Disclaimer & Author's Note: The Princess Bride is copyright 1973 by William Goldman. The film is copyright 1987 by 20th Century Fox. This story is written for entertainment purposes only, and no monetary profit is being made by the author. The author would like to acknowledge using portions of William Goldman's dialogue from pgs. 163-164 of The Princess Bride for the sake of preserving the accuracy of the story.

An Exception

"I have 20,000 gold pieces locked in a strongbox in me barn! If you'll just let me go, I swear–"

The man's words were cut off as a sword flashed in the moonlight, slitting his throat wide open. He tumbled forward onto the deck, and a droplet of warm blood splashed Westley's right cheek. Soon it would be his turn. The muscular farmhand-turned-sailor struggled furiously against his bonds. The unyielding rope dug into his wrists and refused to loosen, even though it was soon slick with sweat and his own blood. His ankles were tied even more tightly, and he felt his feet beginning to tingle as he knelt on the deck of the Revenge. Westley didn't know whether it was divine providence or a curse that put him last in the line of his shipmates, likewise bound hand and foot. It prolonged his inevitable death slightly, gave him more time to struggle, more time to think, but is also meant that he had to see or hear each of his shipmates die before he did. The Dread Pirate Roberts (as he was known throughout more than half a dozen kingdoms) never left survivors, it was said. So far this was proving to be true. Of the sixteen men from the Queen's Pride captured along with Westley, only three remained – two more were in line before him. Roberts had killed the rest personally. Seeming to take a sadistic pleasure in it, he spoke to each helpless man before he ended his life. Now he was speaking to Adams, gunner of the Queen's Pride.

"I have powerful friends!" Adams was shouting. "If you kill me, they'll come after you! They'll chase you to the very ends–"

This time the sword slashed through the man's heart. Westley thought he heard Roberts chuckle slightly as two of his crewmen moved to pitch the gunner's limp body into the sea.

Now Tom was the only man left between Roberts and Westley. The poor lad was only a boy, really. He'd just seen sixteen harvests. His entire body trembled as Roberts stepped in front of him. The pirate captain used the flat of his blade to raise the boy's chin so that their eyes met.

"Well?" said Roberts with a sneer.

"I beg you...I beg you..." Tom's whole body shook with sobs. "Don't kill me, I beg you!"

Westley forced his mind away, refused to listen to the pitiful sound, refused to listen to Roberts' cold laughter. So it had gone, on down the line. Bribe attempts. Cursing. Threats. Sobbing. Spitting. Groveling. And Death. Death. Death! Westley felt warm blood spatter him once again. Heard the splash as the body was pitched overboard. Saw the naked sword blade, bloody to the hilt, suddenly held poised in front of him. He looked up, full in Roberts' face, sea-blue eyes meeting deadly brown.

"Please."

Was it his imagination, or did the bloody sword waver slightly? Westley went on, a calmness in his voice that he didn't really feel. "Please, I need to live." This time he was sure the blade had wavered.

"Why should I make an exception of you?" The voice was harsh, but Roberts' face betrayed his curiosity. "What do you have that's worth living for?"

Westley's reply was simple. "True love."

"Go on." Roberts had let his sword tip come to rest on the gory deck.

"I'm pledged to be married to the most beautiful woman in all the world, and I must earn enough money to return to her and make her my bride, for I love her more deeply than one would think humanly possible."

"I doubt she is as beautiful as you imagine." Roberts raised his sword once more, meaning to end this.

"Hair the color of autumn," Westley said quickly. "Skin like wintry cream."

"Wintry cream, eh?"

The pirate captain seemed interested, so Westley forged on. "Eyes the color of the sky on a summer's day, so blue and so captivating that I lose myself in their depths. Lips the color of rose petals, full and soft and sweet. Kisses more intoxicating than the finest of wines..."

Roberts studied the man kneeling bound before him, still describing his beloved. He seemed both strong and sturdy, brave and fearless. And there was no mistaking the depth of his conviction and the truth of his love for the woman he described.

"What is your name?" Roberts interrupted.

"Westley."

"I'll tell you Westley," the pirate began, "I feel genuinely sorry about this, but I still must kill you. If I make an exception in your case, word will leak out that the Dread Pirate Roberts has gone soft. Then people will lose their fear, begin to disobey, and it will be nothing but work, work, work all the time. I'm not as young as I once was, and I'm far too old for such a life."

"I swear I will never tell a soul, not even my beloved," Westley replied. "And if you let me live," he went on, "I shall be your personal valet, and I'll slave for you a full five years. And if I ever once complain or cause you anger, you may kill me then and there, and I will die with praise for your fairness on my lips." Westley continued to look Roberts in the eye, praying all the while that the pirate would be convinced and spare him.

Roberts raised his sword once more. "This is it," Westley thought, "now I die." To his surprise, the pirate captain slashed his bonds, freeing him.

"Go below," he said. "I'll most likely kill you in the morning." With that he turned and strode off toward the quarterdeck.

Westley rubbed his sore ankles to restore the circulation and slowly got to his feet. He offered a silent prayer for his deceased shipmates and made his way toward the forecastle and his new life – however long that may be.

THE END