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I KNOW, it's been monthsandmonthsandMONTHS. Like, five of them. Possibly more than that. I'MSORRY. I'm trying to overcome my writer's block on this story and on "You Never Can Tell," but with school busyness and with life and blah blah BLAH, said task has proven difficult. BUT I am reading the book again and my PB-muse has been renewed, so with that, I offer you this shiny new eighth chapter. (You'd think this would have been easier for me to do, since these aren't exactly the longest chapters in the world, it's not like I'm writing a Tolstoy novel or anything here...grumble grumble... ^_^ ) SOHEREWEGO!

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There were certainly several drawbacks to being chained. Historians have argued over which is the worst, the most torturous, the least dignified---as if it would make such a difference to apply categories, and there have certainly been better things to discuss over the course of time. It was a shame that these historians didn't have the opportunity to simply ask Westley, because he knew, and that could have solved all of their bickering right then and there.

Helplessness. He was completely and utterly helpless. Like a babe in a cradle.

Since there wasn't much else to do to pass the time, he'd done a lot of thinking, and in all his thinking Westley had come up with...absolutely nothing. Unusual, but true. This time, he and Buttercup alone were involved, in captivity. As far as he knew, Fezzik and Inigo were sound asleep at home. Or, dead by the intruders' sword, a remote possibility he didn't even want to consider. There was no conceivable hope of rescue, no possibility of his friends charging the Pit of Despair and freeing them in a flurry of stealth and steel. For God's sake, Westley didn't even have his own sword. There would be no Holocaust Cloak this time. No miracle pill. No wheelbarrow. No lucky bluff, no four white horses, no hope.

Just true love and a dank basement. Not the best assets, but he'd worked with less.

So now it was a waiting game. Wait they did: wait through day, through night, and through day again, passing in and out between consciousness and sleep, and they were still in this waiting cycle when, after an indeterminable amount of time had passed, finally a slow creeaaking sound met their ears, finally a stripe of sunlight poured across the staircase into the Pit.

Buttercup was only just reawakening, but Westley was on his guard from the second he'd heard movement. At least, as much as a chained man could be. He strained to turn his head in the direction of the sound of boots advancing across the floor, but the man was too far behind him to see. Westley faced straightly, defiantly forward instead, his gaze locked. Buttercup grew frightened, squirmed, pleaded to him with her eyes, and without turning he knew this too. "We'll be all right," he assured, firmly, only loud enough for her ears and his own.

A uniformed man of medium height, yellow-grey beard and bushy mustache, stopped in front of them. Buttercup, after a disillusioned moment, recognized her former subject. Westley remembered him as the gatekeeper.

"You can imagine the joy you've given King Humperdinck with your little escape all these years," Yellin began, speaking slowly, smiling the way only a successful teacher's pet can. He was savoring this tiny triumph of his, taking advantage of the fact that he had a good half-day of gloating time before the King arrived to finish the pests off. "He is a dedicated hunter, as you know. Finding you two has proved a worthy challenge. It's sharpened his skills, I think."

Westley said nothing. Buttercup wouldn't have been expected to. This was between the former Dread Pirate and the former gatekeeper, and the first stared defiantly at the latter, both locked into their roles from all those years ago for the rest of one---or both---of their lives. Westley would give no ground. Would not not not rise to the bait. He would wait to speak until something worthwhile came out of the other man's mouth, if that ever happened, and until then not one muscle in his body moved, not even to blink, nothing except the steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, and even that he kept to a minimum in case their adversary tried to knock the wind out of him.

Yellin lifted his eyebrows; it was like two caterpillars trying to join the mother ship. "Have you nothing to say? You? The dashing weakling who raided the quincentennial, uninvited, who struck panic into the heart of a prince and struck delusion in the heart of a princess? I'd expect you to be a bit more chatty."

Westley answered. He did so casually, lightly, sarcastically, but his eyes darkened with contempt like a brewing storm. "It has been fifteen years---don't you think a proper introduction is in order first?"

Yellin smiled all the wider, clapped his hands together once, bowed deeply. Clearly he was almost giddy to be the bearer of bad news to the most hunted captives in a century. "Oh, yes, how silly of me. My name is Yellin. I am the Cheif Enforcer of all Florin. As the lady here should well know, of course. But you, sir, need no introduction. The King speaks of you as some sort of...mythological villain. Unable to die." A pause. "The King shall put an end to that."

Almost total humor, though still deadpanned, still muffling anger: "King---so he married after all? My sincerest condolances to the bride."

Yellin's lecherous smile, the echo of his master's, grew until it seemed it might divide his face in half. "You are clever, sir, I will say that." He stepped close to Westley, chained against the wall, and glared directly into his eyes from not six inches away. "Enjoy your wit while you have it. It's all you have left, and it expires with you."

Westley felt no added fear. Not then, and not as Yellin turned and walked back up the steps to the only exit, turning to deliver a final grin and a final warning: "The King arrives by sunset. And when he does? You'll pray for a giant to hide behind."

At that, Yellin was gone. Westley remained unmoved by his words---he still saw him as the trembling gatekeeper who'd cowered at the first sight of challenge. No, the words had done nothing to him.

But the blood, faintly trickling from a shallow incision down his left side, where Buttercup couldn't see, delivered by Yellin's knife somewhere after the word 'wit' as a small taste of what was to come, that was another matter.

Westley's breath had hitched when he'd done it, but he hadn't cried out, hadn't so much as winced in an effort to keep Buttercup oblivious, to keep her calm. And on the surface---above the frantic worry for the state of his daughter, his friends, above the extraordinarily helpless dread of death---that's exactly how Westley appeared.

Perfectly calm.

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"All right; who dies this time?"

The old man wearily dragged his bifocaled eyes off the page and smacked them onto his grandson. "Beg your pardon?"

The boy leaned forward, threw his arms up and back again for emphasis. "Who gets killed? I know somethin' like that's gonna happen; you're not gonna get me this time. It's not Westley again, is it? Is it Pierre? And where's the miracle man?"

"Probably at medieval bingo."

"Grandpa..."

The bickering session that usually ensued right about here was just going to have to wait. It was then that the door to the bedroom clicked and opened, and the boy's mother's head appeared from behind the Cubs pennant. "Knock knock. Am I interrupting?"

Grandfather: "Nope, not at all."

"Good." She left the doorway and came right up to the bed and sat on the edge---it was too late for her son to notice the bottle and hide. "'Cause it's time for your medicine."

"Awww, mom...."

He tried his best ammo, but one all-knowing look from the Mother Unit and the kid's best eye-rolling display was rendered useless. Making all kinds of grimace-like faces, he took the teaspoon she held out and downed the purplish goop as quickly as he could.

"So, where were you boys? Out of the Fire Swamp yet?"

"Mom, it's not The Princess Bride. It's a sequel---and plus we woulda been way past that by now anyway."

"Oh, I see." Trading a slight smirk with the old man, she took back the teaspoon and stood, heading for the door. "Well. I'll just let you two get back to your adventures."

Neither said a word until she was gone. When the door shut, the boy pressed play again.

"How come you won't just tell me?"

"Well what kind of a question is that? Do you wanna hear the whole story or do you want me to give everything away? Because I can skip right to the end and leave now, if you want me to."

Even when you're ten, there's not much to say against that kind of logic. The boy quieted, folded his arms, sat back against his pre-fluffed pillow. "I don't want you to go. Read it."

"Are you positive?"

"Yes. Sorry."

"All right. That's more like it." The old man sat back in his chair again, browsing the pages for the place he'd left off, and muttered, "For Heaven's sake, kid, I'd hate to be the person who sits next to you in a movie theater..."

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Oooooo, this was a heavy one... Well. The first part anyway. ^^ Needless to say, Westley is a tad bit angry at the moment...or at least in pain... And the big to-do draws near. ;) ANYWAY. You know the best way to show your TRUE, UNDYING appreciation for this long-time-coming new instalment? A REVIEW. YES. A REVIEW. XD And THAAAAANK YOUUUUUUU to EVERYONE who has just read this, because that means that my Writer's Blockness Monster has not caused you all to jump ship. *HUGS YOU ALL* I promise a speedy ninth chapter!

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