The horse appeared solid, heavy. It’s legs sounding into the earth, announcing its own existence. The rider was insubstantial. All in black, night and shadow struggled to believe he was there at all. Death twinkled in the starlight on their left side. They rode hard through the night, slowing only as they began the ascent to Arabella. The rider dismounted at the sign post before the small village square. The thin shadow of a man approached the fountain at the center. Death glowed at his left hip. The eerie light cloaked the man in shadow, nearly erasing him, confirming his lack of essence. The horse wandered behind him. It did not fear death. After drinking their fill, rider and mount parted company. The horse smelled grass nearby. The rider smelled frozen earth, pine, and death. Like the horse, he followed his nose.
The air was crisp. He had forgotten the sharpness that came with every breath here. Thousands of tiny knives filling the space where his heart once beat, struggling to escape or cease to be. They tried to cut their way out. A ravenous ache with every breath. He watched the living air escape, solidify and cease to be. Even the air did not wish to be in the vast emptiness within him. He felt the damage with every breath. In; a little pinch to remind him there is more pain to endure. Out; Congratulations! You live, despite the very air. He did not remember this from his childhood. The ravenous ache was only in his stomach then. It was everywhere now. He felt crisp and ravenous. “Cavernous” rhymed the giant. He felt cavernous.
A monastic order had sprouted from the one room chapel. Half the graveyard was now a courtyard bordered by parallel arcades. There was a fountain and a garden in winter. The adobe glowed with a false warmth in the approaching day. A reliquary occupied the center of the back wall just above his intended destination. What did he expect? They had been dead for thirty two years. Once, he knelt at that site. Freshly dead and overflowing with pain, it had rejected him. The earth hid the muscle pulled from his chest. It was still, contained within pine. A shriveled silence beside the bones of his creator. Bulbs were sprouting. He turned from the new life where there should be only death. Where he would bring death. Where he will become death.
His feet carried him to the site where he died. The place where he was made. Where he was forged. The workshop and forge were intact. Signs of maintenance, not use. No liquid metal in the air. Only earth and predator and ash. The forge had not been lit in many years. He had never been cold in this space when he was alive. His skin jumped up responding to the nearness of the source of creation. He was sweating. The fever was back. The last of his life burning away.
The anvil glistened with hoarfrost. His father hammered out joyous songs and gentle lullabies here. The instrument was frozen in silence now. I cannot make the sword. I cannot make my hands obey me. He drew his sword. Light sang around the blade. Echoes of its opus illuminated the space. After a lifetime, I am an artist. Domingo Montoya’s masterpiece. Go to sleep, father. He was so tired. No, I don’t need sleep. Failures don’t need sleep. Death would come for him at sundown. The sword belongs to my Son. I give it to him now. It is forever his. He knelt where his father made and was unmade. You’re an enemy of art and I pity your ignorance. He spent his last day where he was forged. It will be done tomorrow and it will be a miracle. He awaited his unmaking.
The Abbot Faria watched the light pulsing from Domingo’s forge. The beacon was lit in the lighthouse of death. The shadows were already gathering. There would be bloodshed and death tonight. He heard his acolyte running towards him. A heavy jingling shuffle across the stone. The coarse brown fabric was lined with steel rings. Brother Hugh handed him a scrap of parchment. It had three hash marks and a drumstick. There were black feathers on Hugh’s sleeve. He added hash marks to the ledger. Three more birds landed. Two black. One white. Brother Hugh threw off his robe which dropped, metallic and dull to the stone. He was quick and silent now. The birds were deftly captured and relieved of their missives. Their feathers unruffled in his sure hands. Quick, silent, and kind. The birds stayed staring at Hugh the whole time. Enraptured by him, cooing softly. Seconds later he was handing Father Faria more hash marks and feathers. He held up the white feather. One hash mark. Dawn. Several black birds landed. Dawn will be too late.
Brother Hugh preferred the companionship of animals. He was rarely without an escort of beasts. They would come to him injured and he would care for them. He understood what they needed. Some stayed with him afterward. He was good with animals. He was not good with people. Father Jose, his previous abbot, disapproved of animals inside unless they were braised and roasted. Father Jose made an attempt to re-purpose Hugh’s erstwhile patients. It ended poorly for Father Jose. Hugh was confined to his cell as penance. He would still be there if Father Faria had not needed someone to care for the pigeons. The monastery at Arabella was not what Hugh was expecting, nor was Father Faria like any other abbot Hugh had encountered. For one, they never held mass or rang bells. He handed Hugh a schedule on his first day, showed him around, and then retired to a chair on the balcony. At the end of the week, Father Faria shared the real mission of the monastery at Arabella. Faria asked Hugh if he would like to continue on. Hugh accepted.
“Is it really him?” Hugh asked the old man.
“How do they know?”
“The devil has many eyes, my son.” He was followed.
“He looks sick. Does he know they will come for him?”
“He knows who hunts him. He is tired. His grief has hollowed him out. Right now, he is not a man. He is a weapon in the dark searching for truth. He is inviting death into his circle hoping it will fill him.” He was early.
“Can I take take him a sandwich?”
“He will not eat it. He has embraced his pain as his only fuel.”
“Feels like a waste.”
“That is what he feels also. You should bake some bread and ensure the infirmary is ready. Wear your robe outside.” Hugh picked up the heavy brown robe. He pulled it back over his head and looked like a novice monk once more.
“He’s sick, I can help him.”
“He does not want our help.”
A storm was gathering. The air was heavy, weighted, anticipatory. There would be lightening. Soon, the air would crackle. He tried to stand but his legs would not obey. He used the anvil to push himself to his feet. The world spun violently. He swayed for a moment. The sharp pain in his center flared behind his missing piece. He clutched at himself reflexively. The physical space where ache was absent. Where Rugen’s dagger had merged his flesh with death. His fingers massaged the part of him with no pain, no ache. He was there, under his fingertips then there was nothing as they crossed the scar, then he was back on the other side. Only this too-small piece of his pain was taken from him. Behind his dead piece, his dying remained. Hollowing him out. Thinning his shell from the inside. Soon, he would crackle.
He smelled bread. It was close. He found a small loaf and some water on the stoop. He sipped at the water. Inviting the cold inside. Unlike the air, the water could not escape. He followed the river of cold as it spilled into his emptiness. He felt the water panic as it became one with the void of him. Cold rolling against the inside of him, cold swirling against the outside. Crisp, cavernous and crackling from the inside out. In the distance, thunder rolled a poor imitation of Fezzik’s laugh. His stomach answered it with a poor imitation of echo. Hunger was a familiar state on this stoop. He tried the bread. It was fresh but it hurt to swallow. The void sent it back out. The dead do not need food. He drank a bit more water. How does cold feel like burning?
They were here. How long would they wait? He slowed his breath. He would go to the courtyard of the monastery. He died on this spot once already. He would not bring death to this door a second time.
The first came for him as he stepped over the low wall that marked the limits of the graveyard. There was a flash from the great blade. The air crackled. He did not hold it. He could not feel it with his hand. It was a part of him, an extension. Like his missing piece, he could not feel it with his skin. It was the other piece of him where pain was absent. Thin and crisp, it was death and behind it was dying. He heard the body crumple. He did not pause to question or investigate or haggle. The blade flashed twice more. Thin cracking echoed around the graveyard. They came from every direction. Lightening flashed. Each movement was a killing stroke. Fifteen bodies dropped motionless behind him. He never broke his stride. 3090 bones for the bone yard. He was shadow wielding lightening descending from a forge. Thunder sounded his advance. Domingo’s creation, his art perfected. The Wizard of Death stepped over the low stone wall into the courtyard.
Brother Hugh gasped. They were on the balcony of the nave overlooking the courtyard. This was beyond legendary, it was mythic. “How many Father?” It was barely a whisper. Huge was petrified. He could not move. He did not want to. “We will not know until the dawn. I saw ten but the lightening may have hidden a few.”
“It wasn’t lightening, it was the sword. Have you ever seen anyone fight like that?”
“No one has. This isn’t a fight. It’s a forging.”
He had a few hours in him yet. His feet carried him to the empty reliquary. Beneath the stone, through the earth and pine, his heart was already still and silent. His vision faded. Maybe he had less time. He sat below the reliquary arch. He was sweating. As he closed his eyes and drifted back to the island, he pulled the mask from his face.
Fezzik was laughing. Domingo was telling him about the time Inigo tried to make bread in the forge and set fire to their roof. A small girl was running on the beach. Her dark hair a tangle of curls. Her laughter a tangle of light, if you could hear light. It recalled the sound of hammer on steel. It was invigorating. He smelled salt and kelp. It was warm where they were. Inigo felt his own smile. His lips were chapped and cold. A rapid drumming was coming towards him. Several drums. Sweat and horse and blood. The sky flickered. Lightening cut across the cloudless dawn.
Inigo appeared to be unconscious. His eyes were closed. The ragged, frozen air glowed in the blade-light as it escaped. Proof the man was not yet dead. He had not moved in a quarter hour. Brother Hugh and Father Faria engaged in a silent argument. Hugh would try to stand, Faria would pull him down. He was surprisingly strong for a man his age. Hugh was confident that if they were quick, they could get the man to safety, hide him. Brother Hugh’s plea was communicated as a series of eyebrows dancing and jerking of the head. Faria told him it wasn’t safe. He was at the center waiting for death as death. Hugh was new to communicating with eyebrows and intense staring. Faria’s response looked like his eyebrows were attempting to escape. They continued in this manner until several assassins emerged from the shadows. Lightening flashed but it was not in the sky. Three bodies dropped to the stone. When Hugh’s vision recovered, the dying man was standing in the center of the courtyard. The others were dead around him.
Faria was in shock. He had not seen Inigo move. The intensity of the light left phantoms of itself behind his eyelids. Hugh’s empty robe fell onto him. The older man freed himself in time to be startled by Hugh’s return. Hugh set down the box of charcoal sticks and an arm load of parchment. He disappeared again and reappeared with more parchment, and a bottle of ink. Faria began to rise. Hugh pushed him down. He nodded towards the dying man. Watch. The young acolyte made several more trips. Faria prepped quills and secured the parchment to the boards. Hugh scratched some ink onto a slip of parchment. He rolled it tight and secured it to a grey pigeon. Its wings deafening to the brothers. Undisturbed, Death sway in the courtyard.
Hugh made several quick sketches. As he pulled the outlines from the board, Faria numbered them and added the approximate time. Inigo and the horse at the fountain. (1, Dawn) Inigo kneeling at the forge. (2, Noon) Inigo walking through the graveyard. (3, Dusk) Inigo under the reliquary pulling off the mask. (4, Dusk) Inigo waiting in the center. (5, Dusk). Hugh was watching Inigo now. His hands preserving the moment in coal. Faria began his document. It was a list of facts. Like Hugh, he would fill in the details later. The brothers worked at their art for several minutes. The scratching of quills and coal was inaudible between thunder in the gathering dark.
Fezzik and Domingo were rhyming. Inigo could not hear them because Fezzik kept laughing his deep thunderous laugh. Westley joined them. He told Domingo of their duel. Domingo was not impressed. He did not believe Westley could be better than his Inigo. A warmth filled Inigo. They took up their swords. Inigo & Westley recreated The Duel, as they had for Fezzik and Buttercup. Fezzik was laughing. His father watched Inigo create. It was beautiful and blinding. Inigo was filled with warmth. His aches had smoother edges. His feet a lighter step. Fezzik brought chairs and bread. Buttercup brought wine. It was wonderful. They cheered and gasped at all the right moments. Their blades singing and flashing in the bright sun.
A Master Approaches To Disarm (10, Nightfall)
Inigo Accepts the Challenge (11, Nightfall & 12 sec.)
Three From Madrid (15, Dinner)
The Wizard in the Lightening (16, Dinner & 3sec.)
MacPherson’s Pupil Asks The Spaniard (20, Night)
I Am Inigo Montoya (21, Night)
Accepting the Scot to Testing (22, Night)
MacPherson’s Disarmed (23, Night & 45sec.)
The Interruption; A Master Disarmed (28, Late Night)
Wizard Illuminated (30, Late Late Night & 36sec.)
Near midnight Faria returned with more parchment. They now had 32 sketches. Three survivors were in the infirmary writing their own accounts of the encounter. The courtyard blushed under small hillocks of the dead. Inigo swayed and the blade was in his right hand again. Faria wrapped a blanket around himself and sat. He was cold to his core. It would snow before dawn. After a few moments, at cat settled on his lap. He had not noticed when Hugh’s animals joined them. Three dogs sat around Hugh’s stool. The owl was on the railing. Her kitten curled in sleep beneath her. Pigeons lined the roof above them, the white ones had charcoal smudges on their feathers. Faria added these details to his list.
Keeping Vigil With Inigo (33, Near Midnight)
“Wonderful! Wonderful! Inigo you are amazing. My son, a Wizard.” Domingo beamed at him. Inigo was filled with pride.
“He is the true Wizard. He bested me with his art. Our practice here has made us both better.” His pride overflowed and he shared it with his friend. After lunch, Westley and Inigo dueled right handed for Domingo until the sky glowed in sunset. Buttercup called to them. They made their way to the beach where Fezzik and the dark haired girl were building castles in the sand. Her laughter flared brightly around them. Inigo wondered who she was. There was an unfamiliar rhythm in his chest.
Death Sways in the Blade-light (34, Midnight)
“It is true. I was not a Wizard until The Duel.” The man in black smiled at him. “I am lucky your weapon keeps you off balance.” Inigo scoffed at this and held up his sword.
“This sword is perfection. It is art in the form of a blade.” Domingo grew serious.
“You are the best son a father could have asked for. I am even more impressed that you achieved so much with an imperfect tool. You became a Wizard and you created a Wizard without your sword. Your art is beautiful. The man in black would not have bested you if you had used the blade I made you.” A cool breeze soothed hot ache in his shoulders.
“This is my blade. It made me a Wizard.”
“That sword is art. It was forged for a soul seeking to spread pain and master death. It is perfect for that purpose. You mastered it, the weapon reacts to protect you before you are aware of the danger. As long as you hold it, it is all you will have.”
“It is all I have left of you. I don’t understand.” Inigo was tired from his practice. He sat next to Domingo and leaned against the same rock.
Just before dawn, Inigo returned to his seat below the reliquary. There had been no challengers for half an hour. He sank to the ground. The blade, at rest across his knees, illuminated his breath. It was thin. His feet continued to slide forward as his knees relaxed. The Brothers watched as his left hand came to rest a top the mask. His right, still gripping the hilt of the miraculous blade, settled on his other side. A stillness settled on the courtyard. Even the snow stopped. Silence clung to the edges of everything.
“You will break her heart.” Domingo indicated the dark haired girl. Smoke was gathering behind her. Inigo shook his head but there was a sharp pressure behind the pulse within him. The sun was sinking into the water. The sky darkened suddenly. “I must go soon. Thank you for sharing your art with me. It was wonderful. You are wonderful. I am so proud of the man you are.” The pressure solidified and thinned.
“Papa, I am coming with you now. I’m tired of the death and pain. Tell me how to make it stop.” Night was falling fast. A cold wind brought the smell of earth and pine to them. Fezzik was crying and holding the girl. The pulsing quickened. A great shadow surrounded them.
“It will be done tomorrow and it will be a miracle.” The girl on the beach began to cry. Inigo closed his eyes. She was screaming. The thin pressure pierced and stilled the pulsing within. Inigo opened his eyes. He was small and in his bed. He could hear a child wailing in the distance. He was so tired. His eyelids were so heavy. He touched his face. His eyes were open but there was no more light. He felt an absence on either side of his face.
“Papa? I cannot see.” He was part of the dark now. “My face feels strange.”
“I am here.” Domingo’s hands, rough and sharp from the hammer, warm form the forge, read Inigo’s face in the dark. “Your face is as it always is, perfect. A slight fever. Go to sleep now. It will be done tomorrow.” Domingo’s hand on his shoulders, gently guiding him to the pillow.
“Why does she cry, papa. I cannot see what happened. Is she hurt?” He was shivering. “I’m cold.” It was the sound of ultimate suffering. “She is in pain.”
“Life is pain, Inigo. The blade is the Master of Death, it was not forged for you. It was forged by you. You are the Wizard of Death. You can let go now.”
Inigo exhaled a wisp of ice. His right hand relaxed. The hilt of the sword rolled onto the stone.
Peace (63, Dawn)