastated but managed to survive, thinking of their son. He took Inigo to Mass every Sunday morning. Domingo was strict but that was only because he loved his son, who also loved his father. Inigo remembered when the offering plate came by, his grandmother would tell him to put his money in the plate.
"But grandmother, you said this was candy money."
His grandmother twisted his ear and said through clinched teeth, "Boy, I said put the money on the plate."
Domingo Montoya made swords. If one wanted a fabulous sword, one went to Domingo Montoya.
One day, a man in clothes of nobility approached the hut he worked in with his father. Dismounting he approached Domingo.
"You are the man of the rumors, yes?" the nobleman asked. "Domingo Montoya?"
Domingo nodded. "That am I. How may I help you, senor?"
The nobleman held up his right hand. This hand had six fingers on it. "You see, Senor Montoya, I have six fingers on this hand. And the swords I use just isn't right for me. Eventually, because my hand is a bit bigger and the handles are small, my skin start to get cut when I spar. Will you make me the greatest sword since Excalibur?"
"I will beat my body into ruins for you. Perhaps I will fail. But no one will try harder."
"And payment?" The nobleman asked, raising an eyebrow of curiosity.
"When you get the sword, then payment," Domingo said. He glanced back towards his son. "Now let me get to work measuring. Inigo, my instruments."
Inigo scurried into the darkest corner of the hut.
"I insist on leaving something on account," the nobleman said.
"It is not necessary," Domingo said with a smile. "I may fail."
"All right. One gold piece. Leave that. But do not bother me with money when there is work that needs beginning."
Nodding, the noble took out one piece of gold.
Domingo put it in a drawer and left it, without even a glance. "Feel your fingers now," he commanded. "Rub your hands hard, shake your fingers, you will be excited when you duel and this handle must match your hand in that excitement; if I measured when you were relaxed there would be a difference as much as a thousandth of an inch and that would rob us of perfection. And that is what I seek. Perfection. I will not rest for less."
The nobleman had to smile. "And how long will it take to reach it?"
"Come back in a year," Domingo said, and with that he set to work.
The noble nodded and left.
Such a year.
Domingo slept only when he dropped from exhaustion. He ate only when Inigo would force him to. He studied, fretted and complained.
A whole year of work. A year of the handle being right, but the balance being wrong, of the balance being right, but the cutting edge too dull, of the cutting edge sharpened, but that threw the balance off again, of the balance returning, but now the point was fat, of the point retaining sharpness, only now the entire blade was too short and it all had to go, all had to be thrown out, all had to be done again. Again. Again. Domingo's health began to leave him. He was fevered always now, but he forced his frail shell on, because this had to be the finest sword since Excalibur. Domingo was battling legend, and it was destroying him.
Like every artist of every trade, Domingo would at times look at the still-in-progress sword and see great beauty, then see a mistake and think it was horrible. Only Inigo's encouragement kept Domingo from quitting.
Such a year.
One night Inigo woke to find his father seated. Staring. Calm. Inigo followed the stare.
The six-fingered sword was done. Even in the hut's darkness, it glistened.
"At last," Domingo whispered. He could not take his eyes from the glory of the sword. "After a lifetime. Inigo. Inigo. I am an artist."
The next day, the big-shouldered nobleman did not agree. When he returned to purchase the sword, he merely looked at it for a moment.
"Not worth waiting for," he muttered.
Inigo stood in the corner of the hut, watching, holding his breath.
"You are disappointed?" Domingo could scarcely get the words spoken.
"I'm not saying it's trash, you understand," the nobleman went on. "But it's certainly not worth five hundred pieces of gold. I'll give you ten; it's probably worth that."
"Wrong!" Domingo cried. "It is not worth ten. It is not worth even one. Here." And Domingo threw open the drawer where the one gold piece had lain untouched for the year. "The gold is yours. All of it. You have have lost nothing." He took back the sword and turned away.
"I'll take the sword," the nobleman said, as if Domingo was overreacting. "I didn't say I wouldn't take it. I only said I would pay what it was worth."
Domingo whirled back, eyes bright. "You quibbled. You haggled. Art was invoked and you saw only money. Beauty was here for the taking and you saw only your fat purse. You have lost nothing; there is no more reason for your remaining here. Please go."
"The sword," the noble said, starting to sound stern.
"The sword belongs to my son," Domingo said. "I give it to him now. It is forever his. Good bye."
"You're a peasant and a fool and I want my sword," the noble man said, uttering the last four through his teeth.
"You're an enemy of art and I pity your ignorance," Domingo said. They were the last words he ever uttered. The noble killed him then, with no warning; a flash of the nobleman's ordinary sword and Domingo's heart was torn to pieces.
Inigo screamed. He could not believe it. He screamed again. He held his father in his arms as the nobleman made to leave. Inigo let tears fall down. He closed his father's eyes. Then started to shake. Not of fear or sadness. Rage coursed through his body. Gently laying his father's body down, he picked up the beautiful sword and left the hut.
The village had heard Inigo's screams. Twenty men were at the hut. The nobleman pushed his way through them. "That man attacked me. He attacked me and I defended myself. Now move out of my way."
It was a lie, of course, and everyone knew it. But he was a noble Count, so what was there to do? They parted and the nobleman mounted his horse.
The nobleman whirled on his horse.
Inigo stood, holding the six-fingered sword, repeating his words. "Coward! Pig! Killer!"
"Someone tend the boy before he oversteps himself," the noble said to the crowd.
Inigo ran forward then, standing in front of the nobleman's horse, blocking his path. He raised the six-fingered sword with both his hands and cried, "I, Inigo Montoya, do challenge you, coward killer, to battlle."
"Get out of my way, boy. Move. Enough of your family is dead for one day, be content."
"When you beg me for your breath, then I shall be contented. Now dismount!"
Giving the boy a look of annoyance, he dismounted.
"Draw your sword."
The nobleman unsheathed his killing weapon.
"I dedicate your death to my father," Inigo said. "Begin."
It was no match, of course. Inigo was disarmed in less than a minute. But for the first fifteen seconds or so, the noble was uneasy. During those fifteen seconds, strange thoughts crossed his mind. For even at the age of ten, Inigo's genius was there. Disarmed, Inigo stood very straight. He said not a word, begged nothing.
"I'm not going to kill you," the nobleman said with a smug smile. "Because you have talent and you're brave. But you're also lacking in manners, and that's going to get you into trouble someday if you're not careful. So I shall help you as you go through life, by leaving you with a reminder that bad manners are to be avoided."
And with that his blade flashed. Two times. And Inigo's face began to bleed. Two rivers of blood poured from his face, one crossing each cheek. He then passed out.
Inigo had dedicated his life to the art of fencing. He constantly prepared for the day he would avenge his father's murder.
"Father, I have failed you for twenty years. Now our misery can end. Somewhere, somewhere close by is a man who can help us. I can not find him alone. I need you. I need you to guide my sword, please. Guide my sword."
For the last twenty years, Inigo would sometimes have dreams of his father smiling down on him. He would say he was proud of Inigo and how dedicated he was. Almost everything he did was in the name of his father. He constantly invoked his father's name when he made a promise.
Inigo pulled the dagger from his body and stuffed his left fist onto the wound, to control the bleeding. Inigo's eyes began to focus again, not well; not perfectly, but enough to see the Count approach.
"Good heavens," the Count said as Inigo struggled to get back up. "Are you still trying to win? You've got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance. It's going to get you into trouble some day."
The Count unsheathed his blade and it approached Inigo's heart, and he couldn't do much with the attack, parry it vaguely, push the point of the blade into his left shoulder where it did no unendurable harm. Count Rugen was a bit surprised that his point had been deflected.
Slowly, inch by inch, Inigo forced his body off the wall. Count Rugen struck again, but Inigo at the last second gathered the strength to deflect the blade into his right arm. Inigo didn't mind. He didn't even feel it. Endorphins swarmed through his body, numbing his limbs and the pain. His right arm was where his interest lay, and he squeezed the handle and there was strength in his hand, enough to flick out at the Count, who hadn't expected that either, so Rugen took a step back to reassess the situation.
Power was flowing up from Inigo's heart to his right shoulder and down his shoulder to his fingers and then into the great six-fingered sword and he pushed himself off the wall. Inigo blocked a blow and countered with one of his own and slowly moved forward.
"Hello," he whispered. "My name is Inigo Montoya...You killed my father...Prepare to die..."
He got dizzy and leaned on a dinner table for support. The Count attempted to take advantage of Inigo's foundering. He went for the quick kill, the inverse Bonetti. No chance. Inigo pushed the Count's blade down, then deflected three more slashes. Getting back up, he marched forward.
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
They crossed swords. Inigo went into a Morozzo defense, because the blood was still streaming. But at the last second, he twisted his blade, thereby twisting the Count's blade. He shoved with a force that sent the Count into another dinner table.
"HELLO! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"
"Stop saying that!" the Count was getting annoyed, but was beginning to experience a decline of nerve. He slashed at Inigo, who blocked and drove for the Count's left shoulder, as the Count had wounded his. Inigo ducked under a blade sweep and he went through the Count's right arm, at the same spot the Count had penetrated his.
Their blades crossed again. This time Inigo unleashed his deadliest blade work, forcing Count Rugen back until he hit another dinner table and could back up no further.
"HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!"
"Offer me money," Inigo say. There was a cut down on side of Rugen's cheek.
"Yes," the Count whispered.
"Power, too. Promise me that." Another flash. Another cut. Parallel. Bleeding.
"All that I have and more. Please."
"Offer me everything I ask for," Inigo said.
"Anything you want," the Count said, before he batted the blade aside and made to cut Inigo down. But the young Spaniard was prepared. Grabbing the Count's blade hand with his left, Inigo stuck the tip of his own blade into the Count's stomach.
"I want my father back, you son of a bitch," Inigo demanded and then plunged the blade within the man. Removing the blade, he kicked the man away, who fell to the floor, dead.
Inigo stared at the body. He had done it. He had finally done it. Count Tyrone Rugen was dead. Domingo Montoya's murder had been avenged. Now he could rest.
Inigo felt a hand lay on his left shoulder. Inigo turned to see who was behind him, only to see no one. Inigo smiled. His father had been with him the entire time and was now saying goodbye and that he was proud of him.
Rest now, father.