Disclaimer: As I'm sure you'll all have guessed, I do not own The Princess Bride or any of its characters. All characters are the intellectual property of their creator.
Also, this fanfic is based on the film version of events, and ignores the novel continuity, as well as the proposed sequel, Buttercup's Baby.
Chapter 1 – A Dispiriting Start.
"You'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts."
How casually Westley had spoken. And how stupidly. Inigo Montoya was a fine duellist, there was no question of that, and his honour and adherence to principle was a fine thing.
Nonetheless, in hindsight Westley was starting to get the feeling that perhaps Fezzik, or Prince Humperdinck, or even Buttercup, might have been a better choice.
He had lost five men of his crew in just over a month, and it looked odds-on that he would be losing another within minutes. Yes, he would be getting an all-new crew when he passed on the ship, it was true, but he had no desire to see them all killed by his future Captain before they could retire, particularly when he needed them to control the ship.
And whilst duelling was a fine enough sport, and excellent training, it did seem rather irrelevant in the middle of a storm at sea. Rain lashed the decks of the Revenge, and the waves grew noticeably higher even as Westley watched them.
"Have at you!" burst out Inigo exuberantly, flicking his beautiful sword to expertly parry his new opponent's thrust, then turning his defence into a sudden stab that forced the man back, slipping on the wet deck. A perfectly-executed slash from Inigo left an open gash in the unfortunate duellist's sword arm.
"First blood!" cried Westley, seizing the opportunity to end things before he ran out of crewmembers entirely, and before the ship capsized completely. "That will do!"
Inigo smirked and stepped back, sheathing his sword. First Mate Daniels could only stand there, oozing a trickle of blood from his arm that mingled with the rain that ran down it. "That hurts, you know."
Behind him, Westley heard Buttercup faint, and spun quickly to see Fezzik catch her gently. He was starting to wonder how sensible it had actually been to bring his adorable, but undeniably delicate, new wife on board.
Waves lashed still harder at the side of the ship, leaving the weaker members of his crew stumbling, and Westley took charge at once. "Drop sails! Turn the ship about and face us north, Helmsman, or we'll capsize under these waves!"
As the men ran for their posts, Inigo turned to Westley and grinned. "I win again! No man is a match for my steel." He lowered his voice and leaned closer. "So when do I get to be Capitan?"
Westley almost snarled: at this distance he could smell the rum on Inigo's breath. Inigo was always worse when he was drunk. He was still insisting on fighting left-handed, despite admitting in front of the crew that he was not left-handed in his second onboard duel. "When you prove yourself to know as much about running a ship as you do about fencing, Inigo – now get to your post!"
Inigo was not drunk, far from it, but he swayed gently in the gale-force winds. "What about Fezzik? He's not at his post, and you're not scolding him."
It was true; Fezzik was even now shutting the door of the Captain's cabin behind him. Westley sighed in disbelief. "That is because he is seeing to Buttercup, do you understand?"
Inigo's eyes widened to the size of saucers. "And you're alright with that?"
Westley reddened; Inigo always saw the most salacious meaning possible. It must be the Spanish blood in him. "I mean that he is taking care of her. Tending to her, helping her wake up from her faint, do you see?"
Now it was Inigo's turn to blush, redness blooming across his scarred cheeks. "Oh." And he ran to his post, shaking the rain from his sodden hair, before Westley could scold him further.
Westley, the great Captain, the Dread Pirate Roberts, stood alone in the rain on his ship, and sighed.
All about the ship was mayhem: the crew were working like dervishes to drop the mainsail before the wind ripped it apart, or worse, capsized the ship by catching the sail itself. Inigo rushed breathlessly to his post, where three gunners were working to loosen a stubborn knot in the rope, so as to let down the yardarm of the mizzenmast.
"Here!" he yelled, drawing his sword. The men leapt back as Inigo's sword cut cleanly through the thick rope in one swing, biting into the wooden peg it had been tied to. The rope, now freed, shot upward, catching Inigo in the face on its way up.
"Ugh!" yelled Inigo, clenching his jaw in pain. His face felt on fire; he could feel a black eye starting already.
"Hey, are you alright?" asked Gunner Drev, looking concerned for his new shipmate. "Those ropes aren't as flimsy as they look, friend. A knotted rope as thick as your wrist can do an awful lot of damage. No broken bones, are there?"
Inigo reflected that the crew of the Dread Pirate Roberts were considerably kinder to their shipmates than their captives, and made a mental note to bear this in mind when he became, in his turn, the famed Pirate Captain himself.
"No," he said thickly, trying to sound more in control of his pain than he felt. "I think I'm alright."
The gunners relaxed. They had seen too many shipboard injuries to ever be complacent about them, but if a shipmate could say they were all right, then that was good enough for them.
"Right, then help us secure the brass monkey. If the cannonballs spill, they'll roll across the deck and one of them could break your leg."
Inigo took his hand from his sore face and ran after his fellow gunners as they began to fit a large brass cover over the stands that held piles of deadly iron cannonballs, reflecting that this 'captain-in-training' business was turning out to be a lot harder - and a lot more painful – than he had suspected.